Whispered Happenings.

There’s a big shindig happening in the London Borough of WTF all about swifts and creativity and Walthamstow Wetlands and E17 Art Trail and did we all know about it?
I heard someone saying they collected their Swift sticker from The Mill E17 and as I was not being addressed and being well brought-up I never said a word. By chance as I was browsing Eventbrite for local community events I came across the registration for 1000 Swifts Over Walthamstow and the acquisition of a Swift sticker. It really felt I was at someone else’s party but that is always the way of it re: Walthamstow. To join in, we’d make swifts. Well, the rafters at the Mill are stuffed with knitted swifts and graffiti marks the spot. So I’d already begun a RAGWORKS frame with refreshed textiles following the feather design on an image of a swift as I was getting ready for “Soft” at the Mill which by the way was another thing I heard about by having my ears on stalks. So I developed that art work in order to have a frieze in my window to join in. That’s all I’m doing…joining in.

I remember well my late sister being at primary school when the word “Nigger” was common parlance. Imagine! The end of term concert included a row of eleven year olds standing on a bench wearing what now we’d call Afro Wigs and were likely called fuzzy wuzzies then. My sister was well out of it as there weren’t enough wigs so she stood out with a blackened face and wavy light brown hair held off her forehead by a bow clip. That’s the way I seem to be at many places. Not quite the one they wanted.

For The Record

“Exhibitions at Central Library

Did you know the Central Library has exhibition space available for the use of local people, community groups and organisations? If you are interested in putting on an exhibition or for further details please contact anthony.kane@hackney.gov.uk”

Yeah. Good luck with that.

Disappointed and aghast.

It is with huge disappointment that I write to you as a community artist.

Since before the end of my last exhibition in March 2017 I have been asking you to confirm my submitted dates for more exhibitions in 2017. All these planned exhibitions of art-work are showcases for projects in the community and more specifically from seniors in our community.

For weeks my requests with follow-up phone calls were ignored until finally you passed my email requests to your deputy. Still nothing has been confirmed regarding a list of submitted dates with the first episode from June 1st-June 15th and it is now the public holiday when the library shuts until the end of May.

Your deputy emailed me last month as part of her introductory email to me that the library display area was to be used for library promotions and I replied that there must have been a policy change because the three cabinets are designated community artist areas, I received no answer to that: in fact I have heard nothing since before May 1st, the last Bank Holiday.

I had wanted to use an opportunity to exhibit my artwork this June as I am managing an event at the Anti-University Now Festival at the museum downstairs from you and the library. My art complements my physical event which encourages seniors to be visible. And added to that my display coincides with London’s Creativity and Well-Being Festival which on June 15th, acknowledges older people.

Since 2015 I have curated exhibitions of art and art launch nights at the library. I no longer wish to exhibit my art or goodwill at the library.
I have been disrespected on many levels and cannot in principle work with others who display bad manners.

Rainy Day

3 Pigs as window

This morning I thought a rat was in my bedroom. It was five thirty and the noise was sweet rose-growing early-morning May rain.

Straight into my studio to print using slow drying oil-based printing ink and my lino-cut formed and cut at the last week’s Headway.org printing workshop to be ready to submit to an art show this weekend. Oh! Steady my hand. I was very smug that I was using something I made, that is the lino-cut, as I was learning at a community workshop. Do you know, most seniors I know attend a workshop, a free workshop, then dust off the chalk from their hands and never return to the learnt skills? That’s called disengagement and there are not many programmes which re-call senior participants. Mental Spaghetti may just be an isolated project which proposes a rolling programme and I’d say that that is because real proper trained artists lead the way.

I used my chopping board for the ink patch and my cocoa-butter tin as a roller. Did the trick. My studio is my back room which is bigger than most artists’ studios and my work-top is my oil-cloth covered dining table which someone gave me years ago.

Set for a day of creativity indoors. I presumed I’d go out in the rain to pay a bill but online Paypal came to my convenience. So I stayed and worked, showered and worked, made buns and worked, listened to Chuck Berry, listened to Time Team, photographed my work. filed it online and kept my eyes open.

Absolutely inspired by Paolozzi at Whitechapel Gallery and his 1960 collages and by BN saying in awe that he was so deliberate in his lines and design. I got on with cutting out pictures of any parents coddling their babies. I was to collage with thinking and deliberation. I had paper for mounting the design and glue by the pots load. I did that. I dried that and then found more paper on which to mount my creations.

Last summer I picked up from a Walthamstow front wall a heavy art folder and on getting home, opened it to find a college-student’s discarded and thrown out Art A Level portfolio. There was paper and card galore. That was serious and lucky for me recycling.

Meanwhile I have RAGWORKS on the go. One piece which retains the integrity of RAGWORKS is abstract to distraction but I kept to RAGWORKS’ rules. I used scrap found material. I designed my art work, I cut the pattern and I used any colour textiles and any colour thread which once belonged to my grandmother. This is the Antithesis of local sewing clubs; this is the Anti-University of needlework. I do not follow 0ther women’s rules. There are thousands of slaves in sweatshops and quasi vintage modern outlets doing that already. There are housewives being creative attending community hubs and resisting any passionate outbursts as they follow time-served hem distances. Each to their own. My penultimate RAGWORKS wall-hanging is called “Three Pigs”.

My latest is called “Study For A Swift’s Wing” as I ride on the blow-current of Walthamstow’s darling Wetlands, a flow saturated by artists’ murals, prints, films and oils.

The rain pissed down all day. The sparrows came for my tipped-out rice and the neighbour’s cat toyed with the cubes of beef. I saw the mingy white roses trying to be stupendous but they should realise that they’re no competition for the deep pinks by the fig tree.

A charmed and fortunate life.

Claremont on a platform.

The Claremont Project in Islington does tons for seniors who can come in from outwith Islington and are made welcome anyway.

Magnanimous me, to support Claremont (use it or lose it) and because I am a voting women signed up for “Women and Equality. Where are we now?”
I had imagined a room full of white-haired and permed silent very senior women with gushing thirty somethings making us suck eggs. I was upset when to an audience of five the presenters from The Fawcett Society in an air of defence began the session by reading aloud a timeline about the state of women in the UK since 1888 or thereabouts. Fine enough but tedious to the hilt if you’ve already educated yourself about your gender’s standing then and now. What could have been powerful was using we senior women as those who over seventy years and more have lived through the lead up to many acts of Parliament which serve to erase prejudice against women. It turned out that the audience was made of women and one man for whom English is not their first language and of people who came into the UK from another culture. We only had less than two hours as some participants had committed to the twelve week mindfulness course which partially clashed on the timetable.

The fault was in the planning when Claremont management invite in speakers with no reference to anything else going on at The Centre, International Women’s Day is long gone; Women coming from the UK’s new Women’s Equality Party are neither Salsa teachers nor art therapists. It is the same as mauve pictures of razor blades stuck on Claremont toilet walls calling to action a ban on Female Genital Mutilation when no-one at Claremont had discussed FGM, nor wanted to, so the stickers aka posters were just flies on a brick wall, meaningless and ignored.

What should have been a massive session was not advertised properly. Most people who use Claremont go of habit to art and dance, poetry and mindfulness sessions and would not have been persuaded to book up for a political session where their opinions may have been sought. Bravo Claremont for the attempt because rising up is a new cohort of women who do have opinions to voice. Those are once the teens of the sixties and we know what those days were like.

So through cleverly managed questions from Vicky we answered questions like “Are you surprised at the statistics about women in the UK?” “What would you ask Theresa May regarding the state of women in the UK today?” There was an air of gloom as we thought about the state of women as the back-bones of family life or indifference from those who decided not to speak and that was sometimes interrupted by passionate speeches based on experience and practical realities.
Remembering that the participants’ ages ranged from 55 to maybe 79 then there was a shed-load of wise old women.

There was the recognition that active seniors are actually working as constant childminders in a country where child care costs are spiralling upwards as families negotiate fixed term working contracts and the unpopular zero-contract hours with low pay. Housing costs in London have not been addressed by any government recently.
We learnt about women in prison, the appalling statistics about death and the history of those likely to offend and the double punishments where women are moved to different prisons away from their children.
Phyllis headed up that May was to be interviewed on LBC radio that same evening so we proposed questions to her. It turned out that the lines were busy at 7pm but I led a Twitter feed.

The session was indeed marvellous because it was passionate, because we let each other talk, because we came together in a setting other than one where the table held water-paints and scrap paper, because as older women accommodating one older man and ourselves, we recognised our worth.

Who could have ever known that in a street where diplomats’ cars have right of parking, where in an adjacent street a vibrant market hollers, sat in a building which needs a lick of paint and a toilet refurbished , that in a hall needing care and attention older people were listening and learning, thinking and considering, sharing and talking,

It was what it was. Thank you, Claremont.

It was a good day.

Well well well.
Coatless and artily dressed, I bussed my way to Hoxton changing at Dalston Junction. Oh my. What a transformation to the lead up to the junction. Slum clearance completed, there are empty but modern dark green outlets ready for earthy retailers: If they could just do that along the parade of dross between Burwell and Sanderstead Roads in struggling to be Stokey, Leyton, houses would sell.

I stopped off to check out Oxfam on the Kingsland Road. That place is always floor to ceiling full of treasure.I found mine. Outside I saw a woman with her nose-ring glinting in Hackney’s finest sun and on her beautiful head she had hair, hair as thick as a bison’s, as matted as a buffalo’s and as glorious as ever intended. Being very polite, I walked two blocks before I turned around to spy more. Turning back, I bumped into the road-sweeper with flowers and baskets around her cart. Ain’t this just ‘Ackney?

Cocky me thought I’d find a pop-up shop about Lurve “almost opposite Geffrye Museum”. I frightened a traffic warden by being nice to him to ask him the way to number 93. The pop-up Love shop popped up by Headway East London was clean and welcoming in every way. We were to lino-cut and there was an apron all lovely and folded just for me. There were great pieces of art work well-curated on the walls all created by members of Headway who are victims of strokes and head traumas.

At one o’clock the workshop was done and my self-esteem was heightened. Bus 394 passed me by but the day was sunny and I had a pitta bread cheesie to munch before getting to The Angel. Uniformed four year olds were playing in the Geffrye House Museum grounds, The hipsters were maybe still in bed waiting for their bacon marmalade on ciabatta to appear because neither their pointy shoes nor laptops were evident on the street busy with buggy-wheeling grans. A young boy and girl, perhaps about seventeen, were nattering by the Museum railings and I overheard the boy say pitifully how he was so hungry having had nothing all day. I turned into “Home Alone”‘s pigeon lady and offered him my other pitta sarni. He declined. I turned away to shadow my phone to admire photos of my lino-cut. I heard a thud and turned to see the hungry boy flat out, skull-down on the clean pavement. His companion and I pulled him up as he came to and I saw his lips were pure white. The last time I saw that lip-draining was in Cologne Youth Hostel years and years ago when I looked at myself in the basin mirror after screaming the tower block down after two youths came out of the showers and attempted rape on me. Sacre Bleu.
The end of the boy incident was that the colour returned to his little cheeks and after a chat,I believed he’d had a diabetic black-out. BUT, not one of we three were carrying water. Lesson there.
Reached a very very busy lunch-time Angel to attend a Fawcett session at Claremont Project. That was pretty darned good. It was interactive and supportive.

The bus journey home was crazy. Somewhere on route someone from a bus upper-deck had called the police so a screaming sirened car was running alongside heavy school traffic searching for the right bus. It was frightening. It was well-controlled considering what mayhem could have ensued.
My bus was packed and very like a coach full of families returning from a seaside trip.

By seven, I’d tuned into LBC Radio to bludgeon with words May being interviewed by my dad look-alike. I turned to Twitter and enjoyed all the anti-May synonymous with anti-Tory retweets of my vitriole.

Then I ate Swiss Roll.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Feeling very proud and achieved.

Turning Earth ceramics in the old smelly industrial estate in Argall Avenue, once called Leyton Industrial Village….village… was given funny press when it opened in March as being a hipster’s playground and something to get those hipsters down and dirty. For me who is not a hipster (too fat, too old, too poor), it’s a creative workshop on my doorstep. Mind you I couldn’t be asked to wade through the litter and isolated road to seek it out after I’d bought my seaweed crisps in Hoo Hing.
Of course, I knew any workshops would be like a week’s wages to me and they are expensive compared to the workshops Up Your Street subscribers have attended and do attend at various community hubs.
I wanted seniors to have a go, see something classy in a run-down, out of the way W19 bus served hole. I wanted seniors to be visible on any hip scene and support a local enterprise before it packs up and travels to the next des res parish. And we all wanted to dine at Hoo Hing’s large restaurant almost next door.

I contacted Turning Earth: Not a dickey bird for a while. I re-sent my email knowing any creative covered in terra clay is not inclined to sit at a laptop. Hooray, hoorah. In came the email from mein host and negotiations began.

Amongst Up Your Street subscribers, there’s a clutch, a potful, if you will, of ceramic artists and pot-turners. There are also seniors who love having a go, enjoying repeat tasters, like I do.

We shall have our day, throwing clay and munching dim sum. Job done. Enough to say that Turning Earth accommodated us in generosity.

Up Your Street. Issue 15

Wed May 10th free 12.30-3pm Mosaic-making at Cornerstone at 149 Canterbury Road E10 off Essex Road. Maybe a W15 bus.

free 11-1pm Tate Britain at Pimlico. Soapbox with BN Neu and Sylvia Hyde. Need to book online as there is space only for 25 over 60’s!

Thurs May 11th free 2-3pm
Animals in the Second World War Redbridge Central Library

Come along to this fascinating talk by Jef Page and find out how animals were key to the war effort, providing emotional support and helping people to survive.

Free, advance booking required at the library or by calling 020 8708 2417 or 0208 708 2414.

Sat May 13th free 10-4pm WORLD FAIR TRADE DAY “Join environmental support network, Sustainable Hackney, for a Fair Trade community event serving Fair Trade-only drinks, cake, biscuits and cream scones. Victoria Park Community Centre, Gore Road, E9 7HN.”

How I saved the trees and other stories.

In 1986 I drove and parked easily my Austin 1300 with sun roof and cassette player to Vicky Park at eight in the morning where the deer grazed and my family plucked shiny conkers from the ground. The red globes lay shiny in the unused but now oft desirable grate waiting to be players. One day I chucked them out into the garden.

The conkers sprouted. I thought I was clever planting one at each corner of my patch called a lawn which had variously been a wild flower meadow, a sunflower forest and a potato field. My neighbour used to mime over the fence for neither I spoke Gujerati nor she spoke English that she would have the small potatoes for her Aloo Kofta.

The trees grew and grew. We loved them. The neighbours began to huff. The words “house insurance” were uttered.

Over the non-partitioned and non-conserved Leyton Marshes I found an interesting shiny twig. I stuck it in the ever-sinking soil in my garden and within two years a tree grew magnificent. My sari-clad neighbour told me it was a cherry tree and avoided hanging her white sheets near its branches. The cherries fell. She picked them from her pavement. The cherries fell and I threw them to the pigeons.

After much moaning from long-term neighbours, those who had brought their houses whilst I lived here, I poisoned three horse chestnut trees leaving a sturdy one which was far from the next door neighbours and the chrysanthemum neighbours over the back who had lilac and holly trees mangled together. The cherry tree was huge and polished in its glory.

Blossoms and conkers, cherries and pigeons came and went.

As if they’d got together and conspired against beauty, nature and me, the neighbours moaned about roots and house insurance again. I investigated the cost of a giant cherry tree removal and let the horse-chestnut be for she was harming neither bricks nor mortals.

My neighbour had inherited an electric saw and was a very handy man, a ladder-man. I’d sked if he’d chop down the cherry tree. He and a mate did it and what fun that was. An artist wanted the divided trunks for fire etching or some fashionable art style current at the time and before M-H. In the end a young woman carted away the logs for firewood.

A third of the cherry-tree still remains covering dead roots and crowded over with huge fungi.

The horse-chestnut is a playground for pigeons, recently magpies, blackbirds, doves and homing pigeons, robins, squirrels, starlings and sparrows. I hope the disturbed nesters from the new Aldi site come and find refuge here.

When I leave this place, for surely I will, the newcomers will chop down the loved tree because concrete is king. This is what happens when patios replace grass; cats have to come onto my earth to poo and birds have to keep lookout.

Once a baby blackbird fell from the nest but we in this human block never knew. We never actually saw it.It squealed. Every stealth cat arrived. The mother -bird was squawking and squawking on the fence. Pitiful it was. Neighbours opened upstairs windows; back doors sounded as they opened. After an hour all was quiet. I never found a dead bird so no-one knows how the tragedy ended.

It’s all about the Birds

From the mural in Coppermill Lane to the Swifts in windows for The E17 Art Trail to the electronically tagged wrapped hens in Morrison’s it’s all about the birds. It is all about the Walthamstow Wetlands such that when, at Hilary’s Tuesday’s Sociable Sewing yesterday, when it was warm and sunny, M proposed we make a quilt and a group almost decided to pay homage to Walthamstow Wetlands by appliqueing swifts on a sheet. Theft of chickens by the poor of the borough was talked about and we were aghast amongst the pinking shears, pink flowers and pink piping. On the walls behind us were geese in acrylic, winged shapes on lino-cuts, and black knitted swifts in the rafters. That is the Wonder of the Wetlands aka Wonderful Wetlands.
I spied the cat amongst the …er..pigeons. Hassan’s work caught my eye, coloured my senses, made me gasp, made me urgent in my tracks to covet the pink cat next to a fluffy bottom of a heron. The background was sharp and industrial, urban and vast. The painting’s title was long and poetic. The painting IS of the Wetlands; the mysteries and wonder of nature in a wild place soon to be full of visitors and lo and behold, children. We are voyeurs looking through Bent grass to see birds and foxes, herons and cats at work.

Back in the room we debated the journey of a quilt put together by women learning foundation stitching and adoring tiny prints on tiny cotton samples. Should the quilt be as large as The Mill table? Where would it really end up? The word quilt vanished and was replaced by “wall-hanging” and then applique showed its mistress head and tada..embellishments. Now we were moving into RAGWORKS territory. How would the integrity of a sewing group known for its ease and acceptability, drop-in nature, do-as-you-please nature survive a transformation into a group work needing homework and commitment and the possibility of excluding those who were not ready to be part of another women’s quilting group. Who would sew? Who would go?
The point of the group and any informal non-professional group in a community hub is surely the getting together of people. those from Venus in the main, and a chance to laugh, talk and chat, jaw and natter. We don’t do that over the garden fence anymore. Workshop facilitators worth their plaster of Paris, or their crocheted wire know that. Seamless Seams and Songololo were not about to produce decorations for a Town Hall. The glory of an amateur accomplishment is charming and always an indication that someone somewhere had a positive vibe going on, is evolved through social grouping and natural selection. And of course the beauty of any amateur wall-hanging and quilt, installation and experience is in the eyes of the makers, rarely the uninvolved recipients.
The nature of a group can be fragile but its integrity related to its title needs to be respected.

So I left my spacious sun-lit room, donned my creased red summer jacket, prepared for the hour journey with my sewing project in my crocheted plastic hold-all, stood at my front door and asked myself “Why are you going to the Mill when you can sew on your own table at home?” “To be Sociable”.
That’s all.