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Monthly Archives: August 2020

Brightening up the High Street – Aberfeldy Street in Poplar

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

Over the last few weeks, the nice weather has enabled people to come out of their homes and enjoy being outdoors. Long time regular contributor, Laureen Katiyo made her way into Poplar and came across a fun and innovative way of brightening up the ‘high street’.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

The programme called Start Here has provided a visual transformation of Aberfeldy street in Poplar. Building frontages have been painted in a patchwork of colours and decorated in patterns inspired by fabrics donated by members of the largely Bangladeshi community in a nod to the Kantha tradition of recycling old textiles to make something new. The intention is to bring colour and artwork onto Aberfeldy Street, highlight the high street and celebrate the cultural identity of local people.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

As part of the programme, Aberfeldy Street gives businesses or individuals the opportunity to start and trial their ideas on the high street. The aim is to develop an active high street that provides opportunities for local people whilst serving the local community.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

One community initiative is ‘The People Speak’, which a project that encourages people to speak to each other. The formats look familiar at first: a chat show , a game show or even a soccer kick-about, but once people are involved, there’s no limit to where they can take each other. No instruction manual is required, and they like to have as much fun and get just as involved as everyone else.” They are hosting another socially-distanced roundtable community discussion on the street next Thursday (27 August) evening from 7:30pm – 9pm, which is open to everyone.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

Laureen also visited The Tommy Flowers micropub named after Tommy Flowers who not only played a major part in codebreaking but also developed what many consider to be one of the first electronic computers.

Tommy Flowers was born in Abbott Road, Poplar where he developed his interest in engineering. In 1941 Tommy was asked to work at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing on a project to decode German messages. However it was in 1943 when Turing introduced Tommy to Max Newman that work began on the project that would make their name.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

It is easy to become downhearted with the present crisis but it is not all doom and gloom, many organisations and individuals are looking for new and innovative ways to create a pleasant community environment and offer opportunities for people to develop their community and business ideas.

Many thanks to Laureen Katiyo for the photographs.

Book Review: Love on the Isle of Dogs by Jude Cowan Montague

Recently I was contacted by writer, illustrator and broadcaster Jude Cowan Montague who has just published her latest book entitled Love on the Isle of Dogs.

The book is a graphic memoir of her early life against the background of a changing Isle of Dogs in the 1990s. Jude Cowan Montague lived on the Isle of Dogs with her husband in the early 1990s, it was a whirlwind romance and a very difficult time for her as she became quickly pregnant and her husband’s mental health began speedily to degenerate. The stress increased and the knock on effect for both after the separation dominated their lives for years to come.

What is unusual about the book is that the story is first told visually using drawings and then by using text.

Jude’s drawings illustrate how the Island provided the background for her life and romance. In the beginning, the drawings have a children’s picture book quality but gradually they become darker and more menacing.

Jude’s husband was one of the participants in a self-build scheme on Westferry Road and their house was close to Mudchute Farm, which became for Jude, a welcome escape from the pressures of modern living.

The text part of the book is more about how Jude tried to make sense of her life as it enfolded from working at an Arts Centre and moving forward to marriage and motherhood. It is an honest portrayal, full of unrealistic dreams, denial, love, concern, anger, fear and loss.

The book is very much a modern love story about romance, marriage and having a child. However, not every story has an happy ending and a series of incidents turns the relationship into a nightmare. The Isle of Dogs like any place is not just a location but a home to thousands of people. Those people all have a story to tell but not everyone can tell that story in such a graphic or creative way like Jude. It is her talent that she can see her own story in a wider perspective and understands that sometimes the environment reflects the personal. The confusion and changing times of early 1990s Docklands reflected the strangeness of a relationship that moved quickly from light to darkness.

These are lessons, all of us have had to deal with in recent times, when the familiar has become strange and unsettling. We can take some solace from Jude’s end of the book which reflects her hope and determination to create better times in the future.

You can order or buy a copy of the book here