Tuesday, 26 June 2018
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
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.
Tuesday, 5 June 2018
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
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 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.
Monday, 23 April 2018
Thursday, 12 April 2018
Easter weather has been a bit of a uninviting one for my type of photography. Luckily we had a spell of sunshine on Friday 6th so I took my chance to complete my investigation along the river Roding. I started where I left it in Barking by the Highbridge Road (smallest bridge in the area) Since my last visit it seems that the East bank of the river has been visited by the contractors and work is under way. Most of my walk will take place on the West bank of the river. You start the walk by going through the Tesco car park. What first strikes me is the pollution. People dump trolley, plastics and so forth - sad. You cross the A124 and the walk becomes pleasant. Mix of 60's building on the right and industrial warehouses on the left. An actual path takes you along the bending stream. Glorious vegetation, strolling swans and gentle breeze put you in a good mood, until you reach the "official" end of the path. You then have to venture in the unknown going under the low train track.
There another world unveils. One of wild bushes where the path is hard to find. An uninspiring landscape filled with rubbish, stuck between a grim and poisonous Northern Circular and an unaccessible river punctuated by fly-tippings. You constantly have to watch out where you are walking to avoid nasty surprises. Some homeless people have built shelters in what you can only describe as slum. And this goes on until you reach Ilford and Romford Road. Quite depressing really. But I keep on walking despite the misery and try to find a way to follow the river. The actual banks are closed to the public and toxic anyway so I try my luck (silly me!) by walking along the NC on the other side of the junction hoping to find some kind of hidden path that would take me to the Aldersbrook part but I walk there in vain. There is no access whatsoever and I have to come back to the Ilford junction.
If you wish to do that walk bare in mind that this section requires a detour. You have to walk on Romford Road Westbound for about 5 min and take a path just before the Bell Pharmacy to enter a small residential estate and reach Aldersbrook Lane. You will find a couple of signs Roding Valley Way (see pic below) Turn right down in an underpass filled with graffitis. Then again, you enter a different world. One which is green, calm and poetic. You have to walk a bit more until to merge with the river. On your left sits the City of London Cemetery which is vast and beautiful. On your right allotments and behind it the stream and the Ilford golf course.
There is a hidden path that takes you to the river by the golf course. There you understand that the only way to walk by the river from the Ilford junction is actually to be a golf member. Once again the Roding has become a private property. Anyway, at the intersection mentioned above you can follow the river by taking a trail. You then enter the further South/East tip of the Epping forest designated area. The landscape becomes open, lush and healthy. The flow of the water is very pronounced especially at this time of the year. You keep walking North and take a small hidden sheltered path. Everything is peaceful there. You then reach a small pedestrian bridge, walk over it and follow the East side of Wanstead Park.
The section described before and this new one are familiar territories to me. As a runner I enjoy the beauty and peace of those trails. Nothing really occurs there until you reach another fence with no further access by the end of Royston gardens. You have to make you way to the Redbridge Roundabout. To conclude this journey turn left towards Wanstead on the A12 and there on your left you will meet for the last time the Roding river. This area is again private. The left side belongs to Thames Water and the right hand side belongs to the Wanstead Gold Club.
Epilogue: The Roding carries on towards Chigwell and offers many tranquil and beautiful vistas. Even if most of this later part is still connected to Northern Circular and later M11 you can actually detach yourself from the constant buzz. That said your walk will end by the Ashton Playing Fields as the trail is then blocked by a dense bushy area. The Roding source is to be found all the way up by Stanted Airport.