Grand Union, Seacole & Wassail

I like to get away from Central London and wander around some of the less visited areas of London, spaces which are far from the tourist trail and often in some way on the edge. And on Sunday February 2nd 2014 it was a fine day and I decided it would be good to take a walk around the area of Harlesden close to the Grand Union Canal and make some panoramic pictures on my way to Willesden Green where I’d been invited to photograph an event that afternoon.

I’d first walked around this area back in 1981, when I had discovered and begun to photograph the delights of London that could easily be reached by the North London Line from Richmond to Broad St. Since then I’d been back occasionally for various walks and events in the area. Brent is a borough that used to hold festivals celebrating its varied communities – until these had to be abandoned as the coalition and Tories cut local government spending so even the barest bones were tough to maintain.

The line from wealthy Richmond goes up north through Acton to Willesden Junction, which in typical railway fashion is not in Willesden but in Harlesden. I left the train there and began my walk on a footpath back beside the line through an industrial area to the canal.

I’d brought my lunch with me, and sat in the sun in the Mary Seacole memorial garden on the canal bank before continuing my walk. These panoramic images are too small to really appreciate on this blog, but you can see them – and quite a few others a bit larger on My London Diary in Harlesden, Willesden & Mary Seacole.

It was then time to head to Willesden Green, where the Willesden Green Wassail was about to take place, celebrating the many local shopkeepers who give Willesden Green its character and help to create a vibrant community, singing them a traditional wassail song, and with singers and poets performing on the street.

It was good to see a sizeable crowd of local residents had come out to take part in this community festival organised by Rachel Rose Reid, and you can find out more about it and see many more pictures of those taking part.

Back in 2014 I wrote:

As well as celebrating the shopkeepers, this “small free festival run by and for people from Willesden Green” as also a celebration of the work of all who live there and create the neighbourhood and brought together artists and volunteers from the area, including James Mcdonald, Berakah Multi Faith Choir, Poetcurious, Errol Mcglashan and several others, with more performing later after the wassail.

Willesden Wassail

The Wassail ended with several poetry performances opposite the library and then a final wassail at the cherry tree behind it, when everyone let off the party poppers and decorated the tree with ribbons – a reminder of the traditional wassail ceremonies when people made a lot of noise banging pans and firing guns in order to wake up the trees and get them going on producing large yields of apples – particulary for making cider.

We didn’t get cider, but we did get free hot soup at the Bar Gallery in Queens Parade where the festivities were to continue – but I had to leave to get home rather late for dinner.

Willesden Wassail
Harlesden, Willesden & Mary Seacole

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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