Living Together Walk #1 North to South
Voiceover transcript, read by Verity-Jane Keefe
I’m your guide. Walking you through this place, from here right down to there. We should have done this in real life, but then if we had, this wouldn’t have happened, and some of you wouldn’t have joined.
Walk with me. Lose yourself with me. North to South from the land of much promise – Crossrail down to the A13, a huge chunk of a map, a mass, a place, many places within other places.
Valence Avenue, wide boulevard train tracks transporting building materials, the stuff of this place. Bricks and timber in, materials to detail, rubble and detritus out, debris and spoil
Becontree slowly waking up. It’s early and freezing. Low winter sun, cold shadows, brighter spots ahead…
This isn’t a history lesson, nor a complete finished introduction to Becontree.
I’m not going to talk through the whole walk. You can see it through my eyes as a portal, through yours.
I’ll let the wind, the traffic, the birdsong and the rhythm of my feet guide you. Would you come here? Would you visit to lose yourself in the side streets noticing the tiny details as you pass them, or not.
Chitty’s Lane – completion, flash of a blue plaque
I can see the blue plaque now, up there, over on the right. This terrace was completed on 4th November 1921.
Completed. Can something ever be complete? Finished. 100 years on. What happens when people live there? What happens when people move out? What happens when people decorate, customise, the individual takes over.
Loud. Quiet. Traffic then parked cars. Birds nesting in pollarded trees waiting for leaves to come. Like sculptures, or creatures cutting in to the blue skies.
I love this bit. It’s near the “S” shape on the map, it always looks so ornate on a map, but then much the same as the rest on the ground. These details get lost as soon as we’re on the tarmac. The houses feel a little bigger here, this section, the last 15 minutes, is the oldest bit of Becontree.
Royal Event Decorations. Royalty. There’s a plaque on a house just around the corner from here – 1923 -marking the time King George fifth and Queen Mary “took tea in this cottage”, planted two trees to mark the occasion then went on with their royal lives. Plaque still there but no trees. Royal Tea. Royal connections. I came back to look at this lorry and imagined what it would be like to be in this marquee, under this purple canopy of regal decoration at a party or something. Empty stagings for a future as yet unknown. See you there
When I first walked down this road, this was a chip shop. I had to meet someone there once who I was interviewing, I think they wanted to make sure I was OK. We ended up sharing some chips as we walked back down this road to their house where I did the interview. I was ok. Good chips. I like the idea of Mr Barbers though. A great name for barbershop really it does what it says.
Beauty & Glamour, pink picket fence and promises of impending haircuts and makeovers. Closed. Waiting. Manicure pedicure. By Appointment Only. Hair Cut & Colour. Eye Treatment. Henna. Facials. Body polish. Body Massage. Make up. We are open. We are closed.
All the shadows of pebbledash, timestamps in hues of grey and beige. All the renders, colour choices of brick details and more. Black and gold railings, concrete cast acorns on drives.
Holat Cash & Carry. Coral. Crazy Razor. Bagelbox. Yummy Grill.
This is Martin’s Corner. Andrew’s Corner is up the road. I don’t know why it’s Martin’s Corner, beyond the fact this parade of shops is called Martin’s Parade. Who was Martin – Maybe it’s you. Or you? Pound Corner. Lebara. Paradise Groceries. Paradise.
Kingsley Hall Healing Rooms – Jobs Here now – Church Here Sundays – Community Café – Eden Community Storehouse – The Social Supermarket – Holiday Club Here – Celebrate – a new building emerging through all of this.
I’ve spent so much time on this road. More time than most for someone who’s not from this place. In that house, meeting people, making work, 60 people in the garden playing the banjo, the home of a former Councillor. Alderman Fred Jones. From Liverpool to Parsloes Avenue. A banjo. This is a banjo. A pre-cursor to the cul-de-sac in the shape of a musical instrument. Only in Becontree. Peculiarities of planning and local sights that should be celebrated.
Smarter Energy solutions for you. The Middlesex Meat Company. Supplying quality meat and poultry to the catering trade. Quality Assured in Becontree.
Moving in or out. A delivery maybe.
Master Brickwork London Essex Ltd. Building Specialists – New Builds Extensions – Driveways – Patios – Walling. Visit us.
Arches, shared porches, crazy paving, more crazy paving, front extension, ye olde glazing, wood panelling, red bricked drives, patchwork pavements, porthole window set into crazy paving, Safe Streets Becontree, façade and drive, side door, front door, arches door, the AA here to help, and breathe.
A green lung. The centre of Becontree and the borough. Parsloes Park. Where the red ribbon was cut to mark the completion. The site of a former trotting ground. Green green green. This is the squatts. A nature reserve so completely beautiful when long and overgrown you can lose yourself. Site of a Banjo on the Banjo. My work. So many other people’s work August 3rd 2019 residents and me as newly trained banjo players, somewhere around here. Collective being. Proximity. I miss this.
[Woman and dog approaching in the park – Do you mind if he says hello? Yeah, Fine,. Don’t worry. No I don’t mind – he really likes you! You can’t stay in there mate. He’s like I will if I can – ahhhh your lovely! I have to keep him on a lead so much…..yeah you too, thank you]
Sun trap houses ahead. My shadow on the ground. Part of Becontree but different. So different. Space for Private Housing marked on the plan in 1935. Barking portion of the estate also marked on the plan. Park Views. Good transport connections. Then. Now.
Satellite dishes and wheelie bins. For Sale sign. Brick columns and black railings. Trellis and new render. Flat roofed trio to round the bend. Toilet break. Beige. Blue.
Baby blue. Cream. Cream. Cream.
Mint and Mint. Solar panels now back to stripes, stripes, stripes and two giant palm trees.
I haven’t left Becontree yet. This is one housing estate. One place as planned. 27,000ish places as lived. Becontree on a map might take you here. To the station. Hard to pin-point a place really if there’s no beginning middle and end, no welcome to Becontree or thanks for coming signs. Just the architecture that gives it away and reveals the extent and boundaries if you’re actually looking. Tasty twist of lemon and lime.
Parades of shops instead of a centre. Local provisions and a traffic incident. Pound saver, Kebabs, Becontree Tandoori and Daily Fresh Meats Ltd. Essex Family Dentalcare, Chris Super Cut. Dagenham Funeral Care. But wait, is this Essex? Or Becontree? Or Dagenham? Or Barking & Dagenham? Or London? Or all of them at some time or another. Or at the same time.
Martin again. Nurse devastated after 12hr shift. We really need some good headlines.
A former public library building. Beautiful curved back and red brick all over wrapped in bright pink.
Shared entrance with arch, SOLD, brick half, pebbeldash half, hanging baskets and energy drinks. We’re nearly there. That must be from another walker. Tired. “A tour of Becontree is demanding even for the enthusiast” Pevsner said once.
Steps. Sold. Windy crescents in these southern bits. Wooden shared entrance frames, block paved shared drives. The end is now in sight. Around the corner, past the Rhino and on and on and on.
This is just an introduction. There’s so much more to tell you. You’ll need to come back. Either here or there, in real life or virtually.
What would this have been like in person. A group moving through these streets, stopping and starting, looking and walking and talking. You could be anywhere now. Watching this in the future from somewhere else. Electric car chargers flashing or are they for scooters.
This school was named after Jo Richardson, the former Labour MP for Barking. Some other local legends on stilts over there rendered as public art.
Screwfix revealing itself slowly beyond the A13 like a mirage.
Turn left for Essex, Right for London. All enquiries. Open 7 days. The edge of Becontree.