Monday, 30 September 2013

Evaporation of the east End spirit: East One film screening at the Barbican

East End people "evaporated" by regeneration, says filmmaker

By Paul Coleman

"The film laments the loss of East End people who have been evaporated by regeneration," says filmmaker Phil Maxwell, a long-term east London resident and former elected local politician.
  But East One (UK 2013), co-produced by Maxwell and Hazuan Hashim, might be in danger - unwittingly perhaps - of becoming seen as a prematurely nostalgic obituary to the spirit of working class east Londoners, generations of whom came from all over Britain and the Jewish and Bengali diasporas, to make Aldgate, Spitalfields and Whitechapel their home. 
  East One sets out as an engaging slice of East End nostalgia, driven by a pleading piano score - and tries to skim over the relentless outcomes of property developers and the 'buy-to-let' marketeers pricing these working people out of their family homes and traditional neighbourhoods.

Nostalgia over politics
But the grim reaper of 'Regeneration-Gentrification-Displacement looms beneath the surface of every nostalgic East One interview with some colourful local Aldgate characters. Sandra Esquilant, landlady of the Golden Heart pub off Brick Lane, heavily sighs: "The changes to this area haven't been for the best." 
  Maxwell and Hashim spent a year on this non-commercial "labour of love" documentary. Maxwell, a former elected local councillor, concedes East One avoids the politics of 'displacement' - namely, why elected councillors largely acquiesce in the displacement of local working people. 
  That's understandable, up to a point, but the nostalgia road taken leads East One perilously close to a triumph of pessimism over the East End spirit of optimism. The film pulls back from this peril through giving considerable free rein to the fighting poetry of local resident and poet Bernard Kops.
Maxwell and Hashim dwell generously on Kops as he spiritedly recites his Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East inside one of London's oldest and dearest synagogues, a passage helping to dispel much of East One's malingering, pessimistic after-taste. 

Filmmakers Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell spoke after East One (UK 2013) was screened at the Barbican as part of the Urban Wandering film season. 

Photo: © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, September 2013.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Last Flare of Summer: The Thames Estuary, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

A Final Summer Flare

By Paul Coleman

Mistily surreal.
Like teal blue silkened lava.
The Thames Estuary, determinedly unhurried, ebbs and flows at Westcliff-on-Sea.

And sun-baked, friendly people sizzle along this esplanade.
Paddle, promenade and soak up a final flare of summer balm.
Under a vast, wide blue Essex sky.
Before tomorrow's advancing Autumn shroud falls on the river
Concealing a vast blue Essex sky. 

© Words and Photos, Paul Coleman, London 2013

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, September 2013

Monday, 2 September 2013

Birthday, World Premiere, Mnemonic Suite Op.21, David Aprahamian Liddle, St Michael's Cornhill, Jamaica Wine House, Pasqua Rosee

A Liddle Treat 

Today (Monday, 2 September) marks the thirtieth year that I have been 21-years-old, writes Paul Coleman.
As a birthday treat to myself, I padded along Cornhill to St Michael's Church in the heart of the City of London - the capital's financial district - to enjoy the world premiere of David Liddle's composition, the Mnemonic Suite Op.21. It's a soulful and imaginative piece of music for organ, performed for the first time ever by the virtuoso Liddle himself (above, blue shirt). 
   Liddle's Suite is based on the eight Gregorian Psalm Tones - and its varied textures and moods brushed and blustered the air amidst St Michael's aisles, pillars and pews.

Coffee scorned
To keep the 'firsts' mood going, I'm now happily reflecting on Liddle's music in the Jamaica Wine House, a favourite City bankers' 'watering hole' right next to the church in St Michael's Alley. 
  Shall I order a coffee in a pub? Why coffee? Well, during the Jamaica Wine House's original incarnation in 1652, Pasqua Rosee, a servant of a wealthy English trader in the Levant Mediterranean area, became the first person to sell coffee to Londoners.
 'Coffee, it'll never take off in London,' said the sceptics, pouring scorn on Rosee's hot, thick liquid. 

Allez Alley
Historical records fail to regale what happened to Rosee down St Michael's Alley. Although Rosee disappeared, the Jamaica Coffee House became one of London's earliest and most famous coffee emporiums. Coffee, aided and abetted by sugar, took over London.
  The Jamaica Coffee House became a renowned meeting place for people engaged in England's vast trade in African slaves, a vicious enterprise that engulfed Africa and Caribbean sugar plantation islands like Jamaica - and enriched many powerful men in the City of London. 
   No, no coffee. It'll remind me too much of the wretched aspects of the City of London's history.
Instead, I'll have a birthday beer, please - and raise my glass to Rosee, St Michael's and to the creative force that is David Liddle.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, September 2013

© Words & Photos Paul Coleman 2013