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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.

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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.

Horseplay

Horseplay

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.

Snuffles

Snuffles

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.

The Hackney Society Relaunches 2009 Publication: Modern, Restored, Forgotten, Ignored

There’s no doubt that the buildings of Hackney have long served their community throughout history. From a 1930s night out at the dogs courtesy of the Hackney Stadium, to providing a place to get clean in 1904 at the Haggerston baths, the area has seen ups and quite literally downs, in its architectural heritage.

Which is something that the Hackney Society, are highlighting in the reissue of its 40th anniversary publication, Hackney: Modern, Restored, Forgotten, Ignored.

First released in 2009, the publication features 40 Hackney based authors and the rise, fall and restoration of 40 Hackney buildings to celebrate 40 years of the heritage organisation.

The new book cover

The new book cover

The book sold out at the beginning of this year and was the winner of the 2011 Walter Bor Media award for best publication.

Editor Lisa Rigg, 42, who began fundraising for the Hackney Society, said the idea behind the book was to do what the society did best.

“I thought it was important to do something which the Society had previously been well known for – its local history books.

“The book was a celebration of Hackney’s wonderful built heritage. We hope it will raise pride as well as highlight what has been lost and how historic buildings are irreplaceable.”

The Trowbridge Estate in Hackney Wick was demolished, although contested, in 1985

The Trowbridge Estate in Hackney Wick was demolished, although contested, in 1985

Retired professor and writer, Ken Worpole, 69, a Hackney resident for over 40 years, wrote the introduction to Modern, Restored, Forgotten, Ignored along with a piece on the demolished Mother’s Hospital, where he, his children and his grandchildren were born.

The hospital, built in 1913, is just one historical site that Mr Worpole said contributes to the unique townscape of Hackney.

The Mother's Hospital, Clapton Road.  Demolished in 1986

The Mother’s Hospital, Clapton Road. Demolished in 1986

“With the canal and 16 railway stations, the borough is broken up so that it could never become a kind of uniform development.

“It will always have these nooks and crannies and back streets and with such a range of buildings, going from Tudor to contemporary, it’s such an interesting streetscape and it’s partly why people like living in Hackney so much.”

Sutton House on Homerton High Street is a grade-II listed Tudor manor house

Sutton House on Homerton High Street is a grade-II listed Tudor manor house

Since 2009, Hackney has seen many architectural changes including the new overground transport system.

Hackney Society trustee, Margaret Wilkes, 67, said: “I have lived in Hackney since the early 1980s, and this change has accelerated in the last few years, with lots of young people coming into the borough to live.

“Broadway Market has been transformed, The Arcola has moved, the Rio been refurbished but needs more support and the Hackney Empire, after a rocky few years is now expanding its activities.”

Broadway Market, 1985

Broadway Market, 1985

The decision was made to keep it as a “snapshot of Hackney in 2009”, with certain updates such as the liquidation of Free Form Arts Trust, who were based in the Hothouse on Richmond Road.

With Haggerston Baths having just been announced as one of the top ten endangered buildings in the country, Ms Willes said: “Restored is the happy story, forgotten is not such a jolly subject, and the worst of all is ignored.

“The book is not only a celebration of the rich architectural heritage of Hackney, but also a salutary reminder of how fragile that can be, and how important it is for organisations like the Hackney Society to be around.”

Event details: 6 November,
Broadway Bookshop, Broadway Market, E8 4QJ
7pm, Free Entry

For more information about The Hackney Society see here.