- Tower Hamlets
The last day of Stoke Newington literary festival and the pouring rain did not stop crowds coming in to see the final poetical and lyrical line-up.
It began with Simon Cole taking us away from the jubilee street celebrations and onto a tour of Abdney Park Cemetery, the setting of Amy Wine house’s ‘Back to black’ video and the midnight kiss in the park between Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Notting Hill.
It is also home to the gravestones of some of the most revolutionary writers and philosophers that made Hackney a hotbed of activism and abolitionism. Dressed in a top hat and waistcoat, Hackney’s answer to Puck from a Midsummer’s Night Dream led his captivated followers deep into the cemetery park to the tomb of William and his wife Catherine Booth, the latter he described to be one of London’s first feminists due to her public disagreement with her husband about women’s role in the church during the 1800s, when “feminism was a woeful sin”. We were then taken to the fringes of the park and told that one hundred years after Booth came the London café culture, where individuals described by our tour guide as “Hackney’s first hipsters” came to express anti-authoritarian sentiment.
Back onto mainland, writers Mark Mason and Craig Taylor talked at Clissold House about their recent work inspired by their own tours of London.
Canadian-born Taylor discussed his book ‘Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now’ which he describes to be told by those who love it, hate it, live it, left it and long for it. He told his audience that “London was the best place in the world for gossip” as unlike other cities, where people sit down to have a drink, in London people stand at the bar and are at a closer proximity to each other’s conversations.
After, Eastlondonlines caught up with Mark Mason to ask him about his new book ‘Walk the Lines’, which he wrote after walking the entire London Underground, all 403 miles of it. “I always wanted to write a book about London but it was always a question of what framework to use. I decided it should be a walking book- walking is the best way to discover any city- and one day I was looking at the tube map and thought-that’s it!” He added “There was so many places I hadn’t been to and I got a feel for places I had never thought of after living in London for year, like High Barnett- I had no idea how leafy and nice that place was!”
Many poetry lovers spent the late afternoon in the White Rabbit, listening to the word being spoken by The New Libertines. One of the highlights of the event was Hay Brunsdon, a 22-year-old from Stroud, but with an accent akin to the Coronation Street cast, who has recently been shortlisted for this years Gloucestershire’s poet laureate no less. Hay discussed the benefits of bacon sandwiches and asked thought-provoking questions about quiche. But Hay’s poetry is not for savory tastes and she began with the first piece “Who the fuck is Quiche Lorraine?” inspired by her confusion between ITV presenter Lorraine Kelly and the savory snack. She then entered a farrago of filth with the “Meat sweats”, about her Northern friend who “genuinely prefers bacon to sex.” She told a writhing audience “I have no secret porno stashes but I get of watching your sizzling rashers. You sit there sighing oh so sultry but I just want to marinade my free range poultry.”
On next was Anna Percy, who took the event onto a more serious tone, using poetry to discuss love, loss, losing your mind and the dark side of the Olympics.
As the jubilee flotilla passed by somewhere in Tower Hill, Anna read out her poem about
the human activists who were tortured for campaigning against the people who lost their homes in the Beijing Olympics and ended with the “Olympic machine” taking over residential flats in south London houses with surface-to-air missiles, causing a “comet trail of debris over the city of London”.