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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: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/coachandhorses-soho

(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.

photo

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

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