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Category Archives: london

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:


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

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.


Karin Janssen: GROWTH, The Uncanny and The Artist Run Space

From screaming mouths to kinetic tapestries, the group exhibition at Karin Janssen Project Space on Well Street, GROWTH follows Karin Janssen’s curating debut in April, and shows that she is well able to juggle her personal practise with artist collaborations alongside running the gallery.

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #78

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #78

Netherlands-born Hackney artist, Janssen, prides herself on operating an “artist-run space” meaning approaching her approach is more artist-to-artist, rather than as a gallerist wishing walls to be filled.

She said: “We talk about our work, why we make it, what it means to us and the materials and techniques we use.

“It is really quite an amazing thing to be able to do: to see an artist I admire and then to be able to offer them a space and work with them. It’s a privilege not many artists have.”

The Karin Janssen Project Space in full swing

The Karin Janssen Project Space in full swing

From a rather long shortlist of 25 prospective artists, Janssen chose Gemma Nelson, Anna Smith and Rachel Bullock on account of the impulsive way that each artist works, the theme is central to GROWTH.

Emergence by Angela Smith

Emergence by Angela Smith

The work is allowed to take over in the vulnerable ‘creatures’ of Angela Smith which start with the pouring of paint which is then left to run and Gemma Nelson’s obsessive, cell-like tapestries appear to breed across the canvas.

Flaps by Gemma Nelson

Flaps by Gemma Nelson

Rachel Bullock’s charcoal drawings rise up like a flowing mountain of hair and fur coats while Janssen, whose work here features a paintings of a screaming mouth, plays with abstraction and familiarity in her human body series, Silent Screams in The Valley of Uncanniness.

Morand Lesovil by Rachel Bullock

Morand Lesovil by Rachel Bullock

Janssen said: “In some of the works the artist quite literally started in one corner and then saw where they would end up.

“That comes across in the work itself; you can see the searching and the chance findings.”

But it’s not only the GROWTH exhibition that has emerged from the evolving nature of each artist’s practise, Janssen said that over the last few months, she too has seen a change in the way she works.

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #113

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #113

“My practise has evolved a lot in the last few months as I have taken the narrative out of my work; it is pure emotion and flesh now.

“Often I start with a screaming mouth or something that vaguely resembles a mouth and then just see what I feel like drawing or painting around it.”

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #114

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #114

Janssen says that after independently curating her first show, Raw Skin in April, it suddenly became apparent that she needed to “take her work to the next level” and since the exhibition ended, she’s been “exploring the depths of an immense iceberg” in her work, which she says she is “nowhere near finished”.

And with each exhibition she sets up, Janssen says that she comes closer to her personal vision and that it’s important to get the balance right.

Installation at previous show, Raw Skin

Installation at previous show, Raw Skin

“It is truly a privilege to be able to wear those two hats, of curator and artist and to be able to let them feed into each other.

“But, as much as they complement each other, it’s an eternal balancing act, and I am very aware that I am first and foremost an artist; I wouldn’t want the gallery to take over my artistic side.”

After the success of Raw Skin, Janssen felt under pressure in the same way as those releasing the sequel to a best selling novel and said the whole thing was “nerve wracking”.

Growth by Gemma Nelson

Growth by Gemma Nelson

But the proof is always in the pudding and GROWTH, running until 17 November, has given Janssen confidence and inspiration for future exhibitions.

Having set up the Karin Janssen Project Space two years ago in an old hairdressers on Well Street, Janssen says GROWTH ties in with Hackney, in ways she did not initially see.

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #141

Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #141

“The area is changing and growing quickly, but it happens organically and there doesn’t seem to be a big master plan.

“That’s what makes it such a dynamic, lively and interesting place to live.”

Drawing on the uncanny, the beautiful and ugly in the human body in her new work, Janssen suggests her latest series of paintings create a “repulsion/fascination” in the viewer and has noticed this reaction in the community who visit the gallery.

'Silent Screams in the Valley of Uncanniness #117' by Karin Janssen, part of GROWTH in Karin Janssen Project Space, 25 Oct - 17 Nov

“Hackney has a very varied population, you get people from all walks of life here and that is really reflected in the audience of my space.

“I love that, to have to talk about the art I show here to everyone, from a highly educated art audience to teenagers who live down the road, and to see all audiences react strongly, is a big compliment.”

GROWTH runs until 17 November

Karin Janssen Project Space
213 Well Street, E9 6QU

Painting The Way To Men’s Health

Every Movember, men across the world stop shaving and let their top lip whiskers grow wild to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer and men’s health.

But what happens if you can’t grow a moustache?

The buy-a-beard.  For the hirsutely challenged

The buy-a-beard. For the hirsutely challenged.

For illustrator, Ben Rix, 25, the jostling jibes from friends about his inability to grow a “sponsor worthy moustache” was enough to put down the ‘tache comb and pick up a paint brush.

The Movember Series is made up of watercolour portraits of iconic musicians, all of whom are well known for their moustaches.

You wanna be in my Movember gang?

You wanna be in my Movember gang?

Paintings of Freddy Mercury, Lional Ritchie and Carlos Santana all feature in the show at The Lauriston, Victoria Park Road and Rix said: “I think I may already have a buyer for Lionel!”

One of the most significant pieces in the exhibition is a portrait of Frank Zappa who died of prostate cancer in 1993.

Frank Zappa, the man with the mo

Frank Zappa. The man with the mo.

Ben is also open to ideas for those who want a bespoke watercolour mo-mento.

“I am also taking requests for Movember portraits so if people want to commemorate their tash or have a hairy lipped icon painted they can get in touch and cash from the sales will go towards the cause.”

Although Rix works in different mediums from large scale murals to animation, he chose a different style for this series.

Freddy Mercury.  He knew what he was doing

Freddy Mercury. He knew what he was doing

“I chose portraiture as I find it stirs great emotional reactions in people which is very heart warming and gives huge purpose to my art.”

Rix’s Movember Series was started last year, and despite a great response, a lack of exhibition space meant that there was no platform for sales.

But thanks to spotting an advert in his local pub, Ben got in touch with Mr Gresty, a designer and curator who comes up with creative briefs, inviting artists to get involved with the opportunity to hold their own exhibition.

Carlos Santana.  Mexi-mo

Carlos Santana. Mexi-mo.

Mr Gresty said: “When I first saw Ben’s portraits I was blown away, it was a double take moment, you can be fooled into thinking they are photographs.”

The exhibition also features eight portraits of Rix’s close friends but as the show ran into Movember, Mr Gresty asked if he could include his Movember paintings.

“It all made sense!” he said.

Lionel Richie.  Is is mo, you're looking for?

Lionel Richie. Is is mo, you’re looking for?

For Rix, painting his moustached icons turned out to be far easier than growing a moustache himself.

“The Movember paintings didn’t prove too difficult to execute, just a lot of meticulous layering and fine brush work, especially on the tash!”

The exhibition continues until 15 November
The Lauriston
162 Victoria Park Rd
To submit your own commissioned moustache icon painting see Ben Rix’s website
For more about Mr Gresty’s art projects see the website

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.