“Words on the street”


Redbridge Council has commissioned Jan Kattein Architects to deliver an art audio trail that celebrates the high streets in Wanstead, Woodford and South Woodford. Felicity Barbur reports

We want to hear your local high street stories! Our Walk Local Talk Local project – which will see the creation of three temporary public art audio trails – is being funded by the European Regional Development Welcome Back Fund and hopes to encourage people back into the town centres over the next six months.

A sense of belonging is intrinsically linked to the stories people associate with the place where they live. High streets are full of stories of growing up and meeting family and friends; stories of a first job, stories of social interactions and of experiencing the physical transformation of the places we live.

Walk Local Talk Local aims to reconnect people with the borough’s high streets after two years of unprecedented disruption through narratives that are set in the past, present and future. Three art trails (Woodford to Wanstead, Gants Hill to Hainault and Ilford Lane to Chadwell Heath) will combine physical, temporary on-site artwork interventions with a digital audio experience. Together, the combination of a rich audio archive with a sequence of physical ‘gateways’ will reveal stories about the area’s hidden history, explore the deeply personal memories embedded in these streets, and capture some of the energy and imagination that will drive their future.

The Woodford to Wanstead trail launched at the end of April, and will be added to over the coming months. Each art trail will stitch together multiple public spaces and the people who have lived within them across time, drawing from local contributors to give the specific narratives that define places pinpointed on the trails. At first, people tuning in will hear again from each other whilst slowly hearing the stories of what happened locally pre-COVID, the stories of what is happening locally now and what will happen locally in the future. This will be a first of its kind to showcase how people simplify and map a city’s urbanism through spatially engaging events, social phenomena and transient activity. None of which are directly visible on geospatial maps, but in the context of Redbridge’s public spaces is plentiful and is worth revealing.

We are devising the art trails through conversations with local people. We are either recording informal conversations or receiving voice notes of pre-recorded stories we can then translate into a series of anonymous anecdotal podcasts that will be accessed through physical artwork QR codes along the trail. If you are interested in contributing a story or two about your experiences and memories of Woodford, we want to hear from you as soon as possible.

For more information and to take part in the project, visit walklocaltalklocal.com or call 07943 060 481