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Report - Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium, March 2010

Discussion in 'Leisure Sites' started by analepsis, Mar 24, 2011.

  1. analepsis

    analepsis 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    Visited with Za_Gringo

    Being a lazy disorganized little wretch, I am only just now writing this report a little over a year since these pictures were taken. A halt-footed n00b, with a “greenhorn” holographic sticker still stuck behind my ear, I was keen to get into the Stow ever since I had heard of its closure. It struck me as both poignant and ridiculous that this place should ever have been shut down; Walthamstow Dog Stadium just seemed to be too deeply imprinted into the iconography of London life for this to have happened. Granted, the culture of greyhound racing was in a long decline before the Stow eventually ceased trading. During the heyday there were 33 tracks in London alone, but by 2008, there were only four left. Even so, Walthamstow had an iconic quality that somehow seemed impervious to the various processes that have seen the widespread and ongoing abandonment of theatres, cinemas, bingo halls, dancehalls, and other (re-purposed) social/leisure sites ad nauseum...

    I had actually visited once before, when it was still active, and I loved it; a series of tiny, tiny bets made me enough winnings to cover drinks for the whole night, and I enjoyed listening to the reminiscences of old-timers who'd been regulars there for over 30 years. Ask anyone who went, and almost all of them will tell you it was a great night out. Under bleak late-winter skies, it looked like the setting for a much sorrier tale, although what actually took place was a fair bit more exciting than I anything I'd anticipated as I set out out that morning...

    On first impressions, Walthamstow resounds with loss. As a place which was built to bring people together for leisure and social congregation, now empty, devoid of life and in decline, the experience of the stadium is definitely one to evoke the feeling of historical eclipse. The jaunty steepled kennels, the splendid colour-schemes, and the celebratory Deco architecture, have become sorrowful ciphers of human absence. It's a bit like the murals you find in children's hospitals; all this stuff was created to make people feel happy, to enjoy their time there—or at least to provide some small measure of comfort as they lay in wait of an appendectomy or watched their accumulator collapse in the final race. Yet without human beings in the active-present these places stop being as well. They become something else. Eerie, moribund, suspended in time. It's unsettling. (I realise these observations are pretty old hat, but this was one of the earliest sites where I gleaned these experiences first hand...)

    Although the evidence of decay was minimal, the fungal growth erupting from between the lino, together with a collapsed panel or two that had dropped from the suspended ceiling, suggested that water was getting in, and that conditions might be about to pitch down quite a bit further. That said, the abandoned bar was certainly the spectacular reward of the day; the gaudy, eye-frazzling blocks of red-blue-green-orange made for some exceptionally dynamic pictures. It was a bit of a pity that the furnishings had already been stripped, but this didn't really diminish from the feel of the place too much. The signage, flooring and painting were still mostly immaculate and highly evocative; redolent of another, now lost, era.

    It was as we approached the scoreboard, and (so we hoped) Charlie Chan's nightclub underneath, that things suddenly flipped. From out of nowhere, there was suddenly a dog on the scene. This mutt did not seem at ALL as friendly or as peaceful as 'Lughill Barbara: relaxing at home in Muswell Hill'. This brute was more like an evil neg-Lassie: meaner, bigger, angry; making a LOT of noise. Luckily dogs, no matter how fierce they might be, are not particularly intelligent. By feinting to go one way, then the other, we managed to hold it in place till we'd packed away our tripods and cameras. The next bit was all about timing. Heading for the stairs, we drew the bastard up the steps, and then vaulted over the railing and ran for the tracks...

    I never fully understood the possible limits of irony until the day I found myself racing a dog down the track of a dog stadium. Luckily I won, but by the time I was clambering out of there, the ferocious beast was virtually snapping at my heels. Although the photographic excursion had been cut in half, the hilarity, and the great benefit of a brisk and spontaneous cardio-vascular exercise more than made up for it. I always meant to go back here and pick up some more shots, but never did...

    There's a pressure group who are active in resisting the plan to create yet more demeaning hi-rise cells-for-living in the place of this fine stadium, and to restore it, instead, to its former glory. I really hope they succeed.

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    Thanks for reading.

     
    #1 analepsis, Mar 24, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2011

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