Sunday, 4 June 2017

Guildhall Art Gallery - 'Echoes Across the Century' - until 16 July 2017

I have not been to the Guildhall Art Gallery for a long time, on entering it was like meeting an old friend, who gave me a warm welcome. The new exhibition, which opened March, so was somewhat tardy in getting there, is a sight to behold. A subject which generates much emotion, it has been beautifully conceived, and at every turn you are enveloped in the pathos of the subject, but also delighted by the attention to minute detail. 

A cabinet of curiosities all with emotional relevance to the loss of those brave young men. The detail and creativity of those involved is to be lauded, the time and patience to create individual pieces which come together as a cohesive, delightful, exciting and yet, a sympathetic and respectful whole. You will discover it becomes a personal journey, through the private letters and belongings of those who did not come home. Do not forget to leave your message on the tree.

Echoes Across the Century is a new, free exhibition at City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery commemorating the 100th anniversary of WW1 (1914-18 to 2014-18), funded by the National Lottery.

Created by professional artist and set designer Jane Churchill, this exhibition - her London debut- sensitively brings to life the human impact of the First World War through heartfelt personal stories and highly emotive, beautiful pieces of artwork. Churchill has created an immersive ‘behind the scenes’ experience that provides a fascinating glimpse into what was a very difficult and harsh reality for many. Interwoven throughout the exhibition is the artwork of over 200 students aged between six and seventeen. 

...thousands of men pinned forever to the map of France like months ....

Echoes Across The Century is a collaboration between Livery Companies and schools delivered for Livery Schools Link, with Guildhall Art Gallery and supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Housed inside Churchill’s set design that transports us to a First World War trench, the walk-through exhibition explores the stories of soldiers, ordinary people supporting the war effort ‘behind the scenes’ and the grief-stricken families, friends and lovers that were left behind. Churchill was inspired by the touching story of her great great uncle, Second Lieutenant William Goss Hicks, and the fiancée he left behind in Kent after his death in France nearly 100 years ago on 3rd July 1917. 

The exhibition features over 600 objects through which real and imagined tales are told through heritage artefacts and reactive ‘response’ artworks.
The project benefited from a grant of £99,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is the gallery’s first exhibition to operate as a large-scale installation.  

Degrees of Separation
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors are immediately immersed into Jane Churchill’s own compelling installation Degrees of Separation which explores the love story between Churchill’s great great uncle William Goss Hicks and his fiancée Jessie Ellman. Highlights include Hicks’ personal effects as well as stunning moth assemblages, sculpture, collections of cased objects, sepia photographs, paper boots and an original saddle that survived the Battle of the Somme. 

A trench of young talent
Under the tuition of Jane Churchill and producer Alison Truphet, students from 14 London schools worked with the City of London’s livery companies to create touching emotional responses associated with not only the trench life of soldiers, but all those supporting the war and who were affected by it. Key pieces include recruitment posters, paintings of ambulances and spectacles, playing cards, profound diary extracts, a sky full of war-time planes and a stunning peace memorial. Illustrative artworks by Churchill are interwoven amongst the students’ work, telling personal stories of love and loss. 

Jane Churchill, Curator of Echoes Across the Century said: 
“This has been a very personal experience for me as I have always had a connection to WW1 and my inspiration for the project came from the terribly sad story of my own great great uncle and the affect his death had on those he left behind. Working with such wonderful and talented students has been deeply rewarding as they all embraced the project and understood how art could be used to express both history and emotion. They developed independent thinking and confidence as they worked with me to explore different skills and techniques to bring these stories to life.” 

Saddle on loan from the Saddlers Company- survived the Battle of the Somme

Visitors are encouraged to share their thoughts about the exhibition by writing on cards provided and hanging them by the entrance.  Free workshops will allow visitors to create their own artworks in response to the exhibition on 14thJune. Free artist talk led by Jane Churchill will also take place at the gallery on 7th July between 1pm and 2pm. 
The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Art Gallery, invests £80m every year in heritage and cultural activities of all kinds. It is the UK’s largest funder of culture after the government, the BBC, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
For more information or to book a place on a workshop, visit

 Opening times: 10am - 5pm (Monday – Saturday), 12pm - 4pm (Sunday)

About Jane Churchill

She is a maker of imaginary worlds and often accesses the creativity of others. An intuitive seer of what is needed in the creative process within her own work and those she works with.
Her background includes theatre set design and creation, installations and exhibitions.
She has been resident artist and consultant with organisations, community groups and schools for over ten years and curated a gallery in Kent for six years.
Her work has seen her develop and deliver hundreds of projects in engagement through the arts. She has worked with museums to illuminate heritage.

About Alison Truphet

Involved in education, since 1996, her role evolved from leading a languages department in a secondary school to becoming an educational projects consultant in 2007.
As administrator for Livery Schools Link from 2009 to 2016, she increased membership, raised its profile and developed a programme of annual events for students and teachers including an annual education conference and careers events.
She is passionate about developing students’ sense of adventure and extending their horizons beyond the classroom.

She has 10 years’ experience devising and leading educational projects in expressive arts, international exchanges and travel, community engagement, careers awareness, design and history.

Special thanks to Rosemedia Group - for detailed copy of the exhibition.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Reinventing Kings Cross - 'The Knowledge Quarter'

It is good to be drawn out of your comfort zone. I was invited to be part of the Footprints of London team to walk students from Central America around the Kings Cross development site as an example of regeneration.

I had connections with this massive development site since 1980's when the property developers I worked for created the London Regeneration Consortium and architect Norman Foster created the first of many master plans for the site. The big bang came and went and the project bit the dust. Had it been built, it would of course already be out of date! So every cloud has a silver lining and with new building techniques and innovations the site is said to be  'future proof', it can adapt to growth and easily add future service requirements without much disruption to the existing.

Kings Cross area in 1950s

Where do we start? Kings cross has a 'big' history if a rather shady recent past. The coming of the railways, an intrinsic part of the industrial Revolution, made this area north of London ideal for private companies to build termini and depots for the goods arriving to feed and power London and onward to supply the Empire. The pastures and small villages on what was the outskirts of London, were soon gobbled up by iron and steam.

The first station completed was Lewis Cubitt's Kings Cross in 1852 for the Great Northern Railway Company. A temporary station was built at the top end of the site to assist with crowds arriving for the Great Exhibition of 1851, this is now part of Waitrose and an Ice Cream Parlour. 

St Pancras Station built by George Gilbert Scott for the Midland Railway Company including the Gothic grand hotel built in 1868. A further hotel for the Great Northern Railways was added to cater for the many Victorians travelling in and out of London, journeys were long but getting through the metropolis was no easy task either, so comfortable accommodation was paramount.

By C20th the stations were still in use but the depots and goods yard were underused and the site had become an industrial wasteland. You did not linger in the area, taxi, tube or bus whisked you away, from an area rife with drugs and prostitution. So what changed?

In 1996 the Eurostar arrived at St Pancras and became the catalyst for change. The British Library moved from Bloomsbury next door to St Pancras Hotel (by now also abandoned). Something had to happen to breathe new life into the area.

The site today - under construction

2001 Argent were announced as the developer for the 67 acre site. They in turn formed a consortium with London & Continental Railways and DHL to form Kings Cross Central Partnership. The site was to become a business hub for the C21st and was dubbed 'The Knowledge Quarter'. This was possibly due to the arrival of the British Library in 1967 and the proximity of the Wellcome Institute as well as UCL. 

So the plan included 50 new buildings, 2000 new homes, 20 new streets, 10 new public squares and one new London postcode N1C, a place to live, work and study.

German Gymnasium

The clearing of the site of much of the industrial infrastructure was paramount to provide sufficient tracts of land to build new offices and accommodation. However much of the site required decontamination after years of coal fired fuel and gas being manufactured in the area. Therefore only suitable for business rather than residence in the heart of the development. 

Also Grade II listed buildings pepper the site. The German Gymnasium a fine example of what migrating populations gave to the community in the past. Built by Germans in 1864 it was the first purpose built gym in England! It was the birthplace of the Olympics, then called the British National Olympics, the forerunner of the international Olympiad we enjoy today. Also encouraged and invited women to exercise in the hall.

Beautifully preserved, although truncated to the west, to allow for Eurostar, that end it has been recreated exactly as it was before and now houses a D&D Group restaurant serving, schnitzel, bratwurst and sauerkraut and other central European dishes. A perfect place for a meal at departure or upon arrival. Essential to have support businesses to the station and the offices. The gymnasium had closed down by 1908 and the society moved out of London. The fine oak tree in the piazza was given by Germany as a message of goodwill and celebration.

Pancras Square & Kings Boulevard

Beautifully landscaped square covers the site where the gas holders of the Pancras Gas Company. The current HQ of Google was a great favourite with the student and confirms the intention to create an area of knowledge, who better as an 'anchor' tenant than Google! They are planning a bigger HQ, supposedly as long as the Shard is high, with only 10 floors, (height limitations, to protect the views of St Paul's). This new building will face King's Boulevard. Do notice the new post code above.

The Cor-Ten steel building in the top left is by Eric Parry.

Do go and visit the Viewing Platform - at the top of the Boulevard. This long main street is usually full of pop up food stalls during lunch times, the platform is an ideal spot to view the size and layout of this new quarter, with great visuals to point out famous and infamous buildings of the skyline.

The Granary

Another Grade II listed building on the site which proclaims the integrity and engineering skill of the Victorians, it is still standing strong. A Lewis Cubitt building and completed at the same time as the King Cross Station. An imaginative re-purposing of a major existing structure by architects Stanton Williams. It houses the University of Arts London, and is attached to the new Central St Martins. The architects have kept the grain shute and created an atrium, allowing light into what was the transit area. Ceiling heights are too low for offices so the upper levels have become the library for the University. 

This was once the heart of the multi-modal transport system of Kings Cross, where the supply and distribution of food and power for London was controlled by rail, water and horsepower (the real thing). The building cleverly designed to take rail trucks, barges and haulage carts, all working as one big machine to distribute and unload goods arriving and departing. 

Some of the industrial architecture rail tracks and turning tables have been integrated into the design. Where the canal basin once was is now represented with a fountain display that is reactive to light, on hot sunny days it goes higher on grey days it is lower but lulls us with its watery rhythm. Also there is apparently an app you can download whereby you can create a game with the water spouts called 'Snake'!

West Handy Side Canopy - heavily restored but re-created by the same company who installed it in 1888 to cover over the unloading of fish and perishables. Waitrose has been inserted into one part but the rest is left as a huge events or entertainment space. Workouts happen here, as well as London Fashion Week using it has a never ending cat walk. The studios of Central St Martins open on to it and you can see the young creatives at work. 

The Illustration Gallery, an idea made reality by Quentin Blake is also in a Victorian Building nearby, which also houses the HQ of the Art Fund.

Residential with Camden Council Housing and Private combined
Most of the green spaces, new squares and landscaping is by Dan Pearson.

Waitrose  in the  'temporary station' of 1852 and the West Handyside Canopy

Kings Place, the Knowledge Quarter has many business serviced by excellent restaurants and outlets, and it is not surprising there is also culture to hand. However Kings Place (Architect: Dixon Jones) was there before all the rest. A music charity had the foresight to build a concert hall (the first in London for 30 years) and create culture hub in 2008. It is also the HQ of The Guardian and includes an art gallery in part of a gas holder. So media, art, music and entertainment are also well covered at Kings Cross.

Kings Place

The Regents Canal flows through the site and of course the canal was there before the railways, although somewhat subsumed by them.  It now offers a delightful walk along its banks, plus of course barges are home to some 3,300 residents. Camley Street Nature Park are also nearby, in situ since 1984, reclaiming an abandoned coal drop, which has become a verdant urban oasis.

From the bridge over the canal you can also see the gas holders that had to be moved but could not be disposed of as also listed. The majority were dismantled and sent away for refurbishment and then returned to the north west of the site.  One is now a park and the others are made into high-end apartments. 

The last but one stop is the Francis Crick Institute - a hi-tech bio medical research centre. For the first time connecting researchers, different disciplines, academic institutions and healthcare organisations and businesses under one incredible roof.  The flagship for UK biomedical science. It is a pity I did not take a photograph of it nor the sculpture in front of it, but you will enjoy it all the more when you seek it out. An inspirational addition to the Knowledge Centre. A centre in memory of Alan Turing is coming next.

The final stop is the British Library, moved to the site in 1997, around the same time as the Eurostar. One of the catalysts for change in the area, a perfect location with the Wellcome Trust and UCL nearby. Holds 14 million books, collects all books published in the English language, many rare manuscripts. Also has a digital library that keeps a copy of UK websites, plus a business IP Centre, which can used for free. Plus much more. 

British Library

I hope this has aroused your interest and you will want to explore the Quarter yourself or take a walk with us. 

I would like to acknowledge and thank the original author of this walk Rob Smith for sharing this with us. Please check out  Footprints of London for Rob's regular walks. Miss B will only be doing this walk on special request.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Catching up with MissB - February - April 2017

Where on earth has the time gone? Already Easter break and then it will be no time at all before we celebrate May Day.

With the best intentions it has been hard to keep up with the blog so I am going to bring you right up to date with a monthly review of what I have been up to starting from February.

February - bleak and cold after my sojourn in the Caribbean. But plenty to do.
Firstly an mini exhibition at the Museum of London about the finds linked to the Walbrook, one of the lost rivers of the City. Each discovery adds to the knowledge of the archaeology and the course of the river, which is technically not a river but a stream, but we will leave it at that for now!

From this exhibition I decided revive my 'Walbrook Where Art Thou' tour which took place on 25th March with a great group of inquisitive and engaged folk. Weather was good and the City at the weekend is quiet. We started from the Museum of London so everyone could view the exhibits. The walk to the start point was interesting because there is a huge development at London Wall, a road that follows, yes, you guessed it, the line of the Roman Wall. I pointed out the ancient ruined church of Elsing 'spital and the reinstatement of the 'streets in the sky' aka pedways, but this time in cor-ten steel, to be festooned with green walls and new gardens below. Soon we will be able to walk from the MoL to Moorgate again above street level.

Also in March I was engaged to create a special birthday treat for a lady from her husband, the brief, history and architecture. So we began at St Paul's Underground and took in Christchurch Greyfriars, Postman's Park, West Smithfield and Charter House for the first segment. It was very cold and Storm Doris was gusting and blowing us about.  We took refuge in the new Charter House museum just opened, small and well presented, we also went to the chapel, just long enough to get warmed up before venturing out again. 

We walked through the City covering the financial heart, Bank of England, Royal Exchange, Mansion House, through alleyways to Leadenhall and finally to the 'Walkie Talkie at Fenchurch Street, where the couple had made a reservation for lunch in the Sky Garden.  'Doris' had become much stronger by then we had to hold on to bollards not to be blown into the on-coming traffic! All in a days work ...

February was also special for Georgian Dining Academy a Georgian events group I set up. We staged a glorious Valentine's Day late at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, it was many months in the planning and created to support the Emma Hamilton Exhibition (now ended).  Everyone had a fabulous time and we were thrilled at how well it all came together. You can see photographs and glean further information from the GDA web site.

Miss B & Miss Kitty Pridden at the Seduction Late - 14th February 2017


Then into March, which  is also my birthday month and I was lucky enough to be invited to the City of London Distillery, where we had a delicious gin tasting and I treated myself to a bottle of Christopher Wren Gin, the bottle taking the shape of the dome of St Paul's.

March was also the first of Georgian Dining Academy's Suppers at Simpson's Tavern off Cornhill, where we were liberally entertained with samples of, yes, more gin, this time Sacred Gin, distilled in a still in their home! Delicious and went down very well.

As a member of the T S Eliot Society I went to an evening of readings and music titled 'Decadence', actor Simon Callow was one of the readers at King's Place in Kings Cross. My first visit, but was not to be my last, as I soon discovered! A lovely evening and an excellent venue. The Waste Land Walk in the City goes from strength to strength and have planned several over the coming months. They are booked through Footprints of London.

St Mary Woolnoth
I am also going to be doing the same walk for the London Festival of Architecture, 1st-30th June 2017, T S Eliot will take prominence but I will also elaborate on some of the old and new buildings we see on the tour. Details will be available on the LFA - walks will be listed shortly. 

Miss B in action on King's Cross Regeneration Walk

King's Place featured again this month when I was invited to join the team of Footprints of London Guides to create a walk around the 'Knowledge Quarter' the creative hub that King's Cross has become. Our team of four being trained to take many groups of students from Central America around the site over several days. It was an interesting few weeks of research looking at the site not so much from a historic viewpoint but as a regenerated hub and how the old and the new had been organised to make the most of this 67 acre site. As the walk was one already featured on Footprintscreated by Rob Smith, I will only repeat this walk for private groups. I will post separately to show the route with lots of pictures.

King's Place was one of our stops. This build was one of the earliest projects on the site, it was built in 2008 by Dixon Jones, for a music charity and also houses The Guardian newspaper and includes an art gallery. The first new build concert halls for many years in London and the enhances the site as an access to the arts.  

Google HQ 

Development site in the 1950s

The fabulous Granary today and home to Central St Martins and UAL

My volunteering also kicks off in March when 2 Willow Road opens after its winter rest. You may have read my post on the Winter Clean 2016. always love going back to Erno Goldfinger's house and guiding people around. We will be open now until end of October this year. 


So we are in April, which included a visit to the Handel & Hendrix Museum, two musical greats, worlds apart, but ended up choosing to live in the same street, and in adjoining houses! Handel also features big in my life this year. Working on a couple of cultural cruises on the river with Georgian Dining Academy 2016, one of my talks was about Handel's Water Music so with London Historians we have got together to create an event.  

(Please note you are welcome to join London Historians, we are a good humoured and multi-faceted  knowledgeable bunch. If you do, please mention Miss B)

On 17th July 2017 it will 300 years since Handel composed and performed the Water Music for George I on the River Thames. Our group including support from Handel House and Amade Players are all aboard on that day to play this great piece of music live on a boat up and down the river. You can find details here on how to book.

So this is at least some of the things I have been up to, there are a couple of separate posts, one about Kings Cross, plus I want to give an up date of some of the gardens I have been working on or photographing recently. Back soon!