Under normal circumstances, wandering in to a strangers house uninvited, would of course be completely unacceptable, and you would likely get yourself arrested for doing so. But for the next three weeks, this kind of behaviour wont get you in to bother with the police. In fact, popping in to a strangers house for ten minutes is positively encouraged. Why? The glorious art trail is back, and between now and the 18th of June, 180 venues across Walthamstow are throwing open their doors and inviting us in for a cup of tea. All kinds of venues are taking part, from private homes to Churches and workshops. There are 7000 exhibitors, and best of all, it won’t cost you a penny.
My trail strategy usually involves highlighter pens and the trail guide. I mark out what I want to see, plan a precise route, put on my walking shoes and take to the streets. This year I’m trying to be a little less regimented. I’m going to pick a starting point on the guide, and then wander, and see what I find. I used that approach on Saturday whilst checking out some of the Markhouse & Lea Bridge section of the trail, and it seemed to work really well.
We started in the Gothic wonder that is St Saviours Church on Markhouse Road. There are a number of artists exhibiting here. And there’s also a photograph on show of what the church roof looked like before it was destroyed by fire in 1945. From there we wandered to Kiln arts on Theydon Street, who are exhibiting for the last time this year. We then headed up to St Barnabas Church which is home to Art Stands Up To Racism, Blood & Clay, and Building Bridges (Not Walls).
Leaving St Barnabas we consulted the trail map and noticed something called the Belgrave Furniture Works on Boundary Road. I had no idea this place existed, even though I’ve walked past it hundreds of times. This workshop is home to Gavin Coyle Studio, a team of cabinet makers and craftsmen, who design and make furniture using traditional methods. The items that are made here are absolutely beautiful. I really enjoyed visiting the workshop, and I’d recommend paying it a visit if you can.
On our wander we also took in the Hornbeam Cafe on Hoe Street, where we had an incredible beetroot curry. And after a visit to the excellent photographic exhibition at Walthamstow Cycles, and a play with the giant props in Cafe 56, we ended our Saturday wander at Shelly & Stamps on Verlulam Avenue. This exhibition features some pretty powerful drawings, paintings and collages, and also has incredibly friendly hosts. All of the above are worth a visit if you are out on the trail.
My feet were a bit sore by the time we got home, but other than that we had a great afternoon on the trail. Of course, we only saw a tiny section of it on Saturday, so we have much more exploring to do in the coming weeks. Weekends will be spent meandering around E17 clutching the trail guide, and probably eating more cake than is healthy. I can’t tell you how much enjoy the art trail. I love seeing what our creative community is producing, I love exploring buildings and areas of Walthamstow I may not normally go to. And most of all, I love meeting people out on the trail, chatting with strangers, and making the world feel that little bit smaller.
The Art Trail turns Walthamstow in to a gigantic gallery, but it also does a bit more than that. It introduces people to their neighbours, gets strangers talking to each other, and opens up hidden parts of E17 that perhaps we wouldn’t normally see. As we live in an age where some are bent on pulling us apart, projects like the art trail that bring us together are all the more important. To find out more, visit the Art Trail website, or pick up a copy of the trail guide and go exploring.