Champions: The Tour

On Thursday I invited Up Your Street seniors some of whom are artists and certainly all have seen many art exhibitions in their lives or so you’d assume plus two champions who’d been my subjects in acrylic and are seniors too. So it was a mainly old girl’s tea party when Eric hobbled in and disappeared after the fruit juice and tour.
Hackney Central Library’s community art space is ridiculous. The space is three trophy display cabinets and two pin board screens. The thing is it’s free, I recently paid to exhibit one A4 painting in a women only show miles away. The work had to be framed and ready to hang and I was given less than two weeks’ notice. I did it though because I was supporting east end women artists who could learn a lesson or two about supporting me. That could be just through sharing a Facebook status photograph and giving me some credit. I thought it was out of order to charge women to exhibit for International Women’s Day especially when the organiser was flippin’ funded. Still, my choice. I did find at the bottom of the email the fee for concessions so pushed in my squids.

The Champions Exhibition tour started with an oil pastels on thick black paper almost a metre square of local activist Claire who rejected my acrylic canvas because I had left out her spectacles which define her. Everyone loved the portrait with her wide and hooded eyes not seen at all when she smiles which is most of the time.
The first acrylic was of beautiful Theodora Cadbury who runs brilliantly Xenia at Hackney Museum, a coming together opportunity for refugee and indigenous women to get English spoken. I was able to promote Xenia from experience totally for I was a founder participant. Part of the pull of going was the outstanding and comfortable museum at Hackney which exists for the community. Take note you others.
Zeb Achonu in her lashings of paint and recently You Tube star at London Contemporary Voices to be checked on their Facebook page was next in line for championess. She in nose studs, and vulnerable huge eyes always in scarlet red lipstick founded MUSEfest, a women only musical experience and festival with Hannah Judson. My guests were open-mouthed as I told them how MUSEfest generated a donation to White Ribbon Alliance for global safe childbirth for every woman.
Hibo Wardere, fierce but approachable, campaigner against Female Genital Mutilation, will one day get her two canvases along with a deserved OBE from Queenie. She too is in the cabinet. She rejected my first canvas as she remarked it was half a picture whereas I wanted to capture her eyes which are sometimes doe’s eyes with thick black eyeliner accentuating them. Behind those balls of black is a heart swimming for women and abused girls.

Mary Fahey had hesitantly (first time she showed doubt) asked me if the woman behind the leaves was supposed to be her. It is. It’s Mary the DJ behind a net curtain, seeing what’s going on but surrounded too by plants, She is a garden prize winner from up in Walthamstow Village. If you get to the exhibition you’ll read why these women are champions.
Rosie Bancroft doesn’t know I painted her after Paul Floyd Blake’s National Prize-winning photograph. She is a teenager in my painting which was originally one of my “At the Swim” collection seen at Hackney and Stratford. Everyone wants that picture. Postcards are available as I put her up for auction.

BN Neu pushed until she got seniors noted and recognised as a group force at Tate Modern. She’s not finished yet. How is she not the old woman who can dye her hair purple? I captured her vulnerability and tenacity. People see a champion.
Ah, my beautiful paintings of Hilary, full of textiles and colour and Hyacinth, our Valentine’s baby enriched in her beauty and African-ness. Both paintings are layers of colour. Both paintings depict quiet modest women who know their crafts and share them. Saluted.
Jessica Brassica, lovingly called because she is of the Green. Jessica Green, lover of life. mover of spirits and champion in the domain of bodily health and wellness through breathing and self-knowledge. She’ll have a yoga class of one and keep a level of excellence for that one person who is as important as the crowd. Her beauty is often unseen behind her hair and glasses. In the exhibition she is rightfully exposed. She is beautiful.

Even in her ugliness knocked into her by abuse, Sonita as a painting is fascinating in the story behind it. Here is a young woman in a stained white wedding dress and veil screaming silently. This is from the character Sonita plays in her “Brides For Sale” daring video. We see the child in the bloodied face. Well done, Sonita Alizadeh.
Marcella has rich tones of brown, African brown, in her face with that tight-lipped smile. The brown is layered on mauve layered on yellow all done in the early morning hours when the repeated How to Paint plum in your mouth TV shows are switched off and the urban foxes come out to disturb security lights in their hunt for stale bread. Behind a charming and warm face is a lioness. Our champion was with us in the viewing line as was Claire.

Amanda, art therapist, stood glossed in golden nail varnish behind the Hackney Library cabinet glass, waiting to gently serve us in the community. She stands watching us as we almost miss her on a smaller frame. We did salute her.

Sylvia was hidden for a while but made it to the champions line-up with her striking hair and features accentuated by a golden eagle eye as she misses nothing and notes everything. She is currently working with BN Neu and I on a project inspired by Tammy Whynot regarding technology access for seniors who can’t.

Mother to many Katrina laughs in the cabinet. We automatically warm to this premier champion who without a second thought bundles her family into a van alongside sleeping bags and torches for refugees wherever and whenever. Since we first heard about Lesvos and Calais in 2015 Katrina was on the move, setting up collection points for refugee aid. It was I who was nervous to ask her to be a painted Champion for I was in awe of her. My contribution was to paint refugee scenes in a collection called “Save Our Souls” which was exhibited in Stratford. Every tenner was sent to Kat.

I was always mindful of seniors’ legs as we walked around and as my guests listened to me. Claire reminded me that I was disadvantaging the disadvantaged when I hadn’t waited for Eric with his stick. Some of us had drunk sherry and eaten sugar so we were quite high. I was high on sharing my art. The security guard came and told us off for laughing and disturbing the six people bent over and studying. Likely. Marcella was typically fuming. I had already introduced myself to the security staff and ignored what was said because teenagers were busy chatting and yowling in other parts of the library which is only quiet on a one hour slot from 9-10am. It’s a market-place otherwise.

On the day before, the real International Women’s Day, Tate Britain’s Soapbox lot of 25 had discussed the lack of visible and celebrated women artists’ work in the museums. With Soapbox,unless you’re at the scene, you’ll never know how it went. I was at Anna Alcock’s women and printing workshop in Walthamstow where we mostly senior women of the white persuasion listened to a rant about the same topic. I was surely at the scene listening to myself. This month besides having two exhibitions about women, I am highlighting modern day women printmakers to balance out so many things, one being the twee view of women as crafters like ole May Morris instead of women as machine operators in a man’s world. I e print makers like Antonietta Torsiello.

Printing From A Women’s Perspective

March 8th 2017 At The Mill Coppermill Lane.
It is International Women’s Day and so we were a dozen mostly older women after-hours at a workshop given by Anna Alcock of Inky Cuttlefish. Did we all know what special day it is?

Anna introduced vigorously the now quite hackneyed topic of invisible women artists. Noticeably, the Tate is up to its neck in events and films about said same.The assumption was that we in the room all knew nothing about the fact that art galleries hardly pronounce in blazes of glory the existence of women in art. Our local William Morris Gallery was cited as a museum which never promotes women artists. I managed to promote myself for I do have two solo exhibitions for IWD 2017 and then have a hung work in the Tower Gallery and that is an all-women exhibition. A passing seagull would have shown more interest.
“It is hard to be a mother and an artist”. It’s bloomin’ hard to be a mother. It’s hard to be a mother and any kind of creative. It has always been and still is and so the only way forward is to be pro-active, actively promote women artists because of their gender primarily and bring about change. I added in that women need to retweet women artists’ tweets and share information about women art exhibitions through Facebook and the like. They don’t. I have many exhibitions on at present and the amount of sharing of information is almost non-existent. Meanwhile I’ll be busily promoting people I don’t care about but in the name of women power it has to be. It was evident that many of the women there tonight for example do not use social media.
Most people do not share other women’s joy.
“It seems okay to promote women in craft but not in the traditionally male work arena of printing”.
We printed and made samples as mementoes of our learning.

Issue 36 Up Your Street

Sun 26th Oct free   11.30-1pm Community Breakfast at The Mill, Coppermill Lane E17. Bring a couple of croissants or fruit or something from your larder/allotment!

                           free 2.30pm  Walking freely with David Boote

“This is a reminder about our circular walk this Sunday 26 October at 2.30pm (remember the clocks will have changed), through three cemeteries to the east of Leytonstone, starting at Wanstead Park Station (meeting under the bridge) on the London Overground line from Gospel Oak to Barking (also bus routes 58 and 308 and close to Forest Gate Station).  You can miss out on one cemetery and join the walk at Woodgrange Park Station, also on the London Overground line around 3.15pm (phone 077 69 665 447 on the day).  There are places to leave the walk before the end using public transport.  There are a number of places for refreshment, before or after the walk, between Wanstead Park and Forest Gate stations, including convenience shops. ”


 Wed   29th Oct free 10-1pm  Up Your Street participants at “Ships In the Night” an archival research training project meet at Newham Archives in Stratford Library E15

Thurs 30th Oct free 10-1pm Same participants off to Silverton for research

Fri     31st    Oct  free 6.30-9pm Diwali celebration and fireworks at Assembly Hall Waltham Forest. Tickets at libraries and council community hubs.

Sat 1st Nov       free 11-4pm  African Wedding showcase event for all at Old Town Hall E15. Book at Eventbrite.

Sun 2nd Nov free 10.30 -12.00pm  Meet at The Mill. Coppermill Lane E17  for a guided walk on the Marshes with Lee Valley ranger Gavin Johnson.


Up Your Street Issue 34


Wed 8th Oct    free 11-1pm Soapbox at Tate Britain for seniors. Book at The Tate

                              free 10,30-3.30pm Art School for seniors over 60. Dilston Grove (Surrey Quays), Book at CPG London. It’s a three day opportunity.

Thurs 9th Oct  free 2-4pm The Mill Coppermill Lane. Reminiscence Group with Waltham Forest Community Radio.

                                £6.50   3-7pm. Alexandra Palace N22. Stitching and knitting Show. Up Your Street subscribers bought their tickets in advance for a fiver.



Coming Soon

Thurs 16th Oct 6pm free “Breaking The Chains”. Memorial Church, Barking Road. Plaistow. Anti Slavery awareness art exhibition, Gospel singers, survivors’ experiences, and for a fiver a ticket a one person play.

RAGWORKS hung like meatRAGWORKS “Hung Like Meat”

Sun 19th Oct free 2.30pm  Lloyd Park Fungi Walk. ” Meet 2:30pm at the Community Bowls Pavilion. Join Andy Overall AKA a Fun-gi to be with and leader of the London Fungus Group, for a fascinating adventure into the park’s fungi.”lPSH rags 2  RAGWORKS “Lloyd Park”

mushroomZeb Achonu’s “Mushroom” 1992

Wed Dec 3rd  free 12.45 -2pm Up Your Street Community Group.Book now for our trip to V&A where Patricia Williams will lead us through the Nehru Gallery. Limited places. Book at Up Your Street subscribers of course.





Down Lea Bridge Road, towards B&Q.

I wrote about my disgust about Staffa Road. I talked to some residents of Overton Road who have lived in what was the Burwell Residential Estate for years and years. All said that if they put so much as a sweet wrapper out their front they’d be prosecuted. The recklessly abandoned white goods are an eyesore and those long-term residents feel powerless to improve their neighbourhoods.

Councillor Ebony Vincent is on the case of the abandoned fridges and other heavies. argall aveShe saw my Facebook status update and responded straightaway..

We cannot give up caring about our neighbourhoods. Our children grow up in them. One lady I know nagged and nagged her council until she got the huge mammoth bins moved from the Peabody Estate Buildings front doors. Imagine you’re a child coming home from bright primary school to see on your doorstep pee-ed on overflowing bins of plastic wrapped faeces and tins. Not all London Councils have imposed recycling sorting. The child would think that’s normal. It isn’t normal in England.

That same active woman, only thirty years young,  got the prostitutes moved on too. They’d have sex in the communal hallway amidst the waft of curried goat and Febreze coming out of family homes. Not on. I salute that community right-minded resident.

The Mill in Coppermill Lane E17  was busy yesterday with the front door continually opening with cyclists popping in, artists submitting their work for the forthcoming “Soft” exhibition, grandmothers and younger women arriving to knit, and Polish speaking babies going out in strollers having banged away on crèche drums. The Mill moves its neighbourhood down in St James Lane and by Blackhorse Road (W12 and W15 buses).

A few months ago, it decided to move in on Lea Bridge Road Library and agitate the surrounding neighbours into community mindedness. Good luck there. It’s difficult to feel a community in that part of Leyton because it is such a place where nothing except the poverty and dirt stay the same. Comings and goings. Who knew the library there only opened three out of five days in the week? What else besides the library  is there to feed the soul down that part of Lea Bridge Road ? The population is poor. Businesses fall after a week of optimism. There is a pub, not much interest to the Moslem mums and dads: The Bingo Hall just gave up. The lights on the Mosque in the winter months are lovely. A bit more westwards there’s The WaterWorks Nature Reserve if you’ve time on your hands to walk forever and have the energy to lift yourself from the lethargy of being unemployed. Dismal.

If Lea Bridge people wanted that library to be a hub they could have got it done. The past movers and shakers of E107PH  watched their kids get settled,  saw the neighbourhood change colour, and moved away or inwards. B&Q became the choice of venue for families during Bank Holidays. Banks and post offices closed and men sniffed out Paddy Power and his brothers. Restricted hours were imposed on the library and no-one blinked.

I once worked with a woman who moved into an area “to show the local people how to live properly”. Imagine!

Memory Lane @”Milling Around”

The Mill supports its own online magazine called “Milling Around”. Walthamstow residents and fans are invited to submit writing for publication after Irena has edited it professionally. All good fun.

The Mill has activities going on all the time e.g baby yoga, herbal recipe workshops, chess and so much more. It’s great and stands at the St James’ Station end of Walthmastow Market, E17. If ever you get a chance to go on a social history walk around that High Street, then Roger Huddle is your man, and others too. The Street is oozing with history. It used to be called Marsh Lane.

The Christmas Post.

When I was a mere young thing I did the Christmas Post in Walthamstow starting each snow-hung morning in the Walthamstow Sorting Office in Church Hill. That was in 1970 when I lived in a ground floor two-room lodging in West Avenue Road. Around the corner was the entrance to the “Village of Walthamstow Toni ” as advertised inside the railings on a Council notice-board. I never ventured up that path.

My postal round took me into Grove Road, Eden and Palmerston Roads and all their off-shoots. Every house had an unlocked porch and most had in them low-burning paraffin heaters with that unique warm smell.

At that time I was a student and very hard up. On one particular morning I was feeling the cold and was hungry. At the end of Beulah Road, an old woman was putting out her cat just as I was approaching. Without shame, I asked her if she had a crust of bread for me. She went in and came out with a slice of Sunblest covered in butter. That was a good day for me.sunblest

My last job finished on Christmas Eve and by 4pm I had to report back to the office to give in my bag and collect my wages, in cash of course. Relieved, I went straight into the market into the winter darkness and queued at the first fruit stall.

“Two oranges please.”

The costermonger flicked open the brown paper bag with his fingerless gloved hands and raised his voice facing the queue behind me.

“Two oranges. Cor! You ‘avin’ a party?”

The lights swinging under the tarpaulin never caught my reddening face.”

By Gillian Lawrence. Christmas 2012

RAGWORKS @Hackney art launch/social

People banging on the front door, mobile phones going off, people coming in out of the rain, pottery students banging away in the next studio,,,,Aah the scene was set for the RAGWORKS launch. The thunder had been rolling all afternoon and Darnley Gallery’s manager had put on the radiators knowing guests may be wet, wet, wet.The serving wenches, well schoolgirls, were unable to make it through the storms in time for 4pm as school detentions took precedence so it was up to I the artist to polish up the glasses. Happiness was mine when I checked the Centre fridge to see the manager, Mr Wonderful, had placed in there all the wine from the Co-op so it was nicely chilled. .All good stuff at half price. Quids in. The tea trolley was all ready too.  All I had to do was arrange the kosher biscuits, the halal kebabs and non-animal gelatine sweets flavoured by carrots and soak in my art in a darkened Gallery before the lights signalled a launch on the hour. Peace, sitting in a refurbished Hackney basement on a garden level loving Red Riding Hood and Dr Foster and checking all bamboo canes were level. The manager had hung Roar, The Girl With The Pearl Earring and Jemima Puddle-Duck from the rafters which enhanced the installation giving the room a mystical curtained effect. Bravo!

Guests trickled in, some experiencing art exhibitions and galleries for the first time and the camera man, Leopold Naessens, with an accent on the first ‘e’, mais oui, came in laden with equipment at 5pm. One guest left to go on to The Royal Festival Hall; overloaded with culture I’d say! Someone kindly put the received flowers in vases and people sat down to tuck into good wine and nibbles.

The meat of the evening was people talking freely about art and they interviewing me almost formally on how I was inspired to create RAGWORKS. The joy was explaining my techniques and my passion.

Everything about RAGWORKS began in November 2011 with my seeing sumptuous material unbagged in a huge overflowing recycle bin outside Applejack, a textile manufacturer near to my house.  I thought ,”I could do something with that”. It was winter and even on snowy Tuesday mornings, the times when the borough recycle lorry carted away materials and cardboard boxes, I schlepped over to the factory gates way before the arrival of the lorry, and in the name of art, rummaged. What beautiful stuff. Twice I showed myself to the guy in charge  and begged material. Twice I believed I was a smell under his nose.  One morning he beckoned me to a lock-up and there inside were cartons of material he’d kept just for me. Enough to make an ole gal swoon, I tell you. It was heaven. That morning without dignity and for the sake of art, I carried bundles on my back , along the pavement, and in plastic bags which were ripping my wrists into redness.

I’ll explain the pattern- making in the RAGWORKS blog under “jackrags” as in Applejack .

The launch was a hoot. Everyone loved RAGWORKS and chose their favourite fairy-story character. There are 31 wall-hangings and only 13 on display at any one time in The Darnley Gallery. One guest had seen “Song-bird” based on Neech ( at the Stratford east PictureHouse exhibition and was disappointed not to see it again. I directed her to the website/blogsite but knew that was a wasted affort. She remembered also “Tar-Baby” and we discussed how the title was deemed racist by some back in the day. (We don’t know who!). In March, I had mulled over whether to rename my design but went along the path of that that was how I knew the story in the 1970s when I was studying West African literature and repeating it to children in the 1980s. Tar -Baby it is and that design is mostly alien in form weighted heavily by a massive black fur hat.

Artist Debra Cadet-Wallace was a very welcome guest. I knew about her work through FaceBook and through visiting her web-site. She is familiar to many through posters promoting the force that is Stratford east Singers. The pair of us had to put our singing on the back burner because of art commitments. It was great to chat openly to another artist about the spirit, the soul and our passion embedded in our  work.

How lovely to come out of a lovely space, warmed with friendship and wine, into a still light and freshly washed Hackney evening . Thank you one and all.  Exhibition there until 27th April. Where did that month go? Part of RAGWORKS is at the Mill E17 for another week too. Hooray for wall spaces!

Leopold Naessens has some editing work to do! He reminded me that I have learnt, graduated, and enjoyed film -editing with the Documentary Film Group (DFG) and at The Learning Spaces in St Joseph’s Hospice. Hackney and sound -editing with Streetlife Radio. To me editing takes mega-patience. He is a patient guy. Leo did well for us and I am grateful that he did everything and  gave up his time generously. Camera work is his passion. Actually he also designed and produced the RAGWORKS logo. Tres bien!

Busy ole life

Many of Up Your Street subscribers out in force rehearsing at Stratford Theatre Royal (TRSE) for the “You Me Bum Bum Train” look alike performance-production “Heartfelt” this weekend. What a commitment.

I on the other hand am an iams cat and was installing RAGWORKS at The Darnley Gallery Hackney. Very pleased to be exhibiting in ‘appening  ‘Ackney.  Two exhibitions on at present; one in Darnley Road and the other in The Mill Coppermill Lane E17. I took along my whole collection of 28 wall-hangings plus elephant blankets plus this and plus that. The director decided to go minimalist. There’s a plan that I go in frequently and change the hangings to show what’s to be shown. Like I’ll be asked. The launch will be the time that RAGWORKS becomes a moving picture show. It’s a fact that I know only one person outside my own offspring who visits art galleries at all. I know that my passion was spent in the sewing and that RAGWORKS is on point what with recycling graduating to up-cycling and fairy stories being the new Irving Welsh. Good luck to me.

Lots of nice free goodies to look forward to. Up Your Street went into dormant state yesterday in its email form. I have other projects to commit to . I still tweet and facebook events but not a lot of seniors still are up to the mark when it comes to using social networking creatively and for information. Look at Jeremy Kyle slagging off social networking sites then has his own Facebook account for his runners to fill. Ah the media world of telly eh.

Amazing sight down Lea Bridge Road as the “Save Our Marshes” tents caught the Spring sunshine today. What a mess! I don’t know one person who walks along the Leyton Marshes. I’ve been doing it for years way back when the word “conservation” was just one specialist piece of vocabulary in a Social Geography degree syllabus. Been over there in the days when the grass was elephant high and lunatics sat cross-legged in it.

Ah yes. the goodies: Free Rich Mix cinema screenings of William Raban’s Londonist films on April 21st.  Free social art evening on May 3rd in Stratford east PictureHouse. Free members’ screening of “Salmon Fishing in The Yemen” on Sunday 15th April at Hackney and Stratford east Picturehouses. Free screening of “Johnny English Reborn” at The Rio in Dalston on Wed 18th April and it goes on and on.  That’s before I’ve started on the arts and tea dances.