31 October 2012

We Make London's Christmas Fair at Chelsea Old Town Hall

The King's Road is so named because it was Charles II's private road between his palaces in London and Kew. Subsequently large expensive houses sprang up either side and the whole area around became a magnet for the wealthy and upper classes.
In the 1960s the road had a revival and was really the place to be seen. Rock stars, models, actors and actresses lived and socialised there. It became a hothouse for new design talent, with one-off boutiques selling all kinds of trendy and avant garde creations – Mary Quant and Dame Vivienne Westwood both opened their first shops there. River Island started out in King's Road as the Chelsea Girl brand.
In addition to this there were plenty of antique dealers, most of them renting space in the wonderful Art Nouveau Grade II Antiquarious building. It was the oldest antiques emporium in London. But two years ago the antique dealers were 'evicted' in favour of an American clothing chain.
So, sadly, these days the King's Road is just like any other homogenous high street or retail park selling over-priced mass-produced fashion. I have written about this kind of thing before. And it saddens me.
But all is not lost. One just has to look harder....
There are still plenty of designer-makers out there creating wonderfully individual and handmade things, and on this Sunday 4th November you will be able to find many of them at the first of We Make London's Christmas Fairs at Chelsea Old Town Hall from 11am until 5pm. £2 entrance fee, but well worth it, if only to be inspired into making something for yourself.
Also available on the day will be Inspired:London, WML's lovely book showcasing 162 London-based designer makers. The book will not be available on general sale until mid-November but pre-launch copies will be available on the day at a reduced price of £10.99. (Be sure to check out page 33!)
Hope to see you there.
Here are some images from in and around the Town Hall and Kings Road:

30 October 2012

Dandylion Market in Kentish Town this Saturday

If you are in or around Kentish Town this Saturday 3rd November why not pop in to The Oxford Arms and tick a few boxes... have a drink and a chat, eat some of the pub's lovely grub, and check out some of the great things available at Lesley's Dandylion market, which will be on there 12.30–5.30pm.
It's a good place to start your Christmas shopping, as this market, which happens on the first Saturday of each month, showcases some great designer-maker talent, plus some vintage clothes, accessories and antique bric-a-brac too.
See here for more info. I notice that one woman will be offering jewellery made out of old clay pipes – wow, now that's different!
I was going to do a collection of lions for this post,; some dandy, some not so, but I think I will save them for another day. Instead, I have put together a collection of details I have noticed along and adjacent to Kentish Town Road... notice all the pub names, many of which do not exist any more.

Ambassador update

Earlier this year you may recall I did a stint as a London Ambassador in Trafalgar Square. Read it it here. I wrote about how although I enjoyed the week I thought money had been ill-spent and many things were badly organised.
Since then I have received a few subsidiary items in the post including two thank you letters; one from from Boris's office and the other from Mr Cameron thanking me for being a Games Maker! D'uh!

This morning I took delivery of a lumpy and partially torn white bubble-wrap envelope. Ripping the package further open I found some more branded Ambassadorial items designed to further my experience – a baton in a box, a CD I haven't bothered to look at yet, and another silly little badge to add to my 'collection' – this one is 'gold'. Ooh the excitement.
There was also a sealed white hardback envelope in there too, but it was empty. I'd rather expected a third thank you letter to be in there, but no.
What an absolute waste of even more money.
Let's do the sums...
A pair of cargo pants, a fleece, 2 T-shirts, a storm jacket, a baseball cap, a trilby, a water bottle, a backpack, name tag and lanyard doobrey, 4 lapel badges, cardboard display thing to attach them to, various bits of stationery and printed ephemera, a baton, a CD, and probably more that I have forgotten about.
Now, multiply that lot by 70,00 Ambassadors. Oh, and add the postage and packing and man hours involved putting it all together.
Money well spent? I think not.

Update 2: I just remembered that they also gave us a Visa debit card pre-loaded with £25 (intended as £5 a day for food) and an Oystercard with about £53 on it (equiv to a zone 1-6 on week Travelcard). Assuming all Ambassadors recieved the same as I did, those two items alone, never mind the cost of the bits of plastic and the admin to implement them costs just short of £55,000. 

Boris's office isn't exactly setting a good example here. What happened to the Olympics themes of sustainability and legacy? It's more of a case of "do as we say, not do as we do". 

27 October 2012

Dalston department stores

Once a salubrious and busy Edwardian high street Kingsland Road has seen some huge changes over the pst century.
The original railway station terminus, in its day one of the largest in London, was left to crumble, as was the surrounding area, which by 2000 had become unloved and dirty. Only Ridley Road market and a few architectural reliefs, pub signs and faded advertising signs here and there show a hint of the area's once grand past. 
The dilapidated properties and cheap rents soon get snapped up by the young and creative and in the last decade Daltson Junction has had a makeover. The extension of LRT's Overground Line means Dalston now has a big new station and, with its superb links to all London, this means more and more people are not only moving to the area, but are going there for its new one-off boutiques, bars and nightlife.
The latest addition is The Dalston Department Store, a pop-up shop open for this weekend in Richmond Road. Packed full of stuff to wear and those ubiquitous cup cakes, it's this isn't really what I'd call a department store – I  mean, where are the kitchenwares, the suitcases, the books and the children's toys? 
I bet nearby Dudley's sold a much better variety in their day. I recently saw an old picture of Dudley's and on it read, 'Z. Dudley Drapery House of Cheapness'! Does anyone know what is planned for this building? I understand that a plan to turn it into flats was on the cards...

25 October 2012

Could you be a Spitalfields reporter?

Old Spitalfields Market has launched a competition to find a team of five writers with a love of the area and a clever way with words to spice up the market's blog with articles about the local residents, shops, events and news. In return for the hard work they are offering up a multitude of exclusive invitations and goodies.
Each #SpitalfieldsReporter will be chosen to specialise in one the following areas: vintage, food, fashion, beauty and East End local. Applications can be in many forms from a written article, photos, a piece to camera etc. Closing date for entries is midday on November 5th. More info here.
The winning fashion writer will be able to come and interview me at the market most weekends...! 

19 October 2012

The Revenger's Tragedy at Hoxton Hall

Last week I went to see The Revenger's Tragedy. The play is being billed as a Halloween Horror Event as it covers all things bloody, macabre, offensive and illegal, including incest, rape, murder, as well as the usual mistaken identities.
I really enjoyed the play, even though the Elizabethan language is really hard to follow.
The story has been somewhat condensed to make for a shorter play and I wonder if it's been hacked at(!) a little too harshly as, during the interval, chatting to other members of the audience, we were all a bit confused who was related to whom and who had done what to whom, and when.
The short and cleverly choreographed second act tied it all together, though I was still confused about the identities of some of the characters on stage, who I thought were dead or banished. The bloodlusty revengeful denouement was way too short for me... I'd wanted and expected more gore, and hoped to leave feeling joyfully disgusted. But it just brought a smile to my face.
The acting is really good and, despite my unfulfilled expectations on the blood and guts front, I urge you to go and see it and also experience the wonderful two tier gallery of this Grade II listed building, one of only four buildings of this type left in the Central London area.
Here's Hoxton Street... once a vibrant street with a bustling market and many pubs and theatres.

15 October 2012

The Princess and the Spacehopper

I was recently asked by an online shopping site about my worst ever Christmas present. 
Nothing immediately came to mind until I remembered one year when we set spending limits and so we gave a lot useful, silly or edible things from the pound stores. 
One of my presents from that source was a framed picture of Prince Charles's first wife. Aaaargh! Cries of 'hang it on the wall Jane; it will look lovely here... or here..." were met with "get that woman out of my house!".
I don't think I even kept the frame!
My best present? Has to be when my sister and I each got Spacehopper. I have fond memories of us bounding up and down the garden.    

12 October 2012

Update on the Holloway Pie & Eel Shop

As you know from an earlier post, I have been watching the reveal of this old sign for years.
A month or so ago the decorators arrived and started painting the woodwork black. But the lettering was left untouched.... what was happening?
Then, earlier this week, a friend told me that he'd noticed it had been completely blacked over (aargh!).

So I went to check for myself and I am glad to report that after speaking to the decorator in the picture above, the sign is safely hidden under boards. The shop itself is being tiled with off-white brick tiles and will be opening as a licensed pie shop. Brilliant!
I hope to be one of the first customers...

11 October 2012

Spitalfields' Fruit & Wool Exchange loses the battle

I am disgusted to report that the three-times overturned plans to develop this site have now been quashed, as the renovation of this historical site is imminent.
With all the empty office space in the vicinity, both in old dilapidated buildings in need of care and renovation, and in modern glass boxes, this is, to my mind, very hard to understand.
As per my comments in an earlier post, I really believe all this new-build is a way off off-setting funds and somehow avoiding tax etc. There can be no other sensible explanation.
See the wonderfully informative Spitalfields Life for a more in-depth report about this building and its future.