On the 28th July 2010 walkwalkwalk led a session of Street Training/Campfire Conversations Summer Course, a project by Lottie Child at Spitalfields City Farm. The evening was aimed at presenting our work on Pedley Street and walking, as a means for introducing the course participants to particular ways of engaging with and discovering aspects of the city. The course members also introduced us to many new and exciting thoughts and aspects of Pedley Street. You can find out more about Street Training and Campfire Conversations here.
We discussed the Pedley Street site, which we have come to know in extreme detail over the last six years, and what it means to us. We visited particular sites - the Shoe Tree, The Incongruous Fig Tree, Shit Bridge, Pedley Street Arch, Pedley Arena, the stump of what was Fleet Street Hill, the unopened and now not-so-shiny-new cycle path - and recited walk stories related to those places, and also told oral histories of the places and encounters of Pedley Street. This included The Boys, Fear on the Bridge, Box of Shoes, Model and the Pedley Street Arena (written stories); and The Shoe Tree and Winos, Fight Club, the Fire/Soup stop and others 'orally.'
We wriggled under fences and amongst newly constructed feet of bridges.
We collected new objects for the Found Object Archive.
And talked a lot.
We gathered underneath the Pedley Arch. I was concerned that my favourite piece of graffiti was gone (one of my favourites), but it wasn't - it still says 'I LOVE JAN! YOU KNOW THE BIG POLISH GUY FROM SWEDEN' Who is this mystery man? and how big is he, I often wonder.
There was also a new addition beneath this writing, melancholic and beautiful (and quite literary) I thought:
IT'S SAD TO FALL ASLEEP. IT SEPARATES PEOPLE
Lottie mentioned having seen the walk fly posters under the arch a few years ago, with walk stories on them (perhaps The Model) and said it felt like the city was speaking to her.
We re-visited 'Shit Bridge,' the site of many previous crossings and memories, in particular the location featured in the walk story 'Fear on the Bridge' (please click here to read the story). Serena read the story aloud as we gathered around, listening attentively amidst the ubiquitous stench of urine (though in the absence of the occasional giant turd). There was some new and very shiny silver graffiti on the end wall, much blingier than the fragment of walkwalkwalk fly poster that had remained for years after it was pasted up (until grey paint obliterated it).
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Monday, 26 July 2010
In December 2009 Gail read 'A Christmas Anecdote – Pedley Street Arena' for Lost Steps' Christmas special on Resonance FM. You can listen to the programme here. The story revisits one of walkwalkwalk's nightwalks...
It’s Winter Solstice 2007 - not quite Christmas, but this is the night when walkwalkwalk have our ritual nightwalk, and it always feels festive. Tonight it’s so cold I feel sick; such intense cold that everyone is at their limit. This imbues the walking group and our Bethnal Green route with an atmosphere of ruthless bacchanal…a sense of something bubbling, struggling to burst out. Yet the night is also strangely still on the surface – thickly, damply, mist wraps around everything – leaving half-buildings, sawn off stumps. It’s like a ‘50s film with Dirk Bogarde, lingering on a street corner. Bogeymen emerge from the mist. The still, quietening of the mist releases fragmentary moments of acoustic weirdness, otherworldliness…and impending violence.
As we pass through the hodge-podge of 1960s estates and 1890s remnants, sandwiched between Brick Lane and Vallance road, twisting our way to what was Pedley Street and Fleet Street Hill, there is a sense of excited anticipation. We are nearly at the soup stop, the point where we traditionally have a fire, awaiting our arrival in a brazier. The luxury to colonise this spot has been possible as it is a gap in the city: odds and ends of insignificant streets and waste ground, railway perimeters, that nobody’s been interested in for years. But now the new railway is coming and the whole area has been sectioned off, closed in, covered over – Pedley Street is concealed behind hoardings and mounds of earth, the Railway Footbridge and Flying Hut are inaccessible, and Fleet Street Hill is only navigable through a corridor of wooden fencing. The area has become a flat, smoothed arena, contained behind high chain-link fences, and tauntingly flood lit. Above, on the old railway bank, there is a line of static machines – cherry pickers, diggers and cranes, left like musical statues, elegantly, hungrily poised. The edge of this arena is to be the site for our soup stop – still in enough of a no man’s land.
Ambiguous shrieks and grunts penetrate the thick air – they emanate from where the fire and soup will be. I run ahead to see what is happening. The kids who usually hang around, trying ineptly to mug the residents of Weavers House, have got hold of our axe, from chopping fire-wood. The lure of the shining floodlit arena has proved too strong. As the nightwalk arrives for our soup we hear crunching, cracking and smashing as the kids take the axe to the lights and fence of the construction site. Whooping and squawking with delight at their destruction, (though still too timid to go inside the arena), they express the desire that was palpable in the atmosphere. The Pedley Street arena summonsed this violence, taunted us to get inside and smash it up. We don’t get the axe back, though the kids do have some soup.
The Pedley Street arch towards 'the Arena'...
...and towards Shit Bridge.
Press play to see Gimpo (egged on by Gail) jumping over the walkwalkwalk fire under the Pedley Street Arch. On this walk, Winter Solstice 2008, Gail waited with Gimpo for the nightwalkers to arrive for their soup, as she had injured her knee and couldn't really walk. It is the mini-walk fire. We also have a full size brazier, with 'www' cut into the side, which we use when we are not injured - I'm not sure if Gimpo could have jumped over the big fire...
We were walking one night along Cheshire street, about to go across the railway footbridge, which cuts through to Pedley Street. It's a very dark and secluded spot. I don't think there's any street lights, maybe there's a little light coming from the windows up above. The railway footbridge cuts through from an alley off Cheshire Street and over the railway. The steps down at the other end of the bridge turn a corner to the left, then turn another corner, leading down into a railway arch. Because of the turn of the stairs you can't see who might be coming round the corner. And as the railway arch is very dark, leading onto a cobbled lane, secluded from any main streets, there's not that many people passing through, sometimes a few during the day. It's also very scummy, dirty, with needles, shit, condoms, all sorts of filthy things. And so I guess, understandably, you imagine there's somebody equally filthy and scary who might be lurking round the corner, just out of sight ready to pounce on you as you go round the corner. So, as we approached the railway footbridge I felt the apprehension of all those things.
It was dark. It must have been about eleven o’ clock maybe. There was nobody really around. But we wanted to go over to the other side because it was on our route. So we tentatively approached the steps up to the bridge. And, we looked at each other, and we went up a bit further, further up the steps…and one of us thought we saw something at the other side, and one of us gasped. And I don't know who, but somebody shrieked, and we all went running back down again, screaming. And got to the bottom, asking each other 'What happened? What happened? ' 'Well, I heard you two getting a bit nervous, and I was getting a bit nervous. Then I screamed. Sort of joking but a bit scared, and kind of trying to make you more scared, but kind of believing it myself… and then we all ran down'… We couldn't believe how scared we'd been. And how stupid it seemed. Because however dangerous it might have seemed to cross the bridge, or whoever might have been lurking, the fear seemed to have nothing really to do with those ordinary fears of being attacked in the street by someone. It had taken on a kind of supernatural quality. Some kind of indefinable fear that was lurking along this bridge.