Between the Storeys is a collaboration between Poet in the City and Culture Mile, using poetry and film to animate the stories, histories and experiences of different communities living within the Smithfield area.
From encounters with skeletons deep beneath the Museum of London, to skyline views from brutalist tower blocks, Smithfield life weaves up, down and in-between the parallel layers of living that exist across the local community. Discover new poems and films that echo the collective voices of a community: early morning meat market moments; snippets from the school yard; the rhythm fuelled roar of ravers at Fabric.
Over the course of six months, a trio of celebrated poets Murray Lachlan Young, Imtiaz Dharker and Joshua Idehen were commissioned to delve into life at Smithfield; engaging with its inhabitants, industries and architecture, and producing three poems reflecting what they found.
These poems have been brought to life by film-maker Charlotte Ginsborg in the form of three exciting poetic films, featuring local people and places as the backdrop to her narrative.
Watch the Films
Murray Lachlan Young – Community of Souls
Community of Souls creates a vivid picture of local life by amplifying the experiences and everyday interactions of people living, working and passing through the Smithfield area.
Community of Souls seeks to explore the ways in which community is fighting to survive in the face of a growingly impersonal world often more concerned with profits than with people. It illustrates the ways in which gentrification and commercialisation are dismantling age-old community spaces and celebrates places in which this sense of ‘togetherness’ can still be found.
Film-maker Charlotte Ginsborg uses vivid portraiture to capture the faces of the community – nurses, school children, the inhabitants of St Luke’s Community centre – many of which are featured in the lines of the poem itself. Local areas such as Golden Lane Estate, Fortune Park, St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Smithfield Market all also featured throughout the video.
Murray Lachlan Young’s poetry career began in the underground poetry/cabaret nights of mid-nineties London. Word of his unique style of writing and performing soon spread, and he was signed by EMI in a recording deal that saw him dubbed, for a while, the ‘Million Pound Poet’. He has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live, Radio 5 Live and Test Match Special. Since 2011 Murray has been resident poet at BBC Radio 6 Music and has collaborated with artists including Morcheeba.
Joshua Idehen – Began in Fabric
The poem vocalises the importance of nightlife in facilitating a place for people to meet and make new connections, a place for release and ordered chaos, such as can be found throughout history.
Idehen uncovers the foundations on which Fabric, one of London’s oldest and most authentic nightclubs was built – on the remnants of a literal fabric market – and begins to draw parallels between the goings on of the market, and those of the club. Famously shut down in 2016, before reopening the following year, Fabric is an echo of the hustle and bustle of market trade, where raucous behaviour and debauchery would have been a given.
The imagery of the film plays heavily on this comparison between the daily trade seen at the meat market and the carnality of club culture, where flesh is laid bare and sold to the highest bidder. The poem weaves in conversations Idehen had with a number of different people: ravers in the Fabric smoking area at 7am, music journalists, market traders, and tour guides, each with a unique perspective on the importance of Smithfield life after the sun sets.
Joshua Idehen is a poet, musician, workshop facilitator and founder of poetry/music magazine Poejazzi. Josh has performed at Fabric alongside electro-dub outfit LV and is the frontman of ‘fro funk band Benin City. The death of London nightclubs and celebrating nightlife culture features heavily in his work.
Imtiaz Dharker – Underlines/Overheard
The poem speaks as the multi-tonal voice of the city, articulating the stories that dwell within the cracks in the walls, tucked away in street corners, buried deep beneath the earth. It envisions the different souls that have passed through the space, the ways their presence has influenced the shape and sound of Smithfield, and the traces they have left behind.
Dharker was particularly interested in the history of Smithfield, the way the old lived beneath the new, the past interacted with the present. The film Charlotte Ginsborg created in response to the poem reflects this, following the journey of a wandering soul dressed in medieval garments, displaced from her time. Seemingly invisible to passing members of the public, she walks through modern day Smithfield travelling paths she used to frequent, though the scenery is now vastly altered.
Throughout the project, Dharker ventured deep beneath ground level to visit the ‘city beneath the city’ – the TFL staff at Farringdon station, osteologists and their skeletons in the basements of the Museum of London, Crossrail workers tunnelling through previously uninterrupted space. We hear insights from some of these people throughout the film, scattered in amongst the words of the poem itself, which is narrated by Dharker as well as by other members of the community.
Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and documentary film-maker. She lives in Barbican and has written extensively about the City of London and identity politics and has a strong interest in heritage and place. Dharker’s work is on the British GCSE and A Level syllabus and she is a fellow of the royal society of literature.
About Culture Mile:
Culture Mile is an initiative, which aims to transform the north-west corner of the Square Mile from Farringdon to Moorgate. It is led by a partnership of the City of London Corporation, the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London.