International Women’s Day 2018

Well, March will soon arrive as already January is under way and February flits by and then I am ready crowding seniors at Up Your Street into events marking International Women’s Day which some borough council women have changed into Women’s Month and Women’s History Month. There’s always something in the news to make us keep the tradition of celebrating a women’s day. This year, it’s the everyday sexism resulting in rape which means we have to keep on keeping on and globally too. Many senior women have diarised March 8th for decades; amongst my peers I know not one . I know old hippies, old headscarf-wearers, old beatniks but I know not one woman of my age personally who knows about International Women’s Day enough to explain it to another man or woman, transgender or adamant. Keep on as long as sexism is rife and FGM is killing spirits.

RAGWORKS depictions of notable local women is set and ready to display in a primary school hall. In my bid to mix up seniors in the community and school age toddlers then March 8th has been allowed as a time for Up Your Street seniors to view for one hour my work. Schools have to be strict and secure. The toddlers will do work as they do annually around women of note such as (roll out)  The Suffragettes. RAGWORKS IWD 2018 features local champions such as Hibo Wardere and Claire Weiss, Neech and Hyacinth Myers. Alongside those stars will be nursery rhyme women characters as Jemima Puddleduck and Old Mother Hubbard for it is a primary school. Each wall-hanging will be labelled but I’m avoiding words like mutilation and aggressive, self-esteem and manufactured by men for we are before the watermark. (WHAT is the word I’m looking for?) When the seniors come to view I’ll let loose my tongue and put clearly what Neech and Hibo deal with.

On March 22nd, the day after the Equinox and Claire Weiss’ talk about a woman born in Leyton and then  owning silk worms,  High Street Seniors start a local walkabout from Vera Lynn Close in Forest Gate. It’s a chance to see the old Edwardian part of London which is now des res all by Wanstead Flats, recently cleaned up of old sofas and trollies.

On March 24th in my own gaff, artists amongst Up Your Street subscribers will sample vegan lunch as we all share what our art and poetry is all about.

All events are at Eventbrite and restricted to age and subscription to Up Your Street , and on the events pages at AlternativeArts where maybe alternative means women.

Oh! The power of words.2018-01-04 11.07.1220171220_103207uys-iwd


Today.  eight months later. Maggie and I displayed my community art project called Lullaby.

Getting a space at Hackney Central Library was not easy as the powers who flout that power seem to have changed the word ‘community’ to ‘in-house’ with a programme of set events and habitual Hackney sponsored outfits such that others haven’t a chance especially when the management takes their time to reply to requests. I have displayed community projects many times at the venue but am surely not one of the favoured few. Bovvered? This morning Maggie and I were not greeted let alone noticed so we just got on with it.lull arthus

Lullaby is a project which lent on the memories of seventy year olds and better who subscribe to Up Your Street. The response was poor and the best ones were verbal rather than by email with the very best response being a full hand-written account of the place of lullabies in a working class background.

I wanted to know which lullabies the seniors’ mothers/parents sang to their siblings and which they sang to the generations below them. Their answers inspired me to create collages, acrylic paintings, textiles at RAGWORKS and doilies. I was led into internet sites to discover more and to re-inforce to myself that I was wanting authentic tales.

Many memories are buried deep under shopping lists and painful stuff, images off telly and are left in unvisited corners.

“Rock A Bye Baby” was the most known lullaby and I had to probe to find out if people really sang the verse to babies or were just invading a memory bank. Betty Clayden wrote down the relevant words from Hiawatha’s Song. From that point I remembered songs I borrowed from Inuit and First Nation’s People music. I searched the internet too to find the real words rather than the ones I offered at bedtime.

Cuca emerged representing the common lullaby in South America and as I was painting so the civil unrest exploded in Venezuala and I was in touch with exiles from the torn country.2017-08-26 21.22.01

The yellow doillies are a homage to Hiawatha and his Song with its beautiful words  and imagery. Real feathers adorn the rounds encompassing European and Japanese music scores and titles.

The RAGWORKS “Shoal” represents in recycled textiles the little fishes on the little dishes in “When The Boat Comes In” a song softly sung to babies and used as a theme tune on a TV series, “The Likely Lads”. Thanks to Margaret Houlihan for loaning that to the exhibition.Fishes on Dishes RAGWORKS

Special words related to lullabies and mothers spring up such as “hush” and “cuddle”, “comfort” and “slumber”.

There is a set of four canvases representing the lullaby morphed from the popular folk song all about a young woman bemoaning her married life.  Of course the song is more likely the prayer of a child-bride The theory is that many mothers sang lullabies as a form of catharsis and confession in order to release their feelings about an unwanted domestic life.lulla mug

The Butterflies collage is a reference to The Lullaby Project in the Orkneys which highlighted the butterflies as the  dead souls of buried children in unmarked graves in Ireland.

No. 26 of 27 Poems for International Women’s Day 2015

IMAG02751Jemima Puddle-Duck by RAGWORKS



In The Crib                    from Ribbons a poetry and photographic collaboration with Jake Green

(Brixton 2003)


Con fuoco, con forza, con brio

Nobly the rapper pointed her finger

at nobody in particular

She stamped with fire and force

And was vigorously blinged

In acrylic finger nails

And digits goldie ringed.


Was jus’ stressin’

As she dubbed each beat

First the index then the second

Then the finger of the wedding ring

And as she formed the o

Twixt thumb and pinkie

Her lips synchronised the shape



Later in her crib

Stephanie kicked off her Reeboks

And un- gripped the extension from her hair

Tonight  was a hard scene

Rapper Queen’s eyes widened

In a yawn

She hoped the photographer

Got her lip stud and new joggers

Performance was all.IMAG00653



My bus journeys on Older Person’s Day 2014

What a title for a day, eh?june w

Anyhoo I had to get to The Mill E17 today to reclaim RAGWORKS from its exhibition. Central Line was down and so some bus passengers were on diversion from their usual subterranean voyages and were looking out of the windows, mobiles in hands wondering whether a bus carnival were happening at Central’s bus station. Red, red, red everywhere. The bus driver was as helpful as pie to passengers and I joined in the banter. The stunning thing in all this was that the driver was actually interacting with his passengers and he was mildly surprised when I said that we passengers get the impression  that we’re nuisances in TFL’s manic bus schedules. He said that passengers are ignored because in the main the public are mannerless and drivers get the brunt of every frustration. I agree totally.up_your_street_2[1] (2)


I submitted my controversial RAGWORKS wall-hangings to Rosetta Arts Centre for an upcoming art exhibition in Plaistow all about anti-slavery and anti-human trafficking.

ragworks a la vistaprint

RAGWORKS hung like meatHung Like Meat

RAGWORKS knocked up Knocked Up

dont take my child 3Don’t Take My Child.

All this travelling takes hours and today was hot, hot, hot. I love going there to Rosetta: David , the community outreach guy is cheerful always and welcoming. The building is an old Victorian school; tiled walls, parké floors, turrets and tiny windows.

Job done, scooted out and ran for the 276. Lily was there on the bus sitting tight with her shopper/walker and began a conversation by saying she felt guilty about her walker taking up space in the aisle. Guilty! My camel. I told her the buses were designed for her. I also announced that it was Older Person’s Day. She said she felt no different but that the day was yet young.


Her daughter has chickens and brought down half a dozen eggs. She went into the cupboard and accidentally poked an egg open. Then she accidentally poked three more eggs so had fried eggs for breakfast. Yummy. On her next journey to Tesco she bought six eggs, packed them into her walker basket and trundled onto the bus. A drunk man sat next to her and chatted then insisted on helping her off the bus. In coping with the walker he managed to smash two of the six eggs. Lily lives on fried eggs! She said she didn’t know why she was telling me all this but I’m passing on her tales, my adventures from the buses on Older Person’s Day 2014

good life



It’s been a week of art.

It’s been a week of art and it’s not over until the fat lady sings; there’s RAGWORKS to measure and catalogue ready for October 16th. Time flies.

Just caught up on BBC Iplayer to get up to date with what’s occurring in the planet of established art and saw Zephaniah and Goldie doin’ Matisse and Turner. Fresh take on things and a change from Tim Marlow who I last saw trying to get any considered responses from Bailey about the whys and wherefores of photography and legacy. That was painful and Marlow was a dog with a rag. He actually put words into Bailey’s mouth. Way to interview! Job done.

Zephaniah was interested in Turner’s depictions of slavery and he investigated an huge painting “The Slave Ship”. Ole Zeph was not in his culture comfort zone or rather responded way too emotionally to art. It was a case of “I know what I like and I like what I know”. There were some great camera shots on the works of Turner and Zephaniah’s locks.

Goldie looked like he was lovin’ it. He saw Matisse as a joy-bringer,  raved about comfortable colours and hinted at Matisse as being one for the people.

Up Your Street community group is off to see Constable at the V&A in a couple of months but I tried to watch “Constable , a country rebel” on TV late night the other night. Too too boring . I still have to plough through the “Abstract” series on BBC Four. Lordy Lord.

The word “Outsider” crept into the programmes I watched with Zephaniah describing himself as an outsider and empathising with ole Turner. Really? Didn’t get that. I did get that Goldie was the only black man in Tate Modern that day and that I’ve never in my life seen a Rasta in any posh gallery. Oh Beeb and your diverse ways.

Up to my neck in Outsider Art having been to Seniors’ Art School in Southwark Park. Saw a doodly exhibition and lots of minutiae in biro. I’d been to the BowArts exhibition of Madge Gill’s work as it was pulled from the archives. This was my first conscious sighting of “Outsider Art” and it took me two hours to think positively about the scribbles. I am not that interested in the biography of the artist or hearing any pseudo psycho-analysis about an artist in glorious retrospect. Just let me soak up the work and see if my judgemental spirit responds well.

At the workshops we participants followed through tasks to redefine drawing per se. No easy task to fiddle around with charcoal, pencil, ink , 30 pieces of A3 paper. wobbly easels, moving images, Charlie Mingus’ airs and artspeke in half an hour. No sir. We were to loosen our perceptions of what drawing should or might be so we stroked and dotted in time to Mingus. We became ambidextrous experimenting with our other hand and lapping quilled ink over wax crayon or felt tip inside pencil-drawn spirals. The hostility towards the tutor ebbed and flowed depending on the awkwardness of the task.

In the afternoon we were allowed to use biro to draw. We used postcard-sized paper and drew, scribbled, doodled, cut and pasted as in days of old, hardly laughed, felt uncomfortable and were a superficial “we”.

Another journey begins.

Alice In Maryland

The Rabbit Hole is in up and coming Maryland on the approach to Stratford east proper. There you will be welcomed very well, see new-borns with their mummies and papas, enjoy hot food and snacks and check out designer trews.

August 23rd Gayna will be showing her wares in order to sell them,  her hand-made wooden teddy buggies.gee's tots toys

RAGWORKS has been  given generously at The Rabbit Hole wall space on which Anansi and Humpty Dumpty  can sit with their mates.neech in RAGWORKS 2012

Here’s Neech, the singing bird.

                                                                       Image (22)

Next door at number 17 is Afrobeat 94.0 fm, a new radio station and Mary Katherine from Streetlife Radio is about to check it out and maybe bring over her magazine programme.good life

It’s all go!

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