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Walk with us ... this weekend

This Saturday July 12th you can walk & talk with us about our new project WHAT WILL THE HARVEST BE? We will be leading a walk from Abbey Gardens around some of Newham’s other green spaces:

3.00 pm Abbey Gardens (Bakers Row)
3.15 pm West Ham Park
4.15 pm St Mary’s Allotments
5.00 pm The Greenway
5.30 pm West Ham Allotments
6.00 pm Abbey Gardens - Picnic

Come & join us for the walk to hear more about our proposed projects for Abbey Gardens and meet some Newham residents with green fingers. Following the walk there will be an informal gathering for a picnic with the Friends of Abbey Gardens, which you are also very welcome to join. Feel free to bring along some food (especially home-grown!) Elderflower drinks will be available made with the flowers I gathered on the site.

To book a place on the walk please email us.

Click here for more information on the project.

Abbey Gardens is located at the end of Bakers Row, Stratford, East London E15 3NF

Thanks to Andreas for these photos
which I've joined together ...

Summer Seed Shape

We have recently been commissioned by Newham Council to work with the Friends of Abbey Gardens to re-vision the site opposite their houses on Bakers Row in Stratford. The scheme will take several years to complete and we are currently making proposals for a series of events and projects during this time.

Our current thinking is around the cosmopolitan social and commercial hub that medieval abbeys - such as that which once occupied the site - would have been. We plan to relate historic influences (including the more recent history of the site) to East London today and the needs of both the local and commuter communities. We are committed to using the site to produce food or other distributable products, and to raising community engagement in this endeavour via a long term scheme of events. These objectives will be also be embedded into the permanent design scheme by working with the Council's landscape architect on the planting and layout of the garden.

The Council are currently rolling out an interim scheme of sowing a wildflower seed mix onto imported topsoil, bringing colour and wildlife to the area over summer 2008.
To retain a small area of 'original' soil for observation, we have been constructing an area which mirrors the shape of the nearby archaelogical remains on the site. The soil in this section will be left uncultivated, and its natural seedbank allowed to germinate and grow. After three days of hard digging we finally achieved the modest aim of protecting the shape from the seeds about to go down!

You can see more photos of the area and a large version of this one on our new Flickr Group for Abbey Gardens/Bakers Row.

The 2012 structural hole that is the Olympic Site

Somewhere - A Structural Hole?

We've begun work on a new commission for Abbey Gardens in Newham, right next to the Railway lines coming from Stratford Station & a short walk from the 2012 Olympic site. Due to the discovery of archaeological remains on the site (The Gatehouse of a Cistercian Abbey - St. Mary Stratford Langthorne, Essex) local developers can't include it in the massive regeneration programme happening all around this area. Along with the cottages opposite (Bakers Row) this little patch of land forms a kind of hole in the structure of a changing area. The site is very close to the allotments run by my friends Gordon & Louise, and on Sunday this week Gordon organised a walk in the local area which I went on.

I've known Gordon since our early days on the Internet and in the beginning he was one of the only people I knew with email, his on-line presence has remained a constant in the life of Somewhere but we rarely get to meet in person. Whenever we do its interesting though, and he often seems to be spookily in touch with lots of things we are thinking about or working on. This Sunday proved to be no exception.

I can't actually remember how the conversation began but Gordon started to talk about '*structural holes', making me laugh as I loved the term - in fact I often feel like I inhabit in a 'structural hole'. This walk was no exception, included in our little group were: Chris, of the great Newham Striders, Louise, who runs the allotments, & Lucy Harrison, an artist who I've never met but have read about due to her project on Canvey Island. We all walked to look at our Abbey Gardens site where Andreas joined us (who lives on Bakers Row but is also part of Public Works), by now I was feeling pretty pleased with the structural hole I'd found myself in on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

Just as I thought the 'linking in' couldn't get much better a white van pulled up and 'Dean' the driver started to question me about Abbey Gardens & what I knew of the site. To cut long story short he lives locally and has had his eye on the site for years, he runs the local flower stall in Stratford station, plus an out-of-town stables ... and what he really wants is to run a stable with pony & cart rides to the Olympic site from Abbey Gardens. As he was enthusiastically outlining his vision Andreas and I looked at each other in that way you do when these sort of project chance meetings occur - a sort of "is this a completely great idea/coincidence or is it just mad" look. Not wanting to stop the links flowing we all exchanged numbers: Lucy for her Stratford station project, Louise for a manure drop off from his stables to the allotments ... and me. What he really wanted to know from me was whether the site had ever been a stables in the past.

We continued our walk over the Greenway and into the current structural hole that is the Olympic site. I tried to work out where the lovely Manor Garden Allotment site would have been before the bull dozers moved in ... Chris and the others knew the site well, and could point out where familiar landmarks had previously stood.

At a recent conference about collaboration, I talked about Somewhere - Karen & I's now 12 year relationship. The chair wanted to know if there were aspects of collaboration I saw as negative. One of the few I could describe was actually what I also feel to be completely positive about working together - that we can afford to be in a 'structural hole'. Since there are two of us, we can in fact build our own little world and remain largely autonomous from art world structures most artists would perhaps have to engage with in a more sustained way. I have always felt that Somewhere spins in its own system and have been happy that way, others may see our lack of engagement with other structures as negative though.

In fact, I increasingly feel that artists generally but Somewhere specifically are asked to come into projects when a 'structural hole' develops that the existing organisations involved don't know how to fill. Abbey Gardens is just such a hole - there are lots of stake-holders, all with opinions, but maybe none with enough flexibility to move around in this hole and even invite other more tangential agents to drop in with them! I'm looking forward to it.

On the Monday I went to Newham archives and looked through old maps of the site. In 1916 the area immediately behind the site (now factories) had indeed been the "Corporation Stables for West Ham Boro.", so I guess I'll be calling Dean.

*"Ronald Burt describes the social structure theory of competition that has developed through the last two decades. The contrast between perfect competition and monopoly is replaced with a network model of competition. The basic element in this account is the structural hole: a gap between two individuals with complementary resources or information. When the two are connected through a third individual as entrepreneur, the gap is filled, creating important advantages for the entrepreneur. Competitive advantage is a matter of access to structural holes in relation to market transactions."

Thanks to Gordon for forwarding this description.

I can't stop myself ...
Bata shop Rouen spotted on holiday

Bata-ville news ...

This Saturday I'm heading off to Reading with "Uncle Mike" for a Bata-ville outing as part of Searching for the Spectactor: Art for New Publics A One-Day Symposium organised by Artists in the City, and the Department of Fine Art at the University of Reading.

Meanwhile it's all go at the Bata Resource & Reminiscence Centre ...

"The Bata Reminiscence and Resource Centre, based in East Tilbury Library, Essex, has recently made a successful bid to EEDA (The East of England Development Agency) and received a grant to enable a major refurbishment of the Centre and Library which will provide extra space for displays and exhibitions. Since it’s opening in 2002 the Bata Reminiscence and Resource Centre has been so successful collecting hundreds of photographs and many items of memorabilia that it has become impossible to entertain interested groups in the limited space that remained.

The financial assistance from EEDA will provide the resources to enable a complete refurbishment of the building which will allow the Centre more space to display items as well as entertain groups for lectures and discussions. The library will also benefit by being redesigned and being able to introduce more modern areas to work and research.

During the refurbishment the centre will only be closed for a short while, we intend to minimise the disruption to our work and that of the library.

Work should be completed by the middle of October 2007."

We can't wait to visit - in the meantime you can find lots of new materials on their great website, or see the article written about East Tilbury on Radio Praha.

Maryport Bata factory
date unknown...

Maryport pathos

Frank Zappa sang ' I come from nowhere, and you should go there, just try it for a while. Cos the people from nowhere always smile'.
I have a weakness for nowhere places, as does Nina - we're from there, and for us they are truly somewhere.
Recently posted on the beguiling YouTube site are two archive films featuring our beloved Maryport, one of the 'nowhere' towns featured in our first film ''Bata-ville'. Apparently it was made in 1979 by Thames TV and according to the site its 170 minutes long, which makes me think it must have been a series....
Making the film (just a few years ago but still pre-YouTube!) we were stumped for good archive of the former Bata shoe factory on the outskirts of town and sourced this one aerial photo which appears in the film. It seems so odd now that noone we came into contact with mentioned this film (by - I think - Ray Gosling), assuming it was broadcast that is.
In the first instalment online the sense of a disappointed and downtrodden town which we experienced decades later is pervasive, a talking head even dates the ennui back to the times of Napoleon! Working now in nearby Egremont from time to time, I come into contact a lot with the "Why on earth would you want to do something up here?' line from locals, which funnily enough was the case in West Cumbria in the 70's - when in the film, the presenter comments on the number of locals who have asked him why they're bothering to film Maryport!
I think this might be a clue to why the film was never mentioned to us during our research - the local mindset is so fixed in its belief that noone's interested that the film has been edited out of the collective consciousness - because it refutes that.
As new bits go online I hope to catch a frame or two of the old Bata factory, the shop, or even some of our Bata bus passengers, though if I do I will be just a little sad we didn't source this in time for our film....

You can look at the films here and type in 'Maryport Archive'...

A Local Mayor AND Bata-ville star ...
Photo: Tim Olden

Uncle Mike, the Mayor and Me ...

Many thanks to (Uncle) Mike Ostler for organising and introducing the Grays Bata-ville screening on Monday night. Despite the spooky Thurrock jinx screening glitch and unplanned interlude, I had a wonderful time. There was an excellent local turn out, Mike did a great job on the introductions, the cinema is lovely, the Mayor (who's also in the film) came along, the B.R & R.C put on a special display, I sold some DVDs, AND I got given our T.O.S.C.A award ... what more can a girl ask for of a night out in Grays.

Actually I almost forgot the fish & chips I had during the screening was also excellent!

Check out our T.O.S.C.A

Hey Karen take a look at our T.O.S.C.A (AKA Thurrock's Own Special Cinema Award) presented to me by international man of mystery Mike Ostler (Bata-ville passenger and cinema fanatic) on Monday night. I'm going to place it next to our certificate from the four "Worlds Biggest Liars" in the Somewhere trophy cabinet!

A postcard from Zlin apparently from the communist era
as it's overprinted with the name Gottwaldov c/o Felix Ormerod

All for Charity ...

I'm not sure I need to plug it here as Mike is already doing a great job of selling tickets, but there's a Thurrock screening of Bata-ville coming up:

Thameside Theatre,Grays, Thurrock Essex
Monday the 10th of April 2006 at 7.45pm
Tickets £3 (concessions £2) Box Office 01375 383961
This is a charity screening presented by Thurrock Heritage Forum in support of
Bata Reminiscence & Resource Centre
Free tickets for any Bata-ville passengers attending!

In addition Karen's also hosting a charity northern screening this week with
Oxen Park Cinema Club.

Bata related items including a fantastic 3D viewer
c/o Felix Ormerod

Terror Hound of Bata-ville

Back home and back to Bata-ville (as the Thurrock Gazette is now apparently calling East Tilbury, in last week's headline "Terror Hound of Bata-ville"). Last Saturday was the Bata Resource and Reminiscence Centre open day where I joined Bata-ville old comrades (as 'uncle' Mike Ostler calls them) for a get together.

As usual Fred had lots of new material to show me, but not as much as our new Bata-ville friend Felix (as mentioned in the previous open day entry) the collection pictured opposite is a fraction of the items acquired since we last saw him (!) The viewmaster 3D images of Zlin were particularly good.

There was also a stall in the library run by Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation, which was very interesting. Not least as they confrimed that no actual plans have been passed for East Tilbury as yet and any that one sees or hears about are in effect just proposed bids from different developers. The final detailed master plan for East Tilbury is yet to actually be drawn up.