The problem is…..

There’s a thing going on and it’s been going on for a few years now, that the seniors making up the ageing population growing old in London’s high and low-rise front rooms are victims in a digital self-centred urban environment. That thing is like a business. It is a business, a growing concern with a target consumer. Seniors are portrayed as static and ready to consume maybe, sometimes.

Seniors are shuffled into get-togethers where they’re coerced to keep-fit gently, shown how to  eat healthily by chewing on massaged kale and unheard of nuts and to ward off dementia by sharing a memory lane in which Victor Sylvester conducts a bit of ballroom. And let’s not forget here the basic computer classes for those who will never return with the same password or even to the same hub. There’s a hint of judgement and solution all at the same time. There’s a prescription being dished out as a sure means of getting older people visible and not forgotten. It is assumed by the task masters and mistresses that seniors cannot possibly fathom out the ways of the twenty-first century and that a devised programme will solve everything from social isolation to cuddling with gusto every art installation just waiting to enhance the concrete walls of a pensioner’s gaff.

Stop it. These services via local government sponsored agencies describe and label a whole cohort of seniors in the age bucket  from fifty  to eighty eight years old as vulnerable and lonely and it’s understood that the lumping together includes the ethnicity as British and White. We can make assumptions judging by the ham based community dinners and the sausage roll buffets sitting on AGEUK application forms for heating assessments and basic computer use sessions that the white working class alone is being nurtured for social inclusion programmes whether in our vast population of over fifties, people actually describe themselves as Black Power Fans or Bob Marley’s Children, Pratibha’s Redbridge Scouts, Sid’s Lot, Marcella’s Churchie Crowd or Middle Class Mixed Race And Fallen, Vegan included. The promo literature kinda gives it away. Despite a gorgeous mix of older people in London for years, still the brochures have pictures like the telly insurance adverts of old ladies with white curly Twink perms or men pink-headed and nicely shaved thank you.

Things take time to change. I have been observing the slow crawl then for ten years, writing to magazines to change their pictures, suggesting to outfits that older people and I mean both sexes can learn something besides crochet. How about coding? It’s all because other people are prescribing treatments for the old. A huge conglomerate ready to please the government of the day trains its staff in their mantras and decides what they can offer the old with public funds from screwed tightly purses. Shocked will be the Coop today when seniors say what they really really want. A cup of tea is always a welcome and then a comfy armed chair to rest weary fifty year old bones. For ten years the same ole same ole has been dished up: basic computer use, healthy eating and gentle keep-fit. A change is gonna, has to come. I despair when a sixty something begs me to find them a computer class; They are the fodder for the government tick- the- box- we- did- well schemes. Once a Luddite, always a Luddite. You do not do we seniors proud.

At the Dalston pavement level going towards the Pie and Mash caff, things are different. Knowledge by seniors about seniors is different in the extreme. Last time I looked into my memory sink, sixty somethings were once jumping around in pub function rooms to punk rock or ignoring it and loving their classic cars. Seventy somethings were the birth pill generation who pushed against the establishment doors to enter fashion boutiques and indulge in the literature of metaphysics whilst hair- spraying their shoulder-length hair and practising moving their parts to imported reggae. They shacked up, baby-downed and shook off stereotypes on building sites. The eighty somethings whom now we salute for even getting there were the ration foodies who struggled to eat to survive. Massaged kale. Garlic bread.

I just feel that the machine keeps turning and that’s it. The intern dishing out leaflets in English about loft insulation has no face. She is temporary like all the six weeks only cos that’s how long the funding lasts shows. There is no community engagement as long as one side has superior notions about what’s best and the other is tuned out by stale, non-person engaging activities. No-one asks their name.

The computer and eating and armchair exercise programmes are in most community centres uninspiring and no-one really examines whether that wonderful notion of social engagement means the provider revisiting a place and certainly at least remembering someone’s name. The participant is not usually acknowledged in the short or long run. One white head looks like another. And yet “being invisible” is a conscience-spiking  phrase. It is a term that just won’t go away yet because it’s a business model component. It’s also the shame of a nation in terms of how that nation describes its old (white people).



well that was a surprise

Online I ordered tickets for Late Night tonight at Tate Modern. How beautiful is St Paul’s and the River on an August evening. Of course I didn’t read the Tate page properly where it said the event was for 18-25 year olds and so I phoned the events team and was told that there was no problem at all and just come and enjoy. I did.

Soul Of A Nation, the art of the Black Power era at the Tate, is smashing. It is well-curated and well-documented. It’s a journey through revolutionary newspapers and  artists’ statements whether in their words or huge canvases or through symbols and collages. It is visually stunning.The huge selection of work is spaced out such that spectators get a chance to breathe in the power of paint and images. I loved it. I felt comfortable and at home. I know the subject matter from knowledge of US Civil Rights in the sixties, through petitioning for fair trials for Angela Davis. I feel for artists who have or had nowhere to display their craft and soul.

The spectators or participants in the free evening surprised me. There were plenty of Nubian queens and African prints and hair-does celebrating natural hair. I’d say there were about a hundred  people who queued outside and possibly ten people not of colour, not Black. I was surprised. The evening was well advertised and the only criteria was age and that was a loose stipulation. What made an art exhibition and music thrown in which was superb too over free refreshments become an evening of black togetherness. It’s an art exhibition firstly. Where were the white girls and boys? Absolutely their loss for not coming along tonight I’d say.

There were cartoons all about police behaviour and young people tonight were referencing Charlottesville August 2017.  The trio of musicians gave us beautiful renderings of Alicia Keys and Bob Marley’s songs and when the soul shone through, a light crashed down from the bar ceiling.. We continued to munch our nuts.

There was much inspiration for an artist in terms of colour and audacity, the boldness over using different material in different ways, the sheer courage to mount colour over massive canvases or on hung cloth, the pride in experience expressed in figurative work but just as equally relevant in abstract shapes and the enduring perseverance to share art whichever way or means are or were available. I applaud all those artists I’m about to google.


It’s a break not the final cut

Gave notice to my subscribers that Up Your Street is taking a break.
It’s a break, not the final cut and I shall return.
Had a great meal at Butler’s Bakery last night with Ladies Who Jerky. Cheap as chips. Delicious food. But ain’t it just the case? You find somewhere good and then it closes down. We were told last night was the last night.
No point me promoting my art exhibition there as obviously the new tenants will have their own stuff to hang.
Onwards and upwards.

Bring Out Your Dead or A Bee In my Bonnet.

I thought it was a joke; the call out from WMG to crowdfund to get May Morris the credit she deserves because she was in the shadow of her famous dad, Bill.
Boo hoo.Was it hard having servants to draw your bath? She the needlework woman has her work all archived and ready to view if you can be asked to get to the Clothworkers’ Institute if it’s still there and WMG can arrange for you surely to see her makes on the V&A website.

There are women artists and printers galore who never had a shadow of a socialist father under which to work let alone off whom to feed. They are neither dead nor white nor sprung from businessmen’s loins. They have to figure out the ways up and over all by themselves, self-promote without appearing vain and I’ve only once seen a local artist call out for an unpaid intern to assist her because technicians cost money albeit the minimum wage.

We’ve just had International Women’s Day and many women artists were out there giving free workshops having sorted child-care and tax returns. They’re the ones who should get recognition in this day and age for their superb work. They need cash injection and to be recognised as women of colour often and women from working class backgrounds increasingly. The latest museum talk is about diversity whether race, gender, fat, thin, able-bodied, queer and then enticing users and let’s be updated, volunteers,into the stone buildings who reflect the make-up of our population. Keep rolling out needlewomen like May aka Mary Morris and propping up whatyermercallits to her undoubted talent and we’ll never change the status quo. She has her day stamped in the archives and only under her father’s shadow if you keep saying that. It’s up to us to not refer to her as someone’s daughter.

She, she kept her daddy’s name, didn’t she?

I see her as a women craftworker in her own right but a dead one who’s already celebrated.

Let’s give credit to Sba and Anna and Sylvestias and Sally and Anna B and foreign sculpturesses and printers whose names I am too lazy to pronounce but read about via Google. Let’s make a conscious decision to bring up the worth of other women artists rather than dropping cash into legacy laps.


Art in a bakery

Well, there’s art in a lift, art in caffs, art on the underground so today I went to see shyly if my three works of art looked presentable on the white walls next to a sixties’ cutie faded framed print at Butlers Bakery in downtown east London in rising-up Leytonstone. I was nicely surprised as I deposited to the proprietor my promotional posters for Art With Bees, a nod to [dis}tinct, an art project happening locally and in Jenny Hammond School. Who knew?

Happy days.
In the morning Hassan E Vawda allowed me to exhibit my textile interpretation of his Indian Cats. I checked cos you know what these artists are like. Recently someone was moaning that I’d painted and almost copied a photograph which he’d taken and for which he won a prize. I never knew. No-one told me. I put enough feelers out.
I’ll say it again; you know what these artists are like.

On Friday I’m doing a very informal launch of Art With Bees which means people drop by, look at three paintings whilst diners dine in a back room and hopefully patronise the bakery by joining in the pavement barbeque of jerk chicken or actually buy delicious home-baked bread or those flippin’ gorgeous Eccles Cakes. It’s all community. I never know: Perhaps some parents can check out my art having read an announcement of such-like in the school newsletter.

Meanwhile, on and on, the Festival of Creativity and Well-being is in full thrust with art in many guises, or not. My own exhibition celebrating older people and scheduled for one day only was cancelled and not by me but I’ve turned that slight on its head. It means I don’t have to sit all day in the venue on a boiling hot day and I am fasting too.

Art With Bees is on until the second week of July. I am lucky.