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30 Pavillion Mansion, 10 Brighton Terrace
London
United Kingdom

The Midnight Run is a walking, arts-filled, night-time cultural journey through a city. It gathers strangers and local artists/activists to explore, play and create whilst the city sleeps.

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Busking in Walthamstow

TheMidnightRun

- BY MNR CONTRIBUTOR, NICOLAS ROUGER


We walked up and down the market twice this morning before deciding on a spot next to a key cutting stall. No one peddles rumba or reggaeton here, there is no Bollywood music, only the occasional whining and grinding sound of metal on metal, skilled hands moving in unison, reproducing stainless steel enigmas, welcome home guv’. 

In the keymaker’s truck, an illustration:

‘Don’t ask for discounts because a smack in the gob often hurts.’

This is Walthamstow: where the East End is entrenched, separated from Hackney by the Marshes, unfillable wetlands on which cows sometimes still graze. An ultimate moat to discourage manicured face-bushes and winning software ideas from travelling further East. Working, raw, Walthamstow. Schooled by ‘onest ‘ard knocks, it is familiar then foreign again, every generation. 

Today, the noises of the High Street rhyme to our beat. It’s a weekday, but the longest street market in Europe (or so they say) is lively as usual. It is a ‘£1-a-bowl’ kind of market, where pennies are traded for plastic toys, knock-off pret-a-porter and everyday wares.

I turn to the banjo player. He plucks the strings and strums the chords; I’m on the sax, blowing a tune of another age. It’s time to collect Pennies From Heaven On the Sunny Side of the Street. The novelty quickly passes, but I see a few sterling smiles amongst the stallholders: music attracts the spender.

Tunes run into another, we’ve dug a groove into the landscape. As a rule, the only people to dance are the intoxicated and small children, with opposite reactions on our potential fee-paying clients. A man sporting a small, dishevelled dog, kissing the end of a rollie, bobs his head along to the changes. Street dandy, lying nonchalantly against a public bin, he pulls out a phone, makes some calls, then shouts conspiratorially: ‘I’m gonna make you some money, boys!’ His smile is golden under superfluous sunglasses. 

A man and a woman, both in their thirties, start to set up shop across from us. They speak to each other excitedly in English that smells of Red Bricks, Celsius and Fahrenheits trickling down their bloodline. The Man, wearing sensitive quality footwear, looks over at me and throws me a thumbs-up. Why not a pound coin, brother?

On their table, papers and stickers and other indiscernible political goods bearing the recognisable brand of local celebrity (hashtag)WilliamMorris. They hang a banner, a slogan suddenly flies in the wind, singing Walthamstow’s praises, talking of change. Together, we can reclaim our future, is it not bright!  

‘Surprised they let you set up here, mate.’

A trader has come over, fingering the couple’s flyers. Their shades gradually turn to red as they try to explain: our mission is…; the community can…; the processes of change are…; there is so much to…; we will if… ‘That’s all well and good, right, but this ain’t your spot, see? Ali over there, he’s been here for 12 years, and still can’t get a spot as good as this.’ Sir, try to…; we are working for…; we represent the…; there are issues that…; we can…; we are not selling these things to make money! ‘So what you doing here, then?’

The market manager must have been called, as someone comes around looking official. A discussion ensues. It Don’t Mean A Thing If You Ain’t Got That Swing, says the wind in my lungs, and I can’t control it, my solo sounds a bit Disney. Trading without a licence is illegal on the market. We talked to someone at…; you see, this is something for…; there is no…; but give us a minute to… The manager is unfazed: rules are rules. Rules work. They will have to pack up, or should he call the cops? The Banjo player looks up at the commotion just as the official turns his head. They cross eyes, and their brows move in opposite directions. Our status here is uncertain at best. 

The Woman wields a smartphone and diverts the official’s attention: there is no need for a licence if we sell papers! These are papers! And our stall is less than 1 metre long! These are the rules, it says so here on your website!

Conflict does not last. The Great British reconciler comes. We are all equal under pouring rain, and trader, official, Busker, Man and Woman all run for cover. The Banjo Player and I find ourselves sitting in front of a steaming bowl of Borscht. A bulky builder, blazing, bluntly blurts out: ‘Don’t you love the English weather?’

The Banjo Player is silent but my mind streams consciousness. I’m searching. There are many cities like it but this one is mine. It is dysfunctional and colourful, and it is sophisticated about swearing. New people move in, bring a better quality of lager; old people move out, often leaving a part of their heritage behind.

The rain will wash out the clouds and soon will come a red sunset over the Marshes. Sax lying across its case, I will drink a Polish Zubr and think of cockney songs I learned from a knees-up, two months ago. Soon, the Tube will be open 24 hours a day. This changes everything. Again


Originally from Brittany, France, Niko lives and works in Walthamstow, London. He is a saxophone player, who has been seen playing in the streets of cities across Europe, as well as large festivals and a host of London venues. He likes wondering through the city to soak up impressions of otherness, convinced that we need to make a bigger place for the artistic process in our political lives. 

 

The Living City: London Street Art

TheMidnightRun

- BY MNR CONTRIBUTER, MARIE CAHALANE

London could just be another city – but it’s not, its very streets remind us of its unique identity. From the highways, down which we pass on the way to somewhere, to the little known by-ways that connect London. Doubling as an open and free gallery, London’s streets never fail seduce and excite the urban adventurer with a myriad of public and street art – some political, some satirical, some witty, and some just beautiful.

Well known British artist Banksy has made London his unofficial canvas for over ten years. Invader has left his pixelated mark everywhere from Lambeth to Hackney. Robbo tackled locations such as Camden (and artists such as Banksy), you can spot BC1 brightening up the waterways of Hackney Wick, Cept in Hoxton and Insect’s work can be spotted in the infamous Soho area, and this is to name but a few.

This artistic freedom did not develop overnight, it has been a slow evolution: the Graffiti of the 1980s inspired the Street Art of the 1990s that has since permeated all areas of London.

Part of the lure is that Street Art only ever feels temporary. It is unpredictable, ever challenges the status quo and, once in the public domain, even if commissioned, it is exposed to urban life – subject to its reverence and ravages.

If you want to tap into this pure London culture there are hubs where Street Art reigns supreme. Shoreditch, Brick Lane, and Spitafields, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, all in the East, have thriving Street Art scenes where it is often difficult to discern where a building starts and art stops. This is due in part to the artistic communities that have made their homes in these areas and the galleries that have been born as a result.

Shoreditch, in particular, has become an active gallery, featuring artists like Paul Vision and pieces like The Mural by Burning Candy. It’s a place to be seen and to get exposure, and a place to make a statement whether you are an emerging or established artist.

Camden too boasts a healthy serving of Street Art, its counter culture a natural draw for artists. With railway lines, bridges, canals and umpteen abandoned buildings it is prime real estate for the street artist. The effect of this can be seen everywhere, from minute stickers to large scale mural and incorporated into the architecture. If you want to absorb something of Camden’s creative character then you needn’t look farther than its streets. Top this off with a trip to Regent’s Canal where you will find a vandalised Banksy (courtesy of Robbo).

 

Street Art extends is more than a reflection of culture, it is a personal reflection of a community, with a power to give a voice and to rejuvenate an area. In Walthamstow, the Wood Street Walls project brings artists to Walthamstow to create big impact pieces. Internationally renowned artist Conor Harrington recently wrapped up his offering on Ray Dudly Way. This is art in the public domain, art for the people. And as a representation of a community, it is met as much with praise as it is with criticism.

The power of street art is its visibility. Consider Brixton – ever a vibrant and creative hub. When Brixton arches were threatened Street Artists came together to send a message to authorities, and did so on the facades of the very businesses affected.

Taken out of the context of the traditional gallery space Street Art has an alternative dynamic, a power: existing in the public domain, it cannot help but make a statement, be it a revolt against authority, political commentary, or admiration for them.

My advice: venture forth and embark on your own journey of discovery, who knows what you might uncover (or take advantage of one of the many tours that are run throughout the city!


Marie’s love for travel has taken her to South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and included a stint teaching in China for a year.  Her passion for arts and culture keeps her busy on various projects. While suffering from perpetual itchy feet, she currently pursues a career in PR & Marketing in London and is on a mission to explores its subcultures.

Theatre N16: A Play, A Pint and Fair Pay

TheMidnightRun

- BY MNR CONTRIBUTOR, HATTIE LONG


Tucked away above The White Hart pub in Stoke Newington, upstairs from the trendy North East London regulars, is one of the most exciting new theatre spaces to open in London in recent months. At the time of writing, Theatre N16 has been putting on shows for less than a week, but already their varied and exciting programme suggests an assuredness about them that one might expect from a more established fringe theatre.

It is not just their programming that is worth paying attention to, but the ideology behind the theatre itself.  There is a distinct focus on working with up and coming practitioners, allowing them to work in a space with fewer financial overheads to deal with – a major restriction for many young directors and performance makers. With cuts to the Arts Council and the imminent closure of Ideas Tap, emerging creatives need help now more than ever to start building the foundations of their future careers. The clichés are true, young people are the future and without the opportunity to stretch their creative wings the arts will become stagnant and even more elitist.  As a result of this emphasis on new talent, Theatre N16 is indirectly aimed at a younger demographic than perhaps the more established institutions without being specifically tailored or patronising.

The audience the theatre makers bring in with them and who may relate to them the most are likely to be of a similar age; it is this kind of environment that is important for theatre-goers and makers alike, offering an alternative to the larger, stuffier establishments that some may find off-putting. In some small way Theatre N16 offers a potential challenge to the stranglehold that the upper-middle classes have over the arts, with many of those in positions of authority coming from privileged backgrounds. By providing opportunity to those who might otherwise be unable to afford it, Jamie and his team offer hope for a greater level of equality in the creative industries.

As Theatre N16 do not charge upfront costs, they are wholly reliant on box office takings for their survival. Joint artistic director Jamie Eastlake explains that there have been a lot of highs and lows so far during the opening season: “It’s a very small team so we don’t have much in terms of energy or finances left over for marketing. We’re almost completely reliant on word of mouth”. Given its slightly out of the way location, finding a local audience is proving to be the main challenge that could make or break this fledgling organisation. It’s a matter of persuading the population to forgo the bars and clubs further down Kingsland road in favour of some theatre, which although difficult is by no means impossible. Theatre N16 have the talent and perseverance, now they just need the luck.

If all goes well, they hope to begin programming their next season in June ready for Fringe previews in July and August. Their current run of shows finishes on 30th May with a theatrical extravaganza of six plays and readings rounding off their debut festival. Fingers crossed they will have made enough to be able to continue the good work started this month. This tiny room over a pub could prove to be something special.


Hattie is a music and arts journalist currently studying English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London. She harbours an addiction to chocolate hobnobs. Read more at her blog https://hattiel.wordpress.com & follow on Twitter @batty_hattie

Communication in the Age of Tube Trains

TheMidnightRun

- By MNR Contributor, Victoria-Anne Bulley


The burden of ceaseless contact with strangers spawns a strange breed of communication – a comparatively new form, in the grand scheme of things. It manifests itself in headphones plugged firmly into ears, and eyes downcast, or averted onto advertisement placards. What else can you do when personal space is a concept that cannot survive on the tube? Occasionally though, lives collide and we begin to communicate in the old-fashioned manner. A conversation is struck up and pleasantries are exchanged, before ending upon a light joke and farewell, all of this lingering with us like a breath of clean, leadless air that we thought did not exist underground. Strangers are humans too, it says. Something we know, but don’t often feel, about people – especially when we can’t escape them. 

The day after the general election result, on my way to an exam too-poorly prepared for, I boarded a Hammersmith and City Line train at Liverpool Street. It had been raining that day, but the lady two seats to my left didn’t look like ‘inclement weather’ meant something to her. Dressed as though she’d come in from the beach, her airy vest top and skirt were pastel coloured while flip-flops hung laxly off her feet. It was the early afternoon. I wondered if, maybe, she lived so far outside of the city that she’d actually gotten on before it had started to rain. Meanwhile, at Moorgate, a young man with a backpack boarded the carriage, dishevelled, breaking enough of that unspoken sit-still Tube protocol to make his presence felt peripherally. A second man, much older than the first, passed by begging. The lady in flip-flops watched him, then turned to me – or anybody immediately to her right, it seemed – as she gestured and said:

‘It’s getting so bad, this. Happening more and more now. It’s devastating.’

Backpack man quipped, unsympathetically, ‘How did he even get on?’

I shot him darts for eyes, then turned to the lady and said that I guess now we had at least another half-decade of this to come. She laughed in agreement. Her demeanour was easy and light, a calm accepting manner which suggested that it wouldn’t put a damper on her day to walk home in the rain whilst dressed for sun. A flip-flops state of mind.

‘You’re exactly right there. Honestly, good luck to us all now’, she replied. 

The train pulled away from Farringdon with us in silence again. I wanted someone else in the carriage to dare to join the conversation. It would have been oddly cathartic to hear someone break their stiff-upper-lip and declare that, actually, this homelessness was not some bottom-end consequence of politics, and then defend themselves. Each newspaper strewn across seats waxed on repetitively about the ‘shock’ of the election result, as if to ask in semi-feigned disbelief, who did this? Yet the same old real-time train silence remained. Perhaps voting had now become a subversive act, something hushed. Dishonest. Don’t ask, don’t tell, and don’t speak about it on the Tube. Backpack man shuffled his belongings irritably. Flip-flop lady spoke again:

‘You know what? If that man had not walked past us, not one of us on this train would have spoken to one another. But look what’s just happened.’

She smiled. I smiled with her and agreed. It was true, but sadly so: a poor man to teach us to talk? It had come to this. Others in the carriage looked on, still wordless and unwilling. I stood up to leave. Kings Cross arrived, and so I wished her a good day.

'Thank you’, she said. ‘And you, sweetheart. Enjoy the next five years.’ 


Victoria-Anne Bulley is a writer and poet based in London.    

She is a member of the Burn After Reading and Barbican Young Poets collectives, and has been commissioned to write and perform at a range of London locations including the Southbank Centre and the Royal Academy of Arts. She tweets as @victorianabulls, and records late-night bursts of words at victorianaadukwei.wordpress.com.

The Midnight Run European Tour - #MNRlight2015

TheMidnightRun

Unless you've hiding on under a rock for the past 2 weeks, you'll know that we've got some blooming AMAZING events coming up this summer. Here's the lowdown for The Midnight Run European Tour 2015. 

WHATS #MNRlight2015 ALL ABOUT?

Back in January The Midnight Run team and our european partner CCT-SeeCity headed out to La Ville Lumiere (Paris) to attend UNESCO's opening conference for the International Year of Light 2015. It was here we learned more about our incredible charity partner for these events Liter of Light Italia. Liter of Light is a solar energy non-profit who's mission is to bring low-cost solar  energy light to disaster zones and developing areas across the world.

Working in conjunction with Liter of Light, UNESCO has named us an official event partner for their International Year of Light. 50% of all tickets sold from our European tour will go to funding the work Liter of Light's project work in East Senegal. Watch the video below to see what we're undertaking. 

THE COUNTDOWN IS ON

Our first event kicks off in bella Roma May 23. Make sure your following on Facebook & Twitter to see all the action unfold. Here are the full tour dates for you diary. 

  • ROME 23 MAY 

  • MADRID  20 JUNE

  • LONDON 18 JULY

  • BERLIN 15 AUGUST 

  • PARIS 12 SEPTEMBER

As always we'll be joined by 5 artists local to each city, bringing their individual artistic activations to our MNRunners. Prepare for our best summer of adventure yet. Those based in London are in for an extra special event on July 18. More will be revealed on that very soon. 
 

HOW CAN I BE A PART OF #MNRlight2015?

It's time to share the love. We would love to get as many of you involved with our summer as possible. Make sure your subscribed to our mailing list to hear all our events updates first. 
If you'd like to join the MNR team as an artist, volunteer, writer... click here to drop us a line.
Don't be shy, come and say hello on Facebook & Twitter  

More news coming soon!