Dalston and the London Word Festival

chip_shop_peopleThe front of a Turkish art cafe in North-East London was turned into an unusual chip shop on Sunday. Paper fish with words written on them hung from a line at the counter. “The next “catch” will be printed at 2.30″ signs above them informed. Customers couldn’t order ordinary fish and chips here, but instead they could order a word from a menu to be printed on a chip board right in front of them. For a pound they could then take it home wrapped in paper. Art to-go in London’s north-east.

The project is called ‘Chip Shop’ and is run by David and Ping* Henningham as part of the London Word Festival. David says he and his wife decided to do screen printing in front of people, so that they can pick the words together with the audience and print them from scratch.

Chip_shop_word“It came about because we were sitting in a chip shop late one night and we realised that everything you need to make a screen print is pretty much there. You’ve got your UV lamps for killing insects, you’ve got oil for frying food, you’ve got a counter, you’ve got newsprint, there’s a heat cabinet – everything was there”.

The Henninghams own an art and bookmaking collective, the Henningham Family Press in Dalston. This is a district in the London borough of Hackney the Guardian described as “the unlikely owner of Britain’s coolest postcode” in April last year. A few months later the newspaper complained Dalston was “too cool for school. Move here and you’ll be as instantly pigeonholed as if you’d moved to Clapham or Hoxton”.

Marie McPartlin also lives in Dalston. She, Sam Hawkins and Tom Chivers are the directors of the London Word Festival. In March three weeks of events at different venues in London’s East End test the limits of words in performance – including spoken word, literature, music, theatre, film and visual art, says Maire. With the Chip Shop Marie and her colleagues brought the London Word Festival to the Red Art Cafe-Bar in the small Hackney district.

“Red Art is a Turkish cafe. There is a big Turkish community in Dalston. Myself and the Henninghams, we eat here regularly. I recommend Turkish breakfast number eight. It’s my personal favourite”, Marie says and laughs.

She and her colleagues are based in different parts of east London and so are the London Word Festival’s venues. “Maybe we’re just lazy. We don’t like to travel too far. But we’re also quite connected to the artistic community here. A lot of the artists we work with are east London based as well. It’s really vibrant here. There’s lots of interesting venues, lots of interesting work and we liked the idea of creating something where it felt like there was a bit of community behind it.”chip-shop_print

The London Word Festival has been running for three years now and is getting more and more attention by the media and the public, says Marie. Sunday’s Chip Shop in Dalston also attracted a number of people. Some ordered a word from the menu. Others, like Anne Black, submitted a new word.

“I picked the word ‘sly’ because I think it’s a funny word and quite short and sweet. I might put the chip board up in my living room or give it too a friend. I’m not quite sure, yet”, Anne says.

She is interested in typography and likes the idea behind this project: “I think it’s a fun idea and a nice way to get people engaged with being playful with words. It’s really accessible and nice to have it in a coffee shop where people are passing by and can just drop in.”

Nia Davies is also fascinated by the Chip Shop: “I like the fact that it really celebrates words. I love words and the way language is used. Giving someone the opportunity to have their word printed on a board to take home really reminds me of the power of words.”

Nia lives in the area and came down to the Red Art Cafe-Bar after having seen an advertisement for the London Word Festival. She says Dalston is an exciting place:

“It’s quite a busy, frenetic place. There are a lot of different communities here and there are also a lot of things going on in terms of art, cinema and music.”

But she also says Dalston is cut off from the rest of London, because the transport situation is not the best at the moment. Soon, however, the East London Line will be completed and will connect Dalston to New Cross, Crystal Palace and West Croyden.

How to get to Dalston:

The buses 243, 149, 67, 76, 38, 277, 30, 56, N76, UL1, and N38 stop at Dalston.

What to do in Dalston:

The Red Art Cafe-Bar with its excellent fresh orange juice and Marie McPartlin’s favourite – the Turkish breakfast number eight – is a great place to eat. Dalston is home to the Vortex Jazz Club and local resident Nia Davies recommends the Passing Clouds.

“It’s an Afro-beat club just down the road. The Haggerston Club, which is in front of Passing Clouds, is really good, too. I love the Arcola Theatre – a little independent theatre. They run some really nice and original productions. And I really like the Rio Cinema, a beautiful 1920s cinema.

Other London Word Festival venues:

Barbican Art Gallery, The Courtyard Theatre, Jamboree, St. Leonard‘s Church, Stoke Newington International Airport, Toynbee Theatre and  Toynbee Studios Arts Bar & Café, Work Dalston

The London Word Festival runs until April 1st.  For more information and tickets see their official website.