Archive for the ‘london’ Tag

The healing Earth

Like everyone else, I’ve had a bit of time on my hands this week in lockdown so I made these. This is the full set to date…

holloway road

 

Kilburn High Road corona corvid19 meme

north circular corona corvid19 meme

 

london eye corona corvid19 meme

Memes of the Plague

I made this one this morning…

I think I’ll make one everyday for the next while.

Here is the one I springboarded from…

I wanted to bring it closer to home, Slough being a British comedy generic for shit place.

Memory and the Internet

I’ve just woken up with the phrase ‘Electrical Discount Warehouse’ in my head. I’m fairly sure that was the name of a shop in the parade of shops in the neighbourhood where I grew up. I was trying to recall it at lunchtime yesterday when talking to my mother about that small group of shops and trying to finish reconstructing it with her. It’s always a surprising reminder of the activities of the Unconscious during sleep when you wake up having remembered something you struggled to recall when awake.

So why was I trying to reconstruct the shopping parade from memory? I was driving past it a few days ago (New Year’s Eve) and when I saw the chemist the name Brian Luckhurst sprang to mind, out of nowhere – haven’t thought about it or him for years. Now I write the name down I can begin to see his bald pate and  his person. From that thought, the sudden emergence of his name, came the question: What else was in this parade when I was a child (c.1969-1975)? It’s the kind of memory game people in prison must play. It reminds me of Terry Waite and John McCarthy.

The neighbourhood was called The Green Man after the local pub. One of my first jobs after university was working in that pub. I went in to get a bar job and the manager took one look at my John Lennon glasses and my lily-white hands and said “Accounts”. I enjoyed doing accounts, because unlike with Literature (Modern & Mediaeval Languages = foreign literature), there was an answer. It was therapeutic. By then the name had changed to The Everglades, shifting from English tradition (Robin Hood, forestry) to American exoticness (the Florida swamps – there was an ingredient I saw in the accounts every week, “jalepenos” that matched this exoticism – I was uncertain what on earth they were). I have no idea what the pub or building is called now – it still stands. The ‘race memory’ of the place is captured in the persistence of Green Man as the local name for the junction. There are no signs anywhere that actually say Green Man.

After the internet and advent of the Worldwide Web parochial memories like this by and large tend to get recorded somewhere or other. Before they were much more likely to die away, existing only in stray photos, perhaps local publications, mainly people’s heads. Some of the early films in my career are really hard to find online – my first was in 1987 (as producer-director-writer). Often there is just one artefact to be found – an image or a reference.

Let’s test that one: (“Adam Gee” “The Best” Melrose) [Melrose = production company]…

It draws a total blank, other than where I have recorded it online (i.e. IMDb). I first remember working online in the mid 90s, a couple of years after making The Best.

Of course the efficiency of the search engine(s) is an issue. Thinking about this I remember coming across the film online. It was on a British Film Institute catalogue but it seems to be too deep or the site too poorly constructed to show up in the early pages of search results.

So the memory of the WWW only gets you so far. And there’s still arguably a merit in capturing certain things from in your head and publishing them online. We all know how trivial things can come to have significant meaning in certain contexts.

So for posterity here is what I have managed to reconstruct of The Green Man – from my own memory, with input from my mother and brother, and prompted by those discussions also from my head:

  • Brian Luckhurst chemist – which started the memory ball rolling…
  • Dr Burke’s surgery – 2 Selvage Lane, what I passed to get to the shops
  • The Railway Tavern pub – not really attached to the parade
  • Pet shop on the corner – I can recall the sawdust on the floor, the smell (not unpleasant), and the owner in his grey lab-style coat (Champions? see below)
  • Eric & Mavis newsagent/sweet shop – the other end of that first row of shops, formerly The Penny Shop (sweet shop)
  • Express Dairy outlet – down an alley beyond E&M
  • window shop? glass?
  • Neptune fish & chips shop – over the road, opposite corner; chips were 5p in 1971 at point of decimalisation
  • Post Office – sold singles (ex-juke box), where I bought my first 45: T-Rex, Solid Gold Easy Action
  • Green Grocer – had a delivery boy who rode a heavy black bike, he turned up later in a rockabilly group called The Polecats (who had a modest hit with a rockabilly-punk cover of David Bowie’s John I’m Only Dancing) – his name was something like Bez (real name Martin)
  • plumbers merchants??
  • launderette??
  • Mautners deli
  • Electrical Discount Warehouse – a slightly later arrival my father was attracted to as a physicist who made electrical instruments
  • bookies???
  • butcher? (Lewis?)
  • Martin’s newsagent
  • Women’s hairdresser (Friends???) – end of the Neptune stretch of shops, so the two sides are: Pet Shop-Eric & Mavis, Neptune-hairdresser
  • The Green Man pub – which gave its name to all this
  • Mobil garage

This represents, I would estimate, over 50% of the shop units at The Green Man junction. If I was banged up in a Beirut cell for a few years, I wonder how much more my mind is capable of retrieving?

To conclude this Sunday morning reflection on memory, individual and group recall, and the internet, let’s see what the Web can find visually of these fragments I have retrieved…

One tiny picture of The Green Man pub from a personal collection of pub pictures in the locality (personal local history site)

Green Man pub Hale Lane Edgware

Green Man – Hale Lane, Edgware

A shot of the pet shop part of the parade froma specialist bus site

221_RM1397_HaleLa_NStreet_r green man mill hill

Alan Le???? was a second hairdresser I think. To its left in the image seems to be some kind of office (solicitor? accountant?) – the pet shop is behind the back of this 221 Routemaster bus. The phone number on the office is 0181 so after the expansion of 01 London numbers to 081 to 0181 making this around 1995 so the photo must be misleading in that the bus was vintage at this juncture.

A good picture of the pub from well before my time (must have been rebuilt in the 30s) from a pub wiki

Green Man mill hill hale lane

T. Gill was the publican

Another early photo of the pub from the local authority archives

Green Man pub mill hill hale lane

There seems to have been a garage attached – the Mobil garage ended up on the other side of the pub

A more recent photo of The Green Man building from Tripadvisor labelled “Greenman, Edgware (As it used to be called)”. This iteration is (ugh) The Jolly Badger.

welcome-to-the-jolly badger Green man, Edgware (As it used to be called)

You can see the clapboard fabric of The Green Man building and the Mobil garage (now a different brand).

the green man pub

the green man pub harvester

So, so far, only one image from the era in question – the very first one, small and black & white.

The Everglades Hale Lane NW7 04 1983

Although this one looks old it is labelled 1983 and Everglades, so just before I worked there with the jalapenos.

I just found by chance this reference to the pet shop on a local blog:

4. The Pet shop at The Green Man. I’m sorry to say I can’t recall the name of this. Please leave a comment if you can. I was never allowed to keep pets, but we loved fishing and this was the place I bought my first floats, fishing line and maggots. I had acquired a fishing rod at a local jumble sale, one of the old bamboo style efforts, with a cork handle and rubber bung on the end. It came with a Hardy reel, which I soon found out was a fly fishing model. I traded this for a more suitable coarse fishing model, having restored it to working order. I recently saw a similar model on sale for nearly £200. I think I didn’t get the best of that deal!

Glyn Burns said…
I think the pet shop at the Green Man was called Champions.

5 August 2019 at 05:44

king neptune fish and chips mill hill green man

survives little changed

Bottom line, just the one tiny contemporary photo; establishments that have survived the decades; personal memories.

Here at King Neptune is an apposite place to conclude as it is the Fisher King at the very end of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land who says:

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

As one commentator puts it: “the king will do his best to put in order what remains of his kingdom”. The gathering of fragments. Of memories. Striving for order. Constructing and reconstructing visions and patterns. Setting the lands in order.

I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam uti chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
                  Shantih     shantih     shantih

Self-Listed Londoner

I started this post on 14th March 2014 – I’m finally in the mood to finish it (1st January 2020).

london aerial view river thames

Robert Elms seems to have mislaid my number so I’m having to list myself as a Londoner with the usual questions… (Was listening to ‘Arry Redknapp’s one yesterday – fuckin’ charmin’)

1) What’s your favourite neighbourhood?

I still get an Absolute Beginners kick from Soho, love the surprising London postcode (NW7) tranquility of Mill Hill’s Ridgeway and the adjacent green belt, but I think I’ll go for the long, thin neighbourhood of all along the Regent’s Canal all the way from Golborne Road to Limehouse Basin plus off-shoots.

2) What’s your favourite building?

At first I was contemplating The British Library (especially the Humanities Reading Rooms) – I feel most comfortable among books. But on further reflection it is Senate House (University of London) where I go twice a month on Friday evening for James Joyce seminars (what a wild life). It is beautiful inside, lavished in marble and wood. And outside it is truly monumental. Different lighting at different times of day keeps it endlessly impressive. It sits on perhaps my favourite street in the city – Malet Street with its avenue of delicate trees has a very special vibe. Plus Store Street opposite has a distinctive Bloomsbury feel, especially after dark. My dad went to Birkbeck on Malet St to do his Chemistry degree. And two of my distant forebears set up UCL which is also in the hood so the whole area has taken on an increasing personal significance for me over the years.

3) What’s your most hated building?

Elephant & Castle shopping centre – they really need to just start again from a blank space.

4) What’s the best view in London?

Flying into the city along the Thames estuary.

5) What’s your favourite open space?

St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, N2 – my jogging place,  a tranquil momento mori with wildlife (including woodpeckers and magpies in pairs) and no traffic

6) What’s the most interesting shop?

I’m going to cheat a bit and take two bookshop windows – one local, one central. The local is Black Gull in East Finchley high road – I regularly stop to check out the latest display which is usually determined by a topical theme (an obscure history of Ukraine had shown up when I looked in last night on the way home from work) or a collection recently bought (e.g. a collection of Beat-related books appeared a few weeks ago of which I bought some gems like a 60s paperback of The Horn (John Clellon Jones) and a very pink hardback of Terry Southern’s Candy). The central one is Sotheran’s on Sackville Street, Piccadilly, opposite BAFTA, which is a high-end fine books and prints shop. established in York in 1761 it is ‘the longest established antiquarian booksellers in the world’. The window display is always fascinating with mouth-watering first editions and off-beat treasures. From there I might trot over to the young upstart Hatchard’s, established 1797.

7) What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?

I tend to incline towards the Middle Eastern so Yalla Yalla – Soho branch is high up the list but top is the cafe in Sunny Hill Park, Hendon which pretty much introduced shakshuka to London and is the only place I know to get jachnun.

8) What’s been your most memorable night out in London?

E-fuelled night starting out at James Taylor Quartet in Forum, Kentish Town and ending after dawn dancing in the car park at Hampstead Heath (South End Green) concluded by some cops pulling up and asking something along the lines of ” ‘Allo, ‘allo,’allo, what’s goin’ on ‘ere then?”

9) How would you like to spend your ideal day off in London?

Early morning swim (summer – water temperature around 25 degrees) at Men’s Pond, Hampstead Heath. Breakfast at Banners in Crouch End (with Jon & Stu reminiscing about the Select Latin, Blvd St Michel). Pop up to The Ridgeway, NW7 for an open-air read. Walk along the canal to Trellick. A coffee and nata on Golborne Road. A themed walk of my own making across the city e.g. Profumo Promenade with my sons. Lunch at The Wolseley including chicken soup. Boat trip down the river towards the estuary, at least as far as North Greenwich. G&T at an old pub by the river eg The Angel, Rotherhithe. Walk along the river East of Tower Bridge. Cocktails at Bar Américain with Peter Curran. Dinner outdoors at Sunny Hill Park. Watch the sunset at Waterloo Bridge. Go to a gig at Ronnie’s. Night walk with Adam Zuabi.

This is of course logistically totally impossible.

And I could easily write it again right now with an entirely different itinerary.

10) Where would you take someone visiting from out of town?

The Arab Hall at Leighton House.

The Rose Garden at Regent’s Park.

11) What’s the worst journey you’ve had to make in London?

Any morning rush hour tube – in the words of Ian Dury, who could have been the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station, wot a waste.

12) What’s your personal London landmark?

Whitestone Pond – my birthplace with one of the best views of the city.

Ford_Madox_Brown_-_An_English_Autumn_Afternoon,_1852-1853

Ford Madox Brown ‘An English Autumn Afternoon’ (1852-1853) painted from up by Whitestone Pond – he is buried in the St Pancras & Islington cemetery by my house as referenced above

The red-brick building beside the Pond was a maternity hospital when I was born but has now become an old-age home – I’m aiming to get back there to complete the circle. The only person I have met who was also born there was David Aaronovitch 9this came out on a coach journey back from Aldeburgh).

13) Who’s your favourite fictional Londoner?

Sherlock Holmes’ street urchins crossed my mind first but it has to be Charlie Chaplin’s tramp. (I know he operated mainly in America but he is essentially a creation of Kennington and Chaplin’s native London).

chaplin-charlie-city-lights

My favourite movie of all time – City Lights

14) What’s your favourite London film, book or documentary?

Blow Up – I must go down visit that park (with the dead body – or not…) sometime, been meaning to for years

15) If you could travel to any time period in London, past or future, where would you go?

Swinging 60s including seeing The Doors at the Roundhouse

Jim Morrison at London's Roundhouse 1968 the doors

back to 1968

***

So that took just 6 years to complete – and I still need to refine most of the answers.

Update to Dive into The Box

This update to my post of 22nd December concerns the Empire Studio(s).

The Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 to 1940 website kindly informed me that there were 2 studios called Empire Studio in Cardiff and Edinburgh, plus 5 in London, and about 10 in other parts of the country. The London ones were active 1909 – 1932.

The London ones were:

  1. 60 High Street, Stoke Newington, London N
  2. 491 New Cross Road, New Cross, London SE
  3. Empire Studios – 106 Shoreditch High Street, London E – 1922-27
  4. 133a High Street Deptford, London SE
  5. Empire Studios – 305 Kentish Town (Road?), London NW – 1931-?

My guess was Shoreditch, being closer to Dagenham, but the dates aren’t right for what is evidently a WW1 photograph.

49257399871_f26a48eb72_k

I’ve been to visit the Kentish Town site and the Shoreditch one over the last two days, taking advantage of the quiet time in the city between Christmas and New Year.

Here’s the Kentish Town site:

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

305 Kentish Town Road

The Art deco flourish seems to match the 1931 opening

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

And here’s the Shoreditch site:

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

106 Shoreditch High Street (right)

Nothing left of the building but you can see from 107 what it may well have looked like. I like the fact it is now More Joy as JOY is a resonant word for me – my daily mantra is “I will enJOY my day”.

Talking of buildings no longer there, yesterday I also went to seek out 8 Praed Street as featured in yesterday’s post. My great-grandfather’s tobacconist is no more – it’s under the Hilton hotel.

49278919311_613efa5454_k

8 Praed Street, Paddington (right)

That’s the name of the game – some stuff survives, other is but a memory.

The Box

Last week I was given this box

box of telephone equipment

It seems to be from some kind of telephonic equipment, some sort of exchange

box of telephone equipment detail

Inside was a load of family photographs and a couple of old documents

pile of family photos photographs

My plan is to upload and explore two or three a day starting today. Here’s the first – a document from my grandparents:

wedding party menu murrays soho london

It’s the menu from their wedding party in 1938

wedding party menu murrays soho london 1938

Why it caught my eye was because of the venue, Murray’s in Beak Street, Soho – that’s where Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, made notorious through the Profumo Affair in 1963, worked as dancers/good-time girls. Here’s Keeler in 1960

christine keeler 1960 murrays club

Murray’s had opened just five years before the wedding (under that particular name – the venue originates from 1913 and finally closed in 1975). The sign is still there, or at least it was a couple of years ago when I noticed it walking by.

Murrays Cabaret Club 16-18 Beak St soho london profumo affair

16-18 Beak Street, Soho

menu murrays club soho 1938

So this was the era of French menus (to posh things up) and 3-letter telephone exchanges (STE for Stepney). Consomme Palestine is an interesting item. All in all not a bad meal.

My last Profumo adventure is here

The second document to catch my eye was this one from 1943:

national registration identity card britain

It belonged to my great-grandfather, Samuel, who was known as Choc. This was because he was rewarded with chocolate for good performances on the football field as a boy – and it stuck.

national registration identity card britain 1943

I’ll have to take a trip to Lichfield Road, Dagenham sometime soon. I did a talk out that way for Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools this time last year  and knew I was in my grandfather’s manor for the first time.

identity card 1943 britain

“You must produce it on demand by a Police Officer in uniform” – how very unBritish. I blame the Nazis.

I’m currently working on a feature documentary about the Nazis with journalist Martin Bright and director André Singer. The Nazis, they do quickly get you down – the dregs of humanity.

Tinkety tonk old fruit, and down with the Nazis

Sign-off used by the Queen Mother in a letter two years before this Identity Card (in February 1941) and later adopted by Kermode & Mayo on their movies podcast.

Coincidences quote

Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.

 

I’ve seen this quotation attributed to both Albert Einstein and Doris Lessing (the former seems to have the consensus). It links to my vague sense of being a Pantheist.

The last two weeks there’s been a Colombia thing going on in my life. It is not a country I have much personal connection with nor any experience of.

columbia wharf london river thames

columbia wharf horn stairs 1937

1937

As I was travelling along the Thames yesterday morning on the way to Ravensbourne university/media school to do some work on their MDes course, a postgrad masters programme which is kind of an MBA through the lens of Design, I passed Columbia Wharf, some way east out of the centre of town, on the south bank. This reminded me of, among several other manifestations over the last few days:

  • a documentary I am working on set on Tierra Bomba, a small island off of Cartagena
  • another documentary I have in the cutting room about Colombian BMXers
  • meeting a charming producer (in Waterloo a few days ago) from San Andrés, a small English-speaking island which belongs to Colombia but is much nearer Nicaragua – it was the stronghold of Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan, who was a thorn in the side of the Spanish and regularly ransacked Cartagena
  • several more minor sightings of Colombia and Colombian in shops and other places
Captain Henry Morgan

Captain Henry Morgan

colombian skull

Update 5/8/19:

model boat columbia

  • a model boat beside me at breakfast this morning in my hotel in St Ives, Cornwall is called Columbia
  • I turned on the TV in this hotel room the night before last and ‘Long Lost Families’ was on (one of my favourites) – the first story was about a UK woman being reunited with her birth parents in Colombia
  • the Tour de France finished a couple of days ago – the winner, the first non-UK one for a few years, was a young Colombian, Egan Bernal
  • I was at a play a few days ago, ‘Sweat’ by Lynn Nottage – it has a line where a man, Oscar, is assumed to be a Puertorican and he retorts: “Well, I’m a Colombian and I don’t know” (the question was do you know a fellow Puertorican who could burn my house down)

See also: 4 Pantheist Quotations including two more from Einstein

The Story 2019 – the first decade

On Friday I went to my ninth The Story (I was working abroad one year and reluctantly had to pass on my ticket (though at least it found a good home with Jörg Tittel, producer of the forthcoming Brexit comedy short Nyet) ). It is an annual day-long conference/gathering focused on stories and storytelling – the only such event I go to religiously every year as it is unfailingly a source of inspiration, being a rich mix cutting across mediums and platforms, usually with a good sprinkling of digital. It was initiated by Matt Locke of Storythings when he was working with me at Channel 4, so I was able to get in on the ground floor.
I spoke at The Story No. 9 to introduce a documentary inspired by The Story No. 8 – director Victoria Mapplebeck showed her first smartphone doc at No. 8 and I commissioned a second one, Missed Call, for Real Stories, which was just coming out of the edit at the time of last year’s The Story where we played a teaser clip. So an organically Story project.
This 10th edition had the familiar alchemy, a range of story forms and storytellers which complemented one another beautifully.
2008 / A Gathering Space / Scotland at Venice Biennale of Architecture - curated by Patricia Fleming

2008 / A Gathering Space / Scotland at Venice Biennale of Architecture – curated by Patricia Fleming

First up this year was curator Patricia Fleming, the driving force of the Fuse initiative in Glasgow in the 90s which connected and supported over 500 visual artists, including a good smattering of Turner Prize winners such as Douglas Gordon and Martin Boyce. Patricia is evidently a master of putting empty buildings to constructive use and collaborating not only with the artists but also with the suits, including developers and the suity end of the architect scale.
11-11-memories-retold game still

11/11 Memories Retold

Next up was a Creative Director at Aardman Animation, Finbar Hawkins. He’s been with the Interactive team for the last five years and was one of the prime-movers behind the First World War game 11/11 Memories Retold. I worked with that very talented team at Aardman about a decade ago on an animation hub called 4mations, in a team with the then Channel 4 Arts Commissioning Editor Jan Younghusband and animation veteran Camilla Deakin of Lupus Films. Finbar gave a detailed walk-through of the process of creating the game and the thinking behind many of the creative decisions. The decision to reject proposed Vorticist/Paul Nash-style imagery in favour of Impressionist style and palette was an interesting one – the game does look beautiful [Note to self (inspired by Finbar’s talk): go see the Bonnard exhibition currently showing at Tate Modern].
Morph aardman animation

Keeping it thumby

Particularly interesting was the story structure section where Finbar described how the two writers had to impose structure on the narrative when they were brought on-board. Also the focus on meaningful choices in the game which impact on the story/editorial as the underpinning of the interactivity really spoke to me – much the same principle as informed the multiplatform projects I led at Channel 4. I loved the use of animal characters to provide other perspectives – a cat for exploring, especially confined spaces, and a pigeon for overhead views. But most of all I loved an imperative phrase quoted from Aardman main man Nick Park: “Keep it thumby”  – i.e. not too smooth, retaining the feel of the human creative touch.
on guard world war one postcard august 1914
The narrative of the game was based on letters home from the front. It’s a subject I’ve been immersing myself in recently through found postcards like this one and the one above. Found stories was at the heart of the next session, the highlight of the day for me because of that shared interest, a fabulous presentation by Brooklyn-based multimedia immersive artist Alison Kobayashi. As soon as she showed her collection of old ansaphones with their unerased tapes – in other words, treasure trove of found audio stories – she had me hooked. Then her mention of her collection of eBay-acquired Black & White photos of rainbows was cherry on the cake. The combination of found narrative, collecting and surreal humour is 100% my bag.
Say Something Bunny at UNDO Project Space

Say Something Bunny at UNDO Project Space

The meat of her talk was about her 6-years-in-the-making Say Something Bunny project – a live participative performance centred on a ‘wire recorder’ found recording from 1952. The wire recorder was a short-lived recording device through which sound was recorded on a spool of wire. The performance derived from the recording Alison acquired of a New York family playing with their new machine – singing, kvetching, teasing, joking – involves an audience of 25 seated in the round. To make things even more rich, the found audio is a palimpsest with an old radio show previously recorded bleeding through onto the overdub.
missed call research in film award 2018

Scion of The Story

Missed Call (mentioned near the beginning) recently won a Research in Film Award of which we were all very proud as research is rarely put in the spotlight. Research and Deep Listening is the beating heart of Say Something Bunny. It highlights Connections and Serendipity which are core to Simple Pleasures Part 4, being core to Creative Thinking and Innovation.
I had a serendipitous encounter with Alison in a nearby Korean restaurant at lunchtime after her session and will follow her work closely henceforth as I felt we fish in the same waters in the same spirit.
Alison Kobayashi at the story 2019 conway hall london say something bunny

Alison Kobayashi being true to herself

Alison spoke about how important it is to…
alison kobayashi at the story 2019
This was a theme echoed by comedy writing partners Joel Morris & Jason Hazeley – veterans of Viz and Charlie Brooker telly stuff (incl. Philomena Cunk) as well as the wags behind the adult Ladybird Books (like the one I was given by my other half at Christmas: ‘How It Works’ the Husband) – in their closing session (slight time warp here).
How it Works: The Husband

How it Works: The Husband

Their talk about Big Laughs in Small Spaces analysed the art of ultra-short stories and jokes. Like Alison, they highlighted the role of the audience in filling out the spaces and used this story to illustrate their point:
Joel Morris & Jason Hazeley at The Story 2019 conway hall london
Seemingly, although often attributed to Hemingway, it dates from some less famous source in 1906. It is a great example of a story that bursts into bloom as soon as it touches your imagination like one of those Japanese paper flowers hitting water.
chalk_outline bullets cartridges
Joel summarised short jokes as “the chalk outline & spent cartridges” – all that’s needed to set off the audience’s imaginations and creativity.
Knights Of founders Aimée Felone and David Stevens

A sparky double act: Knights Of founders Aimée Felone and David Stevens

A lovely touch of dynamic, young entrepreneurial creativity showed up in the form of hot-off-the-press new publishing venture Knights Of. Aimée Felone and David Stevens have launched their enterprise from a pop-up in Brixton followed by a crowd-funding campaign which attracted the attention of some of the big boys, including Penguin who match-funded their fundraising efforts. Their enthusiasm and energy was infectious.
Videogames- Design : Play : Disrupt Victoria and Albert Museum, London
As was curator Marie Foulston’s for all things video game, including her Wild Rumpus Collective pioneering new ways to bring games to public spaces and in particular her exhibition at the V&A (which closed today after a six-month run, though it is moving on to V&A Dundee) Design/Play/Disrupt. It strives to present the video game as a design object with an associated design process. She used a glittering quote from Frank Lantz
Games are operas made out of bridges
to capture the combination of artistic emotion and technical craft. I heard someone else today use the phrase “poetry and pipes” to describe the same concept (but I’m darned if I can recall who it was talking about exactly what).
It was great to see physical notebooks as design artefacts. I’m a great believer in notebooks and in pencils. There’s no digital way of reproducing quite the thumbiness of these tools.
Spider-man- Into the Spider-verse 

Spider-man: Into the Spider-verseMore gorgeous colours

Bringing some Hollywood glam to the afternoon Justin K Thompson Production Designer of Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse talked us through the making of the animated movie, which may well win the Oscar as I am writing this post (having already won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, for which I voted it), using fascinating layered moving picture illustrations to show how shots and sequences were conceived and built up. I was particularly taken by the colour palette and mood board illustrations and the ‘colour script’ which captures the colour and lighting across the whole movie. Justin, with whom I had a brief chat on leaving Conway Hall, captured the driving concern to get back the tactile quality into animation, the qualities which made us fall in love with comic books, the line work, the imperfect printing – in other words, Nick Park’s thumby qualities which bring the humanity to animation and other artistic disciplines.
Justin highlighted a couple of key aspects of creativity – the permission to try & fail (in an intelligent, progressive way) and perhaps above all the ludic quality (which Marie Foulston also touched on) – the best creative projects are made fun as the team are empowered to try new things.
Justin K Thompson Production Designer of Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse 
For pure speaking-verve, it was hard to beat the very engaging Head of Engagement at the Museum of London Sara Wajid. She brought us back in touch with those childhood experiences of museums as playgrounds (again that ludic dimension of the creative experience).  Having highlighted the nadir of “book on the wall” museum experiences (I have a strong fairly recent memory of that in the British Museum where my MA had not equipped me with the wherewithal to understand the labels by the permanent exhibits). Sara drew attention to the quality of “bounce” – the word of the day – gritty energy to debate and then get shit done. She advocated bringing the vibe and dynamics of the TV comedy writers’ room to museum design and curation. She discussed all this in the frame of diversity – one of the first talks on that dimension of creative enterprise I’ve heard that captured the true energy and advantage of mixing things up, of bringing together talents and ways of thinking from all quarters.
Museum of London moves to Smithfield Market

New Museum of London space in old Smithfield market

She gave us a sneaky peak of the new Museum of London space in Smithfield market. Conway Hall, the home of The Story, is another great London space. It opened in 1929 as the base of what is considered the oldest surviving free-thought organisation in the world, established on 14th February 1793, 226 years to the week before The Story No.10. (My first visit to the Hall was a creative one – my first commissioned photo shoot, around 1987 – to photograph Gerry Adams and Ken Livingstone for Sinn Fein’s An Phoblacht magazine.) With its legend (one of Shakey’s, from Hamlet)
To Thine Own Self Be True
high above the speakers, it is the perfect reflective, ethical, free-thinking place to learn from and delight in stories.
Conway Hall to thine own self be true hamlet
***
Previous The Story posts (with pics) include:
2014
2012
2010

Art Vandals 5: Indelible Marx

Weapon: (1) Hammer (2) Red Paint

Reason: (1 & 2) political

tomb of karl marx highgate cemetery london

Three miles down the road from where I am writing is this North London landmark – the tomb of Karl Marx. Buried beneath this grizzly bust are Marx, his wife (Jenny von Westphalen) and other members of his family, all gathered together there in 1954 after having been buried elsewhere in Highgate Cemetery (about a hundred yards away). The tomb has been listed since 1974, elevated to Grade I in 1999.

The monument was attacked for a second time in a month a week ago today (15th-16th February). The first attack was on 4th-5th February. Whether this fully constitutes Art Vandalism is a moot point – it is not the sculpture that has been targeted but, firstly, the plaque with text and, secondly, the pedestal.

Karl_Marx_tomb highgate london

The tomb (as it is generally referred to) was designed by English sculptor and artist Laurence Bradshaw. He was for a while assistant to Frank Brangwyn who in turn was assistant to William Morris, creating a resonant Socialist chain of heritage.

The memorial was officially unveiled on 15th March 1956 at a ceremony led by Harry Pollitt, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The party funded the tomb.

The tomb is topped by the bronze bust of Marx. It sits on a marble pedestal. The words top front on the pedestal – Workers of all lands unite – are the final words of The Communist Manifesto. The central panel – target of the first attack – comes from the original 1883 grave and lists those interred, which include Marx’s housekeeper Helene Demuth. The text at the bottom comes from the conclusion of Marx’s Eleven Theses on Feuerbach.

Marx was a political exile in London, arriving in June 1849. There are various Marx-related London landmarks including at 28 Dean Street, Soho

blue plaque karl marx dean street soho london

2nd floor, 28 Dean St.

and in Maitland Park Road, South End Green/Belsize Park, where he moved in 1875 and remained until his death in 1883. The house there was replaced by a Camden Council housing block in the 50s due to bomb damage from the Blitz.

karl marx brown camden plaque Maitland Park Road belsize park london

site of 41 Maitland Park Road

He wrote Das Kapital in our city, famously using the British Library reading room at the heart of the affluent thinking territory of Bloomsbury.

This month’s attacks are not the first. There were two bombing attempts in the 1970s, including a pipe bomb set off in January 1970 which damaged the front of the memorial.  And there have been numerous other incidents of vandalism ever since its unveiling in 1956. It has had paint daubed over it before. The bronze bust has been dragged off the plinth with ropes.

karl marx tomb vandalised highgate cemetery

Hammer attack on the panel from the original grave

The weapon of choice earlier this month seems to have been a hammer, a rusty one. The words targeted seem to be centred on the second occurrence of his name.

karl marx tomb vandalised at Highgate Cemetery in north London

The second assault was with ironically Communistic red paint.

karl marx tomb vandalised at Highgate Cemetery in north London

The daubed words include “doctrine of hate”, “architect of genocide” and “memorial to Bolshevik holocaust 1917 1953 66,000,000 dead”.

Morgan: a suitable case for treatment karl marx tomb 1966 movie film

Morgan: a suitable case for treatment – David Warner as Morgan

One of my first encounters with the tomb was as a teenager getting deeply into cinema, watching the 1966 film Morgan: a suitable case for treatment directed by Czech-British director Karel Reisz. He was a child refugee from the other more famous Holocaust, rescued by Sir Nicholas Winton along with 668 others. Both his parents died in Auschwitz.

Morgan: a suitable case for treatment karl marx tomb 1966 movie film

The Friends of Highgate Cemetery called the hammer attack “a particularly inarticulate form of political comment”. Suits the times.

After the first attack the Metropolitan Police said: “Initial enquiries have been completed and at this stage the investigation has been closed. If any further information comes to light, this will be investigated accordingly.” Another sign of the times.

Officials from the cemetery are getting in touch with the tomb’s owners, the Marx Grave Trust (based at the Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell). The monument is uninsured. They are to discuss the possibility of installing CCTV around it.

After the second attack the Metropolitan Police said they had received a report of criminal damage at around 10.50am on Saturday. “There have been no arrests. We would appeal to anyone who has any information to contact us.” The Met spokesman also confirmed no arrests had been made over the 4th February attack.

The quality of political debate in this country is about on a level with the effectiveness of an over-stretched police force. Morgan would love it.

Sydney Cohen vs 4,300 Italian Fascist troops: Syd won

sydney cohen syd king of lampedusa

Sydney Cohen

On this day in 1946 a plane went missing without trace over the English Channel. On board was Sydney Cohen, an RAF pilot and the ‘King of Lampedusa’. He was flying home to be demobbed but his aircraft crashed in the Straits of Dover. The wreckage was never found.

Lampedusa is a small island 175 miles (280 kilometres) south of Sicily. (These days it is most often referred to in relation to the European migration crisis, receiving migrants from North Africa.)

map lampedusa sicily tunisia

Syd Cohen was a tailor’s cutter from the East End of London. He was an orphan (born 1921) who before the Second World War lived with his sister Lily in a block of flats in Stoke Newington.

How he became Italian royalty is one of the great little stories of World War Two.

20 year-old Sydney Cohen joined the Royal Airforce in 1941 and was based at North Weald near Epping. He was subsequently stationed on Malta. On 12th June 1943 Sergeant Cohen took off from the island with his two-man crew in their Swordfish biplane. With him was Sergeant Peter Tait, navigator, and Sergeant Les Wright, wireless operator and gunner. They were on a search-and-rescue mission after reports of a German plane crashing into the Mediterranean. Returning from the mission their compass started malfunctioning and they found themselves off course (actually heading away from Malta) and low on fuel so had to make an emergency landing on the Island of Lampedusa.

fairey swordfish plane

Fairey Swordfish

“The plane had a fit of gremlins so we had to make for the nearest land. As we came down on a ropey landing ground we saw a burnt hangar and burnt aircraft around us.”

The Allies had been bombing the island. As Sydney prepared to submit to the inevitable fate of being captured…

“a crowd of Italians came out to meet us and we put our hands up to surrender, but then we saw they were all waving white sheets shouting: “No, no – We surrender!” The whole island was surrendering to us!”

“It was a bit of a shake-up but I put on a bold heart and asked to see the commandant. I was taken to the commandant’s villa but an air raid started and everybody suddenly dashed from the room. I concluded that the nerves of my hosts were a bit jagged. They asked me to return to Malta and inform the authorities of their offer to surrender. They gave me a scrap of paper with a signature on it.”

Sydney accepted the surrender of the commandant of the demoralised garrison, refuelled, flew the scribbled surrender on to headquarters in Tunis, and in effect single-handedly captured Lampedusa and 4,300 Italian troops. It was arguably the first step in the retaking of Europe by the Allies.

Surrendered weapons of the Italian garrison Lampedusa

Surrendered weapons of the Italian garrison

king cohen of lampedusa newspaper headline

The British press picked up on the story to help boost morale. ‘Lampedusa Gives In to Sgt. Cohen!’ was the front-page headline on the Sunday Pictorial the very next day. The News Chronicle gave it the headline: ‘London Tailor’s Cutter is now King of Lampedusa’ establishing the monicker which went on to provide the title for a highly successful Yiddish musical play by S.J. Charendorf.

grand palais yiddish theatre programme king of lampedusa sj charendorf

Programme from Grand Palais, East London

Charendorf was a Czech-American journalist, London correspondent for the Jewish Morning Journal of New York. He was on his way to the Ministry of Information to file his story about Sgt Syd Cohen when it occurred to him that it had the makings of a brilliant play. He turned back home to write it. He changed the hero’s name to Sam Kagan and created parents and a fiancee for him but Sam was clearly Syd.

poster king of lampedusa grand palais london

Poster from Grand Palais

In November 1943 Charendorf took his script to Meier Tzelniker, the actor-producer-director who ran the Grand Palais Yiddish theatre on the Commercial Road in Whitechapel. Tzelniker commissioned some music and wrote the lyrics himself. He also cast himself in the lead role alongside his daughter Anna. The show premiered on New Year’s Eve 1943/4. It was a slow burner but Charendorf got the newspapers interested in the story again and it took off.

King of Lampedusa 2nd act newspaper cutting

The King in Act 2

King of Lampedusa yiddish play

‘The King of Lampedusa’ was a huge hit at the Grand Palais with 200 consecutive performances.

play scene the king of lampedusa

Naturalistic East End cheek-pinching from The King of Lampedusa

The BBC went on to broadcast an English version with Sydney Tafler playing the title role.

In time it came to the treacherous attention of William Joyce aka Lord Haw-Haw. In one of his nightly propaganda broadcasts from Berlin he threatened:

“The Yids at the Grand Palais should not be laughing for much longer at the ridiculous play ‘The King of Lampedusa’ because they are earmarked for a visit from the Luftwaffe.”

Although Cohen went missing in 1946, he did get to see the play while on leave in Haifa in 1944. It was a performance in Hebrew at the Hamatae Theatre. But he never saw the London production.

A final weird twist of a bizarre story – In the wake of Sydney meeting his end on a plane, so did the would-be producer of a movie of the story. After the war the film rights to the play were sold, however the film was never produced because the producer who acquired them, Walter Sistrom, suffered a burst appendix on the plane taking him to Columbia Studios in LA and he died.

 

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