Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

20 July 2010

A Tottenham soundwalk

SUNDAY JUST GONE involved giving a brief talk at the new Sound Fjord sound art gallery in Seven Sisters, followed by a soundwalk which they’d organised up to Tottenham Marshes.

Helen and Andy, who run Sound Fjord, couldn’t have been more welcoming, and it was great meeting the friendly bunch of people who turned up for the day. Previously I’d found the typical sounds of Seven Sisters to be along the lines of Alright boss, you got a spare cigarette? But on that day the sun was shining and the area had a more wholesome complexion.

A recent sound development in London is the growing number of West African churches opening in all kinds of unhallowed premises. One on the Old Kent Road even has a nightclub at the back, so that’s body and spirit taken care of. Seven Sisters has its own complement, and we could hear music, song and amplified preaching from a cluster of churches at the junction of Lawrence Road and West Green Road.

North of Tottenham Hale, a path dives down alongside and under the Watermead Way dual carriageway. Here was a neglected void beneath the road which commerce and officialdom had found no use for; a dry place of twigs and birdshit:

Sound Fjord had arranged for members of the Friends of Tottenham Marshes to meet us, including the wildlife recordist David Chapman and an older man whose name I didn’t catch, but who had a relaxed, senatorial bearing and a great deal of knowledge of birdsong. A short distance from their meeting hall, lads were shouting and diving into the waters of Stonebridge Lock.

A woman steered her barge into the lock, then got out and began to turn the winding gear with a windlass to open the lock gates. Everyone around turned to see where the loud squealing was coming from; surprisingly intense and unpleasant at first, then sounding a bit like John Cale’s electric viola:

This was a very enjoyable day out and a good omen for the future success of Sound Fjord.

A week or so earlier I’d visited Seven Sisters and made a recording inside the Seven Sisters indoor market. A recent court ruling had blocked this from being redeveloped into the usual ‘luxury’ flats.

It consists of shop premises which have been given over to a maze of tiny booths, stalls and cafes. Every other little enterprise in there provides its own soundtrack through conversation and music from radios and hi-fis:

Like the West African churches, the Seven Sisters indoor market is fairly recent addition to London’s auditory scene. It caters to a mainly South American clientele, as do other indoor markets in Peckham and the Elephant and Castle. The longer-established Asian-run bazaars in Southall are on much the same scale, and for gadget geeks there are a couple near the St Giles’ Circus end of Tottenham Court Road.

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