We never thought we’d be saying this but Keith Goldhanger has now reviewed every live event he’s attended over the past five months. We sent him to cover The Leytonstone Unplugged Festival as we knew it would be right up his street.

One piece of advice that I was given when first moving to the capital in the early 1980’s was to avoid reading the local newspapers. That warning turned into curiosity and within the first month I realised how close you could be to (local) newsworthy events such as cars crashing across pavements into the local Pizza Hut (10 minutes I reckon) or massive street fights at the nearest bus stop (thirty minutes I’d guess) or any other variations of stuff you wouldn’t tell your parents about when calling home. These were events one may have been totally oblivious to had the copy of The Kilburn Times simply remained on the shelf in the corner shop instead of being the bearer of news that one reader could have done without learning.

Nowadays of course we have community Facebook pages. The street my front door is on is not the street address that appears on my letters (usually about the unpurchased TV Licence). The street on the door side of the house actually has its own residents page (nothing to do with the American Art collective with about 50 albums under their belt in case you were wondering). There must be about five houses that actually sit on this road and it has just railway arch workshops on the other side of the road. I can now read on these pages people’s complaints about the noise from the garages located under the railway line (doesn’t bother me) and the car with the loud radio (as long as it’s not for more than ten minutes I can live with it – I even managed to Shazam a Linton Kwesi Johnson track from it one afternoon). One woman (Lillian) doesn’t realise the consequences of moaning about the drug dealers that turn up about twice a year at one end of the road. Whenever they are there, her Facebook posts that I believe are of genuine concern for the welfare of the neighbourhood just make her the equivalent of a bell on an ice cream van for those partial to a choc ice at ten o’clock in the evening. I started using this Facebook page to ask if someone could confirm the days the binmen call around (or don’t). This sort of behaviour eventually leads to looking at the page again in order to hopefully get confirmed that the buzzing sound coming from above sounding like a helicopter is not-surprisingly an actual helicopter. This can usually be followed by someone else in the community stepping in and will add to the events unravelling by using a device they have and posting a screen shot that shows how long it’s been hovering for and where it came from which in turn will lead to someone else explaining why it’s hovering above. Within five minutes someone else will be describing how they managed to find a bloke in their back garden, with an expensive bike over his shoulders and let everyone know where all other stolen items have been found, to the colour of the jacket the culprit who is still on the run somewhere in our back garden was last seen wearing. Our grandparents used to just lean on the fence and tut loudly when this shit was going on. I miss that behaviour.

Then one Thursday whilst considering getting some advice on how to get a residents parking permit for when friends visit, I read about a music festival five minutes down the road in tow days time.

Leytonstone unplugged is an event thrown together in order to raise funds and awareness for the Musicians Union hardship fund & Leytonstone Mutual Aid, which involves various front gardens in the local area playing host to local musicians not even I’d heard of.
Any excuse.
I’m there with bells on.

This could be terrible, there seem to be one or two acts with ‘Ukulele’ or ‘Flamenco guitar’ descriptions in brackets after performers names and after a little research it’s decided to not prepare for this as is usual before all day events and just dive in head first, have a walk around the streets that benefit from our council tax and see what the locals have come up with. The aim is to get home with at least one act being researched further.

That’s all some of us ask for at the moment and I think we got it.

These garden venues are about a five-minute walk away from each other, the chip shop is open, we can pop home for a cup of tea (its actually too cold to crack open the beers) or to use the loo and we keep having to pinch ourselves to remind ourselves we’re at a live musical event that we haven’t had to pay to get into. A past time that one of us hasn’t experienced for nearly half a year.

Crazy times, high on life and if things couldn’t get better the event also clashes with a jumble trail, therefore, piles of ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ CD’s’ are available on various brick walls or carefully constructed tables with just 25p stickers blemishing the still pristine front covers. It’s a day out, we can buy stuff like a Frank Skinner autobiography and an Orient V Stevenage FA Cup second round matchday program (1996) and still get change for a quid (took the kid ages to get me my change mind). I was at that match. Peter Shilton was in goal for The O’s. He conceded a soft goal after 29 seconds and should have been sent off during what was a roaring cup atmosphere. It was the visitor’s big day out, they were non- league at the time and there’d been a delayed Kick Off so everyone could get in. Stevenage won the tie and it had been an entertaining afternoon in E10.

Popping home for a jumper today is like popping back to your tent. It’s a festival. And it’s the first one of the year, there is no queue at the chip shop and the weather is rubbish. Festivals, however you dress them up, especially during bank holiday weekends in August don’t usually end well. This one did though, and it was nice to get back home and switch on the heating at the end of what wasn’t really a gruelling afternoon out but one in which was certainly a nice break from watching another four episodes of Shameless.

First stop is (Number disclosed) Fairlop Rd. In the driveway is a small table with a flask of coffee on it and an official looking man in a fluorescent jacket leaning against the neighbours recycling bin. In the driveway are also three blokes with acoustic guitars being barked at by a dog and occasionally being drowned out by a passing W15 bus on its way to Hackney. This is good stuff this trio are doing. Harmonies not a million miles from those we fell in love with from Goldheart Assembly a few years ago. The whole show is witnessed and on leaving it’s discovered that the name that cannot be forgotten for later investigation is FORTY ELEPHANT GANG (Top Pic / Video below)

The rest of the afternoon is spent walking around the familiar streets that at least one of us has been getting to know very well since lockdown. Seeing these streets with small crowds (up to 30 people at one point) gathered in the street is a nice thing to see although there’s still too many people greeting each other with kisses and hugs for comfort. Many of these people may not have seen each other since the clapping for the NHS ceased to be a weekly event, an event that really should not have stopped. At the very least we’d be able to locate some of our current leaders of this country if they were made to applaud from whatever holiday homes these people were currently residing.

This all seemed to run quite smoothly. A series of greatly organised events in driveways, on doorsteps, in small front gardens and large front gardens, one or two shows took place under a gazebo in between a couple of big hedges and one house in Colworth Road was utilised for just one inhabitant, an opera singer to nonchalantly step out of his front door at 15.40 hrs sharp (as advertised), stand in his front yard (he never even bothered to close the door so some of us could see right down his hallway) and display his talent in the only way he could. Stephen Douse – opera singer was all it said on the web site -It’s all some of us needed to know – we were there with a minute to spare. he was great and probably had the smallest overheads any performer at a festival may have ever had. But why 15.40hrs? we asked when leaving……we never found out.

At (number disclosed) Woodriffe Road, Danny Jones (Singer & Guitar according to the web site and fortunately not the one out of Mcfly with the same name)  is entertaining a number of people standing out on the pavement with some sweet acoustic numbers. Some friends inform me his father used to be in Liverpool band The Spinners. We’re learning stuff as the day goes by that we may not have known had we not left to the warmth of our living rooms today.

A garden at (Number disclosed) Chadwick Road has a capacity of about 4 people plus about 5 more who could stand outside on tip toes, looking through a hedge on the other side of a wall grinning and at one point clapping along to what I believe are very obscure cover versions played by a duo who’s name we didn’t catch.

By 6pm it was all over and bikes carrying the odd double bass and the odd tiny amplifier (so much for everyone adhering to the unplugged bit on the posters) were slowly departing the area and heading back to who knows where and the streets were quickly back to how they usually are on a Wednesday morning (except we put our bins out on Wednesdays).

This is something any neighbourhood could do. All it takes is half an hour on Facebook and before you know it anyone and everyone will be out there at their allocated stage times.

At least one of us gets home, cuts the hedge and starts thinking about a potential line up in his own back yard for whenever this is to happen again. Leaning against my own green bin’s dreams are hatched and images of the dusty road full of cars waiting for their MOT’s and resprays plus a few dozen or so of my own acquaintances tapping their toes to some of the people I could collate together get me thinking…….

I’d need to sort out the state of the toilets first though.

Words by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).

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