diamond geezer

 Sunday, July 21, 2013

There's not been a cinema in E3 for decades. There's not been a mental hospital in E3 for seven years. But this summer the remains of the latter are transforming into the former, for the benefits of the population at large, courtesy of the St Clement's Social Club. This group of volunteers have taken over St Clement's Hospital on Bow Road during a temporary pause before the site is turned over to redevelopment, and are busy establishing a social venue inside. As of this weekend the front gates are open, the site is free to access and you can come and poke your nose inside. I've been wanting to do that for years. Achievement unlocked.

St Clement's started out as the City of London Union Workhouse in 1849, where those with nothing came to throw themselves upon the mercy of the benefactors. In 1874 it switched to being an infirmary for the assessment of the mental health of inmates at other institutions, and in 1912 a facility for the chronically ill. When the NHS was created it became a psychiatric hospital, and remained so until 2005 when services moved out and everything was boarded up. Normally in such circumstances the end result is bland flats, but events at St Clement's have led down a somewhat unusual path. The site was made London's first Community Land Trust, which means its freehold will be held by the local community rather than guzzled whole by a developer. There'll be considerably more affordable housing than usual, some of it newbuild, the rest created within the hospital's existing landmark buildings. But not quite yet, hence one last summer to celebrate.

The St Clement's Social Club are opening up the site for a month, starting this weekend, with aspirations to host a cafe and some gardens. It's going well. Hundreds of volunteers, including a team of bankers shipped in by Barclays, have been busy tidying, clearing and planting. It feels somewhat incongruous to see a wonky NHS sign (pointing to Occupational Therapy, the Specialist Drug Unit and the Mind Advocacy Project) rising from a bed of pot plants. It's no Kew Gardens, and the hot weather's not helped, but the site looks rather less rundown as a result. The 'cafe' is a converted fairground burger van, conversion still underway, but they do already appear to have Meantime beer on tap so priorities first. Alongside, by the planters, the Tower Hamlets Cycling Club have set up a bike workshop, because it's that sort of place. Meanwhile there's a bar at the rear of the site, or more of a window really, dispensing wine, gin & tonic or sangria for £3 (n.b. not always open).

During July's setting-up period, visitors are being allowed free rein to wander around approximately half of the site. Some realise this and have turned up deliberately. Others were passing and discovered the ever-closed gates open, including several bemused children on bikes with a new playground to explore. Yesterday a couple of the main buildings were unlocked and open, including the John Denham block overlooking Mile End Road. Warnings across the site warn that you're here at your own risk, but there is a certain thrill to entering gloomy institutional buildings formerly the realm only of the illegal urban adventurer. One external wall tells "The Story of St Clement's" in taped-up photos, one of which I recognised because I took it. It's a shot of the front of the hospital illuminated in red to celebrate the launch of the Trust last December, and I assume one of the volunteers nicked it off Flickr. Hello if that was you, you only had to ask, and obviously I'd have absolutely definitely have said yes.

These first few weeks are just a warm-up, until the Shuffle Festival kicks off on August 8th. This is an eleven-day film festival, curated by director and all-round supremo Danny Boyle who just happens to live across the road. He's selected a series of crowd-pleasing films, plus a few of his own, and will be gracing some of the presentations with a personal Q&A. The festival kicks off with Shallow Grave (pretty much sold out, I understand) and continues with sure-fire crowd pleasers like The Long Good Friday and Withnail & I. Trainspotting's on the list, obviously, along with Rosemary's Baby and Attack The Block. Sunday 11th has been given over to films relating to mental illness, appropriately, plus Ruby Wax will be doing a turn. Many of the evenings end up with after parties and DJs, for those who'd like to make a full summer's evening on it. And yes, there's a full screening of Danny's Olympic Opening Ceremony on Tuesday 13th, and that one's free.

There'll be two cinemas on site, or at least two spaces where films will be screened. One's the Wentworth Stanley Hall, formerly the main place of assembly for patients, which was open for wandering yesterday. As for the outdoor cinema, that's still being set up but appears to be a few chairs in a minor courtyard beneath the clocktower facing a white sheet. Tickets are on sale via the festival's website, most for £10 or £15, but a small number of cheaper tickets have been held back for those who can prove they're residents of E3. Keep an eye on Twitter to see when the 'booking desk' is staffed, and nip down in person with proof of address and a fiver. I'll see you there.

Further local event news: Tower Hamlets council is running a Cockney Heritage Festival, on a fairly major scale, from this weekend to next. There are parties and singalongs and guided walks, indeed a lot of stuff aimed at the borough's older residents, as well as film screenings, talks and special events. The Festival peaks in Bow next Saturday with a tea dance at the art gallery, a fair in the church and a procession of Pearlies from the Bow Bells pub. [programme]

Further local development news: Last summer I told you the tale of Cody Dock, the last link in the Lea Valley Walk preventing access along the river to Trinity Buoy Wharf. A group of volunteers have been trying to create a community hub and open up the riverbank, but funding has been stubbornly unforthcoming. Now at last the Mayor's Big Green Fund has thrown £240,000 to help kickstart the Lea River Park and "create a new connection between Cody Dock and Canning Town". This is marvellous and well-deserved news (and is potentially even better because that ghastly name, the "Fatwalk", appears nowhere in the press release).

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards