“Ships In The Night”

Eastside   (after a field trip with Rosetta Art Centre to The Royal Docks. Autumn 2014)

Just still you were

And we found you

We smelt you

And sat down by your concrete bank

Overlooked by new-builds of towers

Perched on subterranean car parks

And noticed ships in bottles,

Trophies of the sea in front windows

Under nets.


A walk away through brown bushes

And scraggy pigeons

Not the sea gulls we expected

We held our noses by a lock

With its green wood and Keep Out signs

And open-mouthed

Wondered at its ancientness

What it meant to its new neighbours

Who pushed by with pushchairs

And Valium eyes

With sights on different horizons.


We reached the red brick bridge

By roads named after fishing ports

And placed the site

Of Harland and Wolff

Of a bygone monster

Of industry

And somehow saw workers in kerchiefs

With Woodbines balanced in toothless mouths.


A droning ship in the sky

Coursed into City Airport

A Scandinavian container lorry

Vibrated the metal under our feet

We looked again into the water

Saw no movement

No men, no boats, no shouts, no funnels

No cranes or moving parts

We touched the red brick as though kissing Madonna’s feet

And quietly slipped away.



*****************************************************************by Gillian Lawrence







Constable in the leaves.

A whole crowd from Up Your Street was out in scarves and sporting haversacks on a very cold November morning to see “Constable: The Making Of A Master ” at the V&A. It was exactly that. There were many paintings and etchings done by Constable in his studio as he copied masters of the time and emerging others on his own path to fame and recognition. I liked to see the massive sketches of ye olde country scenes next to the finished articles. Constable was a perfectionist. He was meticulous about detail as evidenced in his studies for farm machinery and dock leaves.

That was a major exhibition and we paid not a penny being the Up Your Street community group. I remember five rooms and beautiful deep blue walls what with Dulux getting a credit too. It was all just nice indeed.

In a corner of a restaurant we dined on pasta and sandwiches, cakes and crisps for we are wont to bring our own picnics. No-one bothered us and vice versa. Evidently according to one Up Your Streeter who studied art history recently at Birkbeck this particular V&A eaterie must allow the poor tourist a seat. Suits us.

One window display was a towering stack of the thirty quid reduced to twenty-five pounds Constable book which we’d flicked  through in the gallery rooms. Obviously those copies were tethered to bolts. Great book and price I thought. On SkyArts they had the linked programme about Constable. Now that I recorded twice and switched off twice because it was that boring.

We came out of a packed Leyton station to the smell of local bonfires on a 5th November evening. I caught up with ” Missing” with ole Nesbitt on BBCiplayer. That is one well-crafted drama.

Next V&A is a look about the Nehru Gallery with a senior amongst us with her raised confidence and geared-up passion who will guide us through the dates and the art.Hmm.

And there’s Soapbox at Tate Britain next week ‘all from a man’s perspective’. Actually the topic is not publicized. I just heard something about a man yesterday. The regular Up Your Street attendees are going to be absent as they finish off training in oral history interviews run by Eastside Community Heritage and Rosetta Art Centre way over, far from Pimlico, in old West Ham, east London.

In the blog Canning Town Life Up Your Streeters were described as would-be historians. Ha ha . The majority of the participants at “Ships In The Night” are seniors from Up Your Street. They are experienced in reminiscence projects (before the word “reminiscence” came into community engagement parlance) having been the main characters in “A Taste Of Hackney” ( where they developed an App before Apps were on the market and Apple stores) and Openstage 2012 and many other projects around Hoxton and Newham. We must salute them, one and all. Here I am.

Yesterday’s last achievement was the twisting of Stephen’s arm and he’s on crutches, mind, to take us to Wapping to seek out dockers’ sons to get the low-down on dock-life. Homework done!

Digitalising Archives at Eastside

As predicted an inspiring course on training up to be digital cultural archive guardians at Rosetta Art Centre combined with Eastside Community Heritage. Today was in Ilford.

Saw a massive queue outside an Indian sweet shop on the way back. Grr Stuck on the bus.

Homework to be done all about Harland and Wolff shipbuilders. The course is called admirably “Ships In the Night”. Well-hosted and delivered workshops.