Volunteering to Share Ideas

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The blood, sweat and tears of everyone involved in planning Plumstead Make Merry

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Conceptual Art is a serious business

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The first concept is explained

Art Plumstead hosted its second pop up Conceptual Art show in the garden of the Volunteer on Plumstead High Street. When it was launched last year, the intention had been to debunk the idea of conceptual art by sending it up. In the event, all the pieces had been carefully considered and encouraged serious thought and discussion.

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Mottainai – tribute to Japan or cultural appropriation?

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How to have a reasonable debate

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Plumstead – please don’t judge a book by its cover!

This year an equally thought-provoking collection of exhibits was assembled with displays exploring the power and meaninglessness of advertising, waste in the fast fashion industry, the unfairness of judging a book by its cover, how something entirely false can be used to accomplish positive ends and the dichotomy between the desirability of slimness in one part of the world compared to another. A good proportion of the exhibits didn’t seek to establish one absolute view over another but to air an idea and encourage a balanced opinion. The pictures and text can only hint at the meaning behind the art pieces presented on the evening, and the only way to fully appreciate them was to have been there.

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Same world, different problems

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So, which one came first?

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They are their own work of art

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Real or fake – and does it really matter?

By the end of the evening, a range of theories had been aired and examined through animated conversation, all accompanied by a drink or two. There was plenty of non-art related chatter at the same time because after all, participation in Plumstravaganza is entirely voluntary.

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Luckily, Alison was on hand to see that no Crimes against Art were committed

 

 

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Early Harvest at The Spiral Garden

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The Spiral Garden hosted a drop in swap and share session as part of Plumstravaganza 2018. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, sunny without being oppressive, and its location next to Plumstead Common Nature Reserve added to the pleasant ambience. A steady stream of visitors came by, either to try the different herbs that grow on the site, or to donate or sell their produce. Many were visiting the Spiral Garden for the first time or remembered it when it had been a children’s play area.

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There were two huge bags of conference pears (Maggie took some at the end to make pear pickle for the Plumstead Pickle Festival in December) and home made raspberry jam for sale, packed with fruit. There was a box of very large eating apples and home grown spuds, and plenty of organic garlic and onions from GCDA’s garden site at Woolwich Dockyard, one of several run as part of Growing Greenwich. Someone brought several sprigs of ginger rosemary which encouraged those present to take some home and try to strike cuttings from it, by placing tips in water. The rest will be dried and the needles rubbed off for experimenting with, probably to make a syrup for flavouring drinks.

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For refreshment, every visitor was offered three drinks on arrival; the first being water flavoured  with salad burnet to give it a light cucumber taste. Next, apple juice to which sweet woodruff had been added. Sweet woodruff when crushed quickly develops an almond flavour and is a key ingredient in May Bowl, a traditional German recipe. Finally, an infusion of Moroccan Mint, as served in Turkish restaurants. Meanwhile there were small savoury biscuits made with chives and winter savoury which proved popular. Also well liked were the oriental mustard leaves growing freely in one of the beds. Small pots of herbs, including some used to flavour the drinks were available to take away. As if that weren’t enough, there were several home made lavender bags and packets of seeds to take home and try. The new banner for the Community Market at St Mark’s Hall was briefly unveiled while packing up and pronounced splendid. It will have its first official outing on Saturday 15th September when the Market recommences.

See Good Food in Greenwich for more details.

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The Spice Trail

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Because of the topography of Plumstead, it is the case that some residents don’t visit certain parts of the High Street while others never go there. For some people who don’t know what they are talking about, often because they don’t even live in Plumstead, the perception is that ‘it is all full of chicken shops and hairdressers’. To counter this, Jess of Positive Plumstead Project organised a walk to showcase her favourite shopping and eating places along the way, as well as some other items of architectural interest. Keen Plum Trailers who availed themselves of a pre-printed question sheet provided by Art Plumstead had the chance to find answers to questions displayed in some of the shops at the same time and kill two birds with one stone. A few diced with death trying to flit across the road to find some of the plums, but as the closing comment on Hammy the Hamster used to have it, that’s another story.

An impressive 16 people gathered for the start of the walk at 6.30 pm. Equally impressive was the fact that a good number of businesses were still open, serving the community, with the working day not yet over for them, while others had opened for the evening with a late night finishing time ahead of them.

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First stop was the Plume of Feathers in the garden of which is a Z shelter (not an Anderson shelter) which during the war was a communication centre linked to a larger site on Shooters Hill. It is in the process of being restored by the owners of the pub.

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There was a shout out to Plumstead Children’s Centre in Purrett Road before proceeding to M A Electrical Repairs who is hosting one of our plums for the trail.

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At Expo International Supermarket, we were encouraged to walk right to the back of the shop to see the bakery section where Jess especially mentioned the pide bread (2 for £1). On the way out we saw the extensive array of ingredients less easily available in supermarkets such as different types of halloumi cheese and pulses to buy in glass jars which reduces use of plastic. It is open 24 hours a day.

We passed the former Kinara Children’s Centre which is closed and has been for a number of years, pending sale. The council might have used it while Plumstead Library is closed instead of putting a temporary facility on the Abery Street car park, thus negatively affecting local businesses – but they didn’t.

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Soon afterwards we came to Plumstead Library, recently saved from destruction at the hands of Greenwich Council by being listed by Historic England. The last time it was threatened with demolition was in 1988. Whilst drawing attention to the fine brass plaque in the entrance lobby, John described how during the protests then, the erstwhile vicar of St Nicholas got a bit carried away in his enthusiasm and had to be calmed down by his fellow protesters.

Angels Bakery is an African family bakery business, one of a small chain in London, founded in Plumstead.

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Alpharm is a late night chemist open 9 am – 11 pm including Sundays, and stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

At Fineway Cash and Carry next door the more adventurous went into the shop to see what was on offer. It can be daunting to go into an unknown shop full of unfamiliar goods but Jess was on hand to point out certain things she found particularly of interest, such as tinned Undhiu, frozen paratha which take up next to no space in the freezer (just dry fry for 3 minutes and serve), organic coconut oil and mustard oil when needed for a particular dish.

Next door to that, Dadoos had gungo peas in large bags as well as other foodstuffs which like the other food stores on Plumstead High Street make it an Alladin’s cave for vegetarians and anyone seeking to reduce their meat consumption.

Across the way, the owner of The Glass Shop was just shutting up shop for the evening. It is recommended for any pieces of glass needed for picture framing. Although it displays a plum, the shutters had come down over the windows.

We then came to “The Famous 64” which is a local bone of contention as can be seen here and here. It is an example of why High Streets need investment and support from the local council. Currently this isn’t happening and a building in this condition wouldn’t be tolerated in some other parts of the borough.

Ambala nearby is part of a chain that sells very calorific and hence, delicious Indian sweets but this branch also serves curry upstairs at an affordable price with the option to bring in alcohol. Soft drinks must be bought on the premises, though. Before Ambala moved in, it had been a vegetarian restaurant.

Chatauri is a Nepalese restaurant and hosts another plum in the Plum Trail.

At the corner of the street Danfe, another Nepalese restaurant was recommended by people who had been there for its momo and chicken noodles, and Jess pointed out, that although there is a bar, it also serves coffee.

Plumstead Radical Club is still impressive although you have to be a member to drink there.

D Nmaste is another Nepalese Restaurant. As well as the seating area downstairs, food is also served upstairs in  the former bedrooms of the property so that it is like dining in a private room. It overlooks the station where the Victorian steel footbridge is also under threat of demolition by the Council as part of a plan to increase accessibility, although there are other solutions which would preserve the historical features of the site.

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Last stop was Cafe Royal, where it is possible to buy a borek pastry for £1.50 and add a salad to have a light meal for £3, a fraction of the price in other parts of London. Here, some stayed for a coffee and a bite to eat while 7 others doubled back to D Namaste to tuck into a selection of  Nepalese food. Here, the conversation was a heady mix of politics and reminiscences of times past, all spiced up with a touch of vulgarity.  Not food for the soul in the strictest sense, but plenty of food for the belly and a jolly outing.

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Plumstead High Street – Come and walk with us!

August 30, 2018 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Starts outside the Plume of Feathers, 282 Plumstead High St, SE18 1JT

Why not join locals from voluntary group Positive Plumstead Project (find us on Facebook and Twitter) on a walk of Plumstead High Street, visiting some shops you may not have noticed before? We will show you our favourite places to shop and eat. It starts from outside the Plume of Feathers on Plumstead High Street and finishes at the Café Royal on Plumstead Road

No charge and no need to book – just turn up on the day.

A Reason to Rhyme

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No Plumstravaganza would be complete without the Finals Night of the poetry competition at The Old Mill. The audience gathered in small groups around each table to hear a selection of poems which were being heard in public for the first time. One of the supporters had traveled from Forest Hill and two of the poets had even traveled across the water from Canning Town and Camden Town respectively. The lurid green spot light added drama to the announcement by John that as the previous two winners hadn’t entered this year, it would be a new person winning first place.

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The initial stage of the competition had already run behind closed doors whereby all submissions had been scrutinised and a selection of poems earmarked for performance on the night, either by the poet or by one of the actors who had formed the judging panel. However, for the Finals Night the poems – like the pickles in December – are peer judged, with poems being heard in three groups of four in each heat. The winner of each heat goes through to be judged against the other winning poems, before the overall winning poem is selected and the author crowned Poet Laureate of Plumstead. John kept the audience entertained with snippets of information while the votes were counted, such as that William Wordsworth lived in Nightingale Vale in 1835, and Albert Craig made a tidy sum selling his poems in the first Arsenal programmes.

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The team of vote counters were kept particularly busy during the last stage. There was only one vote between third and second, and second and first place. As last years winner wasn’t available, the presentation of the artisanal laurel chaplet – made from locally foraged organic bay leaves  – was made by Her Most Gracious Majesty The Badge Queen of Plumstead. Third and Second place went to James Miller from Canning Town, but this year, the Laurel Wreath was won by Caroline Barnett who was born and bred in Plumstead. It had come home.

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A Room with a View

 

IMG_20180728_152400 - EditedRegulars and new faces were in attendance at the inaugural watercolour workshop held at Shrewsbury House in room 6, with sweeping views across Kent and Essex and the eastern flank of Shooters Hill. As if by telepathic communication nearly everyone was dressed in shades of blue which is variously held to be associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. It is a calming colour and helps with balance and self-expression, so it was a perfect choice for the task ahead. The breeze was a refreshing change from the seemingly endless hot weather we have had lately and cooling zephyrs came through the French windows that lead out onto the balcony.

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IMG_20180728_152939 - EditedThis is the first of two Art Plumstead painting sessions to be held at Shrewsbury House, with the second one to run on the 18th August. It was a freestyle format with painters working on their own projects but with expert guidance from Andrew as required. As usual, there was an extensive collection of images to work from for anyone who hadn’t brought their own.

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IMG_20180728_142435 - EditedBy the end of the afternoon, several people who had arrived feeling quite agitated were completely relaxed. When it all became too much, there was the opportunity to step outside for a few minutes and take in the landscape below, or pay a visit to the geography of the house, resplendent in rich blue tiles. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be about sitting and meditating, but can be any totally absorbing activity. As such, watercolour fits the bill with the added benefit of producing a picture. Even if it doesn’t quite work as an image it can always be re-worked or chopped up to make one or more greetings cards, although as Andrew remarked ruefully it usually costs a lot more to present watercolour paintings than it does to produce them!

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Painting at Parksfest 2018

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Around half a dozen regular watercolourists rocked up for Summerfest 2018 in Rockliffe Gardens and tucked themselves away into nooks and crannies before starting work. The vibe was relaxed and leisurely, with several people chatting to the painters and reminiscing about when they used to make art in their youth.

20180714_143634_Film1Unlike with photographs, people don’t generally object to being painted or sketched and there were plenty of visitors, some of whom have been unknowingly immortalised as patterns of colour on paper while enjoying the series of bands on offer. Meanwhile on the lower level the Canine Capers fun dog competition was followed by an impromptu game of football, providing inspiration to one of the group who tucked herself behind a chair, the better to capture the scene unobserved.

20180714_143704_Film120180714_143808_Film120180714_145153_Film1Also on site were several stalls, including a bar, Grizzlys (located in Plumstead High Street opposite The Plume of Feathers) and a show for children which was well-attended. By close of play, there were quite a few pictures produced, some of which may well be appearing on a stall near you in due course – if you live in SE18 that is.

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Transformation on the Cards

Great Woolwich Get Together 2018 parade (1)

This year’s Get Together and Armed Forces day was partly located on The Arsenal in the former Firepower Museum. Greenwich Council were particularly keen to include local artists to begin promoting what will ultimately be an extensive art quarter. Art Plumstead were out in force with a stall selling jewellery and cards.

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Despite the somewhat industrial surroundings, we soon had the stall set up, even adding a jaunty backdrop with an additional cloth. There were several other art stalls and one from London Drawing offering the chance to be photographed in the style of a Renaissance portrait. The results of the session can be seen here.  Working with a few well-chosen props the team transformed modern day visitors into a series of intimate Renaissance Selfies . Seeing the end result – taken on a mobile phone – is quite unexpected to the sitter.

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Business was mixed, quiet patches were interspersed with busier periods, and some stalls did better than others while familiar faces dropped by throughout the day. We were grateful to be inside enjoying the shade. Meanwhile, in the baking sun the entertainment continued on the Arsenal and in the streets around General Gordon Square. It went on until 8 pm, but by that time Art Plumstead had quit the building and were individually relaxing at home.

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Great Woolwich Get Together 2018 parade (2)