Walking has taken over as a major form of personal transportation since the recent global outbreak of Covid-19, this form of transcending public space has significantly localised people’s existence in the wake of tight lockdown guidelines which dominated most of April, May and June in 2020. Whilst many have seen this as a form of personal restriction I have tried to embrace the challenge of localised living by finally getting to know the space with which I inhabit. For the project within four I selected 5 local landmarks within 4 kilometers walking distance from my house (there and back inclusive).

Walking to each destination I photographed the space and have subsequently spent time writing up a short 500-600 word account of the area, my feelings and the historical significance of the location. Leaning towards creative writing, each account utilises psycho-geographical tendencies as a way to attempt a reading and ultimately forge a connection with my local area.

Throughout July-early August this page will be updated weekly with each account.

Broadwater Farm Estate

Desired outcomes, fiercely felt and sadly mis-laid / best laid plans that sheltered and pushed forward the creation of this place. In the heat the building hums, it digests the skyline so that all you see is the concrete bluff. A distant whistle, a door creaks, the sound of a yoyo hitting the tarmac, relentless potential energy which when confronted abandons your vision. Essentially you find yourself surrounded by the building but driven to isolation. I can see through the structure like a colander because it was suspended to distance itself from the nearby Moselle. I pitched the need for a visit and found any sense of life there sadly drained, it could have been the weather, but in comparison with roads I’ve walked down, lived down in Haringey this place felt abandoned - a possible design requirement to try and attempt to flatten the way in which people and especially those in places like Haringey were considered the problem. Demonised into the shadows this building’s silence felt not so much threatening but bipolar in comparison with the surrounding tread of the city-scape. Had it been evacuated, was it on the path towards demolition?

I hastened to add that I felt drained by the walk, I’ve been mulling this place over since my move to Haringey in 2016. Researching it from a distance, fascinating over it and contemplating how best to approach it. It was fiercely different to the other utopic suggestions and experiments in London which I’d visited - not gentrified, not completely demolished but also blundered by its past. It felt economically and emotionally awkward to arrive there with a camera with the full intention of just documenting the space, it didn’t feel like it either needed or wanted this attention and to that I felt embarrassed by my presence. Unlike the Barbican preening in the sun, BWF was reticent.

If there was life it was understandably hidden from view, the traits of ‘issue estates’ are how visible they are forced to be. How the attention is given continuously without consent, people with cameras in their hands turning up unannounced. Queesy. The dehydration of plus 20s heat and exhaustion, it takes me over 45 minutes to walk to this place in the sun and my body couldn’t go any slower. The pace is probably better as I have a lot to digest; October 5th 1985 saw the death of a resident, the next the streets harvesting a chaos which only an estate like BWF could garner, because there kids are asking when their skin is going to turn a different shade from Black to White. If the 80s refused to cut the place some slack the rest of it was due to burn.

Institutions unable to swallow their pride have bloated BWF was their ineptitude, the concrete has housed more than one death and maybe it was this memory which I felt that afternoon? When. You. Actually. Know. That. Death. Happened. Here. That knowledge is sacred and creates a scrubland for particles to cling to the cladding, how much of that begins to multiply and how can a person expect to live within its suffocation. I look into blank wallpapered rooms opposite bus stops which serve to act like a township. The isolation built here seems purposeful.

Agapemonite Church of the Ark of the Covenant, Upper Clapton

They’ve been there since three ay em, I know this because that’s the time I commence my nightly check. I’ve been awake for twenty five minutes exactly at this stage; the occasion normally requires me to attend the toilet first and foremost. An empty bowel is a happy bowel, drink one small tumbler of Lucozade Original, dress informally (jumper, trousers, hat and gloves if required - never anything that draws attention but always practical, I favour a loafer over laces as this feels easier to slip in and out of and for me symbolises the action of a tip-toe). I exist on the vanguard of watching and need to ensure I am comfortable but also respectful. My clients like to know that they are being witnessed by someone with a keen eye for formalities, I wear Loulou by Cacharel.

There’s no need to case or recce the building, as my clients have diligently provided me with three superior vantage points; a small keyhole to the left spire entrance, a clear pane of glass to the front of the vestry and a unlocked backdoor which leads into the community space at the back of the building. On arrival I notice that a small cushion has been assembled at the keyhole to enable me to crouch, kneel or otherwise rest whilst I go about my duties, alongside a small keep cup of coffee has been placed on the floor. I am well known in the trade for my diligent research, sinking to my knees I shift a rolled up and well leafed copy of ‘The Abode of Love’ from my back pocket to front right should I require further knowledge during my shift tonight. My clients have also been kind enough to erect a portaloo at the back garden space parallel to the hedgerow should I require.

From my vantage point I’m able to see very little as a flipchart has accidentally been left in direct competition and I’m struggling to make out the bodies as they drift in and out of their trance-like status, I can hear irregular sounds and reach inside my front pocket for my phone. A regular stipulation from my clients is the necessary need to be seen or documented - I’ve been unable to locate a camera with an audible shutter release but have downloaded the sound as a sample to my smartphone. As I’m early I wait until exactly 3:30 before emitting the first release. In the past I utilised the sound of breathing as a sampler for a previous client, but was told that this was off-putting due to the worrisome thought that I might be experiencing respiratory issues.

My clients have booked me for one and a half hours tonight, so I make sure that I spend equal time across all agreed navigations. I’m not allowed by law to enter the building but technically my remit extends to enable any / and / or interactions on the periphery. Through the upper vestry I’m treated to a clear image of the room set-up; pews and tables have been orderly pushed to one side to make way for a large Billiard table - centrally placed. The main room lights are switched on.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre and the Cynthia Jarrett memorial (Tottenham Town Hall)

This one came last - not to bookend the series, but as a way to give me time to think, stretch my legs and scan what had come before. Unfurling arms, the light blinkered and misted vision, it had occurred on several occasions. Now through the fine layer of dust created by leaves and dirt acquired by the surrounding neighbourhood - we find ourselves staring at this space. A marble shrine links this passage to the first, it will always be impossible to speak of Tottenham without mentioning this tale, this story - this moment in our conscious unconscious. Yet, so much has been achieved here. Hand in hand with this memory comes the reality that it nestles a significance that cannot be overlooked - that this place marks the achievement of a community to begin to gain use of its voice. In this country we still request pain before a hearing, hurt must be acquired if people are to gain.

It was here that I truly acknowledged my hands, grasping at my camera they were bleached, how best to describe their significance when all they are is hands? Their texture and touch is not filtered by limitation, they have been given keys to locks, doors, bridges and spaces where they glided in without question. Their pale anonymity excusing their existence by not being asked to explain it. This land marks where that default drew resistance and uprisings followed. Not far from this space, a small blue line on a map is codified by a reign which saw the abolition of wrath and pain - it also unites two spaces whose history will also be linked. For many years two neighbourhoods were twinned, not by what they had gained, but by what they had lost.

These hands edge and grasp at the buildings perimeter, they have been here before but only to attempt work or some sense of connection. I have lived in this neighbourhood for coming up to 5 years and have yet to re-enter this building, lacklustre privilege enables me to choose to live here but my experience of local living is restricted by its economics. My time here often feels as purposeful as the silicon valley settlers utilising the mission as a bunker to rest weary heads and hands which glide unnoticed.

I interpret this space as a mixture of relevances; it has archived an injustice whilst celebrating a passing within inches of each other, the brick it depends upon is lost online - it belongs to the gift of regeneration. The memorial remembers hard-fought; the plaque above defends and protects that fight. My hands rest at my side, they are talons which resemble choices made badly by past owners of the same skin. We depend so much on this skin to protect and cover our unsightlies, the gushing blood which rings in our ears and eyes when bangs disrupt, when language ripped and punctures leaves muscles weak. When we fall, it will crumble with us - potentially cutting and grazing. It stretches and builds itself into our own forwards and defines the way our backwards have been re-told. It does a job and yet for an organ that is incapable of sound it has divided us, creating cellular hierarchies - it justified nothing, functionally we require it to stay put - for all else it fails.
Markfield Park Beam Engine & River Lea

Up at the crack of dawn and onto the drift, gliding on top of the mirror like iridescence. I remember that feeling of being out and about before 8am, it sets the stomach into motion. I used to start the day off with coffees that lacked colour and rollies so tightly wound it hurt to inhale - made in defiance of their purpose, as if they were doing the work of quitting for you. I remember those feelings when it was clear my body wasn’t ready to be prodded into life, I felt the need to push on but every step made my innards repudiate. The intention to wade, paddle, get up stream somehow I would explain, but the sound of a Candian goose has cranked and now I’m just staring blankly, senselessly at you, I mouth ‘why are we here’.

‘This’ you declare ‘was a site of significance’ pointing at a place you’ve seen a million times, because I took you there the last time we visited. ‘Infrastructure is one of the most under-discussed values of this space’ - you gesture to the left and right.

‘Most of our fascination with history can be surmised into glamour, celebrity or hearsay. None of this exists here.’ Your gesticulation narrowly missing a local jogger. Stepping forward you encourage me to stroke the building and pronounce that ‘sites such as this demarcate progression and foretold of a future where life might be possible in less chaotic terms.’

‘This engine’ you shout ‘flung what is contained within’ - here you gesticulate towards your backside, ‘towards and outwards.’ A nearby cafe owner smiles whilst unlocking a window hatch, we exchange glances. The daylight has fully engulfed the surrounding park, the trees have made scissor-like cuts in the space above the flats. I take a seat in a small rose garden, something you agree with and join me patting my leg whilst humming a song which incites an individual to collect rejected metal. I look deep within my hands and begin a cursory inventory of my cuticles.

Whistling you’ve crouched down in the dirt and are convinced you’ve stumbled across a small footing, an entrance into a space which will enable us to realise the full potential of today’s historic unfolding, blankly you stare up at me and remark that this is the most northern tip of today’s excavation, and as such you must ensure that I’m aware of what we’ve missed - the ground peels and splinters in your hands, they grow dry and cracked. ‘If you are to understand anything then it is clear further days are required,’ you whisper into my right ear. You’re now behind me and have placed in my hand a small stick of charcoal, ‘this’ you stroke the gift in my hand ‘lies to the north and is responsible for all the destruction’.

Bruce Castle

Many thanks for joining us this windswept, overcast Sunday to celebrate the inaugural Faustian composition order, a ritualistic and imperative undertaking which has only really in the last 10 minutes become what the sector calls ‘urgent’. I have the dubious if not somewhat odorous task of introducing our annual protagonist, a well meaning individual who in metaphorical terms ensures that systems and processes are seen through to their fullest conclusion, he’s not only a guardian of this conclusion, but a custodian. Lauded for his secrecy and strong constitution his work requests for a lengthy if not overly precious consideration of plumbing, in light of this we can only but consider him at the very height of dejection. Without further a due I’d like to introduce my good friend and colleague SWC.

SWC: May I add here that dejection was only a third of my role or position, and that I did and do have far more complex areas of consideration such as tendering, administration and copulation procurement. This keynote will focus on the fullest entirety of this business with a central tenant being the work and role of bodily matter as directed, overseen and curated by yours truly. On this note I also need to add here that I did not study for this position, nor did I interview - I was chosen like an omen from the depths. This craft is to be honed but in the midst of my conviction I was destined for this duty, a calling, a directive. All questions will be answered at the end, but I also struggle with time keeping so I may be required elsewhere.

My functionality in this forsaken structure commenced when I was a young’un. Possibly 27, maybe 28 years of age I was promoted to the realm through a complex line of predecessors all of which had guarded the matter with their lives, a role which saw commencement as a yoman as early as 1455. It’s legacy here is not only proof of its necessity but essential when contemplating that my standing was only the fourth person to coordinate the seat. After me came several more men of rank.

I wouldn’t want you to become soiled with the imperatives of the role - it took me over 17 years to fully master the use of his royal highnesses functionality, outside of this jurisdiction; I was rewarded with 12 further roles - all of varying relevance and but not as focused on the ability to scatologically read the future. It was my hands that carried the news of his gout and later scurvy. I can still picture the swishing contents merrily dancing, scattering itself beautifully across porcelain. That night was not only a sad state of affairs, but an acknowledgement that restructure was now an encroaching reality.

Here my time was needed elsewhere, the Devil had reared his head in the midst of my Master’s bodily conviction. He’d stared into the abyss of the opening and picking up the entrails he’d declare this body not of use, not of this world - to be forsaken. I knew it was then that the world had crawled up inside because of the way my Manager had dejected himself, the good tenant of Nicene Creed. He had pleaded, grasped the door, sweated and shaken the life from his lower cavity - sending the papal directive into the undergrowth, he’d rejected, shot and shat the cloth from his nether region. That night we cried, we bathed him and we knew - life as we knew it would forever be cloaked in penance, suffocated it would never reclaim righteousness.


Project Appendix

Broadwater Farm - I mention in my text that kids wish for their skin to turn from Black to White, this is a direct reference to a scene in the 1988 documentary ‘Scenes from the Farm’ in which a Black father relates how his child asks him when his skin will turn ‘from Black to White’. 

Markfield Park Beam Engine and River Lea - the mention of charcoal in the final paragraph is a reference to the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills which are to be found to the north along the River Lea. These were functioning producers of gunpowder for over 300 years, with charcoal a main ingredient in the gunpowder compound.

Agapemonite Church of the Ark of the Covenant, Upper Clapton - the billiard table referenced in the final paragraph relates to the Agapemonites, a cult-like group which was established in 1846 by Henry James Prince. Prince was accused of having sex with a virgin on a billiard table in front of a group of followers. The cult originated in Spaxton, four miles from Bridgewater - having built there a hamlet which they titled ‘The Abode of Love’, they went on to design and build this church, later taken over by a branch of Georgian Christianity.

Bruce Castle - The reference to SWC (the main protagonist in the tale) relates to Sir. William Compton a courtier of Henry VIII and previous tenant of Bruce Castle. Compton held the position of Groom of the Stool between 1509 - 1526.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre and Cynthia Jarrett memorial (Tottenham Town Hall) - The reference to the blue line relates to the Victoria Line which unites both Brixton and Seven Sisters. Both areas had experiences of uprisings in 1985 within weeks of each other, both areas saw Black women suffer due to police brutality: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-26362633

Project credits

The film I used to capture each image was Ilford Delta Film 35mm B&W ISO 400 - purchased from Analogue Wonderland

My images were kindly developed and low-res scanned by the wonderful people at Traia Photolab