Monthly Archives: June 2013

Are you local?

Generally it’s lah-di-dah large cultural institution this and blah-di-blah big museum that and pomp-di-pomp predictable arthouse cinema too. As someone who agonises over where to buy the magazines I rarely manage to read, hoping to spread my community pound wisely (the South Kensington station newsagent is a big beneficiary of this policy), I feel I have to support what’s found in my current region of influence, too. Last Saturday I wasted a lot of precious cultural time researching what to do, instead of doing it. The results weren’t so bad – Matt’s Gallery in Mile End Park, then Poster Art 150 at London Transport Museum and A Hijacking at the Renoir. This Saturday, things would be different, so I researched in advance, guided as ever by Londonist and IanVisits. There was an exhibition about 400 years of gardens in Redbridge, at the museum in the Ilford central library. At present I’m able only to look over a communal garden and it’s not a subject on which I expend much energy. However, I thought I should invest my interest locally for once and took the bus there, enjoying the views of neighbouring areas I haven’t visited yet. It was quite a small show, a mixture of physical recreations, including a World War II bomb shelter, pictures, photos, text panels and video. It was clearly resonant for some of the older people there, who had seen some of the changes to the area themselves. There was a sheaf of comments forms instead of a book and I felt sad that someone had filled in the bare minimum set of details, only in order to put the comment “it’s boring”. My own form was rather more positive. Wonder where I fitted in their demographic plots? On the way to Ilford station I saw the Kenneth More theatre, which was a surprise. I knew about the tussle between Woodford and Walthamstow over William Morris, but not about this connection, if indeed it is such.

Next on my list was the Souzou show at the Wellcome Collection. I wonder how they feel about the fact that a lot of people travelling from Euston seem to use it, or at least the café, as a high class waiting area (better than Casey Jones). Maybe the st0ical hope that the art will rub off on them, à la Bennett. Like the indefatigable Ian, I’m a little wary of the term Outsider Art. However, everything I’ve seen there has been good. It was very varied, with nevertheless some common themes, perhaps the result of common tuition, given lots of the artists were from the same places in Japan. Everyone liked the large table of many tiny robot/alien warrior figures by Shota Katsube, made entirely from different coloured cable ties.

Look at this guy, he’s clearly in charge

I heard some people say, referring to the only figure with a black cape, and they wondered whether a silver creature in the middle was a dragon. This display repaid close attention and everyone ended up crouching at the edges for a better view, marvelling at the miniature details. Several of the artists had very particular working patterns, even rituals, and these were well-described. I’m always attracted by very detailed artworks, and there were plenty of examples here, notably the enormous fictional cityscape by Norimitsu Kokubo (the website image really doesn’t do justice to the scale of this piece, which is several metres long), which is a work-in-progress, the draughtsman-like approach of Kenichi Yamazaki and the hyper-dense notebooks of Shingo Ikeda. The many pieces by Marie Suzuki are notably disturbing. It will be interesting to compare this excellent show with the one that’s just opened at the Hayward Gallery.

Thence to Oxford Circus, passing a group of men claiming to be the

original lost tribes of Israel

who held placards declaring

The end of America, according to God

They were attracting both heated debate with motivated shoppers, and lots of photographs. Did they consider their efforts a success?

It was a shame to see the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize at the Photographers’ Gallery after I knew the outcome, not that suspense is really the point. (Though I do try to see the Turner Prize show before that’s announced, on the subject of which, I read the other day that Elizabeth Price is the artist-in-residence at RAL – I’ll have to see what she’s produced the next time I go there). The four finalists were a mixture of the fantastical, the political and the more traditional/realistic. Hmm. Not fully convinced, though at least they were quite dissimilar. Downstairs, I enjoyed the alien domesticity and colours from a vanished world in Claire Aho’s Studio Works. A shame they didn’t include the Finnish Morrissey-lookalike in the examples on the site. I intend to go back and spend some time looking at the trove of Geocities sites at The Wall in the lobby.

Not really a complete re-orientation to local North-East London venues, then, but a start.

A description of Saturday night’s music at the Barbican and today’s escapades will follow separately.


Money in Stoke Newington

[Oops – fidgety phone pressing at Bethnal Green station as the train pulled in meant this was originally published prematurely…how shameful…my methods revealed…the horror…the pain…Yes, I’ve just finished a book by Céline…my apologies]

It felt odd this evening to recapitulate a portion of my old commute, this time for enjoyment. Hearing the pausing 106 bus lady with her Green Lanes and her Listria Park.  Someone in front of me was escorting three young kids in martial arts costumes, and she explained to them that

the best time to practice the splits is during your karate

In Stoke Newington proper I was foxed by an imperfect memory of the venue‘s location, which turned out to be within and below the Three Crowns pub.

When I went in the lady insisted on pressing the stamp to my right wrist, ignoring what I offered.  Perhaps my upper hands weren’t suitable ground for the impression.

In contrast to my opera and theatre experiences, I was very much in what Hank would call the older demographic at this event. As part of this segment I felt happy to have taken up a bench seat towards the back. The room was so small that I didn’t even put on my glasses for the support act.  Auto-tsk.

There were some other older people present. Maybe record company types or journalists? What was my excuse?

The support act was Fun Adults, whose vocal technique was a little like Edwyn Collins, while the music had a little taste of math rock and David Sylvian, with frequent instrument and position changes. They acknowledged the whooping from members of their record label, Handsome Dad. It seems there are few guitar-only bands these days.  They all have some keybs or laptop or similar.  I didn’t know them at all and enjoyed their set – which is a pretty good compliment, I think.  There are three songs here.

As expected there was a late surge of people for the headliners, Money.  I’d heard them a few times on the Mary-Anne Hobbs 6 Music show, which I hear now that I’m so old I can’t even lie in bed pretending to sleep anymore at the weekend. They sounded interesting and they had a Manchester connection and I had recently been shamed by a friend’s reaction to a music-related confession, so I was organised enough to buy a ticket well before they sold out.

Their performance started when the singer started to sing, at the bar. He continued singing, the end of phrases coming back to “paradise”, walking through the crowd, engaging people as he went, standing at the side, singing at people in the face, then arriving on stage.  I enjoyed the look of slightly alarmed elation on the young types’ faces.

The rest of the band came on and they started.  I was surprised how good the sound was, in such a small room.  There were five of them, with two and occasionally three guitars, if the keybs man at the left swapped himself. For once the multiple frets were worthwhile (so often wasted). I liked their hunger and arrogance, self-assurance and brazenness. Heating up, the singer took off his jacket and shirt, not joined by the others.  They played Bluebell Fields, the song I’d heard, in an extended version, which was (again to my surprise) just as good as what I’d heard on the radio, with an extended, more rhythm-driven section in the middle. The crowd recognised other songs of course, including the last one, which I think was The Sea, during which the singer moved his microphone and stand into the middle of the audience, performing from there.  You can imagine, of course, the flurry of phone activity when this transpired (to my mystification, some people near me at the back were fiddling with their phones, to read messages, while the band were playing – rude). He kept moving the stand up and down as he sang and played. Unusually, I was able to verify that he doesn’t have many fillings, certainly in his upper teeth.  Well done.  More than I can claim.

It was a pretty stunning performance.