Have you ever been to Thamesmead? I have several times. Including the rather bizarre experience of watching a film under a flyover there on this very Friday evening. The event was part of a Design for London, Borough of Bexley and Borough of Greenwich redevelopment programme. The austere-as-they-can-be railings were garlanded with flowers and gold painted thrones were lined up on the pavement of Sewell Road as can be seen in the top picture.
The focus of the re-development is the Ridgeway. Basically its a sewer pipe running out of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's Crossness Pumping Station that has become a place of wild natural attractiveness. It has caught the eye of the above agencies and the evening was to introduce us to various ideas that are being floated.
Food made from fruits picked on the Ridgeway was given away along with a recipe book based on the same food. I enjoyed the horseradish and the damson compote.
A film had been specially produced with comments from some of the Thamesmead locals about the wonders of nature and all that kind of thing. Thamesmead locals are a kind of wonder of nature themselves although a disappointing number of them availed themselves of this pleasant freebie.
The film was a very broad brush affair - people did silly things on the Ridgeway. Yachts floated along the path - a questionnaire had been handed out and one of the questions had been what kind of new uses could be found for the Ridgeway. Sailing hadn't occurred to me - neither had "Ridge-ball" which is a game where people stand in a line along the path and rather lamely pass footballs along to each other. It was to get us thinking imaginatively about the future. Someone grasping at straws might have been more approriate. After all there isn't much you can do on what seems to be a narrow path atop a hump that has become a bit overgrown and flowery.
The film was projected against the supports for the Harrow Manor Way Flyover and cars and trucks would pass between the viewers and the screen - often with rather surprised-looking drivers taking in the rows of people in gold-painted chairs. Fun.
A slide show listed elsewhere in the underpass introduced various objectives and projects for improving the path and surrounding environment. It included a paddock for those Thamesmead folk who leave their horses grazing outside their tower blocks. The idea of little hideaways for children was greeted with a bit of scorn - a natural habitat for the not infrequent drug addicts of Thamesmead. Planting more edible plants was more welcome.
There were also two short films about the development of Thamesmead - a delightfully silly advert for the place where jolly old dears ran for buses full of vim and joie de vivre. Then there was a piece of socialist realism detailing the horrors of Life Before Thamesmead. It involved very bad wallpapering and outside toilets apparently. Thank God for the outright alienation of the concrete jungle.
I look forward to seeing how this all pans out and am pleased something is happening. I said I would litter-pick if such a thing ever got organised. R is very positive and thinks it's the beginning of something big.
The older films reminded us that big things have happened here before. Let's hope its more like Crossness in its durability than Thamesmead in all it's ......well.
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