I’d been drifitng around Leyton for a while, it was 1999 or sometime around then. I’d walked from Lea Bridge roundabout to Chobham road passing Mobeens and Leyton Leisure lagoon and all these little churches and pawnbrokers set up in peoples houses.
There were loads of takeaways and kebab shops and all these bric a brac stalls spilling odd shoes and broken toys over the pavement. And on the bus shelters and lamp posts I kept seeing these little flyers stuck up with selotape,. drawings of fly agarick mushrooms and
doodly spirals advertising an all dayer in a pub in Chobham road. It was so strange, even then it seemed to emanate from a lost time.
I walked into the industrial zone between Leyton and Stratford where it wasn’t really anywhere, a liminal zone with gypsy sites and garages and light industrial units.
I found the pub soon after that. From the outside it looked ordinary, an estate pub from the late 60s, early 70s, a bunker with fortress windows at the front, plastic hanging baskets and St George flags . I could hear the thudding of synthesised bass drum, 220 bpm and pitch shifted samples. There were skinheads outside wearing tie dyed t shirts and temple of psychic youth symbols tattooed on their arms. I couldn’t really believe it, there wer
e massive groups of them staggering about, lighting fires.
This party was the continuation of a Saturday all nighter at one of the massive abandoned factories on Carpenters road.
dark and brooding
short, staccato- They were all off it, topping up on psilosibin after a big weekend of acid and flyagaricks.
aggressive sound, amplitude envelope….
I walked into a large room split roughly into two sections by a bar in the middle. On one side there were families from the neighbouring estate, babies and kids running in and out the door. A marching
Industrial hardcore Big screen was showing some football match but no one seemed to be paying much attention. The blokes were drinking pints, grabbing the kids now and again, jeering and shouting fast hoover-patterns.
cleaner, detuned supersaw lead,
obscenities at each other. And on the other side much the same pandemonium, ketamine fuelled antics, erratic bursts of dancing, people in heaps on the floor. Some bloke was shrieking about the second coming , necking some pills , washing them down with blue alcopops.
Fucking hell this was amazing.
I looked for a payphone to get the Hackney crew down here. Someone had said the landlord of the boozer was quite happy for us to do what we liked, reckoned the old bill never really ventured down this end much. There’d been a wave of vigilante attacks on the site over the past few months, nasty stuff stoked up by the BNP. Old animosities between travelling factions were temporarily suspended and newcomers welcomed.
Screeching sample ,
square wave falling pitch.
A big group of dread locked blokes with orange overalls walked in, I recognised some of them from the old days in South Yorkshire. Drawn into an embrace, recounting the old days of Wath On Dearne, we got the pints lined up on the bar. It was warm outside and groups were sitting out the front with bottles of cider.
The atmosphere inside was manic, pounding Belgian New Beat, skinheads forming circles, moving closer to each other then spreading out in menacing ripples. I hadn’t seen anything like this for at least seven or eight years, not since maybe Spiral Tribe parties round the Isle Of Dogs.
Frequency spectrum spreads out
I was watching and revelling in it, totally intoxicated. I’d had a few the night before, nothing on the scale of these lot but enough to make me start feeling a bit off it straight away.
There were blokes crawling around, hoovering the floor for dropped pills. I watched them get up and march on the spot, drilling themselves into the floor. They wore black military uniforms and all seemed to know each other. I heard some shouting in French, Dutch and Italian, there were a few from Dublin as well.
. increasing the sustain
As the evening wore on my mates from Hackney had started to arrive. There was an amazed look of delight on their faces as they realised my frantic urgings to get them across here had not been exaggerated. The beats had stayed frantic, hoover becoming an aggressive, shrieking lead. You couldn’t really move to it, not in a sexy way, you just had to jackhammer yourself into the floor.
It was like going back ten years and intensifying it. Rotterdam , Berlin, Ruhr Valley.
The families on the other side of the pub didn’t really seem to care. I noticed some of the little kids get up and start jumping up and down. Some bloke came staggering out of the mens toilets with an England shirt almost colliding with a three year old, sorry son he said while some other bloke smacked straight into him and spilled half a pint on the kids head.
As the afternoon turned to dusk, the sky became a golden pink and some of the crew dragged a load of palletes round the side of the pub and started a bonfire going. Someone else wheeled some speaker cabs round and the party shifted outside. You could still hear the thudding bass from inside but out here they were playing dub, it wasn’t as hectic.
Everyone was sitting round on beer crates and tyres. The crew from south Yorkshire were there and more and more were turning up from Hackney. Some mushroom tea was being passed around. It was 1999, the beginning of Summer, and the talk was of the City of London, of a riot in the heart of it, meeting at Liverpool street station on June the 18th. I’d heard a lot about this, and seen the orange stickers everywhere. Someone said that a lot of these skinheads in the pub had come over from Europe just to be in London while all this was kicking off. There’d been benefit gigs and meetings round Hackney, the word was out on this one, there was a sense it was going to be massive, bigger than the Poll Tax.
I was confused on the walk up Angel Lane, disorientated, I recognised fragments, the wall with shards of broken bottles on top, the tower blocks in Maryland looming across the 60s maisonettes. But I’d lost my bearings as all the paths by the railway sidings, all the little side streets had disappeared. And as we walked up there, watching the construction of the doomed Westfield shopping city I felt a sense of regret. I passed the Wheelers pub where the young men form the relocated Clays lane traveller site gathered in clusters outside. I was in search of that other pub where piebald horses pawed the ground at the edge of the car park, that one that had loomed up so often in my dreams and reveries but still could not be found. I searched on maps, I scoured aerial photos but it had gone missing, or it had never existed. I was still amazed by that day, amazed that we were able to get away with it, wondering if I’d imagined it all. For years I had sought out other witnesses, wrote about it hoping someone would step forward and say yes I was there. But they never did, and the crew that were with me that day had drifted away years before. I wandered through a yard where car parts lay strewn under the watchful eye of an Alsation, a last dismal remnant of the lands of the past.
I walked by the Major road Methodist church, through the flat green expanse around it and headed towards the Leyton road. I was sure this is where it had been. The new traveller site had been constructed recently, it was neatly compartmentalised behind high sandy walls. You weren’t supposed to peer in and they weren’t to venture out. It was a sort of compound.
1973-1974, 1980-81, 1990, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2008/9/10 2013.
hoover distorted, grainy, sweeping
I wondered with a jolt if the pub I remembered so vividly in all those psychoactive colours had been bulldozed to accommodate the new site. As I wandered around I could hear the faint reverberations of that soundsystem, I could smell the woodsmoke from the bonfire outside. I pushed on through the dusty scrubland at the back of the site and found some old graffiti, the temple of psychick youth double cross and all these faded pale yellow ‘J18 Carnival against Capitalism’ stickers. I knew that it was still there, spectral and pulsating, locked into so many perfumes and sounds. And it was all to come, another epoch, a mass return to the labyrinth.