Who Do You Think You Are?

What a week it’s been following the internet research trail of a sportswoman local to my area who is never celebrated although The Independent filled a typeset hole by publishing her obituary in 1998. Mary Barnham was my leader into research about the sprinter from the turn of the last century, Vera Maud Palmer, who married Wilfred Searle in 1926 and obviously, as was the way then, took his surname and likely his “W” too . Mary goes into the most obscure avenues and always comes up with the proverbial dog’s rag.

I have a RAGWORKS wall-hanging depicting Vera as she was in her later days from a staged photo shoot where she compares herself in running position with a much heavier built athlete of a later day. All we knew was that she was born in Leytonstone, had a father who worked at Chelsea FC and that she was adamant that women should compete in the Olympics as she went on to win a silver at the Women’s Games in Sweden. Let us be aware that she won her medal in 1926 when women were advised that entering the athletics arena would render them man-like and infertile. That myth went on until the fifties in the UK at least and thrives in other places where women aren’t allowed to be human.

I now know exactly where Vera was born and where she moved with her family in 1911.

I am proud to have completed my research of a woman who had views on the state of womanhood back, way back, in the day and, now, to be able to share it with others and to school children. There should be a blue plaque commemorating her militancy and certainly Wikipaedia is informed.

Meanwhile on another vein, Mary Barnham and I followed through the insignificant life of a son of Cann born in Walthamstow. The Canns are celebrated currently in Walthamstow at The Mill E17 under the Memories exhibition . Antique postcards verify the family’s existence in a new built house on newly developed landscapes back in the 1850s. The house still stands strong and uniform in a road near The Black Path. I collect postcards and found a batch to suit the art project. The handsome guy, for Barnham found a photo on t’internet, ended up living, ninety years later, two doors away from my childminder when childminders preceded nurseries and were the norm before the words “au-pairs” and “nannies” came into working-class general parlance.


Minister for Loneliness

Eve and Adam it. You might as well have a Minister for Wishes. One wonders what were the essential criteria for the post and what successful outcomes the candidates imagined.

Someone I know burst into muffled sobs and was repeating into her friend’s breast, “I am so lonely” and I checked her on Facebook with 216 friends. Facebook is an egoist’s free platform where people like me can show off about their culinary skills or be first with shocking news. You can test who’s your friend on Facebook by the number of times they DM you to see how you are or to share a greeting about a new day. Never happens.

Is the Minister to target old people because like ads for dementia and bladder control the actors are white and ancient? I know many youngsters, thirty somethings who are lonely defined by they being bored and having no-one to share that time in their life.

Loneliness is not a pathological condition cured by smile workshops or community workshops for those remedies are fleeting. Loneliness is part of being a human being.

Many people I see are lonely because they made themselves that way with their negativity and  miserable faces. They expect to be alone and lonely and make no effort to get out of years of habit. What a challenge for an unqualified person in a ministerial post.

We shall now join in anti-loneliness workshops and acted out plays and discussion groups  and art exhibitions and be reminded of tribal societies who do things communally and have no isolated lonely older people or young men who see nothing ahead but self-destruction. We’ll watch on the news graphs about dementia decreasing after loneliness has been alleviated and a link will be constructed between obesity and loneliness.. Wait and see. We’ll see pictures of groups of eighty year old widows of the parish and their spinster sisters with white faces and whiter Twinkle perms crowding into The Claremont Project and over that image a voice will tell us in condescending  soft tones how the Government funded initiatives helps those vulnerable lonely ancients, that same government lot  who forgot it was they who imposed parking regulations so that children and parents packed into the family car couldn’t just rock along to spend a family day with gran or old auntie and the same horrors who built uninspiring boxes after condemning big housing estates where Samjid knew Ethel and where the corner shop sold milk to everyone.

Loneliness will be blamed on isolation and lack of community venues . Ha. Community venues and hubs have been around for ages, had their surge in 2012 and are struggling now to open because the user groups are happy to stay in and not bother with insincere social interaction. Telly is comfortable. Facebook is that ego-fest. Loneliness is normal.

Ask Greta. Ask the married couple living on top of each other.

I watched Arctic Murders last night. It was slow and full of full-on shots of Arctic faces. I thought we were in Iceland but the faces weren’t wide Then the star, Rebecka, drank from what I recognised as an Ikea duck blue mug. Ha ha. Sweden it was

You have just read a typical Facebook status update. See what I mean?

The People’s Liner

Just watched a Timeshift 2009 BBc programme about the holiday steamers, paddle-steamers from 1870s by Bristol and The Clyde before Thomas Cook got his oar in. Absolutely wonderful commentaries and old footage. Up our Street seniors are off to the V&A in April to see the exhibition about luxury and liners and that’s why I recorded the programme to watch from sometime last year.

I have been on paddle steamers. luxury Bahama cruises, Norfolk Broads, Shetland ferries, Mississippi steamers, Broxbourne boats, The Floating Cinema, and on and on, even trawlers at dawn with the trawler-men way back in old world St Osyth when the builders’ tea tasted of fishermen’s buttocks so am looking forward to sumptuousness in the V&A. A senior thought I was arranging a group cruise. I will do that when my lottery ticket comes up.

Much of the BBC footage was from England Wales and Scotland 1950s and so the traditional housewives’ headscarves were truly all over the place.

Last night I had Atlantic sardines done from frozen in the oven. They were Aldi’s in date by a year and reduced from £2 to £1. “I’ll have them with salad while Corrie’s on”. What a disappointment. I should have fried the critters to get that crunchy taste. I was reminded romantically of cuithes drying in the wind outside crofters’ houses in Scotland twenty years ago. When those old folk die, that tradition will go also like bannocks and clootie dumplings whether Waitrose substitutes or not on Burns week.

Brrr. Too cold to go to The Mill to see their Memories exhibition.


Why join in?

Just taken in and paid for submission my art works for Memories at The Mill E17. It’s very important for me to be part of an experience which aims to foster neighbourliness. I shun meetings but go headlong into exhibitions where my work done from the heart can sit beside other artists’ work which is created from a passion, an urge, an itch that won’t go away. I also support an artist, he being Hassan Vawda. He gives himself willingly and generously to his community preparing free workshops for any residents and then goes away and immerses himself in all things wonderful on canvas. Quietly and humbly he will rise to the top of that creamy, milk-soaked barrel of art of all kinds in the emerged artist quarter that is Blackhorse Road E17. He’s never after that because he is art personified and can be nothing higher but we want to see a local son highlighted and fan-fared. We do. He is the founder and creator at Memories. At The Mill E17 where you will find Norman, who says little and does loads.

This morning I had to fill in the submission of work form, pays my money (cheap as chips) and an additional one all about how came about the structure of my Memories art work. Mine is very much based on the language amongst working class women who are now in their seventies and better and are by historical circumstances white British: They’d just say “English”.

I had already worked on Headscarves 1950s, a project researching the memories of senior UK born women who in their young lives had worn the triangular piece of silk or nylon as a headscarf for their hair. From that sprung a workshop called Scarf Art as was done in 1968 although I know not one person who’d come across it. My art teacher never mentioned it and she was right on the button. Miss Plumb. Love that eccentric nurturer of young minds. One day she showed a purple transparency. Well, I fainted. Nowadays we’d say the colour provoked an inner spiritual experience relating to some trauma. She asked, “Are you late?” It was a girls’ school, a brilliant girls’ school. Well, I mumbled about the buses. My less naïve friend who was jealous of the relationship I had with that teacher scoffed and told me she was referring to periods. From then on I cast that teacher a different scared eye.

A couple of years ago, I listened to the words of the Scarf Art participants as we delved into memories and then I painted those words onto a back-canvas of blues and greens and reds having studied 1950 colours and put the habitual blue edge around the art to represent the rolled edge of 1950 headscarves.

Bunting is full of rags and words all to do with used sayings in the fifties where man ruled the home from his remote office or factory floor and parents watched their charges every move.

I am always fascinated by antique postcards even how the font of the writing curves and spreads across a small space or sits shyly in a 1909 corner sharing glory with a stamp and a king.  I took the identity of a grandchild belonging to 78 Markhouse Avenue which still stands and curated memories about the inhabitants of that dwelling, that pre WW1 home. Of course I was in the cloud of a memory palace and working class people in their two up two down. The grandmother at 78 morphed into mine. Remember I only began with words on postcards for this art. Powerful evocations of sad and happy in equal measure darker times, lost times.

Done for now and moving on.


Strengthening Communities through Art.

Those Candy Crush actors are a bit podgy, aren’t they? I was thinking about Veganism and thought about war-rationing. Just thinking.

And that was because I was concentrating on my art for The Mill E17 and how I had to think, well calculate dates, as I was stealing an identity for my project. And I had to even research WW1 dates. I did dress to go out to do another bit of physical research but hey, it’s very cold out. All this work is really in  the end, just for me, because another Mill artist said to me on the bus last Summer, “Only the artists see each other’s work at The Mill, so what’s the point?” Swing back to positive-ness for you can say that about any community art do. Keep on creating. I like Cass Art’s motto:-“Let’s fill this town with art”.

I bought ancient postcards off Mo’s Emporium at Ebay and found quite a few belonging to a family in Walthamstow from 1909. My laptop was hot. My imagination was wild. I do collect postcards anyway and have valuable ones hoarded away in a bank vault. I don’t actually believe postcards are going out of fashion just as fridge magnets aren’t. They are souvenirs whereas emails and snapchats are not yet. From a few words in squid ink on old postcards then I learnt about ye olde worlde fish ‘n’ chip shops in Markhouse Road, who did what in the early sixties, who built houses around railways in 1850 by Marsh Lane and beyond, who owned the land when the farm fields were cut up for development and how on Saturday 13th January 2018, a few local people will be up in arms protesting about building plans around Lea Bridge Station.

The Mill’s art exhibition is about memories. Up Your Street seniors have been on countless projects about their memories. We are reminiscence saturated. The thing is The Mill will turn up quirky art in all sorts of media.

My submissions are quasi quirky.

I made for my friend a scarf art using acrylic paint on unframed canvas spelling out all the words we could remember from domestic life in the fifties and before that having had an art-inspired evening at The Anti University Festival hosted and planned by myself, the artist, talking about headscarves and whatnot. Scarf Art was a thing in 1968 with top notch artists calling out for designs on silk for them to reproduce and make mega-bucks. Seniors at Up Your Street did the same in 2015 and had fun producing loveliness. They painted and printed on rag squares. So my metre squared scarf art goes on display then back to my friend’s wall.2017-12-12 10.03.32

Then add onto that a string of bunting with phrases used by parents and kids in playgrounds to keep order in a world where slaps and smacks were allowed and children pre the revolution were seen and not heard up until the day they brought in wages. Bunting was made from rags originally. At the Vestry Museum there’s a photo 1901 showing the laying of the foundation stone at Davies Lane Primary School and flapping in the breeze alongside the Union Jack are rags . At the Technical E10 there are on the ancient railings cloth triangles as bunting and hiding from the wind. At least they’re not plastic. Plastic is a bad word.

My third submission is the postcard based art work called “Of Kith And Kin”.2018-01-09 13.28.19

Note the old school, aka old skool, pen and ink heading and hand-written fonts. Wait ’til you get inside. But you have to get along to The Mill for that.

On Sunday, after Mass, a neighbour turned up with a whole bundle of unwanted posh Sanderson 1995 material from a mutual acquaintance, all from Up Your Street. The Earth gave up to me. I was able to re-do my Claire Weiss for RAGWORKS International Women’s Day 2018 with appropriate material and so pack away the special collection all about women until March.

My hands are going from mauve to pink now so I can get on with another creation, a quilt for a baby made from refreshed textiles. RAGWORKS style.


The Pamper Shop


Right, moving into 2018 with gusto and thanks to our Jan of Spitalfields for sharing that on Saturday January 20th at St Margaret’s in Old Ford Road by Bethnal Green Station there’s a whole day from 11 am of wellness and healthy living workshops for FREE. Book at Eventbrite. Even Veganism is being shown and explored.

A healthy and free walkabout in Harrow Road area E11 called at Eventbrite “HIGH STREET SENIORS Around Ramsay Road” takes place on March 22nd to join in the celebrations of International Women’s Day.

The other event shared by Jan was the volunteer your memories and ideas of protest at Mile End University site in February. More on that as it comes in. Cups of tea promised. Emptying your mind is good for you. There’s an art exhibition coming up at The Mill E17 too run by Hassan Vawda at Artkeys all about memories and their inspiration for how we view the world. I love Sherlock’s Mind Palace. Nutty.


International Women’s Day 2018

Well, March will soon arrive as already January is under way and February flits by and then I am ready crowding seniors at Up Your Street into events marking International Women’s Day which some borough council women have changed into Women’s Month and Women’s History Month. There’s always something in the news to make us keep the tradition of celebrating a women’s day. This year, it’s the everyday sexism resulting in rape which means we have to keep on keeping on and globally too. Many senior women have diarised March 8th for decades; amongst my peers I know not one . I know old hippies, old headscarf-wearers, old beatniks but I know not one woman of my age personally who knows about International Women’s Day enough to explain it to another man or woman, transgender or adamant. Keep on as long as sexism is rife and FGM is killing spirits.

RAGWORKS depictions of notable local women is set and ready to display in a primary school hall. In my bid to mix up seniors in the community and school age toddlers then March 8th has been allowed as a time for Up Your Street seniors to view for one hour my work. Schools have to be strict and secure. The toddlers will do work as they do annually around women of note such as (roll out)  The Suffragettes. RAGWORKS IWD 2018 features local champions such as Hibo Wardere and Claire Weiss, Neech and Hyacinth Myers. Alongside those stars will be nursery rhyme women characters as Jemima Puddleduck and Old Mother Hubbard for it is a primary school. Each wall-hanging will be labelled but I’m avoiding words like mutilation and aggressive, self-esteem and manufactured by men for we are before the watermark. (WHAT is the word I’m looking for?) When the seniors come to view I’ll let loose my tongue and put clearly what Neech and Hibo deal with.

On March 22nd, the day after the Equinox and Claire Weiss’ talk about a woman born in Leyton and then  owning silk worms,  High Street Seniors start a local walkabout from Vera Lynn Close in Forest Gate. It’s a chance to see the old Edwardian part of London which is now des res all by Wanstead Flats, recently cleaned up of old sofas and trollies.

On March 24th in my own gaff, artists amongst Up Your Street subscribers will sample vegan lunch as we all share what our art and poetry is all about.

All events are at Eventbrite and restricted to age and subscription to Up Your Street , and on the events pages at AlternativeArts where maybe alternative means women.

Oh! The power of words.2018-01-04 11.07.1220171220_103207uys-iwd