Childhood memories of ice cream vans; the chimes
Okay, hands up who thinks of ice cream and hot summer days when they hear the musical box chimes of either Greensleeves or Yankey Doodle Dandy? Me!!! It was one of the memorable sounds from my childhood in South London. At the bottom of our back garden was a large housing estate and every afternoon during the summer we would hear one chime. I don’t associate the sound with eating ice cream though because the van didn’t go past our front door. We bought our ice cream cones from a shop. Oh dear.
Sunday People’s campaign; inspiration for my next project
Last summer I really loved having a specific project, the ArtBox exhibition, to focus on. So this summer I made one up. Sunday People, Cone and Get One is a campaign to save our Nation’s ice cream vans which have seriously dwindled in number apparently. Of course it came to my attention via this article in The Mirror newspaper because it was being supported by Francis Rossi whose family business is selling ice cream. Indeed I remember their small Rossi kiosk on Peckham High Street when I was a teenager.
The ice cream van project is born
My project began in a haphazard fashion when I came across the smallest ice cream van I’d ever seen near Tottenham Court Road, in London.
The following week, with the sun blazing down as I was passing through Lincoln’s Inn Fields, I spotted another ice cream van and snapped that too. From then on I decided to spend the summer not only finding ice cream vans but also photographing the scenes around them. And I looked out for views of vans on the move and unexpected sights such as this one.
The Holy Grail of ice cream vans
One thing was still gnawing away at me. I wanted a picture of a Rossi ice cream van to complete my set. I remembered seeing one regularly when I lived in Bristol in the 1980s and felt sure I had a photograph of it. Was my memory playing tricks? I found this photograph of a van in the location I was thinking of but its not a Rossi van. Its interesting to see how little decoration those old vans had compared to nowadays.
I toyed with a day trip to Southend where there is a Rossi cafe but that didn’t feel right. I had so many good photos that I knew only I would miss this lesser-spotted creature. And then I found one in late September, sitting forlornly near Golders’ Hill Park in North London. Yes North London and not South. I jumped off my bus for a few snaps. Buzzing with excitement I texted a friend and she replied, “I think its a major achievement finding an ice cream van in this weather let alone the holy grail of vans!” My project was now complete.
I took so many pictures that I’ve divided them into three posts. Part one covers the variety of vans that I came across in London this summer plus a couple of archive shots. Parts two and three will look at local ice cream eating and tourists enjoying their London summer.This week’s gallery covers a selection of vans in London and two from Bristol.