Reel Islington, as part of the Holloway Arts Festival 2014, brought together film maker & author John Rogers and author & deep topographer Nick Papadimitriou  to a showing of, and reflection upon, John’s wonderfully tender, thought-provoking, humorous and surprisingly intimate film study ‘The London Perambulator’ which follows Nick Papadimitriou into his Middlesex heartland.

I’d been looking forward to this event as for some time, as Rogers and Papadimitriou have written books that explore preoccupations and passions – sense of place, liminal spaces, the overlooked and mundane as receptors of wider more profound truths, the mutability of time and memory, edgelands and personal journeys –  close to my own heart. Their books (“This Other London – Adventures in the Overlooked City” and “Scarp – In Search of London’s Outer Limits” respectively), their methodology (a modern re-interpretation, and step away from psychogeography) fascinates me and informed my ‘sighting’ practice, through which I’m tentatively (and with mixed success it has to be said) attempting to bring together industrial archeology, family history, place, object, emotion, nature writing, relationships etc. into a poetic and hopefully imaginative new form.

The evening took the form of John showing two of his earlier Super 8 films and the ‘The London Perambulator’ in full. The two shorts, a film shot on a winter solstice around High Wycombe; and a summer solstice exploring the sacred mounds and sites of London, provided a fascinating insight into John’s preoccupations with history, time and place; and prompted a way in to ‘The London Perambulator’ which on first viewing tends to be guided by the inter-spliced ‘talking heads’ commentary by Will Self, Ian Sinclair and Russell Brand.

The shorts encouraged me to look more closely at the film that records Nick’s walks rather than the sometimes really rather patronising words of the so-called experts. As Nick noted in the Q&A it was things like the very particular light on the day of shooting, or the shadows cast on and by the viaduct that were as fascinating, as illuminating indeed more moving and articulate than anything being said by the ‘talking heads’.

For me, what I took away from the answers both John and Nick patiently and with good humour supplied was the fact that both had found the success of their books more difficult to cope with than they’d expected, that the media-go-round had distracted and taken them away from their essentially solo meditative practice of walking, seeing, free-associating, dreaming and writing. Both acknowledge the perverse sense of relief that success had not necessary come on the back of success and increasingly they were now free to get back to their highly personal projects, film making, poetry, walking, writing, a deep emotional engagement with a particular landscape.

What was also clear was a sense of humility, that their projects were not necessarily for mass-consumption, as Nick somewhat wistfully muses at the end of ‘The London Perambulator’, what’s the point of it all?

For me at least, in a frenetic, short-sighted, ’15 seconds of attention’ culture we desperately need people who can look tangentially, and beyond the surface of things, who think deeply and passionately about the world we exist within and can sense its connections with the past, and to the future too. John Roger’s and Nick Papadimitriou’s projects are important, and long may they continue.

Come on John, make another film, just you and Nick, no commentary, no inter-splicing, just allowing us to eavesdrop on the moment, on the flow of ideas and associations.

A Photo-Story of the Evening

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The Old Fire Station, Hackney. A community centre. Locked when people began to arrive, then engagingly chaotic in it’s organisation, as if the filming were something of a surprise. Directions to go and wait in the garden, film goers getting lost on the way to the garden coming back for instructions, then half not risking going to the garden as it was in the opposite directions to the screening room…
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A ghost of a room. Heavy curtains aminated by open windows and doors, the sound of kids playing drifting in on a sluggish, warm breeze.
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Paper lampshades hinted at Chinese lanterns lifting into a night sky. A powerful recollection of our wedding when Claire and I launched a lantern into the night sky.
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It’s that ladder! All evening I found myself fascinated by the mechanism of the ladder hanging on the wall. There were receiving slots for it below the double doors above the head of the women serving wine. The bannister runs up the wall behind the ladder. How I wanted to fix the ladder in place and ascend to heaven knows where!
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The Screening.
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John (l.) and Nick (r.) sit on plastic stacking chairs and were fascinating. Their reflections on the making of the film, the pitfalls of promoting success, the ambiguity of using ‘talking heads’ in the film, their current projects provided a stimulating half hour of conversation.
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Mmmm, don’t be critical of ramblers or teachers???
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Honesty and openness, generous and magnanimous, it was a revealing discussion… before they headed across the road the ‘The Swimmers’ to continue the conversation.

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