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

“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

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

HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY AMY WINEHOUSE <3

It is hard to find eloquent words that befit the way we both feel about Amy Winehouse and her music. Even thinking/talking about her now gives us goosebumps and brings tears to our eyes. Many a’night we have spent warbling away to her heartbreaking and moving lyricism and soaking up her feisty attitude. Of any troubled celebrity it was ALWAYS her that we prayed would rise like a phoenix from the flames. Yet that was not to be. So in the absence of articulate expression we have found two writers that beautifully express our feelings for this talented young lady. One thing that is for certain – any future generations of our families will be forced to listen to the Winehouse back catalogue for years to come. Musically, she is an artist that we should all feel lucky to have had a chance to witness to in our lifetime…

“Pop music had often cast women as sweet, bright creatures, but Winehouse’s lyrics revealed something mulchier, messier. Here was a woman who refused to conform – not in the eccentric mad woman in the attic mould of Kate Bush or Björk, but a woman who chose to live a little wild, follow her heart and sing of the simple stew of being female. Her songs were filled with broad talk, cussing, drink and drugs and dicks, songs that could hinge on one magnificent, unladylike question: “What kind of fuckery is this?”

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Reposted from Tuesday 26 July 2011 

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“Of course nothing lasts for ever, but some things endure, even as, and maybe because, they haunt . To find a lasting treasure in all the momentary pleasures of the Winehouse oeuvre, all you have to do is listen harder. And then do it again, and keep doing it, until you feel life changing around you”

NICK COLEMAN

Reposted from Sunday 8th September 2013 theindependent.co.uk

Photos:  Max Vadukul©  & Abél Caldéroné©  

Future Cinema presents Dirty Dancing at Hackney Downs

One of the largest outdoor screenings of 2013 has been Future Cinema’s Dirty Dancing at Hackney Downs, with a run spanning three days (Friday 30th August- Sunday 1st September). Swarms of people gather in fancy dress, all in costume as Baby, Johnny, hula girls or bedecked in 60s headscarves.  The queues for entry are so long that bemused walkers in the park stop to ask “What on earth is going on?”

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Dirty Dancing (1987) is part of the collective female psyche, and a seemingly feminine version of football hooliganism abounds. Once the film starts, malevolent characters are booed and vehemently heckled, yet when love scenes are beamed across the grass there is a collective intake of breath and whoops of joy. This is a film that people are passionate about. The vast majority of the audience are women who know the script word for word and leap up off their picnic blankets for every song and dance.

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What makes Future Cinema’s screening so special is its festival vibe. The Facebook event alone had thousands confirmed as attending, and the place is awash with people. The park resembles the main stage of a festival – except with people flash mobbing rather than moshing. Actors re-enact the scenes shown onscreen in the flesh: there is Johnny’s chalet (where the romance happens), the talent show, mass hula hooping sessions, art lessons – even a large replica of the staff quarters (the most happening place to be, with a real onsite disco) and the legendary ballroom where “nobody puts Baby in a corner”. No detail has been left untouched, and there is even a chance to hold the infamous watermelons, which is no easy feat!

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Future Cinema has created a totally immersive experience, and recreating Kellerman’s Vacation Resort was a wonderful idea. Rather than forcefully thrusting the audience into the event, it invites them with food, drink, theatre, dancing, cinema and much more! At the end of the night, no one wanted to leave this rollercoaster of a holiday. From nostalgic tears at the memory of Patrick Swayze, to throwing beach balls into the air with wild abandon, this was a perfect way to spend one of the remaining days of summer.

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/09/02/future-cinema-presents-dirty-dancing-at-hackney-downs/

Suede play Live by the Lake

Kenwood House is hosting a majestic short festival over the coming days, entitled Live by the Lake. The first night saw Teleman, British Sea Power and Suede take to the stage. Although music lovers have been warned that the concerts are standing areas only, the greenery is so sprawling that people are happy to lie around and casually take in the surroundings. There are picnic blankets, jugs of Pimms, camping chairs and inflatable LED hands waving in the air.

This is a place for couples who fell in love with Suede before their hiatus, many of whom have bought their children along, held up on their fathers’ shoulders. It is a very peaceful setting despite the pounding music, and it is at the very upper end of the festival scale – drinks are not cheap and the queues are astounding – up until the moment Suede burst on stage in a whirling display of lights. Immediately the bar queue disappears and the crowd sprint towards the stage, arms laden with as much booze as they can carry.

Suede formed in 1989 and are considered by many to be the forefathers or early predecessors of Britpop – a label they clearly do not relish: Suede were more polished and glam rock than the laddish bands such as Oasis and Blur of the Britpop era. Despite changes in line-up, a hiatus and in-band tensions over the years, Suede are back with a new album (their sixth), Bloodsports. Band members taking to the stage on Friday night include Brett Anderson, Mat Osman, Simon Gilbert, Richard Oakes and Neil Codling. Yet the focus is on just one man – the camera never strays away from Anderson. The ultimate and original showman is as dapper as ever in his tight white shirt and trousers, looking as handsome at 45 and lithely leaping around the stage with impressive vocals.

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Animal Nitrate gets the crowd excited. So YoungTrash and Beautiful Ones are definite favourites and, off their new album, one can’t help but enjoy the mellowness of It Starts and Ends With You. Anderson pours his heart and soul into the performance in a magical setting, but be prepared to spend a lot at Live By the Lake and don’t expect a charged atmosphere. The audience are relaxed to the point of either standing still in admiration or lounging on the slopes gazing at the stars.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

Photos: Krish Nagari

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/25/suede-spellbind-at-live-by-the-lake/

Amy Winehouse Exhibition – “A Family Portrait” at the Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum is the perfectly understated venue chosen by Alex Winehouse to display intimate possessions of his late sister Amy. This is no overblown, invasive peep-show depicting the caricature created by the press; this is a tribute to the person Alex spent his childhood with – a person who was not a modern day martyr but a normal girl with an extraordinary talent thrust into the limelight. This exhibition steers clear of the destructive end that befell Winehouse and instead stoically focuses on her heritage and what made her the person she was.

Walking in, it is uncertain whether one will be exiting with tear-filled eyes, yet this is a family affair and an attempt by a sibling to show that behind all the hype was a normal North London Jewish girl. Its motivation is to explain the amalgamation of positive influences that shaped Winehouse – not the tragic, doomed waif that the public judged, pitied and mourned.

The music filling the room is not Amy’s, it is a playlist she created of her favourite songs – songs by Ronnie Scott, Sarah Vaughan and 60s girl groups. It is these songs that shaped her musical and fashion style, her beehive, her tattoos, her strikingly individual voice and poetic lyricism.

Winehouse’s application to Sylvia Young lines the walls, her childlike scrawl poignantly revealing the now famous quote “I want people to hear my voice and just… forget their troubles for five minutes”. We gaze upon school uniforms and family photos – not just of the singer but of her Jewish ancestry and her much loved Grandma Cynthia.

Clothes (revealing just how tiny she was) are in display cases: her Glastonbury dress, her dress from the Tears Dry on Their Own video, and more. It is disquieting to be gazing at clothes worn by a woman who should only be turning 30 this year.

By the exit are decorative bird cages owned by Winehouse. One can’t help but feel that this is a metaphor for the life she was forced to lead. Recently Alex Winehouse, speaking publically for the first time, has been quoted as saying Amy “was pretty much shut in the house and couldn’t go anywhere” due to press. Sarah Vaughan’s lyrics (covered in October Song) now ring true: “lovebird, my beautiful bird/ spoke until one day she couldn’t be heard”.

Our rating: ***** (obviously)

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/24/amy-winehouse-a-family-portrait-at-the-jewish-museum-exhibition-review/

Luna Cinema presents E.T. at Opera Holland Park

Brockwell-Lido-showingLuna Cinema runs throughout British summertime screening a series of classic movies at a host of scenic locations around London and the South East. Some of the wonderful venues sourced by Luna include Brockwell Lido, Hampton Court and Leeds Castle. On Thursday 8th July, we attended a showing of Steven Spielberg’s mammoth hit E.T – The Extra Terrestrial.

Opera Holland Park has been chosen as the site for this film, standing beautifully in Kensington, surrounded by parkland and some of the most expensive houses in the country: the vista is gorgeous. Opera Holland Park is a semi-indoor, canopied theatre that plays host to a season of opera in the park. With the run having just finished, Luna Cinema has wisely commandeered this beautiful setting for a four-night stint of classic films. The next few nights will include Breakfast at Tiffany’sWest Side Story and an evening of silent films. Luna Cinema will then continue its tour of the South East and open up at its next well-considered destination – Lulworth Castle, Battersea Park, Warwick Castle and many more are on the schedule.

It is fitting that as the sun sets behind the park and the moon rises, the audience at Luna are able to watch that familiar “squashy guy”, E.T, drift across the night sky on a bicycle. Touted as “the best-loved film ever”, a voice welcomes “Ladies and Gentlemen” to the viewing. There is less formality than at your local cinema: people whisper throughout and make frequent visits to the bar as well as the rotisserie kitchen on site, The Cock ‘n’ Bull. It is a relaxed and jovial vibe, with couples aplenty and many arms slung casually around the backs of their respective partners’ seats. For a first date it would be a winner for sure! Families are also in attendance for the child-friendly screening.

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As the sky darkens, purple lights illuminate the canopy and the atmosphere of a modern amphitheatre is created. Laughs are drawn from the crowd who will have seen this film time and time again, yet it stands the test of time. Drew Barrymore’s cherubic curls bouncing across the screen draw “awwws” and giggles from adults and children alike. Luna Cinema is a place to recapture your fondest cinematic memories and to create new ones in stunning surroundings.

Our rating: ****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/09/luna-cinema-presents-e-t-at-opera-holland-park/

Oliver Reed: Wild Thing at St James Theatre Studio

Bounding on stage in a gorilla suit, within seconds there is a drink clasped in Oliver Reed’s (Rob Crouch’s) hand. Crouch seamlessly interacts with the audience, heckling them across the theatre, dragging some on stage, and even casting some as former acquaintances (with re-enacted script reading ensuing). You are unlikely to escape unscathed by his sheer force of personality, or without beer splashing you from across the room. Humour is rife – members of the audience invited on stage are thrown off promptly: “Come on…you’re not the main event!”

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Crouch enters the stage to The Troggs’ Wild Thing (a fitting title for the play considering Reed’s infamous antics). For 70 minutes we are taken on a whirlwind recitation of Reed’s life. It is a spoken autobiography enacted solely by Crouch – a nonstop monologue fuelled by drink after drink. How Crouch is able to maintain his focus and imbibe so much shows his determination to embody Reed from start to finish.

The play is set towards the end of Reed’s tumultuous life: he is in Malta for his final scenes (in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and in life). At various points, Crouch shrouds himself in Reed’s former famous appearances. We see brief glimpses of his life as a school boy, his family ties to Peter the Great (Tsar of Russia), Gladiator, the bar brawl that nearly ruined his acting career, Oliver! (accompanied by shrieks of “Bull’s Eye”), and The Three Musketeers.

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Comparing himself to a warrior, he proclaims: “Beer and whiskey are my weapons, the press my baying mob.”  Crouch manages to adapt Reed’s distinctive clipped enunciation into that of a drunken slur as the evening progresses. We hear the legendary tales of Soho in the 1950s, of parties with Keith Moon, and of Reed’s misogyny (“most women are happy in the kitchen”), where the audience joyfully boo him as a pantomime villain.

With pride and poignancy, Crouch tells us: “You deny [Reed], you destroy the British film industry,” referring to his steadfast dedication to remaining a stalwart of the British institution of hell-raisers, who die younger than they should. Crouch (alongside Mike Davis) created the play, and his admiration of the humour, charisma and talent of Reed is apparent. As we hear the announcement of Reed’s death ringing through the theatre, Crouch adds: “One more for the road…”

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/02/oliver-reed-wild-thing-at-st-james-theatre-studio-theatre-review/

BT Sport launch party builds on London 2012 Olympics legacy

BT studioBT is on the cusp of changing the way we watch sport on television. On 1stAugust 2013, it will launch never-seen-before channels documenting live sport and analysis. Sky Sports is about to be rocked by this change in the broadcasting landscape, but BT is not setting out to mirror its predecessor, it is here to show us something completely new. Their channels will open up the world of Premier League football, rugby, tennis and many more (especially with its takeover of ESPN Europe). 

The launch party, a week in advance of the grand opening, is naturally held at the birthplace of BT Sport: the Olympic stadium. The word “legacy” is bandied about with enthusiasm and rightly so. Instead of letting the Queen Elizabeth Park languish in its former glory, BT is dedicated to providing top of the range services and a plethora of jobs in London’s East End.

Two key players step forth: Clare Balding and Jake Humphrey make moving speeches that show their dedication to the cause. Humphrey proclaims ardently: “We would not be here without the Olympics” and describes their vision as “fun, approachable and enjoyable – long live BT Sport!” Balding is certainly reaping vast benefits, landing her own programme The Clare Balding Show, which will feature three sofa-based guests. Balding is full of praise for women involved in sport (“women basically ruled” the 2012 Olympics) and she describes BT Sports channels as more of an organic “being” rather than a mere television production.

BTSport

There is also a strong emphasis on the brand’s technological advances and a tour around the studios is certainly an eye-opening experience for sports lovers and newcomers alike. Coined as the biggest LED-lit studio in Europe, there is much to explore. The former International Broadcast Centre with its three studios allows flexible space for expansion, while one of the most impressive features is the electronic pitch that can be mutated into any sporting landscape. BT Sport will also immerse itself in social media, specifically Twitter, as tweets can be geolocated to stadiums with emphasis placed on the viewer.

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/07/28/bt-sport-launch-party-reveals-plans-to-build-on-london-2012-olympics-legacy/

ThatcherWrite at Theatre503

Following Margaret Thatcher’s death and the resultant national debate, Theatre503 is currently hosting a variety of writers with a series of short plays (semi-educational for those unaware of the history and politics) looking back at Thatcher – the woman, the politics and her legacy.

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There is a wonderful symmetry to the short plays in ThatcherWrite. Tales that kick-start the show reappear, like Apples – the story of market sellers who believe in the “equal distribution of wealth for all”. Discord strikes when Tanya (Rachel De-Lahay) aspires to start her own import business. This determination to make something of herself backfires, and she is forced to come crawling back – working longer hours for less money. The actor’s ability to interact with the crowd and their convincing Eastender’s-style gait is admirable.

The plays bring the laughs with satirical takes on the inheritance Thatcher has left us. Suit and Tie makes a mockery of rich city boys, “boshing” Jägerbombs and cocaine in remembrance of “Maggie”. Through intimidation, peer pressure and the desire to be constantly “winning”, we follow two unlikeable self-made men as they traverse the capital reacting in disgust to homosexuals, immigrants (“my suit costs more than your salary, you ape”) and women. Ben Worth and Andrew Sykes confidently act out a script that is fast-paced and extremely funny, yet the pathos is palpable when one character is left crying and bleeding, repeating the mantra “I’ll show him. Be a winner, make money”.

There are three odes performed by young people, entitled I Am Sad You Are Dead Mrs T. The first is performed with childlike sincerity, confused and confounded by her legacy; the second, a young posho filled with political dreams proclaims to Thatcher “you would vote for me!” These two dedications playfully lambast Thatcher’s policies; the last is performed beautifully by Bella Heesom and touchingly handles the subject of dignity in death.

Thatcher herself appears twice, initially wracked with dementia, in exile from political life. Sea noises show her distance from society before her death – stranded on a desert island. Georgina Strawson is excellent, displaying glassy-eyed confusion, in one moment close to tears, at others the strong and determined iron lady.

The last skit of ThatcherWrite is crudely jovial: Thatcher embraces homosexual culture, getting lost in Soho and singing karaoke in G-A-Y. Be prepared for a hilarious cross-dressing Thatcher (Matthew Tedford) to burst on stage dancing and shrieking “We are all Thatcher’s children” as a disco ball whirls to It’s Raining Men. Trying to keep a straight face is near-impossible!

thathcer

Our rating: ****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/06/14/thatcherwrite-at-theatre503-theatre-review/

Canalival (well, the unofficial one)

We went to Canalival – a flotilla up Regent’s Park Canal – at the weekend, along with around 6000 other Londoners who wanted to make the most of the sunshine.

Well, actually, the official Canalival got cancelled a few days before – something about safety, despite thousands being raised for the event.

So what do you do when something you really, really wanted to go to gets cancelled? You turn up anyway, obviously. We’re young, don’t get mad!

It was an amazing day – sunny, good-natured, and drunken. And for once, we felt like we were connecting with other Londoners – there was a festival vibe to the day, and we spent loads of time chatting to others (mostly because there were so many boats we had no choice but to get to know our neighbours, but it was lovely). And it made us realise how reserved and British we are – why NOT set sail on a canal on a hot summer’s day?!

Check out the day in photos.

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Canalival’s Facebook page is still rife with ‘discussions’, and many an article about the day has begun appearing in the Evening Standard and Time Out.

London’s still busy debating whether Canalival’s attendees are a bunch of ferocious, drunken, law-breaking hoodlums who made a right mess of the canal, or a jolly crowd of opportunists who took to Regent’s Park Canal on a sunny day and did something different. Rosie and Anne think the latter. But we would, wouldn’t we?!*

*And before you accuse of littering, we sorted our rubbish out. And donated our dinghy to a dinghy-less group when we left. Because we’re good like that.

Rosie x