Sunday, 30 January 2011

A field student of E17 never walks alone

29th January 2011

Previously on ‘Lost and found in E17’ I referred to Lewis Caroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, his and her pool of tears, to allude to my lachrymose mirth at the thought of council officials relevantly dating blank maps of the public rights of way in Waltham Forest. I am trying to find out what relevantly dating a blank map entails and what benefits are to be derived. Caroll’s ‘Wonderland’ may be a clichéd and prosaic resort for a witless pedestrian dullard of a commentator. Yes, disingenuous I am to indulge in defence against criticism I have not actually received. Of course I am trying to be found via these dispatches from my wilderness of sorts.
Alice, having downed a bottle of something which tasted of all her favourite flavours (including, roast turkey), accompanied by a currant inscribed ‘EAT ME’ cake, experiences a discombobulating sense of scale. She contemplates an action which I think would serve as a ‘core action’ for the London Borough of Waltham Forest, Rights of Way Improvement Plan. Along with John Tenniel’s beautiful illustrations we witness Alice,

‘... planning to herself how she would manage it. ‘They must go by the carrier’ she thought; and how funny it’ll seem, sending presents to ones’ own feet! And how odd the directions will look!
Alices’ Right Foot, Esq,
Near the Fender,
(with Alices’ love)
Oh dear, what nonsense I’m talking!’
Don’t be so hard on yourself Alice, the wisdom of children is often dismissed as nonsense, and after all we are late for a very relevant date, or two. Where is that rabbit?
While out walking last night I entertained the thought the little white man of public footpath signposts here and there could be replaced by a white rabbit. All right, I know this would be an appalling waste of public funds. Anyway, welcome to Walthamstow’s warren of ways. Follow me to a particularly dark section of this fantasy, the entrances to which are signposted by our walking man in white. I was excited at the sight of one of the signs, hoping it marked the beginning of a meandering corridor or mysterious tunnel in the inbetweens of Walthamstow’s suburban terrain. There I was, a middle aged man clinging on to an adolescent nee childish fantasy of an (urban) explorer. Check out, ‘Found Objects’ for tales of more derring-dos. In these post colonial and politically correct times it could be a struggle to conjure a heroic and exotic explorer to model oneself upon. Yes, delusion is a significant part of my recreation, however I wonder if psycho-geography is an attempt to re-establish the unknown; a process of unmapping and untracing? Could we decry the definitive map and statement for it will always be ‘bullshit’?
I lost my nerve a little, as a field student of Shangri La, standing at the threshold of one of the empyrean paths. I had some doubts about this path meeting the criteria for inclusion in the empyrean public realm. Four (or more) wheeled beasts of noxious internal combustion are not permitted in this Utopian vision, yet there appeared to have been a vehicular violation of the sacred path.
Damn and blast! Those renegade iconoclastic Situationist spooks have been at it again. The artfully artless dodgers have carved up a path of plodding pedestrianism. Their criminal erosion of rights compised a muddy terrain of deeply furrowed tyre tracks and expansive murky puddles. I proceeded with two strictly left footed cha cha manoeuvres to navigate a dance of a passage through this, a ‘Nova Totias Terrarum Orbis Juxta Neolericorum Traditiones’. I was immersed in the mapped intelligence and imagination of Abraham Ortelius, hailing from way back in 1564.
Ortelius’ projection is not unlike Morag Maguire’s heart shaped design for the E17 Art Trail 20... , With love, from Walthamstow. The latter did not project the monstrous soup of mythical beasties Ortelius’ map does. So what was I - prey or predator? What sort of common ground was this? In the midst of a Carollian confusion of scales I negotiated the puddles with a childish horror of the underneath - the lurky realm of the Snark and Jabberwocky. What’s that?
Close to the playground, in view of the children,
‘..of the pure unclouded brow
And dreaming eyes of wonder’
there lay a fly tipped and ridden pile of.... steaming jabberwocky entrails.
Ok it wasn’t steaming. I made that bit up, allowing my imagination to get the better of me. This must have been a site of a mythic battle, a no man’s land of red crossed, crossed red, apocryphal St Georges warriors, infantry (sic, sic, sic) in combat, wrestling with a beast of a giant white neon bright bunny. What remained abandoned of this carnal orgy were the viscera of suburbia - offal for the diamond dogs and rats the size of cats. Beware the savage raw!
Is this way neglected and abandoned and so a candidate for the borough’s orphanage of (out of the way) sites? I really must go home, touch base with reality, and get on with that evidence form for ‘Chief Engineer’.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A field student's field equipment

19th January Clay Path E17 (24X)

I've started making digital video records of night time walks along footpaths in Walthamstow. I'm using a Vivitar Vivicam 4100 (4 mega pixels) - a relatively 'old' piece of equipment. With a 2Gb memory card I can record 1hr and 25mins of footage at a time.

Back home in 'the studio' - a laptop on a small table I am using Windows Movie Maker (2007) as the editting suite.

I hope to create a series of films which join up these fragments to create a continous walk.

Friday, 28 January 2011

A field student of E17 draws a blank map

The Situationists' combination of cultural means and revolutionary ends has been influential, nowhere more so than in Paris's 1968 student uprising when Situationist slogans were painted on the walls

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust, A History of Walking


19th January Clay Path - threshold

How does a member of the public get to view a definitive map and statement for the public rights of way in the London Borough of Waltham Forest? I have continued with my enquiry into this matter, hoping the word, ‘pedestrian’ does not apply in an adjective sense. Why does ‘pedestrian’ mean dull and uninspired?
Freewheeler, hailing from the ‘crap’ of Waltham Forest, reports about the plight of the pedestrian with a creative chutzpah and alacrity - a persistence which is anything but ‘pedestrian’. Far be it from me to nick Freewheeler’s shtick to beat a nettle clogged path to the door of the Chief Engineer at Low Hall. No riotous assembly will be tolerated even if there is a pertinent historical rights winning context. Please write instead.
Members of the public can request closure or amendment of existing routes, or propose a new right of way be registered by writing to:

Chief Engineer
Public Realm
Environment and Regeneration,
Low Hall, Argall Avenue
London E10

If we think we know of a Public Right of Way which has been unlawfully closed or made impassable we can complete evidence forms and return them to:
Chief Engineer
Public Realm
Environment and Regeneration,
Low Hall, Argall Avenue
London E10

I wonder if ‘Chief Engineer’ consults Freewheeler’s blog to get the latest on the borough’s more civil/civilised arteries. Would the lone raging, (ranging) Freewheeler take a peace pipe to join him/her for a powwow?
What of Public Rights of Way which have been allowed to become impassable?
Freewheeler generously scouts the badlands reporting on and exposing the loss of the ways of our feet. Here is such a dispatch.

I was sad and intrigued to see a footpath (public right of way?) had been allowed to become overgrown with nettles - in some ways, not such ‘badlands’ after all. My impression of Chingford Mount and surrounds is of a collective psyche which values the ‘pedestrian’ as dull, uninspired and undesirable. The image shows evidence of council neglect however I think there is a broader complicity here, in that it shows or showed a not so well trodden path. Who, however, would walk into a path in that state? Clearly, the path was an opportunity, or spur, to practise some form filling for the perusal of ‘Chief Engineer’.

Where am I? I have strayed from a definitive path, lost without a map. It was dense of me not to deduce, having visited the LBWF Public Rights of Way web page, that ‘Chief Engineer’ of the ‘Public Realm’ is the person to contact to request a viewing of the definitive map. I write, ‘deduce’ because it is not clearly stated on that page actually how a member of the public can get to view LBWF’s definitive map. Compare and contrast LBWF with Kent County Council.
‘Chief Engineer’ might be regarded as the high priest/priestess of the empyrean paths of Waltham Forest. There is, I was informed, just one (though not insubstantial) copy of the putative definitive map and statement, and so access to the truth (?) about our rights of way is limited if not privileged. How did I find this out?

I decided to compare and contrast my ‘density’ with that of some council information points - sign-posters? I visited the Central Library (Reference Section) and Waltham Forest Direct (Hoe Street One Stop Shop). At both points I asked if I could see “the definitive map and statement for the boroughs public rights of way” (“please”). Both ‘points’ consulted the online oracle and were equally puzzled as to what and where this document is. The librarians suggested I come back and ask some other librarians. Fair enough. WFD was more determined and took to the phone entreating us to a series of ‘on-holds’ while remote points of reference referred to one another. We waited patiently. The WFD officer flashed a computer lit rictus and apologised for the wait. There’s just one - it’s very big, she relayed. We waited patiently. Eventually we agreed I should leave my email address and I would be contacted as soon as possible. I left the one stop shop contemplating a predicament; that I was born in the same year the borough was formed and it has not yet had, as I understand it, a properly up to date and representative map of the public rights of way. I cheered and consoled myself however; going by the library and the one stop shop, I might not be so dense after all.

Later the same day I received an email forwarded to me by the officer at the one stop shop. I have a dilemma. The email is a brief message or memo’ addressed to the one stop officer. Following the message there is the usual confidentiality clause attached to all council correspondence. Shall I publish - leak and be damned - so that you might know the name and whereabouts of the map’s keeper and the map’s substantial scale - let alone the circumstances by which you may consult it?
This is enough expatiation, for the moment, on this trail of the arras of Waltham Forest’s highways and byways.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Field Study's man is a field student of missing art

Nearly 2 years ago I cycled around Waltham Forest photographing public art works as the initial stage of an idea to make a map of public art - showing locations which would form the basis of a contribution to the E17 Art Trail.

I discovered Lawrence Rigal's 'Exploring East London' website (click on, Links: London Free Art). The site encompassed many aspects of what I intended to do at the time. Because of this, I focused solely on research into a specific public art work/site - the sculptures on the back of Walthamstow Town Hall. I prepared a talk/guided tour about those sculptures for the art trail.

One of the discoveries or issues which came out of my research was the lack of accessible and moderately detailed information about public art in the borough. The lack may be due to the inadequacy of my research. I tried a variety of means intended to garner 'basic details' e.g. the name of the art work and the artist(s) who made it - i.e. the conventional what, when, who, where, how - and more adventurously, why? I emailed some of the names and addresses on the council website, and visited the local studies archive at Vestry House Museum. I have not yet received a reply to the enquiries sent to the council.

Perhaps it does not matter if there is a lack of art historical information (basic curatorial material?) about this borough's public art. Some might say (paradoxically?) the art speaks for itself, existing in a fluid relationship with the community; a state of flux which defies the constrictions of art history or belligerent chronology. The art work, e.g. a sculpture, could be a thing/place which is a site for an imaginative and emotional encounter with an area as a way of being connected. This ethos is perhaps a rejection of art appreciation as a process of retrieval, favouring more narrative and reflexive interpretation. The latter might also be unspoken and unwritten; a 'floetics' of social space.
'Retrieval' and 'interpretation' need not be exclusive or oppositional. There can be complementary contexts which make for creative experiences.

I fear I may be writing out of my...

....annus of 2009, (28th February 09) where this 'Field Student of E17' recorded the presence of some peculiar wayside creations. Field Study's man in E17 regrets to inform you some public art is missing. Is this old news? Have more of the bronze sculptures been removed - I fear stolen from Coppermill Lane, E17. It was yesterday (15th Jan' 11) I noticed a sculpture was missing. I admired the cracked bolt holes, the (failed) mechanisms of artful installation and the visible traces of the absent bronze.

28th Feb 2009

I copied the inscription on the metal plate screwed to the plinth as I feared the screws were not much of a deterrent to yet more pilferage.

It reads:

W M Hudson and Andrea Sinclair of Art in the Park worked with the Asian Family Group, Bancroft Primary School, Coppermill Primary School and Elmtree Woodcraft Folk to create this set of 4 bronzes sited along Coppermill Lane. The themes of the bronzes are: the marshes and their wildlife, the coppermill, the River Lee and it's boats, the reservoirs and bird life. the project was commissioned by Waltham Forest as part of The Waterways Festival programme, being supported by a Millenium Festival Fund grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, British Waterways, Londons Waterway Partnership and 15 London Boroughs.

A more sceptical 'interpretation' may consider the administration to have been more substantial than the hollow metallic cast once present on the plinth - could these be totems of a 'quangoliath'.


15th January 2011

The sculpture, or part of it (let's not forget the plinth), may not have been forcibly removed and stolen though I suspect it has. May I draw your attention to the first of the photographs in this dispatch - taken the same day (15th January 2011) and a few minutes walk from the vacant plinth?

I came across the remnants of what may have been a failed attempt to remove another of the bronzes. There in relative miniature, the hardened soft, scratched, moulded cast - a refashioning; a reinvention of the old waterworks, it's mills and pump houses; a way marker to an imagined past; a collection of impressions fashioned in clay, pressed and engraved; a communal attempt to create meaning about it's surrounds, reinventing the space; an assemblage of the architecture and machinery of water.

Bound around, entwined by the devils rope - a barbed wire vestige of a failed yank and heave. What an anti art art performance it could have been! I spuriously point a finger at the ghosts of some anti artists of yore. I believe a gang of DaDa bad boys and girls did set about the bronze with joyous contempt for the way marking of marshy fields. I accuse the ghosts of Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck and Emmy Hennings - pugnacious Bruitists - who strayed from the primeval forest of the anti artistic imagination to stage a Cabaret Voltaire retrospective. The text(v)ile happening happened there and then around the waterworks. They screamed out like foxes,

"Voila, the rivers of lost wax, how they fall from the edges of the moon"

Unscrew you they howled, inspired by the ghost of Guy de Borde, who salutes the demeanor's of urban anti socialites; those among us, artfully anti artful dodgers, 'lexical prestidigitators' who aspire to 'a floetry of illegal form and content'.

What has happened to the sculptures? Was a sculpture taken for scrap material value or for it's ornamental merit - Bronze for sale, 240,000 previous owners?

My thanks to Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces on a Cigarette/ Hans Richter, DaDa Art and Anti Art/ Sukhdev Sandhu, Night Haunts - A Journey Through The London Night.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Field Study's man is shedding tears in E17

10th Jan. The Drive towards

The London Borough of Waltham Forests online information about it's public rights of way can be accessed at the following address.
The information on this page was last updated in October 2009. Perhaps there is some delay in updating the online information about the progress made in revising a 1953 map of the public rights of way, and we do in fact have a law abiding borough council. This map predates the formation of the borough in 1965.
The documents presented (most of them dated Sept' 2008) state quite clearly LBWF is not meeting its statutory duty. This is nearly 3 years on from Freewheelers' posts regarding this issue.
There is a substantial collection of PDFs to read, detailing how the council intends to resolve the problem of the definitive map and statement, and related initiatives, within 5 years. The clock has ticked well over 2 of those years off with little to show. If I understand correctly, in 2008 funds were available to appoint a part time public rights of way officer. I do not see any contact details for such a person on the web page though this is not to say that person does not exist.
I laughed at the item recording an 'implementation' which involved the (1953) definitive map and statement being given a relevant date of 18th April 2008 - 'and has been published'. Does this mean the 1953 map has (just) been re-dated?
I shed tears of laughter when I read,
'Core Action A2' - implementation - the blank definitive map and statement for the previously excluded area has been given a relevant date of 18th April and has been published.
The 1st of April, surely. I was in the library so had to restrain myself for fear of causing an Alice in Wonderland (or is it, Through the Looking Glass?) like flood or pool of tears at this definitive map of nowhere. Could we be living in a Kafkaesque limbo?
I wonder if the 'existing employee' when offered the post of 'rights of way officer' walked, ran or (more likely) drove a mile at the prospect of such a labyrinth of bureaucratic nonsense?
The aphorism, the map is not the territory, may apply to this situation. That there might not be an up to date map of the public rights of way in Waltham Forest may, on a everyday level, not affect those who choose to walk (and cycle) the highways and byways, however this inadequacy is not solely a cartographic issue.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Field Study's man in search of a statement

Where are Waltham Forest’s public paths for use only by pedestrians; in particular, paths away from the roadside?

Discovering and walking footpaths and passage ways new to me is an opportunity to break with a habitual sense of place. In a broader social context I assumed my discoveries were well trodden and if not so well trodden then well plotted and traced. What land or ground is not charted in great detail by the local authority and numerous other public/commercial organisations?

Freewheeler has prompted me to question my assumptions about the extent to which the local authority (London Borough of Waltham Forest) has mapped our public rights of way (PROW). This concerns the borough council’s legal responsibility to produce a definitive map and statement (of PROW) and make them/it available to the public.

In January 2008, Freewheeler reported there was no definitive map for the entire borough. The absence of a definitive map of public rights of way in the borough represented a lifelong municipal failure of 43 years. It seems the council has been reluctant to learn to walk or, at least, effectively promote the benefits of walking - perhaps due to a case of increasingly middle aged prevarication and procrastination.

My notion of a mythical labyrinth of footpaths in the borough might not be so fanciful. Freewheeler thinks some paths have been rendered secret and neglected via a scandalous abandonment of statutory duty to the pedestrian, in favour of the private motorist.

In the field, my notion of a network of lost fragments of footpaths and passageways has an appeal as a sort of raw material for an artistic and/or affected exploration; nowhere but Shangri La indeed. This affectation could be a lonely wander or vagary in which I just about realise the severity of the exclusion of many pedestrians from public space - unless the space is retail orientated. How well used or frequented are the rights of way?

In September, I collaborated on a guided walk for the E17 Art Trail, and the experience of leading a large group of walkers through the streets was not always ‘easy’. The presence of a group of people on the streets in anything other than fearful submission (to the car) was not greeted (by some motorists) with humility or courtesy. How artful a welcome was this?

Nearly 3 years on from Freewheelers post what has become of the council’s filibuster? Back then, reluctance made way for an improvement plan which involved, in part, looking for funds to find more funds to fund the improvement plan. I fear this might have amounted to a circular walk(?) around the office, cap or bucket in hand, although this scepticism about the progress of the project is not meant to underestimate the complexity of the mapping process.

So, what information can be found on the LBWF website in January 2011?

How does this information compare to neighbouring boroughs?

How does information and access to the definitive maps and statements compare further afield?

In an altered state of Shangri La all the pieces of pathway might come together to form one whole network of walking bliss; a ragged edged utopia fantastically creative in its’ potential for happiness or is it deterrence and cruelty?

George Edward Roebuck, wrote in, The Story of Walthamstow (1952):

‘It must, however, be borne in mind that Wilcumestou was the ‘welcome place’, and if thirteen centuries ago our parish was entitled to such a happy description, we can only trust that the many variations in the name which time has witnessed have not lessened our claim to be considered a happy community’. (P.6)

G E Roebuck theorises that pilgrims emerged with relief from the dark forest, at Wilcumestou, whilst on their way to the shrines of London.

Tonight I shall go in search of the ghosts of many an ancient and welcomed pilgrim who decided to linger in the welcome place.

Footpaths by night 9/1/11