29 July 2014

Seven Sisters Road – Holloway to Finsbury Park

This past few weeks I have been preparing for a guided walk that I have been encouraged to do by the lovely people at Rowan Arts. They thought it would be a good idea if I led a tour along a section of Seven Sisters Road to tie in with their programme of events titled 'Seven Sisters Stories'.
"Eek," I thought, "I can talk, but I can't speak", if you get what I mean – I can't just stand there pointing at things that interest me, saying, "look at that; isn't it lovely – I wonder what it means?!". Hence research has been necessary.

So, I have recently spent a lot of time deskbound (when it's absolutely gorgeous outside), both at home and in Islington Library's local history centre, finding out more info about the history of the stretch of road from Nags Head to the gates of Finsbury Park (and getting side-tracked at every turn of a page!).
I always work better with a deadline, hence why I am telling you about this now. Sharing this will make me apply myself properly – finish the research, fix some dates, set up a booking system etc.
Very soon I will  announce the dates, which will be a couple of weekday evenings in August. If it's a success, then who knows, it might become a regular thing...

23 July 2014

Me me me!

Nicola Baird writes Islington Faces, a blog about creative people in Islington. We met when I had a stall selling my clay pipe jewellery and Holloway photo montages at a Rowan Arts event earlier this year and shortly after, she contacted me to ask if I'd like to be interviewed too.
Here's a link to it. I'm not sure about the gurning portrait in there so, seeing as that pic's available to the masses, you might as well see some other pics of me too; all taken in London including four self portraits:

22 July 2014

The Tottenham Court Road emporiums

More proof that you should be looking rather than just bowling along when you pop out for that sandwich at lunchtime.
These pics are from a short middle section of TCR near Goodge Street Station. I have yet to find out the original purposes of the buildings in this top collection of pics. All help welcome.

Top row: The large green dome on the top of the building on the south corner of Chenies Street is topped with a fabulous gold weather vane featuring a lion. Art Deco Glenn House opposite Goodge Street Station is solidly built and features a a ornate clock.
Middle row: First two pics above the Scientologists shop (shop? what is it? a lure? a trap?) – Goddards sign and an ornate frieze. The building that now houses Paperchase sports some colourful gold and blue faux capitals. 
Bottom row: The first image shows the corner of Goodge Street in 2008. The corner building has recently been demolished, as shown in the second pic. Pics 3 and 4 show some of the details on the gothic building which at the time of writing houses EAT sandwich shop.

On the northern corner of Goodge Street, sits a building that is absolutely festooned with ornamentation – friezes of fruit, birds, mythological beasts, windows in all shapes and sizes, and two green conical spires both topped with identical golden spheres and weathervanes of what look like mer-boys. 
Only the a large letter 'C' on the bowled corner window hints at the original owner although this seems a bit of a contradiction seeing how much of a show-off he seems to be in other respects. The 'C' stands for Catesby's Furniture Store and was 'the home of cork lino'. Edward Catesby looks to have been doing rather well for himself. I am told he was a descendant of the gunpowder plotters who tried to blow up James I's parliament.
The architects' initials HAW (Henry A. Whitburn) and the date (1904) can be made out either side of the dragon at the very top. 

Look up, see more!

15 July 2014

Whitecross Street Party 2014

The Whitecross Street Party 2014 – Rise of the Non-conformists is a fab fun colourful central London street festival for all ages. and it's happens this weekend 19th and 20th July.
It doesn't seem like a year since last year's great event which is shown in the pics above.
See you there – I will have a stall again – if I get time I will be also selling some photographic collections of the local area as well as the usual clay pipe stuff.

10 July 2014

Old Salt Quay and Surrey Docks

This huge, now redundant lifting mechanism, can be found on the bridge by the Old Salt Quay at Rotherhithe and marks the entrance from the River Thames into the old, now mostly demolished, Surrey Docks.
The pub that stands nearby was formerly called The Spice Island which hinted at the imported goods coming into the area back in the days when the area was a bustling port.
Read more about the area here in this really informative booklet by Stuart Rankin.

7 July 2014

St Thomas Street – a wind tunnel of change

I recently met some friends for a drinks and nice food in a lovely pub in Bermondsey Street. Zig-zagging back towards London Bridge I entered St Thomas Street via Weston Street to find the junction completely blocked by construction works. Gone was the view of the road tunnel under the railway bridge, with hoardings and scaffolding erected half way along the road looking east. It's probably been like this for ages, but this not being an area I walk regularly, it was a bit of a shock for me. I stood and wondered and hoped if the lovely old brickwork that originally supported the bridge would remain once the work was completed.

Turning left into St Thomas Street I found that I was in a very forceful wind tunnel. It wasn't a particularly breezy evening so I can only assume that The Pointy Thing was causing this uncomfortable condition. I stood at the foot of the glass monstrosity and marvelled at its lack of architectural features. I still could find nothing to endear me to it; just rows and rows of angled plain glass windows separated by red lines and pale grey panels. Actually, it's all a bit mid-80s isn't it?!

On the western end of the St Thomas Street, stands the main tower of Guy's Hospital. This edifice has had a bit of a make-over recently – see the pics in the middle row of the top collection of images; the first were two taken in 2008. The tower dominates the lovely old main entrance to the hospital with its beautiful ironwork gates and gardens.
On the other side of the street, The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Garret and the adjacent georgian buildings make a ridiculous contrast with The Pointy Thing.
These days the powers that be are indeed saving certain buildings from 'progress' but it seems to be only those over 150 years old. Therefore, little three-storey, hand-made and brick-built gems get ring-fenced by enormous sheets of glass as architectural curiosities.

This area of London, from the south side of London Bridge down into Borough High Street, fanning left and right, is steeped in history yet much of it has been lost, mostly due to the swathe of land cleared when extending Guy's Hospital. Once an area for rowdy socialising, gaming, drinking and theatre, most of the drinking holes are long gone with only The George Inn remaining as an example of its kind. Hints of these old taverns can be glimpsed in the truncated narrow streets off the main road.
I have no concluding sentence.

3 July 2014

King Brendon Burns.

Back in August 2002 I was a Perrier judge at the Edinburgh Festival, having won the position through a written competition in Time Out.
It turned out not to be rather hard work – charging back and forth across the city, seeing sometime six shows a day, with many of them not very funny at all, can become rather tedious. Often there were only five people in the audience!
However, I was lucky to see so many great comics before they'd become household names. These included the fabulous Sean Lock (love that man so much!), Rich Hall, Alan Carr, Dara O'Briain and Adam Hills. It was also the year that Jimmy Carr really came to the fore; for some bizarre reason, rather than being the obvious newcomer winner*, he was instead 'promoted' as a front-runner for the main award**.
In the judges' meetings I tried to champion a few of my favourite candidates, but was consistently overruled; often by people who hadn't even seen the shows and weren't even judges. It was rather demeaning; both for me and the acts I was trying to promote.
For instance, they said no to Andrew Maxwell because they thought he talked about football too much. I don't recall it being more that 10% football – I know diddlysquat about football I still found what he had to say really funny. Interesting that two years later he went on to win another major award.
I also liked Reg D. Hunter. But a few of the other narrow-minded 'judges' thought Reg was mysogynistic; something that hadn't crossed my mind at all. I thought he had just been making clever observations about certain types of females. I talked to him at the awards party and he was confused and concerned about this.
And then there was Brendon Burns who put on my second favourite show of the festival**. It was filled with clever, intelligent, side-splitting observations, including one hilarious story about an article in a newspaper that he (and I) had seen involving a man and a goat and a train. Sublime.
During the show he had an assistant tallying up the swear words. He was 'king funny and 'king clever, hence the montage of London king pictures at the top. But, yep, you've guessed it; some of the other judges thought he swore too much. Oh d'uh! It was part of the show!
Brendon is back in London next week with his latest show "Brendon Burns: Hasn't Heard of You Either" at The Soho Theatre, July 8–13th. Be prepared; there will, more than likely, be blaspheming!

* Newcomer winner 2002 – Flight of The Conchords (I preferred Hal Cruttenden, but have since fallen in love with the NZers)
** Main award 2002 – Daniel Kitson – it was almost a unanimous decision.