I've been reading Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, and his one from Rome could well have been written in Walthamstow (sans tourists). "There is a great deal of beauty here," Rilke pompously opines, "because there is beauty everywhere". Maybe it's just the over compensating from sun-deprivation and desk slavery, but squinting around these East London streets made me so happy. And once you get past the largest 99p store known to man, the crumbling mall and high street collapse of capitalism, there is plenty to stumble across if you're an avid flâneur. There is a forest for a start. Trees! Grass! Dog turds! And on the way there, Waltham Forest Town Hall is actually stunning. In bright sunlight it looks like an impossibly placed 60s postcard. On Forest Road there is a Salvation Army that is a treasure trash trove to 90s pop, where all the singles cost 20p. And of course opposite that is the object of this blog posts affection, the William Morris Gallery. The grounds and building are pretty enough to warrant a visit (if you like fancy staircases and all that jazz) but there is also a child-friendly, easy to follow exhibition about the man. I must confess, I didn't think there was much to him beyond fancy wallpaper (and there is plenty of that), but his socialist activism and lofty ideals about accessibility of art is really inspiring. It's really well pitched, and the viewer generated placards were great - the obvious Occupy-esque ones sitting alongside 'Free Sweets For Everyone!' and 'Better Distribution of Free Sweets'. Now, I need to dig my unread copy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland.
Entry is free, Weds-Sun.
William Morris Gallery, Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 4PP.