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things to do in london

Monster Shop Hoxton

In 2002 author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari set up 826 Valencia in San Francisco. The idea behind the non-profit was to utilise adult volunteers to help young students in the area. It was seen as a neat solution to address the issue of kids not being able to get the benefits of more one-to-one help in their studies due to teachers typically being overburdened with large numbers of students. As the location for 826 Valencia was in a designated retail space the idea came about to open ‘a pirates store’ with ‘supplies for the working buccaneer’. The store and the project were a big success leading to other unique branches of 826 in other US cities.

Inspired by the exploits of 826 author Nick Hornby along with Lucy Macnab and Ben Payne set up the Ministry of Stories and the Hoxton Monster Supplies Shop.

At the heart of the Ministry of Stories is the belief in the power of writing to transform lives. Adult volunteers from a variety of professions and backgrounds help mentor kids and young students in a variety of projects. It is a fantastic initiative really helping kids to express themselves better, build confidence and ultimately tapping into and nurturing their creativity. The projects are super cool and result in practical skills and knowledge ranging from creating actual story or comic books with illustrations, cookery recipe books, podcasts and even writing speeches which are read out in the House of Commons.

Ministry of Stories creative writing club, Hoxton Street, East London by Tom Oldham
Ministry of Stories creative writing club, Hoxton Street, East London by Tom Oldham

Wanna get involved and volunteer and be part of the Ministry of Stories? Visit http://ministryofstories.org/

As part of the Ministry of Stories is the fabulous Monster Supplies Store in Hoxton. The store is probably one of the cutest and fun stores in the city with a range of seriously amusing and unique gifts. The shop is great fun for kids and adults to browse through and purchase fun products. Visitors to the shop will also hear the shop’s very own ‘invisible cat’.

Monster Shop Hoxton

Hoxton Monster Shop

Shop online at the Monster Supplies Store or visit the shop itself at 159 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6PJ. (Opening hours Thursday and Friday 1pm – 5pm. Saturday 11am – 5pm)

The Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Cookbook: Everyday recipes for the living, dead and undead

green gym camden

Green Gym The Conservation Volunteers

The Green Gym is a project which gets volunteers involved in outdoor conservation work. Clive Twyman talks about his experience of volunteering at the Camden branch of the Green Gym and how it had a great effect on his general health as well as being great fun.

social entrepreneurship examples Lensational

Bonnie Chiu Founder Lensational

BONNIE CHIU is the founder of Lensational a non profit that has equipped and trained women photographers in Pakistan and India, hoping to share their stories. Recently the 24-year-old from Hong Kong was chosen as one of Forbes 30 Under 30’s Social Entrepreneur’s list in Europe. Last September in New York Chui presented Lensational at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative introduced by President Bill Clinton.

Rootless Gardens social enterprise

Rootless Gardens – Innovative Enterprise Tackling Dementia with Nature

Rootless Garden help isolated older people in London. They use nature based activities as a unique approach to engage people using elderly care. Rootless Garden use therapeutic horticulture as a vehicle to bring the elderly back into our community, increase people’s understanding of dementia and to improve elderly well-being.

Just Dance from Korea.

Now in its 14 year Breakin’ Convention has become a must attend for many modern dance fans. The 2017 Tour kicks off in London this week (29 April – 1 May) before moving on to a number of other UK cities (Edinburgh, Nottingham, Norwich, Southampton, Salford, Leicester, Blackpool, Brighton and Birmingham) throughout May.

Last year’s event was one of our arts cultural highlights such was the standard and feel good vibe at Sadler’s Well.

As always there will be a great international line-up for Breakin’ Convention and this year there will be performers from Canada, Russia, Holland, France and South African along with homegrown talent from the UK.

Breakin' Convention 2017, Soweto Skeleton Movers,uth Africa. Photo by Belinda Lawley.
Breakin’ Convention 2017. Soweto Skeleton Movers from South Africa. Photo by Belinda Lawley.

The tour line-up includes Soweto Skeleton Movers, a highlight of last year’s festival. Mixing comedic contortionism with the Pantsula dance style native to the townships of South Africa and performing to Kwaito music, a form of Afro house and the soundtrack of the liberation struggle, the group returns by popular demand.

Joining them on tour is Canadian group Tentacle Tribe. Founded in 2012, the Montreal-based dance company creates uncommon dance works with a contemporary twist using conceptual hip hop and influences from all types of earthly creatures. The duo’s work experiments with intricate partnering, refined musicality and physical choreography. Tentacle Tribe recently performed at Breakin’ Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Breakin Convention 2017, Tentacle Tribe,
Tentacle Tribe. Photo by Belinda Lawley.

Completing the international line up are Just Dance from South Korea. Under the artistic direction of B-Boy Ducky of the Drifterz Crew, Just Dance presents an updated vision of Korean shamanistic mask performance. Live Korean drumming accompanies a crew of poppers and b-boys, many of whom have world titles to their name. Earlier in 2016 the group performed at Breakin’ Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The London dates mark their Breakin’ Convention UK premiere.

The festival also features work from artists who have taken part in Open Art Surgery and Back To The Lab, Breakin’ Convention’s professional development platforms.

For the fifth consecutive year Breakin’ Convention takes it back to the roots of hip hop on bank holiday Monday 1 May with Park Jam, an outdoor party suitable for all the family in Spa Fields Park.

Breaking Convention Sadler's Wells
Jonzi D (Image Paul Hampartsoumian)

The hugely popular Sadler’s Wells Production will once again be hosted and curated by Associate Artist Jonzi D.

UK acts in this year’s Sadler’s Wells Stage line-up:

Boy Blue Entertainment – Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy’s next generation of dancers will showcase why Boy Blue Entertainment is consistently one of London’s leading dance companies. Accompanied to a thumping set from Boy Blue co-founder Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante. Their work Blak, Whyte and Gray was recently nominated for Best New Dance Production in the 2017 Olivier Awards.

Dani & Sia Black Love Matters in this sensual duet between Dani and Sia. This couple have previously performed at Breakin’ Convention with a variety of different companies, including Avant Garde, #PPL, and Josephine ‘Realitie’ Rollings.

Emma Houston – Choreographer Emma Houston seamlessly brings together breaking and vogue dancing in a unique celebration of progressive gender politics. Developed at Open Art Surgery, Breakin’ Convention’s professional development course for hip hop artists.

Freefly Crew – Blackpool’s finest b-boy crew performs at Breakin’ Convention London for the first time. Freefly Crew’s crazy slapstick approach makes them stand out in the hip hop theatre scene. Also performing at Breakin’ Convention at Blackpool.

Natalie James – Natalie James, a regular performer at Breakin’ Convention, brings her aerial skills to our mainstage for the first time.

Old Men Grooving – Finalists on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, Old Men Grooving consist of some of the UK’s funkiest old skool poppers and lockers.

Breakin Convention, Sadler's Wells, The Locksmiths.
The Locksmiths. Photo by Paul Hampartsoumian.

The Locksmiths – After opening the festival with a bang last year, the UK’s top locking crew return with a visionary piece by choreographer Ben Ajose-Cutting, aka Mr Ben. Unlock The Funk explores how to free ourselves from the restrictions that block our soul.

The Rebirth Network – Choreographer Daniel 7, with a committed ensemble of street dancers, present a hard-hitting piece of protest dance theatre influenced by images of a world in conflict.

Theo ‘Godson’ Oloyade – Witness the explosive movement krump in this group performance choreographed by Boy Blue Entertainment’s Theo ‘Godson’ Oloyade. As seen on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent.

XXV (UK) – A passionate piece filled with shadows and urgent movement choreographed by L’Atisse Rhoden in memory of Hannah Defoe, celebrating her life in what would have been her 25th year.

 

www.sadlerswells.com

Books

Sadler’s Wells – Dance House

 

Archive – Japan – Club-Goers Rebel Against Dance Regulation
Nellie Bly – Pioneering Investigative Journalist
Prague

karaoke bar london

We have picked out a great selection of London karaoke bars proving you don’t need to travel all the way to Tokyo to release your inner Beyonce.

Japanese studies say that karaoke can relieve stress and boost confidence and self-esteem. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to give Adele a run for her money at one of the best karaoke bars in London.

The Old School Yard, London Bridge (www.theoldschoolyard.com)

Go back to the good old days and belt out your childhood favourites at bar and playground, The Old School Yard in London Bridge. The walls are adorned in 80s memorabilia – think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Pac Man. This cocktail and party bar has private karaoke rooms, which can accommodate up to 15 people per room. Each room features recently installed touch screen karaoke systems with over 5000 songs from the 80s, 90s and today.

london karaoke
Private karaoke room at the Old School Yard.

Thai Silk, Southwark (www.thai-silk.co.uk)

Thai Silk in Southwark is the latest addition to the prestigious Royal China Group. As well as offering the finest, authentic Thai cuisine, Thai Silk also has two karaoke rooms with over 100,000 songs. Karaoke is available any night of the week in the two private rooms which both have state-of-the-art karaoke systems which has songs in English, Thai and Chinese. In the bar area guests can party the night away at the popular DJ nights which are held every Friday, Saturday and last Thursday of each month.

karaoke restaurant london
Karaoke restaurant Thai Silk.

 The Old Queens Head, Islington (http://theoldqueenshead.com)

At The Old Queens Head their private karaoke room is located at the top of the venue. The room has a capacity for 15 people including a personal host for the evening. Guests can really embrace their inner rockstar by delving into the fancy dress box and transforming into their favourite star. The Old Queens has a vast selection of tracks, old and new, to suit every guest. There’s also a ‘booze button’ so you can call your host whenever your glass needs refilling.

private karaoke london
Karaoke The Old Queens Head

Karaoke Box, Smithfield (http://website.karaokebox.co.uk)

Karaoke Box has 15 rooms to choose from which fit four to 25 guests, each room with 8000 songs available in English and Japanese. The VIP room guarantees a night of luxury with wireless microphones, touch screens and even a white baby grand piano. To make you feel like you’ve really transported to Tokyo, the venue has a large selection of dishes including Japanese finger food as well as large cocktail list. As well as their Smithfield site, there are two other sites in Mayfair and Soho.

karaoke places in london
Karaoke places in London, Smithfield.

Lucky Voice, Locations across London (https://www.luckyvoice.com/)

Lucky Voice has private pods which can accommodate four to 12 people so you can sing away without any embarrassment. The prop box has inflatable guitars and tambourines at the ready so you can really show off your inner rock god. If you would rather sing in comfort of your own home then Lucky Voice has a ‘Sing at Home’ option which can be downloaded on a laptop, tablet or phone.

karaoke nights london
Lucky Voice private karaoke pods

Vocal-Star VS-600 Black Karaoke Machine 2 Microphones & 300 Songs

Singing Machine SML-283 Portable CD-G Karaoke Player and 3 CDGs Party Pack – Black

Liberty Cheesesteak London

Liberty Cheesesteak London

JP Teti is on a mission to bring a slice of authentic Philadelphia to London starting with his Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

 

Bunnychow – Places To Eat In Soho

Bunnychow – Places To Eat In Soho

Soho has long been a great destination for eating out. Come the summer everywhere seems to packed with queues of hungry diners waiting to get into popular spots. There is an evident international cuisine everywhere for all palettes and tastes.

Review: Tierra Peru Restaurant London

Review: Tierra Peru Restaurant London

Luke Cho-Yee goes in search of some new culinary experiences and finds Tierra Peru, a Peruvian restaurant in Islington. A little slice of Lima in London.

yamato drummers japan

The Yamato Drummers of Japan are currently bringing their high-energy drumming and entertainment extravaganza to the Peacock Theatre in London.  The performance crew who have been touring for over ten years now are a regular fixture to venues around the world with their shows. 

Yamato is a company steeped in cultural history. The name Yamato refers to the name for ancient Japan during the eighth century. The company was formed by Masaaki Ogawa in 1993 in Japan’s ancient capital, the city of Nara. Nara is now the capital of Taiko drumming and boasts over 100 Taiko drumming companies. Since the company’s first performance at the Shinto shrine festival, they have given over 3,500 performances in 53 countries and regions to 6 million people.  Yamato is based in a village called Asuka and the members of the company live together in a community and create everything for the shows, from the musical compositions to the choreography and from stage and props to the bachi (the drumming sticks).

Along with some breath-taking drumming exploits and smart choreographed routines, humour and getting the audience to engage with the performers is very much part of Yamato live experience. 

After their stint at the Peacock the troupe will be playing venues around the UK till May before visiting other cities around Europe. If you have not seen them perform live it is well worth the effort. A couple of hours at their shows literally whizz by in what is an enjoyable evening of music and fun entertainment.

Find out more about Yamato Drummers and Tour dates at http://yamatodrummers.com/uk

Sonix Taiko 42cm Drum with Bachi

Sonix Rope 35cm Shimedaiko with Bachi

Regal Tip PFTH Thai Hirano Drumsticks

Capoeira

Capoeira

Brazil is an amazing country in terms of different cultures. From the indigenous Indians, former African slaves and of course the Portuguese. Today, Brazil’s biggest influences stem from the Portuguese who controlled the country from the 15th century until the early 18th century.

indonesian shadow puppets

Indonesian Shadow Puppets

Indonesia, along with being known for many other things, is also widely known for its puppet culture.  Better acquainted as wayang, this Indonesian culture has been designated by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Wayang, which originates from the word bayang which means shadow, is a Javanese folklore performance that uses puppets to depict the Hindu stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana.

vault festival 2017

The Vault Festival is one of our favourite creative arts and party events in London. It’s typically a neat chance to catch some special theatre adaptations and let your hair down at the after parties. So it is a perfect opportunity to shake off your winter cold and grey hibernation tendencies and venture out for a heady evening into the lights.

vault festival london

It all kicks off on January 25th at the funky, alternative space on Leake Street near Waterloo and the spiritual home of the Vaults Festival.  The festival has been growing in stature and popularity since it kicked off with its first successful Vaults in 2013.

A six week festival you find literally countless of shows, live music with some events free and many starting at just a fiver but get in quick as demand for the popular shows will be high. Expect pop-up bars, restaurants, club nights, performances and a whole host of family entertainment.

vault festival waterloo

Hot tickets this festival will be an adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, an immersive event where dressing up is encouraged,  but there will be a ton of shows to choose from. There is an also an exciting and thought provoking program of great films this year showcasing some fine talent from around the world.

Vault has been called London’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The Great Gatbsy Vault Festival

Last time we were at the Vaults we caught a take on the Hunter S Thompson classic Fear and Loathing Las Vegas. We also partied after at one of the special “Vault Lates” which was a lot of fun with a cool up for it crowd and very reasonable London prices for double rums.

From top notch comedy to thrilling drama, from table-top stomping music to an eye-popping film selection – VAULT has it all. Dive in: check out What’s On in 2017, or you can find out more about VAULT, or sign up to the mailing list to stay up to date with all announcements.

www.vaultfestival.com

1920s Fancy Dress Outfits

LADIES 1920’S CHARLESTON FLAPPER DRESS 20S FANCY DRESS

1920 Fringed Flapper Costume

GANGSTER SET FANCY DRESS ACCESSORY COSTUME KIT WHITE BRACES + WHITE TIE + SPIV TASH + SPATS + WHITE TRILBY FEDORA HAT

Cottons Notting Hill

Cottons Notting Hill – Free Rum Masterclasses

In celebration of their new GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® award for the bar with the most varieties of rum commercially available* From January 2017 Cottons Restaurant and Salon de Rhum in Notting Hill will be running a series of monthly free rum masterclasses.

London photography exhibition

Still time to catch the free London photography exhibition which focuses on the Rock Against Racism movement which evolved from a grass-roots level and culminated with a mass concert in London’s East End.

Approaching the late 1970s London like other parts of the UK was becoming an extremely volatile place particularly for black and Asian minorities. It was a period that saw the height of popularity and rise of the National Front Party (NF) a far-right political party for whites only, opposed to non-white immigration, and committed to a programme of repatriation.

Rock Against Racism

Image Anti-National Front Demonstration Lewisham, London, 1977. Copyright Syd Shelton

NF marches, violence and even deaths were happening. Many Conservative Party members were making inflammatory speeches and comments regarding race and immigration among them Margaret Thatcher. The media was playing its part in hardening and nurturing racist attitudes and views in print and broadcast.

Against this turbulent background a heady mix of new music and cultures was emerging with punk, ska and reggae along with skinheads, rudeboys and Jamaican influences.

In 1976 a fledgling grassroots campaign was set up called Rock Against Racism in response to white nationalist groups such as the NF and also in part to comments made by well known rock musicians such as Eric Clapton that were widely regarded as racist.

photography exhibitions london

Image Anti-racist Skinheads, Hoxton, London 1978. Copyright Syd Shelton

One of the things I really enjoyed about the exhibition was a neat selection of press clippings from the time. It really gives you an idea of the cultural landscape and what people were uniting in to fight against. Topics and discussions were not limited to discrimination in the UK but also in other places like the troubles in Ireland and apartheid in South Africa. Some of the magazines and press and publicity drawing attention to these issues showed a lot of creativity in presentation. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols in an interview remarked on why he thought London made people so aggressive and fuelled such hate:

free london exhibitions

“I used to go round hitting people for no reason other than I was annoyed. There was nothing left to live for. I just looked at it very practically and there isn’t. I was pissed off completely with the music which was around. When the band took me in, I couldn’t even talk properly I was so fucked up and annoyed with everything. That’s why we started the group. To get people to come and listen to us and go away and do it themselves. And get rid of a lot of their aggression that way. When you dance a lot you’re so tired you don’t go and punch someone’s head. Fights are started by people annoyed or depressed or hate themselves. That’s why London is such a violent place”.

free london exhibition

Another cool aspect highlighted in the exhibition was the fashion of the time. This was before labels and brands really started to take hold and it was mainly people making it up and being creative with their styles. The seventies and eighties get a bad rap style wise but looking at some of the fashion, the boys and girls had it going down carving out individual styles and it looks very modern and stylish rather than a poor fashion fauxs throwback period.

london free exhibition

Syd Shelton’s photographs document the volatility of a country divided across race, class and gender. They expose the ferocity of cultural difference being hammered out on Britain’s streets through the late 1970s, at a time when racist skinheads danced to Jamaican ska, punks embraced reggae and black kids reached out to punk.

Shelton photographed performers such as The Clash, Elvis Costello, Misty in Roots, Tom Robinson, Au Pairs and The Specials as well as the audiences at RAR gigs and carnivals across England.

things to do in london

Image RAR Carnival Against the Nazis. Leeds, 1981. Copyright Syd Shelton

He captured the history-making RAR Carnival 1 at Victoria Park, London in 1978, and demonstrations such as the Anti National Front Demonstration in Lewisham in 1977. Shelton also took contextual social and cultural images that informed the politics of the movement across England and Ireland.

Rock Against Racism revisits the energy of RAR, the creative entanglement of black and white musicians, designers, writers, actors, performers and supporters who produced effective counter-narratives to whiteness as superior and blackness as alienated.

Rock Against Racism: A Riot of Our Own exhibition will be on 2 October to 5 December 2015 at Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA.  Entry is free

Photography London Books

London Street Photography 1860-2010 (Museum of London)

London. Portrait of a City

Shit London: Snapshots from a City on the Edge

 

Syd Shelton Photographer
Black Power Movement in Britain becoming “forgotten history”
3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets

swan lake english national ballet

After performances in Manchester, Liverpool and Milton Keynes the English National Ballet Company brings its current production of Swan Lake to the London Coliseum.

Performances of the Tchaikovsky timeless classic by the ENB have already had rave reviews from its run with some critics even attributing it to being one of the  ‘best productions of Swan Lake you are likely to see for a long time’. Swan Lake review.

Alina Cojocaru Ivan Vasiliev swan lake

Image Alina Cojocaru and Ivan Vasiliev. By Arnaud Stephenson

In the current run many of the principal dancers have received much praise and accolades including the pairing of Alina Cojocaru as the doomed Swan Princess and Ivan Vasiliev as Prince Siegfried.

Romanian born Cojocaru, who trained at the Kiev State Choreographic Institute and Royal Ballet Upper School, joined the English National Ballet Company in 2013 after previously being with the Royal Ballet.

Alina Cojocaru Swan Lake

Image Alina Cojocaru. By Arnaud Stephenson

Guest artist Vasiliev trained at the Belarusian State Choreographic College and has been principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre.

Cojocaru will be among six ballerinas who will take on the dual role of  Odette/Odile, choreographed by Derek Deane, including Tamara Rojo who is also artistic director at the ENB along with being a principal dancer.

The music of Tchaikovsky, who also composed other famous ballets such as the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, will be performed by the Orchestra of English National Ballet.

Swan Lake was first performed at the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877 and is one of the best known ballets in the world.

A tale of a prince born into a privileged world but restless as he longs for the ideal world of his dreams and pure romantic love. A mysterious pull sees the prince follow a flock of swans into the night only to find one of them miraculously turning into a beautiful woman who he immediately falls for. The prince learns that the swans have been put under a curse by Rothbart a powerful sorcerer that only allows them to be human by night while by day they are transformed to their creature forms. Only true love in its purest form can save the Swan Princess. But the prince and the swan princess must battle the powerful and evil sorcerer to decide their fate.

The English National Ballet will be performing Swan Lake at the London Coliseum 7 – 18 January 2015.  www.ballet.org.uk

James Acaster stand up comedian

JAMES ACASTER is a stand up comedian whose award winning show Regonise will be on at the Soho Theatre this month. The show was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award 2014 for best comedy show, making it Acaster’s third nomination in a row, and also won the New Zealand International Comedy Festival Award for Best International Show.

In your own words, give us a short biog on yourself.

I was born in Kettering, played in bands then turned my hand to stand up age 23.  I live with my friend Joe and watch a lot of Netflix.

Can you tell us a bit about your new show, Recognise?

It’s about my life as an undercover cop posing as a stand-up comedian. It’s low key and whimsical and includes some props. It’s my favourite of my shows so far.

Can you tell us about the highs and lows of being an undercover cop?

My wife left me. That’s a low. But on the plus it’s a really cool thing to tell people when they ask what you do for a living, even though I’m meant to keep it to myself.

What tips would you give to other under-cover cops who are disguised as comedians?

I would tell them to write what they know. It’s done me no harm to talk about the job. None whatsoever.

How did you get into comedy?

Through being a show off and needing a way to fill my days. Plus my band split up so I didn’t have much going on at the time.

What do you do to prepare for a gig, any warm up habits?

I sit in a corner and catch up on my text messages, pretending like I don’t have to do a show in a few minutes.

What has been your most interesting/funny/bizarre gig experience thus far?

A 4 yr old child got on stage and did his version of beat boxing once, he basically made a sound like a pig oinking for nearly 7 minutes.

What did you want to be when you were young?

A rapper and a vet. Simultaneously.

If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

The man who often gave his seat up on buses then let himself down by looking around proudly to see if anyone had noticed

You’re often described as ‘low-key’, how do you manage to remain so unaffected by the chaotic world around you?

Maybe I am affected by it, maybe the chaotic world around me is the reason I’m low key.  Hmmm?

Is it fair to say you’re one of Kettering’s biggest exports? How does it feel?

I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m one of the biggest exports.  It feels good to be from Kettering, it’s a mellow place, full of hip dudes.

Kettering is famous for its Weetabix factory, something you’ve covered in the past. What is your favourite way to have Weetabix and why?

Milk and sugar – the classic.  The real trick is to get them as firm or supple as you like.  You develop a great sense of timing when you’re a regular bix eater.

Which comedians inspired you to pursue a career in stand-up?

There was a man in a red jacket who hosted the village variety show when I was 12.  He was funny and made telling jokes look like an enjoyable profession.  Looking back though some of his jokes were inappropriate.

James Acaster, Recognise, will be on at the Soho Theatre December 9 – 23 December 2015 

 

Romesh Ranganathan Stand up Comedian
Ronny Chieng – Stand Up Comedian

From humble beginnings Henri Matisse would became one of the most respected and influential artists in international art. Way back before the marketing hounds realised the power and effect of the psychology of colours Matisse felt that colours could strongly affect people’s feelings, independent of form. And so you can see Matisse’s use of colour to represent or inspire emotions in the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition currently in its final week showing at the Tate Modern.

Tate Modern Matisse

Image  Henri Matisse, The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown 1943-4.Maquette for plate V of the illustrated book Jazz 1947© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

The Cut-Outs are Matisse work with scissors and different arrangements and colours, encompassing his passion for things ranging from dance to marine life. This creative outlet also solved the problem of Matisse being able to be creative in later life when he was wheelchair bound. What for me was instantly noticeable in returning to Matisse’s work is how he was able to elegantly broach the classical with the modern, transforming the potentially stuffy to the fresh and the modern other to the extremely palatable.

A reviewer had remarked out how essentially the cut-out medium is effectively childish and there is an argument that a lot of us did in fact spend time cutting up and pasting as kids. After seeing one of the first pieces at the beginning I did in fact think that it could be the work of an  8-year-old but that was a rare blot as I quickly realised that a lot of the exhibition has depth in its construction.

tate modern london matisse exhibition

 Image Henri Matisse, Blue Nude (I) 1952 Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

The exhibition is neatly compartmentalised and starts of in earnest with Matisse’s work influenced by his fascination and involvement in dance productions. The compositions show movement, rhythm and flair and morph into charm, elegance and grace.

Even some of Matisse’s more ‘simpler’ looking cut-outs like ‘Forms’ for example, which on the face of it could be an unremarkable shape that has been cut out, presents forms that warrant closer attention and a sense that there is much more to the work without having to try to hard to over intellectualise. Challenging notions that are hard to define.

Particularly when it comes to forms and outlines Matisse’s work has that abundance of grace and style, most accessible and pleasing in his “Blue Nudes” series. In an age, and of the prevalence and importance of the logo and of design, Matisse’s use of shape, form and colour reach out with impeccable preciseness and allure in pieces such as the “Sword Swallower” or “Zulma.” Then there are the more abstract works such as “Destiny” which you admire but want to unravel your perception.

tate modern london matisse exhibitionImage Henri Matisse, Memory of Oceania 1952-3 Maquette for plate V of the illustrated book Jazz 1947 © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

As the exhibition shows Matisse’s creativity was sought after for designing everything from scenery and costumes for the ballet to stain glass ecclesticial windows. Cut-Outs show Matisse’s obvious skill in design. The Oceania room was inspired by Matisse’s time as a sixteen year old in Tahiti which resulted in adorning his apartment walls in Paris. Matisse explained the experience he drew from as ‘It’s as though my memory had suddenly taken the place of the outside world. There, swimming every day in the lagoon, I took such intense pleasure in contemplating the submarine world.’

In a pretty comprehensive retrospective it was possibly only the plant form recurring motifs that I found quite unsatisfying both visually and interesting wise in an exhibition where so much was to be admired. A lasting impression that if Matisse has anything definable its style while also not lacking in substance.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition is on at the Tate Modern until 17 September 2014. www.tate.org.uk

Barbican Centre

Last weekend people to catch the Digital Revolution Exhibition at the Barbican. Right from the off the exhibition grabs you with a candy floss and coke fairground rush. Bright lights, animation, video games, movies and music greet you in a digital cocoon wonderland.

Barbican Centre

Image 1970s video game Pong.

For the older generation it’s an agreeable nostalgic ‘I remember that’ ride back to the early days of video games and of childhood. Oh how prehistoric the old computers and games looked like. How the kids of today with their smart phones and Xbox’s must snigger when they see games such as Pong’. But as the exhibition shows there was something endearing about the early pioneers of video games, a spirit that you feel seems to pervade the early gamer programmer’s ‘code’, if you excuse the pun.

Barbican Centre London

And so we are taken through a history of digital technology from the 1970s right up to what’s going on today. There is a lot to see and take in. The exhibition is great for kids who could be seen everywhere having lots of fun playing games and getting involved in the many interactive aspects including the particularly crowd pleasing gesture technologies.

We get an insight into the major players, the companies, organisations, people, the leading innovators behind all the great techy stuff. We find out that their motivations sometimes go beyond the purely commercial.

While the exhibits about how technically impressive the Gravity film or skirt’s that can change design when a model presses a button failed to fully engage personally but there were others that did grab the imagination.

Barbican Centre London

There was the technology that allowed a paralysed graffiti artist to still create just using his eyes which was a moving and inspirational collaboration. Also given that the exhibition had a number of high profile names and hugely celebrated big studios involved it was the FIELD creative team of Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn that caught our eye. FIELD seemed to be doing creative and engaging work in the sphere of bringing together technology, art, design and a social aspect.

Barbican Centre London

This was by and large a playful and enjoyable jaunt through a history of creative, technical digital wizardry and how it has the power to impress us… or not. I found myself wanting to be more taken with the grander or big name installations but ended up feeling a little disappointed. For example I had seen much better wow factor gesture technologies in Berlin a couple of years ago at a small event than was evident here. Nonetheless there is lots to see and like in Digital Revolution which is a fun feel good exhibition for all ages.

The Digital Revolution Exhibition is on at the Barbican Centre until the 14 September 2014. www.barbican.org.uk

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