My Old China
About the Project
Welcome to My Old China from Spread the Word – supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Once famed for its pie and mash shops, jellied eels, and a street market frequented by pearly kings and queens, Lambeth Walk, where our office is based, may have been a shadow of its former self but it became the limelight once more, thanks to a community history project made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Our project; My Old China looked at the social, cultural and industrial heritage of the area of Lambeth Walk, which includes Black Prince Road and the China Walk Estate.
A dynamic working class neighbourhood through much of the 19th and 20th centuries the area was further popularised by the song ‘Doin’ the Lambeth Walk’ in the 1937 musical ‘Me and My Girl’. During this period industry and homes were intermingled and the Doulton Pottery Factory was a major source of local employment.
Spread the Word planned to recruit and train half a dozen volunteers as ‘story-catchers’ to research and record local stories. Pupils from the nearby Walnut Tree Walk Primary School, were involved in using memories discovered to create a short play and local memories were jogged by a ‘pop-up stall’, where archive information and images were displayed to prompt reminiscences from passers-by.
Material gathered by these various means were used by a specially commissioned writer to create a high quality narrative. Then, working with local potters, elements from this text were cast into pots to be installed in the windows of shops along Lambeth Walk, thus recalling the area’s earlier industrial connections.
A small heritage festival, including a Fun Day, touring exhibition and writing workshops was organised towards the end of the project, to both celebrate and showcase it. At every stage the local community was involved in the project.
Here you will find links to blogs and photographs documenting various elements and stages of the My Old China project
Below you will find links to download some of the My Old China related resources, with which you can continue to explore the heritage and history of this vibrant area.
My Old China Commemorative Book - Contains The Amazing Case of Lambeth Walk a thriller by Steve Tasane, The Walnut Tree Walk Time Tunnel a play written by the Year 5 class at Walnut Tree Walk School, The My Old China Guided Walk, poems and haiku by Steve Tasane, and more!
If you want to explore the some of the history and local hidden landmarks of the area you can with the My Old China Guided Walk and the accompanying Audio Guide which can be used together or separately. (To download each track, click on the little down-arrow to the right of the track name.)
We partnered with many different organisations and individuals on My Old China. They not only helped in its overall success but allowed the project to reach further into the local community and ultimately, more people. Below are some of the partners, with links where you can find out more about them, and some of the things that have been said about the project.
Lambeth Archives - a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to discover more about the history of Lambeth. They have an extensive image archive (which you can browse online here.) They provided a lot of the initial project material, which was displayed in the pop-up shop where people could discover new things about, and engage with, the history of where they live. The stories and oral histories which were captured during the project will be housed in the Archives for future generations to explore and be inspired by. They also ran a stall at the Fun Day, giving information on how people can further engage with their local history.
"The Touring Exhibition, oral histories and other material that has been donated by the project to Lambeth Archives has enriched our existing collection – developing new archival material and interpretative resources.""The heritage day seemed very successful. I think the project reached people who would not normally be involved in a local heritage project."
- Fiona Price, Local Studies Librarian
Roots and Shoots - A local voluntary education and wildlife centre, which provides vocational training for young people as well as providing environmental education to schools and local groups. We partnered with them for our Fun Day, which was held in their Wildlife Garden and included workshops, talks, readings, walks, music, refreshments and activities for a large number of local people.
Steve Tasane - Steve is an established performance poet who was the writer-in-residence for My Old China. He split his time between collecting the stories and memories of the residents of Lambeth Walk and weaving them all into fiction, which ended up as the story, poetry and haiku, brought together under the My Old China book. He also ran workshops for local residents and worked with children at Walnut Tree Walk Primary School to interview and create their own piece of collective writing.
"It seemed as if the My Old China book wrote itself, because it was so defined by the community it was reflecting. As a writer, this was a real privilege."
- Steve Tasane, Writer-in-residence for My Old China
Walnut Tree Walk Primary School - The Year 5 class at Walnut Tree Walk Primary School participated in sessions with Steve, where they interviewed a couple of the Walk's older residents on what it was like to grow up on the Walk in the past. From this, they developed a short play, exploring the differences between life in the past and their own lives today. A performance element was introduced to the sessions as they rehearsed and performed the play both to the rest of the school and again to parents and local residents.
"The project Steve led involving the background/preparation, writing and performing of a play about Lambeth Walk was a fantastic piece of work that was enjoyed by every member of my class. From the first session, when Steve introduced himself, his work and poems as well as involving the children in engaging activities to get started, the children were enthused and responded well to the project." - Sue Butcher, Year 5 Class Teacher
Creative Sparkworks - A community arts organisation based at the nearby Lilian Baylis Community Hub. They worked with around 60 adults and children from various local groups including voluntary, disabled and youth groups, to create ceramic Story Pots as part of the project. They then took inspiration from, and incorporated, some of the text and learned about the traditions of ceramic production in the area. Potters from Creative Sparkworks also provided free family workshops at the Fun Day.
The following text accompanied the display of pots on the Fun Day:
"My Old China" and Creative Sparkworks
We were commissioned in February 2011 by Spread the Word to make a series of large Story Pots inspired by the heritage of Lambeth Walk and China Walk, and working with as many different local residents that we could find. We started asking our local Over 50 adult art and craft classes, our young volunteers, schools and disability day centres, the local surgery, and tenants associations, to see who would be interested in learning how to produce giant coil pots and slab pots, how to decorate and glaze them, for permanent display in various places in their locality.
The brief was as follows: to create ten large clay pots that would stand inside or outside a range of local venues and decorate them inspired by haiku poems. These 3 line poems were to be distilled by the poets from Spread the Word from many interviews with many local people around the subject of local history in China Walk and Lambeth Walk.
Many people of many ages and abilities were happy to participate, led by our fantastic artist tutors Amanda Cox, Nathaly Carvalho, Gustavo Meixner, illustrator Lisa Jenkin, coordinated by Director Sylvia Edwards and ably supported by our kiln technician Paul Edwards.
Inspired by our historical research on the very local Royal Doulton Pottery, and the earlier Lambeth Pottery, we began designing shapes, moving on to learn the skills of giant coil potting, and slabware. Everyone who came into the Thursday sessions joined in, under Amanda's guidance; we then installed a very large extra kiln, lent to us by Arts Alive Arts Trust, and began the exciting task of bisque firing (which has only just finished after four months!) Next came the fun of inviting all participants to illustrate the haiku before we transformed their ideas into painted pots. Added to these delightful and humorous drawings were some more Lambeth Potteries historical research, and we also were inspired by the famous painted ceramic vessels by contemporary ceramicist Grayson Perry. After many happy and dedicated hours of surface decoration, including texturing and bas relief, the work was just ready for the mini heritage event on June 5th, with one of our two extra pots still 'cooking' in the kilns for luck!
Thanks to this project, Creative Sparkworks have built up a whole new range of pottery skills and eager new potters, on the strength of which we have decided to start a weekend pottery club for local people and their families. If you would like to join you can email Creative Sparkworks on: firstname.lastname@example.org