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London: Day 1

Posted: February 19th, 2010

Mary arrived at 6 am. I arrived at 8. We both slept little to none and were equally unimpressed by the downgrade of food and booze on international flights. WTF, we understand its a recession, but the flights were really not that cheap.

We met bleary-eyed at baggage claim and made our way to “the tube.”

We forgot our directions, and asked around for directions to Market Estate and the Clocktower. It turns out this place is not so well known after all. We eventually figured it out, and dragged our bags to the Estate, with the intention of meeting up with project organizers (Gaby and Gadi) when we got there. When we arrived, we met tenants moving out who didn’t seem to know about the project, or any artists working here. We wandered around a bit, asked a few more tenants for the “office” and everyone seemed equally clueless.

Eventually we met Gadi who led us to our flat in the complex. He and Gaby are both very helpful and accommodating. Our flat has an amazing view, central London in the near distance. The flat itself is full of light, and as we expected quite primitive— what you would expect from a flat in a building slated to be demolished in two weeks. We are ready to make camp and set up shop… our small space heater, working to heat the entire apartment, is our designated campfire.

Mary and I then did some brainstorming and ate chocolate croissants. We talked about our first impressions being here, and both agreed how strange it was that there are still so many people living here. There are 20 families still residing on the estate. The organizers don’t think that is many at all, but from our perspective we were imagining the site to be nearly vacant, and this definitely changes how we will approach our project.

In response, tomorrow we are moving the tea station, currently housed inside the project headquarters (behind a locked door), outside for high tea. Our hope is that we will meet fellow residents and neighbors and talk. We mainly want to see what people know, what they think of the redevelopment, and what its like for the residents to live here during the transition. It’s a very unique situation to be approaching work from, we are excited… and at the moment feel a bit challenged.

We  asked the local shop owner about the protocols for high tea… but she was Canadian. But, we did learn that tea should be in a pot. No straight bag to cup scenario… tacky.

Dinner… Chicken Kebabs, Rice, Cabbage and bean salads. Very satisfying.
Post- Dinner… We met artist Maria who is cutting perfect circles from sections of the flats and will put those circles into a book. She gave us delicious treats and offered to lend us an extension cord for tomorrow’s tea. She will cut out circles from our flat tomorrow.
Post-post-dinner… beer and cider, facebook and internet updates.

Security is little to none here. You can get into the building and onto our floor without any keys or codes. Its generally not a problem, but there are roving kids from the neighborhood looking to open doors, party, and just cause some typical teenage mayhem. The Estate developers also a fear squatters. Any squatters could postpone demolition for quite some time, as London (unlike the US) has decent squatters rights. Some tenants are here simply to monitor the building and keep it squatter-free. After residents move out, doors are covered with huge steel sliding plates.

Tonight we are visited by one of these bands of teens banging on our door. We meet them and they are extremely hyper… and  pretty rude.
Q: How did you get in here? Are you squatters?
A: No, we are artists from America
Q: Are you lesbians?
A: Just one of us.
(Introductions at a very loud decibel)
We invite them for tea tomorrow.
They request vodka and coke. And not the cheap stuff.
We say we’ll take that request into consideration.
They bang on our door some more, but then leave, and the floor is finally quiet.

9:30 pm.
We’ve been up for too long.
Bed Now.
Goodnight London.

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