They’re All At It

Tate (@Tate) Tweeted:
How can cultural institutions re-imagine themselves to address new political and cultural realities? Join us on 16 February @TateExchange for a day of discussions bringing together museum, artist, and activist voices. https://t.co/a2YWdr32LL https://t.co/KmQi7DW7vL https://twitter.com/Tate/status/1093282192766193666?s=17

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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.

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).

Bread, no really! and Circuses.

There is a road, an ancient road leading to the edge of Epping Forest in Leytonstone once Essex called Cann Hall Road. It’s a shabby long road heaped with Victorian rail workers two up two downs each with long back extensions. It’s heavily tenanted and has mostly pre-loved front gardens and walls. It is not a derelict road by any means. Between the schools’ open gate times it is a quiet back road. There are four caffs each struggling to keep on keeping on and never worth visiting if you’re local. One is a tea place recently changed in management but still owned and visited by the bakers who specialised in West Indian bread. That place sits on Cann Hall Road’s junction with old Selby Road. Its side wall is a dirty-looking painted-over eyesore which the bakers neglected. Along came the Waltham Forest guardians of community pleasure and decided to change the wall as a mark of respect really for the residents who have lived and shared worlds in what was and maybe still is the highest socially and educationally deprived part of the whole borough. There has been an influx lately of home-buyers from Hackney paying out half a million for sought-after quaintness then spending tons on re-fashioning the small interiors. They are a community amongst a community with all their vegan, cycle and sourdough ways. The chicken wing shops still thrive as all chicken shops do in poor areas.
Well, there’s the rub: The bakery cum caff is owned privately by a family. The wall is theirs. The family is absent physically and vocally. Why wouldn’t they be?
The wall is dark blue, patchy in places with the red and yellow dust of the 1891 bricks making the roughness rust-coloured. The borough council’s agents with a keen eye on the Borough Of Culture banner pervading their desks rather like Brexit taking over all of Parliament’s business have awarded forty thousand pounds through some other non-Council money-pot to an artist and his aide to uplift the afore-mentioned blue wall. Tiles will be bought in from Goadalming; blue tiles. Interspersed amateur blue tiles made by the public through ceramic tile-making workshops would juggle on the same wall. The tile decorations depict all the different breads in our communities.

Some people have been noisy and abrupt on Facebook saying how the design is inappropriate for a Victorian road and etc. A few voices dared to differ. For me, it’s unfair that a shop owned privately gets £40k spent on it. The owners have not said anything. The café remains almost empty every day. Meanwhile Up Your Street saw and grabbed an opportunity for seniors to learn a skill as in tile-making using raw clay and listening to tutors who guided them step by step. We were working in a wonderful venue under the railway arches. Not one student there cared about the politics going on. I was happy that we were taking part in a community venture having tried for years to get Up Your Street even uttered at other people’s parties. And pleased as Punch that women who were nervous about achieving a square tile made by hand with their own bread picture on it were successful.
Afterwards we had vegan soup and bread á la vegan. {We were in vegan country.} The artists were whisked away in a cab with tiles ready for the kiln.
This was a prime example of Up Your Street seniors being local and ready to be that audience, that ready-made group of seniors as visible go-getters and engaged in their community goings -on. We are mostly overlooked, engaged for five minutes then forgotten. On Facebook no-one is registering what seniors have done as part of this contentious project. We woz there.
No curiosity. No “Who are those people?” “How are they involved?” No “What shall we do for them?”

Some of those bread pictures are ace. There were swirls and feather-like patterns, shortbread triangles and shell-shapes. As old arms rolled the clay, the pictures became distorted and even more fluid. On firing the lines will be striking blue against a white background. Can you wait?

The forty thousand came through the council from some other funding for arts and boroughs of culture and regeneration. Bet the local chicken shop would like to say something.

More Is In me

The old George Mitchell School in Farmer Road Leyton London had as its motto “More Is In me” and I would say that not one student attending there in the nineties let alone the staff ever knew there were a motto. Well, this weekend I went from being jaded at workshops where sucking eggs was more illuminating to feeling rejuvenated at a local tile-making workshop this evening.
Phototherapy aka sticking photos in a journal and going through the angst of memories in front of an amateur therapist and her mates did not inspire me. A Black History Month council driven healthy eating jamboree where fifteen folk arrived to partake of smoothies and African hand-me-down recipes altered for an international market delivered by earnest mothers come business women touting for exposure and business left me disappointed. I was angry that for eleven years Up Your Street subscribers have attended healthy eating courses and one-offs and listened to the dangers of not eating from that healthy-eating platter and feigned interest at growing your own to stave off Diabetes Type 11 . Stave off? Starve off? Today a couple of African ingredients and veggies were added to the mix because it’s October. We were still at a networking party to showcase individual wannabees in that great Tory do it for yourself challenge as austerity brings out the self-employed in us. Up Your Street’s The Pamper Shop was well before its time but borne of the join-in spirit of London 2012. Now everyone’s on the same yoga mat.

A good spirit was exhaled by the sole organiser/Mistress of Ceremony who drove energy and order into the marketplace.
The joy was in meeting up with ten others from Up Your Street who never de-robed from their winter coats but managed to carry along with their scarves and shopping bags paper boats full of avocado cake and fried posh bread, doughballs and apple fritters.

I witnessed bad manners. Women grappled with others to get a sweet like Roses were going out of fashion. A councillor was interrupted in her preachy flow by a woman arguing that without a garden, man, you can’t grow veg. True that. The only white woman there actually initiated the dance when the Congolese trio’s drum major invited us to dance and caused a flurry of gasps as years of stereotyping jaw-dropped to the floor and “White Men Can’t Jump” sailed by on the flaps of an Ethiopian flag.
A woman full of herself dressed in her Shalwar Kameez was deemed to be an expert on every Asian infused dish. Good job Uzman wasn’t brought to the stage as she never ever cooks and wouldn’t be able to tell her nan ingredients from her chapatti ones. And no, fish ‘n’ chips isn’t what white English women slave over in their kitchen. Stereotypes are offensive and ignoring men in the kitchen is not going away when only mothers are promoted as lunch-box fillers.
We have not moved on, people. We are still back in the day, back in 2012 when every nation in London’s developing and changing east was recognised and embraced, given platforms to outdo each other and then side-lined to curl back into their private lives for eleven months of the year.
We left all of that and ate sugary biscuits and drank milky coffee,

Back into the real world of penny-pinching and sticking to what we always do, some of us joined others at Canons Farm Kitchen. Now, here’s a story to make your hair curl. Eat your crusts. Canons Farm Kitchen is the recent name for what was Butler’s Bakery in Cann Hall Road Leytonstone. When I first saw it from the bus two years ago, I thought it was an artisan bakers in my head full of gentrification spawning into parts that others beards never reach. I investigated further and found that it was a West Indian baker’s shop with steam spouting from a vent through a huge scummy blue wall. I bought some hard-dough bread and resented paying more than £1.50 for the loaf. Things happened from then on like Ladies Who Jerky spending an evening there and RAGWORKS being invited to hang art-work. Managers and chefs changed hands. I also followed an outfit online whose writers described the blue wall of Canons, also called at one point Chef’s Corner, as an eye-sore and I also knew that the wall was private property. It belonged and belongs to a family business.

Imagine the neighbourhood’s shock to know that the Council is forking out £40000 to make that wall pretty.
Casting aside prejudice and principles, we went to the inaugural tile-making workshop to be part of the movement of commoners, preferably local ones, to make tiles decorated with outlines of types of bread like hard-dough! which will be mounted over the flaking blue distemper in Selby Road to create something for the future, a marker proving ! that the community represents migration and tolerance and all things fair and that the courts are on the level and that the ladder of justice has no top and no bottom.

It was fantastic. It was in a glittery space with 1960s soul playing softly on the radio behind the aspidistra, Sue created a Mauritian bread, Sara moulded a croissant with striking Henry Moore shapes. Two sisters honoured their Scots ma by revering her traditional island bakery produce. Some did chapatti and one a paninni. Blue and white are the colours and pride was our end-product.
Twas good. More is in me.
Some of we seniors continue rolling the clay in November. We are the community.
Spoiler alert, just hope the council finds money for the scaffolding or those fired tiles will be going nowhere.

Sweet Chestnuts and Green Parakeets

Today at last, I made it to the “Stroll around the Georgian Remnants of Wanstead” library-organised walk. What a dismal day weather-wise but we anoraks were out in a score! Coincidentally, in keeping with the essence of royalty and fiscal richness which permeates the very coffee-scented leafy air of Wanstead the news came out that Meghan of the Markle is expecting the first bi-racial heir to the British throne. Well, during Black History Month 2018 some may beg to differ about that first, knowing the documented ancestry of Queen Charlotte. All Wanstead stuff as that Queen made it to Wanstead House a couple of times in the 1600s.

I was expecting some stone blocks of ruined palaces, some obelisks and a smattering of bronze statues. No, it was all maps and linked up past glories mingling in with C20th reminiscences and facts. Good. The guide competed with noisy territory-guarding ring-necked parakeets high up in the sweet chestnut branches in Wanstead Place and booming leaf-hoovers being employed by work men in the Counties part of Wanstead Village or its Conservation Area. Those chestnuts are fit for gathering but I didn’t want to be the only scavenger in the company of reserved English walkers.
What did I learn considering just lately I have done much research about Wanstead House, and Samuel Pepys and that crowd of unwashed who had fingers in every money-making pie and especially the goings on at the East India Company? The money topping up those rich landowners came from the misery imposed by them on their subjugates.
I learnt that the grassland in Wanstead is bogged down with water and remembered the state of the grass in July. I learnt that M&S Food is tucked away by the famous The George pub and that Redbridge Museum in the Central Library has an art collection with some paintings of The Grove gardens and that the Wanstead Library is built on a plant nursery which was there in the 1930s.
And on and on after seeing massive mansions tucked away and likely turned into flats, and hearing about an observatory in the C17th and being interested in Mobs something, an area way back when which sounded a bit like Soho in the sixties.
The first time I visited Wanstead was when I was researching West African Literature at a time when Longmans was publishing everything Black. I was invited to interview an African author and wondered even then what a black man was doing in white Wanstead. He’s big in theatre now.
Was a great afternoon, folks, and then I came in to see Whitechapel Gallery inviting Up Your Street seniors to a design and architecture workshop.

Lovely Jubbly Jumble.

First of all St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney is strapped for cash, big time.

Some of Up Your Streeters attend choir there and we go to workshops which decrease in number.

The bus stops are awkward.

Saturday was the seasonal jumble sale which is always a packed affair.

Yesterday was very lovely: Not just jumble but performances, and a magician and meaty burgers, a kiddies’ area, open house, tea the whole works. There was a vintage stall, and the usual piles of clothes with another ‘nearly new’ stall. Jewellery was brimming over its caskets and kitchen ware was in abundance, What a great day out.

I ended up at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden for a cool beer and a £6 wood oven-fired pizza of deliciousness.

The trees in that garden just pour out oxygen. My sculpture gargoyle is still there indestructible.

So I am going to do all I can to promote an hospice where because of lack of money the infirm and dying are shifted to other places of rest. The nuns have gone and are replaced by paid office staff. Yet yesterday there was not a hint of gloom.

Bravo St Joe’s.