East End Film Festival – Curzon Aldgate – Sunday 25th June 2017.
The West End glittered and the City was wealth but Whitechapel hid its stories in shadows. Once on the outer margins it was the edgelands where its myths skulked in dark doorways and alleys, its inhabitants were the city’s voiceless, mute, unable to comment on what they saw around them. In the refurbished East End these traces are being erased and replaced with plazas and towers of stainless steel and self-cleaning glass. The dark places are being displaced and pushed out to new edgelands.
In the blackness of a packed cinema in a regenerated Whitechapel the East End Film Festival debut screening of My Name is Swan put a rent in the fabric of the “improved” city to give a glimpse of loss and displacement. In the hushed auditorium an audience that had seemed out of place on the water feature washed street are now at ease. These are night people. Nocturnal urbanites. Musicians and artists on the edges of accepted taste.
“My Name Is Swan,” declares Jan Noble, “Where I know I’m not wanted, this is where I belong.” His epic tale tells of the edges, the periphery of the city and those on its margins. Adam Carr’s accompanying film, part Night of The Hunter part Robinson in Space takes us along the narrow-ways and rivers starfull and bible-black, litter glittering like supernovae. The film is a contemplative meditation on the marginalised. “There are corners of this water known only to itself.” In the still black waters of My Names Is Swan the audience watches its reflection. “My Name is Swan,” reaffirms Jan Noble to close his epic.
From the cinema darkness, we step blinking into streets without a trace of the night and follow the old street pattern to Aldgate’s The White Swan. “My Name is Swan,” states Noble to silence the crowded pub. We listen to him deliver his epic in its natural habitat. The pub staff mute the wide screen television that flickers above him. “One of many ready to fly out to the sound of breaking glass, to the sound of sirens wailing, to the boom of a white wing beating” he implores as a 24-hour news channel shows silent fast cut images of Teresa May, Parliament, Grenfell Tower and its tearful displaced speechless above him. “One of many ready to fly out to the sound of breaking glass.” The news channel a cacophonous colourful anti-image to Carr’s black and white serenity. “You will never know the secrets of Swan,” whispers Noble.
In the dusk of the summer evening, the traces of old Whitechapel re-emerge in the shadows and the litter in the canals glitters in the darkening light. Still waters run deep.
Johnny Dark – July 2017.