Friday, 20 May 2016

St. Paul's Harlow

Last year I went on one of my rare visits to Harlow mainly to take a few photographs of the sculptures around the town. I was drawn though to the church behind the Civic Centre, close to the Water Gardens. The church is St. Paul’s, Harlow and was designed by architects Derrick Humphrys and Hurst in the late 1950’s. Harlow was built following the New Towns Act of 1946 from a plan drawn up by renowned architect Sir Frederick Gibberd in 1947. Harlow was growing steadily by this time and places of worship were seen as important projects to bind the community.

The foundation stone was laid in 1957 by Lord Rab Butler with The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in attendance. The church finally opened to its congregation in January 1959. The furniture and fittings were designed by R.W. Hurst and the mosaic mural by John Piper.

In 2013 as part of a competition to find the UK’s Best Modern Churches it was awarded tenth place by the Twentieth Century Society and proudly displays its certificate.

I was lucky enough to be let inside by someone running a lunch club in the church hall and was able to take a lot of pictures of this Grade 11 listed building. It is obviously in need of a bit of TLC but on the whole it looks rather splendid.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Guardian Archive

Last night we went on a Guardian Members tour of their own archive which is based at The Guardian HQ at 90,York Way near to Kings Cross. We were met in the lobby and taken to a conference room for refreshments and introductions to the people leading the tour and also told how the evening would proceed. There were about ten of us in total and we were then split into two groups as the archive and the reading room in particular are quite small spaces. Our group was led by Emma Golding, Archivist and assisted by Anna Chesters who organises Guardian Members events around the UK. 

Photography is not allowed in the basement archive rooms although we were allowed to take pictures in the Reading Room. Our first stop was the photo archive which has row upon row of boxes containing negatives and prints from the 1950's onwards. We were told that the early archives of The Manchester Guardian which changed its name to The Guardian in 1959 were held at the University of Manchester although many items are held here. We saw a few proof sheets from the considerable Jane Bown archive as well as a lovely album containing photographs of all Manchester Guardian employees in 1921. The album created was to celebrate the newspapers centenary but was a gift to C.P. Scott who had been editor of the newspaper for 50 years at this point. He eventually had the job for 57 years! There were some lovely group photographs from editors down to cleaning staff and stable hands.

The next room downstairs contained an item which we would have loved to have taken a picture of, the destroyed hard drives from The Guardian computers. This had to be done following Edward Snowden's NSA leaks to several newspapers around the world including The Guardian. The editors used power tools to destroy them and the various bits that were left are to be seen in the archive room. We also saw some work from various political cartoonists including a hastily changed post election one from 1970.

Back upstairs we were told more about the history of the archive itself and were able to see a first edition from Saturday May 5th 1821. There were other items out on display which we were able to look at and handle including the staff magazine called The Cross Street Journal which was published from 1949 until 1962 and showed pictures of weddings, retirements and outings enjoyed by staff members.

An item I almost missed in the edition published the day after President Kennedy was assassinated on November 23rd 1963 was an article about Denys Lasdun getting the job as architect for the National Theatre. The heading has a question...Completion 1968? Unfortunately the completion was not until 1976 and without the promised opera house.

The tour lasts for about 90 minutes and is well worth it if you can book onto this extremely fast selling event. Here is a link to the Guardian Members events page 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Treasure Island: The Hidden Gems of the Isle of Dogs

Last Sunday after a year in the planning Andrew Parnell, William Sharp and myself previewed our walk highlighting the Isle of Dogs for a group of students and friends. The students like ourselves had been on the Walkie Talkie, Introduction to Guiding course that is led by David Charnick and run through Tower Hamlets Ideas Store.

The idea for this walk came about as we split into groups after a meeting in a pub of Walkie Talkie 'graduates' and we decided that architechture was to be our theme. The Isle of Dogs is known for being a glitzy, glass financial centre but it is only with looking deeper into this 'Island' that you realise the rich heritage that is there and some very surprising places. The two areas that I talk about on the walk could be a million miles away from that glitz and glamour but yet it is only a few hundred metres in reality!

We had laid out the bare bones for a walk along with another friend as early as April last year and took many walks around the area before we decided on the final route. We hit a wall last Summer though when my son was diagnosed with cancer and William's mum became ill. Andrew, newly retired was left to carry on with the project alone for a few months with William and myself dipping in when we could. Unfortunately the fourth member of the group had to drop out totally. My son was given the all clear in early April and at that point I felt able to give the 'Island' my full attention.

After many months of trying it out we were finally able to show off the Isle of Dogs that we love. The walk lasting around 2 hours is split between the three of us who all have a great affection for the place but who also see things with three different sets of eyes. The walk has been a great collaboration and has with Andrew's tremendous input allowed us to make links with local community groups who we hope to show it to soon.

It has been a roller coaster year for all three of us in different ways and I think that last Sunday made all of us feel a tiny bit proud of ourselves. We finished up with a celebratory drink on the hottest day of the year so far at the Poplar and Blackwall Rowing Club looking out at the magnificent Greenwich Palace looking forward to our next walk.

Here are some some pictures from last Sunday....

Here are the links to our next walks on June 29th and July 10th