All areas of London have their artistic communities and pockets of cool – east London, most obviously. All except, so the stereotype goes, the west, with its more moneyed, genteel environs. So it’s gratifying (particularly for this W2-raised reviewer) to see a portrait of the neighborhood that offers a more nuanced, informed perspective.
Punk, the Notting Hill riots, the squatters’ rights movements of the ’70s – all these form part of the background to Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s film, shot close to the Showroom itself, just off the Edgware Road, and featuring local residents and musicians. But the main thrust of Dutch artist’s piece reveals how these historical events have parallels with the 2011 riots, as various characters discuss its causes and effects, and the legacy of policing in the area. There’s little in the way of plot, just loose, discursive, seemingly unstructured scenes that take place across three different locations: the Joe Strummer Subway (linking Edgware Road and Harrow Road, where The Clash’s lead singer used to busk); nearby Paddington Green police station (where UK terror suspects are detained); and an expensive-looking music studio where the likes of Duran Duran recorded in the ’80s. These spaces form a kind of symbolic backdrop against which different experiences and anecdotes are shared – local stories, of course, but inevitably perspectives from further afield too, given the diversity and hybridity of nationalities in this corner of London.
Along the way, MCs spit incredible verses about political resistance, revolutionary slogans get masking-taped on to subway walls, and conversations cover subjects ranging from race to social activism to media representation. A mixture of the scripted and spontaneous, van Oldenborgh’s film offers fascinating, intelligent tidbits without coming to any sort of conclusion. Yet its open-endedness is partly the point. It presents lived experience as something that defies neat or stereotypical summary – despite the attempts of police profiling and government regulation.