Hidden gems of Ilford uncovered through art project

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 December 2014

Artist Lucy Harrison at the free motion sewing event at Regent Home of Sewing in Ilford

Artist Lucy Harrison at the free motion sewing event at Regent Home of Sewing in Ilford


The Ilford Palais nightclub, the Ilford Hippodrome and Fairchilds department store were all famous landmarks in the borough which have now been resigned to history.

The sewing event at Regent Home of SewingThe sewing event at Regent Home of Sewing

While they are mourned by many who visited them, new businesses have sprung up in their place, with areas such as Ilford Lane thriving.

But rather than pitting old against new, artist Lucy Harrison embarked upon a project to celebrate all of the town’s independent companies, both past and present.

The scheme, commissioned through Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure, has seen her man a mobile cabinet in various venues to collect residents’ tales and memories.

Lucy said: “I work on quite a lot of projects around east London and am often commissioned to find out intriguing local stories and the kind of things that might get forgotten if I didn’t record them.

Keira Tubridy, Norma Tubridy and Jennie Caminda from Cheeky Handmades at the sessionKeira Tubridy, Norma Tubridy and Jennie Caminda from Cheeky Handmades at the session

“I was asked to start working in Ilford and think about local businesses. I wanted to collect people’s stories about the town centre which really meant something to them.”

The project has seen Lucy quiz many a shopper on their favourite haunts, as well as people who had connections to venues which no longer exist.

She has also been aided by staff at Redbridge Museum and the library’s Information and Heritage Service.

The artist, who lives in Walthamstow, London, said: “It’s been fantastic and really interesting. I have met a lot of people and some have been in Ilford a very long time; they really remember places like the Palais.

Gillian Lawrence at the event at Regent Home of Sewing in IlfordGillian Lawrence at the event at Regent Home of Sewing in Ilford

“I met some people in their 80s who talked about going there in the 1950s.

“I feel I can imagine all these places now from the descriptions. Ilford has some amazing shops.”

The success of the project has led to the creation of a free guidebook, which tells the story of the town’s music venues, record shops, department stores and more.

It launched on Wednesday at Cafe Moda, in the Bodgers department store, Station Road, and people who part in the scheme attended to share their knowledge and tales.

Artist Lucy Harrison at the sewing eventArtist Lucy Harrison at the sewing event

Lucy has also been running a series of walks and events.

Music lovers have enjoyed a tour of historic record store and nightclub sites, while keen sewers have attended a crafts event at Regent Home of Sewing, in Chapel Road.

Run by Jennie Caminada, who teaches classes through her business Cheeky Handmades, the latter saw participants use sewing machines to “draw” pictures on fabric.

They created Ilford-related items as well as creations to take home with them.

Lucy said: “Regent Sewing is a fantastic shop which has been there for decades. People may think it is not there anymore because Ilford has changed so much, but it is still hanging on.”

The project culminates in an event sharing Lucy’s “hidden gems” of Ilford, which is running from 11am to 1pm today, starting from the Exchange Ilford shopping centre entrance opposite the railway station.

The tour, which will refer to the guidebook, will take in sites such as P.G. Creed hardware store, Tony’s barber shop, sweet shops on Ilford Lane and Asian and Polish supermarkets.

Walkers will also have the opportunity to do some last-minute Christmas shopping along the way.

For Lucy, the scheme has opened her eyes to what the town centre has to offer.

“I have discovered a lot about Ilford and some great places. It was good to see how it has grown over the past few years and it will be interesting to see what happens in the future.”

To book a place for the tour, email or call 07964 878315.

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