Monday, 17 July 2017

Banana Lil'

“A single image of an ordinary street or family photo can spark memories, stories and conversations bringing the past and participants to life making concerns and thoughts ever present. A family photo, a black and white image of a woman’s great grandmother sat on a chair holding a piece of paper can be recognised by a stranger as ‘Banana Lil’, someone she’d not seen since her childhood in St Ebbe’s between the wars.  The group could then tell previously unknown stories to the woman about her own relative that she could then take away to the rest of her family.”
Kieran Cox

It was wonderful to meet 'Banana Lil's' great-grand daughter, Jen, at the last of our reminiscence sessions at Modern Art Oxford. 'Banana Lil'', also known as 'old mother fire blocks', was a well known character in St Ebbe's. She ran a fruit and vegetable shop on Commercial Road, but drummed up extra custom by selling fruit and veg from a barrow which she wheeled around the streets of St Ebbe's. She was a strong character, shaped by a tough life and a will to survive. Banana Lil' seems to epitomise a certain spirit and character so typical of St Ebbe's. The grit and determination to succeed, and the wry humour with which to laugh away life's knocks and bumps.

Snapshots of St Ebbe's

Another fantastic collection of images and memorabilia has come to light. David Brown spent his childhood in St Ebbe's, moving to Marston in his early teens when St Ebbe's was demolished. He is a keen collector and has gathered a fascinating array of material.

We spent some time looking at a collection of photographs given to David by his friend. These are snapshots taken around St Ebbe's in the early stages of the demolition. Many are of seemingly quite ordinary buildings and places - not necessarily the most attractive parts of St Ebbe's - but at a reminiscence session the significance of these places emerged. It was interesting to see how photos taken by an 'insider' of St Ebbe's - someone who knew the area intimately as a resident - were so evocative for former residents who have rich memories of daily life associated with these places.

Mabel's shop. "It was absolutely packed. If there was anything you wanted you could buy it here!"  

"You see the lamp post on the corner? I remember the lady who lived in this house used to mop the bottom of the lamp post every morning. In case a dog had done a wee on it." 

The back of Paradise Square.

Paradise Street

Paradise Square.

Charles Street (now Turn Again Lane). The two houses on the left were demolished (despite being listed). Oxford Preservation Trust saved the remaining buildings in the terrace. 

Warburtons scrap yard. This space was very important for the community, and particularly for children who would earn pennies for taking bottles, scrap metal, even rabbit skins to the scrap yard. 

Looking up Littlegate Street towards the town centre. Albion Terrace (childhood home of Gillian Williams) is seen on the left. This was sadly demolished, but the garden and vicarage beyond survived.

Corner of Castle Street and Paradise Square.

Luther Terrace

New Street - T Bard & Son was a fish wholesaler.

Speedwell Street

Thames Street with South Oxford School on the right.

Urbansuburban sculpture workshop at Modern Art Oxford

Taking inspiration from Oxford’s ‘Golf ball’ control room for the demolished multi-storey car park, and using the simple construction methods of Charles and Ray Eames kit, known as ‘The Toy’, children and adults collaborated to make large cardboard sculptures in an urbansuburban workshop for Future Knowledge. 

Despite working from a uniform starting point, the outcomes were diverse, exploring architectural ideas, play structures, imaginary spaces, interiors and exteriors. 

We collaged onto the sculptures using archive images from St Ebbe’s, finding interesting ways to relate imagery from the photographs to ideas within the sculptures.

“The Toy” was a self-assembly project made in 1951 by Charles and Ray Eames and sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co. The pieces of “the Toy” came packed in a hexagonal tube and could be used to produce multiple structures, playhouses, theatres and shelters.

The control room of the 1970s Westgate multi-storey car park, known locally as 'The Golf Ball'. This was demolished in 1999 due to degradation of the building and redundant technology. The rest of the site was cleared in 2016.

Workshop photos credit: Kieran Cox