Stuff Happens by Gillian Lawrence

Murder on Lea Bridge Road

Black-clad figures walked in the night
from work
or lovers and women or clubs
their heads bowed and behooded
as Saturday night beckoned Sunday dawn.

In a drinking hole
one man was down
knifed to his death at the time
his son was tucked into his bed and his mother had kissed
photographs on a shelf
and drawn the sign of the Cross.

The night continued
Nothing to see
Those who strode missed the CID
and the forensic team
and side-stepped
the fluorescent boundary tape.

That April air was spiteful
It stabbed at men’s cheeks
and lurked menacingly by lamp-posts
and bicycle signs.
The night walkers pulled their zips
close on their chins
and imagined warm beds.


No welcome and no, you can’t eat your own sandwiches outside.

ligon sue“One of America’s most distinguished contemporary artists, Ligon (b.1960) has been deeply engaged with the written word throughout his career. Drawing attention to the problems of language and representation, he addresses pressing and challenging topics of race, language and sexuality. His works reconsider and re-present American history, especially narratives of slavery and civil rights, within a contemporary context. Best known for his stencilled text based paintings, he weaves together wide-ranging influences from literature, visual arts and popular culture. Over the past 10 years, Ligon has also been dedicated to interrogating these themes through his prolific and astute writing and interviews” Camden Arts Centre, Frognal.

By pushing myself I went along to the art workshop at Camden Art Centre and was privileged to get in to see Ligon’s work. I was still tired from going to Alexandra Palace for the stichin’ an’ knittin’ jamboree for a fiver yesterday afternoon,

Camden is, let’s not beat about the bush, posh. The Camden Arts Centre is lovely and very much like a library in days of yore; you know, tan-coloured wood and an huge counter in the entrance where no-one looks up. I and my companions are used to going to someone else’s party.

Let’s remember it’s Black History Month but it’s by pure coincidence that a famous (outwith UK)  black artist dwelling on US race issues and sores  has his mammoth works up in three massive galleries in a community arts centre.  

ligon 2                       ligon 3

We workshop participants, all seniors,  looked and learned then released our arties by rubbing Letraset and drawing around stencils to produce what we were inspired to do after examining and reacting to Ligon’s videos, neon lights and the mother of silk screens. Twas all about the text.

We ate our sarnis on the train platform bench back to Leyton.

Blog post about “Le Tour de France” in E10

Whilst I wait for my energy to return in order to list Up Your Street issue 24  after a month of RAGWORKS and Up Your Street’s involvement in Le Tour de France 2014,  I will write about the amazing day in Leyton yesterday.

For over a month I waited for the Borough to show signs of the coming Tour de France down Lea Bridge Road in Leyton E10. I thought that maybe the pavements outwith Bakers Arms might be repaired and flattened so that parents with pushchairs (and they are an increasing population) could walk on the flat. I thought the shops might be asked to pretty up their windows or be given plastic bunting. Not a jot. The Hornbeam by Bakers Arms but post-coded as Walthamstow paid homage to Le Tour by  suspending a bicycle in its window, artily of course. One resident along Lea Bridge Road decorated her front with RAGWORKS bunting, balloons, ribbons and everything colourful. That was my place. Nothing else was happening to indicate that Leyton would be show-cased, big-time.

Up Your Street subscribers who live within walking distance of Lea Bridge Road were invited by me to sit on my coveted parking lot overlooking the main road and enjoy the Tour de France over lunch. I scrounged for and gratefully received donations of chairs. I made flags using the significant Tour colours; yellow, white,  and red polka dotted material lifted from the RAGWORKS’ bins. I had no green textiles anywhere. I searched in Oxfam at the St. James’ end  of Walthamstow market. I trawled Ebay. No luck. I stuck out a mammoth spider-infested rug on my front, collected the pot of carrot and cumin soup made by my French friend, and fell asleep as the home-made bread buns browned off at midnight before the event. The spiders sped away.

I’ve been to the “Mardi Gras” in New Orleans. In the early hours of the morning after the other revellers’ final day of debauchery, drunkenness and heat I watched from my hotel room the clear-up. The streets were hosed down and scraped of rubbish. All was done efficiently. In the morning I was seemingly in a different town all together; such was the transformation. Well, the night before Le Tour de France hit Leyton things started to move in the main road from Woodford  to Orient Way. Barricades and signs were left secured on corners. Markhouse Road junction looked great with plastic hoardings. In the morning operatives in motorised machines and orange hi-viz waistcoats were up and down suctioning up every piece of rubbish followed by the manual sweepers. As the day moved on the traffic decreased until 10am. Traffic was then no longer allowed. Before midday volunteers and security guys were striding up and down the road  checking everything was ship-shape and greeting householders and passing mothers pushing buggies. The general happiness was evident. The barricades were mounted. Waltham Forest volunteers gave out paper flags especially to the toddlers.

Waltham Forest borough staff had indeed set the scene for one of the greatest shows on Earth. I am grateful.

Here’s a spider on a bicycle.Spider on a bike RAGWORKS



Stiff Upper Lip Curling.

Today I went back to where I used to live. On the turning from Lea Bridge Road into the last residential street in Waltham Forest before Hackney someone has built badly a construction resembling dwelling quarters, nay a duplex, on the back of the last abandoned shop. It looks like rooms are joined onto the main yellow brick wall which must be at least eighty years old. The whole side has then been smothered with plaster. This, whatever it is, was built long before the relaxation in building applications and permission and is a complete eyesore. I doubt if any building inspectors ever examined the site before or after. The Council knows about it because I told them. There’s a side door which is often ajar but not inviting.  All in all a botch job but people live there and someone’s getting rent from the shambles.

Every day there is rubbish outside; I mean Tesco bags full of clothes, food leftovers, old amplifiers and it ain’t the wind blowing in the rubbish. The local businesses also leave their cardboard cartons and stale bread, oil drums and plastic waste on the same corner. I complained to the Council before and lo and behold two red bins have arrived. Those same bins now hold old clothes, broken chairs, plastic bags of food waste and etcetera.

It is all disgusting especially as this area is still billed by estate agents as a “desirable residential estate”. Today I passed the insult to the building trade in the UK and standing in the doorway was the Romanian woman who is the area’s efficient smiling scavenger of household bulk waste. She wears a rubber glove to sift through the bins and the black bags left by them. She always leaves the spoils tidy so she’s okay.  Today, looking ugly in her thinness, the woman was guarding her washing horses parked on the pavement outside. The road corner was a veritable laundry. We greeted each other and she dangled one bare foot onto her front door mat which is actually a crudely painted square on the paving stone. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Why are people putting up with it? Why was such a dwelling not pulled down? There are children living in the hole. Where are the safe guarders of children, those who put a child’s right to a good home and education? Why do we in Leyton tolerate the washing on the street? If it were Chelsea or Notting Hill , Muswell Hill, or East Finchley there’d be uproar. It’s like ‘Davlavs’, those urine-stinking Tardis look-alikes rooted outside Tottenham’s Peabody estate residents’ windows. As if the Hamsteaders would even allow Dav to have his lav.

Wake up people! Maintain standards.  Fine if you’ve just arrived and don’t know that you shouldn’t bag up your baby nappies and snail shells and chuck them over the balcony to land in the ground floor tenant’s postage-stamp sized garden. After two weeks you’ll have seen the error of your ways. Mrs Romania, do you see your neighbour put out her sheets flat on the pavement out front?

We are all scared to say owt for fear of a knifing or looking intolerant of our island guests.

So I left the place that will probably always be home and felt sickened at the sight of the blue police vehicle lights on the next turning, the sea of blood in the road and the man -crowd congregated outside the eastern-European corner supermarket. Eeeh, Leyton! Eeeh, murdered.

Someone opened their front door, adjusted their pyjama bottoms, and spat out their orange pips.