Wednesday 28 March 2018

ES 27/3/18

Found those two articles yesterday in the Evening Standard about two East End proposals. The one in blue is about what I just said in my previous post about Barking and the River Roding. In the other Tower Hamlet expresses the wish to invest for the homeless, which sounds a bit demagogic. Anyway, let's see how it goes...The East-End is always full of surprises - not.

Wednesday 14 March 2018


Day 1 of my trip along the Roving River. I was a bit worried of not getting access to the mouth of the river but after having a good read of the Google map I noticed a road access along the Beckton Sewage treatment Works. Left Barking train station towards the Northern Circular and realised there was a pathway starting at the junction with Jenkins Lane. So I hurried my way first to the Thames and decided to start photographing on my way back. As soon as you pass Frankie & Beany's and the Cinemas you are in a new territory. An endless road access goes between the river and the fence of the  Sewage Plant. After a bend you have the option to take an alternative route through the Creekside Trail Natural reserve (which doesn't appear on the Google map) There I met a born and bred Cockney gent who was taking care of the site. We had a lovely chat about the East End and its visceral appeal despite its constant transformation.

I started taking pictures as soon as I arrived at the Barking Creek Barrier. The weather was grey, the birds enjoying the industrial wastes and I was making my way back to Barking. I decided to return into the Creekside Trail and realised there were quite a few alternative dead-end paths to explore. This was a good move as the terrain was slightly elevated and I had now a better view of the surrounding areas. The sun shone through the clouds, the dense vegetations turned gold, the rabbits ran free, what beautiful time to be there. To be there and to be alone! I didn't see any soul on my hike apart from the caretaker - what a bliss! Soon my happiness melted down as I realised that my camera had the wrong settings and therefore the results weren't sharp enough. I got this second hand Fuji X100S mirrorless camera few weeks ago and am planning to use it for the Phase 2 of my project. But for some reasons the focusing system of my digital rangefinder which I love was not set properly. I can't believe it happens to me after 30 years of experience and of constant sharp results! Anyway, took it on my chin, changed the settings and moved on praying for some decent images of my first leg. There was not way I would go back to the mouth of the river, didn't have time. And I couldn't have replaced the joy I experienced then, it would have been a draw back mentally.

Left the trail and approached the A13. Weather grew darker but only few drops. Whereas my side of the river was only occupied by the Sewage Systems it is not turning and industrial Estate sort of area, similar to the opposite East side of the river. Got closer to Barking and entered a revamped area of the banks despite some relics of boats buried in the mud. The path is now made of tarmac, it's clean and modern. Walk over the Lock and I contemplate a familiar view, typical of the new East-End. Cheap, versatile, colourful new buildings glued together. A new shiny Industrial estate sits between the Northern Circular and the river Roding on the West banks. New Wharfs, Quays and so forth are burgeoning on the East side. Either side no access to the river - it's all private (in Barking, can you believe it) In the middle - barges, typical. And there is a lot more to be built!

I eventually managed to enter a Court and access the river. Opposite me is a waste empty terrain under demolition, waiting to rise up. Again sitting between the river and the Northern Circular. A bit further there is a small bridge and I photograph another vast empty zone on the East side. I knew my move further East was a good one but I wasn't expecting such a rapid continuation in Barking of what I have witnessed happening in the East End in the last few years. Next leg and probably final one of my Roding River Special between Barking and Wanstead.

Thursday 8 March 2018


map 1882, original East-End

The East-End has its origins but it is also a notion in constant motion. Its blurry geography remains determined by poverty, migration, politics, affordability and access to central London.

The East End is historically located east of the Roman and medieval walls of the City and North of the River Thames. It does not have universally accepted boundaries, though the various channels of the River Lea are often considered to be the eastern boundary. It comprises of areas of Central London, East London and the DocklandsThe area had a strong pull on the rural poor from other parts of England and attracted waves of migration from further afield: notably Huguenots refugees in the 17th century, Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and, in the 20th century, Sylheti Bangadleshis (Wikipedia)

A later map redefine the area of the East-end by the end of the second World War. It comprises the borough of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Not only then the Docklands were on the verge of decline but also the impact Nazi Germany had on the area redefined the "zone". The land had been badly hit and in such a bad state that it had to be re-built quickly.

Today, with an ever growing population and a regeneration program sparked by the 2012 Olympics we can re-think the East-End with the inclusion of the wider Newham borough. We can observe that the then small East-End from the late 19th Century has grown consistently and exponentially.

When I started the project in December 2009 I personally focused my work on the transience of the East-End in relation the 2012 Olympic games with its major building sites and architectural alterations burgeoning between Hackney and the new Stratford. The purple area represents my photographic investigations. North Greenwich peninsula, which I photographed last year, was an exception being South of the River (I will take it as a pivotal moment with my future work) That said I personally see it as an extension of the East-End phenomena after being a deprived, or an oddity within the landscape not so long ago. The Jubilee line, the cable cars and and the River boat make it easy for commuters and there is this feeling that it is following a pattern similarly experienced North of the River. In that sense we could also consider Bermondsey as being "East-End" but I prefer not to engage my research further South as it could become an ever increasing territory to cover.

Instead I envisage to start a new phase by concentrating my efforts between the River Lea and River Roding all the way up to Wanstead by the Redbridge Roundabout (see above) I will occasionally return to older areas previously visited to record the changes.