A YEAR after London’s hugely successful Olympic and Paralympic Games, questions are still being asked about the cost, now put at possibly £24 billion — ten times the bid-winning estimate.
Film-maker Kym Oeser is more interested in what the money bought, and he has spent five years making Losing the Marshes: a true story of the Olympics, which asked East Enders what they hoped and feared would happen, and later what actually happened.
He is well-placed to make the documentary — he had a great introduction to the area. He told Loving Dalston: “I played football on Hackney Marshes as a teenager, a defensive mid-fielder, until I was about 35.”
Now he lives in Archway, but he never lost his love of the vast mowed spaces and semi-secret places around the River Lea and its many linked channels and canals.
Neither has he the inconsistency of an Iain Sinclair, the Hackney doomsayer who eventually decided to go to the Olympics. Far from it. “I’m not anti-Olympics in any way,” Oeser says. “I just question how it was run.” Unlike the writer, he couldn’t get tickets.
Oeser’s website notes that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were staged in “the most deprived areas of Britain”, not far from the fabulously rich City of London. His film is about the role of public space, its importance and how urban communities coexist. He says: “This is the story of how this land was stolen under the guise of the Olympic Games.”
Yet Losing the Marshes is no polemic aimed at protesters but a 110-minute reportage about users of the marshes, although it is easy to reckon the director’s standpoint.
One activist, speaking of the authorities’ permitting housing to be built on what was once a grassy corner of the marshes, comments: “We have no money and we have no power.”
The people do, however, have film-makers prepared to spend years recording the truth.
David Altheer 030913
* Losing the Marshes will be screened at the Hanbury Arms, 33 Linton Street, Islington N1 7DU, on Tues 24 Sep 2013, and at the Red Gallery, 3 Rivington Street, Shoreditch EC2A 3DT, on Wed 20 Nov 2013. Picture above shows the Olympic Park.
* Another film that loves the area is What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day?, which Loving Dalston Editor David Altheer saw at a British Film Institute screening in July 2013. Made in 2005, the 45-minute film follows a paperboy on his round through the Lower Lea Valley landscape of rundown-factory and once-crowded working canals before it was redeveloped for the Olympics. The BFI calls the movie a “film poem” and despite an occasionally repetitious score by Saint Etienne that is a good description: WHYDTMD? captures what Altheer terms the “glamour and mystery of post-industrial mundanity”. WHYDTMD? is available on DVD as part of A London Trilogy from the BFI at £19.99
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.