It has been a cold winter, and I can testify to this because I froze my arse off on a number of slightly bewildering geography-project type experiments I found myself performing along the High Road from Ilford to Chadwell Heath.
I can now tell you how many businesses there are along a 4km stretch of road. And exactly how many of them are chicken shops, DIY shops, churches or car showrooms. Instead of taking for granted what kind of functions make a genuine High Road I now know: which is good.
The High Road is challenging proposition, because it is both one thing, and many, many different things. One consequence of this is the pragmatic problem of representation, in that it is very difficult to draw the High Road in a satisfactory way. The horizontal and vertical scales are so at odds that it is hard to represent in its entirety, and the variation in section along the road makes it impossible to generalise about any particular part of it: it is both singular, and very plural. And of course, the parts are fundamental to and understanding of the whole, and vice versa.
In response to this I’ve had to move away from doing sketches of buildings, and bits of blocks, in order to stand back, and gain a sense of the scale of the road itself. Hence the clip board and the freezing cold.
I’ve also been meeting with people who live and work near the High Road, such as the intelligent and forthright Take Action For Seven Kings group, who had a strong belief that the High Road was the only place you could start to think about the future of the area.
I have also been to an Ilford FC v. Tilbury football match, along with a staggering 25 other spectators, in the 3500-seater Cricklefield Stadium on the High Road, hung out on the allotments, got lost in a maze of Anglo-Indian banqueting suites, and snuck into the controversially-condemned Ilford Swimming Baths to photograph the empty pool.
What I’m trying to get my head around at the moment, is how the High Road, as a long, lean, linear beast spanning across miles of City, relates to ideas about multiple round and blobby Town Centres, and whether the Town Centre strengthens or weakens the High Road as a whole?