Tuesday, 15 September 2015

LITERARY AFTERNOON ‘No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990’ at Guildhall Art Gallery

Groundings:  Radical Readings from the Walter Rodney Bookshop at the Guildhall Art Gallery
A literary afternoon in the company of Britain’s leading Black publishers and writers


Sunday 27th September 2015 from 12.30pm – 4.30pm Admission:  £5.00 (plus booking fee) from Eventbrite

Throughout the tenure of its ground-breaking exhibition ‘No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990’ , one of the most comprehensive surveys of Black British cultural heritage and social history in recent years, the Guildhall Art Gallery is playing host to a series of scheduled accompanying events.  On Sunday 27th September, the gallery will be bringing together the key Black publishers and writers of the time for ‘Groundings: Walter Rodney Bookshop’, a unique opportunity to share stories, experiences of publishing and opinions regarding Black publishing in the future.

The Walter Rodney bookshop opened in Ealing, West London in 1975 by pioneering Black publisher and Black rights campaigner Eric Huntley, together with his wife Jessica. Originally called the Bogle L’Ouverture bookshop after Huntley’s publishing company, it was renamed in Walter Rodney’s honour after this Guyanese activist and scholar was assassinated in 1980. The bookshop hosted numerous meetings, talks and readings, which were known as ‘Groundings’ and became a cultural hub for like-minded literary and political activists, such as John La Rose, of New Beacon Bookshop. Between them, with ‘Race and Class’ journal, they created the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books, which took place between 1982 and 1995.

Highlights of the ‘Groundings’ literary event at Guildhall Art Gallery include:

  • A live interview with Eric Huntley by Dr. Margaret Andrews, chair of the Friends of the Huntley Archives and author of the acclaimed biography ‘Doing Nothing is Not an Option: The Radical Lives of Eric and Jessica Huntley’.
  • A fascinating insight by renowned artist and curator Dr Michael McMillan, into the process of recreating the multi-sensory, multi-visual Bogle-L’Ouverture Walter Rodney Bookshop which forms the centrepiece of the ‘No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990’ exhibition at the gallery.
  • ‘Publishing then, Publishing Now’: an open discussion with leading publishers of the era, including Arif Ali (Hansib Publications), Sarah White (New Beacon Books) as well as a conversation between Dr Michael McMillan, literary activist, live artist and poet Dorothea Smartt and Kadija (GeorgeSesay RSA, an award-winning literary activist, publisher and poet, on the community publishing output of the Centerprise Publishing Project in East London, which was founded by Black publisher Glenn Thompson in 1971.
​The afternoon will close with readings from leading contemporary Black poets:
  • John Lyons, one of the exhibiting artists in the ‘No Colour Bar’ exhibition, who published his first poetry collection ‘Lure of the Cascadura’ with Bogle L’Ouverture Publishing (1989) will be reading from this work and his latest books published by Peepal Tree Press and Cane Arrow Press.
  • Dorothea Smartt will be reading from her acclaimed chapbook, ‘Reader, I married him and other queer goings-on’ (published by Peepal Tree Press)She will also be sharing extracts from a new work based on archival research and a recent trip to Panama, which imagines the lives of West Indians as they moved from Barbados to work on the Panama Canal at the turn of the 20th century.
Books by and about all the publishers and speakers will be available for sale at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

My Saturday & Sunday - So good I have to share!

Last weekend was so fabulous, fun and fulfilling that I have to share it on my blog.  I am still smiling and tingling with the excitement and potential of it all. Happy Monday was followed by a Taxing Tuesday, but here I am with speedy fingers, still wanting to write it all up.

Where do I start?

A quiet relaxing Saturday morning getting in the mood and preparing for the wedding party of two wonderful people in the evening, plus a meet up for a quick Birthday drink with Jane, my London Historian pal in Camden.  Not a good idea you think?  Well it turned out to be the perfect night out ever!

Arrived in Camden Road in bright sunshine so Jane and I sat ourside the Grand Union, I was immediately taken with the cocktails on the blackboard at £5 each, so ordered a Mojito which was prepared right in front of me, and was delicious. Whilst supping and chatting, a chap left a card on the table and invited us to a gallery view across the road.  'Are there drinks available?' I asked cheekily, 'Yes most certainly' he replied.  Well that settled it. I was feeling I should get down the road to the Wedding but Jane intimated the view would not take long. WRONG!

The pavement outside the Camden Image Gallery was buzzing with gorgeous young things, supping, chatting and laughing.  We were dazzled immediately we entered the Gallery, this was going to be SOOOO good.

I was very taken with the work of Kassia Niemczynska - extraordinary penmanship and eclectic subject matter, as Kassia is an illustrator that would not be unusual. The 'Guardian's' drawing was particularly powerful, a small girl-child 'embraced' by her guardians made me think of those scary german fairy tales, or stories of magic with your other self taking the form of an animal/familiar of the forest or the air. Impressive and her web site is here, http://nkassia.com/.

Next work to amaze and distract was by Billy Valencia, an architect, so no surprise there, that he is good at detail, and how! Erotic doodles that make you examine his work in way that might be considered inappropriate, but it is art after all and it should be inspected closely! His nimble fingers are bewitched by the Indian Goddess Gaia, the lady of the many breasts, methinks!



very close!

The paintings by Brian Hollingsworth are big, bold and colourful, and give a powerful punch, just check out the titles! After the minute detail offered by Billy, they are a welcome feast to the eye. This is a most talented individual, check out the link!


The exhibition is open until 23rd August, the last night is also a 'meet the artist' event. 12-5pm.

I had to leave, reluctantly.  I had a wedding to go to! Left Jane with her Rose wine and wended my way to the reception being held at The London Irish Centre in Camden Square, a splendid venue. I was just in time to see the happy couple dancing Swing, having just completed their wedding Tango. Several familiar faces from the tango scene were there as well as special friends.

The couple who are both expert dancers of both styles went out of their way to ensure all the dancers were able to get on the dancefloor. Plus some standard wedding favourites, you guessed, Abba!  Managed to persuade a friend to get up and swing/jive with me, we just followed the music and 'swung' our way around, so addictive we did not want to stop. I have made up my mind that I am definitely going to try this style of dance, it is such a 'happy' unrestrained kind of movement compared with the wonderful but somehow upright and 'static' embrace of Tango.

Got a lift home to South London, driving across London we put the world to rights and I dropped into bed with my sore feet, feeling giddy with my mixture of Mojitos and Champagne so very happy, very happy indeed.

An evening of new friends, old friends, art and talent and dancing at a celebration of love between two wonderful people.

Scroll right down to the end of this link and you will see the happy couple, Loretta and Onel - beautiful people.


SUNDAY at Morden Hall Park

Stable Yard - Cafe, Second Hand Books & Exhibition Area

Woke with a fuzzy head but ready for my History Walks at Morden Hall Park, one part of me was wondering if I was going to remember anything!

Arrived at the Hall without my glasses or my National Trust Badge, so far not good. One I could not swot up me notes, nor did I have i.d.  Nevermind the bag and walkie talkie I have to carry around are both big enough to give me credentials!

Two folk for the first walk and what lovely people.  As this had become a personal tour I could really expand on the history and answer as many questions as were asked, the fuzzy head soon gone when in plugged in to guiding mode.  The 1pm tour amounted to a lady coming for a recce for The People's Pilgrimage on 11th October, 'to beat climate change every step counts'.  The National Trust have agreed for the 'pilgrimage' to take place in the grounds.

Wander the Wandle River

Again there were just us so I could offer all sorts of tips and ideas, the walk on the 23rd includes prayer and music, so I showed Juliet some out of the way areas where the group would be able to pray or sing a hymn. A fascinating afternoon and the kind of work I like, sharing the history of this lovely park as well as facilitating an event.

Spent the rest of Sunday chillaxing and reading, feeling good about life, the world, the universe and everything.

Outdoor Theatre in the Rose Garden - check events

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

'No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990' new Exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery

The City of London is not adverse to cultural diversity, paticularly regarding banks, people and food, and the new exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery really packs a punch, in words, film and the works on display, as the pamphlet states -  'is one of the most comprehensive surveys of Black British Art in recent years'.

Fowokan (b. 1943 - ), Lost Queen of Purnambuko, 1989.
The exhibition takes the form, in part, as a replica bookshop opened in Ealing in 1975, and re-named after Walter Rodney (a prominent Guyanese activist and scholar - assassinated in 1980).  The bookshop was the brainchild of Jessica and Eric Huntley, who founded Bogle-L'Overture Publications in 1969.

John Lyons, Jab Jab, 1988 (C) The Artist.

As policitical activists, involved in international activisim and campaigning, they published the works of black writers and artists, whilst also providing a space for 'political and creative engagement' where they 'could meet one another and interact in the community'.  At this time this was an enlightened and radical idea and not without its problems. This is dealt with in detail using the Huntley's business and personal papers, which are on loan from the London Metropolitan Archives. The audio visual is a real 'eye opener' as to what was going on in their neighbourhood, and other areas of London too.

Installation shot, Jessica
Jessica Huntley was a prolific letter writer, and fundraiser (some are available to read at the exhibition) and international at that, considering a time without computers and the world wide web, one cannot help but wonder how much further her outreach would have extended if she had had the technology of today at her fingertips!

Tam Joseph, UK School Report, 1983. Image courtesy Museums Sheffield. LR

The Exhibition Team are also worth a mention:

Makeda Coaston Curator, Black British Art in Action (Friends of the Huntley Archive at LMA) and described as a change maker and senior cultural strategist with over 25 years' experience.

Katty Pearce, Curator, Black British Art in Action - works at the Guildhall Art Gallery and was very busy last year when she co-curated the rehang of the new permanent collection completed January 2015.

Michael McMillan, Curator, Walter Rodney Bookshop. His curatorial work includes the critally acclaimed: The West Indian Front Room (Geffrye Museum 2005-6). Plus so much more.

Also a special mention to Crescent Lodge, who created all the art work, props, signage for the exhibition, the banner above as you go in to the exhibition was hand painted to be in keeping with the way Jessica & Eric Huntley would have had it made, all hands to the cause.

Chila Kumari Burman, Auto Portrait, 1995, inkjet on canvas (c) The Artist

We may also be getting used to having the famous Copley painting covered up to be used as a projection screen.  It is a great idea and creates an impact which ignites your interest the moment you arrive on the first level of the gallery. You will also see a couple of paintings from the No Colour Bar exhibition amongst the Victorian collection, they certainly create an impression!

The exhibition is Free and is on until 24th January 2016.

The Guildhall Art Gallery is open Monday to Sunday.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Below Smithfield Market - More of Crossrail at Farringdon

You will have most probably already ready my first blog about my visit last Monday, 20th July, but there was oh so much more to show and tell!

The project manager took us wherever we wanted to go and the tour would not have been complete without seeking out the underground Victorian tunnels, especially those that were used to bring the meat to Smithfield market by rail.  They will come into use again once Crossrail is up and running as shunting areas for South West trains and various other railway related works.

As we left behind us the shuttering, blasting, spraying and sheeting of the modern engineering practice, you immediately were drawn to the extraordinary skill of the brickwork of the old tunnels. They are immense, long, deep and the vaulted ceilings are a wonder. The tracks are still underneath just covered up with aggregate and chalk for the time being to protect them from the current comings and goings of machinery.  Part of the tunnels, under Smithfield Market will be the power house for London Underground, cables and technical stuff being re-routed and made tidy as part of a Crossrail agreement.

Also a northern section of Smithfield Marked is currently propped up by squat black boxes the size of a catering tin of tomatoes! See picture below. Closely monitored, I can assure you, and sight to behold and wonder at. All movement in all parts of the excavation and building works are closely monitored by prisims attached to walls and checked with clever technology, so the minutest movement can be discerned.

Walking through the tunnels to the end we come out to see the rear of the new Farringdon Station, with the Tube line running along to our right behind Cowcross Street.

Narrower tunnels on the right side once used as office
and for storage by the Shunting Manager, space to make
a brew!
Under a bridge - name now obscured by graffiti

How to hold up a large building! Floating Smithfield Market
Example of the clever device that is holding up the foundations of Smithfield Market. 

Great brickwork - all of one piece.
Looking back to Barbican Station across the Farringdon site.

Looking down the Victorian tunnel to our exit point.

The cut-out oblong square in the roof is where the carcasses were hauled up to the meat market.

Coming up to the Snow Hill Curve that feeds to the left, we are going for the right.
At one time, long ago, connected to the Post Office stop.
A decorated Victorian post not sure if it's an air shaft or a lamp post of sorts?

Trains coming and going from Barbican Station

Looking towards the new station at Farringdon.

The colour orange!

Great shafts used for boring holes horizontally which are then filled with cement.
These go for many metres in a 'sun ray' pattern in all directions. They are and used to stablilise the ground
around the tunnel site and fan out for many metres.

Underground lines leading to Barbican Station, behind Cowcross Street.
Special thanks to the Project Manager and Crossrail staff who made this a very special tour!
A job well done and on time. Looking forward to seeing the completed project in 2018.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Going underground with Crossrail - 20th July 2015

Visit to Farringdon Crossrail

Farringdon Crossrail Site 26th November 2014

By special invitation to tour the development of the Crossrail hub at Farringdon was a wonderful surprise and I could not sleep the night before with the excitement and anticipation of this visit.

There were only six of us who were met by the Project Manager at the turnstile to the Charterhouse Entrance of the site. We had a stringent Health & Safety talk prior to donning our PPE, trousers, jackets, boots, hard hats, glasses and gloves, thankfully orange is my favourite colour!  Health & Safety and protection throughout the site for everyone is a super high priority, you are aware of this wherever you go. Warnings, signs, briefings at various levels as to what was going on, whistles blowing, watch our for red lights monitoring air quality control. This is not the kind of building site I played on when I was a kid!

For all this the vast hole created to get the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) in was now fast being covered over and filled in with structures to house escalators, lifts, plants, concourses, exits and entrances, service tunnels, all now taking shape, since the TBMs fell silent.

There were four on site, two are infilled with concrete, one with a time capsule, and both buried on site. One was named Ada after Ada Lovelace, under Charterhouse Square, and the other Phyllis (after Pearsall) under Lindsey Street. The two remaining Elisabeth and Victoria, are being dismantled by the same teams that put them together at the start of this mammoth tunnelling task in this section of Crossrail. Short film here made after our visit! http://londonist.com/2015/07/video-inside-farringdon-crossrail#gallery=660069,660078

Spraying concrete in the lower escalator shaft.

This is the beginning of the end for this site, an odd thing to say when completion is not due until 2018, but looking at the bigger picture, the major work is done and believe it or not, the idea whole idea of  Crossrail began circa 1945!

Farringdon site November 2014

Farringdon July 2015
The white tubes are acting as supports they will be removed

Shuttering going up for the concrete wall - the escaltor pit is behind it

The mesh screen in the background is concealing the Underground Line from Barbican

Above ground level with Long Lane in the distance

Up against the site off Long Lane.
They have moved out temporarily whilst building works going on!

Escaltor shaft in awkward place therefore dug out by diggers and then concrete
sprayed via a splended machine directed by man in 'spacesuit' 

Esclator shaft

Concrete buttresses to base of concrete walls.
The stabilisers across top of photo will be removed eventually.

One of the tunnels awiting waterproof lining and final layer of concrete finish

Going deeper, if the beacon goes red we have to leave fast as air quailty compromised.

Final level, as deep as we go.

Elizabeth the TBM her work is done. Looks epic and most spectacular in size and form.

Endless air tunnels, funnels and equipment

Victoria TBM being dismantled. All her innards removed and the frame then
moved along and hoisted out (I think?)
The TBM are taken apart by the men who built them - specialists.

A large chunck of Victoria - the whole machine is recycled.
Too heavy to take a momento.

Fascinated by this huge pulsating vacuum that keeps air flowing.

The orange waterproof liner, which includes in the black strips pipes to allow grouting to be
poured in at a later stage if cracks or damage appears - forward thinking.
Tunnels guaranteed 120 years but will last much longer.

A finished main tunnel to the right, the left is a service tunnel.

The east-west breakthrough stretching from Paddington in the west to Woolwich in the east is complete to achieve this it required:

  • 8 tunnel boring machines
  • 7 million tonnes of excavated earth
  • 250,000 concrete segments
  • 3 years of underground construction
  • 42 kilometres of running tunnels
  • 98% excavated earth has been beneficially reused at sites across South East
  • Tunnelling works accompanied by one of the largest archaeological programmes in the UK

Read more about Farringdon Crossrail at http://www.crossrail.co.uk/route/stations/farringdon/current-works/