Why Jennifer Lawrence was perfect to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games – they’re both feminists through and through

As lucky Kinder in London, we go to screenings of blockbusters – as well as our more favoured smaller, more independent, underground film releases. But there isn’t anything wrong with that – just because a film is Hollywood, doesn’t mean it’s automatically too mainstream, too product placement heavy, or too glamourous for us. Sometimes Hollywood films suck – but not always.

And we really like The Hunger Games.

Mostly it’s because we have a thing for Jennifer Lawrence.

silver-linings-playbook-image-1(Jennifer Lawrence at Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook)

We really, really started to get her when we saw Silver Linings Playbook – an unexpected gem of a film, right from the Stevie Wonder mentions, to Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of someone living with bipolar disorder, to Jennifer’s role as Tiffany – a brash, sexy, but vulnerable individual (and a role that Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for).

Now, The Hunger Games is totally different. Coming from Young Adult fiction, it could be mistaken as a Twilight-type affair – all lovey dovey – but it’s not. (Jennifer, as Katniss, does have love interests – but her biggest interest is to protect her family, friends and the world around her from the regime they’re living under).

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(Jennifer playing Katniss in The Hunger Games)

Katniss wields a bow. She volunteers to enter the Hunger Games to protect her little sister – and as we’ve seen in the latest instalment, she’s getting rebellious against the totalitarian rules her nation lives under.

Jennifer Lawrence, too, is a rebel. She spoke out on Newsnight about the pressure that girls feel to be thin. Which is a very, very rare move in Hollywood.

Check her out here.

Oh Jennifer, we love you.

Oh, and P.S. – she did this at the Oscars.

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Rosie x

Literature and the Barbican

Why is the Barbican so amazing?

Because it is the LARGEST multi-arts and conference venue in Europe.

The huge, towering concrete jungle that looks rigid, militant and BRUTALIST in its architecture is actually home to a cultural flowering of art, music, theatre, dance and film!

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Built in London, upon an area desecrated by the Second World War, during the 60s and 70s it began as a residential estate. But it is now so much more than that…

It houses the Barbican Arts Centre, vast libraries, the Museum of London, The City of London School for Girls and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (where one of us got her ‘Grade 8 Performing Arts’, and ‘Shakespeare Award’. Ahem).

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In 2001 the Minister for the Arts awarded the Barbican Grade II listed status.

One can see why.

It is colossal in scale – you can easily get lost inside it. Plus it occupies such a cohesive and all-consuming place in the London skyline. The whole complex is so distinct and seamless that it easily sits apart from all the law firms and towering glass banks full of city boys surrounding it (eww).

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It is also pretty cool that some of the buildings are named after notable British historical literary figures (we are literature geeks after all…) Examples include:

Defoe House – after Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders)

Johnson House – after Ben Johnson (the playwright behind satirical plays Volpone and Bartholomew Fayre)

Bunyan House – after John Bunyan (writer of The Pilgrim’s Progress)

More House – after Thomas More (Tudor period author of the Latin-Utopia)

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AND OBVIOUSLY SHAKESPEARE TOWER…the bard who needs no introduction!

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Rating: ****

Anne x

Blue is the Warmest Colour – Palme d’Or Winner

Being proud advocates of LGBT culture (we have spent a lot of time in Berghain…) we were really excited when news began to trickle forth from the Cannes film festival 2013 – of the Palme d’Or winner ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’.

Based on a French graphic novel and garnering much critical acclaim all the way back in May – it has taken an age for it to hit our screens. But it is hard to avoid the vivid imagery scattered all over the underground stations in London.

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The film is very visceral – real and intense in its portrayal of the ups and downs of modern day lesbianism. The acting by Adèle Exarchopoulos, ranging from a 15 year old discovering that her erotic feelings for boys are severly lacking, to a woman torn by her feelings for another female, are heartbreaking in their honesty and vulnerability.

Léa Seydoux, playing the sexually more mature and at-ease Emma, has had a liberal upbringing and is an artist – comfortable in her sexuality. Her flare and bright blue hair awaken feelings in Adèle that both excite her and make her feel welcomed to a life she didn’t realise she had been missing all along.

Yet the path to true romance never runs smoothly. The film raises questions of whether such erotic intensity can ever turn into something with durable longevity?

Blue-Is-The-Warmest-Color-2In the aftermath, what EVERYONE has been talking about (and over-hyping) were the supposed graphic sex scenes between the two women portrayed in the film. Director Abdellatif Kechiche has courted controversy – with critics claiming that the sex is too pornographic and not faithful to true lesbian encounters.

Even the author of the graphic novel has condemned the piece with the statements: “heteronormative [people] laughed because they don’t understand it” and that gay people “found it ridiculous”.

We found it neither of these things.

However, now both actresses have come forth to proclaim that they shall never work with director Kechiche again and have described the experience as “horrible”. There have even been suggestions that prosthetic vaginas were used.

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I don’t know if we were the only ones NOT to be utterly shell shocked by such de-Hollywood-ised sex scenes?

But in many ways it was refreshing.

Three hours full of subtitled French cinema flew by.

We were mostly obsessed with the camera’s permanent gaze upon the girls’ mouths – there is definitely a lot suggested by this oral fixation on screen. We see them biting their lips in frustration, licking their lips, pouting, kissing, chewing – in fact Adèle is always seen to be open-mouthed – lips trembling, eating with her mouth full of food. or with a cigarette hanging from between her lips. I think we get what Kechiche is trying to suggest…

However, we found the more heart wrenchingly painful moments were the ones that stuck with us – the homophobic high school mob scenes, the tear-stained cafe encounter,…and the moment the man comes running out of the art gallery after Adèle leaves – where a moment’s hesitation leaves one wondering how many missed opportunities there are in everyone’s life.

Rating: ****

Anne x

Bright lights, Cold nights – Southend in the Winter

Fancy a wintery stroll along the British sea-side? Forget Brighton and its pebbly beaches. Check out our Fotogalerie of Southend.

Witness the dichotomy of the flashy, trashy, bright lights of the oft-titled “Blackpool of the South”…

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…compared to the cutesy, chintz rooms full of posh nosh found at the Bacchus Restaurant.

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The food is not cheap but the interior is absolutely smashing and it is a complete labyrinth of hidden jewels. With ball gowns hanging from the ceiling, and vintage bathing suits dangling in the bath rooms, it really is worth spending that little bit extra to warm up with some wine and cosy surroundings. It gives off the vibe of a really wealthy grandma’s closet that has been raided.

Antiques roadshow would have a field day!

20131122172019688Oh yes and do stop in to the yummy Essex version of Honest Burger – it is entitled Henry Burgers. The owner is super nice and so is the food!

When we went they had sold sooo many burgers that they had to give their chef the day off on Sundays because the place was so in demand.

That is a sign of  a GOOD burger. (Thankfully, now the situation has been rectified and the people of Southend and visitors from far and wide can be fed every day of the week – hooray!)

henryThe faded glory of Britain’s seaside towns has often been lamented. Hip and happening in the Victorian era. People flocked to the beaches in their thousands and insisted on getting changed in bathing machines to protect their modesty. Oh how times have changed…

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Then the Mods and Rockers got all angry in the 60s. Flinging their deck chairs about in rage and scooting around on their Vespas and motobikes.

So what has become of the coastal holiday resorts so jam packed in the summers of yore? What is it like during the bleak winter months?

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(Brighton 1964)

We all know that Blackpool is synonymous with stag dos and generally scary folk. Yet Southend is not to be sniffed at. Take a wander down the promenade and you will be smelling the sugary sweet smell of donuts and your eyes will be gleaming with all the sparkling lights found in every direction.

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For twee seaside towns to enter the modern era they have had to adapt – HELLO BRIGHTON – the perfect example and winner of the hipster beach of the UK.

BUT Southend has one huge crowning glory…it has the longest pleasure pier in the world. (Gasp!)

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However, there is not a lot on there and you actually have to pay for the opportunity to wander down it or, alternatively, catch the train to the wind-swept end. (This was not something we fancied doing on a blustery November night).

Just go and munch a burger at Henry Burgers instead and wander round the Adventure Island…wrapped up in gloves, scarves and very woolly hats.

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Anne x

Photos: Henry Burgers Facebook, BBC

Powder Room – a review

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(From left to right – Jaime Winstone, Riann Steele and Sarah Hoare)

We were excited about Powder Room – it’s got a stellar cast, from Sheridan Smith, to Jaime Winstone and Oona Chaplin (who I am personally obsessed with. Her hair! The fact that she’s Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter! Her tantalising performance as a sometimes-escort in Channel 4’s Dates earlier on this year. The list goes on).

Basically, this is a Brit flick for the girls.

And it’s good – but not as good as it maybe could have been.

Sheridan Smith (who is always amazing. In everything) plays Sam. She’s on a night out – with two different sets of mates. One bunch, her ‘true’ friends, are are also the so-called ’embarrassing’ ones – the ones who nick drinks because they’re skint, get so wasted they end up hiding in toilet cubicles whilst wrapped in bog roll, and shamelessly shave their armpits in the ladies’ loos (well, the latter is  just Jaime Winstone as man-eater, Chanel).

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(Oona Chaplin, Sheridan Smith and Kate Nash)

Sam’s other bunch of mates are played by super-cool Oona Chaplin (Jess), and Kate Nash (Michelle) -yes, really – Miss Nash is an actress now! I didn’t even recognise her without her fringe, to be honest – what a transformation – though not one I’m totally convinced by. But it’s clear from the start they aren’t Sam’s true friends – just a bitchy friend of Sam’s from the past, and her snobby Parisian mate.

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(Jaime Winstone and Sheridan Smith)

Sam spends the night flitting between the two gaggles of girls – with increasing tension and unease. Who are her real friends? The ones she’s grown up with – and outgrown a little – or the chic duo that Sam aspires to be like?

As the narrative moves forward, we see that Sam’s life has actually been unravelling in front of her eyes for months.

I liked this film. Sheridan Smith gave a great performance – and I sympathised with her character, as many girls will – skint, upset, confused, heartbroken, stuck, bored, whatever – there’s a quality in Sam that we can all relate to. And probably several if we’re honest.

Jaime Winstone and Oona Chaplin too were fabulous, as always.

And I liked that the film revolved around the toilets at a club – which is, though a bit of a cliche, the place you often spend half your night nattering with your friends.

The bits I didn’t like? The random bursting into song. I guess that was too… jazz hands for me, but that’s just me. Others will like that element – and the film is based on a play.

This is a slick, girly film, and it’s one younger girls especially will like. I can’t see it becoming a cult classic or anything – but it’s definitely worth a watch. If only to see Jaime Winstone shaving her armpits in a club toilet.

Our rating: ***

Powder Room is at cinemas  from 6th December. 

Rosie x

“Four Seasons” Fireworks in Brockwell Park

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The clocks have gone back, darkness looms over your shoulder earlier than expected, and Hurricane Jude has just destroyed the entire London transport system (it really does only take ONE puff of wind to render venturing out of bed futile).

Yet there is reason to rejoice because we are all on the good side of Christmas! These are the months where fun stuff happens. The run up before January and February suck out our souls.

Halloween has come and gone (although we were too inebriated to document that fully blogwise) and fireworks night has just exploded in a roar of colour in South East London.

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We moseyed along to Brockwell Park, along with 1000s of other families, friends, wailing children and underaged boozed up youths. Although…we were not far off maturity-wise as we shivered clutching our Strongbows and lamenting the fact we had forgotten to buy sparklers.

We want to say a big thank you to Lambeth council for throwing a stellar (get it?) line up of explosions, lights and generally making it looks like little drops of gold were falling from the heavens.

Plus it was all for free! Admittedly, this meant crowds of epic proportions and a great deal of shoving each other in muddied boots but it was well-worth it for a spot of the old British whimsy.

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These days there is a total lack of raging bonfire – complete with Guy Fawkes’s roasting sack-like body. But being peace-loving Kinder we don’t like to see any effigy being used as kindling! Even if it is a tradition that dates back to the 1605 Gunpowder plot (It is a bit of an odd pastime…)

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Lambeth Council chose to opt for a more modern day twist and the mayor announced the onset of a series of songs documenting the turning of the yearly calendar – the progress from spring to winter through a medley of cheery songs (although we did question the inclusion of Greenday’s Wake me up When September ends. Really?)

But top hits of the night had to be Mr Blue Sky (ELO), Here Comes The Sun (The Beatles), September (Earth, Wind and Fire) and California Dreamin’ (The Mamas and Papas).

Dancing around in mud and praising the lord that there was not any rain (…yet still complaining about poor crowd control) made it the perfect crisp autumnal night out in London. And with Brockwell’s elevated position over the rest of London you could see fireworks shooting off all over the capital.

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Our rating: **** 

Anne x

Ich möchte Bier – Berliner Weiße in particular

I want beer.

But sadly it is a Thursday morning and I am at work. In London.

We are not usually the biggest fans of beer. We like our stuff more potent – throw a cheap cava or prosecco at us any day, but beer?

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It takes too long to have the desired effect and makes you feel a bit like a bloke. Unless…you find yourself at an afterparty at 5am cradling a can of White Stripe – that is totally acceptable behaviour.

Obviously.

BUT…in Berlin there is a Bier so yummy I can make an exception.

Admittedly the one we like is really girly (it is pink) and is an upsettingly low percentage (around 3%). Which is not ideal but, god – if the lower percentage saves us from being those boozed up Brits abroad, so hated by Europeans, then that is fine with us!

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This scrumptious Bier is called Berliner Weiße and is found mostly in Northern Germany – namely Berlin and it dates all the way back to the 16th century.

Various dates are suggested for the birth of Berliner Weiße – as early as 1572.

There is even a widespread legend that Napoleon’s troops nicknamed the beverage as “The Champagne of the North” (so it kind of makes sense why we like it then…)

Anyway – back in the day it used to be the most popular alcoholic tipple in Berlin – but now the only brand still produced in Berlin is Berliner Kindl Weiße

Berlin has a huge range of beers – wander into any shop selling booze and you will be astounded at the vast array.

What’s that we have here? Oh yeah a “Boys Noize Techno Bier”

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That would be like having a “Disclosure Garage Beer” back home in Blighty (snigger).

Sadly for the rest of the world the brand Berliner Weiße is protected in Deutschland so it can only be used for Bier made in Berlin.

It is the flavoured syrups added to the Bier that make it so varied – the raspberry pink one is called “Himbeersirup”, the purple blackcurrant one is called “Johannisbeere” and there is some strange one with woodruff in (“Waldmeistersirup”). Ermm. We are still not sure what that is…

Our rating: *** ( 3% = 3 stars )

Anne x

Photos: Laura Chapman, Danny Baker 

Auf Wiedersehen Kater Holzig

We are sad.

One of our favourite clubs in Berlin is closing.

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We heard rumours of its closure being muttered beside the Spree as we sat there in summer. With our feet dangling in the water and talking to newfound friends we watched the sun rise. But pre-occupied with bathing in the dawning sunlight and having a lovely time we were quick to dismiss it as idle chitchat and hoped against hope that it was not true.

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Upon our return to London we gave it a quick Google and could find nothing to suggest its demise…except for one old Resident Advisor page from 2012 stating that the club co-founder Christoph Klenzendorf had turned his attention to a new project.

Time dragged by and we waited with baited breath for the closing party that RA suggested would be taking place in September 2013.

Further research meant we soon discovered that back in the day Klenzendorf was one of the founders of Kater’s predecessor, Bar 25, and that in the last few years the land upon which Bar 25 was originally founded had been put up for auction.

Klenzendorf & co have managed to win back the original site and plan to build a new space.

This will be entitled HOLZMARKT – aka “Timber Market” – www.holzmarkt.com

September came and went and we heard nothing. No news was good news and we thought perhaps Kater and Holzmarkt might co-exist, beautifully straddling the river banks.

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Then, this October, the news we dreaded: the Facebook page announced the closure. Everyone now has until 31st December 2013 to soak up Kater in all its glory.

KaterHolzig.de has even helpfully added a countdown to its homepage (ouch).

The clock is ticking people – go now or regret it.

We have had some of our bestest B-town nights and days (and nights again) at this former cotton mill.

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It is hard to explain the fairy tale-esque nature of the place.

Hidden grottos a’plenty, pounding bass, wendy houses, marriage proposals, bicycles, declarations of love, skateboard ramps, friendly brown bears, wooden decking, fairy lights, graffiti, food, drink, stumbling upon sex acts, smoke machines, losing our smartphones (who needs material possessions when you have Kater!?), long lost friends from around the world, fire pits, brave people splashing around in the river and…a giant cat presiding over it all in his top hat.

We are going to console ourselves with the fact this is not “Goodbye” – we will see Klenzendorf & co’s beautiful vision again. It is merely “Auf Wiedersehen” for now.

Bring on Holzmarkt!

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Our rating: ***** (+ one iPhone)

Anne x

Photos: Bluespot.de, Kater Holzig.de, Laura Chapman 

Michelberger Hotel – the most wunderbar place to stay in Berlin

We love Michelberger Hotel. Situated on Warschauer Straße in the cool Friedrichshain area, it’s the perfect location for everything you need on a trip to B Town. 

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It was recommended to us by friends, and honestly, we think it’s the one of the best places we’ve stayed in any city, ever. We wouldn’t stay anywhere else. We’ve visited friends in hostels in the city, and nothing compares to the quirky, modern, edgy, yet friendly atmosphere at Michelberger.

You’re free to come and go as you please (obviously, you won’t get judged for disappearing off for a few nights clubbing and coming back disheveled – a big plus. Who needs nosy receptionists? But maybe we’re just used to curtain-twitching British B&Bs – argh). And when you ARE in your room, you think, god, why isn’t my house like this?!

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Vintage deco is mixed with clean lines, details that are unique to each room, and a range of rooms from cosy (which are lovely, minimalist, and cute as hell) to loft rooms and special mezzanine abodes.

We hate to use the word ‘quirky’ – but this place truly is (shout out to the Big Lebowski – which plays on TVs in the halls on loop. It might drive you a little bit mad after a while, but it also makes you think, ‘Ah, I’m home’).

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And the lounge area is to die for – with amazing cocktails (we’ve OD’d on espresso martinis many a time). And the food is ace, too!

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Yummy.

Plus, it’s all totally on budget – rooms start at just 70 Euros for two people per night (that’s 35 Euros, kids – a steal for the standard you get).

We can’t sing its praises loud enough. Seriously.

Don’t bother with chain hotels! Go for lovely MichelB. You won’t regret it.

Our rating: *****

Rosie x

Photos: Michelberger Hotel, Rosie’s Instagram

 

Places to visit – Cambodia

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Cambodia is often overlooked in the well-trodden and much lauded route taken by travellers around South East Asia. But this is beginning to change and rightly so! During my travels across Thailand, Vietnam and Laos I was overwhelmed with relief that I had chosen to include Cambodia on my trail around the world.

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The history of Cambodia is one full of bloodshed, civil war and poverty. But the Cambodian people have the most infectious smiles and laughter that you may ever see or hear.

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In Cambodia you can witness the battle that the people have been through: a battle between heaven and hell.

Heavenly – Upon visiting Cambodia via beautiful Siem Reap you are able to enter the kingdom of the gods: Angkor Wat (built in 1125). This is widely viewed as the ‘pride’ of Cambodia; a world full of temples (‘wats’) and the remains of a once glorious and rich empire. The scale and grandeur of the ruins are impossible to imagine until you have visited them for yourself.

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Yet even here you can see where marks of evil have left their stain upon this once beautiful landscape. The magnificent walls are punctuated by bullet holes and large portions of the temples have been destroyed by looters and thieves.

Hellish  – These bullet holes brought the heavenly realm of the Angkor gods back down to earth with a crash. It is humanity and the reign of the Khmer Rouge that have since left their imprints upon Cambodia.

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The country has been through colonisation by the French in the 19th century, bombings by the US in the 70s, and then the reign of terror and civil war, sparking the rise of the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

This radical communist party and its leader Pol Pot killed an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians through torture and starvation.

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Areas known as ‘The Killing Fields’ were set up to maim and execute people. Weapons such as guns, poison and bamboo sticks were used upon families who had been uprooted from the cities, such as Phnom Penh (the capital). These mass graves, which often had to be dug by the victims themselves, can still be visited today.

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As a result of this fractured history, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and to this day most of the population still subsists on less than $1 a day. It is only now that the UN is bringing to justice those responsible for this mass genocide.

Travelling to Cambodia is something that is a worthwhile and culturally rich experience. Here you can meet local people and witness life in a way that still manages to preserve the native environment. Living alongside the communities, eating and drinking local delicacies, such as the delicious Amok dish, are real eye opening experiences. It is impossible not to notice the charm and warm-welcome that you will receive from both the city and village dwellers, despite all that they have been through.

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Angkor Wat and the Cambodian people may have felt the sting of bullets in the past, but these bullets have always managed to narrowly avoid the heart of the Cambodian people. It may be said that the ‘pride’ of Cambodia is Angkor Wat, but I would beg to differ: the pride of Cambodia is its people!

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Our rating: *****

Anne x

The Bodyguard – first night with Beverley Knight at the Adelphi Theatre

the-bodyguard-original1I’ve always loved The Bodyguard.

Whitney Houston is perfect – not only because of her voice (which is obviously one of the main pulls of the film), but also because of her portrayal of superstar in crisis, Rachel Marron.

And a star in crisis Whitney was in real life too – we all know what happened, and I still can’t really believe that Whitney is gone.

For Whitney/Bodyguard fans, the lines are blurred. Are you watching a story about a singer called Rachel Marron, or are you just watching (and gawping) at Whitney and her amazing voice?

So going to see the stage version of the epic film was always going to be pretty poignant for me.

Rachel’s story is different from Whitney’s – in the film/stage show she’s being stalked, and needs the protection of a bodyguard (Kevin Costner in the film, Tristan Gemmill in the stage show), who she then falls in love with.

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Whitney Houston is one of my favourite ever singers, so I was worried that Beverley Knight, though a national treasure with a ridiculously great vocal range of her own, might not be able to emulate Whitney.

But I was wrong – Beverley lends her own twist to Rachel’s story. She hit every note perfectly – and there are a lot of songs in this play! She doesn’t try to emulate Whitney’s voice, but instead sings in her own incredible style.

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The play has been adapted from the film as a tribute to Whitney, and each of her biggest hits is in it – from I Wanna Dance With Somebody to I Will Always Love You.

The stage show is especially tense when the audience realises that Rachel’s stalker is creeping along the side of the seating.

And it was a huge success – Beverley got the standing ovation she deserved, even before the show was finished.

If you’re into Whitney Houston, and want to celebrate her musical achievments, then this is one musical you will enjoy.

A must-see for Whitney fans.

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R.I.P., Whitney Houston – we will always love you!

P.S. As it was Beverley’s first night in the role, there was a good turnout of celebrities, from Emeli Sande to Shingai Shinowa of The Noisettes… and I found myself sitting next to Mel C from the Spice Girls. Which made me feel the ‘girl power’ even more. Perfect.

Our verdict: ****

Rosie x 

FOPP Film Club – The Kings of Summer at The Roxy Bar & Screen

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The Roxy is an amazing place to watch any films that you may have missed when they were initially released. This bar and screen mean that you can combine dinner, drinks and cinema. Pushing back the curtain at the rear of a small bar down Borough High Street you can happily throw yourself down upon one of the many comfy, burgundy leather sofas and watch a film sprawled out with booze, friends and food within easy reaching distance.

Once the film starts the only illumination is via candles casting a warm, red glow across the room. This is much preferable to cramming yourself into a crowded Odeon full of screaming children and with popcorn flying.

Many of the films include intervals as well so you can have a crafty cigarette or toilet break without missing any of the action onscreen!

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We went to see The Kings of Summer, an indie flick that is a admittedly a very funny coming-of-age tale in the style of Stand by Me.

Unfortunately the film was only given a limited release in the US and UK – meaning not as many people got the chance to laugh out loud to three boys’ harebrained attempts at building a fortress in the middle of nowhere and fending for themselves against the wilds of nature.

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These young boys, disillusioned by their everyday lives – full of stifling parents, humdrum schoolwork, and high school bullying,  decide to escape and run wild and free in nature, learning to fend for themselves and eventually returning to society as fully fledged men (sort of).

Our absolute favourite character had to have been Moisés Arias playing the ridiculously weird Biaggio. His large bug eyes staring out at his contemporaries in all manner of camouflaged nooks and crannies  – simultaneously freaking out everybody in the cinema and providing the majority of laughs (at one point confusing the symptoms of cystic fibrosis as signs that he is gay!?)

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Other actors worth watching are the Justin Bieber-styled Nick Robinson (the brains behind the great escape), Megan Mullay (Karen from Will and Grace!) who is as funny as ever but in a totally different way, and Mullay’s real-life husband – Nick Offerman. They must be one seriously funny couple off-screen!

The film was showcased to us by the FOPP film club – the wonderfully cheap DVD, CD and book store.

One could tell that the hosts of the event were passionate about the film they were showing and took great delight in opening it up to a wider audience. Something FOPP should be applauded for!

Unfortunately during these penny pinching days FOPP’s fate has suffered like so many others – now only one shop exists in London (whereas before there had been 150 across the country).

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So head down to Covent Garden and make sure another staple of the British high street doesn’t crumble! Failing that, give The Kings of Summer a chance. Indie films and indie shops are a precious but increasingly rare commodity these days…

Our rating: ***

Anne x

Photos: Danny Baker, The Kings of Summer promo & Sboy2010

Scream if you wanna shine brighter – House of Pain, Zenith House

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If you find yourself ambling around SE1 at any point before the 20th October, and discover that you have a spare minute, make sure that you pop into the House of Pain along Borough High Street. I accidentally stumbled upon this secret gem recently when pacing quickly down the street, a typical busy London commuter – and then…something interesting caught my eye.

Bright flashing lights, broken shards of glass, and high pitched screams came emanating forth from a derelict building – Zenith House. This is something to make any work-obsessed commuter stop in their tracks.

There is no huge advertising explaining what is going on, but being nosy and attracted to shiny objects, I crossed the road (dodging rush-hour traffic) to find out that unbeknownst to me MERGE festival is currently underway.

MERGE festival is a yearly celebration of the rich history and contemporary culture of Bankside. Taking place from 19th September – 20th October 2013 there is a flourishing of art, music and performance taking place around the area.

For further information, see here: http://mergefestival.co.uk/

House of Pain is an art and light installation set in place by Marcus Lyall and Mark Logue. Currently residing in a derelict building it is open 5pm – 10pm Wednesday to Sunday.

The abandoned Zenith House is due for transformation into a hotel by Kings College London soon – and people are not happy. Opponents to the new scheme include English Heritage, The Victorian Society, The Georgian Group, The Ancient Monuments Society and Spitalfields Trust. The preservation of this building has caused a furore that Lyall and Logue have tapped into – a frustration with the modern, working age.

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Passers-by are invited to enter a darkened room on the ground floor and scream for as long and as loud as they like – as a way of exorcising their anger, fear or stress. The whiter the light the more high-pitched the noise, and my vocals chords certainly felt strained after a few minutes inside. Deeper, more manly groans caused an eruption of purple and pink lights to wash over the building.

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Of course there is a lot more taking place throughout the month of MERGE festival…

Be sure to check out Candy Chang’s Before I Die.

There are two walls – one next to the House of Pain and another in Flat Iron Square. Here members of the public are asked to write their deepest desires on a large blackboard. These boards are covered in chalk scrawlings outlining what people aspire to do before their last breath.

before i dieIt is part of a much bigger project – there are, at present, 150 chalkboards for Before I die up around the world – and in 15 different languages.

It is a creative, worldwide project that can be found in such far-flung destinations as Thailand, Argentina and Israel (plus many more). It is a chance to gaze upon our fellow human beings’ creative outpourings, and Chang has managed to turn public places into art-filled, community-spirited wonders.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

Photos: MERGE festival.co.uk (Tommophoto)

Battersea Power Station opens its almighty doors one last time

Open House London are to be admired for their determination to open up iconic London landscapes and hidden gems – but they certainly made a mess of things this weekend and left many people deeply unhappy. Good intentions + bad planning = a recipe for disaster and left many disheartened souls.

This weekend they made the promise to 1000s of overeager Londoners (and those from far and wide) that they would grant us free entry to a building that is close to many people’s hearts – Battersea Power Station. This four-pronged beacon of the London skyline is much dearer to London resident’s than the newly polished Gherkin or Shard, and has less pomp and grandeur than the Houses of Parliament or the Tower of London.

IMAG0359London landmarks are glorious and tell of a history so varied, dark, proud and momentous that you can barely turn a street corner without something of repute having happened there.Yet that is not why people love Battersea- this Art Deco behemoth is for the commonplace of London – no battles were fought there, no life altering decisions made. It is a decommissioned coal-fired power station. Construction began in 1929 and the building was finally shut down in 1983 – meaning it has been 30 years since it served its purpose.

In the years since, various proposals were made for the site, yet they all fell by the wayside and left Battersea in a beautiful state of barren disarray.

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Being from London, it is hard to say whether everybody understands the appeal of the aesthetics of the building – it was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott – who also designed the Tate Modern (further downriver) and the world-famous red-telephone box.

Ideas bandied about for its new use have included: a theme park, a new Chelsea football ground, and more astoundingly-overpriced London housing.

And guess what won? Who was the winner in the 30 year battle for Battersea?

Money.

Money was the winner and money from Malaysia is now about to turn this rough and ready beast of the South London skyline into designer flats.

IMAG0349So this was the last EVER chance to peep inside this building that we have all gazed at, glassy eyed, on our commutes to and from the city. Battersea Power Station has stared down and silently witnessed the lives and loves of ordinary Londoners for years. Never participating, solitary in its disuse, but a friendly giant accompanying the sunrise and sunset journeys of our lives. The idea of it is being turned into shiny new flats that no average person could afford hurts somewhat. It doesn’t ring true to the purpose of the building. Is it a sight that I want to stay in London to witness? Along with the desecration of Southbank skatepark? Sometimes I dare not look at what London is going to gentrify next.

Short opening hours, no queuing system and a severe lack of staff turned the place into a swarm of angry Londoners who will now never get a chance to say goodbye before our crumbling ruin is turned into a sleek new joint full of corporate eateries and floor-to-ceiling windowed apartments (I am yet to find anyone pro-the exclusive housing, so pardon me).

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We, through sheer determination and sly sneaking, managed to get inside to say farewell. We had been told many times that there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY we were getting in. Yet, this to us sounded not just a challenge, but something that could not be given up on easily.

You see behind every one of the people queuing that day there was a backstory and for us it was important…one of our dearest friends (my first boyfriend) from sixth form college had always been in love with this building. Whenever going past Battersea Power Station on trips into the city when we were 16 he would always extoll its virtues – everyone still associates this iconic sight with him.

So off on our jolly teenage trips we went- for us it would be our first date, for others it would be bunking days off college, and for many of us the New Year’s Eve we all spent on December 31st 2005 in Trafalgar Square getting drunk from one can of beer – every time he would talk about it. His favourite thing was watching the sun set behind the four chimneys and so that is what I bought him for his 18th birthday – a framed photograph of Battersea with the sun shining behind in a deep orange hue.

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This weekend would have been Scott’s 25th birthday. Unfortunately, he could not be with us to celebrate and to see inside his much beloved building.

In 2011 he passed away after a long and brave battle with aplastic anemia (for further information see below).

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It seemed that there was no better and no more fitting tribute than to attend and see for ourselves what he would have relished seeing –  and on his quarter of a century birthday no less. His presence was acutely missed and always will be missed, but standing in the cavernous turbine hall and knowing that Battersea Power Station would always be there – in London, and be part of the city we all grew up in and cherish was a comfort.

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Members of the public, in the absence of supervision by the staff, were able to take away small pieces and chunks that had fallen from the once-mighty stature. One little old lady knelt beside me doing the same thing and I wondered for a moment why she wanted a piece to remember the place by. Everyone always has a story behind such a memento.

Well the piece of brick that I managed to snaffle away is going straight to Scott. We are going to decorate it and put it in on his grave on his birthday – tomorrow, September 22nd. Regrettably, we never had the chance to go with him to Battersea Power Station, but that is not going to stop us – because now we can take a piece of Battersea to him.

Anne x

10 years of Bestival sure was a show-stopper!

Thursday night saw the super savvy and uber-cool MIA strut her stuff on The Big Top Stage – starting the festival with a bang. It was her first gig since 2010 and she did not disappoint with her wonderful fusion of style, image and songs – merging together all number of influences.
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Bedecked in Hindu symbols and a headdress she made sure all her smash hits were all on the set list – Born Free, Bad Girls, Bucky Done Gun and Paper Planes. Her fourth album is due out later this year and we are super excited for what is in store!
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Earlier on in the day – the first arrivals to the festival also got the chance to witness the alternative dance duo – ‘DJ Chucks’ and singer ‘Mr Bruce’ aka The Correspondents gave people a taster of electro swing and a multitude of other genres.
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Friday’s favorites saw a scaled down version of Wu-Tang Clan hit the Main Stage with all the vigour one would expect of men who have been in the hip hop game for twenty years. The crowds hands’ were constantly in the air making the sign for ‘Wu’ and there was plenty of crowd interaction with the Clan before they played classics such as Gravel Pit, C.R.E.A.M and Shimmy Shimmy Ya  – which got everyone pumped up for the rest of the festival. Disclosure played the Big Top with a mammoth two hour set covering plenty of their chart climbing tracks off their number 1 album Settle. Playing at the same time on the main stage was Fatboy Slim who played a special Bestival Birthday Bash – fittingly because he was the first act to ever headline Bestival a decade ago!
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Saturday we were treated to The Roots – a hip hop/neo soul collective from Philadelphia, featuring a euphonium player.  Their set went swimmingly (it was the nautical themed parade day after all – see the pictures!) and they performed covers including Sweet Child o’Mine and Jungle Boogie.
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Old indie kings Franz Ferdinand drew a huge crowd to the main stage to perform their well known classics (Take Me Out) and  their new album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action.
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Later, as darkness set in The Knife played and their weird brand of kookiness did not disappoint – wearing black monk outfits, playing with experimental dancers and harps ringing out from under the Big Top awning…
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Sunday, aside from seeing the return of the glorious Elton John, saw The Strypes, a four piece rhythm and blues band from Ireland return from touring Europe. One could hear the influence of Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stone and Dr. Feelgood. Critical acclaim has followed this band around and NME have hailed them as ones to watch.
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James Blake then helped to close the festival with his soulful warblings, but unfortunately, being the Sunday – the end was nigh!
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Other highlights that HAD to be squeezed in were trips to Lionel Richie’s head, HMS Bestival, the costume parade, the Wishing Tree, the closing fireworks and the Ambient Forest (with hidden slides, an ampitheatre, lakes and hidden “gypsies” leaping out from behind smoke machines and fairy lights).
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Until next year Bestival! You were amazing.
 
Our rating: *****
 
Anne x
Photos: Ambra Vernuccio