Local Roots and Global Routes. Hackney mais oui.

Well, on and on we go. Aren’t we there yet?

What I learnt today. I learnt that what I said years ago is confirmed by the learned. That is , that you cannot describe and share an heritage unless you touch on everything; the art, the stories, the language, the this, the that,  and that’s why all those community projects are recruiting artists and archivists to raise self-esteem in battered and abandoned communities by making those communities’ histories visible and comfortable. So you can’t teach about Black History in any month if you haven’t Kindled some black authors and got under their skins, if you haven’t boiled some grits, if you haven’t followed some threads like tie-dye techniques and batik-bashing. The once Niger-dwelling slave didn’t grow into her shackles. She had a life with her clan, a place in her hierarchal society, words of a language, and was just getting on with life like every ancient did. Her DNA travelled everywhere not just to cotton plantations. Her bone-dust blew into every continent and rested with penguins on ice.

As Black History Month’s been around for ages, then it must be that teachers were teaching only about slaves, numbers. numbers, slaves or the students this evening at Hackney Museum’s launch of their educational pack about enslavement and its connection to Hackney wouldn’t have been adamant that they’d never heard about so much of what was in the pack and that their own history was a negative one always about Africans as slaves. Or the fact is that they and their teachers needed skills in research methods. A quaint example was the fact that those kids who could write journals in the nineteenth century and ate from posh  china plates went on sugar strike to support the Abolition  of Slavery Bill.  That’s a bit like people not drinking Nescafe coffee because of the link with babies dying from cholera-saturated water in their formula milk. Global awareness is old aged.

The evening was brilliant in its welcome, its programme and in its staging. I support Hackney Museum because it has always been aware of its community a bit like Tesco being the first supermarket to sell okra in 1971. The community education officer is good down-to-earthiness. That job’s cut as from March 2015. The film was short enough. The poetry, the singing and the unscripted exposes about their classroom experiences by school and college students were ace.   “A Raisin In The Sun” is on telly as I write.

I’m going to read through the pack with an eye out for teaching outcomes and the provision of learning strategies for children with special needs.

In the seventies Gus John toured the large urban UK cities inciting teachers to force their employers, the local authorities with tremendous responsibility for education, to  recognise the black child in the classroom. He’s seventy this year and there are events to celebrate that and his tireless work to equalise our society. I have never seen him smile, never.

Updating that I’ve perused the pack and am NOT happy.I am going to challenge myself to get to grips with a critique. How to make enemies and lose friends. On it.

Down a dark hole with Alice

ragworks at rabbitPhoto copywrite to Rabbit Hole. Wall-hangings by RAGWORKS

Today I was informed that The Rabbit Hole in Maryland (yeah, I know Maryland!) in E15 is threatened with closure. Sure I can’t/won’t afford the tea and biscuits there but I’m a different generation and I don’t have disposable income in a purse under my disposable nappies and all the other young parent paraphernalia in my “The Baby Show ” unique and blessed £75. 00 at reduced offer price pram- bag. The venue is definitely in E15 and not to be judged for tax purposes or clientele -magnetizing as the posher E20 with its Westfield and pop-up Marilyn Monroe soirees and Mini draped in British flags promotions.

The Rabbit Hole is unique. It’s set amongst final last offers fridge shops, burger bars  and chip bars, next to a part-time Radio Station and opposite a revived railway station and a long long brick wall on a dangerous turn down at Stratford as we leave the borders of down and out down-town Leytonstone forever. Maryland, land of all sorts and the wonderfully named Manbey Grove. The shop, likened to a warren because of the visitor being opened up to different channels, is almost sitting on a railway siding come to think of it.

It’s upcycled, that’s what it is. It’s welcoming and has an ear for what’s pulsing around it. It’s a sanctuary for the isolated young parent who hasn’t found her or his niche in a changing neighbourhood. There are racks of new and nearly new baby outfits to peruse. There are chances of workshops and prizes and raffles at baby discos. It’s a place for the confident tea drinking, posh pizza munching passer-by, a different experience to the Brazilian coffee-house nearby and the quick latte at the Morrison’s caff up road.

To me, The Rabbit Hole represents a sound business run by a woman entrepreneur who had done her market research, seen what other boroughs were doing for and with young parents and is forging her way successfully through the paper and string bound world of sharp business in times of austere cuts and depression in many communities. Where is the support from a Borough Council that goes on and on about women, about entrepreneurs, about small business success in their community? Away with the faeries who brought the world-renowned sports days, that’s where. Long gone. So last 2012. So in the bin.

The mad hatter of Newham says “There is no room at the table”.  Alice replies quite clearly and confidently, “There’s plenty of room.”

Did she add on “Silly”?


In a month when Waltham Forest Libraries publishes its plan to interprete International Women’s Day as a month of lady-related topics and loosely related themes to women in society ( “Gone Girl”) and when I await an answer, any answer,  to my now-formalised complaint about a session for women and daughters making up together as wrong because IWD is not about the sexualisation of children then along comes National Potato Day next Monday followed by International Hijab Day on 1st Feb. In a month when the first prosecution  for FGM in the UK gets underway and controversy simmers around the “I Am Girl” women into sports advert then I am agog at all around me but not silent.

Waltham Forest Council back in the eighties was like a force getting its kicks on Route 66 forging ahead, embracing every idea and debating everything before deciding what was  workable. Women on and outwith the Council insisted that  street-lighting was raised so that dark streets became highways for women to feel safe. It worked. The Council listened to school office-workers (mainly women) and gave them three “Religious” days off and rightly so because teaching staff had them. In fact WF was “lighting up tomorrow with today”. Women congratulated themselves. Waltham Forest was a unique progressive borough.

Nowadays the Borough is coming across as muddled and unliked, neither bothered about women especially down St James’ area with the “Rooms Of Our Own” disappointment nor meeting the demands of older people compared to Islington and Hackney where there are regular activities for seniors. The school students of the nineties look from their adult hood into the Borough and wonder what happened to drag it backwards.


On the Waltham Forest mothership we are going backwards. The paternalism mounts as any newcomer to the borough with any idea is  accommodated. The replacements for the  shakers and movers of days of yore can sit back and rest on their velvet cushions in their art-deco town hall knowing that their community is taking care of itself, ticking all the impressing boxes. That’s how an enterprising entrepreneur can suggest that mothers and daughters in painting their faces together to please others is right on. It is so not any on. Those who questioned everything in the borough moved on in so many ways and became older. Those who remained, the long-time residents, volunteer in museums and galleries while new residents use public places to  infect the naïve with their own ignorance about achieving equality and self-esteem. It appears to their audiences that that we are all progressing when in fact the opposite is true.

I am assuming that soon the Borough will realise that Hijab day is a -coming.  Now where I live most of the women I pass and see wear an hijab. My friends wear hijabs. My ex-colleagues wear hijabs. On bad hair-days I wear hijabs. My mum and her friends all wore headscarves. My friends on Scottish islands still wear headscarves. The queen still ties on an headscarf. Well, she doesn’t: A maid does that, a domestic worker even. I collect vintage head scarves. I bought headscarves from the Salvation Army Shop for 20p each and sold them on to Beautiful Interiors for £1 each where they sold for £7 each. Ha ha! Gotcher. I see no reason for  a day devoted to the hijab. I don’t see why we need to acknowledge the potato, love them though I do. I do compliment a woman on her hijab style or colour which kinda takes away the vanity aspect of hijab-wearing. I compliment women all the time and found nothing silly about telling my date how fabulous he looked in his three-quarter leather coat and sparkling clean finger-nails. Credit where it’s due. I know that the Hijab day is probably supposed to be a catalyst for conversation. I’m pulsing.

An artist in East London has been commissioned to do vox-pops with the public about the status of the hijab. Here it’s assumed that only young Moslem women, gobby or not, will give some views. That’ll be interesting for all of us, their mums ‘n’ all. yellow lady“Girl with a pearl earring” by RAGWORKS

Last year there was an art exhibition at Brady Arts in Whitechapel, a photographic exhibition about the hijab. I was stunned at the topic. I’m stunned that an art exhibiton can be a display of pressed flowers but there you go. I go along to my friends’ women-only tea club which is attended mostly by senior women in hijabs. I had so wanted to discuss life with the women. It began. I found out in a minute between the curry and the cake that they had all worked in local factories in the seventies. They had been out of their houses. That was it though. They had given away too much, For a blink they used “I” then quickly said a prayer and returned to the normal “we”. They were not going to share  their experiences. I wanted to know more. I persuaded them to come along to an heritage tea party in Ilford. Three woman came. Two kept quiet whereas one had stories all about the tea, the staff, the joy of being rich in India and then the struggle in England moving down to London from the Midlands. That was it. She had given enough and declined any more invitations to be the subject of vox-popping.

Amina took her thirty tea-club women  to a beautiful grill restaurant in Green Lanes. The Sahara in Leyton is too dear. The night before she phoned to comfirm that I were coming and that she had to still dye her hair. At the restaurant I remained silent as thirty women joined in the pre-meal prayer.  I sat opposite Amina and she pointed to her covered head and gave me the information that she hadn’t had time to dye her hair. I thought nothing of it and carried on sharing the Nan bread and dipping my chicken pieces into the curry gravy. After the meal there was commotion as Amina tried desperately to get the right money out of some women for the communal bill. I offered her twenty pounds if she were short and could see a tear in her eye. Her clan disappeared outside and into the discount shops as soon as the ice-cream spoons had been licked clean. Amina  exited to the cloakroom and I waited with my latte.

When she returned she was radiant; Her hair was newly-dyed and ginger at the tips which suited her reddened lips. She was a vision in red away from the black hijab and black sleeved tunic. She pursed her lips and adjusted the glittery clasp which was supporting a mane of seventy-year old pony-tail. “Wow, Amina.What happened? You look lovely”

“Oh these women! If I don’t wear hijab, they insult me. Have they gone? “And she looked through the vast shop front.

hubba on Goa Beach 12th Nov 2011Building workers in Goa.2012.

I related the story to my daughter as we  repeated our  illuminating stories about cleavage and women in society and the ways we’re being dragged back by newcomers with backward ideas and ways. Good to talk. Je suis Charlie. Her take on the Amina story? She categorically said, “The women bully her. It’s a case of bullying. After all, Amina’s been in this country fifty years. She’s educated. She mixes with everyone.. She is being bullied otherwise she has the intelligence to decide her way in life in UK in 2014.”

So I wondered why the status of the hijab couldn’t be a conversation on March 8th, International Womens’s Day because it might affect all women and if not, a large percentage of women. The problem there is that many many women and men , those who insist plumbing and blue is for boys and agree that the important room for women in any house is the she kitchen,  see IWD as a disease pushed on by lesbians in DMs, something to be ignored except if it provides free Zumba and a free £23 worth of a pedometer.

PS Just finished “Gone Girl” and bit off my nail varnish reading “The Blackwater Lightship”.

Issue 4. Up Your Street

Mon 26th Jan free 10-11.30 am “Reading Club We will meet at Violetta café on Leytonstone High Road, round the corner from Harrow Green Community Library to chat over tea or coff ee about a text chosen by club members. This can be a book or an excerpt from a novel, a poem or a report from a newspaper, whatever takes your fancy and gets you reading. Meeting last Monday of each month.” LEA bRIDGE LIBRARY A different borough library saved from cuts: Lea Bridge E10 Tues 27th Jan free 10-noon (weekly) “English Conversation Group If you want to improve your English, chatting in a group will boost your confidence, increase your vocabulary and help you to become more fluent. There will be opportunities to cook together and to visit some interesting places.” Wed  28th Jan £3 noon-3pm POSH tea dance at St Paul’s Church Hackney

Sat 31st Jan free 10-4pm Bishopsgate Institute “Everyday Muslim” day of events . Book at Institute.

2013-06-11 12.16.43

Through the upper window of Idea Store Whitechapel, Chandos Community Hub E15 family day. Stalls info etc coming in February ********************************************************************************************  

M is for missed opportunity

A is for acid in your face                                                          A is for aerobics

B is for #bringbackourgirls                                                    B is for ‘Bums and Thighs’

C is for clitoridectomy                                                             C is for cake-decorating

D is domestic workers as slaves                                             D is for diet

E is for educationally deprived                                              E is for ‘re we go again

F is for FGM                                                                               F is for free activities

G is for girls lack value                                                             G is for ‘girl power’

H is for herstory                                                                        H is for half-hearted

I is for  International Women’s Day                             I is for issues we never discuss

J is for  jobs with poor pay.                                                      J is for ‘just for today’

K is for  kicking down barriers                                               K is for Keep Fit

L is for  legalised  child-marriage                                          L is for library events

M is for the status of motherhood                                        M is for ‘Mothers and Make-Up’

N is for neglected                                                                      N is for Nappucino

O is for  on-going prejudice.                                                   O is for opportunity lost

P is for psychological damage                                               P is for pink

Q is for  quietened voices                                                      Q is for quasi-feminists

R is for rapes rising                                                                 R is for Reflexology

S is for sexual assaults against us                                        S is for scissor jumps

T is for tortured women                                                        T is for free Tai Chi

U is for unsafe childbirth                                                      U is for the usual tripe

V is for victims of gender abuse                                           V is for Vajazzle

W is for wombhood                                                                W is for Women’s History Month,

X for the double chromosome                                              X is for NIMN

Y is for non- equal opportunity                                             Y is for yet more tokenism

Z is for Zumba                                                                           Z is for Zumba

Litter: Accidental Installations

I’m going to run an art and community workshop-based course entitled “Litter: Accidental Installations.” I shall outline the details to known funders  but I doubt if the participants need to know more than what’s on the one flyer I’ll send to gov.uk online newsletters.

Using oral history techniques and reminiscence sessions with up to twenty participants drawn from community hubs in the neighbourhood and by using guided online research I shall demonstrate how litter uses the cityscape as a background to accidentally-formed art installations. As litter is iconic in structure and form and represents our diverse urban populations we shall explore our shared heritage. We shall examine how littered packaging reflects the world in which we live e.g. how the moulded peach packet is a representation of the undulating sea waves around our islands, how  Coca-Cola tins, massed against concrete habitats, shape-shifting once into triangular prisms and then into rows of random red and silver tubular forms  are a reminder  of our globalist consumptions, of where we live in urban squares surrounded by other art structures and designs. At the end of the three ninety minute sessions spread over three months the participants will have a clearer appreciation of how the mounds of windswept litter, abandoned by the rubbish trucks, are in fact works of art. Accidental Installations.

No bus no loss

Thought I’d check out the venue I’m visiting shortly.

“At the heart of its programme is a remit to commission new work, supporting artists from project inception to realisation and representing an inspiring and challenging range of voices, nationalities and art forms”.

You see this is the kind of description that may suit funders but is off-putting for the masses who never set foot inside a new gallery, a pop-up, or something arty without royal patronage. I have to believe it’s a way of keeping out the ones those galleries don’t want to attract. It almost succeeds except there are apparently benevolent  organisations introducing people to new art forms in their local habitats. The intern-organised visit to the place of art is a way of engaging somehow deprived people from local neighbourhoods in order to build artificial communities and lift the common  lot up from the doldrums of poverty. Tis true I tell you.

The problem is that those with Freedom Passes are quick to see through all of that and when it comes to a bus strike and they can’t get to the venue they feel no loss. They are neither lifted up nor let down. Around the corner in another paint-splashed warehouse  full of art from nowhere and flyers trumpeting  the same eye-swirling words .