September 6, 2010 Mitch Miller

The word from Dialectogram HQ

Work continues on the Red Road dialectograms, with a greater sense of purpose now an actual deadline – the end of November – has been put on a whole series of drawings that must be ready for the publication of Alison Irvine’s novel. It feels like I have been dithering for ages, and now have suddenly started to cram for the big exam.

In the last few weeks I have been back with the Concierges at Red Road Court, to do a more thorough tour of the station and to collect more stories. I got great material and I think the drawing is really clear in my head now. I also went on a walking tour with Alison and ex-residents Bob, Marie and Finley round the scheme, where they showed us some interesting spots that are classic ‘dialectogram’ locations – outwardly meaningless, perhaps even unimpressive, but deeply significant to their lives, an integral part of their personal history. This included the railway line, where the Red Road kids used to assemble to hurl abuse (and often other things) at the kids from the neighbouring screen. The train track was the crucial borderline between the two, and being seen to defend it – or succeed in invading… There were some very striking – and even alarming – stories told in the hour or so we wandered.  That the local kids used asbestos from the exposed bits of wall in the flats as chalk to mark out tennis courts, football pitches or peever grids, was actually one of the least hair-raising revelations. Bob’s family were one of the first families into the scheme (he was born there in 1968) and one of the last to come out. He and his parents have agreed to work with me to reconstruct their old flat. More on this in subsequent posts.

Marie, Finley and Bob.

The image below shows the view from my space in the community flat at 10 Red Road Court.

Iseult Timmermans of Streetlevel Photoworks, who runs the facility have kindly let me have a room to work in for the next few weeks, and I plan to be in the place every Thursday for the next while. The amazing view aside, its great to be able to actually work in one of the flats, not least because of the opportunity to check details, such as the grab-rail on the balconies, which I really struggled with on previous drawings. I was able to get inside my own head and concentrate for a good while. And then Muhammad came in – he is 8 (if I remember rightly), was mad about football and didn’t seem too impressed by my slow progress or my style of drawing. He was also pretty disgusted at my very poor grasp of international football teams, and at my passing ability. Excuses about having boots on, and not trainers really didn’t seem to wash with him at all.

Still, nice to get some feedback – I hope that the flat will be a place where people can drop in to see what I am doing and, if they feel so moved, share information and stories that might help with drawings. I plan to draw an overall groundplan of the scheme that locates people within the complex, so this would be ideal for assisting with that part of the drawing.

And so, I get down to it – I have actually started one of the final drawings, and I must admit, I was almost too nervous to put ink on the board. The 80s style photo-montage below shows what I started from in my own dear garret, and how far I’d advanced it while working up at the flats on Thursday. Still a lot to do…

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