Monday, 23 July 2018

BARKING ROAD W>E






The very Western part of Barking Road is beyond recognition. Or, shall I say the bit by Canning Town station is. Tall buildings have burgeoned after the Olympics and the pattern seem to be pursued South towards Silvertown. Nice little touches here and there of famous locals that embody the spirit of the East-End in a very flashy fashion. As you walk under the A13 and start your journey of the Barking Road Eastbound all that sense of celebration and new has disappeared, you enter the real thing.






Barking Road still has it I guess compare to Romford Road. Lots of shops, a very cosmopolitan environment and lots of people in the streets. Barking Road is not only a commodity, it is also a community. Lots of contrasts between old and new, poverty and betting shops, ancient landmarks and new projects. There is a vibe, there is friction, there is life. New plots become available, new grounds are being constructed such as the Boleyn Grounds where stood not long ago West Ham football Club.






Poverty and loneliness seem more apparent though because of its vibrance, they usually good and in hand. You enter and leave various sections of the new Eats-End but there is a nice flow to it as if Barking Road was an umbilical cord. The end of the road feels a bit more lonely, more vacant. As you cross the Northern Circular you enter Barking and the constructive landscape doesn't seem to stop where ever you look.






BY CITY ISLAND




I was about to start my walk on Barking Road but I saw an exit sign indicating City Island at Canning Town station so I decided to head this way in order to have a closer look, the view from the train never allows you to appreciate the scale. As I left the station I realised there was no other passage back to Canning Town ( unless coming back to the station) so I decided I would have a walk around. I didn't want to enter the island as my camera wouldn't allow me to have a sense of scale or take a perspective on the building project. I walked a bit South and discovered they were building a path all along the River Lea Bow Creek towards its mouth - to be investigated later when completed. What strikes you first is the cheer scale of the project on such a small piece of land. As everywhere else nowadays they tried to make it look "interesting and playful" by juxtaposing very standard building of different colours and patterns. 
I recently saw an advert about the project where they were promoting its "creative" residents. I cannot imagine how such a tight landscape can emancipate inspiration to be honest. That might be one of the busiest piece of land I have ever witnessed in UK. You are surrounded by a natural environment but it feels like a prison to me. I think they could have done something quite special actually but they managed to produce the opposite somehow.






I then followed the only path Westbound to reach the Limmo Peninsula Ecological Park. I don't know why they call it park as it is short lived path that follows the River Lea and passes under the DLR. This walk enables you to have a view on the other side towards Canary Wharf. Lots of lovely wild grasses and some news installations for the locals to enjoy the views. Those spots are already damaged and filled with litter, not so great for the the flora and fauna. 
A new colossal pedestrian bridge trying to upgrade the adjacent abandoned Victorian one. More litter...and we are back on the A13.




Tuesday, 26 June 2018

EAST LONDON BOOK


I was at Waterstones recently and quickly glanced through the latest of Photography books displayed.
This book written, compiled by Charles Saumarez-Smith and published by Thames & Hudson seemed a must have for my East End research. I liked the format, the fact there are pictures but also texts and a kind of methodology. After 10 minutes of reading it (or flipping through which would be the most appropriate word as it took my only an afternoon of lament) I felt so disappointed. This author, resident of the East End in Stepney for several years, has managed to persuade a big publisher to produced a solid hardback on a basis of very sketchy thoughts. I can't believe that with so many pages so very little is actually given. The research behind it is very poor and relies a lot on personal emotions resented throughout daily walk in his neighbourhood. It is as if he only scratched the surface of the old East-End in his spare time. The choice of areas is very amateurish and more importantly their contents. It comes with a very surprising and non-logical list of places. After reading his presentation Saumarez-Smith expresses the wish to present the change experienced in the East End. This sense of change doesn't appear anywhere and instead you will find a list of old landmarks with little to learn from. At the same time he feels important to mention places such as Dirty Burger in Stepney, and organic shop and next an old church!? The whole thing doesn't make any sense at all. On top of it, the layout which I first thought was interesting, to leave some white space with little images in a random order as a sort of patchwork reveals in fact a lack of coherence and a trick to take away our attention to the poor quality of the visuals. It becomes evident that the author has been photographing with a cheap compact camera or even mobile phone, hence the small visual windows. And some images are not even cropped properly! Well, let's keep it there and say it is a very poor attempt and I still cannot understand how such a big publishers accompanied by author reviews can produce and praise such a mediocrity! Please DO NOT BUY IT, you will waste your time and money!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

THE CORNERS / CDB

Chris Dorley-Brown has done it again! A new book with Hoxton Mini-Press and everyone is raving about it. 
The Corners have a very promising start. Let's wish Chris a similar or even greater success that he is having with the previous "East-End in Colour/David Granick" he put together. But this time it's personal work and it's a joy to see this long produced body of work finally printed out on a larger format. I haven't purchased my copy yet but I let you discover the magic yourself. Find below link to purchase book online. I am also adding all sorts of links.


https://www.hoxtonminipress.com/collections/books/products/the-corners

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2018/jun/07/the-corners-a-dreamlike-look-at-east-london-chris-dorley-brown-in-pictures

http://www.bjp-online.com/2018/05/dorley-brown-corners/

https://www.creativeboom.com/inspiration/surreal-multiple-exposed-photographs-of-street-corners-in-londons-east-end-look-like-oil-paintings/

https://www.creativereview.co.uk/a-fresh-look-at-londons-street-corners/

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

ROMFORD ROAD W>E






Good walk on a Sunday sunny afternoon. Starting by St John's church in Stratford and finishing at the Northern Circular flyover in Ilford. One straight line slicing through Forest Gate and Manor Park. The road has several sections and offers different "vibes". That said there is a continuity in terms of services provided. The road is filled with private or small chain hotels. There are many pubs closed and almost no new ones which can be explained simply by the fact that most of the local population is muslim. The road is also dedicated to the car. Car wash units are everywhere. The train lines being slightly off the main road this axis is dedicated to the wheeled vehicles.





There are also plenty of local presbyterian churches which are full on Sundays and where the attendees wear immaculate white uniforms. A lot of old buildings still stand and few are being restored. To my surprise they were almost no new buildings. Few fenced bits of lands but no promises of new flashy blocs. Again, with the near arrival of the Crossrail line in the area I am slightly confused with the non-interest of property developers (not that I complain though)





As your walk goes on you realised that Romford Road may have been of great use in a distant past but that today's function lies in its access to Stratford and Central London. This is an alternative quick access to the centre and there is very little time for enjoying its charm. The life of each quarter is to be found on either sides of it like on Upton Lane and High Street North.




The end of the road is definitely more vibrant and this is were the muslim communities gather. The shops remain the usual British ones though. You sense the area is poor. I reach the North end of Newham and enter the monstrous new Ilford to end my journey.
Today marks the completion of a triangular framing of my new East-End project. River Roding covered the furthest East side, the Greenway stretched most of its South and today seals it Northbound. Few pockets outside this triangular shape will be investigated though in time.



Wednesday, 9 May 2018

GREENWAY W>E



Few days ago I have walked the whole length of the Greenway from West to East in opposite direction of the sun on a boiling day. I did half of the walk few years ago but stopped by the East London Cemetery in Plaistow. The walk starts between the A12 and  Old Ford Lock in Hackney Wick. At first nothing has much changed part that local artisans/artists have put their touch here and there in the background with little installations and graffitis. As you approach the London Stadium the bit on the right remains a vacant in limbo piece of land similar to a laboratory. I have seen this part changing so many times over the past 10 years. It is the perfect allegory of the East End, a land in fusion. On the right stands the new West Ham Football Stadium and right in between a new running track and new plain building whose function is unknown to me.





As I started this walk I was expecting walking the full length of the Greenway hoping the bit by the ViewPoint Green Container Café would have been restored and open to the public. Sadly it isn't. Speaking to a warden officer working on the other side of the train track on a parking lot/allotments temporary area he told me that wouldn't happen before 3 to 4 years. So I walk along the canal to reach the A118 High Street and carry on.





Nothing has much changed here apart that the Abbey Mills Pumping Station seems to have been partially restored and properly protected. The once public areas are now closed. I carry on and the path is stretching long. The vegetation is lush and comforting. The partial background noise of traffic can be heard but the Greenway keeps you sheltered.




As the path slightly bends by crossing Balaam Street in Plaistow you suddenly discern the Barking Creek Barrier in the far distance. It strangely looks much bigger than it should be being so far away. Perspective illusions occur when the surrounding landscape is so flat and barren. The path is now quite empty and you can hear people's music, discussions and occupations behind the wall of vegetation. It is a very peaceful and pleasing experience.





The greenway has now reached the East Ham interchange by the A13. You walk around it and carry on South-East. Walk by the artificial Hill and verge right. You then enter the last proper section. This one is empty of souls and is squeezed between 2 vast industrial estates. The one on the right is company based and the one on the left is retail. Out the of the flatness experienced totems of all shapes emerge.





 The tail of the Greenway divides as you reach the Royal Docks Road A1020 (or Northern Circular extension) I choose the one on the left to walk towards Barking. The decor becomes busy and dirty, I don't like it. Here and there you find some oddities such as wind turbine and horses. My journey ends as I leave Newham by the Roding River.





The Greenway isn't the most exciting of trail but it has its charm. It is a very convenient corridor for the locals to reach various point either by walk or ride. But for me the joy it has provided me lied in the disconnection experienced despite being so present within the urban landscape. It offers a unique mental space where you can breathe, think and project on its blank canvas.