Cover of Its Just a Bit of Paper, Volume 1. Click to go to

Click the cover to go to








The Hoodie and the Butterfly

  It has been said that music hath charms to sooth the savage breast, so does origami.

 Picture the scene. The East End of London, an area of urban decay and inner-city deprivation. Poor quality housing, high unemployment, over crowded schools and all the social problems one could expect from such a bleak set of circumstances.

 As part of the general rejuvenation and upgrading of the area, an Arts & Crafts Fair had been organised. I was there to demonstrate, introduce and teach origami.  

 I arrived with a large box of finished models and loads of sheets of paper. I arranged my examples on my designated table and looked around. This was Chrisp Street Market (That has been spelt correctly). A fairly standard Saturday street market with stalls selling fruit & veg, kitchen wares, mobile phone covers, designer label clothing copies and all sorts of other stuff.  The Art & Craft people were all together at one end. Opposite me was a local artist with a selection of her paintings. Next to me was an excitable group of young children waiting to have their faces painted and beyond them was a slightly less noisy queue of mostly young Asian girls waiting to have henna tattoos carefully painted onto their feet, hands, faces or wherever by two women in very brightly coloured salwa kameez. There was a caricaturist wandering around doing pictures of anyone who sat still long enough and a long table covered in paper, paint, pens and pencils and surrounded by noisy children also covered in paint, having a great time.

 Origami is sufficiently unusual as to attract interest and comment wherever it comes into contact with the general public. I soon had a small and constantly changing group of children and adults around my table. Asking questions and folding the simpler designs. It is interesting to note that the older the people were the more convinced they were that they couldn’t possibly fold anything, I proved ‘em wrong though!

 After about an hour and a half a gang of the local youths approached, “Wot’s that?”

 “Origami! Innit?”


 “Or-i-ga-mi, plonker! Paper-folding innit!”

“’Ere, That’s a lizard!”

“Seen this elephant ‘ere? That’s good innit?”

“Cor! That’s wicked mate! Show me summin’.” This last was spoken by a lad of about 15 or 16.

 Dressed in the standard hooded sweatshirt, baseball cap on backwards, tracksuit bottoms, designer trainers and with 2 mobile phones swinging around his neck, this young black kid was a stereotypical example of “The Hoodie” that the rightwing tabloid press love to hate and have vilified until recently. Their xenophobic attentions have now been drawn towards people of Muslim background.

 Darren, as the young lad’s name turned out to be, and his gang were a fine example of inner-city feral youth, black, white, Asian, Chinese and a smattering of “other”. Although Darren wished to make the lizard, a Robert Lang design, I persuaded him to start on something simple, namely Lerlin Woodrow’s wonderful flapping butterfly. 5 to 10 minutes later each member of Darren’s gang had a flapping butterfly. Darren and a pretty girl called Ashley stayed for more while the rest of the gang wandered off in search of food.   The shirt, a jumping frog, Paul Jackson’s elephant and my swallowtail butterfly were all folded successfully before Ashley and Darren went off to find their mates.

 About 3 hours later it was time to pack up. Into the box went all my examples and paper and I made my way to the local DLR station. There, leaning against a lamppost and surrounded by his gang was Darren. As I got closer I could see that he was happily flapping his butterfly. I approached him and said, “Hi Darren. It’s good that, isn’t it?” indicating his butterfly.

“Good? It’s f***ing wicked, mate!”


  It is incidents like this that make origami worthwhile.