Monday, 26 August 2013

Notting Hill Carnival 2013 in photos

The annual explosion of colour that is Notting Hill Carnival was no less spectacular this year as collections of London's diverse communities poured onto the streets in their usual haphazard fashion. As a local resident of a few years, I'm always proud to have such an event on my doorstep. 

It pains me to hear snooty neighbours and those who've never been complain about the noise and rubbish when the nub of two day festival is celebration. Here's a few snaps, some from Sunday's sound systems, notably the fantastic Channel One, and some extraordinary scenes from today's floats. If you missed it this year, there's always next year… 

For some slightly more professional and quality shots, there's a great London 24 gallery here.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review: The Summer Exhibition, The Royal Academy

A visit to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly Circus is always a conflicting experience. On the one hand there's the overly earnest art aficionados thumbing through the price guide as if it were their cheque book and making banal observations, on the other there is the sheer joy of seeing the everyman artistry on display.

While I'm sure there's plenty of back slapping, favouritism and nepotism in the selection of the pieces which go on display at the annual exhibition, there's plenty of raw talent too. Wandering the halls of one of London's most grandiose galleries you get to see Tate Moss' painting of a desolate abandoned building alongside another depicting a building as a crazy golf course and a snakes and ladders board with film directors on. 

Elsewhere among the 1,200 works there's Ron Arad's sculpture of a Fiat 500 and a fantastic photo of a bloke sat on a bench in St James's Park alongside one of its famous pelicans. Easily the most astonishing work was Grayson Perry's modern tapestries - a room featuring six large tapestries depicting the downfall iPhone wielding technology magnate Rakefield which is startling in how vivid it is in traditionally a dour medium. 

The 245th Summer Exhibition offers an eclecticism rarely seen anywhere in the country bringing together vastly disparate mediums. An old girlfriend of mine often toyed with the idea of entering and I hope she eventually did because there's such a breadth of work here that no one can fail to be inspired.

Review: The Turner Contemporary, Margate

The Turner Contemporary overlooks the sea

The following day yielded a trip to Margate with the seaside town well within reach of a day trip from London on the Kent coast. In my day job at Retail Week, we've covered high street campaigner Mary Portas' attempts to breathe life into a once bustling town extensively. Having interviewed Portas several times I can attest that her passion appears genuine and can entirely understand why her efforts in Margate, which descended into conflict with local residents, were so frustrating. 

There is clearly the basis for a thriving economy in Margate. The swish cafes and second hand shops of Cliftonville and behind the harbour square point to the kind of middle class haven that Whitstable offers for visitors up the coast while its sandy beach should be thronging on an August day. 

But the facade of empty arcades and abandoned lidos along the seafront belie a town which has not been able to take advantage of the cringingly titled Staycation movement of the last few years while other British seaside towns have boomed. 

The gallery was opened in 2011
The Turner Contemporary, situated by the harbour, was seen as a key in Margate's regeneration when it opened in April 2011 and it's easy to see why. Filled with the cafe, gift shop and sleek concrete architecture and every successful modern gallery, the gallery has received over a million visitors since opening. 

The current exhibition on Curiosity proves excellent, if a little freaky a times. Visitors are greeted by a literal sheepdog while the penguin and peacock melded together by Thomas Grünfield could also yield nightmares, evoking memories of the League of Gentleman beast. 
Thomas Grünfield's Penguin Peacock

There's also some original Latin Leonardo Da Vinci scripts and a room entirely dedicated to Swiss art including some ghoulish traditional masks which were apparently treated with disdain by the Swiss government as well as cards asking visitors what their curiosity is. After neatly asking how exactly a swan does break a man's arm, I head for the exit impressed by the gallery. Less impressive is patron and local Tracey Emin's scrawled artwork on vinyl on a shop opposite. 

Naturally it's a little condescending to diagnose a town's ills as a Londoner however there is a feeling that Margate could easily return to its former glory if a cultural and generational shift is willing to embrace it. And who's to say sleek, modern art cannot be at the centre of that?

An unusual greeting