Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Braganza's LFW Cycle Hire Bike

London Fashion Week will soon be upon us, and LFW designer Jean-Pierre Braganza has added his own little urban accessory to his SS11 collection: a limited edition Barclays Cycle Hire bike!
The frames of the chosen bikes, usually grey, navy and cyan, will be coated with this delicate, smokey and summery salmon pink print as a way of building awareness of the bike scheme.

The designer said: "As a very keen cyclist in London, Barclays Cycle Hire offers the freedom to explore the city worry-free. By customising a bike for London Fashion Week, I hope to indicate the inspiration travel has provided in my work, and highlight that everyone can, and should, explore and discover our city." More than 500,000 journeys have been made since the Cycle Hire scheme launch and over 80,000 people have registered to become members.

Braganza's show Incendiata opens day one of LFW. Queues at nearby docking stations to be expected...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

London Bridge: What Could Have Been

Check out these shelved plans for Phase Two of the London Bridge City development. The Powers-That-Were sought THREE different schemes in different styles.

Ultimately unsuccessful but undeniably ambitious, John Simpson and Partners were up first. They dreamt up a sort of Venice-on-the-Thames, complete with piazzas, cloisters and a sort of belltower-type thing. As you can see, I don't know my architectural terms, but I do know OTT elegance when I see it and this has bucketloads.

Admittedly, plonked down in the middle of central London it might have felt a bit like a pre-fab "Fancy Italy!" section from the Epcot Centre, but then people probably would say the same thing about the Covent Garden piazza.

It's a bit Duloc (right) and inauthentic, but it looks OK and would have been sympathetic to Hay's Galleria.

The second offering is bland filler, so let's not talk about that.
The third, from Philip Johnson, was meant to act as a counterpoint to the Palace of Westminster upstream, but looks absolutely massive and stupid and like it was drawn by a Premiership footballer. Opposite the Tower of London and next to Tower Bridge, it would have just looked like a crude, oversized, tacky copycat. So I'm glad that that didn't win.

In the end, Simpson's Anglo-Neo-Venetian offering won, but the commercial developers apparently wanted to build their own conventional buildings and just stick his facades on, so Simpson took his blueprints and hardhat (I imagine he looked like Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby) and stomped off home.

And that is how we ended up with City Hall which, all things considered, is pretty cool.

It opened in 2002 and was designed by Norman Foster. It doesn't fit with the Tower of London but the mix-and-match, modern/old thing is very London, and the design is the best of the bunch. Well done, Norman.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Into the Woods

Once upon a time (that was last night), I saw Into the Woods at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. It was one of the best things I have seen in London.

The sylvan setting was breathtaking, enclosed by beautifully lit trees and centred around a treehouse-style series of rickety platforms, spiralling staircases and ladders. The production made full use of the space, with Rapunzel's nesting box of tower positioned halfway up a tree, a staircase of umbrellas popping up to create a beanstalk, and the enormous Giant rearing to life out of undergrowth at the side of the stage. Fantastically whimsical costumes completed the impression and visually, the show was absolutely perfect.
In fact, pretty much everything was spot on. The cast was outstanding, with an assured and hugely charismatic performance from Hannah Waddingham as the Witch, and Michael Xavier excelling as a ravenous and, erm, "charged" Wolf and suavely self-absorbed Cinderella's Prince. Beverly Rudd also delighted as a gleefully greedy Little Red Riding Hood and, with one or two minor exceptions (Giants in the Sky - a Mr Christopher favourite - was less strident and urgent than it could have been), the performances were unimpeachable.

Into the Woods has always come under fire for its second act, which critics say loses its edge, contains weaker songs and gets its preach on. The moralising is undeniable - any show that contains direct instructions on how to parent is going to get on some people' wick. But the plot and songs are fine - they're just different to those of the first act. The first act is the first movement or theme; it sets up shop and could be a neatly contained, simple (if inconsequential) show in itself. The second act then takes the first as its starting point; it plays on it, builds on it, pulls it apart a little and - yes - deviates. But as one article argued this week, it shows Sondheim's genius in forcing contrasts, darkness and dissonance into what can be a saccharine genre.

The reviews have rightly been excellent and it's just a shame that the run, at five weeks, is so short. Get a ticket if you can.
Until 11 September, Open Air Theatre.

UPDATE 16 MARCH 2011: Into the Woods wins Best Musical Revival at the 2011 Olivier Awards.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


- Leaf Me Alone by Anthony Peters
- Simple - Black & White by Seb Lester
- London by Steve Forney
- Tall Bike Poster by Barrel NY

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stephanie Quayle

Yesterday I saw some startingly wonderful sculptures by Stephanie Quayle in Canary Wharf. Quayle spends a lot of time watching her subjects before rendering them rapidly in clay, resulting in fantastically captured impressions.

The most eyecatching were groups of foxes slinking around the lobby of One Canada Square. It felt like the animals were the underclass in a two-tier city, as suited commuters hurried past and security guards kept a wary eye on them.

Probably the best site-specific public art I have ever seen. Well done Stephanie Quayle.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I have a question. I don't want to sound like one of those misers who think they have the measure of Twitter by asking WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT TWITTER WHO WANTS TO KNOW WHAT YOU HAD FOR BREAKFAST (usually either accompanied by an exasperated Jeremy-Clarkson-book-cover stance, or muttered wryly in an attempt to sound like a cross between Blackadder and Oscar Wilde)... but what's so great about Foursquare?

For a start, I'm only 70% sure I know what it is. One of my friends often has things posted to his Facebook page saying thinks like "I am starting a trip to New York" or "I am in Starbucks, Broadgate", and I'm pretty sure that the name of the beast is Foursquare. Someone else has just instructed me to join it and, after a cursory and no doubt wildly inaccurate skim of a Guardian article on the subject, I'm not sure I would like it very much for the following reasons:

  • There's something distastefully and self-defeatingly transparent about going "HEY! I am at this Cool Venue" which, despite the fact that I am as superficial and self-promoting as anyone, I don't like.
  • I don't sufficiently trust the judgment of randoms to break out my phone every time I go into a cafe to see if someone has said "have the bacon roll! It's deliiiiicious lols!".
  • As far as the "hooking up!" ability goes, there are probably only about six people that I would never resent bumping into. The day where my phone is excitedly bleeping at me to tell me that my college hockey captain is in a 400 metre radius is a day I would rather have stayed in bed.

I don't think my BlackBerry would let me install it in any event, so it's probably academic, but you know. Good to have a view.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

ICRC 'Missing Lives' Exhibition

The International Red Cross 'Missing Lives' exhibition catches you off-guard as you wander guilelessly along the South Bank. Installed on a jutting platform opposite Gabriel's Wharf, it appears to be a glossy display of high definition photography - glamorous eye candy, no doubt!

On closer inspection, however, the exhibition has a sombre and moving story to tell. 'Missing Lives' highlights 15 individual accounts taken from thousands describing pain and loss from the Balkans wars, which scarred Yugoslavia in the 1990s and cost the lives of about 140,000 people.

Of those 140,000, a quarter of simply vanished and were reported missing by their families. Even today, almost 15,000 people remain unaccounted for. Photography by Nick Danziger and text by Rory MacLean illustrate the anguish suffered by the families of the murdered and missing.

Some stories are shocking, others just sad. Piecing them together produces a terrifying vision of a world where neighbour turned on neighbour and close-knit communities were ravaged by mass executions, often willingly carried out by citizens upon their acquaintances.

Unexpectedly and suddenly moving, this restrained yet harrowing exhibition may take the spring from your step as you trot alongside the river, but don't avert your eyes: it is profound, thought-provoking and - as pressure increases on the West Balkans governments to provide answers to affected families - timely.

'Missing Lives', Gabriel's Wharf, 7 July to 26 July.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How much do musicians make online?

The answer is not very much. Digital royalties are looooow, with the below diagram (from Information is Beautiful) illustrating how many units / plays artists need to shift to earn the US minimum monthly wage. 143 self-pressed CDs = >4.5 million plays on Spotify. Yikes!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kozyndan and Bernstock Speirs

Last week I went to the opening of Kozyndan's first UK solo show, 'And Then There Were None', at Nelly Duff gallery on Columbia Road.

Kozyndan are LA-based Dan and Kozue Kitchens, self proclaimed 'Mad Scientists' of the art world. They have made waves on the international art scene, mostly by virtue of their bunny prints - the best one of which (Uprisings) is featured in the poster above.

Everyone also seemed very excited about something called The Best Sushi in Town, but I preferred Takadanobaba on Acid and Bunny Blossom (both below) - the latter if only so I could link it with the Van Gogh I got last summer (right). HOW BLOODY KITSCH.

Unfortunately, Uprisings is ubiquitous, the rest of the Japanese-style bunny prints seem a bit derivative, and I'm not mad keen for the other handdrawn pieces. But it was still cool.

And on the way home we stopped off at Bernstock Speirs, which was launching a Peter Jensen line of baseball caps and tees to go with their acclaimed millinery (as seen atop Kirsten Dunst, Marion Cotillard, Karl Lagerfeld, Victoria Beckham, Will Young, Ralf Fiennes, Sharon Stone et al). Bonus.

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