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Market Estate Day 2: Tea Time

Posted: February 21st, 2010

Woke up to sun streaming through the window. Very jet-lagged and cold. Our mini heater/the campfire used up all our electricity this morning. Gadi took us to the store and showed us how to refill this little stick that we put in the meter. This electricity by the stick system kind of stinks, but it does make us very energy-conscious.

We went to Camden and bought a phone, a map, and slippers. Camden has an insane number of tourist stores, including a fine selection of goth paraphernalia. Mary almost bought a black and purple bustiere but I talked her out of it. (I can’t believe Blithe..she talked me out of it because she wanted it for herself!  -Mary)

The majority of our day was spent outside serving tea and talking with neighbors and market estate residents. We made a bulletin board where people could post their feelings about the Market Estate, and it proved to be a good conversation starter. Overall, the major thing that stood out for most of the people that we talked to is how dangerous and crime ridden the estate and parts of the neighborhood are. One neighbor called it a “Rock in Beirut.” People talked about fear of violence and how unsafe the building was in general. Most people seemed pleased that the building was being torn down. We also talked with a lot of teenagers and kids and many of them had the opposite feelings, for them the estate is a place where they can hide and do things they might not be allowed to do otherwise. The kids are also very territorial about this place, and make it clear that they feel like this place is theirs.

We also met a number of new fellow artists who are working on projects in the Estate. My long time friend Annie also came by and brought us banana carrot bread with figs in it. It was amazing and loved by all.

Mary and I trekked to the center of Islington to eat fish and chips and drink Guinness and Cider. It lived up to our expectations. We were happily surprised by “mushy peas,” a split pea mash that is delicious.  We talked about ideas and processed our day and interactions with everyone.

Tomorrow we will spend the day exploring the flats and moving through details of the Estate. It will be the first day we really start working and we are very excited!

A few more things to add:

We are also starting to see more and more activity around the Estate from other artists.  Many of them live in London but are from various places internationally.  This is a pretty unique opportunity to interact with such a wide scope of artists in a situation that is quite unique as well. Market Estate Project Offices-a circular building adjacent to the Market Estate itself is now being used as a central meeting point for the daily business of the project and for the participating artists and community members alike to gather. This is also where Market Radio is aired from.  Chris, one of the project coordinators,  interviewed Blithe and I live yesterday when we had been up for over 24 hrs.  That will be an interesting clip to listen back on. I have no idea what we actually said!

During the tea we ran into people who had once lived on the Estate as well as current residence and community members.  I felt like it gave us a fairly broad perspective that will help us formulate ways to begin and navigate our way through this project.  I was surprised at everyone’s interest, curiosity and willingness to spend a bit of time with us.  It was also really interesting to learn more about the how these Estates are dispersed in London.  In every neighborhood you find Estates-rich and poor.  We found this to be different than how housing projects in the US are typically all clumped together in one area.  The fear of crime, as Blithe mentioned, from residents and people living in the community was the common thread of the day.  It’s tough to hear young girls discussing the details of gang activity in the area.  We learned a lot from the tea and meet a lot of interesting people in the process.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting and eventful day.  More exploration of the entire Estate to come….


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