Paekakariki: Center of the Universe
Yesterday we went to an exhibition at a bijoux studio "collective" just a few streets from us. Down what is currently a rather rundown mews, but most certainly will shortly be turned into attractive, desirable dwellings for Walthamstow uber cool, a neighbour of ours was displaying her wares.
We first stopped off at the Paekakariki Press, a small independent letterpress printer that specialises in poetry publications. I'd never heard of Paekakarike, but a quick google told me it's a small township in the south west of New Zealand's North Island. The town was immortalised as an almost mythical distant place in the song "Paekakariki Beach" by British rock group New Model Army.
The irony is that this small business is exactly what was in the mews 80 -90 years ago, when much of Walthamstow's inhabitants were employed locally in the many small factories and workshops that fed the Empire with "Made in Britain" finished goods.
It's a lovely, warm, haphazard space, with oily presses, tins of ink and reams of paper. Stencils and woodblocks in various stages of preparation litter the place and hanging from clothes lines are freshly pressed lithographs edges curling gently.
We chat to the owner, printer, publisher. He's been around for three years: a small, part time business having grown out of a hobby. As he talks I look out of a side door onto an immaculate lawned garden, with the mews on two sides and an Edwardian Baptist church building and a Victorian Quaker Meeting House, both thriving, completing the square.
Another undiscovered gem in Walthamstow. Behind the rows of dilapidated, run down shops with their ugly, untidy rubbish tips of back yards lies this little beauty. Luckily the publisher owns the building, and as he says where would he put all his ancient plant should he sell to a guzumping developer.
Lesley will put some business his way as she's in desperate need of some business cards. With an exchange of email addresses and a promise to send him the art work for the cards we left and went upstairs to the art studios.
The studio is one large room, with 1920's iron framed windows on all four sides. It is shared by 4 artists, each specialising in a different art form. They're all there on this "Open Day" offering cups of tea and coffee and home made cakes and pastries. The three women and one man aren't there all the time. Some work at weekends only, others are there one or two days in the working week. I'm not a great one for the sort of art they do - bit too unfinished for me; but Lesley was impressed so it must be quite accomplished.
There were 6 visitors when we were there, all were friends of the artists: I suppose that's how the art scene works in trendy London suburbs. As we left an ancient couple struggled up the iron staircase and I tripped myself down the stairs. And we met the organiser of a local arts fair who enquired why Lesley hadn't been showing at their events recently. "I've been too busy", she replied. The organiser nodded - "That's what we like to hear".
Our next port of call was the William Morris museum - voted best UK museum in 2013. Not bad for a building threatened with closure after the Council gave up on it. The formation of the Friends of Lloyd Park, which houses the museum, a hugely successful campaign and a winning Lottery grant changed all that. It is now the place to be seen at.
Sunday afternoon, after a promenade around the newly landscaped gardens, sees 'Stow's aspiring young middle classes in the tea room along with aging parents and kids who are all amazed that it's so civilised. "Well, the impression one gets on leaving the Underground doesn't prepare you for this. And the Village. It's so delightful!"
After a coffee and a ginger beer and a shifty around one of the exhibitions where Lesley discovers one of her clients exhibiting, we head for the High Street - Wilkinson's and Sainsburys. Past many streets still looking unloved, with multiple satellite dishes, peeling paint and crumbling window sills. Front gardens given over to old mattresses, litter and large expensive Audis and Mercs. Edwardian houses done up in Lahor's latest - all gold and twirls, and the front door of a two bedroomed terrace encircled with 6 door bells.
Cheek by jowl the aspiring, future bright and the hopeful, unwaged live, aware of each others presence but on opposite sides of the track.