It’s been several years since I’ve seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I thought it would be a good time to refresh my memory. The Prince Charles Cinema holds all-night marathons every December, and I went along armed with snacks and energy drinks.
The marathon featured all three films, in extended editions, over a period of more than twelve hours with minimal breaks. It was less of an endurance test than I’d expected (the energy drinks helped), because the movies are so good, and still hold up well twenty years after they were first made. Boromir’s “One does not simply walk into Mordor” line got a particular laugh.
When the final credits rolled I went for a Wetherspoon’s breakfast and went back home, where I spent the whole day sleeping.
My second Ramin Karimloo gig in a year – truly, I have been spoiled. This gig rounded off 2019 nicely, in the intimate surroundings of The Other Palace.
Ramin sang lots of Broadgrass-style songs as well as songs from his latest album, From Now On, and other musical hits. No matter how many times I see him live, I am always left wanting more.
Throughout the show, Ramin kept hinting about an exciting forthcoming announcement. It turns out that he will be starring in a concert production of the musical The Secret Garden at the Palladium next spring. That is definitely going on my list!
George IV: Art & Spectacle is the latest exhibition to take place at the Queen’s Gallery, London. This king, who spent many years as Prince Regent (giving the Regency period its name) before taking the throne in his own right, is portrayed here as a keen art collector whose legacy can still be seen today.
Growing up, George was not allowed to leave the country owing to the orders of his father, George III, so instead he collected works of art from all over Europe and the east, as well as paintings of subjects closer to home – his family, and earlier monarchs. His energies were first directed at Carlton House, his London residence, which he filled with art, sculpture and furniture, but his vision eventually outgrew this comparatively small living space. Famously, he established the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, and on becoming king he instigated work at Windsor Castle and Buckingham House, transforming the latter, under the care of architect Thomas Nash, into Buckingham Palace.
It seems that George did have a keen eye: he collected works by the likes of Rembrandt, as well as commissioning works of his own. He enjoyed literature too, keeping a collection of Jane Austen’s works in each of his residences, and inviting Sir Walter Scott to dine.
One thing I found interesting about the exhibition was that George, spending money lavishly at a time of economic hardship for many of his subjects, was widely disliked, and this image of him has coloured our perception. I’m not really surprised, and it makes me wonder if having this exhibition now was really a good choice, as poverty levels in the UK reach crisis point. Not long ago, there was criticism over a plan to refurbish Buckingham Palace during this time of austerity, and however much George IV embraced the arts, I feel similarly about his own spending, fascinating as this exhibition was.
The auction house Spink held an exhibition entitled 200 Years of Polar Exploration recently, featuring artefacts that have never been on display before, including photographs, equipment, medals and other memorabilia, from the expeditions of Scott and Shackleton, to 21st century explorations led by figures such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the late Henry Worsley.
The exhibition was staged in aid of The Endeavour Fund, which aims to help wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans use outdoor challenges and sport as part of their recovery and rehabilitation. This was the charity promoted by Worsley, who took part in several Antarctic expeditions before tragically dying of peritonitis during his 2016 attempt to make the world’s first unaided Antarctic crossing. One of the items on display was his pair of skis, decorated before their use by his children – a moving and poignant sight.
Other items included medals, and photographs from the Heroic Age and later. As always, I loved the opportunity to explore artefacts re;ated to Antarctic exploration and its history.
I managed to catch the Secret Rivers exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands on its very last day. The exhibition looks at the history of several of London’s hidden rivers, many of which have been covered over, re-routed or used for other purposes.
First to be examined was the Walbrook, which flowed through the heart of the City of London. This river was often used for ritual (the Temple of Mithras, which I’ve previously visited, was nearby), and the items found in it bear witness to its role at the centre of life in Roman times.
Secondly, the most famous lost river, the Fleet, was explored. This river was located outside of the City, and as such originally played a role at the heart of rural life, before an increasingly dense population helped to pollute the river (during the fourteenth century, people used to build houses with toilets extending out over the river, so that waste would drop directly into it – one of the items recovered from the river was a three-seat medieval toilet). Eventually it was covered and used as a sewer, though you can still swim in the Fleet up at Hampstead, where the outdoor pools are filled with water from this river.
From here, the exhibition explored the contrasting ways in which rivers were used. The Neckinger in Bermondsey, for instance, was heavily polluted and had several mills along its banks, while the Westbourne in west London was used to create the ponds in Hyde Park. The Tyburn, now covered over, has been the subject of a campaign to restore it and use it for fishing, while the Wandle has been uncovered at several points, making it a haven for wildlife. There is also the Lea, still used for recreational activities and transformed towards central London by the construction of the Olympic Park.
Finally, the exhibition looked at the works of art that have been inspired by the hidden rivers. Of particular interest to me were the various books, which I plan to seek out in the future.
The exhibition was designed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of GCHQ, the UK’s Intelligence, Security and Cyber agency. There was even a Lego model of the GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham.
The exhibition started with the First World War and explored how communications and intelligence developed over a century. It featured artefacts, documents and declassified files.
The best-known aspect of the exhibition was probably the work of Alan Turing and the team at Bletchley Park to crack the Enigma Code, but there was also information relating to the Cold War, including a model of a house displaying a story about a quiet suburban couple who turned out to be Soviet spies.
There was also a hands-on area where you could have a go at cracking codes yourself, which was probably designed for children but which my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed.
The exhibition runs until 23 February 2020 and is then due to visit the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. It’s well worth a visit.
I visited the BFI Southbank to attend a panel discussion about 90s Kids’ TV shows. This is exactly my era so I was incredibly excited.
First of all we were treated to a montage of TV shows including Chucklevision, The Queen’s Nose, Art Attack, Power Rangers, Clarissa Explains It All, and many many more, including shows I know and those I wasn’t familiar with. Afterwards, there was a panel discussion featuring actor and writer Sir Tony Robinson, performer Francis Wright, and producer Catherine Robins.
Naturally enough, the discussion focused on the shows that the panel members were involved in. This began with Maid Marian and Her Merry Men (my personal favourite), and it was interesting to hear Sir Tony’s stories and anecdotes about the production of the series. I was particularly excited when Marian and Robin from the series, Kate Lonergan and Adam Morris, made an appearance and came up to the front to talk about their experiences. Another show we heard about was Five Children and It, as Francis Wright was responsible for operating the puppet Psammead.
It was interesting that all three panellists seemed to think the 90s were something of a golden age in childrens’ television: I’ve always thought so but I lived through it, I wondered if it was just nostalgia, but apparently not. It seems officials were more willing to take risks back then, and to educate as well as entertain.
I left the event with my only regret being that I chickened out of asking Kate and Adam for a picture.
I visited the Edvard Munch: Love and Angst exhibition at the British Museum with a friend on its very last day. I actually knew nothing about Munch except for his painting The Scream, which I do love, so was interested to find out more.
Munch came from a loving family in Norway but over the years his family became a source of deep worry and tragedy to him. His mother died when he was five and his oldest sister, Sophie, died of tuberculosis when he was thirteen. Another sister, Laura, spent time in a psychiatric hospital with schizophrenia and Munch himself had a breakdown later in life. This is reflected in much of his art, including his ‘vampire’ works, his images of illness and death, and the famous ‘Scream’. It’s the black and white lithograph that’s on display here, not the famous painting, but it still makes an impact.
As a theatre fan. I was intrigued by Munch’s stage sets for the works of Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, and some of his designs are displayed alongside his painting of the great playwright himself. Overwhelmingly, though, this is an exhibition of work that focuses on the dark side of the mind.
The UK jewellery brand Tatty Devine turns 20 this year, and to celebrate has launched a touring exhibition, Misshapes: The Making of Tatty Devine, which kicks off in London before visiting various cities around the UK. As a longtime fan of the brand, I paid a visit on its first day.
The free exhibition, hosted at the Lethaby Gallery, King’s Cross, tells the story of how Tatty Devine founders Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine met at Chelsea College of Art and began to work together, making jewellery out of guitar plectrums, leather samples and other bits of so-called “junk”, running a market stall selling their wares, and eventually, after a trip to New York, settling on acrylic as their main material. With the aid of a laser cutter, they began making jewellery from this versatile substance, and over the years have refined their techniques, pushing the boundaries of what acrylic can do.
I was interested to see examples of the pair’s early work, as this was long before I became a fan of the brand. Some of the early pieces were pretty cool – I wouldn’t mind a keyboard belt. I also didn’t know that the Tatty Devine logo was supposed to resemble the logos in old-style 50s records.
Examples of pieces from every stage of the brand’s heritage were on display. I did find myself with a big wave of Tatty regret as I viewed pieces that have long since vanished from stores (especially the fortune teller statement). However, I also saw a couple of pieces that I do own – one being the William Morris brooch.
I really loved the exhibition as a big fan of the brand. After its stint in London, it will visit various venues around the country – so keep an eye out!
Mary Quant was the second major fashion exhibition I attended at the V&A within a fairly short space of time. Born in London, Quant revolutionised the British high street in the 1960s, making high fashion available to everyone and popularising the famous miniskirt. I have to admit that on a personal level, the clothes aren’t really my style – I prefer longer skirts and dresses in general, and the Dior-influenced vintage look is much more my scene. In fact, my favourite piece in the exhibition was a maxi dress from the Seventies. However, there’s no doubt that Quant’s clothes had a huge influence on style, and her practical, fun pieces helped to democratise fashion.
The exhibition takes us through Quant’s career and showcases the pieces that made her famous, including monochrome daisies, coloured opaques, practical underwear, and even modern makeup (I could tell from the style of the marketing that Lush was influenced by Quant’s makeup range). I really liked that the museum got the public involved, requesting people to send in their own Quant clothes. I went to the exhibition with my auntie and I enjoyed hearing about her own experience of the brand – wearing a minidress to meet her future in-laws and worrying that the skirt was too short!
I thought it was cute, too, to showcase the mini, Barbie-style Quant dolls, dressed in miniature versions of popular fashions. A way to get younger girls interested in the clothes so that they could covet them for themselves when they were older.
Overall, the exhibition is definitely worth a visit – for the social history as much as the fashion.