Emergency help please

March 12, 2012

How are you? I hope this e-mail reaches you well. I just want you to know that I had an urgent business seminar trip to Spain but I got myself in a fix. I was mugged & robbed on my way to the hotel. Kindly observe utmost confidentiality with this. I really want this confidential between us.

Though I lost my money, bank cards & mobile phone in the course of this attack, but I’m so glad I wasn’t harm or hurt. Anyway, I’ve immediately contacted my bank for help and to stop my cards. Will you be able to lend me some cash (about €2500euros) or any amount you can afford to lend me. I’ll refund you back upon my arrival back home next weekend. Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to your response. Thank you kindly



Repressing mendacity

July 2, 2011

Here are photos from Providence Row, that I took last week when I was researching:


A few things begin to strike me about the details of this place. The effect of splitting / doubling, (separate entrances for men and women); on the backside of the building the separation between the facade and the external wall (so that the new is inserted beneath the old, in an odd inversion of what we normally expect); and (apart from a couple of small plants), the lack of anything personalised viewable from the window -instead stacks of different kinds of bags.

Everything has a story

June 29, 2011

BSK’s second session with Shamin was in a community room by Vallance Gardens. Shamim gave us all a story-telling workshop, using objects as launch-points, then people split into groups to start working on the stories the parents will tell their children for SLICE. We also did some useful practical planning, as we have to start turning this creative process into something specific that will work on screen.

And we saw a lovely trial version of a story in a matchbox.

We have another session coming soon, so more news then. But, for now, we have some photos to share.

The night shelter, after some more research, turns out to have had a very interesting history. Set up in 1860 it was one of the first shelters for the homeless. The building on that site remained as a shelter until 2001 when it was sold to the Osborne group and Manhattan Loft Corporation. (btw MLC strap line is: Bringing New York loft-style living to London with a collection of beautifully designed and executed loft conversions….) Providence Row still exists as an organisation that helps the homeless but now has an office at Wentworth Street.

The above is a letter written in 1896 soliciting funds for the shelter.

There are a couple of interesting sections in it. Firstly that although supported by the ‘Sisters of Mercy’ the establishment is non-sectarian :

It is specially desired to call the attention of the charitable to some distinguishing marks of the Charity. In the first place it is absolutely non-sectarian. There are no questions as to nationality or creed. Whilst there is accommodation in the Refuge, no bona-fide applicant is refused, the sole passport necessary being genuine poverty and want.

The second is the list of the ‘distressed’ who took shelter there:

As an example of the distress, which exists in our midst may be mentioned that in the Refuge last year, amongst those assisted were an Architect, an Optician, clerks, waiters, valets, woodcarvers, ivory-turners, weavers, painters, a professor of music, a linguist, certificated teachers, dressmakers, domestic servants, etc., etc.

As well as shelter, Providence Row also provided training for servants:

In addition to the Refuge, there are two homes, one for Servants, who partially support themselves by work, the other where women out of engagements can board and lodge at a small cost per week, whilst searching for situations.

The writing has a formality and tenderness to it, which feels a million miles away from government statistics. As I’m reading this, I’m also checking on the news from The Guardian that:

a leading banker warned that Britain is facing a “tsunami” of house repossessions as soon as interest rates start to rise.

Richard Banks, chief executive of UK Asset Resolution (UKAR), the body that runs the £80bn of mortgages bailed out by the taxpayer during the banking crisis, said 23,000 of his group’s 750,000 mortgage holders are more than six months behind with repayments, adding that projections for the number of people falling behind could get “scary” if lenders did nothing to prepare for higher rates.

I think about night in the city, especially night in an area like that of the SLICE with its cheek-to-cheek juxtaposition of very different communities. Where to find shelter at night? The shadow of Spitalfields church at night is both peaceful and stern.

(Alongside thinking about the night shelter, I’ve been thinking about church and its bells. A set of church bells is called a ‘peal’ and spitalfields has had three peals. The original peal of twelve was destroyed in the great fire of 1836, to be replaced by a peal of eight cast in Whitechapel that lasted until the nineteen twenties, then the tower became silent until 1971 when the current peal of eight bells (cast by Gillet & Johnston in 1919) was acquired second-hand from the demolished church of St Stephens in Clapham… )

Earlier today I read Steve’s post about his proposal for a park in the car park. Such a lovely idea met with the kind of beaurocratic response that either makes you giggle or weep, (depending on how resilient you’re feeling…)……

More from the letter:

During the Winter Months, the Refuge provides every night nearly three hundred night’s lodgings, suppers & breakfasts to homeless wanderers free of cost. From the foundation of the Refuge thirty six years ago by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert, nearly one million two hundred and fifty thousand night’s lodgings suppers and breakfasts have been provided.

The work of the charity does not end at “feeding the hungry” and “harbouring the harbourless”. It is also the means of enabling many of those, who find shelter within the walls of the Refuge, to begin life afresh, and to obtain again a position for themselves in the world. Those, for example, who through dire necessity, to save their families from starvation or worse, have parted with their tools, are enabled to recover them: sellers of fusees, flowers, newspapers, bootlaces, and the like, without hope or money, are supplied with a little stock: rent is paid and a small allowance granted to mothers and children, when the breadwinner through sickness is unable to work: the ragged are also clothed and situations obtained for them.

Just thought I should post up the response (3rd June) from The City of London Authority, Assistant Traffic Manager – re my proposed idea for a temporary ‘Park’ space on the roof of the Whites Row Carpark, as this should explain why the proposal ground to a halt…

Dear Mr Rosenthal

There are a number of considerations that will need to be taken into account before we could allow your project to take place.

Risk Assessments: You will need to provide a comprehensive risk assessment. As the car park will have a high turn over of moving vehicles, your risk assessment will need to clearly outline what measures you intend to put in place to safe guard the safety of pedestrians. The risk assessment will need to be approved by the City’s Environmental Health Department to ensure it meets the required standards.

Traffic Management Plan: You will need to provide a traffic management plan that will outline the signage you intend to use to manage traffic and pedestrian flows within the car park.

Stewarding Plan: Your plan will need to show the stewarding arrangements you intend to put in place (such as directional advice to visitors). This will be required to ensure the safety of the car park users and any visitors to your exhibition.

Planning Permission: You may need to apply for planning permission as there will be a temporary change in use of the car park. I would therefore recommend you seek early advice on this.

Noise: You will need to consult with Tower Hamlets Environmental Health Service (Noise Pollution team). They will need to be reassured that nearby residents will be not be adversely affected by the noise, and that you have a procedure in place to deal with complaints and objections should they arise.

Indemnity: You will be required to indemnify the City against any damage sustained as a result of your temporary occupation of the car park. The cost of this is currently £300.

Public Liability Insurance: As the City’s Public Liability insurance does not cover such activities in a car park you will need your own liability insurance; a copy of the insurance certificate will be needed for the City’s insurers.

Advertising: You should note that the City does not allow advertising so you project must be free from all promotional materials

Parking Charges: There may be a cost incurred for the occupation of the parking spaces, which for White’s Row car park will be £28 per day per space. Concessions may apply if you are a registered charitable organisation.

Cleaning: There may be a cost for additional cleaning as a result of an increase in footfall traffic.

Security: The City of London Corporation would not be responsible or liable for any loss or damage sustained to your vehicle, equipment etc whilst using the car park

With regard to risk assessments, traffic management and stewarding plans, there are professional companies that can assist you with these. If you do not already have a company nominated, please let me know and I will endeavour to provide you some contact names and numbers. Once you have taken all the above factors into account, please contact me again so your request can be given further consideration. Unfortunately until we are in receipt of essential information such as risk assessments, insurance details and traffic management plans we are not in a position to say whether or not the car park can be used for your project.


Paul Symons
Assistant Traffic Manager
Department of Environmental Services, City of London

Present Attempt have now spent a couple of days working in Hope Square, their chosen site and first point on the slice. After repeated visits we can ironically say that it is hopeless. There is something definitely tragic about the square. 6 giant ugly white pillars dominate the place where you also find a McDonald, franchises setting up their pop up stalls and marquis to sell commercial products of various kinds. The square, more a place of passage for commuters than a place where people hang out is littered with fast food waste. And then the statue of the Kindertransport in the middle of all this, erected in memory of the refugee children who came to Britain in search of a safe haven. The whole thing is rather paradoxical. This paradox, the gap between the name ‘Hope Square’ and the actual place which is devoid of anything really positive is what is guiding our thinking.

Yesterday we went back to Hope Square to further our investigations through in situ writing and filming. Building a picture of ‘Hope Square’ was always something that interested us and after some time testing things out we settled on writing to reveal and approach the paradox of Hope Square. A textual depiction of Hope Square is what has emerged out of our process, now it remains to be seen how this text will manifest in its final visual form. We have settled on some rules and qualities for the writing that will help shape it further and act as guiding principles. To be continued…

Today I went to a meeting with Shamim and Bishwo Shahitto Kendro (BSK) at the Brady Centre, an East End arts centre through which the slice passes. It was very exciting – a grassroots group from the Bangladeshi diaspora engaged with various art forms. They’re going to work with Shamim and a visual artist called Zaman to explore Shamim’s idea of parents telling their children stories. There were lots of ideas and a great variety of different skills in the room – music, art, drama… We probably could have come up with a whole new slice project. I hope we’ll continue to work with BSK when we come to develop the outreach aspects of the projec.

But first things first. We’re meeting again this Sunday to start work…

Here are a couple of photos of the group, plus the Brady Centre. Oh and there was a gorgeous evening light over the eastern end of the slice, so I’m sharing a picture of that as well.

My work for Slice will be sited near the east end of the London line in an area that is a hive of construction activity relating to the new underground Crossrail west > east rail link. I’m interested in ideas of exploration / occupation / invasion but on a scale that could easily be overlooked by the bustle of passing city life. An outpost clinging to the side of a wall.

Back to School

June 20, 2011

Since my last post on my own project for Slice I’ve been doing a lot more digging and discovered that not only did my grandfather grow up closer to where I now live than I had previously realised but his future mother-in-law started her childhood in the same area – in fact she was right on Brick Lane itself. My grandfather had three East End addresses (that we know of) as a child, and the last of these is just north of Cheshire Street – which many people now know as the street with the area’s most famous expensive second-hand clothes shop: ‘Beyond Retro’. (Coincidentally this is also just yards away from the home of Emanuel Litvinoff, about whom I posted previously). I’m very aware that there’s far, far more that I don’t know about my grandfather than I do, but I know that until he left school at 14 to work for his father in the furniture trade, he went to middle school in Myrdle Street, just south of Whitechapel Road (very close to the legendary Tayyabs Pakistani restaurant).  I’m still not sure where this is going artistically  (and I don’t know for sure whether my grandfather moved again before he started middle school) but I thought it’d be interesting to trace his hypothetical walking to since it clearly would have to intersect the slice at some point. Here’s my best guess, using a 1920s street map:

I also though it’d be interesting to see how the area had changed, focusing for practical purposes on the area where his route (hypothetically) intersects with the slice. So I started by imposing the 1920 map onto a contemporary one:

Quite a lot of streets have disappeared, I guess through the process of tenements being replaced with post-war estates. Many streets remain however. We have in the family a 1903 book about London which, in rather purple prose, paints a picture of the ‘ghetto’ as something deeply strange – I may well use some of the text for my final piece – but for all the extreme difference I have a feeling I wouldn’t be totally lost in the 1920s, nor would my grandfather be entirely lost now. Enough streets remain. That said, I wonder if he would share my sadness at the rather characterless blocks of maisonettes that now line his old street.

I do find all the faux ‘retro’ shops springing up in the area rather pleasing though. For all that their sham ‘authenticity’ belies their commercial purpose, they are unwitting testament to just how formative the old East End is to our (albeit fanciful) idea of the true London. I wonder if young Abe, walking down Vallance Road to school, ever had a feeling that he was part of something that would become one of history’s fixed points?

As has already been documented on the blog, TBC have been working on a new performative drawing piece in response to the space of Catherine Wheel Alley off Bishopsgate in London.  We have uploaded a PDF to WordPress documenting our research into the relationships between drawing, space and performance. The PDF also details the parameters we allowed ourselves to work in, such as the materials we considered using and different approaches we had to exploring the space. It is hoped that with the dimensions provided by Asif Kanji for the tunnel on the Lahore Slice, we will produce a similar drawing in London in response to that space. We thought that the description of the tunnel drew parallels with Catherine Wheel Alley, narrow, littered and a thoroughfare to the station.

Download PDF:

TBC Drawing Research

To view PDF on Issuu: Here