Bury Park

I took a wander down to Bury Park this morning and met the lady that runs the “In Bury Park” website, Marie. She told me what she was doing and I can fully understand the thinking behind it. For as long as I can remember the only time I have ventured into Bury Park, out of the car, has been to watch the football, and I’m guessing that’s the same for a lot of people.

The Doctor - I don't know why he's called the Doctor - but it made everyone laugh when they told me
The Doctor – I don’t know why he’s called the Doctor – but it made everyone laugh when they told me his name

My own ignorance, before I went for my wander this morning, made me think my camera and I might not be welcome but I’ve never met such a willing and friendly bunch of shopkeepers. Busy setting up, I knew I would get people busy about their business (I’ve been down to Covent Garden Apple Market while they were setting up and that was similar, although I must say they were not nearly as friendly and willing to pose as my models today).

The Boss
The Boss

There was a definite hierarchy at the larger shops as they were setting up – wherever you go and in every walk of life there will be a boss and underlings. It was very evident in these shops and almost gave me the feeling that there is a much stronger feeling of respect for the elders in the community. The boss would be stood on the pavement outside the shop directing the younger guys around and making sure the morning’s delivery was set out properly. It was the same in at least two shops and these were the only two large fruit and veg shops setting up. I think things get moving a bit later on – especially as it is Ramadan at the minute. I was advised to come back later in the day as things liven up once fasting is over and food and drink are aplenty after sunset.

Mr Shah - on the right - was most definitely the boss
Mr Shah – on the right – was most definitely the boss

The streets were clean and any rubbish was being picked up as they went along. It was a bit like going back in time on a few occasions – e.g. when the lorry was being unloaded and the fork truck was manouvering on the pavement – very skillfully I must say !

Unloading
Unloading
I say tomatoes - you say tomatoes
I say tomatoes – you say tomatoes
Smiler
Smiler
Kacha
Kacha
The butcher at work
The butcher at work
Danny Jamaica is a regular
Danny Jamaica is a regular
Lady shopper
Lady shopper
They didn't have my size
They didn’t have my size
gloves
The big man
Mango season - everyone was saying their mangoes are the best between here and Birmingham
Mango season – everyone was saying their mangoes are the best between here and Birmingham
Child's play
Child’s play

I met the local traffic wardens – they were keen to explain there is plenty of parking in and around Bury Park – there are two car parks at the Beech Hill end and plenty of street meters but they did advise to check the signs. On one side it might be ticketed metering but on the other it could well be resident permits only and a lot of people fall prey to the trap. Take a second look if you park on a meter – the wardens are double teamed and do their job well.

Warden
Warden

All in all it was a great morning. I was there too early but then I didn’t know any better. I will go back and I will, in the first instance, go back this week, later in the day, to see what happens as the day’s fast breaks. I will also go back on a more regular basis, the clothes are a bit colourful for me and I don’t have much money to spend on jewellery but if you are after some decent fresh fruit and veg and well butchered meat – Bury Park is the place.

As I said at the beginning Bury Park has been seen as a predominantly asian part of town and it’s true, most of the shops are run by asians. But there are a lot of other nationalities that run shops, units and street market stalls – among them are Polish, Turkish and Italian and I’m sure there are more. If you haven’t been down to Bury Park recently, park up in Sainsbury’s or on a street meter (watch the signs) and take a wander, buy some fruit and veg, have a coffee and have a chat with the people – I promise you you’ll gain from it.

Have a good week !

Steve

Advertisements

High Town Festival

Popped up to High Town yesterday to see how the festival was going. High Town is a wonderful part of town, it’s underestimated and not given the credit it deserves. The High St is currently part of a regeneration scheme by the government whereby new startup businesses on the High St receive reduced business rates to help with the early years of trading. Shop 33 (Luton Community Arts shop I blogged about a few weeks ago is on the High St) was very busy yesterday with a programme full of local musicians coming into the shop to do an hours set.

DSC_8346
Shop 33 – local singer / songwriter

Street photography is an art, your mind has to be alive and awake at all times, you have to be able to see stuff going on and capture it quickly. You also have to be mindful of people’s wishes, I stood to take a photo of a young barber cutting hair (it looked great – it was a tight afro with a pattern being sculpted into it) and I noticed as soon as I lifted the camera to my eye he caught me out of the corner of his eye and turned around sharpish. I dropped the camera, smiled through the window and asked if it was OK, he waved as if to say no so I gave him the thumbs up, he gave me a thumbs up back and we went about our business. Most people are fine and even relish the thought that someone thinks they are interesting enough to be photographed but if they’re not happy about it, I find it best to honour their wishes – no harm done.

I didn't think I needed this little fellas permission so I hope you don't mind - if you know him - can you ask if he minds please
I didn’t think I needed this little fellas permission so I hope you don’t mind – if you know him – can you ask if he minds please

These guys were very happy to have their picture taken and very good they were too, there were lots of scheduled events but I liked these guys and stood and watched them for about 15 minutes. Impromptu street corner busking, they just pitched up with their guitars and mouth organs and started playing, and very good they were too.

Impromptu belting out of chooons
Impromptu belting out of chooons
Love the doo rag !
Love the doo rag !
This guy was a great accompaniment to the two guitarists
This guy was a great accompaniment to the two guitarists
Street food - noodles - £1 a pot
Street food – noodles – £1 a pot
the facepainter - with  angel wings
the facepainter – with angel wings
Harmony
Harmony

This blog is about Luton – the positives within Luton – it’s about the town but more importantly for me – it’s about the people – there are fantastic people in Luton. People who are proud to say they are from Luton, and this in a week where Luton, again, has been listed in the top 100 crappiest towns in the UK, an honour they won in the books 2004 publication. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the whole crap town affair. Well you know what !! I don’t give a shit about that book and I know a lot of Lutonians don’t either. I could go to ANY town in the country and shoot a series of photographs of dirty back streets, bins overflowing and general detritus. Luton’s got it’s bad points but it’s got a hell of a lot more good points ! I think this subject needs a full blogpost all to itself – I feel quite strongly about this !! Watch this space …

Have a good week !

Steve

THE ACADEMY – LUTON …

… is an amateur boxing club – established in 2008 – with a difference. It’s not just another boxing club – it’s a classy club – it has a winning ethos – a club where champions will come from (Steven and Niall pictured below have had 12 and 13 bouts respectively and each won 9 of those bouts). The guys that run the club are also the benefactors – they don’t get money from the council – the club underwent a major improvement 6 months ago where they took over the unit downstairs at the expense of the owners and coaches. Before Christmas 2012 the club occupied the upstairs of a fairly run down unit on a small industrial estate near Wardown Park. The occupants downstairs went bust and moved out leaving a derelict warehouse. Academy club owners took over the space, completely gutted it, moved the training ring downstairs and converted the upstairs space into a self contained training area complete with bags and a weight training area – they have spent thousands of pounds to bring the club up to a very high standard and now occupy both upstairs and downstairs. A second ring was donated and also installed downstairs.

Steven and Niall
Steven and Niall beside WBO Champion Nathan Cleverly’s signature from the club’s re-opening day ceremony

Most of the members are kids but there are a handful of adults and ladies that train at the club – there is a dedicated ladies only session on Thursday nights where a small and dedicated number of ladies come to train. The coaches are keen for more ladies to train at the club. The self contained upstairs training area was set up during the refurbishment – ladies have their own secure well lit entrance, their own changing rooms and the training area can be shut off from the rest of the club to allow the ladies to train in the comfort of their own company. Doors can be opened up to allow mixed training but the coaches are keen to allow ladies to have their own space. I think this is truly unique and only one thing at the club that sets it apart from other amateur boxing clubs.

Bag training

The Academy will be taking part in Luton’s Open Air Boxing Exhibition on 6th July this year and I’m guessing they will do well. Personally, I have loved boxing for as long I can remember, I’ve watched lots of boxing on TV but never been to a live fight. Steven and Niall – they are cousins so there’s always going to be a bit of rivalry there – did some sparring for me – coach Graham told them to take it easy with each other – I must have led a sheltered life because to my clouded eyes they looked like they were going for it – and the sounds the punches made sounded pretty full on to me. I’ll need to go again to educate myself more. Steven and Niall come down to the club five times a week – they live about 2 miles away and get there on their bikes – they are two very dedicated kids !

Steven and Niall sparring
Steven and Niall sparring with coach Jim looking on from the shadows

There were approximately 25 members training tonight – mainly kids but there were also 5 or 6 17/18 year olds and there was at least one senior member (I’m guessing he was about my age – I’m the wrong side of 40 – tonight was mixed carded fighters and seniors). Graham, said it was quiet tonight, there were more at the Saturday morning session. Halfway through the evening they split up – some went upstairs to do some technical training while the others stayed downstairs doing their 3 minute circuit, 60 second rest, again and again …….. and again. I was there nearly 2 hours and short of a couple of small breaks the 3 minute, 1 minute, 3 minute routine carried on – punctuated by the end of round bell. For me, the uninitiated, it felt like a full on training session – and these kids do this 5 times a week – on top of whatever sport they do at school. These kids are fit ! They take their training seriously but I also noticed they all have a lot of fun while doing the serious business of training.

… believe in yourself …
All mod cons
All mod cons
Under 11 - shadow boxing
Under 11 – shadow boxing

The Academy Luton is fresh, it’s fun, it’s well established and run on passion and desire. If a champion doesn’t come out of this club in the foreseeable future I will be very, very surprised. Get along to the club, take your son, take your daughter, take your wife or husband. It’s a family club, run by and for families, with an underlying will to produce a champion and in the meantime have fun doing it.

Keep it going guys and see you soon !

Steve

Rally for Peace – Luton

Positivity was overflowing on the steps of Luton Town Hall this afternoon. Community Leaders, Faith Leaders and ordinary folk came together to show solidarity in the understanding there is more to Luton than the negative headlines in the press of recent months. Probably the most inspirational speaker was Delaney Brown Snr – his grandson was killed in September last year as part of the gang feud between Lewsey Farm (LU4) and Marsh Farm (LU3) – Delaney Jnr had gone to school with Kyle Beckford – they joined different gangs and Beckford ended up mounting the curb in a car, mowing Brown down and killing him. Beckford was jailed for 24 years in May this year. Delaney Snr spoke eloquently on the shocking events of Jnr’s death and what needs to be done – and is being done – to turn things around. His positive words about the community groups that gathered this afternoon and the huge amount of work Bedfordshire Police did in the investigation to bring his killer to justice were truly inspirational.

Delaney Brown Snr
Delaney Brown Snr

Dare I say it but things have quietened down regarding gang related trouble recently – the police launched a big operation recently to raid houses of suspected gang members on both the Lewsey Farm and Marsh Farm estates – numerous arrests were made and numerous weapons recovered. I’d like to think the intervention of the police and the positivity coming from this afternoon’s speakers has made a difference and things have indeed quietened down. Superintendent David Boyle made the point that things seemed more calm on the streets but the police were not taking their eyes off the ball and work was still on going to both calm situations and bring recent event perpetrators to justice.

Superintendent David Boyle
Superintendent David Boyle

Victor Evelyn (otherwise known as BLAPPS – Better Living And Positive Propaganda Society) and his friends roam the streets of Marsh Farm through the night and into the early hours of the morning – as a kind of community support team. They interact with the kids and if need be do their best to quash the spark of trouble. BLAPPS told me they are not a vigilante crew but are there as community elders ready with a video camera to work with the police should things get out of hand.

BLAPPS
BLAPPS

Many leaders of various groups got up on the steps of the town hall to speak – all with the same positive message – here are some of them here – along with some of the crowd that gathered.

Pastor Lloyd Denny
Pastor Lloyd Denny
Leeroy Jenkins (R)
Leeroy Jenkins (R)

I’d like to thank Leeroy Jenkins on the right in the picture above for bringing the rally to my attention – he does a huge amount of work with many youth groups in Luton and I’ll be attending the next Luton in Harmony meeting thanks to him.

PART of the crowd
PART of the crowd

DSC_6128

 

I’d like to thank everyone that got up to speak today ! Without these guys working with the kids on the streets of Luton it would undoubtedly be a horrible place to live. There have been some terrible things happen in Luton recently but with the positive attitude of everyone at the rally today Luton will pull through. Best of luck with everything and I look forward to meeting you all again soon.

Steve

 

Bringing Dunstable To Life …

… Central Bedfordshire College have brought Dunstable Town Centre to life by moving their annual end of year Art Exhibition from the college campus to 4 vacant shops in the heart of the Quadrant. Dunstable is no different to any other small town up and down the country – every time you walk through the town centre there’s another boarded up shop or that thing you went in to town to get – you can’t get because the shop has closed down. Well someone at the college had a great idea to bring a bit of life to proceedings.

abstract
abstract

For almost a week – starting tomorrow 21st June and going on until next Wednesday 26th June – the empty shops will have art installations on show and students and teachers will be on hand to discuss work and generally help viewers get around. The 4 shops are close in proximity to each other near the exit from the Quadrant onto High St North.

Tutor and Students
Tutor and Students

I really can’t think of a better way to use empty shop carcasses – I don’t know what financials are going on but I would hope the college have a good deal with the landlords and when I say that I mean I hope they are getting the space for free. This exhibition should increase the footfall in the town centre dramatically over the next few days.

photography art in an inch sized hole 7 6

While you’re in Dunstable don’t forget the college’s more permanent space at The Store – in between the college building and the Gary Cooper – where they are also exhibiting photography, sculpture, graphic art and graphic design.

Part of the Decomposition Project
Part of “Deconstruction”

The project was designed for the student to deconstruct something and work with it. This student deconstructed a doll and made casts of the component parts – I thought these pieces were fantastic!

If you are in the area in the next week it would be an hour well spent looking around the exhibition – grab a coffee from Costa and have a wander. I might see you there!

All the best

Steve

Dominic Square and Shop 33

Dominic Square
Dominic Square

I’ve had a very busy week with work and didn’t think I was going to get around to visiting the businesses up at Dominic Square but I was determined to do it yesterday afternoon and I’m glad I did – I met some great people and had a good laugh at the same time.

After getting a rejection to take the picture of a couple of guys sitting on the benches in Dominic Square I was a little worried I might be out of luck but the shop owners were very happy to oblige. What I noticed most from visiting the two shops I did was the overall determination to do the right thing by their customers and to have a laugh while doing it. Here is Mohammed …

Mohammed the butcher

Mohammed is the butcher at the Halal Meat and Food Centre – business is going well – there is a large Muslim community in Luton and Lewsey Farm is no different. After being in the shop for about 10 or 15 minutes talking with the guys, it occurred to me  that not everyone who came in to buy meat was Muslim and I can see that with the shops friendly manner and their diverse range of goods people prefer to use the halal shop than the more mainstream supermarkets that are on Dominic Square. With the recent mud flinging about Lewsey Farm I wanted to know if the shop had experienced any trouble over recent months and Mohammed looked at me quizzically and just shook his head “No, we don’t get any trouble here, this is a nice place”, which of course is very encouraging, they have the odd thing stolen through shoplifting but I think you find that everywhere.

Having had a chat, a laugh and taken a few pictures of Mohammed I headed for Asia Coiffure situated on the corner of the square. I knew the shop had been a hairdressers for a long time but I also knew that it wasn’t always a hairdressers but I couldn’t remember what it used to be. Muni and Sharnia work in the shop and Sharnia had in the back of her mind that it was a bakery in a past life. As soon as she said that I remembered going over on a Saturday morning and getting a large bloomer (always a large bloomer) for sausage sandwiches for lunch. Saturday lunch in our house was always sausage sandwiches !!

Mr Muni the barber

Again, Asia Coiffure doesn’t see any trouble but then Sharnia remembered, knock down ginger (where the kids knock on the door and run off ), well I used to do that and I don’t consider myself a major trouble maker – we had a bit of a giggle about knock down ginger.

So if the odd bit of shoplifting and a game of knock down ginger is the level of trouble Dominic Square shop keepers are seeing it’s all very encouraging – it’s no more than it was 30 years ago and therefore goes against the general perception of how rough and uninviting Lewsey Farm currently is – no racketeering nor firebombs ?! Who’d have thought it.

Shop 33

And last but by no means least I read on the Luton Today website that Luton Community Arts Trust had opened a shop in High Town and were championing local artists and musicians so I popped up and met them. Chris and Anthony have both recently left university.

Chris (L) was studying Art at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton and worked with the Luton Arts Community Trust for all of that time. Chris is also lead singer and lead guitarist of local alternative rock band Flexy Boys.

Anthony – Flexy Boys band manager, he became manager because he’s the most regular gig attendee, as I am official photographer for Percy’s Blues Jam, because I’m the only one that turns up with a camera (see previous posts) – went to the University of Hertfordshire where he studied Music Journalism, English Literature and Film Studies – he has now left university with a Masters in Film Studies !

We had quite a chat about English Literature – George Orwell and Oscar Wilde were common areas of interest and their both dying relatively young (Orwell died at 47 and Wilde 46 – so we weren’t far off Anthony).

And, just as a little plug for myself, the guys have kindly agreed to put some of my black and white pictures on the walls for sale – so at 92 High Town Rd, a 2 minute walk from Luton Train Station, I would confidently say you find the best shop in town.

Not sure at the minute what next week’s topic will be but I’ll do my best to buck the trend of negative thought about Luton and or LU4 Lewsey Farm.

Have a good week – thanks for reading and of course comments always welcome.

Steve

Jamming (and Dunstable’s very own Johnny Cash)

At the end of the last post I mentioned my focus on LU4 and Lewsey Farm would probably extend to LU3 and LU6 (and probably beyond but staying within LU….). Well this week I’m focusing on a bunch of guys that get together to have a blast with some instruments. It’s a jamming session – it’s not a formal set from start to finish so if that sounds a bit blase it’s not meant to – believe me when these guys get together they blast out the tracks ranging from Jimi Hendrix to John Lee Hooker.

Gin House Delta (L-R) Dave / Percy / Bluesy

Lead singer (and bass player) Bluesy and drummer Percy both live in Luton and lead guitarist Dave comes up from Harrow – they meet at the White Swan in Dunstable on the first Thursday of every month for a jamming blues session. Being a jamming session all comers are encouraged to bring an instrument and jump up on stage ! This week’s skiffle board player also did a great rendition of Johnny Cash’s Falsom Prison – you have to be on your toes – Dave was outside using spotify learning Falsom Prison once he heard Skiffle Man wanted to sing it and he kicked it with a fantastic gravelly voice to boot.

Percy and Dunstable’s very own Johnny Cash – Percy had just found out they wouldn’t be around to play at Knebworth hence the grimmace

Percy …

… paints and decorates your house or office by day – rides 100 miles on his road bike on a Sunday morning and does his Keith Moon bit in 3 different bands by night – he’ll be at the Greyhound in Dunstable next Friday – 14th June – I’ll be there !

Dave – you need a nickname Dave !

Dave …

… and Percy first met in Jersey where they are both from and played gigs there before they both came to England. I used to work with Dave – he’s a techie – in fact he describes himself as “Geek, Dad, Gamer, Guitarist, SysAdmin, SmartOS, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, Linux, Ruby fan etc.” on his blog so if you understand any of that – well done! He’s been playing guitar from a very young age and once told me “I pick up the guitar every day – even if it’s just for 5 minutes” – so that’s how you get so good !

Bluesy

Bluesy …

… lays carpets by day – I happened to bump into him in a warehouse in Letchworth on a cold January morning – I’d only just seen my first “Percy’s Blues Jam” a few days before and there he was bent over, arse in the air rolling up some carpet – I thought I recognised him. Bluesy is bass guitarist and lead singer – his take on Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” was something special !

This blog is taking on a new life – it started as a poetry blog but I’m now looking for the positives in and around the LU(4) area to try and combat all the bad press it’s been getting lately – Percy, Bluesy and Dave (you need a nickname Dave) are a full on positive and I urge everyone to get along to the White Swan on the first Thursday of the month.

Next week I’m hoping to get around to some local businesses in and around Lewsey Farm and see how they are getting on and what they think of the recent spate of bad news …

What’s good in your area ? Comments always welcome !

Thanks for stopping by – have a good week everyone !

Steve