Monthly Archives: March 2014

Stepney is no longer the overlooked poor relation

Does this mean we can no longer wipe our noses on grimy sleeves, when they are not pressed up against windows? Gosh.

Metro

Fizzy Stepney Green (Picture: Supplied) Fizzy Stepney Green (Picture: Supplied)

Stepney: This week, Metro Moves east to an emerging neighbourhood that could be the next big thing

East London’s capital of hip is indisputably Shoreditch but cool doesn’t come cheap. Legions of buyers who can’t afford to live there or in other fashionable neighbourhoods – such as Bow or Victoria Park – are now taking a serious look at Stepney.

Much of the East End was known as Stepney prior to 1900, when a small borough of the same name was created. In 1965, it was absorbed into the new borough of Tower Hamlets, and Stepney now covers a compact enclave between Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road.

A church has stood on the site of St Dunstan’s in Stepney High Street for more than 1,000 years. The existing building dates from the 13th century and is east London’s oldest surviving church. A medieval village developed…

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#TurnoutforTony

 

Tony_Benn_Big_Ben‘He encouraged us.’

I can’t think of a more beautiful epitaph.

I stood behind a banner with those words on, at Westminster this morning. The amplified voice of Tony Benn’s son Stephen described how his father never judged his children, but always encouraged them.

I didn’t give a eulogy at my Dad’s funeral and I didn’t cry. Maybe that’s why I was in tears, as people clapped the rose-covered coffin,  Big Ben struck noon and the sun came right out. Debbie_NHS_nurse_Tony_Benn_Funeral_KarenJKHart

Cosplay


I love comics; I’ve been confused about cosplayers. Comic love meant growing up with Batman, Daredevil and the Avengers; discovering Swamp Thing and joy at seeing graphic novels such as the prize-winning Maus and Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes reach wide audiences.

Cosplayers were something new. For anyone who doesn’t know about enthusiasts who dress as favourite characters at comic conventions, that link is a good viewpoint. It includes my early concerns about women in alarmingly small amounts of lycra being objects of both sexism and derision.

This is a short and simplistic post, without time to reflect more but I wanted to catch a snapshot of the first convention I’ve attended: London Super Comic Con.

The middle photo is the villain from Kick-Ass 2. I’m going to chicken out of naming names. The Chris D’Amico character in both Kick-Ass films is one of my daughter’s favourites so I got up the courage to ask for a photo.

I certainly didn’t expect to meet a charming young woman called Amy under that exterior. Now she’s Facebook  friends with my daughter and a potential bodyguard, in her alter-alter ego as Mother Russia, if Amelia gets her act together to dress up another time.

The brilliant Batman rig in the first photo caught my eye for a second request. Without any doubt, that has to be the most awesome wheelchair EVER. I was so enthralled that it took my husband to point out the accompaniment of faithful retainer Alfred: I assume that in another guise, he’s Batman’s dad. I’m honestly lost for words at the love and care and pride that’s gone into this. Not much is really awesome. This is.

And the Star Wars pair. We were on our way out when they strolled past, tall and confident. I thought they were students from our flats, before a double-take to recognise the brother and sister I babysat when she was a toddler.

‘The blaster’s in the bag,’ Stefan pointed out before they headed off on the DLR; away from school, more mundane uniforms and the daily routine.

Freedom, self-expression and great fun. Now I get it.

 

Ron Finley, Frank Sidebottom & a Headless Chicken …

… are My Three Best Things About … being online this week.

The first involved a *presents positive spin learned as government press officer* happy mistake. Well, okay, a mistake: made by me.

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”

Ron Finley is an awesomely-inspiring, creative man who’s brought guerrilla gardening to bring fresh, healthy food to  South Central Los Angeles. He ‘wanted a carrot without toxic ingredients I didn’t know how to spell’ in a community where the drive-through kills more than the drive-by. The authorities tried to stop his planting. Ron won.

A year ago, he gave a wonderful TED Talk. I posted this on Twitter at work at the time and spotted it again this week while looking through links for an evaluation report on the Local Food Programme project where I’ve been working. I tweeted it again, managing to get both the date AND his name wrong. Ouch.

Ron graciously pointed this out in a reply – and started following the Farm. I apologised straightaway, giving my name so none of the other folk who post would get any criticism. He sent a lovely response: @StepneyCityFarm @TEDTalks @KarenJKHart #AllGoodThings That cheered up a night of insomnia.

‘There are currently two films about Frank Sidebottom in production, one meticulously searching out the world of Frank (Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story) and the other exploring the idea of what it was to be a man in a fake head (Frank, for which Ronson was screenwriter)’

Poor Jon Ronson has had rather a challenging week, saying on Twitter that he’s ‘a man being yelled at by 8000 Guardian readers’ for Frank. The quote above explains more about the two films; it’s from this feature in The Skinny.

My husband and I met through The Archers. After a get-together of a group of like-minded people, we wandered off for an evening at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town: a Frank Sidebottom gig.  Fantastic. Yes, ‘Guess who’s Been on Match of the Day? is Our Song.

We’ve finally got round to ordering Being Frank: there’s still time to support the documentary and get listed in the credits. My husband commented on our gig story and got back my second best thing, this lovely response from Steve Sullivan, Director of Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story:

‘Surprisingly, you’re not the first person to say they got together with their partner at a Frank gig! Surely not the romantic of atmospheres, but then there was magic in the air!’

And the Headless Chicken: best thing number three.  The Folkestone Triennial announced this year’s artists, including Yoko Ono and Andy Goldsworthy. I’m looking forward to ‘Whithervanes … a neurotic early worrying system.’ One of roofoftwo’s five sculptured birds will be on top of that Martello Tower, just around the corner from my Mum: a 21st century weathervane measuring levels of concern on the internet.

I’m sure Frank would approve.

Lists, writing and memory

Folkestone_Triennial_Spencer _Finch

‘THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE CRICKETS. THE RAVINE. THE ATTIC. THE BASEMENT. THE TRAPDOOR. THE BABY. THE CROWD. THE NIGHT TRAIN. THE FOG HORN. THE SCYTHE. THE CARNIVAL. THE CAROUSEL. THE DWARF. THE MIRROR MAZE. THE SKELETON.’

Ray Bradbury used lists to spark off his ideas for writing. The one above was detailed by Maria Popova, on her excellent Brain Pickings blog. There can’t be many people with an interest in any creative process who aren’t aware of her inspirational posts: it’s like having an enthusiastic friend who calls to say “Wow! Have you see THIS?” and you know it’s worth reading.

Bradbury elaborates: ‘…when you get the list down, you begin to word-associate around it. You ask, Why did I put this word down? What does it mean to me? Why did I put this noun down and not some other word? Do this and you’re on your way to being a good writer.’

Just look at the words Bradbury’s subconscious throws up: a short story in themselves. Mine is more along the lines of THE CAT LITTER. THE WASHING. THE SHOPPING. THE DINNER. THE BANK. THE HOMEWORK. Someone save me from the tedium of my own thought processes. I can’t go on …

To be honest, that was a deliberate list. I didn’t use the unconscious processes most beneficial for triggering thought and associations. A look at the Weekly Blog Club summary up to remind myself of the optional theme: colour, and there’s mention of blue light and blue sky.

Blue. That’ll do nicely: ‘SEA. SKY. HARE. FLOWER. FILM. FALL.’

Mark_hearld_Pisanellos_hare

SEA. The sea in Folkestone can be the blue of postcards but this is rare. One of my favourite highlights of the last Folkestone Triennial was Spencer Finch’s  The Colour of Water You can still see the colour wheel pictured above and spin it to choose that day’s Channel hue. The second part of the piece was only up for the duration: a daily-hoisted flag chosen to match that day’s sea-colour.

SKY. HARE. The picture of Mark Hearld’s “Pisanello’s Hare” here does not show the mouth-wateringly glorious blue of the sky captured in an original print. I’m lucky enough to own one of these and it’s the colour I see when I think ‘sky.’ It really deserves some Doge: ‘Such clear. Many cerulean. Wow.’

FLOWER. A blue hyacinth: from a bulb I planted in the little communal space downstairs and rescued after a hail-deluge this week. It scents the whole flat. In homage to Janet E Davis and her stunning still life paintings, I created Blue Hyacinth with Blue Heirlooms and Random Blue Washing-Up Liquid Bottle Lid. Unlike multi-talented Janet, I’ll never be an artist.
Blue Heirlooms and Random Blue Washing-Up Liquid Bottle Lid

FILM: Blue, by Derek Jarman. I saw him introduce this hypnotic and unique film at Edinburgh in 1993 – not belong before his too-early death – at a screening with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Here’s one of Jarman’s last interviews, given at that time.

That’s more than 500 hundred words: my new self-imposed blog post limit. But it’s the last thought that might lead to something: FALL.

I’m 17, being followed by a drunk boy I don’t want to see, near the Road of Remembrance on the Leas in Folkestone (not far from the Spencer Finch work.) It’s the slope that some ten million soldiers marched down in two World Wars, to sail to Europe. LeavingForTheFront-300x155

I tell him to go away. He says he will, if that’s what I really want, then swings himself backwards over a drop of at least 50 feet. His fall is broken by bushes of rosemary planted in memory of those soldiers. I remember screaming.

There are flashing blue lights: police and ambulance. Who called them? No mobile phones back then.  ‘Did you push him?’ a policeman asks. I’m upset, angry: of course I didn’t.

We go to the hospital, miles from home, in which my father will die more than 34 years later.

I talk to a woman in a waiting room: we’re both from Folkestone. Her husband is being seen by doctors.  He’s a workmate of the boy. His name is Blue.

Soon after, I’ll go to university. The boy will be forgotten.

Pics: Folkestone Triennial, St jude’s Gallery, WW1 Centennial Network