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Plumstead Manor School

There is a school in Plumstead with the drama profile, which has been co-operating with PIP since October. Their students are great, they do their diploma with PIP as a client, and we really learn from them. They have some surprising ideas on how to get through to people, which we need, they wrote press release and produced posters. Some of them even turned up to the screening in a really bad weather. They are a great bunch who want to do something different. I invited them for class to UEL, so they could see first year students giving a presentation. Afterwords they said: we can do it too! And they are only 16 and working hard. It is good to have their help, they know how to get through to other groups of young people in the area. We have been working as partners for some time. We go to school, brief them, like professional clients, they ask us questions, do their work and then we come back to evaluate their effort. They have already covered all steps of a proper promotional campaign for us, and they will be doing more in the next semester. If they keep on working so hard, they will have an impressive entry to a professional world at the age of 17. Although some of them said that taking the £30 away from them (if it takes place) will prohibit them from continuing in Sixth form. If Prime Minister sustains his negative view on this and the money will be taken away from them, these kids may never put their creative experience to practice.

Events and problems

It is so difficult to put all strings together to have any community event. The last event we did as a group was a screening of Jill Daniel's film, Small Town Girls, in St Patrick School at the beginning of December. The weather was horrific and not many people decided to come, but all together the atmosphere was good and people admitted they want more! So we are moving now to a series of workshops on film making which will start on 29th January.
The best thing is that the local library will host the workshops. The library is a fantastic venue, centrally located in Plumstead High Street. The manager is a very energetic persona and she really understands the need for more rather than less. It is great to see that there is someone there who is ready to try something new with a group like ours.
That library is also a beautiful building, but its original glory is gone, we were told that several years ago all original features were removed in the process of refurbishment. It is nice and fresh and magnolia neutral today, but the feel of the Edwardian investment is only in the window frames and the facade. Maybe one day it would be possible to have a big makeover... That would be fantastic. We still don't have a space for meetings and events, we rely on cafe Royal by the station. They are really great, staying for us after hours if needed.
There is a nice tiny restaurant next to Cafe Royal, I really feel tempted to have a meal there. It is a Nepalese place which seduces people with smells and lost of colorful bottles of liqueurs. We tried to get there once, but it was full. I am not giving up.
Is it not great that some eateries in Plumstead can be so full one cannot get in?
Why not a day cafe with nice music, fresh press and good coffee? I presume it does not exist yet, but Cafe Royal is a good start to it. We need anotehr another in the High Street, or in Plumstead Common. In the meantime, there have been two more hairdressers opened, £5 per cut!
And we have a professional photographer in the High Street for some time. Not to mention the extension of Ambala restaurant with a superb first floor for bigger parties.
Facades changes in Plumstead a lot, but there is not investment in culture. And there will not be for sure, the government promised us that...

Life goes on

Plumstead Integration Project has decided that we would have a proper film festival! We have a proper committee now and we have announced the title: At the Edge of the City. We will have launch on the 20th November, and the Festival itself in the Spring next year. There will be lots of work, but I am very excited. Hopefully it will attract some interest and we can become regular. There is still no cinema or even a film club in the area. everything starts in Greenwich, of course where the tourists come to spend their money and richer people live. What can attract people to Plumstead, even for the film festival? Hopefully interesting events and people can do the job. Plumstead is not a place with some coherent identity (and which place is?), no one really feels responsible for the space or its cultural "branding", even in the most technocratic way. That is a blessing on one hand which we we want to dive into, we cannot waste it...but we need money too to start some preparation towards the festival.
How can we start with no money at all?

after the break

I haven't posted for a longer time. This was due to bereavement I have been going through. I lost my mother in May and this has changed everything. I still cannot come to terms with it and everything is more difficult than usual, but I would like to to say here that she really liked Plumstead and I feel I should say something about it. When she came to Plumstead first time to stay with me and my daughters it was spring 2005. She liked the buzz and the shops and the traffic! Her favourite place was StPatrick's Church, she didn't understand English (and it was before Polish community could dream about having a mass in Polish language), but she loved the atmosphere there and people. She adored the African gowns which were glamorous and shiny, she even went to the local shop to buy similar fabrics to make her own gowns at home. We still have them...and I wear them now.
She made friends with the shops owners in Chandra Cash &Carry, in DADOOS and the Green Shop by the station. Somehow she managed to communicate with them and they still ask about her, even today. She has that fabulous attitude to people which is very rare. Her heart was open to everyone and she was always smiling and always interested in other people's stories. Whoever met her sooner or later became her friend...there are networks of people of which I had no idea, who still miss her and want to remember her. How did she do it? In Plumstead she learned how to cook new things, how to make Polish meals of Indian ingredients. She was always curious about new things, adventures, new people. She could listen in that special way which made everyone produce a story of one's life for her. Yes, stories were her life....she immersed in them and she inspired them too. Whenever I go to shops in the High Street, I hear her voice and her laughter. Plumstead had never found out about her, but she fell in for Plumstead, she still lives there, between the words, sounds and colours of our everyday routines.
Yesterday we ordered fish and rice from Sweet Mother in the high Street. I love Nigerian fish and meat as well. The rice was very spicy, but we were warned and the fish was great, I even got a piece of meat which I didn't ask for...in the same box. Not the best option if I were a vegetarian. Can Plumstead be a place to go out? Whenever I say it people start laughing, but there are a few decent places around worth visiting. My next visit it to a Lebanese restaurant on the 8th May with some PIP members. It is, in fact, a British pub which advertises Indian food, but everyone knows it is a Lebanese place. So simple, as it should be. Today I discovered with my friend Peter a wonderful jogging track, just by the river. It was so quiet and sunny today, and Peter was roller skating and Matthew, myself and Iliana were filing. Later on we came to the High Street and i met my students from UEL who lives in Plumstead. It made me think about Plumstead as a 'bedroom' for many people working or studying in the city. They just rent cheaply and come here to sleep, but no one treats Plumstead seriously as a place to live...to go out...to meet up with friends...to socialise. My student comes from Portugal, like me and many people here he is an immigrant, with a perspective of leaving the place at some point. What can immigrants (ergo temporary dwellers) do for the host place where they know they will not stay long. Or rather, can immigrants feel anything for the place? Do they have a right to invest emotionally in making a home here. The words of my friend come to my mind again: why do you care, you even don't live here any more? Why do I care?
I was in Herne Bay in the morning today, a nice quiet day with some warm breeze from the sea. I know this place from knowing Margate and Ramsgate...although I was there first time. Somehow it is very similar, and it is not only about the stony beach and the sea front with small cafes and ice cream sheds, it is more about the emptiness and the lack of...blood...some tempo of life which would infuse sleeping streets and small golf courts, well scissored gardens, and an echoing pier. I liked it all... I needed it in fact, but after 3 hours spent there and walking to and fro the seafront, I felt trapped. My fish and chips were still £7!
So there is a proper restaurant finally in the High Street. It looks impressive and it is huge. The days when we didn't have any place to sit and eat in a date manner are over. In fact, you can have a whole wedding party there, in fact, this is how the design looks to me, it is a restaurant planned to be a bug business gathering lots of people per event. I haven't been there yet, but I am going on the 25th April to have a full Monty dinner in a Nigerian style. There is gossip that it is a Nigerian restaurant, but what does it mean? I love Nigerian fish anyway, so I am happy to eat anything they serve, but for some reason it creates this label which puts off other people. So what that this is a Nigerian restaurant, there is a new pub which was converted from an old English inns next door, and it serves Indian food (great prices). So these are the places to go out today in Plumstead. The old nostalgic feeling from some local people can be smelt in the air: where are the old good times before immigrants started coming? Well, those days never existed, but this is not an issue one would put in the menu, if they are the owner of one of those new wateries. Last week, I was passing by the hairdresser's in the high street with typical African layout and an announcement: African and European hair. What attracted my attention, however, was not they way they do hair, but what was displayed in the window: there was roasted fish, home made mince pates, creamy cake with thick layer of red gelly with strawberries, and lemon cake with chunks of raisins, all towered on top of each other! I was standing outside gob-smacked, it was my heaven, I imagined having it all in my mouth at the same time. But I didn't have guts to come in. My concentration and concoction was noticed by the owner of the place and she came outside and asked me if I felt like having some....Oh my god, yes, I wanted to try them on the spot, and I came in and bought a few pieces of each sort, I couldn't wait till I came back home, so I ordered a pint of lager in the nearest O'Dowd's pub and started eating! It was delicious and I am going back there! The lady owner of the hairdresser's makes this fresh delicacies everyday! it is impossible to come across anything like that in any chain business. One would think how the hairdressing and food work together, ok, I was wondering too for a second, but when I smelt the food, that was the only thing I was interested in. I would not mind having my hair done there, while actually eating that food...This is what other clients where doing, but not of them was white....why not?.....Why is it so difficult to enter the premises of one ethnic business or any enterprise, if we feel ourselves that we belong to a different ethnic group? Where is the threshold to trespass? Is it the door? the gaze of the locals? the language? When I was invited by the Nigerian owner, I felt like their friend. Another illusory feeling of comfort which we we want to cherrish, oh yes, I am one of them now and I can go there any time and pay for the food and feel part of the African crowd. No...I am just a client....it takes much more to be a friend... and what right do I have to want to be someone's friend, maybe we should stick to business relations instead?
Where does the work of so called cohesive politics start? and who benefits from it? Let's all be equal and friends in the name of integration, this is what we hear on the media. An invitation to utopia. It doesn't seem to me that any members of the council ever come to the High Street. But the politics of integration grows from the will of power not experiencing the local problem in the way the local people do. It is not possible to make political statements beyond experience of some kind. It is a different question whose interest that politics serves. Politics is not possible beyond the embodied experience. It is always subjective and always situated in a particular context. Therefore I will never stop being a Pole exploring Plumstead as some terra incognita which opens through a physical contact or some content analysis of the local maps and images. What right do I have to say anything about this place? And to whom? Where does my own politics start? It is not a politics of creating home anymore, it is a politics of a user of facilities and a passer-by. Do they have any rights? If it is not for home, why would anyone be interested in 'internal' community relations? and even more - in affecting them? Does buying a piece of fish and creamy cake make me a member of the community? There are thousands of Poles living in the proximity of Plumstead who do not regard this place as their community, and thousands who do by proxy. The immigrants hope to g back 'home', whatever it stands for, where would the locals hope to go? Tying people to the place and to other people by means of politics of community cohesion and diversity spoils the potential of creating new community relations. I mean something different than 'elective' belonging (most immigrants whom I know do not want to live in Plumstead by they still do), it is an imposed belonging which can be temporary or even permanent (if this applies to immigrants) and which has its own politics of place. If I move homes, do this politics change? Do I abandon one commitment to the local school and neighbour groups for the next one? What about my emotional and ethical investment in the community? Does it travel with me? or should it stay in one place? If my body moves? Does my ethics not move as well?
My friend said to me once: why do you care about that place, you even don't live there anymore?
That made me care even more.

Plumstead Gardens

I have attended the meeting for Plumstead Gardens lovers and users. It was run by the manager from the Council.
There were a few people who are really committed to the renovations of that garden, but on one knows how to do it. There is no money and no infrastructure for such a project. There is a FaceBook website for the Gardens: ww.facebook.com/group.php
The local people are trying very hard to awake others and have something done there. I have read lots of memories from the golden times of the Gardens which make me wonder why this dreadful situation cannot be changed. This is what Louise, the creator of the group is saying:

Plumstead Gardens was once a thriving park, full of families and children enjoying being outdoors in the summer.

It boasted a bike track, a green area for sports, a childrens play area, a paddling pool, toilet amenities, a refreshments hut, beautiful gardens and a pond teaming with small fish and frogs.

Today, it sits in a state of deterioration.

The pool and refreshments hut have been left to ruin, open to the elements and along with most of the trees - covered in graffiti.

My question is, how such deterioration starts? What is the economic and cultural context of the Gardens' slow death? From what I have read and heard, it looks that Plumstead/Abbey Wood area will never attract any interest from politicians and other people who could make definite decisions. Perhaps it would be worth applying for a grant as a community? There is no other place in that area where children can play safely or one could use for jogging, walking or some relaxation. There are problems with prostitution and drinking which affect the locals and keep them away. But maybe the green safe area is a dream today which most urban communities cannot afford, paradise lost to new shopping centres and private developments? Maybe.....but there is no shopping centre there either, not even one tiny place where we could have a coffee and a chat, not to mention a wireless connection to a laptop....There is a centre and a margin.....they do not know much about each other.


It is a pity that Kemka had to close her nice boutique. It was only open for a few months, I loved her design and her ideas. The fasion show went well and all children and parents seemed to enjoy it during the May Festival. But it did not help much....It is not a surprise that now there is a barber shop opened in the same place. I haven't heard from Kemka and what happened to her business. There are two more chicken and chips take-aways opened in the High Street. I remember when I spoke to the Council Business Organisation for Plumstead and it was admitted that there is never a lack of business initiative in the High Street, but no one ever measured the number of closures and openings coming after each other. Bankruptcy and hope go together, they are a couple which dominates the High Street, that's why there is always something happening there. Yet the view of closed shutters and unfinished modernisations plans depresses me.