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