London culture

I’m With the Band: Top 10 London Attractions for Musicians (Visit London Blog)

London has long been a magnet for the world’s most famous singers and bands – and it’s produced a fair few itself, from Queen to Amy Winehouse. So the city is full of great attractions where musicians and lovers of music can learn about their idols, buy classic records and even record a tune. Here are 10 of the best:

Abbey Road
The iconic Beatles album cover picturing the famous four walking over a zebra crossing on London’s Abbey Road has inspired endless copies and parodies. The nearby Abbey Road Studios are not open to the public (unless you’ve booked a recording session), but they do have a live web cam online so why tell your friends back home to look out for you doing the famous walk?

Jersey Boys
Even if you’re not familiar with the name Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, you’ll know their songs: Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye), Big Girls Don’t Cry, Beggin’, December 1963 (better known as Oh What A Night)… the list goes on. So Jersey Boys, the Olivier Award-winning musical about the band, is a must for all music fans – even if you think you’re not into musicals! Other great musicals to check out include Thriller – Live (Michael Jackson) and We Will Rock You (Queen).

British Music Experience
Roll back the years at the British Music Experience (located inside The O2) and explore amazing outfits, instruments, videos, photos and other memorabilia from the past and present of British popular music. Look out for John Lennon’s glasses, Ziggy Stardust’s 1970s number outfit and ‘Ginger Spice’ Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress. Plus you can show your best moves in the Dance The Decades booth, record a track in the Gibson Interactive Studio and transport yourself to some of the biggest concerts of the past 60 years in The Finale.

Open Mic Night at The Spice of Life
Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Jamie Cullum have all performed at The Spice of Life in Soho. And you can too if you pop along to its Open Mic Night, held every Monday. Make use of the in-house piano and PA, or bring along your own instrument. The music kicks off at 7pm, but performers should sign up at 6.30pm to be sure of getting a spot.

Denmark Street
Denmark Street, near Leicester Square, is known as London’s Tin Pan Alley. Both sides of the small street are lined with music shops, including Wunjo Guitars (selling new, used and vintage guitars), Vintage & Rare Guitars and Sax.co.uk. Stick around into the evening to enjoy live music at the intimate 12 Bar Club or Alleycat Bar Club, located below Regent Sounds Studio – where the Rolling Stones recorded their first album.

Rock and Roll London Walk
If you love to be regaled by tales of rockstar exploits, book a spot on the fascinating, two-hour-long Rock and Roll London Walk. You’ll visit the famous Marquee Club, pop into the pub where Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton once jammed, discover the location of the Sex Pistols’ world debut, and much more. No need to book, just turn up at Tottenham Court Road station (Exit 3) any Friday at 2pm.

Honest Jon’s Records
Arguably the most legendary of London’s independent record stores, Honest Jon’s is the retail arm of the acclaimed record label of the same name. Specialising in reggae, jazz and soul, Honest Jon’s has enjoyed a colourful, rollercoaster existence since its birth in 1974 and is still considered to be one of London’s best record shops by those in the know.

Wembley Arena
Every musician dreams of shouting “Hello Wembley!” to a sea of screaming fans – and many have done it, including Madonna, David Bowie and Prince. Check out Visit London’s music section for listings of gigs taking place every night across London at venues including Wembley Arena.

Music Gallery at Horniman Museum
See, hear and play instruments from around the world at Horniman Museum – from a 3,500-year-old pair of Egyptian bone clappers to a retro synth. Make time to visit ongoing exhibition The Art of Harmony, exploring Western classical music traditions, as well as the Hands-On Base, where you can give the instruments a go. Other London music museums to check out are The Royal Academy of Music Museum and The Royal College of Music’s Museum of Instruments.

Hard Rock Cafe
Today there are Hard Rock Cafes all around the world, but the London branch is where it all began in 1971. The walls of the restaurant – and the vault below – are lined with memorabilia, including the first piece donated to the cafe: Eric Clapton’s Lead II Fender. You may even spot the odd rock star popping in for a burger, according to the cafe – or witness one of the occasional jamming sessions. And if you don’t, you’ll still get a great meal out of it.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2014/03/im-with-the-band-top-10-london-attractions-for-musicians/

African arts, culture + politics · London culture

Senegal in London: Sabar Dance Classes

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(Visit London, 10 October 2011) Senegalese director and choreographer Diene Sagna moved to the UK four years ago to run his own dance company, Yaye Dib Sabar. He also holds sabar dance classes in London:

“Sabar is the drum, and also the dance – they go together. Of all the dances in the world that I know, it’s only sabar where you have to be in the air all of the time! You have to be light but also energetic and powerful. In the past it used to be just women who danced but now men are dancing sabar too.

“I’ve been dancing for a long time. When I was six years old I won a competition and after that, even though I was also going to school, dancing was my focus. When I was 17 I started to work professionally, going to Europe and working with big artists. I’ve worked with Youssou N’Dour, dancing on his video for 4444. I’ve also toured and performed with [bestselling Senegalese singer] Coumba Gawlo Seck.

“There are a lot of different African dance classes in London. They used to be mainly from Ghana or Nigeria, but now I can see the interest in Senegalese dance is increasing. It’s hard to make African dance respected in Europe – people think it’s just for fun. You can find contemporary and hip hop dance in the big theatres, but not this West African dance. I want to bring it onto the stage, that’s my fight.

“In London this June we held the first Yaye Dib Sabar International event, a weekend of Afro-dance workshops called Jump for Joy! We will be holding this every year in memory of my mum (who died in 2009) as a way of celebrating not only her life but also West African culture and in particular Sabar dance and drumming.

“I invite all students, from London and the UK as well as Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Belgium where I do workshops every year. I also organise an annual two-week dance training holiday in Dakar, Senegal, called Kaye Fecc, meaning Come Dance. The next one will be from 23 January to 4 February 2012.

“When my students see sabar they say it’s powerful, fast, fun and energetic also. But some people also say sabar is harder because they cannot understand the timing, the breaks. People also say sabar is the most difficult West African dance because it’s changing every week in Senegal. If I stay in UK for two years without going to Senegal I’m going to be lost! That’s why I go every year and spend two or three months there, finding out what’s new.”

The next Yaye Dib Sabar dance and drumming class in London is on Sunday 23 October 2011 at Studio 68 dance studio. More information

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2011/10/senegal-in-london-sabar-dance-classes/

London culture

Ecuador in London: Fashion Designer Soraya Fernandez

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(Visit London, 6 September 2011) Soraya Fernandez is a fashion designer inspired by the colourful cultural art of her home country, Ecuador. She lives and works in London, creating unique designs for her own fashion label, Soraya Fernandez DF.

Why did you leave Ecuador for London?

I love London, it is a city that always hypnotised me. I came to live in London more than one year ago because I feel it is one of those perfect places to experience a new life and is ideal for me to develop my profession – there are many opportunities.  I always search for a historical aspect to the places where I walk, and find a lot of inspiration.

Is there an Ecuadorian community in London?

Yes, there is a very large Ecuadorian community in London. I am more connected to communities based in South East London, where I live. I am involved with a group known as Nueva Generacion, which is a workshop for Latin American people who raise awareness of social issues, stimulating change and promoting our culture.

Do you know of any Ecuadorian places to visit in London?

Around Elephant and Castle there are some very good restaurants and shops specialising in Ecuadorian food. On the weekend at La Tienda Latina in the shopping centre you can taste typical food. And there are some very good live bands on the weekend at Costa Azul restaurant and Parrilladas del Sur on Old Kent Road.

How would you describe your designs? Are influenced by Ecuador?

My designs are a reflection of my vision of the Andean world view. In Ecuador we have many ethnic groups which provide a colourful magic and allegory in their traditional costumes and handicrafts.

I like that people are not dressed for reasons of fashion or trend – clothing is something that identifies each individual. So I don’t repeat my designs, they are each unique.

How can people buy your clothes?

I sell my work online and to individual customers. My work includes designing and making tailored suits, cocktail dresses, wedding dresses, luxury dresses – all to suit an individual style and made with the highest quality.

What do you hope to do next?

I’m currently working on the release of my autumn/winter collection for stores that sell work of independent fashion designers in London. I’m also working on a project called Almas del Cuarto Oscuro (Souls of the Darkroom) with Fotosynthesis,  which is a community project founded by a group of photographers.

Where else can you find Ecuadorian culture in London? Tell us in the comments below.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2011/09/ecuador-in-london-fashion-designer-soraya-fernandez/

London culture

Honduras in London: Central America Women’s Network

CAWN's Laura Ouseley (second from right) at the Million Women Rise march in London on 5 March 2011
CAWN’s Laura Ouseley (second from right) at the Million Women Rise march in London on 5 March 2011

(Visit London, 29 March 2011) We speak to Laura Ouseley from London-based organisation Central America Women’s Network (CAWN), which supports women’s rights groups in Honduras and across Central America – and is celebrating its 20th birthday this Thursday.

What does CAWN do?

We help women’s organisations in Central America with advocacy and campaigning, for example organising speaker tours and building links between women’s groups in the UK and Central America.

Our main areas of work are around gender equality, women’s rights and violence against women. CAWN’s main project at the moment is supporting a women’s organisation in Honduras to set up self-help groups in order to tackle gender-based violence.

How long have you been running?

We’ve been going since 1991. This Thursday is our 20th anniversary.

You have a speaker tour this week in London, what’s that about?

We have two women’s rights activists from Honduras coming here, Evelyn Cuellar and Mercedes Lainez. They’ll be here for two weeks to talk about their work for Centro de Estudios de la Mujer Honduras (CEMH), our partner organisation in Honduras.

What events are planned in London as part of the tour?

Tonight the two speakers will be at a public meeting we’re holding with the London Feminist Network in the House of Commons, talking about femicide and the role of feminists in social transformation.

Then on Thursday we have a smaller meeting at The Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London about violence against women in Honduras. Later than evening it’s our 20th anniversary celebration at the Human Rights Action Centre, which anyone is welcome to attend, whether you have been involved with CAWN over the last 20 years, or would like to know more about our work.

The two speakers are then going to Manchester and Scotland before coming back to London for a panel discussion at The Commonwealth Club on 12 April for the Women Reaching Women Conference 2011.

How can people learn more or help with the work you do?

We often rely on volunteers to help us carry out and promote the work we do. Some CAWN volunteers and activists help with translations, for example, while others organise events, fundraise and promote our work.

The best way to get involved with CAWN is to become a member and receive more information about the work we do, or come along to one of our events and speak to us in person.

Where else can you find out about Honduras in London? Tell us in the comments below.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2011/03/honduras-in-london-central-america-womens-network/

London culture

Guyana in London: Stockwell’s Bronze Woman

Bronze Woman. Courtesy of Lambeth Council
Bronze Woman. Courtesy of Lambeth Council

(Visit London, 2 February 2011) London is home to many people from the small South American country of Guyana, but there are few indicators beyond the odd Guyanese takeaway (think delicious hot curries and roti bread) or famous figure – be it reggae star Eddie Grant or former Southbank Centre writer-in-residence John Agard.

However, venture into the south London pocket of Stockwell and into Stockwell Memorial Gardens and you’ll find another piece of Guyana – a 10-foot bronze sculpture of a woman holding a child. It’s a powerful image, not least because of its fascinating history.

The first public statue of a black woman in England, Bronze Woman was the brainchild of a black woman: Guyanese poet and local resident Cécile Nobrega.

Based on and named after her own poem, Bronze Woman took 10 years of planning, fundraising and determination by Nobrega and other groups and individuals who wanted to mark the struggles faced by Afro-Caribbean women, as well as their contribution to society.

The statue was designed by renowned sculptor Ian Walters, whose many famous London sculptures include the Nelson Mandela statue next to the Royal Festival Hall.

Sadly Walters died before the project was completed. But the project was picked up by London-based sculptor-artist Aleix Barbat, then a final-year sculpture student at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art.

Eventually, on 8 October 2008 – during Black History Month – the sculpture was unveiled, with the help of the then 89-year-old Nobrega.

Do you know anywhere else you can find a bit of Guyana in London? Tell us in the comments below.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2011/02/guyana-in-london-stockwells-bronze-woman/

London culture

Guatemala in London: MAYA The Musical

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(Visit London, 31 December 2010) Guatemala is best known for its fascinating Mayan heritage. Sadly London’s Guatemalan Maya Centre has closed its public gallery and craft shop, but you can still learn about this ancient civilisation in MAYA, an unusual new musical set in the final days of the great Mayan empire.

Facing a devastating drought, a desperate Mayan king is torn between seeking personal power and pleasing the Gods. Amid this disaster, two brothers compete to follow their dying father’s instructions and embark on a quest, discovering along the way what’s worth living for – and dying for.

Katy Lipson from new musical theatre initiative A Stage Kindly, the organisation behind the production, says:

“This is a unique and very exciting work, and from the moment we first heard it we knew we were on to a winner. With its contemporary score and strong Mayan theme, MAYA is entirely different from previous productions.”

You can catch the UK premiere of MAYA, written by American Rick Williams, at The Baron’s Court Theatre, an intimate subterranean theatre below The Curtains Up pub.

After discovering Guatemala’s history, explore its present in a powerful retrospective of work by Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo at ROLLO Contemporary Art gallery near Goodge Street.

This exhibition shows that while the Mayan civilisation perished long ago, violence and political power games remain a part of life in Guatemala. Works on show include Galindo’s unsettling video-performance piece No perdemos nada con nacer (We don’t lose anything by being born) 2000, in which the artist was self drugged, put in a clear plastic bag, placed in a bin and left at the local rubbish dump.

MAYA is on at The Barons Court Theatre from 24-30 Jan. Regina José Galindo is on at ROLLO Contemporary Art until 11 Feb.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/12/guatemala-in-london-maya-the-musical/

London culture

Brazil in London: Brazilian Music in London

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(Visit London, 26 November 2010) Rebeca Vallim, a singer from Rio de Janiero, tells us about the exciting Brazilian music scene in London for our World in London project.

How long have you been living in London?
Almost six years now. What I really like about living in London is all the different cultures in one place.

Where have you performed in London?
All around London, including Guanabara, Ronnie Scott’s, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Favela Chic, Pizza on the Park, Rose Theatre Kingston, On Anon, Barbican and The Green Note.

I’ve also performed at different London festivals, like Thames Festival, Carnaval del Pueblo, Summer in Holborn and Bloomsbury Festival.

What is your favourite place to perform?
It’s really hard to say!  Probably the Southbank Centre as they’re very supportive of artists, and encourage and promote Brazilian music, like with Festival Brazil this summer. The audience are great too, people aren’t busy drinking or chatting – they come to appreciate the music.

What is the Brazilian music scene like in London?
The Brazilian music scene in London is very varied, with rhythms from North to South of Brazil. It’s exciting, there’s so much happening.

You can hear all kinds of Brazilian music in London: bossa-nova, samba, maracatu, forró, samba-rock, pop, country, chorinho, samba-reggae and others…

Where do you go to listen to Brazilian music in London?
The last places I’ve been to hear Brazilian music were Guanabara for a concert by Diogo Nogueira, a great sambista of the new generation; Royal Albert Hall to see Gilberto Gil, an icon of Brazilian music; and Koko to see the great singer Maria Rita.

I also recommend the Tia Maria restaurant in Vauxhall, which has live samba and choro every Thursday.

So where can we see you perform?
I perform in a number of different bands: Rebeca Vallim & Band, Mafua de Yaya, Viramundo, Umpatacum and Maracatudo Mafua.

My next gig is Brazilian Night at Ronnie Scott’s Bar, upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho, on 9 Dec from 8pm.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/11/brazil-in-london-brazilian-music-in-london/

London culture

Into The Wild: Heaven & Earth at Menier Gallery (review)

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(Visit London, 22 October 2010) Yesterday I popped into Heaven & Earth, a striking new exhibition of African photography at the Menier Gallery.

Snapped by Cape Town photographer Caroline Gibello, the sundrenched, over-exposed photos show the wildlife, landscape and people of Botswana and Namibia in a new light – literally.

Instead of lush greenery and the bright colours we usually associate with Africa, the photos have a stark, dried-out feel. This is intensified by the choice of subject matter – the cracked texture of elephant hide, dry grasses and local people walking through clouds of dust.

The photos reminded me of the increasing water shortages in Africa, and beyond. However, the unusual beauty of the wildlife and landscape, plus joyful photo names such as Courage, Spirit and Reverence, can’t help but lift your spirit.

Judge for yourself by stopping in at the exhibition. Make a night of it by nipping next door to Menier Chocolate Factory for dinner or to catch Samuel and Timothy West in A Number, the downstairs theatre’s thought-provoking new show.

Myerson Fine Art presents Heaven & Earth at Menier Gallery until 30 October.  Entrance is free.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/10/into-the-wild-heaven-earth-at-menier-gallery/

London culture

Brockley Max Festival Opens The Door To Local Talent

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(Visit London, 7 June 2010) For the past week, Brockley has been a hive of activity with the return of community arts festival Brockley Max.

Following the recent arrival of the East London Line in Brockley, it seemed the ideal time to showcase the area’s talents.

There was comedy at Jam Circus, Sonnets From Shakespeare at The Brockley Barge and poetry in the bizarrely named Toad’s Mouth Too Cafe.

In fact, there was something going on wherever you turned. Tree-stump sculptures mysteriously popped up in Hilly Fields Park, and on the opening night of the festival I stepped off the train to find half the neighbourhood crowded round the colourful murals of Brockley Station for a free music concert.

The week’s festivities ended on Saturday with live music, food, DJs and children’s activities at the Hilly Fields Park Stone Circle – South London’s answer to Stonehenge. Brockley wine bar/shop Mr Laurence was doing a roaring trade in Pimm’s at the bar, while excited kids tore around the newly refurbished playground.

Brockley Max may now be over, but there are still many events happening in Brockley where you can discover local talent, including:

  • Tea Leaf Arts Summer Open: exhibition of work by local artists at Tea Leaf Arts Gallery, until 12 Jun
  • Working On A Groovy Thing: art exhibition with music at Lewisham Arthouse, until 13 Jun
  • Books In Limbo: get involved as a huge installation is constructed from salvaged books at Tank Gallery, 28 May-19 Jun

Plus, keep an eye out for our review of The Last Five Years at Brockley Jack Theatre, which opens tomorrow.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/06/brockley-max-festival-opens-the-door-to-local-talent/

London culture

Markus The Sadist at Bloomsbury Theatre (review)

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(Visit London, 19 May 2010) It’s going to be hard watching hip hop videos without a heavy dose of cynicism after seeing Markus the Sadist at Bloomsbury Theatre last night.

Created by Jonzi D – the man behind Sadler’s Wells‘ street dance sensation Breakin Convention – Markus The Sadist is a darkly comic diatribe against the fakery of the music industry.

Talented London emcee Markus (played by real-life grime artist Ashley “Bashy” Thomas) is spotted at a local hip hop battle and promised fame and fortune. Success comes at a price though, namely abandoning his intelligent lyrics and adopting a groin-grabbing rap persona and a sneering American accent.

Markus’ transformation from wide-eyed boy next door to hip hop stereotype is hilarious yet uncomfortably recognisable. One of the best moments is Markus’ first video shoot, when the flamboyant director (played by the scene-stealing Rob Broderick) demands the ubiquitous rap-star props of guns, bling and scantily-clad women dancers (“otherwise I’m shooting a documentary”).

Halfway through many scenes, you realise all the characters are talking in rhyme – which works surprisingly well. The musical thread is strengthened with jazz saxophonist Soweto Kinch as composer/musical director, while much of the cast are clearly talented artists in their own right.

There were a number of technical hiccups that need tightening and the play could be shorter and tighter. But on the whole, Markus The Sadist makes for a fresh, intelligent addition to the British theatre scene. Interested? Don’t hang about – the last performance is tomorrow night (Thursday)! Buy tickets (£14-£17.50) at http://www.thebloomsbury.com

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/05/markus-the-sadist-at-bloomsbury-theatre/

London culture

London International Documentary Festival: Rio Breaks

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(Visit London, 5 May 2010) The weather may have been miserable this Bank Holiday Weekend (surprise, surprise), but in Kilburn the surf was up, the sun out and bikinis on.  Unfortunately, it was only in celluloid form, as Tricycle Theatre hosted the European premiere of Rio Breaks, a Brazilian surfer film with heart.

While the rain poured outside, we were transported to the beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro to meet two best friends; 13-year-old Fabio and 12-year-old Naama. For this cheeky duo, surfing is a total obsession – but also a saviour.

Born into a dangerous favela (or slum), the boys face obstacles as high as the hill they live on – including hunger, poverty, drugs, gangs and even murder. Their escape route is provided by a local surf club that offers free lessons and board loan to young people – on the condition they attend school.

Beautifully shot, the film is inspiring and funny – but still realistic; the boys aren’t angels, their future isn’t fixed and the violence continues around them. Yet their talent and passion shine through. And there’s some pretty amazing surfing, too!

We ended the night at local Brazilian restaurant Barraco, with a plate of juicy steak, rice and beans – and a berry caipirinha cocktail made with a liberal pouring of cachaça. Delicioso!

Rio Breaks is just one film from the ongoing London International Documentary Festival, which began on 23 April. The festival continues until 8 May and there are still lots more films to see, including:

  • Children of the Desert / Figli del deserto, 5 May, Free Word Centre
  • Andrew And Jeremy Get Married, 6 May, The Horse Hospital
  • H.O.T. Human Organ Traffic, 8 May, British Museum

For full listings, visit the London International Documentary Festival website.

Visit our London film festival calendar for more cinematic treats in the city, such as the current Terracotta Far East Film Festival.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/05/london-international-documentary-festival-rio-breaks/

London culture

Breaking free: London’s Best Dance Crew

The Definitives at London’s Best Dance Crew 2010. Bruce Woods of Tactical Innovations Limited
The Definitives at London’s Best Dance Crew 2010. Bruce Woods of Tactical Innovations Limited

(Visit London, 4 May 2010) If you’re into street dancing, this weekend was designed for you. Breakin’ Convention returned to Sadler’s Wells with another top UK and international line-up, while over in Croydon the finals of London’s Best Dance Crew set Fairfield Halls alight – nearly literally, when organisers thought the stage curtains had caught fire!

For months, young dancers across London have been honing their routines and competing to reach Friday’s final. The atmosphere backstage on the night was one of nervous excitement, as last minute rehearsals were squeezed in and costumes tweaked.

Three groups battled it out in the first half. Trilogy’s fresh take on West Side Story earned them third place and they bowed out with a slick piece that made you realise how tough the competition was.

A fierce, African-inspired performance from The Definitives, featuring a troupe of drummers from London group Maracatu Estrela do Norte, and a hard-hitting show tackling bullying from Retaliation took these two groups into the final.

While we waited for the final showdown, we were treated to shows from a series of top performers – including former Sugababes singer Mutya Buena, Avant Garde and Peridot.

Then, finally, it was time for the final showdown. It was a close call, but in the end it was The Definitives who impressed the judges most. They were presented with a trophy and cheque for £3,000 by Private Johnson Beharry, the first soldier to be awarded a Victoria Cross since 1982.

And if two great street dance shows in one weekend wasn’t enough, the UK dance film Streetdance 3D is out at cinemas from 21 May. It’s time to invest in some lessons in popping, locking and breaking!

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/05/breaking-free-londons-best-dance-crew/

London culture

Silent film: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (review)

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(Visit London, 30 April 2010) Murder, mysticism and eerie music – the screening of 1920s silent film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari at Greenwich Picturehouse on Wednesday night had it all.

The live rescore came courtesy of music maestros Minima. I had expected a tinkling piano, so was delighted by their electrifying mix of drums, base, cello and guitar.

Celebrated as a classic of German expressionist cinema, the film makes good use of menacing shadows, agitated characters and bulging eyes ringed in thick make-up – even for the men!

The strange story centres around the sinister Dr Caligari who tours fairgrounds with his ‘exhibit’, a hypnotised sleepwalker called Cesare who “knows the past and can see into the future”.

Alternately hilarious and mystifying, I found the film a fascinating change from today’s slick flicks, with its slow-building story, flimsy stage sets and descriptive title cards.

Minima’s score was fantastic. I loved the exotic African-style drumming that accompanied Dr Caligari’s fairground show, the slightly sleazy background music for a bachelor pad and the well-timed drum beat that made me (and half the audience) jump out of our seats!

Minima are sadly coming to the end of their performances of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, but they have one more show in London at The Prince Charles Cinema on 18 May. You can also keep an eye out for more Minima performances on their website.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/04/silent-film-the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-2/

London culture

Southern Showcase in Arty Deptford

Dan Coopey´s Urchin Eating
Dan Coopey´s Urchin Eating

(Visit London, 7 April 2010) Deptford and New Cross have long been hailed as the new Shoreditch. So when an invite to a local art showcase case came through, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

The action was taking place at BEARSPACE, a tiny gallery nestled among the colourful grocery shops, fish stalls and Caribbean bakeries of Deptford High Street.

The room was already packed with local artists and creative types; mingling, enjoying a free glass of wine and trying to avoid knocking over Dan Coopey’s geometrical Urchin Eating sculpture. Again.

All had gathered for the P&B Cultural Showcase, a thrice-yearly celebration of the best local designers, filmmakers and craftspeople in the area.

In a nod to Deptford’s naval history, the exhibits included a ceramic anchor by Katie Bonham, while Angela Buffini had transformed photos of junkyards into art with some neat symmetry.

There was also music, illustrations and a video performance from Heart n Soul, a company of learning disabled actors and musicians based at Deptford’s popular performing arts venue, the Albany.

The BEARSPACE does its fair share to promote up-and-coming artists too, and has recently launched a new Portfolio range, selling limited-edition art and design works.

With Goldsmiths College just up the road, which counts everyone from Antony Gormley to Damien Hirst amongst its alumni, there’s plenty of local talent to showcase.

If you want to discover other galleries and public art works in the area, such as the APT Gallery and Cockpit Arts, download a Deptford Art Map or book a slot on the Deptford Art Tour.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/04/southern-showcase-in-arty-deptford/

London culture

Disabled Arts Given Boost for London 2012

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(Visit London, 7 October 2009). There was a buzz of excitement at the Southbank Centre today as Unlimited, the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad project to support disabled-led arts, culture and sport, was launched.

“Bring it on!” was the enthusiastic verdict of Jenny Sealey MBE, Unlimited’s Artistic Advisor and Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company. “There are plenty of us waiting in the wings to come and fly.”

We were given a sneak peek of the sort of talent Unlimited will be supporting over the next three years as The BLT Crew – an upbeat trio of DJs with learning disabilities – spun a selection of feel-good party tunes, from My Guy to Baby Love.

There was also a performance by Cando2, the Candoco Dance Company’s Youth Dance Company, which runs weekly classes for disabled and non-disabled youngsters at London’s Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, The Place and Aspire.

£3 million has been earmarked for the project, which will provide funding, training and a platform for disabled and deaf-led organisations and artists.

Other speakers included Tony Hall, chair of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Board and Chief Exec of the Royal Opera House – who wasted no time in getting on the decks with The BLT Crew and picking up some tips – and Chris Holmes. The nine-time Paralympic gold medal winner and London 2012 Director of Paralympic Integration entertained everyone with some sporting anecdotes before getting us all to shout “Unlimited” – and refusing to accept our feeble first attempt!

Like the project, the event was as inclusive as possible; with a sign-language interpreter on hand and instant subtitles on a large TV screen. Jenny Sealey even created a new way to “sign” Unlimited – an energetic combination of the sign language words for “create” and “explosion”.

After the launch, we spoke to Jenny about the two main obstacles facing many disabled artists:

  • negative attitudes
  • physical obstacles (such as lack of interpreters, lifts etc at venues).

“There’s still a perception that disabled performers can’t do Shakespeare, for example,” she says, with frustration, “but it’s still Shakespeare, there’s just another undercurrent to the performance. We all have our own unique selling point.”

To apply for funding or find out more about Unlimited, visit http://www.london2012.com/unlimited.

If you’re interested in exploring the disabled arts scene in London, why not check out Crossings, a new play by Julie McNamara at The Cochrane Theatre in London this November – it comes highly recommended by Jenny. And who knows what new talent Unlimited will uncover… watch this space!

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2009/10/disabled-arts-given-boost-for-london-2012/

London culture

The Black Album (review)

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(Visit London, 26 July 2009) It’s not often that you find religious radicalism, comedy and the artist formerly known as Prince in the same sentence – let alone the same play. But award-winning author Hanif Kureishi has managed it in The Black Album.

The new production is Kureishi’s stage adaptation of his own novel, also called The Black Album, which takes its name from Prince’s unreleased but widely bootlegged album of 1987.

The music theme continues with a energetic soundtrack from Sister Bliss from Faithless. Who better to do the music for a play about religion than a member of the group who once sang God Is A DJ? The mix of 80s classics had me tapping my feet as soon as I entered the National Theatre.

The scene is set 20 years ago in 1989 – the year that a fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie for his controversial book The Satanic Verses.  The play explorers the religious tensions of the era, the repercussions of which are still felt today, through Shahid Hasan (played with energy by Jonathan Bonnici), a young Asian boy leaving leafy Sevenoaks to study in the bright lights of London.

The Black Album deals with some pretty heavy issues: religious fanatism, drugs, racial identity, sex and violence, yet at times it felt more like a comedy sitcom. Family dramas were peppered with comic insights into Pakistani domestic life, Shahid’s brother Chili (Robert Mountford) was like a flamboyant Boycie from Only Fools And Horses, and there was even a starring role from an aubergine pakora!

Like the multi-named, cross-dressing Prince, the characters each juggle different identities. Watching the play, the hardest part was not deciding who to believe, but trying to figure out what they believed.

I’m off to the upcoming talk on 10 August with Hanif Kurieshi and the play’s director Jatinder Verma in search of enlightenment!

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2009/07/the-black-album-at-the-national-theatre/

London culture

Walking In My Mind (review)

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Yayoi Kusuma, Dots Obsession 2004, © Yayoi Kusama 2009, Photo: Yayoi Kusama Studio

 

(Visit London, 22 June 2009). The Hayward Gallery has gone all John Malkovich on us with their surreal, new exhibition Walking In My Mind. Through a series of giant works and sculptures, ten artists invite us to enter their imaginations.

The exhibition begins before you even step foot inside the Hayward. Along the sunny Southbank, 24 trees have been wrapped in red spotted fabric. It’s the brainwave of iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama – a life-long dot-obsessive, according to a recent interview in The Guardian.

Of course, all art is about stepping into the artist’s imagination, but in Walking In My Mind it is a much more physical, adventurous experience. It was also darker, funnier and more bizarre than I expected.

Scottish-born artist Charles Avery had me chuckling out loud with his inventive project The Islanders. As well as sketches of life on his imaginary island, Avery displays his ’souvenirs’, including Stone-mice (part rodent, part mineral), which look suspiciously like normal stones, and a Bejewelled Hare – stuffed and brandishing its bling like a hip-hop superstar.

Thomas Hirschhorn’s Cavemanman was even more surreal. His uneven maze of tiny caves and tunnels, made of cardboard and plastered in brown parcel tape, was like something out of a postman’s nightmare.

But there was a darker side to the exhibition too. Walking through Chiharu Shoita’s After The Dream was quite unsettling. The painstakingly woven web of wool – Shoita told me it took a week to complete – felt like a swarm of bats that could get caught in your hair any second.

Yayoi Kusama’s new work, Dots Obsession, has become the ’face’ of the exhibition so I was eager to see this. For me, the red spotted shapes worked best on the Southbank and on the bright, green Astroturf of the Hayward’s sculpture terrace, where they looked vibrant and delightfully out of place.

One of the curators Mami Kataoka pointed out that while a doctor can visually see the brain, the mind itself has no boundaries – there is no shape. This sense of freedom in self-expression has produced an exhibition that really does blow your mind.

Inspired by the exhibition and want to discuss your views? Head along to the Hayward’s free workshop Talking In My Mind on 5 July.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2009/06/walking-in-my-mind-at-hayward-gallery/