The excitement for me as an artist lies not in exploring the unknown but in how I can effectively organise a visual arrangement that reflects the atmosphere and intensity of an environment, evoking a precise moment of the day under specific light and conditions. I hope you enjoy the work

Feature of the week  23/09/2018

Autumn in Park

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At the apex of Turner’s Road and Locksley Street there once stood a delightful little park containing a bench, a circle of trees and an attendant who every autumn assiduously swept up the fallen leaves. The berries on the trees attracted a lot of birds and autumn was my favourite time of year for visiting the park; it was a peaceful oasis although one had to shut one’s ears to the noise emanating from the traffic of Turner’s Road.

During the summer of 1987 the park was inhabited by a couple of caravans housing several Irish Travellers. They added to that mixture of ethnicities that typifies the East End. Their lives were hard in that they were being gradually squeezed out and ejected from their traditional resting points amongst the edgelands and trunk roads of Southern England.

 

When I was young, I only saw the romantic side of a nomadic existence. Childhood caravan holidays spent in North Wales had instilled a desire for a real caravan pulled by a dray horse with a nosebag, wandering up and down the highways of the countryside. This suggestion was met with incredulity by my parents who usually were very accommodating towards my dreams, my mother’s response was, ‘you talk a lot of daft, you do’. There is a painting by Augustus John called ‘Caravan at Dusk’ painted in 1905, which is exactly how I envisaged the reality of this dream, however his wife, Dorelia tells a very miserable story of the reality of wandering the hills in a horse drawn caravan, trying to look after husband, children and horse, especially when the weather was foul.

 

Later in 1987, on October 15th, our hurricane came and the trees were badly damaged, leaving three instead of four, one having been uprooted and the rest had limbs oddly askew or broken off. It was a sad sight and I was glad that the travellers had moved on a few weeks previously, avoiding being included on the casualty lists. Thereafter, the gates of the park were locked permanently for reasons of ‘safety’, and then, a few years later, all the trees were uprooted to make way for Social Housing extending on both sides of Turner’s Road.

 

Recently, I discovered that photographer Colin O’Brien had created a pictorial record of the summer the Irish Travellers came to The East End. Whilst working on another project in London Fields, he came across a caravan encampment and spent three weeks taking photographs of the children, the result of which was a haunting photo-essay of thirteen powerful images called Travellers Children.