Tuesday, 23 March 2010

I Was At Violet's Funeral.

From an artist's perspective, living in London reaps rich rewards in terms of observing unrelenting urban renewal. Things change and businesses turn over quicker than blancmange running through a fork.

Those of you who saw Paul Kelly's short film aired on C4 on dying workmen's cafes in Clerkenwell, and his and Kieran Evans' film, Finisterre will know what I'm getting at.

I've seen some changes in the pocket of East London where I've lived for the past 8 years, but having seen these changes, I marvel at what isolated buildings and businesses do manage to keep the wheels turning - and they appear to have been there for time immemorial. Take the picture above that I took recently:

This is my local printers. Note the writing above the door which looks like it was done in the 20s. This place is a museum in action. It's a joy to see places like this still tucked away and ticking over in the East End.

But I've seen similar businesses fade. Take 'Les's House Clearance': The old man over the way, Les, had a shop front where he just used to pile old clothes and all kinds of junk (it was a bric-a-brac shop essentially) on tressle tables. The shop was a disgrace but it was funny. Long, lean Les used to puff away on a fag in his flat cap. There'd be boxes of cassettes without covers in a shoe box and shoes without their partners. You'd let out an exasperated simper as soon as you walked in the door.

My brother-in-law used to pop in every day to chat to him. When we first moved here random places like this was what often set the East End apart. I don't know what happened to Les.

Next door was The Old Friends pub. We'd have a pint in there when we couldn't be arsed with the trendier places that were springing up around here, and to hear genuine cockney accents. We would sip our pints under brewery mass-ordered signed pics of Joanna Lumley and Jim Bowen.

The East End, like many pockets of London, is changing, but I hope the final changes are a long time coming.

My photo and accompanying blurb has been chosen to be exhibited at the Royal Academy, in the next few weeks.

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