Anybody Everybody Tottenham

Litter and Red Lines versus the Healing Energy of Rivers - Wendy Charlton, Artist

September 07, 2023 Jamila Season 3 Episode 43
Anybody Everybody Tottenham
Litter and Red Lines versus the Healing Energy of Rivers - Wendy Charlton, Artist
Show Notes Transcript

"Broadwater Farm" has become shorthand for many people particularly outside of Tottenham for something very different to most people who actually live there or nearby. I came across Wendy because of an event where she projected a film she had created about the estate and the people living there onto one of the blocks themselves - I absolutely love stuff like this.
The project is quite a few years back but I found it really interesting finding out how Wendy developed it and eventually put on the event. The river project sounds so amazing, too.

You can find the films on Wendy's website:
Wendy's Instagram:
Inga's Instagram:

pod instagram:
pod website :
pod twitter:

Jamila  0:05  
Hi I'm Jamila and anybody everybody Tottenham is a bi monthly podcast, introducing the good people Tottenham to you. Welcome back everyone to season three of anybody, everybody, Tottenham. And in today's episode, I've got Wendy Charlton who is a community artist. And I feel like for me this year has really been about activism and community engagement in particular, you know, especially with all the strikes that have been going on, and just in general, much more networking and solidarity across the different groups that have been involved in the strikes, etc. So I really like Wendy's attitude to towards her local community and how she got involved in quite different projects. So, maybe at first, it seems a little bit disconnected, but I think by the end, you're gonna see really how things are coming together. So I hope you gonna enjoy this interview as much as I did. Okay, so today on the pod, I've got Wendy Charlton, thank you for joining me today.

Wendy  1:17  
Thank you for having me. 

Jamila  1:18  
Okay. So wendy describes herself as a visual and social practice artists, wendy can you tell us a little bit about your connection to Tottenham?

Wendy  1:28  
Yeah, so probably the biggest connection is that I live in the area. And most of my work, and my spare time is in the community in some way or another, or it has been anyway, for many years, since I've lived in the area. So it's just the type of person I am I just get involved in wherever I settle. I get involved in things that are going on in the area. So a lot of the people I know and connect with are doing campaigning or grassroots organizing, and contributing to making the area that they live in a better place.

Jamila  2:16  
And how long have you been living in Tottenham?

Wendy  2:20  
Probably be about 22. Yes, 25 years, plus maybe 27 years. (Okay.) And I've also brought up - I have a son, who I've also brought up in the area. So I've been a parent living in the area as well.

Jamila  2:39  
And how come you settled here? What brought you first to Tottenham?

Wendy  2:43  
It was not intentional. It just was a happy accident, if you like, I met a friend of mine, a lifelong friend when I was living in a shared house in Highbury. And then she bought a house in Haringey, you know, a few years later, she was a teacher, she bought herself, her own house, and I became her lodger. Then from there, I ended up settling in Haringey. Just that's how it happened, really.

Jamila  3:11  
So what were your first impressions? And what are the changes that you've seen over the years?

Speaker 2  3:17  
So my first impressions were, I didn't really know anybody or I didn't know anything about the area, I just found myself kind of like, going to work, seeing friends, not really having much of a connection or doing anything in the area in particular. And then as the years went on, I eventually had my own child. And then things started to change in terms of how I felt more connected and settled in the area. And I gave a lot of my time and energy by giving back to the,  you know, the people I was connecting with in the area, and then it just suddenly that just sort of fell into place, really. So I've seen, you know, changes are slow, but there has been, you know, more building, I guess, development in the area, modifications and improvements to parks and green spaces. I would say that there are things that I like about the area and things that I don't like - the things that are, that really upset me when I see fly tipping and litter and people not taking care of the neighborhood. And, you know, it's it's something that really gets - annoys me.

Wendy  3:20  
Do you live in the West Green Ward, or

Speaker 2  4:47  
I'm actually on the border of wood green, wood, green and Tottenham. So I'm right on the edge of the border. So I step across one side of the road and I'm in Tottenham, and then back on the other side and I'm in wood green so You know,

Jamila  5:00  
I'm just asking because Seema, which is the councillor for here, she's obsessed with flytipping. So she always takes pictures and logs it and everything when she goes on her ward walk. (Yeah). So you, you need to ...

Speaker 2  5:13  
I do a bit of that as well. I tweet between the rubbish. And I'm also a secretary for one of the friends groups who work for a local park, new road Park. And, you know, we've been trying for a couple of years now to get some improvements done to the park, but we don't - we just get ignored.

Jamila  5:34  
Okay, where is it new road Park, I haven't heard that.

Speaker 2  5:37  
It's a small patch of green, behind new road in between new road and Norman Road, which is sort of on the White Hart Lane side of things. White Hart Lane Ward, yeah, we have a Friends Group, we've raised some funds we have collected with grown22, we've come up with a plan to improve the park. But we just get doors shut in our face when we try to approach people for getting permission to get things done.

Jamila  6:08  
And is that more on the political side or from residents. Or both?

Speaker 2  6:13  
No the residents in the area are behind it. Because they've you know, they've joined the friends group, they're part of they are friends of the park and they've donated funds, we have a pot of 500 pounds and we're ready to go and do some improvements. We came up with - drew up a proposal, with n22 with a plan of an idea of what we would like to, how we'd like to improve the park, the lawn hasn't been mowed for over a year. So it's really overgrown. And then people are now starting to fly tip in there. And there was someone who had their back garden fence burnt down. And it's been left like that for like about two months now. You know, there are people in the area who want to do things and want to make improvements, but they're just not getting the politicals backing, I guess.

Jamila  7:01  
So when you said becoming a mom, you get more involved with the community. What does that mean? What did you do what?

Speaker 2  7:11  
So a lot of that was to do with the work - I was a community artist or 30 years.

Jamila  7:17  
What does that mean "community artist"?

Speaker 2  7:20  
So you're an arts practitioner and arts facilitator in the community that you live in - or, it could be another community somewhere else. So the work that you produce involves the local community in some way. And that could be the local youth. It could be children under five, it could be older people, there are communities of people everywhere. And they all make up one big community if you like. So the 30 years of work that I did, involved working with lots of different groups of people in lots of different projects. Most of them were all short term. Some of them were longer term. Some of them were self funded, others are funded by organizations that had funding from government or, you know, local government or whatever. And that was my work and my life for many years. And, you know, a lot of the work that I did when my son was very young, involved working with families with young people. So with young children, for example, also, I had to have often had to supplement my work as a community artist by doing other work. So for example, teaching, I worked for a mobile book and toy bus for a number of years. After I had my son that was part time.

Jamila  8:48  
Was that in Haringey? 

Wendy  8:50  
And that was in Haringey. And that was for sure start and Haringey libraries.

Jamila  8:54  
Is it still going or?

Speaker 2  8:56  
No. It's all gone. Change of government. Yeah, well, the mobile book and toy bus there was a van that we, that was kitted out with books and toys, and we would go around the borough. Haringey, both east and west. But mostly east side of the borough is where the funding was allocated. It was all to do with sure start allocated funding, which was coming from the government at the time. It was a big incentive and early intervention with parents with young children. And it was all about encouraging parents with children under five, to access libraries, to encourage reading and playing with children and just connecting with the parents connecting with their children from a young age and improving their you know, their skills and life experiences. So once they got into nursery and school, they were already interacting with one another and their parents were better connected. They were less isolated. It was working. It was a really good idea it was working and then when the change of government came into place, it all got all of these things got dissolved. And they went into what are now called children's centers. And then a lot of the children's centers eventually got shut down. There's only a few of them left now. But I did mural projects we got, I got - there was quite a lot of funding around I did like several, six mural projects in schools, you know, they there was lots of things that stemmed off from being involved in the book and toy bus that then spurred me to becoming full time community artist. At the time, I was just doing it part time and then I left the book and toy bus after six years. And then I just became a full time community artist, by that point I had established myself quite well in the borough for delivering these kinds of types of art services.

Jamila  10:52  
Yeah, I'm quite interested in the project, which you did about Broadwater Farm. Can you tell me a little bit about this how was it like how was the inception of this? And how did it change maybe over time, because it seems to have gone on for a few years now.

Wendy  11:12  
Yeah. So I live just a stone's throw away from Broadwater Farm. You can see it from my my window, or my balcony you can just see Lordship Rec, and Broadwater Farm and I was aware of at the time, the reason why I got involved in a long term project about Broadwater Farm was I heard about the council partnering with LendLease and the Haringey development vehicle which was suggesting the idea to redevelop Tottenham and Wood Green as well. So they had there was two phases or three phases. One of them was to redevelop Northumberland Park estate, behind the Spurs Stadium, the Wood Green shopping city, which is above the shopping center. The idea was to redevelop that and turn it into like a Westfield type of shopping center. And then the third phase was Broadwater Farm. I, because obviously I have a closer connection with Broadwater Farm, it being close to where I live, and I know people that live there, I started off with a sort of installation, which was a response to the the idea of redeveloping Broadwater Farm estate, which was basically a wolf in sheep's clothing idea about knocking it down, demolishing it and then rebuilding it into something else. And then through the stop HDV - that was a campaign group, they, they were a grassroots organization of just local people who were, you know, disagreeing with this idea of redeveloping all of these areas, potentially demolishing all these larger estates and turning them into something which we can see on in a lot of areas now that have been redeveloped. So LendLease redeveloped Elephant and Castle. So we knew that that's what was coming to this area. So the stop HDV campaign was a separate organization that were building itself in order to fight back against this Haringey development vehicle. And in the meantime, I created this installation as a response to the idea of, you know, Broadwater Farm being considered as part of this scheme. So I found some discarded estate agent signs, and I just altered them and then got a group of friends together, and we installed them around, Lordship Rec. And there's an area of Lordship Rec, which initially they were suggesting that they were going to move people from Broadwater Farm into these temporary accommodation that they were going to build on Lordship Rec, this was the initial idea, which is a large green space, which is protected. So of course, that didn't happen. It was never going to happen. But the fact that the council, were even considering it as an option was just well, we'll have to have to say something about that.

Jamila  14:22  
Can I just quickly ask, Did you say which year it was?

Wendy  14:26  
I think that was 2016 when I did that. So that is on my website. And that was the beginning of a series of projects that then came out of it that just developed along the way and that was through people I met on Broadwater Farm and different things like that. So it turned into then another installation piece, which was about me interviewing key figures who live on Broadwater Farm like Clayton and Jacob and a couple of residents So I interviewed about six people and transcribed those interviews. And then that became part of the second installation, which I showed in three different places. But it was a couple of really large drawings, which you could interact with and write your own comments on or stick post it notes on with your comments, photographs and transcripts of interviews, extracts from count from meetings with residents that I went to went to quite a few residents meeting on Broadwater Farm. So it was like a, it was like a wall, what they call the walls that you see in the crime crime movies. 

Jamila  15:39  
Yeah, it had some some of those tape as well, no.

Wendy  15:44  
Yeah. So the red, the red lines, you see red line, in quite a bit of that piece. And the red line is something that was drawn is drawn around an area that a council are thinking of redeveloping. So once they come up with the idea of getting planning permission for an area that they want to rebuild on or build onto a green space, then it's redlined. Once that's redlined, then it becomes, it's very difficult to remove the line. And it's a practice that they use in the states quite a lot. Once an area is redlined then the people that live in that area, find it more difficult to get credit, and more difficult to get insurance for things it comes up in the system in the data system, that area people living in it that are poor, for example, or are discriminated against. That's what the red line is, when you see that and you think in what does that mean? I then wanted to move on to using film as a technique in my art practice. So I learned how to use film, produced a documentary with a resident living on Broadwater Farm, about her impressions of the threat of redevelopment and the possible demolition of the estate, and what would be there and how that would affect her personally. And that was really good. It turned out to be a 15 I think it was a 15 minute film, the resident I interviewed was very involved, and still is very involved in wanting to put across a positive impression of Broadwater Farm because social media, you're looking at social media, and quite often, it only gives a negative perception of Broadwater Farm estate. And so the idea was for individuals, you know, who were doing their own thing, which is something that she was doing, she was making doing sketches and drawings -, 

Jamila  17:45  
is that Inga? 

Wendy  17:46  
It is, yeah, so she's doing these beautiful sketches and drawings. And, you know, that was what her that was her long term idea was to try and change this, this perception. From that documentary film, I then moved on to making a more of an artist film or more of a kind of storytelling, poetic piece, which is "narratives of home". And I collaborated with a local poet, Abe Gibson, who's from Tottenham, we got together and came up with this, this sort of idea of interview again, through interviewing residents, he then created a sort of script. So he selected their words and their stories, and created a script of each of the individual people that we spoke to. And then the fact that that script became the sound piece of "narratives of home". So obviously, I filmed all the footage over a period of time and then we recorded Abe's script. And then I put that together with and edited it all into the the artist film "narratives of home".

Jamila  19:05  
And the other thing I was interested in was that you did this whole event on Broadwater Farm, because the last interview I had was with Sean who is a photographer. And for him, it was like, quite important that wherever he's going to show his art, it's being seen by the actual residents, you know, themselves. And so I was like, looking around anyway, I was thinking in the back of my mind, what are ways of, you know, sharing your art with the community, which I think you've been very successful in doing. So. Can you tell us a little bit about that evening.

Wendy  19:43  
Thank you for that. At the time. I was doing a master's in social practice in Middlesex university, so I had some really good tutoring there. And part of the push for me - the extra push for me to make it it a better project was to do this event. And so I had to raise the money, because I had to fund people to have fancy projection equipment. Because I was at the university, I was able to borrow things like the speaker for the life poetry event and the mics, and all of those other things, the cameras for filming, there's no way I could have funded all that out of my own pocket. So I did some fundraising through crowd funder to raise the money that I needed to pay these projector people it was, it was about one and a half grand I had to raise. So I did some fundraising events, the Antwerp arms, doing some auctioning off some artwork and some raffles did a couple of those. I was really inspired, actually, by the stop HDV campaign group who did a fundraiser. That's how they raised the funds to be able to take the campaign as far as they did, which was to have a lawyer and take the council to the Royal Courts of Justice. And I was so really inspired by that grassroots organizing, and people giving small amounts of money, which obviously, eventually lead to a bigger pot of money. And people who with not very much money will dig out a couple of quid or a fiver or a tenner here and there to support something that they believe in is a good cause. So I thought, well, let me give it a try. I've got nothing to lose. So the only way I'm going to raise this money, so and then it was one evening in the summer, in August, and it was cold. Unbelievably,

Jamila  21:45  
did you get a little bit obsessive about watching the weather? I can imagine? 

Wendy  21:48  
Yeah, in fact, the date was postponed a couple of times. And on the night that it was a fixed date that it was on. I think it was the 18th of August in the end that it was fixed. It had rained earlier on that day. And it had stopped but it was very chilly. And ahem went ahead with it anyway, just rallied around friends to help me black out the windows, with cloths in Hawkins, which is where we projected onto the block - urban projections, I think they're called Urban such a long time ago now anyway, they came with their equipment. And they're really like, they've got this piece of equipment that they charge it up. And it's all on - it's like a mobile kind of projector - it's very fancy, very expensive, but that's how they do it. And they having that kind of projection equipment to project onto large scale onto a building. It's got to be high resolution and all of those things. I could leave all of that in their hands. I just had to create the film for them to project. The film that they projected was all mostly of Inga's drawings.

Jamila  23:02  
Yeah, she was very proud. She told me 

Wendy  23:04  
Yeah, yeah, it was a great thing to do. It was a way of giving back to her for her giving herself to make that documentary. It was a really good night, we had about 50 people just from the local area. I'm not sure how many residents from Broadwater Farm were there, but they were certainly looking out of their windows. And they're, you know, coming out onto the balconies to have a look. There were some people that did come down. There was a man who came from one of the blocks and went on the mic and everything. So we had open mic, we had Abe Gibson, he was like the Compare. And he did an interactive piece with the audience there, there was audience interaction. And then we got potent whisper, I just got in touch with potent whisper who'd performed at the stop HDV campaign events and told him what I was doing. And he said yes, I mean, you know, again, I had to save a little bit of money to pay him a fee because I like to pay people because I think that artists we need to be paid. And then yeah, it was a really successful night. And everybody stayed right to the end. They had their blankets, and their flasks and their wine and whatever. And they were just like joining in. Yeah, I think it was a really, really positive thing.

Jamila  24:26  
You don't want to make it a regular thing. Was it too stressful?

Wendy  24:30  
Yeah, it was. It was exhausting. absolutely exhausting. But it did get me a distinction in my master's so that it was worth it.

Jamila  24:43  
And I liked the idea of the projecting because you know it's almost bringing art to the people, you know, not go to a gallery or something because we were talking a little bit as well like that we don't really have a gallery in the area.

Wendy  24:58  
I agree with you that's how I like to work. And even if it means that there's space between one project and another, when the right one comes along, it's something that fits with my, you know, methodology and my, you know, morals and ethics and things like that. And it is in some way is bringing, like you say, bringing art to the people, then that's how I like to do it.

Jamila  25:22  
So Wendy how has your relationship to Broadwater Farm as a place as a concept changed over those different art projects? Has it changed?

Wendy  25:35  
Yeah, so I would say that before I started, the long term project work, so over a period of years, I didn't really know anything about it. I knew a little bit, but not very much. I probably had a similar perception to other people who don't know anything or don't know much about the place. I didn't have any kind of fear. Some people talk about having a fear of going around estates that have been given a bad reputation if you like, by media. I never felt in fear of Broadwater Farm, I've always felt comfortable walking around Broadwater Farm. And I would say that, that all because of a lot of the modifications and improvements to Lordship Rec, has been able to give Broadwater Farm Estate, a different feel, because you can walk through Lordship Rec. And it's a beautiful park, the friends of Lordship Rec have done amazing work there with them. And there's the hub. And there's this whole kind of like, change in terms of, from what it was or what it used to be, to how it is now. So and what it is now is about the people that who live there, it's not about the building itself. The building is housing people, its homes, its housing, it's where people go at the end of their day, it's where people live in their retirement. It's where children are born, it's where people die, it's that - that it's, it's got a purpose, because it's a home, people that live there are more connected with the world around them because of the work, the improvements and modifications to Lordship Rec. So you know, you see people walking through lordship rec walking through Broadwater Farm, and there's the schools there, there's the Children's Center, it has a different feeling. So it's a shame that this perception about it, this negative perception is still hanging around if you like because it isn't like that at all. Of course, any block or estate can attract some negative types of behavior and some anti social behavior. And quite often, there's reasons behind that. So I live in a block of flats myself, it's a housing association. So I completely understand and connect with how antisocial behavior can happen when somewhere is neglected. And not given the maintenance and the it's not looked after. And it's not the people who live there who are not looking after it is because people do look after their homes, people's homes are important to them. It's the foundations of how they live their lives. So they just need the investment if you like

Jamila  28:48  
because I was wondering that you started off coming from from a very activist point to Broadwater Farm about the fear of it being closed and refurbished, etc. And then, as I said with inga to kind of see the beauty in the individual stories I was wondering if that was like the storyline you know, that it became much more personal. But now you're going out again into the - even the personal is political or you know is interlinked with the way the system works, the housing system and maintenance, et cetera.

Wendy  29:28  

Jamila  29:30  
Do you work on anything currently that is related to Tottenham?

Wendy  29:34  
Yeah, sort of. It's different, it is finished now. But I collaborated with Abe Gibson again, and a river restoration group called the Pymmes Brooker and part of the Pymmes Brook flows through Haringey. So, it also flows through Enfield and it starts in Enfield in Cockfosters. That's where the mouth of the river is and it flows up above ground a lot, but also as it comes closer towards Haringey and Enfield and Edmonton and those sorts of places, it becomes more concrete under concrete because of urbanization and building roads and stuff. The Pymmes goes a lot under the ground. But there's pockets of areas where it's there in its natural format, its natural surroundings. So, the Pymm's brookers is, again a voluntary organization and what they do is as River Restoration group they and it's run by Alison Archer, Eva and I collaborated with Allison on this project we got funded for it. We got Heritage Lottery Funding from Enfield. It went on for a year and we took people on guided walks about seven guided walks along the river over a period of a year. And it was not the whole river. It was just a stretch of the river, the Pymme's Brook blends into the river Lea eventually so that's where the walk ended. Then I filmed footage of the river over a period of year I did the same similar sort of format as "narratives of home". Abe talked to the people who came on the guided walks gathered their comments and their thoughts, just by conversation and talking to people so bit of psychogeography love, love all that in my work, and he extracted their words. And they became then he created a script. And then that became again, the soundtrack of the "river of stories" Pymme's Brook river of Stories project that ended up again as a 15 minute film 16 minute film, and that's also on my website.

Jamila  31:39  
So the third part of the podcast is always top tips Tottenham, you already mentioned some locations that are quite popular. What are your tips? What should people explore? Are there any places that you can recommend?

Wendy  31:54  
Yeah, so I really recommend doing some river walks. So do the Moselle walk and also because it flows through Tottenham, and you can do the whole walk, find out where it starts, where it finishes, or you could just do part of it. And I would also do the Pymm's Brook walk. And also I would, I would recommend joining the river cleanups because I do river cleanups, now that I'm become a Pymme's brooker. I love it. Because you're getting in the river and you're getting down and dirty with your, you know, waders on, you're pulling all sorts of stuff out of the river, like rubbish - you can feel the river breathing better. There's something like spiritual about it, that happens when you do it. It's it's laborious, and it's hard work and you're doing it with a bunch of other people. But there's something that the river gives back to you when you've done it. So I would highly recommend getting involved in things like that. And then any kind of walks around the area. So any walks that involve seeing the natural parts, as well as the more urbanized areas. So go for a walk that takes you through the more heavily sort of built up areas of Tottenham and then go through Tottenham cemetery. It does something - being in nature, especially if you're in a quite a built up area, just going into an area with nature. It does something for you, it just it makes you feel better. If you're having a not not so good day, it can just make you it can just lift your mood. So those are my top tips, and they don't cost any money, or like 

Jamila  33:34  
okay, okay, thanks very much for the interview. In the show notes. I'm going to link in Wendy's website, and her Instagram even though she doesn't use it that much. And I'm also going to link in Inga's Instagram because she's on there. And Inga is a little bit related to my intro. She is doing a lot of sketches this year of picket lines across all the different strikes. So that is really interesting. So she still does sketches of her neighbors in Broadwater Farm, but particularly, she does the picket lines. Okay, I hope everyone is enjoying the Last Days of Summer of hot hot summer. And I speak to you soon. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, learned something new. And let that Tottenham love grow take care. And until next time, bye

Transcribed by