Introduction by The Forest Editor Aiden:
"Though fly tipping in Newham has been a persistent problem of late, if you've been out and about in Forest Gate you may have clocked some mattress murals and anti-government sprayed slogans giving abandoned mattresses a new lease of life. These are the work of community campaigner Jan Holloway who when not fighting the cause for our Newham brothers and sisters, also DJs under her Aunty Asbo alias at local haunts including The Forest Tavern and our community station Tracks.
Jan's no-nonsense, anti-gentrification approach ain't for the faint-hearted ("Death to Hipsters" haha you lookin' at me Jan?!) but we align with her local grassroots guerrilla activism and socially-conscious support of marginalised communities - not to mention a shared love of Grace Jones!
Here's her local love letter harkin' back to her early days in the E7 environ and building community connection."
My life in Forest Gate:
My husband Paul and I moved from Stoke Newington to Forest Gate to get away from the yuppies and to buy our first home.
I remember Paul had arranged a house viewing here and my response was "I ain't going rural!"
However, Forest Gate was similar to Acton where I grew up and Wanstead Flats was a lovely green space not a housing estate. So our life here began...
The Working & Raving Years
When we moved here I was doing my first (and last) management job so what with that and getting a mortgage balance was required so I ran off to Hackney and got my first tattoo.
We both worked in NHS and Social Services for many years working mainly with people with mental health issues. This was rewarding but hard and serious work so, once again, balance was required. We did our fair share of partying... House parties with mixtapes, and raving at the Institute of Goa (now a Wetherspoons) and Clays Lane (now the Olympic Park). It was at Clays Lane I got a taste for Drum'n'Bass in my mid 40s. Took a bit of convincing the chaps in De Underground Forest Gate's very own Drum'n'Bass studio and record shop to sell me a CD that i still play today.
The other Forest Gate highlights of those times was getting banned from the karaoke at the Eagle & Child (now Woodgrange Pharmacy - those who know will know what an achievement that was).
Fast forward a bit to 2005 following a tough day at work I went off and got a cheap package of CD players and a mixer. Cheered me up no end so much so I was bold enough to do parties and some pub gigs no bedroom DJing for me!
My niece Aimee gave me my DJ name Aunty Asbo. I went on to do monthly nights in Whitechapel for seven years called Asbogrooves and mainly attended by NHS workers who knew how to party. I also did a couple of nights locally at Johnny Rocco's bar of Awesome (now Tracks). Much of our socialising was outside of Forest Gate.
The Idle Years & Connecting With The Local Community
I retired in 2017 from working for 37 years as an Occupational Therapist. It was liberating and exciting plus Paul and I had a great trip to New Zealand with more travels on the horizon...
Then the pandemic hit. Everything shut down - no travelling, no parties, no DJing, no socialising, no nothing! We felt robbed of the recently won freedom of retirement.
Our world shrunk in an instant to just Forest Gate.
However Forest Gate came up trumps in so many ways. Our local shop Caner Supermarket spontaneously offered to deliver without us asking. They are so kind and its a great shop. We got to know our neighbours better through going for walks and moaning about the low traffic neighbourhood in its teething stages
Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020 at the hands of the police, we joined an anti racist action group which holds a weekly vigil to remember black people in the USA and UK who have died in police custody. We also have discussions and take part in various actions . We have made some good friends in this group.
In 2021 a local artist Michael Nash initiated a covid safe art trail called Newham Lockdown Window Art. It was really inclusive and the artists were very encouraging and a big bonus I met the lovely Hazel Goldman. We also go to free samba classes and were encouraged by one of our class mates to join Eco 7 environmental action group focusing on the issues with rubbish on our streets.
This nicely connects to my latest activity which is spray painting discarded mattresses.
It started when there were four mattresses on our road for about four weeks around Christmas time so I sprayed "Bah Humbug" on one which got removed within 48 hours and so it began... I get mattress alerts these days!
Finally I have started DJing again thanks to Tracks. I never thought this would happen again as I was now a flipping bedroom DJ. I sent Aiden at Tracks an email to ask if I could have a go. I've had a few slots since then and it's a great place to DJ - they have great equipment and are very supportive.
Another bonus has been meeting the Chill Mill crew a great collective of DJs who play great music and bring a lovely vibe. I went to one of their sessions and have ended up playing slots with them too.
So, far from robbing us of the joy of retirement Covid gave us the gift of new connections with our community and making new friends - who needs to go globe trotting when you've got Forest Gate!
You can catch Jan DJing at Tracks on Friday 4th November and if you see any mattresses on the streets you can hit her up on firstname.lastname@example.org