Monday, 31 October 2011
Sunday, 23 October 2011
-----Friday 23rd September 2011
3.23 pm STRATFORD INTERNATIONAL STATION—
--crushed into a weatherless drome of clashing pop—
Rihanna, Gaga, Aloe Blacc.
-- STRATFORD CITY---
Bombastic and ostentatious Westfield belongs more to the Blair era of cheap credit and city boys blasted on coke; it doesn’t feel like 2011 where the middle class obsess over urban villages, clamouring for the handcrafted and locally sourced, nor does it offer the opulence of high end designer boutiques where you’re supposed to drift into an elevated dream of yourself.
It just looks generic,, Clinton,,Primark, Greggs ,
..…old air circulating///,,2012 key rings and union jack mugs.
We are among the old, bewildered and poor who could never fit in at Westfield . Bringing in the poverty of Newham we pierce the image it seeks to project. And we will always be here,, a persistent undesirible element, buzzing under the skin, like coke bugs,, delusional parasitosis .
Clusters of circular tables, concrete columns and aluminium panels, padded banquettes crushed into a pastiche of industrial design/
. Mcdonalds. Slumped in plastic chairs,,, eyes agitated and suspicious…..
---lurid colours, zingy cartoons in cardboard cartons--
the twitchy boredom of the ICF.
,,,, taking photos of shop windows,, a security guard presses up to me, asks if i've got permission of Westfield management. He’s typical group 4 type--, squat, block headed with the red faced arrogance of a middle manager.
I’m not really deterred though as the rest of them don’t seem to care, young men from the Indian subcontinent mooching quietly by with radios and distant gazes.
Immured in this amnesiac zone there is no double dip recession, no threats of house repossession or bailiffs coming in for store card debts. We glide in a suspended moment, dreaming of other versions of ourselves, pitifully sifting through the tawdry offerings of handbags, shoes and designer make up.
In the corridor to the carpark I find a cleaners cupboard open. I walk into a maze of service tunnels, breeze blocks, foil pipes and fluorescent lights---there are evacuation instructions stencilled in green, heat blasts from metal grilles and wires hanging from empty light fittings.
YOU are Responsible for
providing a safe and secure environment for all visitors, staff and contractors that visit Westfield Stratford and to ensure the following;
0.All common and public areas of the shopping centre are operating correctly
0.Carry out patrols of the centre as requested and report any findings to your Mall Supervisor
0.Westfield Stratford’s emergency and evacuation procedures
0.Incidents that affect Westfield Stratford Operations are responded to quickly and efficiently
Westfield Stratford building security and safety is maintained at all times
I am in the labyrinth that exists outside the central atria…these are the corridors and chambers hidden from public view, holding cells for shoplifters, secure cells for terror suspects, chutes and shuttles for the transportation of cash and the glowing rooms of CCTV monitoring units. This is the shadow side of the shopping mall,, the spectral twin of the faux brutal food court .
I pass through a door to a staffroom where a young bloke in a John Lewis uniform is poring over a phones4U brochure. I tell him I came for an interview and got lost somehow. We talk a bit about working here,, he says he’s bored already. I’m going on about the heat wave outside, describing the sultry loopiness in the streets. He says there’s a warehouse party later in Hackney Wick, writes down the address on a yellow post it note. He shows me an emergency staircase, we walk together, him telling me about tonight,, dubstep tracklists,, Dismantle, Phrenic, Jonah K---
The concrete steps are violet under fluorescent lights, floor numbers stencilled a meter high on every half landing. He says I should go out through the new casino on the second floor, it isn’t open yet but worth having a look while it’s all quiet.
We slink softly through columns of burnished copper,, huge dome pendants radiating slivers of white light, the spectre of the abandoned shopping centre is conjured as massive, molecular rave.
Those last parties I went to on Carpenters road, speaker cab walls echoing the derelict tanning factories, 6 a.m , pylons dissipating in lilac haze, red stripe and spray cans scattered on concrete floors. Clinging together like survivors of a disaster, thickets of buddleia and the skeletal frame of the old dye works,. Shaved heads and puffa jackets, , bonds forming in dead chemical plants, pills doing nothing now,,,,, Faces grey with exhaustion, the dread of going home, to the lock down, to the bugs and the visions.
There are rows of glowing orange booths and poker cash games, the factory smell of new carpets and tendrils of cigarette smoke creeping in through a fire exit.
We emerge in the intense glare of an outdoor paved area. This already feels strange and forlorn, no sparkling glamour just a series of liminal enclosures.. people sitting round,, idly observing, the disappointment of a bland architectural congestion.
There are breaks between restaurants where workers stand outside kitchen doors smoking, threshold points where the smooth space of the mall starts to buckle. The new Westfield shopping centre opened on the 13th of September,, we observe it and draw it before it stands as a scorched ruin. I say goodbye to the young man, he says maybe see you later and disappears through a fire exit round the side of Nandos.
A group of bearded men in tracksuits and kalwar shameez stride in, Ilford town centre temporarily emptied as hordes come to mock the spectacle. Green Street, West Ham, Forest Gate. Westfield is a giant bunker in a landscape buzzing with paranoia.
There are daily inspections on estates in Hackney Wick, Maryland and Stratford. Road blocks and security cabins, cameras installed in roof voids and microphones nested into satellite dishes.
The Lower Lea Valley resounds with ‘chatter’,, a maze of airport security and temporary custody suites. The wilderness we strayed through has become a city under occupation.
We’ve had enough. We cross the steel bridge back to the old shopping arcade,, a return to a pre Major Britain and a vision of London after the next crisis.
We drift past kiosks and pound shops and come to the indoor market , a labyrinth embedded in the stark cross of the precinct. A door opens onto opalescent corridors of plywood and polystyrene, passages forking into a maze of lilac and mint green... Angies café, breakfasts all in for three quid,, blue biros and sudoku…
The yellow filter of 1976--
Lines radiate from here to the Elephant and Castle shopping centre, the Merrion Centre in Leeds and the annex of passage ways in Wood Green Shopping City. 1976//1981//1990// fragments of that time before we became subsumed in the ugly utilitarianism of Americanised Exurbia, dull retail parks and out of town hangars.
Amber, sandalwood and jasmine. Cascades of silk roses.
Memories glow in these corridors like the Sikh shops folded into corners,,, mirrored velvet and purple satin, sheets of blue sequins thrown across black walls. Glittering tableaux from buried times rise from the incense burners and rose scented tea lights.
The flat on Barking Road, that room upstairs, stale with smoke and red velvet blocking the light. Dark furniture, heavy wardrobe in the corner, stuff thrown in the bottom. Pirate radio stations, heavy dub and a massive painting of a ganja leaf on the wall. Putting make up on,, streaks of emerald and black. And that horrific Mr Siddique, walking in when he felt like it, hoping you’d be in on your own….
Colombian cafes, African hairdressers, , orange cabins sinking deep into walls,,
tarot cards and eruptions of violet quartz.
The immersion in those chambers,,
the blunt smouldering in the ashtray… him in that t shirt, ‘Take me to your dealer’ with a red eyed alien glaring out the front.
We leave the precinct and come through a dreary back stage patio, looks like a goods delivery yard with outcrops of weeds and spiralling eddies of rubbish. This is the back of the theatre, the new Stratford ‘cultural quarter’. It has that cold feeling you get outside the court or the dole office.
We follow an old couple with a walking frame and shopping trolley. I suppose they must be about 80 and still connected to the Blitz, slum clearances and post war construction. Watching from an 18th floor maisonette they have seen it all before, the razing and the resurrection, the futures that never happened. They are lost here,, don’t know where you are half the time-- the gargantuan faces that loom on the hoardings are not them, the shopping city and executive apartments were never for them. The area has been reordered, street patterns and settlements erased. They are surplus, and it is a mantra they repeat, it’s not for the likes of us.
A sublime September day, the light is euphoria inducing, amber and dream like.
We cross the road to the ‘athletes village’. This is still under construction despite looking like a magical new town when we saw it from the train. It is hidden in scaffolding, edged by muddy craters.
I am amazed that the estates, the yellow tower block and brick maisonettes look exactly the same.
The joiners yards and the scrap yards are still here, shanty towns of shacks and portakbins,, smoky industrial estates with knackered vans and broken signage.
The corner with Wheelers bar at one side and the travellers at the other has been silenced, pub seems derelict, steel shuttering the windows, blackboards announcing karaoke nights long since dissolved in paracetamol and greasy breakfasts.
.It is eerily quiet down here but everything looks the same,, like those towns in the rust belt, revenant structures in an empty landscape.
E10 5EP,, Temple Mills lane…
The footpath across the bridge had been sealed off with reinforced concrete. No Access to the Athletes Village. The walking route around the edge of the Olympic site is totally blocked.
We veer instead through Leyton.,. weather making everyone giddy,, everything radiant with possibilities.
Friday tea time,, pubs getting lively , loads of people out. Busy crush near the station,, men in tunics and kurta shirts, heated arguments outside mosque. Doors open on every corner,, mirrors and red formica,, piquant scents of karahi gosht and chicken dansak.
We pass places I’d forgotten… those derelict houses I drew demolished now and that big pub on the corner all shut down and covered in plastic sheeting.
I push through a tangle of bindweed and peer into a row of sitexed flats,, a parched cluster of cells, temporarily taken, hastily abandoned. Bottles of bleach, 80s wallpaper, maps circled with marker pen.
And it’s around this junction, round about Midland road, when it really starts to heat up,, gangs of lads drinking strong lager, Polish girls done up in white and gold.
Under the bridge,,three young men ,, reaching in pockets for flick knives, look at me then look past me,, focus sharpening on boys circling road with bike chains.
Police and ambulance outside Mobeens.
A rich seam of excitement runs beneath this knot of streets. The charge oscillates through a network of shell like interiors finding flashes of intensity in dusty cab offices, fractured mirror tiles and red alcoves in curry houses. Plotting and writing, pamphlets passed over balconies, along walkways.., the effortless movement through different houses.
In the heat wave there is rupture in the commodity flow, capitalism can’t keep up. There are hoardings and window displays of winter coats and leather boots, smug couples serving canapés at Christmas parties…
A sprawling yard behind corrugated iron.
A load of crew, hanging round on bleached concrete . Bottles of Rosé wine,
charcoal circles marking the ground.
1994/ 1999/ 2003 Horseboxes, coaches , decommissioned ambulances.
//Spiral tribe //BEDLAM//D-I-Y
Throw off denim jacket, stilettos flaunting tanned feet,..
ride in a battered van back down the High Road to meet the rest of them at the King Harold.
—rumours pulsing,, E3, E15, E10, groups assembling on corners, on forecourts, spilling onto the streets---
Gossmaer threads spanning Leyton High Road, a shimmering sequence of forecasts --
Parthenon black. Olympic site black.
Masks,,tear gas, the red fog of military flares.
Flats raided. Armed police
Underground, Sellafield , Westfield.
The pub hasn’t changed since 1976. Vodka and coke, chairs dragged out in searing heat. LSD tracers, mirrors prismatic and glowing. Juke box cranks up for the leering debauchery of Friday night,
Rihanna, Gaga, Aloe Blacc.
He’s here,, like he was in 1990// 1999/ 2012,, I didn’t know him then, but we drifted around each other, spectral traces forming embers of violet and red in our peripheral vision. And he’s closer now, in this threshold place of remembering,, where the cold vaults of the past are activated and visions of our future spill like treasure .
---—WESTFIELD –STRATFORD---2011/ 2012/ 2013
---TO BE CONTINUED----