Now that Spring is here … and with the hope that Summer will follow, time to cast off winter clobber and take advantage of the open air cultural events that are on offer this time of year.
There are a plethora of offerings around London for the next few months, and not just the usual favourites such as Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and The Globe. But that’s not to say that they should be ignored; the programme for the former has been out for a while now, and this year they are kicking off the season with an adaptation of the American classic To Kill A Mockingbird. During the hot (maybe!) summer months they’re putting on The Sound Of Music, which I’m sure will pull in the crowds.
Shakespeare’s Globe is, as usual, concentrating on works by the bard and this year is offering The Tempest, Macbeth and that perennial favourite for outdoor performance, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There’s also a smattering of modern plays to increase variety at this most interesting of theatres where you can still stand as a groundling for very little cost and often be part of the action.
But don’t forget that London is now home to a number of summer festivals where sometimes the events are free and rarely cost a fortune.
There are four in particular really worth mentioning. First up is the London Festival of Architecture that happens in June – I’ve frequently gone along to their offerings which in the main are geared to non-professionals and which give eye-opening views on all aspects of architecture and related subjects. It really is very varied; last year I particularly enjoyed going to a number of the recently refurbished Cameron Mackintosh theatres in the West End one Saturday morning.
Then there are two music festivals I’d like to mention both of which also run non-music related events. The Spitalfields Festival centres on the market area and beyond and a number of the concerts are held in its beautiful churches.
And The City Of London Festival also avails itself of its churches and guildhalls within the square mile, not to mention venturing further afield to Canada Square in the centre of Docklands.
Finally, the area around City Hall is home to the More London festival, with the Scoop amphitheatre (right next to the London Assembly’s building) hosting all sorts of events, most of which are free.
If I’ve whetted your appetite, then the links below will give you a lot more information. Summers come and go, some shorter than others, some wetter than others, but come rain or shine you’re never short of a cultural treat in London!
Jeannette Nelson, Arts Correspondent
A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
The new V&A exhibition, David Bowie Is, shows the fantastic imagination and creations of David Bowie spanning five decades.
Exciting, dark and theatrical it is bursting with material, providing an insight into Bowie’s mind through a multitude of collaborations with artists and designers. A spectacular and multi-sensory show bordering on immersive theatre, mirrored and faceted projection, sound installations, videos, preparative drawings, sketches, scribbles, lyrics, and models for his staging and costumes.
The sound-scape is rich and experiential, tuning into zones and exhibits, as we move around the exhibition, designed by the company 59 Productions (of the Olympic opening ceremony) and innovative sound technology from Sennheiser.
Bowie’s clear vision and hands-on approach, is apparent, influenced by a varied host of artists, culture and politics ranging from Marlene Dietrich, Kabuki Theatre, Lindsay Kemp (from whom he mastered the art of theatrical tension), Kubrick, Kraftwerk, Mao, Jung, German Expressionism and Berlin life.
At the beginning we read:
“All art is unstable. Its meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author. There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings” signed David Bowie
Indeed – Bowie is a master in borrowing and deriving art-works from everywhere!
Bowie’s collaborators affirm he was a perfectionist, yet easy to work alongside, confident to entrust his team with creative freedom. His costume designers such as Burretti and Yamamoto were delighted to work on an androgynous model such as Bowie with chiselled features and the ideal tall angular figure to carry avant gard silhouettes and flamboyant suits.
Kathryn Johnson – young assistant curator reveals she was most encouraged and relieved to discover Bowie had been supported by a range of talented individuals, support and teams rather than producing his projects alone and that his creations were not all the product of one mind. The range of characters Bowie creates, explores and plays out to entertain us is amazing. Although the exhibition is densely packed with over 300 exhibits, Kathryn says it was hard to whittle down the content from so much available. Bowie supplied most of it, although he had no wish to be involved in the curating.
BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE !
Of the Bowie movement, many people say “It spoke to me “ - he gave us the license to be ourselves, be individual, be liberated. In the context of the 1960s and 70s he challenged gender convention and gave a voice to gay liberation (which had only been legalised 4 or 5 years prior to Bowie’s emergence onto the pop scene)
I believe Howard Burrell compared Bowie’s influence today, to that of Mozart or to Bach in their time – the bad boy popular appeal.
Bowie deliberately remains elusive and mysterious (very Dietrich) with an edginess and perhaps strategic recklessness derived from Iggy Pop.
The new album is already a best-seller - Bowie at sixty-six in the Sinatra spot … and why not celebrate age?
The exhibition embraces every technology, projection, stills, sound, installation fabric, manuscripts and scraps – small booths and large staged exhibits against black space.
The exhibition is packed with an extensive amount of material, a sensory overload – there is too much to decipher – but yet something for everyone, be you a fashion student, designer, musician, anthropologist, a fan, or a dreamer.
I defy you not be inspired.
“AND THERE HE IS MESSING WITH OUR MINDS AGAIN …” but that is the job of the artist – to evoke otherworldly feelings*.
Curators: Victoria Broach and Geoffrey Marsh
David Bowie Is – at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 23rd March – 11th August 2013
Anne Tilby: Film, tv and theatre production designer and mixed media artist Clients include Julian Clary, Ken Russell, Spitting Image and Father Ted, opera design for Covent Garden Royal Opera House, Chicago Lyric, Moscow, ENO, Madrid … Trash Factory bubbles alongside other activities and is symbiotic – a social enterprise for creative recycling in the community and schools. Trash Factory needs for other interested eco-centrics – so do contact us via www.trashfactory.co.uk
Photography provided by V&A Museum archive
So, you work in London, you are used to the crowds, the crush in the Underground, the waiting for buses, you’re quite happy. But from time to time do you yearn to go to the country, to feel the wind on your face, take in the fresh, clean invigorating air, taste some good beer, good food, roaring fires, the smell of wood smoke, a deep sleep in a most relaxing bed, and comfortable welcoming surroundings. And it mustn’t be much trouble to reach.
Well, we found just the place. We spent a couple of nights enjoying the quiet countryside, the stunning sunsets, the green green panorama, the rushing rivers and streams, the waterfalls, and came back home restored, refreshed and relaxed. Ready to face the demands of living and working in a city.
So where did we go? Cheskin House, Newbiggin on Lune, a jewel of a find in the Cumbrian countryside.
And how did we get there? Well on this occasion we drove up the M6 as we had other places to visit. But we could have gone by train from Euston to Oxenholme – a journey of about four hours – and Edwina, the owner of Cheskin House would have picked us up and whisked us back to her place.
Cheskin House, a 270 year old farmhouse, has been restored to its former glory, with white painted windows and internal shutters, airy rooms, antique artefacts to admire, furnishings to die for and much more besides. Our bedroom was warm, luxurious and utterly inviting. The bed, its linen, the carpet all carefully chosen and coordinated. We loved the hanging cupboard with drawers.
And the bathroom, warm, white, candles, a shower, dimmable lighting, and a raised bath in which we threw some complimentary bath salts – they had a wonderful aroma. I forgot to ask Edwina where I could purchase some, they were that good!
And what was on the menu? Our breakfast was outstanding for its deliciousness and choice. Served in the conservatory with its stephanotis plant growing all over one wall, we really enjoyed a very satisfying start to the day.
Evening meals can be served in the dining room or conservatory. Both rooms are beautiful and very relaxing. Beautiful cutlery, glass and lighting made both memorable.
And the food? Edwina is a consummate cook. Her choice of preprandial delicious freshly made cheese sables, with nuts and olives accompanied an excellent dry sherry was admirable
Our meal started with cauliflower soup with truffle oil, she told us the secret of the soup is to create an intense stock.
Our main course was pheasant in a delicious wine sauce, red cabbage and locally grown boiled potatoes.
A beautifully flavoursome and light lemon with almond cake was offered, or plum and blackcurrant fruit compote – we were greedy and had a little of each I’m afraid!
All this followed by Appleby organic brie with local artisan bread – Edwina supports local growers especially.
And the wine to go with such a feast? Well Edwina has a wine studio containing wine from all over the world. I felt dizzy just scanning the labels.
A wine connoisseur, Edwina will match the meal with a suitable wine to get the most pleasure out of her meals. And she hit the nail on the head with her choices, for instance a 1999 Pinot Noir from Barratt, Adelaide (she had bought 150 cases at some time in the recent past) accompanied the soup, delicious with a satisfying aroma and even more pleasing piquancy.
Other delicious delights accompanied the rest of the meal and that of our evening repast the following evening which included a lamb chump chop on a bed of potato, peppery jus, black and green beans. Followed by poached pears in red wine with home made vanilla ice cream, we just couldn’t fit in another mouthful and the wonderful cheeseboard had to be admired but declined, we were so full.
Such attention to details – the decor, food, wine selection and the warm welcome – nothing was too much trouble – were the outstanding elements of our all too short stay at Cheskin House.
Next time for a weekend break we’ll take the train, using Trainline – if you book ahead, there are some good deals.
We’ll take our walking boots, warm hats, gloves and weather jackets and explore the myriad footpath network. A walking stick or two would be a wise item to take, but then Edwina will lend you one if you forget yours!
Can’t wait to visit again whether it’s this winter or the spring, even summer time, anything to be restored and refreshed in a weekend! Aaaah!
Cheskin House : www.cheskinhouse.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Val Reynolds, Editor
Travelling by air involves the extra anxiety of luggage allowances, especially in-cabin items, and hefty financial penalties. Dimensions are easy to check, but weight? How many times have you weighed yourself, then held your bag/s to see the extra weight – can you see over the edge of the bag? Is the reading accurate? The good news is I have come across a device that makes that situation history.
The Baggage Scale:
Has no batteries
Is compact and lightweight
Weighs baggage up to 32 kg (70 lbs)
Simple to use
Only weighs 106 grams
Has a magnifying viewer
Folds away neatly for travel – useful for reweighing baggage when preparing to leave
Has no sharp metal hooks
Environmentally friendly – free of electronic waste
Kind to your back
Here’s a link to a video showing clearly how it works.
What’s not to like? Designed by an engineer exasperated by devices that simply didn’t work well enough for him, it’s so useful and we recommend it unreservedly. It’s on our Christmas gift list for all those frequent travellers we know!
We loved another video we found that demonstrates a very effective method of packing. The Benny Hill music used made us smile!
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
As I type, two major forces are in the frame for affecting traditional summer cultural activities: the Olympics and the Para Olympics, and the good old British weather! Though, of course, the effect up to a million predicted tourists per day in the capital will have on the transport systems is yet to be witnessed and may well show the cries of chaos to be exaggerated. And as for the weather, well, it may be wetter and greyer so far this spring and summer than in living memory, but the resilience of the British character keeps shining through – the rain-sodden Thames Pageant to mark the Queen’s Jubilee showed that!
I first met Christiane Kubrick when she took part in the Open Studio event in 2003 and since then I have made a point of going to her annual Arts Fair at Childwickbury, near St Albans.
Christiane has painted since she was a child, creating theatre sets, some even with electric lighting which nearly killed her!
In 2011 she used backdrops she designed for the set of Hansel and Gretel for the production at the National Theatre, in the area devoted to children working on their own painting. The backdrop included a mysterious eye and a witch that appealed to many children and whose paintings had a mysterious bent.
I interviewed Christiane about her life of art and theatre in 2008 when she spoke of her work, her husband Stanley and her background.
At 80+ she continues working daily on her painting and you will be able to to watch her working on her latest work at the Fair.
Her daughter Katharina is also a prolific artist with a figurative style of her own who will also be painting at the event as will many artists and craftspeople.
I’m looking forward to the next Arts Fair 6-7-8-July 2012 where it will be possible to watch crafts people at work … fascinating for all concerned. And there is a programme of events specially focussed on children’s interests, juggling, felt making, face painting and concerts in the evening. A three day event it is something of a celebration of creativity as well as a great day out.
The times I have driven past Duxford War Museum and thought it would make a great day out but never got around to it. Well we finally managed in the Easter holidays and we loved it. We’ll be making more visits soon – it is so well organised, we all learned a lot and could see there is so much more to find out about.
I would advise using the planner and map ahead of your visit to decide which parts appeal the most. The website very useful and we decided on our route before our visit, planning in the all important potential toilet stops and lunch place.
If you are unable to do any pre-planning don’t worry; the leaflet given out on purchase of your ticket is very useful and includes: a map, planner, a brief description of each main exhibit and other useful information such as; where to find out about tours and the mobility assistance vehicle. I have to say the disabled facilities and assistance were impressive. No worries about finding an appropriate toilet, exhibits were well spaced, lifts were easy to find, staff very helpful, a wheelchair loan scheme and the mobility vehicle to hand. If you wanted to be idealistic then a smoother runway when pushing a wheelchair (where the joins are) and it would have been nice to access the inside of a plane as, from what we experienced, you had to be able to climb stairs to go inside but I feel nit-picky considering how easy and relatively stress free the day trip was.
So, after a friendly greeting we followed the Families with Young Children plan. Airspace was our first visit. The first room/hanger display was pretty much what we’d expected with a few planes and a basic information board. However, once inside the main display room we were surround by planes both on the ground and hanging from the ceiling and the children’s eyes lit up. As the planes and other flying machines eg helicopters and reconnaissance remote controlled planes were all displayed in a similar fashion our youngest child grew restless but it wasn’t long until we arrived at the planes which you could board via free-standing stairs and once again the children’s enthusiasm was ignited.
Approaching the upstairs displays with historical visual programmes and futuristic design ideas I thought at first we were going to be rushing through as it wouldn’t interest the children enough but was pleasantly surprised at the variety of hands-on equipment. There is a range of tasks; from adjusting the fins on the plane making it tilt and turn to completing reaction time tests. The range of activities was not just based on subject but also from very simple (having heart rate monitored) to quite complex (simulation games eg choosing a wing shape and the angle at which to take off) which was great because it meant that there was something for everyone in our party. Eventually we dragged ourselves away as we were in danger of not getting around the whole tour!
We missed out the playground as it was basic (but handy if you need your children to let off some steam) and went for lunch. The different cafes serve varying foods and we chose simple jacket potatoes. The staff were courteous and helpful, the food was quite standard for such places (including the price). A nice touch were the complimentary crème egg with their purchase – it was Easter. There are picnic benches, including a covered area that are not indicated on the map.
In the Battle of Britain hanger there was the offer of a free guided tour which we turned down due to fact that we believed our children wouldn’t maintain enough concentration but others seemed to enjoy it. The use of real war footage on television monitors, audio recordings next to some displays and recreations of scenes (such as an enemy plan shot down and being guarded) all made this area much more real to the children and our eldest was particularly interested and enthused which led to lots of questions. An especially touching moment was the recreation of an Anderson Shelter with actor’s voices playing out a typical scene. What made it very moving was that I explained to my son that his granddad would have been the about the same age as the young boy featured and the same age as my son is now. Seeing him absorb this fact, looking at his granddad, asking thoughtful questions and generally trying to empathise with the situation was truly something that all history teachers would have loved to have seen. You couldn’t ask for a better compliment to an exhibition in my opinion. I know that both my father and I were filled with pride to see the attempt to understand.
On route to our next viewing we enjoyed watching a bi-plane take off on short flights around the area with passengers on board and made a mental note to partake in such a thing in the future. The same can be said for the flight simulator!
The American Air Museum appeared to be displayed in a similar fashion to the Airspace hanger but in an award winning design which was very impressive with its long sweeping slopes and glass frontage. One of the best parts of the day, for the children at least, was in here. The set of complimentary activities was called Whizz, Bang, Wallop! There were plenty of staff/volunteers on hand to supervise the children with additional support from parents if need be. Our children loved each activity. First they folded paper to make aeroplanes (different styles with instructions were available) and aimed at a target (of which a record was kept for who had been the closest). Then they made a rocket to launch along a string, flight path (propelled by compressed air) to see if they could reach the end. Lastly, they had a choice between badge making and Airfix model making. For each activity they proudly collected a stamp on their Activities Passport and later, when at home, couldn’t wait to show any visitors what they had made with lots of detailed description of how and where.
Last but not least we arrived at the Land Warfare which had lots of vehicles on display with a ‘jungle’ themed path through it which added to the atmosphere. The children could see how warfare may have been played out and some of the pros and cons of devices. My husband particularly found the information on The Forgotten War (WW2 Far East) interesting as he was not as familiar with it and even though I was more so there was still plenty to be learnt.
The weather put paid to the tank display but, that said, there is so much to see at Duxford that we will definitely be back there soon so I’m sure we’ll see it in the future … later this year, if my children have anything to do with it!
Karen Fletcher, Guest contributor
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Follow the progress of IWM Duxford’s new exhibition, Historic Duxford, on its blog by going to iwm.org.uk
What’s On at IWM Duxford:
Flying Legends – Saturday 30 June and Sunday 1 July 2012
The Duxford Air Show – Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September 2012
Autumn Air Show – Sunday 14 October 2012
Tickets for their air shows are now on sale. Book online at www.iwm.org.uk or call the Box Office on 01223 499353.
One of the joys of biking is the feeling of freedom, the wind in your hair and a sense of wellbeing. Certainly riding up the hill you once had to walk your bike up gives a great sense of achievement.
I started fettling my own bikes as a teenager and soon found the right way and the wrong way to join up a cycle chain by having a chain break 10 miles from home and using someone’s garage to fix it! Similarly the inevitable punctures! The Bike Book should have been available years ago, it would have saved me a lot of time and energy.
Having said that, bikes have evolved a long way from the old simple Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub gear to today’s 24 or more gears (33 are possible, though not really useable).
For me, servicing your own transport gives an appreciation of the limitations of the individual components, for example simply banging over large pot holes makes you realise that you will have to sort the front suspension the following weekend, to replace the bent king-pin or worse, wish-bone, reminding you not to be so stupid! Similarly servicing the bike helps to realise that servicing the bike brakes is just as important as servicing cars. Bike brakes may look simple they are not necessarily so, as you find out when they fail, when they shouldn’t!
This book helps bike users to realise the amount of development that has gone into bike parts. Just because things look the same they frequently are not, this book carefully explains the whys and wherefores of fitting bike parts. This is not to say that as soon as things go wrong, you should give up and haul the thing to the local bike shop to get it fixed. To me a large part of biking is, that it is ME; I chose the bike and very often the parts for my own good reasons, for a purpose, whether it be racing, or riding to school. The pleasure of owing a bike is vastly enhanced, by knowing something about the bits that make it work; especially when a funny noise starts! What is it? Can I fix it? Does it matter? Can I get home OK? In short, knowing simple maintenance can go a long way, literally and again save a lot of wasted effort. Pumping the tyres up, is a prime example of this, the number of times I see bikes, with nearly flat tyres is really painful; 5 minutes with a pump saves a lot of time and effort propelling the bike and in all likelihood, repairing the almost inevitable puncture. Just pump the tyres up, then see how much more easily you go and fun it is!
An excellent book for the enthusiastic biker that gives a good introduction to the evolution of the bike and its parts. There are discussions missing, but these are more likely peculiar to the racing fraternity, who very definitely service their bikes with great care; such as the more specialised tyres (for example tubular tyres and bar extensions).
The Bike Book: Complete Cycle Maintenance £16.99
ISBN: 978085733 118 2 Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ
Reviewed by John Reynolds a cyclist for the last 60 odd years and counting!
A group of serial rapists in prisons were interviewed to discover what they looked for in a potential victim:
Hairstyle A woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle can be easily grabbed. Rapists are more likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.
Clothing Rapists look for a woman whose clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many carry scissors to cut clothing.
Mobile phones Women on their mobile ‘phone, searching through their handbag or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard, can be easily overpowered.
Favourite locations include car parks of shops and offices, blocks of garages and around public toilets and, as we know, wooded paths
Rapists are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don’t have to worry about getting caught. If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they are likely to get discouraged, because it only takes a minute or two to realise that going after you isn’t worth it – it will be too time consuming
This group of rapists said they would not pick on women with umbrellas, or similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands. Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these men you’re not worth it.
If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or are with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question like What time is it? Or make general small talk about the weather. Now you’ve seen their face and could identify them in a line-up, you lose appeal as a target.
If someone is coming towards you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell ‘Stop’ or ‘Stay back’. Most of the rapists spoken to said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again they are looking for an EASY target.
If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with strength, but you can by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker in the upper inner thigh – HARD. If you are grabbed round the chest pinch under the arm between the elbow and armpit. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it hurts. After the initial hit, always go for the groin. You might think that you’ll anger the man and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told the interviewers is that they want a woman who will not cause a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble and they’re out of there.
If the man puts his hand up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible.
Practice some of these defences with a girlfriend – it will give you both confidence.
In conclusion, always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can. If you see any odd behaviour, don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel a bit silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.
Rape is something that you may think will never happen to you. We hope it never does. Don’t take chances. Obviously it is best never to put yourself in the situation where you could be attacked.
So ALWAYS be part of a group or at least have a companion with you
NEVER EVER walk alone in the dark in poorly lit areas
ALWAYS have emergency money kept separately from your purse for taxi fares or to contact friends or family
CHECK your mobile is charged and topped up before you leave home
NEVER accept a lift from someone you don’t know or only know slightly
STAY SOBER if you know you might get separated from companions at a popular event
Rape is: demeaning, confidence destroying, has long lasting effects, you could be infected with STDs, you may be injured
A chilling but compulsive read is I Have Life, The true story of Alison who was raped, stabbed and left for dead. A book most women would find an interesting and instructive read.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor