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.

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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.

Hugs All Around Today

How many Christmas dinners will I get to where the seniors don’t take off their coats, come in with their trollies, and the men leave on their caps and hats? Today I had a dinner which was cold and over-cooked, where the vegetables tasted of salmon and the roasties were anaemic. Yesterday my friend went to a free Christmas dinner for old people where the pudding had such sugar over-load that you would not think we had a diabetes panic in the UK. When she , a godly person, mentioned how uglily sweet the dish was she was sounded out with lines along be grateful for what you got. I say NO. Do a job and do it properly. Don’t give cold dinner to the poor of the parish. Think about healthy living as though you were feeding your own parents or children.

So far, the Antic pub dinners have outstripped all else in the realm of freebies for the old.

It was interesting for me to reflect on the bus coming home how as children, my age group and older had school parties where we took our own teaspoon for the jelly, ate cheese and cress crusty rolls, managed chocolate cornflake crispies and had a treat of entertainment and often a projected cine-film of a cartoon where my dad was the projectionist, where the prism of floating dust beaming from the projector to the rolled white screen was fascination itself. The format for we as kiddies and we in the waiting room of life or the spurt in the second wind for the Party is the same.

Yes Antic pubs responded to my request for Up Your Street seniors to have a free Christmas dinner in their dark and warm saloons and we did well. Of course we had to stand in line behind Age Uk as they command dates to suit their minibus drivers. I patiently waited for the date changes whilst seniors waited in the wings to get the go-ahead,

For another date, we have an invitation again to a school where the young students experience working as hosts for their elders and the school can be confident that their self-description as ‘community schools’ is valid.

Many seniors do not want to partake of a freebie because in many areas seniors are comfortable. For Up Your Street I know that many seniors need the meeting up, the human warmth and the FELLOWSHIP.

All that talk

So much in the news all year about including seniors in everyone’s plans and lives then you go along to a Newham nursery and find out the council moved the seniors along to the library where before the toddlers and seniors interacted quite nicely thank you in a purpose built community centre: Obviously the building and the seniors were not fit for purpose. And then in come Age UK’s ad on telly all about a miserable-looking old man being lonely. He needs to buy a telly with more than five channels, join the two fifths of old people who have telly for company and accept that. There is no parallel universe where your clone is happily conversing with all your jolly neighbours. Life is suckable. Then along comes the gravy advert to entice the family kitchen woman to invite in that live-alone neighbour who eats alone. Almost pathetic. I am only disturbed because AGE UK thinks it has all the old-age situations covered and in its trumpet-blowing saga then does a great job spending thousands on its own adverts and the fact that even the gravy-makers jump on the old as problematic charabang to sell their cornflour dust.

 

Up Your Street is on a free from email listings to its subscribers for another six months or so. That’s because there are many interns listing up community hub events online so in Up our Street’s eyes there’s an opportunity for seniors to find events and activities then to share with others. That’s the theory.

Up Your Street is as a dead pigeon. Community centres attended by its subscribers have staff who care not a jot about the fact that Up Your Street is neither promoting nor using the venues. They should be wooing Up Your Street and its mass of seniors. Over the past months Up Your Street has supplied audiences for events; there is a caught audience ready to join in and be part of the tick-sheet “Have you included the community in all your projects?” However when it comes to keeping up the relationship in its embryonic state between consumer and supplier, the supplier, in this case funded by the council or the lottery, community projects, Up Your Street keeps in the eye-line but always the supplier drops Up Your Street and certainly NEVER responds to emails. Talk about being invisible.

Of course much of the time the suppliers are Council employees waving like a victory flag their brief to include old people in the community and knocking off at four after a three day week. The commitment vanishes away from the desk. All that talk, eh?

They should be wooing Up Your Street. There are big enterprises who continually refuse to recognise that Up Your Street is also on the playing field caring about seniors’ welfare and that’s because they are afraid their funders will take away the money if they collaborate or lose the enterprise’s integrity and identity. Gawd, eh?

As many Up Your Street seniors say and have said over the last ten years,

“They don’t care if we come or not. We are just part of their forms and tick-sheets. They should be chasing after us.”

They should be wooing us.

The Tom Hood School

Tom Hood School arose from the old Cobbold Schools in 1925. Yesterday was a day of guided tours for ex-pupils. I went along although I never attended that school but as a newcomer to the area, was curious about an old old massive towering miserable looking building which was built up after most of Cobbold Road was demolished in the early part of the twentieth century to make way for it. I was told that by a long term resident in Cobbold Road, George, once of Neville Bakeries in Harrow Road. The railway was already there by then.

I passed the St Margaret’s with Saint Columbia Church next to a glorious Tabernacle church on Woodgrange Road and into Terling Close with the school in sight behind mesh electrically-controlled gates. A new purpose built school Buxton has just been built enabling the old Tom Hood School to be demolished necessarily in January 2018.

Our party was ten and excellently guided by a senior member of the school who had in place students on escort duties. From the old canteen we went into classrooms on the same floor with a purple and green colour scheme and then up to the first floor all decked out in glossy orange paint. The second floor built later than the original building comprising internal brick walls was blue and then the special treat was to see and explore the view from the school roof where a greenhouse had met its glassy demise and huts well past their glory stood upright in faded beach-hut colours.

What a view from the roof and on a November day what a blue sky. The experience was just amazing. We could see right across the Wanstead Flats and all over the old rooftops of many many terraced houses all built over a hundred years ago because of the incoming of the railways. A typical house along Dames Road now goes up for sale at £550,000. It’s easier to move out of the place than to move in as said by Bob the caretaker at Buxton School aka for today as Tom Hood School.

The rest of the visiting party for the 11 am scheduled one had many laughs and memories. It was an emotional visit for all of us. Our host enjoyed the outpourings too. She has managed to save one building on the grounds to be the headquarters for a community-use area and talked of community use in terms of clubs and meetings and even a Farmer’s Market.

One of our party had been one of the cohort named as the Millenium Year, the graduates of 2000 , and revealed the place where a time capsule had been buried. So let’s hope it gets secured again in January when the downing begins.

In the old playground I espied behind the safety fence on a wall the old stone plaque describing the laying of the foundation stone in 1899 to mark the Cobbold Schools inauguration as commanded by the Wanstead School Board. What a treasure.

Our host and guide took us into the new Buxton sports hall to see the difference. Yes it was absolutely magnificent. The students vacate Tom Hood at the end of the year, Demolition begins in 2018 and by May the community area will be landscaped and all the beautiful trees saved.

I’m not sure the local residents share my excitement about the changing built area in a vastly-changing area anyway with folk moving in from Hackney and Leyton. The sale of houses has quietened down. Some of the houses are 1970 film set look alikes and many need tlc. Having said that the charm is magnetic; the stairs are often steep and narrow in those Victorian/Edwardian abodes. The thing I loved too about the old school building was the non-steep and very wide steps and there were many of them reaching to the roof. The whole building was light because there was so much glass in the form of paned windows all over the place and all intact, There were painted over wooden banisters and balconies, old school photographs on the walls and possibly 1954 display cabinets of natural wonders from the forest and Flats. There were scratchings on pupil entrance brick walls; autographs from 1957 and more.

What a place! Remember when George Mitchell School was demolished overnight recently . Me? I want to see the dust rise from the downing of Tom Hood, like old chimneys falling down on ancient pre-loved stone houses in Westray. Something to look forward too.

Thank you Buxton Community staff for the magnificent opportunity to see a major physical part of history in its last stages of glory and warmth. RIP Tom Hood School.