Keywords: borders/boundaries, moving image, urbanism, archival practice
The River Lea, London’s second river has traced the boundary between Middlesex and Essex since the 6th century, the point at which danelaw became wessex law. Now it marks the point at which the east end of London begins, however it is far more than a theoretical dividing line on an administrative map. The river valley has carved a deep trench out of prime London real estate. The reclaimed marsh adjacent to its banks acting as an effective buffer zone for development. Until recently most infrastructure has been limited to the vestiges of the light and heavy industries that evolved during the industrial revolution. The valley has historically been a sort of enclave, the routes that criss-cross it do not linger, and unless you live or work there you can never hope to penetrate the valley’s hidden depths.
The London 2012 Summer Olympics sent shockwaves down the river, it was a seismic shift in the nature and character of the valley, transforming this scrap of old London into a retail investment opportunity. Again, the river fulfils its ancient duty as a boundary, this time marking the threshold between the old world and the new. Nowhere in London are the paradoxes of modern life so clearly juxtaposed with the old. In the Lea Valley it’s possible to observe the flattening and homogenising effect of developer conglomerates and the ancient landscapes which they seek to co-opt and subsume.
My film navigates a journey from the confluence of the Lea and the Thames in central London, out to where the Lea crosses under the M25 at London’s edge. Following the passage of the Lea cuts through a cross section of London, providing a snapshot of a particular moment in time. What makes the Lea a fascinating case study for the changing face of London is that it has only relatively recently become a viable investment opportunity. By travelling from the centre outwards, it is also possible to witness the evolution of the river valley at different stages, almost as though you were looking through layers of geological strata. My strategy for compiling consists of layering found archival video and sound over my own video, to create a film which requires no specific narration, rather the journey is narrated with the sounds and voices of disparate footage concerned with the same area.