Author talks about his love for Newham and being Russell Brand’s pal
- Credit: Archant
What’s more fun than a merry old jaunt?
Very little – if anything – according to professional wanderer John Rogers, who is in the process of writing his second book about urban exploration.
A chapter in John’s first and highly acclaimed book, This Other London: Adventures in the Overlooked City, is devoted to Newham – and it’s no surprise, given his affection for the borough.
“Newham is amazing,” the 45-year-old says. “It’s one of the best places to walk in London.
“How many other boroughs have got the Thames and a forest in them? It has three rivers – it’s almost an archipelago, or an isle. It’s really fantastic.”
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The writer and filmmaker, who first moved to Forest Gate when he was 18, dabbled in stand-up comedy and theatre, but settled on blogging and urban exploration after he settled down with his wife.
“I stopped doing that because my wife was heavily pregnant with our first child at the time,” he says. “It just felt very wrong to be in a pub late at night when she was at home.
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“I’d also not long returned from travelling the world, but having kids and a wife rather put the kibosh on that stuff.
“But this was back when blogging was revolutionary – it was totally new – so I realised I could just explore London, instead of the world, and write.”
Some of his favourite Newham spots include Plashet Park and Beckton, the latter for its association with the film Full Metal Jacket.
“When they were filming there, the gas works had closed so they could do what they wanted,” he says.
“The set designers came over with the intention of making the place look like Vietnam, but they needn’t have bothered since the architecture was exactly the same.”
Among John’s hiking companions are Iain Sinclair, who qualifies as roving royalty, and comic actor Russell Brand.
“I’ve known Russell for years,” John explains. “He still sometimes comes for walks with me, but it’s a bit hard nowadays – wherever he goes, he gets completely mobbed.”