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Soho Pub Landlord Launches Campaign to Feed Calais Migrants

A soho pub landlord’s launched a crowdfunding campaign to help feed the hundreds of migrants currently living in makeshift camps in Calais.

Coach and horses sign, Soho

‘Living’ might be too generous a word, as being holed-up in a tarpaulin jungle, taking nightly risks to cross the channel and being regarded as vermin rather than than people (thanks for that, Katie Hopkins) hardly constitutes a life (and that’s without the rumours of harassment from French police).

Alistair Choat of The Coach and Horses pub, Greek Street has decided to approach the situation with a decidedly more human approach to well, humans.  It sounds like a no-brainer – you know, be nice to your fellow man and all that, but between the hostile reaction of the government and the toxic reporting from your right wing press, Great Britain ain’t looking so great.

The idea’s to raise £5000, cook up a storm in the pub’s kitchen and drive over to Calais and feed as many people as they can.  It’s an ambitious venture, but it’s probably what Julia Child would do.

Julia Child

Choat said: “Ideally I want to take good food to as many as possible and through that demonstrate real British values.

“I suppose to feed hungry people who are, let’s face it, only about a hundred miles away surrounded by barbed wire , guns and oppression. Pretty much what they have mostly escaped from. Well done Cameron!”

These real ‘British values’ are the campaign’s raisons d’etre – treating others with ‘dignity, respect and kindness’.  Something Choat reckons hasn’t been happening and why he’s trying to show that not all Brits are mannerless oiks even if our government and media hasn’t been setting the best example.

right wing press media

Aren’t the right wing press a friendly bunch?

Choat said: “It’s not the immigration issue per se that has spurred me to try and do something positive but perhaps more in the little our government has done and this searing branding they and much media have tainted these people with.

“The statements they have out and their choice of words I believe we’re carefully picked to help further demonise these stranded people and maintain their stance of fortress Britain.”

And for publican, Choat, perhaps the very essence of these ‘British values’ leaks straight out of the beer barrels and wood paneling of the Victorian boozer.  A time when you could roll into an establishment and be greeted with more than a nothing-y nod, and there was more on offer than just a mass produced lager and microwaved meal, served to you by a dead-eyed student on minimum wage.

Getting down and boozy in VIctorian times

Getting down and boozy in VIctorian times

My local drinking hole in Elephant and Castle sums up the sentiment of pub-outings perfectly.  Yes, from the outside, it looks scary – all mock tudor panels and flushed, unsavoury afternoon drinkers – but inside it’s a different story.  Old school charm and South London banter is ripe and the hand written scrawl above the bar sums it up perfectly – ‘A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet’. It’s attributed to ‘Anon’ but of course, we all know it’s from A Streetcar Named Desire.  Not that it matters.

The campaign seems less about the politics of entitlement and the ‘why should they come over to our country, take our money/jobs/women/seats on the bus’ rhetoric that’s tattooed on the lips of the ignorant, and more about remembering our manners.  People are people and deserve to be treated as such – even more so if they’re struggling or in need. Simple as that.

Support the campaign here:

(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Protest!) IMN Feature

I wrote a piece for Independent Music News about musicians and politics after One Direction started tweeting about the budget.

If they carry on in this direction, they're gonna end up getting arrested

If they carry on in this direction, they’re gonna end up getting arrested

It starts like this…..

Music has the power to move us and make us do stuff we didn’t even know we could. I’m going to grab my partner and swing them round at a square dance, fo sho, and every time I eat vegetables, I think of The Ramones. Ray Charles only had to ask me once to bend over and shake my tail feather and I still don’t know what doing the mash potato means, but by golly will I do it.

So it totally makes sense for musicians to do the loop-de-loop into politics and use their charm and swagger to influence fans for the greater good.

Check out the full article here.

International Women’s Day and Femme Fierce

Saturday was International Women’s Day. Some celebrate it by showering love and affection on the women in their life it and apparently, in Russia it’s the day when women receive the most compliments.

It started off as a Socialist event to big up equal rights. Across the world it was celebrated on different days, but the message was just as strong. Through protests and demonstrations, women demanded the same rights as men in the workplace and everywhere else.

Since 1996, International Women’s Day has had a different yearly theme, from uniting for peace to ending violence against women. This year, the theme was “Inspiring Change”. Check out this new Ban Bossy campaign which was launched the next day and wait for Beyoncé to do her thang at the end.

There were heaps of events going on around London, including a impromptu sing-a-long on the Southbank and a night of performance at Shoreditch’s Ace Hotel.

I ended up taking a walk down Leake Street, where lady graffiti writers were inspiring their own changes. The event aimed to raise money for charity and also attempt to set a world record for the largest spray-painted mural. Put together by The Street Art Agency, Cre8 Gallery, Paint My Panda and GOT (Girls on Top), the gals came forth and took over the tunnel as part of Femme Fierce.

Cat by Susie Lowe

Cat by Susie Lowe

Lady with shiny hair by Harriet Wood

Lady with shiny hair by Harriet Wood

The sun was shining and Leake Street tunnel was dark. Over 100 lady painters lined the sides and the fumes hit you full in the face, like the air from a passing train. Despite the tunnel being a stones throw away from eager tourists, the London Eye and corporate businesses, there’s something nice and secret about the dingy underpass.

Gal by Hannah Adamaszek

Gal by Hannah Adamaszek

Fire women

Fire women by Georgie

Artists and the art-keen hung about the space taking photos, showing their support and trying not to trip over spraypaint cans. The walls had been rolled over with pink paint in association with the Breast Cancer Care charity, who were collecting donations at the event.

Nuns by Zabou

Nuns by Zabou

Nice peace piece

Nice peace piece

It was great to be in such a strong, creative atmosphere. Talented women and others who were just giving-it-a-go expressed themselves on the walls and it was wonderful to see them doing it for the sisterhood. Graffiti and street art has a male-dominated image but let’s just say, women can wear beanies, hoodies and new era caps too. Which they did.

Face by Cbloxx

Face by Cbloxx

Whilst women running the shop, men were welcome and I saw a few dotted around. A male duo accompanied the artists with some beatboxing. The cans of beer and good vibes made it feel like a little tunnel festival. And the dark plus paint fumes made it all the more fun.

Beatbox men

Fuzzy beatbox men

Double Vision Exhibition for the Thirsty and Illiterate

Pubs across the country are often named after animals, trade tools and even reference the alcoholic elements of the drinks they serve.

In the past, found objects, such as an old boot or copper kettle were hung above the public house have also been known to act as a sign. So there was no problem for those who couldn’t read or were too drunk to see the establishment before them.

It's a boot

It’s a boot

Celebrating the art of the pub sign, painters, printers and illustrators have each created their own to be displayed in an exhibition at The Lauriston, Victoria Park Road.

With typography being a core element to the design, artists who were up for the challenge answered the Double Vision brief put out by curator, Mr Gresty.

Double Vision Exhibition_5

Mr Gresty said: “The target of Double Vision is to create a strong image that brings together two things that a thirsty and illiterate onlooker could identify.”

The sixteen artists selected did not only have to be “creative minded” but also had to have a sense of humour.

Double Vision Exhibition_2

One such artist, VJ Von, has created a piece called The Cock and The Pussy. Designed in true, British pub-sign style she playfully uses the famous image of the “Grumpy Cat” that went viral on the internet. Von believes art is a game, and an essential part of her practise is having fun and exploring.

The Grumpy Cat hates the pub

The Grumpy Cat hates the pub

Von said the Double Vision brief was very close to her heart.

She said: “I love fun art with a hint of cheekiness and irony and British Pub signs offer a best formula for a great piece of art.

“I think I just want people to have fun – that’s why we go to the pub, don’t we?”

Double Vision Exhibition_6

Another artist, Dylan White, works in animation and currently supervises post production on a children’s show.

White’s piece, Black + Tan references the traditional 50/50 mix of pale ale and stout, which he thought fitting for the brief. It’s also personal, as White said his Irish relatives told him “awful tales” about the stuff.

Mr Gresty, who has been putting on LHR exhibitions since 2013, works with artists who he admires and by showing their work in the pubs, hopes to raise their profile.

Double Vision Exhibition_4 (1)

A keen collector of objects, Gresty said he hopes the viewer look upon the work in the exhibition, as he does when he looks at his badges and rulers he keeps at home.

He said: “What interests me most in a collection is the comparisons and contrasts of the solutions of creative minds.”

Double Vision opens 7th March and runs until May. For more information see the Facebook page.

I Went To A Seance That Wasn’t Really a Seance

I went to a séance last week.

In a mysterious chapel that stands in the centre of a cluster of 17th Century almshouses, known as Asylum.

It was hosted by a magician so really, I should’ve known it would all be one BIG LIE!

The séance looked nothing like this

The séance looked nothing like this

Despite having all the ingredients for a spooky night; the promise of talking to the dead in a crumbling chapel, some darkness and a distinct lack of heat (basically the end of the Blair Witch Project minus the snot), the end shock reveal was less ta-da, and more I-will-never-get-that-hour-of-my-life-back.

Nothing says disappointment more than this baby

Nothing says disappointment more than this bored baby

After waiting for a while outside the chapel, we were invited in. The chapel is AMAZING. All chipped stone and flaking paint and apparently disused, although later I found out it can be hired for special events and trendy weddings. With coats, jumpers and hats remaining on, we sat on wooden chairs and lit candles laid out for us. Because candles mean atmosphere, innit.

We were told a story about a ghost girl, who died in the chapel after being crushed by a falling ceiling. I believe it’s what they call “setting the scene.” This girl carried around a music box which went missing in the rubble. But guess who had managed to get his hands on THE VERY SAME ONE? Our host, the magical, mystical, magic magician man.

Now THIS is a scary music box

Now THIS is a scary music box

He reminded me of the boys at school who ended up as estate agents. Bleached blonde hair gelled into what he probably thought was a sophisticated style, polished shoes that men wear to get into Tiger Tiger and a contrived confidence that added nothing to the gravitas he so desperately wanted to command the room. I think his glasses were from the designer range at Specsavers and his neediness smelt like Lynx deodorant.

He introduced our psychic medium for the evening and she was rather attractive. This made me suspicious. When are mediums ever hot? It was at this point I began to smell a rat. And the rat too, smelt like Lynx.

She explained a bit about herself, her power and had some awkward dialogue with the magician. I knew we were to be treated to a scripted performance but perhaps one not so poor. It made me think about the potential of the every actor in Hollyoaks. After doing a few exercises, she guessed (sorry, read) the room and found out someone in the audience had recently lost their Grandmother. A classic “I’m, I’m, getting a…a…a…J….” reading complete with reaching fingers and a squint. I’d been trying to channel Michael Jackson, so I got rather excited. But no, it was old lady, Joan.

I should've gone to this seance to speak to the King of Pop

I should’ve gone to this seance to speak to the King of Pop

Or this one

Or this one

The medium got into a cubicle, similar to those used in hospitals, so she could “make the spirit feel safe” and more likely to come out to say hey. Or something. She had a bell, a book and the music box, later used as a dramatic tool to emotionally manipulate the audience. She was tied to a chair, as to not interfere with the objects and the curtains were closed. And then the bell rang.

A “volunteer” went in the cubicle to make sure the medium wasn’t fiddling with anything and confirmed the bell moved by itself. Then a little girl, dressed up for Halloween appeared and screamed. Then the musical box went off. Then the medium vomited.

I wish Gaz had been our medium

I wish Gaz had been our medium

After this song and dance, we were told it was all pretend. Well, duh! The vomit was revealed to be a simple mixture of flour, rice and carrot and the little dead girl was a real alive girl. The magician piped up and said with a wry smile: “You have been part of an experiment to explore how Victorian audiences were once fooled into believing they could talk to the dead. And I think we can safely say that audiences still can be.”

So, rather than doing a Derren Brown and treating the audience as intelligent, Mr Magician here thought he could win us over by treating us like dum-dums. But as I looked around at the cold and bored audience, still holding their freebie candles, it was obvious all were ready to lock him in the crypt.

You want astonished?

You want astonished?

Unaware, the magician then asked us all to stay a bit longer to film some more audience shots. “Look really astonished” he said. Several times.

So I widened my eyes, opened my mouth and laughed out my candle.

Phlegm and The Bestiary

Street artist and illustrator, Phlegm has dusted off his feet on the welcome mat and come inside for his new installation, The Bestiary at The Howard Griffin Gallery. Apparently (or according to Wikipedia), a bestiary is a “compendium of beasts” that describes birds and animals. And even rocks. But only if they’re cute.

A monochrome delight of bottled creatures and tangible imagination, The Bestiary floods the walls of the Shoreditch gallery and golly, it’s overwhelming.

Phlegm The Bestiary

As he does with his big and incredibly intricate pieces around Sheffield factories, canal boats and on the streets of New York in the outside world, Phlegm has laid his mark down on the gallery walls and taken over the space.

Phlegm The Bestiary

The first room of The Bestiary is wall-to-ceiling of shelves and jars. With the latticed ledges, it’s like a chemist from a Tim Burton film. And among the bottled snakes, rats and goats skulls, there’s a few little treats in homage to other artists. Look out for the tiny Space Invader and Dscreet owl.

Phlegm The Bestiary

The second part blows the old brain. Phlegm fans will recognise the familiar beanpole characters from around the block, but may not be ready for them in 3D.

Phlegm The Bestiary

They did it to films, they did it to children’s books, and Phlegm’s done it here. Neil Bucannan would absolutely agree that it is “simple yet effective” and let me tell you; it’s way better than his big art attacks.

Phlegm The Bestiary

Comic book and zine illustrator, Phlegm was shown the 3D ropes by ceramic artist Citizen Kane and it’s amazing. His figures are striking when flat against the wall but good luck keeping your wits about you when they pop out.

Phlegm The Bestiary

Magical and macabre, Phlegm’s exhibition is an opportunity to be sucked in somewhere better than any try-hard place in Shoreditch. It’s like a really great panic room to run to when the haircuts and fake spectacles get too much on the high street.

Phlegm The Bestiary

With nothing for sale, when the exhibition ends the walls will be painted over and the work destroyed. But it ain’t over ’til it’s over, so get on your bike before 4th March.

Phlegm The Bestiary

For more information see Phlegm’s website and the Howard Griffin Gallery.


The Year of The Horse: Have Some Horses

It’s the year of the horse. Here are some good horses.

This horse captures everything you loved about My Little Pony. You want to watch it all day because it is glorious and downright magical.

This horse is pretty

This horse is pretty

When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand, call this horse.

The horse you can trust

The horse you can trust

Because it’s nice to have a friend who’s into fashion.

He looks good and he knows it

He looks good and he knows it

I don’t think this horse is real. I like the colours though.

If only

If only

I wish I had an older brother who was a horse.

Size isn't everything, little pony

Size isn’t everything, little pony

This horse is a sheep.

True story

True story

Chinese Open 2014 Exhibition: Under the Car Park

Whilst tourists crammed into the sectioned off China Town to see thrusting Chinese dragons and children enveloped in gold for Chinese New Year, minus seven floors below in a car park, there was calm. Until a man in the corner blew up a balloon beyond bursting point.

Chinese Open 2014 exhibition

But far from being the car park monster of yesteryear, this man was performing as part of the Chinese Open 2014 exhibition to celebrate the year of the horse. Or year of the whores, courtesy of the BBC.

Constipation by Susana Sanroman

Constipation by Susana Sanroman

Over 100 artists contributed work to the exhibition, put together by artist and curator Vanya Balogh and sponsored by Geoffrey Leong. The underground show certainly filled up the space usually reserved for fancy automobiles, and was as refreshing to the eyes as a cold spoon. It was well worth the stress I encountered on the way, crowd battling and selfie-dodging up on the street level.

Chinese Open 2014 Exhibition

From a bottletop monkey to a woman singing in a horse mask,the eclectic mix of art not only stood out from the drab and concrete setting; it made a song and dance of it and shouted out loud.

Chinese Open 2014 Exhibition

Apart from providing a place for escaping the mania outside, the exhibition also put forth a platform for thought and interaction. Reeps One turned up in the afternoon to turn his pen to the photography of Ben Hopper, families played with the wheels of Mark Sowden and viewers dodged the horse-and-carriage bike rolling around and giving rides.



It’s an art crowd, so expect heaps of men who keep their sunglasses on at all times and kids who bring their pet rabbit.

Art Rabbit

Art Rabbit

Here’s a close up if you don’t believe me.



A great use of space with some thought provoking and playful work. It’s on until 9th Feb so do yourself a favour and go underground. For more info see the facebook page.

And here’s some more art featured in the exhibition:

Chinese Open 2014 exhibition

By Jeffrey Disastronaut

By Jeffrey Disastronaut

Chinese Open 2014 exhibition

Chinese Open 2014 exhibition

Dan’s Parents’ House and my Michael Jackson badge

It was hot and the market was fancy. I was hungover and disengaged so just ended up picking stuff up and putting it down again. I had no use or desire for old lego, building blocks or kitsch toys that belonged in an 1980s Fairy Liquid advert. But I couldn’t leave Dan’s Parent’s House.

That was Dan. And his stand. Dan’s stand is full of 25 years of treasures that were kept in his parent’s attic. Self confessed hoarders, Dan’s mum said they kept every toy her sons ever played with and every item of clothing they ever outgrew. They were also “a bit compulsive about electronics”.

Step right up.  All you want is here.

Step right up. All you want is here

Dan is a market vendor but when I watched him through my sleep deprived eyes, he seemed more like a circus master. He stood in the middle of his stand whilst the “big kids” of Brooklyn delved deep into his drawers, fanning old comic books and plucking old Starwars figurines from their plastic families. He spun like a carousel, telling the interested how much they could pay for the collectible of their dreams. He popped up like a Jack In The Box to tell you the history of that chess set in your arms. He was always there, but never in your face.

Blast from the past

Dan was not in your face unlike this guy

But like all people, Dan had to relieve himself from time to time. Perhaps mistaking my hangover for trustworthiness, he asked my friend and I to mind his stand while he popped off for a minute. So we did. I think the main thing he wanted us to do was make sure nobody left or stole anything which was easy. We used our English charm to let people know Dan would be returning soon and they should have a little play with Ronald McDonald while they waited.

Dan came back as promised and as a thank you he allowed us to pick a badge from his mega collection. I chose this one. It’s obviously Michael Jackson in his Off The Wall stage, but some fool I asked thought it was Prince.

Apart from his gold face, the likeness is uncanny

How is this Prince?

The poor portrayal of MJ is all part of its charm and now I want more of these bad badges. I inspected the back, David Dickinson style, to see if there was any markings but I found none. Not only does this halt me in my researching tracks but it would also mean I’d get nought from Antiques Roadshow.

If anyone has any idea of the manufacturer or how to find out, let me know.

For more about Dan’s Parents’ House see here.

Scott Wood: London Urban Legends

Did East-end designer, Alexander McQueen really sew a hidden insult into the jacket of Prince Charles? Did a lost Zeppelin descend onto Hackney Marshes in 1916 allowing a tall, eye-patched man to ask a couple for directions to Silvertown? Did a construction worker really defecate in one of the Olympic rings and have it welded shut?

Author and co-organiser of The London Fortean Society, Scott Wood delves into the city’s rumours, folk tales and the stories passed on by “foafs” (the friend of a friend) in his new book London Urban Legends, a collection of historical and contemporary tales based on the seeds of anecdotes that have evolved and been passed on.

The London underground is a good place to start for mysterious goings on

The London underground is a good place to start for mysterious goings on

Stemming from lies, pranks and publicity stunts, London has seen recurring urban legends over time, and Wood tries to answer what makes the stories last.

“I was actually asked this the other day,” he said.

“I think the secret is to tie something that makes someone want to pass it on, like a warning of some kind. It also needs to have something that everyone can relate to, such as travelling on the tube.”

The great-nephew of a spiritualist, Wood had a keen interest in the paranormal from a young age, however it was reading the small digest magazine, The Unknown as a “precocious pre-adolescent” in the mid 80s, that really captured his imagination.

The Unknown magazine, 1939

The Unknown magazine, 1939

“It was the same story in the same place which then changes to fit different areas and different groups of people.”

And in each of the 22 chapters, Wood explores the link between urban legends that have somehow spread across the world.

“The story of the corpse on the tube in London where a girl is murdered and held up between two men as if she was alive is told in America as a dead drunk on the subway who is staring at a woman, who then slaps him.

This drunk isn't dead but it could be where the legend began

This drunk isn’t dead but it could be where the legend began

“It’s also told elsewhere as a family on holiday who have to smuggle their dead Granny back.”

But before you go suspiciously eyeing up every trio on the tube, Wood says that the idea of the urban legend isn’t to tell the truth and he actually believes very few of the stories in London Urban Legends are based on real events.

“It’s perhaps much more about the story then the sighting of the “big cat” or “ghost” that allowed people to express themselves;

“Maybe they’re all stories?”

And what of it? In a world where people are “creatures of narrative”, Wood says we need the tales to help us make sense of things and sharing is the way to do it.

“The world has always been big and difficult to understand and stories are way of explaining things.

Eddie's got some great stories

Eddie’s got some great stories

“People think about folklore as an ancient thing passed on by the oldest person in the village, but it’s not. It’s the stories that don’t belong to the government of the church or the authority; they belong to the people whether it’s at the canteen, or the water cooler.”

And despite the prevalence of story-telling in pubs and tea shops across the city, Wood said that he first started writing a blog called Living Lore due to the distinct lack of books and writing about urban legends in the UK which later inspired the book.

“In America, there are a lot of good writers on the subject, but in England it’s usually in the comedy section or in newspaper columns.

Llorona, the angel of death, is a pretty big deal in the US

Llorona, the angel of death, is a pretty big deal in the US

“Since The Tumour In The Whale in 1978, (by Rodney Dale) I think this is the first urban legend book.”

Having collected lots of stories over the last few years, Wood had to decide on what to put in his book and managed to split them up into three sections which he feels reflect our current values.

“The first section illustrates our relationship with celebrities and the Royals and the idea that they live a different life which sometimes interacts with us and changes the atmosphere.

“Someone ordinary, can leave a hidden message, like an artist or architect and it shows that we have always been utterly obsessed with those thought to be above us.

They have no idea a stinking secret may lie within those rings

They have no idea a stinking secret may lie within those rings

“Section two highlights the fact that people are suspicous of those who are not like them and the the idea that the criminal conspires against us, its not random, its a conspiracy, and we can bump into them in shops or fast food joints.

“The third part is all about animal stories and brings about our sense of wonder which is the positive thing out of this.

“The idea that there’s a big cat in Plumpstead or the parakeets in West London are all descendants of the birds Jimmy Hendrix once kept; you can’t just have a ordinary story.”

No words needed

No words needed

One of Wood’s favourite urban legends is the tale of The Hackney Bear, where four young boys from Lower Clapton encountered a “giant great growling hair thing” on Hackney Marshes.

With lots of strange information seeping out of the story, including a couple throwing snowballs at the boys to drive them away, and the ex-drummer of 90s Brit Pop band Kula Shaker coming forward to identify the “bear” as his dog, a man called Ron finally stepped up and said it was he who was the bear; in fancy dress.

Paul Winterhart and "The Beast of Hackney Marshes"

Paul Winterhart and “The Beast of Hackney Marshes”

Other East End tales such sightseeing spots of The Kray’s murder sprees, plague pits underneath Algate stations and those accused of being the infamous Jack The Ripper, are all included in London Urban Legends, and Wood suggests the rich culture of the area has something to do with it’s memorable stories.

“I hear a lot more stories from the East of the city. I’m not sure whether it has something to do with the creative people who live there and who might like telling stories more, or whether it’s a hangover from Cockney hospitality.”

East London also provides a meeting place for The London Fortean Society, an idea for a group that came from a night in the pub.

“We were talking about pagan events and skeptics in London and we decided we wanted to be a grey area between disbelief and we welcome anyone with an open mind.

A werewolf or an unshaven man?  Discuss

A werewolf or an unshaven man? Discuss

“We invite speakers to provide a discussion on something, be it whether Shakespeare is really Shakespeare to the professor at the British Museum who wants to completely rebuild Noahs Ark.”

At home, Wood says that started to read his 5-year-old son, Arthur, some mythology as his bedtime story.

“I had to stop in the end, it was just a list of mythological creatures, there was no story.

“But when I stopped, Arthur started shouting “I WANT MYTHOLOGY, I WANT MYTHOLOGY”. I was trying to get him to sleep at the time, but I was so proud. So proud.”