The Leytonstone cows come home (kind of)

Artist Dominic Stinton brings cows back to the borough with his local history-inspired Leytonstone Arts Trail exhibit

Dominic Stinton outside of his exhibit (Image courtesy of Dominic)

Leytonstone residents with long memories retain a soft spot for the cows that used to wander freely on Wanstead Flats decades go. Sometimes, they’d wind up further afield – occasionally being found munching on roses in front gardens or walking down Leytonstone High Road itself!

Sadly, the era of the cows came to an end in 1996, when an outbreak of foot and mouth disease forced farmers to abandon the grazing of cattle.

Now, tentative plans are afoot to reintroduce a small number of grazing cows to the Flats. With England’s football team currently emulating 1996 with an impressive run at Euros 2020, what better time is there to cast our minds back to the 90s?

For this year’s Leytonstone Arts Trail, I wanted to create an exhibition inspired by the history of Leytonstone – with the cows in pride of place. The show, at Mario’s Barbers at 562A Leytonstone High Road, features a striking collage print based on hand-colourised vintage photographs from the time when cows roamed freely.

I was inspired to create my tribute to Leytonstone’s famous bovines after hearing fond reminiscences of the cows, from literally every long-term resident of Leytonstone I’ve spoken to.

I quickly realised just how much affection there was for them, and how missed they were. Everybody seems to have their own personal cow story, so I wanted to create a work that would make people stop and smile.

Not that you have to be a long-term resident of Leytonstone to appreciate the show. Hopefully, a large pink cow will cheer just about anybody up.

One resident who most certainly recalls the cows’ visits is Kathie Fuller, now in her 70s. Kathie visited the exhibition early in its run, and was very taken with the cow-inspired art, declaring that it was “just how [she] remembered” the days of the cows – “apart from the colour”, of course.

I’ve also displayed works at Primrose Florist, Theatre of Wine and Noted Eel and Pie House on Leytonstone High Road for this year’s art trail, but my print Urban Cows is probably my favourite recent work – in terms of the genuine warmth of the stories from people which inspired it.

Whether the cows will return to Wanstead Flats remains to be seen but, for the next few days at least, they’ll be a talking point on the High Road again.

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The Leytonstone Arts Trail is on until Sunday, 11th July. Visit Leytonstone Arts Trail’s official website for more information