It’s that time of the month again, and the next jewellery brand I’m going to discuss is
Little Moose is a British accessory brand which was launched in 2010. At the time it focused on selling the work of other designers, but soon began to produce its own collections. The website states:
OUR VISION IS OF A CRAZY, COLOURFUL WORLD FILLED WITH CURIOUS CROWD-PLEASING CHARACTER BASED CREATIONS THAT RAISE A SMILE AND STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD. WE’RE ALL ABOUT HAVING FUN WITH FASHION.
Recently, Little Moose introduced an Alice in Wonderland range to celebrate Alice’s 150th anniversary. I want pretty much everything in the range, but top of my list is this incredible tea party necklace, inspired by papercuts.
Little Moose specialise in really cute jewellery: I really love this adorable sloth necklace, which has not one, but two little sloths hanging off it.
It’s not just necklaces – earrings are part of the range too, including these lovely kitty studs, which are also available in black.
The other day I went to a talk at Guildhall Library given by by Dr Lucy Munro from King’s College London. The talk was about the London of Shakespeare and Beaumont, marking the 400th anniversary of the death of both writers. William Shakespeare of course died on 23 April 1616, but Francis Beaumont also died that year (on 6 March, aged only 31): he has been rather overshadowed by Shakespeare over the past four centuries, but his life is worth celebrating too.
Munro began her talk by showing us a 1572 map of London, revealing a much smaller-scale city than the one we are familiar with today. Playhouses were growing up all over London. One of the first such houses Shakespeare wrote for was “The Theatre” – not such an unimaginative name as it sounds, as the term “theatre” was usually used for private indoor spaces. The name harks back to the classical world of Greek and Roman drama.
Shakespeare lived on Silver Street for a time; he also, in 1613, bought a gatehouse on Blackfriars (the road on which another playhouse for which he wrote was located). Beaumont was born in Leicestershire in 1584, his father a judge, his mother a recusant Catholic. His wife may have been Roman Catholic too, which would have marked out Beaumont as an outsider. He entered the Inner Temple in 1600 after studying at Oxford, and began his collaboration with the writer John Fletcher in 1605.
The pair’s first play The Woman Hater was written for the Children of St Paul’s, though the pair also wrote for the Children of the Queen’s Revels at the Blackfriars Theatre. Beaumont and Fletcher lodged together on Bankside: an anecdote from John Aubrey, found in his Brief Lives, suggests the closeness of their relationship, as they lived together and shared everything. When Beaumont died he was buried in London, in Westminster Abbey.
Whereas Shakespeare set most of his plays in fairly exotic locations (excepting the histories, which mention such landmarks as the Tower of London, Westminster, and the Boar’s Head Tavern at Eastcheap), Francis Beaumont wrote regularly about specific London locations including the Mermaid Tavern (mentioned in a poem to Ben Jonson). A painting by the nineteenth-century artist John Ford imagines what poets’ meetings at the Mermaid might have looked like, although it is not particularly accurate: it is not known that Shakespeare was involved in these meetings, but he has a central place in Ford’s painting.
Beaumont’s writing makes reference to the London streets, their smells and sights; locations reflect the social, moral and economic circumstances of the characters. The Knight of the Burning Pestle, his significant solo play, mentions London locations, transforming them from real-life places into fantastical locations for his knight’s Quixotic journey.
I really enjoyed this talk: I think Beaumont is a vastly underrated writer (The Knight of the Burning Pestle, which I saw at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, is a masterpiece) and I enjoyed learning about how he uses London in his work and his relationship to the city.
Charlotte Brontë has to be my all-time favourite author. Jane Eyre was the first ‘classic’ that I ever read, and it is still my favourite book: I find something new in it every time I read it, and I adore Charlotte’s vivid prose.
Yesterday, 21 April 2016, marked the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth, and to celebrate the British Library hosted an event with some guest speakers. Facilitated by Xanthe Arvanitakis, curator at the Soane Museum (where an exhibition about Charlotte’s time in London is currently taking place), it featured Charlotte Cory, Ann Dinsdale and Dame Jacqueline Wilson.
Charlotte Cory is an artist whose series, Charlotte Brontë in Babylon, was recently broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She is the curator of the aforementioned Charlotte Brontë at the Soane exhibition, which sounds fascinating (Charlotte B never visited the Soane, but it was certainly around when she visited London – and hasn’t changed much since – and Charlotte C has tried to present a “what if?” scenario, giving her in a way the chance to visit after her death). Ann Dinsdale is the Collections Manager at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth: she has worked for the Brontë Society for over 25 years and has written many books on the Brontës and Haworth. Dame Jacqueline Wilson is a bestselling children’s author, and was appointed Ambassador for Charlotte by the Brontë Society recently.
It was lovely to be in a room full of people who are as enthusiastic about Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë as I am. In particular I had no idea that Jacqueline Wilson – whose books I read as a child – was such a big fan. Ann Dinsdale and Charlotte Cory also love the book and it was interesting to hear them compare notes about their first introduction to Jane Eyre. All seemed to agree that it was the opening chapters of the novel featuring the young Jane that initially attracted them to the book, which is something that rings true with my own experience.
Even more fascinating if possible were the anecdotes which all of the speakers regaled us with. Charlotte Cory told us a ghost story about a friend who travelled back to London with the manuscript of Jane Eyre (usually kept in the British Library), which had been lent to Haworth for an exhibition. On getting out of the taxi at the British Museum (where the Library was then housed), the taxi driver insisted that there was another passenger in the cab with them: a small woman, who had inexplicably vanished. I also liked the story of the same friend telling off Princess Margaret for turning the pages of the fragile manuscript!
We got to hear about Charlotte’s time in London, in which she spent lots of time visiting tourist sites as well as some time visiting Bedlam – about which she was, uncharacteristically, silent. We were treated to a performance of the “Hippapotamus Polka” which was a popular work at the time, inspired by a hippo which had recently been introduced to London Zoo.
Afterwards, we were treated to a G&T and a slice of birthday cake to celebrate the 200th anniversary of my favourite author.
I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland, and 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. To celebrate, the British Library is holding an exhibition all about Alice.
Starting from Carroll’s initial conception of the tale – as a story told to while away the hours on an Oxford river jaunt one warm June – the exhibition covers the initial manuscript version, Alice Under Ground (which he wrote for Alice Liddell), followed by the full published version complete with John Tenniel’s illustrations. Over the next century and a half, various editions of Alice and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, have been produced, with illustrations from the likes of Arthur Rackham, Mervyn Peake and Salvador Dali. The exhibition focuses mainly on illustrated editions of the books, but it also includes merchandise produced at the time (Carroll was pretty savvy about such things) and more recently. A must-see for all Alice fans.
While I was at the Museum of Childhood to see the exhibition about Bagpuss and The Clangers, I took the opportunity to look around the museum as a whole. Though it is based in Bethnal Green, it is part of west London’s Victoria & Albert Museum: the building was opened as the Bethnal Green Museum in 1872 and in 1922, then-Head Curator Arthur Sabin decided to try and make it more child-friendly. The move was a popular one, and following this the Museum re-opened in 1974 as the Museum of Childhood. A refurbishment occurred in 2005-06 and the Museum continues to thrive.
The Museum is neither just for children nor solely for adults, but manages to successfully cater to both groups. Fun and educational events take place regularly for children, and adults can also get in on the act – for instance, there is a nostalgic children’s’ TV quiz taking place on the 21st of April. The Museum examines the history of childhood, which is interesting for people of all ages: adults can reminisce about their own childhoods, children can learn about how young people of the past occupied their time, and everyone can develop a greater understanding of the history of childhood as a concept.
The section devoted to the history of childhood was particularly interesting to me: it looked at how babies and young children were cared for from the sixteenth century onwards, with examples of clothing, cots and feeding equipment as well as toys. There was also a section on clothes, which showed how children went from wearing miniature versions of adult outfits to their own specially designed fashions.
There were special sections devoted to kinetic and electronic toys, and there were some cases devoted to particular themes, such as magic, with a 1950s magic set being displayed alongside Harry Potter merchandise from recent years. I enjoyed seeing some of the toys I used to play with myself, including Sylvanian Families and the original PlayStation. I have to admit I do feel rather old knowing that toys I played with as a child are now in a museum!
The Museum is currently showing a temporary exhibition called On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants. This is definitely aimed at adults rather than children as it explores the sensitive and distressing topic of the children who were sent to various British colonies from 1869-1970. These children were sent away with the promise of a better life, but for many this did not materialise, and several never saw their families again.
The Museum of Childhood is definitely worth a visit. It’s fascinating, and it’s free: though be warned, you may come out with a desire to relive your childhood.
I loved Bagpuss and The Clangers as a child, so I was excited when I found out that there was going to be a free exhibition about Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s work with Smallfilms at the Museum of Childhood, exploring the creation of these shows as well as others including Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine.
Clangers, Bagpuss & Co is small, but extremely worthwhile for fans, with original puppets, filming equipment and other documents on display. I particularly enjoyed seeing a script from The Clangers, which confirmed what I have always suspected: that the high-pitched squeaks of the characters are reflections of actual speech.
The exhibition runs until 9 October, so there is plenty of time to see it.
I had an interesting experience yesterday evening: I took part in a tour of the Futuro House, located at Central Saint Martins near King’s Cross. The house, which is on loan to CSM for the summer, is located on a upper terrace of the Granary Building. We met at the ground floor reception and were taken upstairs to view the house; once inside, we were treated to a talk by the owner, Craig Barnes, who explained the story behind these houses, told us how he ended up with this one, and gave us a potted history of what has happened to it since he took it over.
The Futuro House was designed in the 1960s by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. It was last seen in London sailing down the Thames on a ferry, as part of the houses’ launch at a FinnFocus trade exhibition. It was designed to be a skiing lodge or weekend retreat: personally, I feel that the oval windows that go all the way around the house make it ideal for making the most of stunning views, while the lack of curtains mean that it only really works when placed in a reasonably remote location.
Described as “the holiday home of the future”, the house was one of several prefabricated designs made in the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately, despite the initial popularity of such designs, the Futuro was not a commercial success: possibly because of the growing price of oil, which made it much more expensive to produce.
Today, only around 65 Futuro Houses are known to exist. Craig Barnes found this one in South Africa: he used to love visiting the “spaceship house” as a child, and when he grew older managed to buy it, disassemble it and ship it back to the UK. Over the course of many months he worked on it, with the assistance of friends, family and colleagues, until it once again became a viable piece of architecture. He has tried as far as possible to restore the original design, but there is much still to do.
The house is on loan to CSM for the summer, and as well as public tours, which take place every month, it is freely bookable by CSM staff and students for meetings and other activities. Barnes is glad that it is being used and enjoyed, but admits there are no firm plans for the house beyond September – it may go back into storage, at least temporarily, but he hopes that it will have a future life (and so do I).
If you would like to visit this incredible house, you can book a tour on the first Wednesday of every month, which costs £5.
On Saturday I had a bit of time to spare so I popped into Tate Britain to check out their latest exhibition, Artist and Empire. The exhibition encompasses art from the past five hundred years or so, concerned with the British Empire. It includes works by diverse artists, both oppressors and oppressed, conquerors and the conquered, from different perspectives.
The exhibition acknowledges that the issue of ’empire’ is a difficult one to explore and come to terms with these days. However, remnants of the British Empire are all around us, and the exhibition attempts to face these head on in order to explore the issues they raise. I really like the way exhibitions at Tate Britain tend to mix old and new works and all different kinds of art, and this one is no exception.
The exhibition is divided into themes, with one room containing maps, one about heroics, one focused on costume and portraiture, and so on. Maps in particular were often used to denote conquest, while naming places implied ownership over that place. Portraits were often used as symbols of power, and the clothes worn by the sitter were often suggestive: Western dress worn by Indian royalty and Native American dress worn by the British, for example, implied a receptivity to other cultures. Having said that, the power balance was hardly equal: many works painted (pun intended) the British as morally correct, honourable conquerors. One section of the exhibition looked at trophies: collections of plants, animals and birds, drawings and paintings of them, and artefacts created by humans.
The latter part of the exhibition looks at the work of modern artists examining the legacy of empire in often-provocative ways. The exhibition is a thought-provoking one: for me, it wasn’t so much about viewing and enjoying art for its own sake, but using it as a lens through which to view beliefs and attitudes concerning empire.
Ever heard of the Day Zero Project? It’s an online community where you can set goals, create bucket lists and similar, and check out other people’s goals in order to get inspired. Whether you love travelling, want to sort your life out or simply want to make a few small changes, it’s ideal to keep you motivated and a handy place to list and check off your goals as you achieve them.
The original list is 101 Things In 1001 Days – designed to give you a bit more time than a standard list of New Year’s resolutions would do. I made such a list a few years ago, and I eventually completed everything on it – a bit behind schedule, and not without a few changes along the way. As the project has grown, it has expanded so that you can now include several different types of list: a Bucket List, things to do in a year, or things to do before the age of 30 or 40. I currently have a Things to Do Before 40 list – gulp!
I’ve been thinking about starting a new 101 Things list for a while, and I picked on 4 April 2016 to do it, mainly because the challenge will then end on 31 December 2018. You don’t have to be pernickety like that though, you can begin a challenge whenever you want.
I’ve decided that I don’t want to rush and add every item at once – I’ve got nearly three years to complete this and I’d rather add things that I really want to do. I have got my list started, however. Here are a few things I’ve added:
Change my title to ‘Ms’. I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while. I don’t believe a woman’s title should denote her marital status – a man’s doesn’t, after all. You don’t need to go through any formal process or official channel to do this – I’m just going to start ticking the ‘Ms’ box rather than the ‘Miss’ one when I fill in forms.
Learn all the words to Hamilton. I’m a bit obsessed with this musical at the moment and I reckon it would be cool to know all the words. Ideally before it transfers to London (which it’s bound to do at some point). Not the most serious of my goals, but it will probably be one of the most tricky!
Visit the Theatre Café. This café opened in London last year and I still haven’t been. Terrible huh?
Walk the Fleet. This river in London, once a major tributary of the Thames, is now mostly underground, and I’d like to follow its course either by walking it myself, or joining a walking tour – I haven’t quite decided.
Learn to identify 10 constellations. I used to know quite a bit about constellations and the stars when I was little – I had a handy book about them that I loved. However, I’ve forgotten most of what I used to know. These days I can just about make out Orion and the Plough, but that’s about it.
These are just some of the 101 things that will (eventually) make it to my list – what sort of things would you add?
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, and as such there are several special events going on. One such event, Shakespeare’s London, taking place at the Museum of London Archaeological Archive in Hackney, is a tour of the archive which includes a look at artefacts discovered at London’s Elizabethan theatres. I booked this pretty much as soon as I heard about it, as I love both history and Shakespeare.
The Archive is held at Mortimer Wheeler House; I looked up how to find it and I’m glad that I did, as it isn’t the easiest building to find. It’s located in east London, north of Old Street, just below the canal. We waited in the foyer for the tour to begin; there were quite a few of us, so we were taken around in two separate groups. As we explored the Archive, we were able to learn more about it, as well as the history of theatres in Shakespeare’s day.
The Museum of London Archaeological Archive is part of the museum’s Department of Archaeological Collections and Archive. Over the past century, nearly 8,500 archaeological sites have been investigated in Greater London: this archive holds information relating to all of these, with full archives for over 3,500 of them. There is also an archaeological library collection. It has been officially recognised as the largest archaeological archive in the world.
The Archive is of international significance, the primary source of evidence for early London. As archaeology itself is a destructive process – accessing one layer usually involves removing another – the only evidence of its existence is in the archive. There is an online catalogue containing information about object collections and archive records, and the Archive can also be visited for research purposes. This is free, but you need to make an appointment.
Early in the tour we got to play “archive lottery” – choosing a number and taking the relevant box off the shelf to see what it contained. Our box wasn’t particularly exciting, containing bits of pottery – however, as our tour guide (one of the Archive’s volunteers) explained, pottery is actually a really valuable tool for dating a site. We were subsequently introduced to some very special artefacts relating to the theatre.
Theatres like the Globe, the Rose and the Curtain, popular in Shakespeare’s day, were actually known as playhouses: the term “theatre” tended to refer to indoor, private theatres located in houses (similar to the Globe’s new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse). However, for the purposes of the tour they were referred to as theatres. We saw a cannonball that was found on a theatre site, once used to help create the sound of thunder (a similar item from the Rose Theatre is about to go on display at the British Library as part of their Shakespeare exhibition). Some of the smaller artefacts that we got to handle included copper pins, seals for rolls of cloth, and fragments of tobacco pipes. We also saw – but because of its fragility, understandably weren’t allowed to touch – an almost complete leather boot from the Elizabethan period: an incredible sight.
Many of the small items recovered were things which could have been dropped easily in the tightly packed, busy atmosphere of the playhouse. Gambling dice and makeup brushes were also found, as were tokens used to gain admittance into the playhouse. Money boxes were used to collect payment; when they were full, they were smashed, and the contents counted. They were kept in the money box office – what would later become the box office.
The area around Southwark where most of the theatres were situated was also known for bear-baiting, and the skull and bones of a bear and of a dog, possible rivals in the ring, are testament to this. The bear bone that we saw had tooth marks on it – possibly chewed by a dog after the poor dead or dying bear was discarded.
In a small room with a table, we were able to look at newspaper cuttings and letters related to the discovery and excavation of the Rose Theatre in 1988. When an archaeological excavation began on this site, no one had any idea just what an incredible find would be unearthed. The discovery sparked a campaign to retain and restore the site (the original developers just wanted to cover it over), and inspired a change in the law, meaning that excavations are now required when developers take over a site in London.
It was once thought that the hazelnut shells found at the Rose site indicated that theatregoers ate hazelnuts during performances, in the same way we might eat sweets or popcorn today. However, it is now thought that the thick layer of hazelnut shells would have provided cheap and effective flooring – especially as, with long performances and no toilets, groundlings would often just go where they stood – it makes me cringe to imagine walking over a spongy, urine-soaked floor of shells, but I guess they would have been used to it!
Finally, we ended up in a ceramics room, looking at some of the Shakespeare-related items held in the Archive. These included whole, and nearly whole, money boxes (which were always green, seemingly), and a figurine of Othello and Iago. We got to have a look around the room for a while before leaving, at some of the impressive collections which ranged from Roman amphorae to Victorian hot water bottles.
I absolutely loved my trip to the Archive and would recommend it for all those interested in London’s history. The Shakespeare tours are taking place again on 16 April, so it’s not too late if you want to take part.