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There are no roads in the City of London: Olivia Bellas on the film map archive, MyStreet

There are many strange things about the City of London, that Square Mile, ye olde commercial heart of the capital. The livery companies for a start - medieval trade associations still functioning and known as, for example, ‘The Worshipful Company of Cutlers’. Honestly. It’s the street names too that are a little out there - Poultry, Back Passage and not one of them is a road. Apparently because the word ‘road’ was not coined until the late 16th Century, after nearly all the thoroughfares in the ancient City had already been named.

All this got me thinking about the nostalgia we have with certain streets, roads, alleys, squares, lanes...As a Londoner, I’ve been building a lifetime of A-Z memories and with no black cabbie ‘Knowledge’ under my belt, I turn instead to MyStreet for my triggers. This is an online film archive that aims to celebrate each street globally; encouraging us to become digital anthropologists. Films are submitted from all over the world, linked to a postcode, town, street - appearing as pins on the geo-tagged MyStreet map.  Postcode pride + map fetish is a good pairing and so I start watching films, drifting into memory *lane*.

East Street - This one takes me back in the 80’s,every Sunday my ma and bro and me go ‘down the market’. I remember the masses of people, the bros t-shirt for £2.99, the cockles in a cup.

Niche Market - What can I say? I like markets. I’m transported to Brixton, my childhood and these portraits people portraits bring alive the faces with no names I pass daily.

The Knowledge - A cabbie’s journey starts off in Mare St - makes me think how many times have I done the same but been on a slow and painful 48 or 55 bus journey. Often.

End of an Era - This film shows us the Kingsland Road gem of a guy who gave me a free bag of bolts once. Shops shutting, sadness on the high streets.

Everyday for 20 years/Blair Street - Technically, I have no memory of this place but this film makes me question why I always think a drug deal is going down everytime I hear the call of an ice cream van. I decide to take a walk down to Blair St as it’s near where I live. All very above board. No sighting of ice cream van seller though.

There are many more and it’s addictive to keep looking, to see how many endless memories pop up, or connections that can be made. With my Arts Producer hat on, MyStreet first struck me as an online home for short documentaries. A channel where filmmakers create beautiful portraits of interesting people, where serious issues are raised in a citizen journalist style and where mobile phones have been used to capture that little something you may never have noticed yourself. Now I realise MyStreet is also a modern day Domesday book, a moving image census - an archive of heartfelt snapshots of all our lives colliding.

I dare you to have a look, and when you do, go further; regionally, internationally. Heck, we are now pervasive people so let your triggers and your memories go global. Admittedly, I keep it local focusing on the city I grew up in and as I repeatedly hit the watch button, I remember my London, assess my current place in it and look forward to everything I have yet to discover here.

MyStreet was born in the Anthropology Department of University College London by Dr Michael Stewart. The annual UK competition is now running with Jeremy Irons chairing the jury and a deadline of May 31st 2013. Submit and watch.

Niche Market, The Knowledge and End of an Era - all contenders for this year’s competition shortlist.


My Street Trailer 2012 from MyStreet Films on Vimeo.

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