Up and Coming

Charles Dickens’ table, Frida’s bits and bobs and what next? Tracey’s juices? Curators put on anything and anything goes. Give us some real art. Tomorrow Up Your Street Community Group seniors are off to see the stupendous Anni Albers weavings at Tate Modern for free. The Guardian over-gushed about it: We’ll see. Then in January some go to the National Gallery for the Bellini exhibition plus a film. Free again.
In February an actual senior at actual Up Your Street will guide us through the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Royal tapestries:(Were there any others?) It’s timely for February 6th is indeed the celebration of Queen Elizabeth of the golden piano’s accession to the throne. It’s also No To Female Genital Mutilation Day.
London Live News is on the ball with all the upcoming national museums. It’s a trifle condescending in tone unlike BBC Radio 3 which presumes listeners are all in with every symphony.
Looking forward to Up Your Street seniors working again with artist and poet Hassan Vawda. Fingers crossed.

Feasting on Bond

I love James Bond films because we are taken to the edge of possible and maybe that happens and a world of now which may as well be the future. I love the sets, the direction, the production and the songs. I like to see how the make-up artists make up their charges and how skinny are the women. I see male thunder thighs and clean finger nails. I see stereotype foreheads of stereotype criminals. It’s a film world, a money-making thing tickling our imaginations and soaring us away to the unbelievable believable. it’s a man thing, created for a male audience with trophies real or imagined on their arms but keeping quiet for the big boys’ enjoyment.
How am I not repulsed by ole man Bond seeing women as holes to be filled? He is promiscuous to the end of his dick. How not? For I am compliant. But the moneypennies and the whores, the bints and the abused are equally promiscuous; all mouth and slink, confident that their vaggies are desirable and a prize for ole man Bond. M, the female character post-menopausal is mummy incarnate, mothering and grand-mothering her boy. I should not watch it.I should go read a book. I should go paint a woman with a prosthetic limb and an Afro.
I replay Clapton and should feel bad cos he was a racist once.
I need to care about what I know and what I decide otherwise I may just as well join Leytonstone Life and be told how to behave for the sake of a better community.
How very are we all.

Trawling and nets

It is blindingly obvious that we the public are invited to museums, galleries and projects through participation firstly in free art workshops. The futility of that exercise in improving footfall into hallowed halls is being considered at Leeds Uni by Dr Leila Jancovich et al.
Well I’m making my New Year Resolutions and first on my list is “No more crap workshops.”

To emphasise the value of Up Your Street seniors who are most times invisible to project planners and builders of creative landscapes for populations to use and from which to benefit, I pandered to the significant go-getters. I promoted those heads of social enterprises and budding community businesses and watched whether they had any inclination to reciprocate my goodwill by at least a nod to someone representing seniors; this older person who has at the ready an enthusiastic audience for them. Predictably there was silence. Go-getters size-up stealthily who can bump them up and be financially useful in the dog eat dog art and culture, science and survive world.

Up Your Street as an organisation attracting disadvantaged and financially strapped old people and occasionally a curious wealthier lone subscriber on the prowl for an audience, is neither threat nor of interest to government supported outfits with trustees and access to funding forms.
The thing is that founder members of Up Your Street, a cohort of tough immigrant women with herstories of candles burning at both ends know full well that they as individuals or as Up Your Streeters are just numbers at workshops filling up gaps around the tables, fodder for funding and forgotten about once the collage glue has dried.
Because of the insult delivered nonchalantly to those seniors whom I have brought together over the past twelve years, I am resolved not to “like” which means approve of anything I fancy on Facebook and Twitter which I deem relevant to Up Your Street subscribers. Many times I have come into a status update to let the author know that someone is out in cyberspace along with her peers wanting to join the party be it a community fair, an art project or a reminiscence workshop: Be it seniors participating in a seminar about what seniors want.
We just don’t fit the bill. All the Sarahs, Lilies, Rachaels and Amandas wish for the Dorises, Doreens, Patricias, Sues and Daphnes to be lonely isolates who have no words to share but do look good on a brochure advertising their own work in the multi-cultural communities the government imagined and on which the funders grant cash with restrictions.
I was warned by experience and folk who distanced themselves from Up Your Street that the bread and circuses piled on by ambitious younger people spurred on by something in the archives about a Cameron Big Society are ego trips by unemployed graduates and young exotic women allowed by their parents to do something outside the home and in the public arena for a while.
So my second resolution: Applaud no-one on Facebook purporting to share something in the community for the community.

My third resolution is to ignore the code “social engagement”. There is no social engagement unless there is recall.A one-off workshop is a flash in the pan on a rainy day whether it’s free or not. Momentarily some of the people some of the time feel good. The participants soon forget the experience and the facilitators sniff out a new community hub and catch the wind of the next recycled fad. They forget easily their clients but treasure the positive feedback notes with “good”and “full marks” on every response line.
To feel engaged the senior needs to be welcomed and seen. The facilitators move on but the participants who are the community are left standing looking on Eventbrite to find something satisfying, something deeper thsn a thirty minute demo in which the facilitator never engages mentally with any thing moving under her eye-line.

Up Your Street seniors are now confident to review their practical hands-on activities in community hubs and converted railway arches. Their reviews like online restsurant reviews hardly alter behaviour but bring it home that they, like me,
have something to report.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Was at Wanstead Tap tonight in Winchelsea Road Leytonstone. I wanted to meet Doreen Fletcher older artist of all east end buildings neglected and dead. I expected a stand-offish kinda woman but experienced a comic lady as warm as a tea-cosy. I expected an audience of the young, gifted and white but instead sat amongst about seventy very mature white adults. I think the only black person who ever went to the Wanstead Tap was Idris Elba but I jest: Benjamin Zephania was there last week. I overheard (as I write there’s a conversation on Radio 3 all about Epping Forest and Wanstead Park. Jabba jabba) a punter ask her partner whether the audience were Forest Gate people and she was chatting about the route to The Tap away from the dangerous roads by The Holly Tree. Well firstly the roads are safe for families, pimps, beggars and working folk. The pub is about to undergo a makeover, a social cleansing if you will.
And the audience was so not the Forest Gate people I know. I never ever see white grey-haired middle-class people on Woodgrange Road E7. Never. I see those gems in the opposite direction, in Wanstead. So yes what I expected was not seen.

At the end of the discourse concerning the painted buildings and Doreen’s reasons for picking her subjects, and after a few questions and answers all managed by the mysterious Gentle Author then we had an auction of soon to be rare prints of Doreen’s work. Well, I was in my element and in the room we reached the dizzy heights. I was on a roll when the Wanstead Tap owner, the actual auctioneer, outbid me and actually stopped any further bidding by gazumping then presenting his bought art work as a donation to Newham Bookshop.

The second print was going high too and someone beat me by a fiver. Not bothered. Next year’s flavour is dusting away the cobwebs from her canvases as I write. Art is a fickle thing.

Art is a money-making thing, a woman laying on a couch counting her golden tresses and wondering whether her eyes should meet on one side of her face or between her treasury vulva. All depends on her moon.

So that was a good evening after having had a tasteless lunch at Yum Yum’s in Stoke Newington. Done that. Tick off.

Doreen Fletcher will talk to the public again for three quid a pop on January 30th at The Nunnery Gallery in Bow. Place to be. ( I paid £8 for tonight’s thrill).