Tales from the Ditch

Alan Gilbey, curator/guide, BAFTA Award-winning writer and East End guru:
‘Tales From The Ditch’ is an anthology of tales less told from London’s ‘little bit of rough’, as narrated by an eclectic selection of local authors, historians, storytellers and musicians, who were hidden in all the nooks and crannies of the basement of Shoreditch Town Hall. Each of these performances is a miniature, lasting five minutes, before bells are rung and you have to move on to find the next one. It’s a bit like speed dating, except you don’t have an awkward bit at the end where London history tries to get your phone number.

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Dan Jones has painted East End scenes for four decades; writer, youth worker and human rights campaigner.

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‘Oh Mr Wu..’ In an opium den Stefan Dickers sang of the scarcity of opium dens in the real Chinese Limehouse.

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In a secret room Keith Jones tells the classified story of Tommy Flowers, the Poplar telephone engineer who played a major part in cracking the Enigma Code and ending WW2.

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Chris Lilly and Tim Smith in the musical melodrama about ‘A Child Of The Jago.’

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Tim Smith in the musical melodrama about ‘A Child Of The Jago.’

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In a dark, damp cellar Debbie Scott tells the story of her great grandfather, who saved a great many men from drowning in the docks but was never honoured for his courage.

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In a dark, damp cellar Debbie Scott tells the story of her great grandfather, who saved a great many men from drowning in the docks but was never honoured for his courage.

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In the clinic of Anna Stokes you could receive sun lamp treatment and hear of Shoreditch Councils progressive health policies in the nineteen twenties. 'More power! More light!'

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© Asya Gefter

There was a pub and a bit of a sing-song. An opium den clouded with myth. A musical melodrama about ‘A Child Of The Jago.’ A clinic where you could feel the health giving powers of electricity and sunlight.

Who created the Ditch? Perhaps Shoreditch Council just sheered the tops off a lot of Victorian houses and dumped an Edwardian Town Hall on top?  With its winding corridors and sudden dead ends, secret staircases and non-sequiter windows, it is the perfect geophysical venue for a myth defying night of Eastside stories.

All together…

‘It’s the rich wot get the pleasure and the poor wot get the rich.
All of us are lying in the gutter, but some of us are dreaming of The Ditch.’

Girls

‘You’ve got to grower a thicker skin’, many of us hear all too often. Horrible news pour from everywhere and so we empathise in small dozes, immunise ourselves and carry on.

Fortunately, these Nigerian girls do not live in the north-east where abductions take place. I am so grateful to have met them. Now when I feel powerless and angry at what is going on in the world, I look at their faces and remind myself that the news are about real people.


© Asya Gefter

May Day Clerkenwell

Rowan Arts have asked me to photograph the annual May Day gathering on Camberwell Green for their Clerkenwell History project. The Muscovite in me had mixed feelings on the day when a display of Soviet-era-like ceremony took place on Red Square, for the first time since 1991. But Britain is Britain, and here are the many beautiful faces of Londoners.


© Asya Gefter

East End Backpassages

Although Alan Gilbey currently doesn’t run regular walks, he does create very special events; strolls through the side streets of East London to secret venues where a dozen of local writers and performers await to tell you tales less told.

These ‘Speed History’ events happen several times a year. This year’s March event took place at the 19th century Bishopsgate Library and i was invited to follow Alan and the gang.


© Asya Gefter

‘Sarajevo exposures’ exhibition

Sarajevo Exposures

Here are the scanned versions of the darkroom prints and below are a few comments:

This is something really funny, exciting and full of emotions. (Ahmedin Huric)

The famous spirit of this city beautifully shown. (Azra)

Thank you. I enjoyed your perspective. (Djiki Djanka)

Beautiful and raw! Wonderful photos that captured the essence of life in Sarajevo. (Adriana)

I am impressed by “unwilling” capturing of multicultural richness of life in Sarajevo and elsewhere in this region! (Jasmina)

What you write about Sarajevo is so true! This place definitely has its own soul. I especially enjoyed the ‘double’ pictures – they show a complex-multicultural place. (Fanny)

So it is clear now that when we stop wanting to lead and manage everything, the best happens! Your ‘double pictures’ reveal a special atmosphere you get in Sarajevo. Probably photographers can show what words can’t. (Claire)

Games and toys in Ikakumo

My friend & linguist Sophie and I are putting out an exhibition of Ikakumo children’s photos and videos at SOAS, London (May 20-21) and PICS Festival 2013 at RichMix, London (June 8).

In July 2013, the exhibition will travel to Ikakumo and Ibadan, Nigeria.  Later in the year we plan to launch the dedicated project website and publish an online version of the exhibition catalogue. You all are very welcome to come along to the event near you!

Ikakumo exhibition for web

Edmonton Green

Today was my first visit to Edmonton. For our Chats Palace project, we interviewed Annie Smol who started in Chats in the 1980s and now runs Face Front Inclusive Theatre in the space above the Edmonton Green Market.

Having heard of violence and crime in this yet another London pocket, I was curious to see the area for myself. In the bright mid-afternoon sunshine it looked surreal more than anything so I could not resist taking a few snaps of high-rise and low-rise housing next to/on the top of the redeveloped shopping centre.. An old Rolls-Royce in the car park put the finishing touches to my flying visit. Till next time, I hope.


© Asya Gefter

According to Hidden London, Edmonton Green is the most deprived ward in Enfield by most measures. It has the highest proportion of council housing of any ward, an ethnically diverse population and high levels of unemployment and crime.

In the mid-​​1960s the newly formed Enfield council swept away ‘substandard’ Victorian housing and built a shopping centre, tower blocks and various amenities. Over the past decade, in one of the largest mixed-​​use schemes of its kind, the main facilities at Edmonton Green were redeveloped. The £120 million project involved the construction of new shopping mall, bus station and more.