What is there to do on a wet Sunday in East London when it's chucking it down. Plenty, as it turns out.
Chatsworth Road Sunday Market, E5 If you want to move up in the world, grow yourself a market. Chatsworth Roadin Clapton could certainly do with moving up, because being "that road to the north of Homerton Hospital" doesn't make any estate agent salivate. It's mostly shops, plus characterful Victorian terraces of the kind that this part of Hackney's done so well to keep. The street boasts about six dozen shops, all of them independent bar a couple of well-known bakery chains and a betting shop. But it takes more than coffee and toys and books to gentrify a neighbourhood, so the local traders have ganged up together to start a regular street market selling nice things. It's running fortnightly at the moment, with a selection of stalls offering mostly food, crafts, food, clothes and food. I managed to resist a slice of proper gooey cheesecake, because it would probably have dissolved in the rain, but I couldn't resist forking out for a "gormet" smoked ham, leek, pea and mint pie. Mini-size only, which contained fewer bites than ingredients, but the taste was delightfully non-factory. High drama ensued across the street when one shopper, of a non-market demographic, returned to her car to find it dangling in mid-air. She'd accidentally parked it in an empty bay allocated to the Sunday market, so Hackney's enforcement team had seized their chance to nip in and winch her vehicle onto the back of their removal truck. The officers' ill-chosen parking spot then created a lengthy traffic jam, the irony of which was entirely lost on them, but at least they swiftly relented and returned the hatchback to ground level. I'm not convinced that Chatsworth Road Market's worth crossing London for, not yet awhile. But for lovers of Broadway Market (closed Sundays) and its ilk, it's probably worth crossing Hackney for.
Free Range Art & Design Show, The Old Truman Brewery When you're a design student, even if you're a very good design student, it's not easy to get the wider world to take notice of your work. So there's an annual showcase event which attempts to take the best graduate projects from across the country, stick them all in an old brewery up Brick Lane, and invite the wider world inside. You'd have to know it was on, or to have visited the venue before, to find the main entrance up a back staircase labelled only with two flags. But step inside, and up to the first floor, and there's much to enjoy. The exhibition runs for two months, with a completely different set of students showing their wares each week. The University of East London semi-filled their room with semi-interesting stuff, although I was particularly struck by Peter Stevens' t-shirt portraits ("How much are they paying you to wear that?"). Barking and Dagenham College presented a more coherent display, under the straplines 'Nine' and 'Elevation', with many graphic design projects (like these anonymous killer sandwiches) raising a smile. But top marks to Maidstone University of Creative Arts, whose roomful of graphic media wiped the floor with the presentations nextdoor. Everything was linked under the title 'treat yourself', complete with branded paper bags to take round and fill with the students' sweet-themed business cards. Intelligent design, professionally delivered and even a proper website to showcase everyone's work outside the event. It was all enough to make me jealous I was born too early to have dabbled with this sort of thing at school. Back then cutting-edge graphic design peaked with Letraset, but today's students have so many more tools at their fingertips, and so many more ways to shine. Come back next weekend (Fri-Mon) to see the next batch, and again, and again, until the end of July.
LED Festival, Victoria Park They do like their summer festivals in Vicky Park. A patch of grass in the centre of the park is fenced off, good and proper, so that only those who've forked out money can see anything. A whopping great sound system is wheeled in, so that half the neighbourhood can hear every note. Add some artistes, some bars and several portaloos, and you have a cosy tent-free festival for confirmed urbanites. This weekend was the LED Festival, headlined by Deadmau5, backed up by Calvin Harris and a lot of downdirty grimestep (or whatever the official term is). Day 1 was loud enough that I could hear the muffled finale from home, a mile away, through double glazing. But I went on Day 2, after everyone had gone home, bar the poor folk whose job it was to pack away and tidy up. The main public pathway past the festival's main gate was still blocked by metal fencing, not that this stopped one determined lady out walking her greyhounds who forced apart two panels and slipped through. A few flags fluttered limply, in rain which thankfully hadn't turned Saturday's event into a mudbath. Round the far side I had to take extra care walking along the tarmac lest I was squashed flat by a passing megatruck, or empty catering van, slowly edging its way out of the park. Occasionally one of the giant gates would open, revealing the mass clean-up inside, before whatever vehicle was due to emerge emerged and the security guard slammed the gate back shut. By noon all the discarded water bottles and noodle trays had been swept away, so far as I could tell, although it might be some time before we locals get our parkland back.
Whitechapel Gallery, Aldgate East Seriously, they've given over one of the largest galleries to a man who stretches not-very-much coloured elastic into geometric shapes? And called it "a major retrospective"? So unimpressive. At least the main exhibition of Paul Graham's photographs is more interestingly talented. But it's the room filled with selections from the Government Art Collection that's drawing the crowds. Samantha Cameron's chosen a post-war Lowry, the Chief of the Intelligence Service has selected a stripy Riley, and Nick Clegg's picked a flask of tea.
Dalston Curve Garden, E8 There used to be two railway tracks curving north out of Dalston Junction. One's now a railway again, but the other's entered long-term temporary use as a communitygarden. A great idea, with its seed in the 'Dalston Mill' outreach project two summers ago. There are raised beds for vegetables, birdboxes made from fruit juice cartons, and some proper wilderness down the far end on the way to Matalan. Dripping wet on Sunday, of course, so not a hands-on gardener in sight. But if you're local, with green fingers you're itching to put to sustainable good, you'd be more than welcome.