Hanging words out to dry AGAIN

Another washing line; this time an indoor rotary one on the fourth floor of the new Birkbeck Uni campus in E15. About thirty of us go-getter curious types assembled for discussion and debate with architecture experts from Birkbeck, and the locally based Fundamental  Architectural Inclusion.

DSCF8501Any floor?

Who’d ever know that we meet let alone continue to do so in order to thrash out  our feelings and voice our observations about the London 2012 Legacy? The washing line was where we hung out our scribbled group offerings about regenerated areas. We had personal stories to tell about crime and heritage, history and economics. Not just sandwich-munching community peeps, we! Many of us were state pension age. We represented many walks of life and ethnicity. Well, it is Stratford.2013-09-01 11.26.43Colourful pineapple eh?

This was “East End in Flux” hosted by Leslie Topp and Nick Edwards and attended by subscribers to Up Your Street, mature university students and local east enders. It was extremely well organised as per and we were warmly welcomed. Cuppa tea? Yes please.

Learnt very little myself but enjoyed the experience. After lunch there was a (rescheduled)  walk around Stratford.

015UEL E15

I could not be asked. Those pavements have my carbon footprint echoing in them as I’ve walked the walk many times, pre Olympics and Paralympics, post Olympics and Paralympics and smack into the mystery of The Legacy.

Walthamstow, Hackney Wick, The International Quarter E15 and bake-house hot-house Hoxton were mentioned in corners of the room in terms of their arty incomers: Get me?

The major question was “Was the coming of The Olympics good for the east end?”

The responses were mixed veering towards guilty negative and enthusiastic positive. Mainly we defined ‘east end’ as Stratford and repeated how much of the rest of London apart from Hackney vehemently denied interest in The Games and hadn’t a googling clue about this Legacy thing. The transient nature of Stratford’s incoming residents was seen as an opportunity to shape the Borough to the needs of everyone and stop the outward movement of short-stayers. Participants were amazed at the new build rapid progress in Stratford and the sentimentalists wanted to save old buildings which at least give Stratford and Newham its identity.

All in all residents are not informed about the architectural so therefore permanent constructions in their neighbourhoods, less so those interested in the Legacy and living  outwith Newham. The Council it seems allows property developers to inform the neighbours. That’s crazy but usual as the same thing is happening in the regeneration programmes in Waltham Forest. Often people say “What’s that going to be then?” when a skyscraper hits the clouds. Even the local papers aren’t clear enough and more often what was a plan is reality overnight.

Rapid change can be depressing or rejuvenating to an invisible long-term east end council- tax payer, pensioner and resident. Meanwhile we all wait to see if the answer to the question is a resounding “Yes!” as we learn the language of the ‘engaged’, dip our feet into the many  pop-up restaurants, pop-up art galleries and pop-up theatres, look around for sister-cynics and repeat a positive mantra, “It’s good to talk”.

Personal Best at the Paralympics.

Is anyone monitoring the conditions under which the Olympic Park volunteers  aka Gamesmakers work? The concerned grapevine has it that breaks are rare, that they stand in all sorts of weather, and that they get only £1.50 daily food allowance, not even enough for a  Big Mac and fries.  What is true?  I did meet a volunteer  driver who uses the ORN of course who told me quite blatantly that London black -cab drivers spit at her. I’d dump the uniform and go home.

The Paralympic Games look like the poor sister to the biggies. It would help if people could say the word “Paralympic”. I was on a Personal Best programme in 2009 which was designed to motivate people back to unpaid work in the Games Park. Everyone was naive then.  I joined because I was desperate to get into The Olympics and Paralympics Games to watch or sniff. I was in love with the whole excitement about the Games coming to Stratford E15.

Ours was a poorly attended 6 days over 6 weeks local course. Women had been cajoled and enrolled from a large housing estate and their minds were filled with shivery memories of school, urgent child-care arrangements and what to get for dinner. The only regular attender was the tutor. I remember  lots of hole- punching as we collected and filed hand-outs all about the history of The Olympics and other character- exposing questionnaires to see if we would slot into the essential criteria bit on a application form. Oh dire it all was. It finished. Thousands received their certificates and all was forgotten.

I went to my Gamesmaker interview, and did a lot of Cadbury chocolate-tasting as I pretended to be in awe of the Sainsbury’s guy who’d been on an American style howdidoody presentation workshop. I ate more chocolate aware that I was being tracked on CCtv cameras. My interviewer was a slip of an Eastern European accented girl who had no idea of my involvement with or my enthusiasm for the coming Games on my doorstep. But smile I did as the camera was rolling. My mumma raised no fool.

I was taken on as Gamesmaker for The Paralympics and even then knew I was second-rate. The Paralympics is not The Olympics. And to those classmates on Personal Best, the word “Paralympics” is as foreign to them as the word “Ramadan”. Those so-called students who could never be suitable to represent British people to tourists because those stereotyped desirables only exist in “Chariots Of Fire” are nowhere to be seen through the Westfield E20 and John Lewis windows. They certainly never got free tickets to smell the flowers or the canals. There was all the time a wink wink nod suggestion that Personal Best students would get a freebie to the Games. Naive we all were, including the organisers and the tutors.

The person who gained from that course is the Eritrean tutor who learnt something about the failures of a British education system.

So, Paralympics and Personal Best: The London 2012 team is still recruiting Gamesmakers for the Channel 4’s Games. Forget interviews, security checks and just mention Personal Best like it’s a passport visa. Say that there was definitely a promise of a job on completion of the course. No-one will check that. Get your free fitted uniform  with shoes too and transport arranged to take you to your job. (As if the csa’s in Canary Wharf or wherever they flout their mauve shirts even know what Personal Best is. My interviewer dismissed my Personal Best mention because she had enough trouble writing down  my past volunteering activities.)

Now that non-selection process makes a mockery of my already degraded position.

But I am so over it. Good luck to those latecomer Gamesmakers who are joining forces with the Forces. I have been into the Park many times now and will go again yet. It was funny that I entered names into the Waltham Forest ballot to have a look about the Park. Every person got a place and a wonderful time looking at the flowers and the majesty that is Olympia. It was a ballot remember so Lady Luck was surely out there. I never got a ticket. How weird. But I’m over it. Over the Games altogether if the truth be told but hanging in there ready for the Legacy lies to morph into whatever McDonalds wants.

Sublimer spoiler. Argos  displays the Gamesmakers’ colours at the beginning of its current stoooopid advert.