Lea Valley 7 Mervyn Day 1

What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? is a film made by pop group Saint Etienne with director Paul Kelly in 2005, as a farewell tribute to the Lea Valley, just condemned to disappear. Filmed over a couple of months, this story of a wandering paper-boy (named after a West Ham goalkeeping legend) getting lost in an often dreamy lower Lea landscape is set on the day after the announcement that London has won the Olympic bid – July 7, 2005 – also the day of the London Bombings.

© 2004 Peter Marshall
Photographs in this post are from the Lower Lea around 2004-5 by Peter Marshall
Palletts and scrapyard at Canning Town.

So many of the images in the film are familiar to me, and it ranges fairly widely over the whole of the Lower Lea, occasionally jumping several miles at the turn of a pedal. It’s not of course meant to be topographically accurate, but to those of us who know the area it can be a little disconcerting, and there are a few pictures which actually show the River Thames that might mislead some into thinking the Lea becomes rather grander than it does. They seem to have pretty thoroughly combed the area from Bow Creek to Hackney Wick with a few trips further north in their search for images.

© 2004 Peter Marshall
Waterworks River and Warton House, Stratford High St
© 2005 Peter Marshall
F**k Seb Coe graffito on footbridge over City Mill River as it leaves the Old River Lea

The pictures and script – with voices playing the boy’s mother and father give a good feel of the history and community of the area, although again a few incorrect details grate.  For example, the River Lea does definitely not start at Ware (but at Leagrave or close by at Houghton Regis), though perhaps this misstatement was meant to reflect what is a general lack of knowledge – even by those who live there – about the Lea valley, which isn’t really a concept for most of the population.

The music isn’t bad either, and the track list apart from the title track and and Mervyn’s Theme – Sugarhouse Lane, Hope Chemical, Eton Manor, Quartermile Bridge, Cosy Café, Lee Navigation, Pudding Mill Lane, Channelsea, White Post Lane, The Pylons, Parkesine, Lesney Factory, Swan Wharf, Pioneers, Trinity Wharf, Blackwall Reach – could more or less have  taken from my captions and is a tribute to the real star of the film, the Lea valley.

© 2004 Peter Marshall
Carpenters Rd and Warton Rd

Thanks to Tim Soar,  a fine architectural photographer with studios in the Wick, for pointing me towards a full version of film – around 48 minutes – available on the web at Bambuser.com, which has resulted in me failing to do much work this morning!

There are also excerpts from the film at other sites. It’s a film you listen to for the music and watch for the views it gives of the area, although perhaps it overworks both the extreme telephoto and close-up detail, with too little of the kind of distance and context I like in my image above – and a part of that wall is in the film.

© 2005 Peter Marshall
Marshgate Lane

© 2005 Peter Marshall
East Cross Centre, Waterden Rd

The film is really a great snapshot of the lower Lea Valley at a particular point in time (though with a rather pointless narrative imposed on it, and the uncut footage could perhaps yield more.)  And as illustrations to this post I’ve included a few of my own pictures from roughly the same period. You can see more on my River Lea/ LeaValley site, or in my book Before The Olympics (it can be viewed in full in the Blurb on-line preview.)

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Wick Lane

In April, the Museum of London has me running a workshop based at the View Tube overlooking the Olympic site, Art of …photography: Stratford and the Olympic Park, and I spent some time today planning it. Booking has only recently opened and there are still plenty of places left on the course which is on April 21-2.

My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

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