My new EP, “Scrublands” is an ode to the Wanstead Flats, as the idea for the EP was born during long walks on the Flats during the national lockdowns of 2020. The space was such an asset to the Forest Gate community during this time. It is well documented that Newham has less green space than other London Boroughs, and the level of social deprivation means that many people do not have access to outside space such as gardens and balconies. The Wanstead Flats provide a sanctuary for local people, a place to reconnect with nature, and escape from busy city life.
The wildness of the area is in stark contrast to the formality and regimented flower beds of central London parks such as Regent’s and St James’, and it is this wildness and natural beauty that inspired the music.
The opening track, “Route 58”, was born on a laptop on the top deck of the Route 58 bus. My day job is working as a Neurological Physiotherapist in the NHS, and I would often travel from Forest Gate on the 58 when on my way to work in the Emergency Department during the pandemic. In this track, I have tried to capture some of the emotions of making that journey, on a practically empty bus, through the dark, deserted streets.
Track 2, “Wildflower”, is inspired by the meadow of wildflowers that blossomed at the site of a former temporary Covid 19 mortuary facility opposite the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium. The flowers included cornflowers, yellow goat’s beard, German chamomile, cow vetch, meadow pea, corn marigold, common selfheal and oxeye daisies. It felt very appropriate that such a beautiful meadow should blossom one year after the mortuary facility was removed. It felt like a fitting tribute to those who had lost their lives to coronavirus - Newham was one of the London boroughs worst hit by the pandemic.
Track 3, “Skylarks”, contains field recordings of the Skylarks on Wanstead Flats that I recorded on one of my walks, along with synthesisers, chopped samples and live piano and guitar. Finally, the last track on the EP, “Brickfields”, is a tribute to the John Walsh and Fred Wigg tower blocks in Cann Hall, the 15 storey identical twins that grace the skyline of the Flats. It is also a nod to the history of Wanstead Flats as one of London’s brickfields, which is also the subject of a 2021 project by Newham Heritage Month.
An important driver for the project was the work of local artists and photographers such as Natalie Cleur, Ellie Smith and Tony Morrison, who have captured some of the beauty of the Flats in their own unique ways.
Art is so important for communities during challenging times, and their work provides a lasting connection to the landscape that can be taken home and enjoyed during times when being outside is not possible.
You can check out Soundblock's 'Scrublands' EP via Soundcloud and Spotify so stream and support! For further updates follow him on Instagram.