Oral History: Jim Albert
I was a paint maker. Messy, dusty, smelly, but it was good. I mean, thinking back now with the health and safety we’ve got now; I mean, we used to make lead based paint and there’s like bags of lead powder, and they’d give us a little face-mask and a pint of milk. I mean, there was a forty-five gallon barrel with formaldehyde!
Jim Albert has had strong connections to the Abbey Road area in Barking all of his life. He grew up using Gascoigne Estate’s scaffolding as a playground. His friends also played by the ‘rushing waters’ of Barking riverside, even though it was out of bounds. Jim worked at Silexine Paints factory on Abbey Road for 13 years. He describes the working conditions, toxic smells and hazards of the job. Jim later went on to work at The Fishing Smack pub, sharing stories including a chemical leak there. Jim compares Barking’s industrial past on the riverside area to Barking Town Quay to now.
He now has a new perspective on his old paint factory workplaces from a leisure boat he has moored on the riverside opposite. Jim reflects on the rapid changes he is observing in the developments of flats, housing and cultural industries on Barking Riverside.
What does the past smell like? The Barking Stink project explores a unique part of London’s heritage through the sense of smell. Listen to stories about life working and growing up by the River Roding’s fragrant factories and polluting industries.