21 November 2011

Exploring London - Brixton Village Market

One of the best things about living in London is that there is always something new to see and do. I've lived in London for longer than I care to mention but I can still be delighted by finding a new area to visit.  Last week a group of us went exploring to Brixton Village, south London.
We headed there on a Saturday morning and entered the Village which sits under the railway arches. I didn't know what to expect from the title 'Village' and especially from this entrance.  However, as soon as we walked in, we were greatly entertained by an amazing range of stalls and cafes in an old covered market.

This once run down arcade with an empty unloved corner now houses over 20 new cafes and shops according to Time Out but I'm sure that number has grown massively since their article.  It's a foodie's paradise with great independent cafes and restaurants and food stall groaning with great produce. This link gives you the chance to 'be there' via some videos of the


We made use of the wonderful array of eateries and tasted the burgers at Honest Burgers which were very good. This tiny cafe with a few tables inside and outside has constant queues outside which are testament to its quality - so we went for take-away.  Simply walking around was fabulous sight seeing and this selection of photos will give you a feel of the place.

What else is there?  Upstairs there are artists' studio and as there was an open day when we went, we could go up and chat with artists about their work from photography, to model making to printing.

Nearby I need to  mention the Ritzy Cinema, a fabulous building, showing great films with a wonderful history. Those of you who read my last blog post will know my love quirky local cinemas. I've not seen a film at the Ritzy so it couldn't make my list. Dating from 1910 it offers 4 screens, bars and restaurants and a lively social centre.

Finally, for music lovers with a good memory, one of the local streets brought about an outbreak of bad singing - remember Eddie Grant's Electric Avenue? Well it's here and was so called because it was the first market street to have electricity in the 1880s.

I'll be going back to Brixton Village Market, that's for sure!

Bye for now

7 November 2011

London is tops for cinema lovers!

I'm a great fan of cinema and much prefer seeing a film on the big screen than on the TV with all the fun of the movie going experience. London has an amazing range of cinemas, from the swanky thousand-plus seaters in Leicester Square like the Empire and Odeon, through to the many intimate local and boutique places.

London has great movie credentials as it hosts one of the world's top film festivals in October every year when over 200 films are on show and the stars come to town to parade on the red carpets. As a venue for shooting of films there are too many to mention but from the top of my head come 'Notting Hill', 'The King's Speech', 'Harry Potter', 'Bridget Jones' and of course the recently released 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'.

My favourite cinemas are the small, boutique and quirky ones and here are my top 5, not in any order as it's too hard to chose!  Those of you with a working knowledge of London cinemas will notice that these are all around the Notting Hill area. This is not just because I live there, but we have an amazing concentration of great movie houses and I celebrate that!

1. The Electric

This is the last word in luxurious film viewing with extra wide seats, a bar with snacks in the auditorium, plenty of space for drinks by your seat, a footstool, bed sized seats at the back for - well, best leave that there.... All this and up to the moment films and a long and interesting history as they have closed and nearly gone under many times since opening in 1910!  They are one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK

2. The Lexi

This a wonderful warm hearted little cinema, staffed by volunteers and sending their profits out to an amazing project in Africa, the Sustainability Institute. They show you a film about their work with kids so you are in no doubt as to the good they do.  You can catch the latest films here and it's well worth heading out to find them.

 3. The Gate

The Gate is a very comfortable stylish cinema dating from 1911 with a splendid Edwardian interior. It is an independent cinema showing big name films as well as more hard to find gems and live screenings of opera and plays from the National Theatre, which is pretty cool of them!

4. Portobello Pop Up

This is a brilliant place - a digital non profit microplex, the antidote to multiplexes, made of recycled materials, sitting under the Westway.  The box office is made out of - you've guessed - cardboard boxes and the seats are a collection of odd reclaimed seats. They show a range of films, of with director's Q&A. This year I saw My Beautiful Launderette with a chance to chat to Michael Frears. There's no booking, no tickets, you just turn up - how refreshing! Just check when their season is....

 5. The Coronet

Lots of history associated with the Coronet as it started as a theatre in 1898, featured in the film Notting Hill (remember the scene where Hugh wears his snorkel goggles - of course you do!) and I recall it being the last cinema you could smoke in - upstairs only!  The interior gives away its theatrical background and the tickets for all the latest films are good value too.

London has loads more great cinemas but these are my top 5 - which are yours?

Bye for now,