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Dispelling the Myths of London Road
London Road is a bit of a conundrum, it always has been. With a variety of commercial outlets, pubs, eateries, even an enviable cinema on offer and no shortage of population to frequent them, why has it got such a bad reputation? This weekend, an exciting project kicks off to gather local residents together, share their experiences and document an audio living history of the area. Sound Maps of London Road, part of the Brighton and Hove Adult Learning Festival, aims to show the true and diverse fabric of the community thus dispelling some of the myths surrounding it.
A friend of mine who has lived on London Road for many years, said: "There’s no myths about it? It is what it is." Exactly. Those of us who live there and use the road for our shopping and social needs, know its true character. There’s not many other places where toothless chaps with more piercing and tattoos you can count randomly approach you and politely ask about your baby and share stories about their own grandchild (all while smoking a roll-up in Little L’s face). Or you can wander into a side street and bang into one of the most grand churches in the south of England, St Bartholomew‘s. And don’t get me started where to find the best kebab in Brighton! The whole feel of the area may seem a bit rundown and a little confrontational, especially after hours, but to me London Road is quintessentially Brighton.
Esther Springett is organising the series of workshops during March, and she feels as passionately as I do about London Road: "I’ve lived in the area for five years and wanted to give the local community a voice to show how vibrant and culturally rich it is."
The idea for the project stemmed from a photography exhibition, The Myths of London Road, which was put together with participation from the locals as part of Brighton Fringe last May. Sound Maps of London Road takes the idea one step further, bringing the road to life on the web using audio recordings. ‘I’m particularly interested in the difference between council consultation with the local community and participation from a creative angle, in other words, how to allow people the space and environment to give their views and share experiences.’
According to the group’s press release, the viability of commercial business is in decline, which saddens me. When I was in desperate need of pain relief medicine days after Little L was born, my husband made it to the pharmacy before closing. In fact, we rely so much on being able to pop down, not only for essentials such as milk and bread, but getting the exact nappy size we use, or picking up something above average for dinner. I even met my husband in the neighbourhood. We first danced together to the Jackson Five in a backstreet nightclub. This is why I’m taking part in the event. London Road has existed in parallel with my life in Brighton over the last 10 years.
Saturday, March 6 is Mapping Day 1. Meet at the London Road Co-op main entrance, 11am for an introduction to the project and a 2 hour historical trail. Mapping continues on March 13 and 14. People are encouraged to drop-in between 10am and 4pm on either day at the Co-op just bringing themselves, their ideas or stories plus any home recording kit they have (mobile phones, cameras, Dictaphones) although the project team will have equipment. Esther is keen to get people talking and discussing their thoughts, making recordings in a nearby studio with refreshments provided. The output will be presented in a showcase weekend for the Adult Leaning Festival in Jubilee Square as part of the Spring Forward event on March 20 and 21.
Got a story to tell about London Road? Why not take part? Visit www.londonrdsounds.co.uk for more information or just turn up.