25 January 2011

Amazing art fair and secret Jewish London

There are two big highlights this week which I wanted to tell you about and I have lots of photos of each. One was the massive London Art Fair which lots of new stuff but some very big names too. The other was a walk around Jewish London which was fascinating.

Our walk started at Tower Hill on a damp, somewhat chilly Sunday morning but the two and a half hours with Ruth our excellent guide sped past. I had been invited on this walking tour by Context Travel who use very well qualified guides for small groups. (http://www.contexttravel.com/). There were 4 of us so plenty of time to ask lots of questions and as we had so much to get through Ruth kindly gave us extra time on our tour (and some Jewish sweets at the end which was really kind). We saw the site of the first synagogue after the Jews returned to the UK (after earlier banishment), where they used to live (the simply named Jewry Street) and signs describing the care given to new poor arrivals. We entered the Bevis Marks synagogue which has the record of the holding prayers for the longest uninterrupted period of time in Europe since its opening in 1701 and we had a talk about the history of this grand yet simply decorated building which was built and furnished by quakers with their starkly uncomfortable and original benches!
We walked around the City and Shoreditch area learning about the Jewish life for those reaching London and how they were looked after by various organisation and saw plaques and buildings including a soup kitchen for the 'Jewish poor' . In the unlikeliest of places, the Christian church by Spitalfields market we saw plaques to the Christians who looked after the Jews and sought to convert them! One talked of the work for the 'welfare of God's ancient people' with hebrew inscriptions in a Christian church - most unexpected. I've missed out loads of things we saw including the moving sculpture to the kindertransport in Liverpool Street (trying to squeeze this one in!) but hopefully you'll see that there is plenty to see and learn about on London walks.

The photos are - , blue plaque to the organisation who helped the poor Jewish immigrants, the stone marking William Willson's work, the soup kitchen (now posh flats)Bevis Marks entrance, the site of the first but now destroyed synagogue and the Jewry Street sign.

As a complete contrast the rather posh indoor event that is the the London Art Fair offers an amazing range of work and some truly fabulous stuff including big household names as well as the less know - as yet! The prices were mostly outside of our means in the main hall as they were in the 1os of thousands of pounds but there was work by Warhol, Hirst and Emin so this is hardly surprising. The photos tell you more than words so they are: an amazing drawer set made of porcelain; Grayson Perry's Walthamstow tapestry with the stages of life woven with hundreds of brand names and figures; a wonderful stone head; amazing rubber green feet; Andy Warhol's Mao head; Elizabeth Frink's head sculpture; and, Damien Hirst's butterfly wall. There was so much more in the 3 levels of galleries and stand and we needed a good couple of hours just to get an overview.

That's all for this week so hope you enjoyed it. Looking forward to next week's....
Bye for now,

17 January 2011

Learning in London and the river by night.

On this week's list we have: lunch at the Royal Opera House; a new art course: a blogger meet up; and, the river by night

You may think the Royal Opera House is the sort of place you need several hundred pounds and a much sought after ticket to get into. Not the case! At lunchtime you can stroll in and go to the Amphitheatre restaurant on the top floor and have a lovely and not too pricey a lunch. It was all calm when we were there and the mushroom risotto with rocket comes highly recommended. The Opera House runs tours so you can see behind the scenes and we decided that we'd do one of those soon as I'm sure they are fascinating. Apart from the good food, you get to see inside the main areas of this wonderful building, as this photo shows.

Lunch was a just the warm up event for the start of our art course. We've signed up for 10 weeks on Contemporary Art which is a fabulous course involving visit about 3 small commercial galleries each week to view and discuss the art on show. So, no classroom work at all! We get to visit a whole range of new galleries with a friendly, knowledgeable tutor and it costs just £136 pounds. Week one saw us at 3 new venues around Picadilly: Spruth Magers who are home to Cindy Sherman's new photographic murals; Marlborough Fine Art home to Cathie Pilkington striking sculptures made from a wide range of materials; and, John Martin Gallery showing a range of work with some potentially purchasable work (funds permitting of course!). It was mostly new work to me and new galleries so a great start to the course. I'll take some photos next week as we head out to the East End.

London Bloggers Group held one of its regular meet-ups this week which was a great chance to chat to some rather more established excellent bloggers and try to pick up some tips over a free glass of wine - great stuff! Leaving the venue on the River Thames I took the time to admire the wonderful sight of the river and the river banks by night and here are a small selection of photos for you to share in this - and what a view!

Must be off - lots to do. Bye for now.
Twitter @itsyourlondon

10 January 2011

2011 here we go....

Here's hoping 2011 is a great year for you all, for me and for London! I spent new year in Dartmouth, Devon which I highly recommend tho' I was very jealous to read that the massive Thames fireworks were rated higher than the Sydney ones which are always considered the best NYE ones in the world - well done London!

So what's been happening so far this year? Well... ballet, mass knitting (yes!), a brilliant new perspective on St Paul's cathedral, and seeing Jean Cocteau in Leicester Square (yes! -again)

Let's start with St Paul's as there are some cracking photos. A new shopping centre has opened up just next to this great church called One New Change and they have a roof top viewing terrace as well as a glass lift. You can see St Paul's from a whole lot of new angles and admire more of its beauty and grandeur. The glass lift rushes you up to the 6th floor and is not for those who quake at the thought of heights but the views on the way up (see photo) and when you get there are amazing. St Paul's is one of London's great iconic sights and it's good to see if from a different angle. Jamie Oliver's new restaurant Barbarcoa is ideally placed for views but it was so sunny this weekend that they had to pull the blinds down to save lunchers from the dazzle! One New Change is on Cheapside and Cheap was another word for market so I guess a shopping centre carries on that medieval tradition for the area and was designed by Jean Nouvel who created the 2010 Serpentine Gallery outdoor installation - busy man. You can also see one photo of the Shard - soon to be the tallest building in Europe I hear and it's growing really fast now.

The ballet we were lucky enough to get tickets for was a sell out performance of Cinderella by Matthew Bourne at Sadler's Wells. It was reset in the Second World War with contemporary dress, a Prokoviev score, which was itself written during the Second World War, and was performed by Sadler's Wells own resident company New Adventures. The sets were evocative of the blitz and featured the bombed out Cafe de Paris for the famous ball (as in 'you shall go to the ball Cinderella'). Here Cinderella wore the most sparkling dress and shoes possible and danced until midnight with her RAF pilot as the Prince. The haunting sound effects gave us sirens, bombs and songs evocative of the era. Some found that it was not involving enough but I loved the imagination and vision but agreed that some of the story lines were a bit confusing for example strange hospital scenes when the step mother tries to kill Cinderella - strange indeed..

So, what's this about knitting? There is a group called Stitch London although they used to be called Stitch and Bitch - what a great name! Groups of people gather and knit and chat, which seems a cheery idea to me. The event I went to was their 5th birthday held in the Royal Festival Hall and as we wondered around looking for the group we suddenly saw a huge gang of people all chatting loudly while clicking away with the needles. We settled in and got knitting - well I didn't as I hadn't tried since about age 8 so was lucky that Laura had kindly agreed to show me how. Have a look at us both busily knitting, my piece being rather smaller than all the others! They have smaller events all the time all over London and there was a great friendly atmosphere between regulars but they were very welcoming to new comers too. More at http://www.stitchldn.com/

Lastly, what's Jean Cocteau doing in Leicester Square? Well, in 1959 he spent 3 weeks making beautiful murals for the Notre Dame de France church in Leicester Place. The church was almost completely destroyed by a Second World War bomb (bit of a theme for this blogpost) and was rebuilt in the 1950s including a commission for a set of murals by Jean Cocteau which are simple and elegant. I don't usually take pictures in churches so here's a link instead: www.shadyoldlady.com/location.php?loc=123 (their own site http://www.notredamechurch.co.uk/ isn't working right now) One sad sight was the number of people sleeping in the pews, the church being a warm dry place for those who sadly have to sleep rough, especially in this cold winter. At least Notre Dame lets them in.

Bye for now