Darren Hayman: LIDO

September 18, 2012

It’s a long time since I posted anything here [work has kept me endlessly busy over the last few months] but I do have a few things on the back burner that I would like to write about once I get some downtime. In the meantime I felt compelled to post up a little something about the latest album by Darren Hayman, LIDO. I had read a few snippets about this album, and not being too familiar with Hayman’s previous efforts [as the frontman of Hefner], I was seduced by the thoughts behind it and the care and effort that had gone into the overall package.

Yes, the album IS about a selection of open air swimming pools in the UK, with each track being an instrumental form of dedication.. Alongside this, Hayman has also produced hand-drawn illustrations to accompany each song, depicting each of the pools in question. The whole thing is packaged beautifully in a cardboard sleeve designed by and featuring cover art from Frances Castle. If this is the way that musicians have to lure us into buying physical product in the age of the digital, then I am certainly all for it.

Darren has also been writing and accompanying blog, which can be found here.

Now, I should go and give it a listen…

Olympic Site April 2012

April 12, 2012

Almost two years ago, I uploaded a few photographs of the Olympic [building] site in the post here. Yesterday, I cycled back along the Greenway to see how things have changed – it is only around two months until the Olympics actually begin. Thankfully, things seem to have moved on a huge amount – the area around the stadium is starting to get ‘cleaned up’ with real roads and openings around it. The athletics tracks are now laid, marked and turfed which is quite amazing to see as last time I came here this was just a wasteland. The Ron Arad sculpture looks like it is near completion and looks to have a viewing tower at the top which will I imagine would give an unrivalled view of the stadium interior and the surrounding area.

The Greenway was full of various groups of people from various countries taking guided tours of the area, along with numerous tour buses circling around. I take this as a taster of how London will be with the imminent descent of thousands of extra people to the area.

I have posted the photographs I took below – if you click on the panoramic images, they should open into a larger view.


March 16, 2012

I recently visited Milan to attend an eyewear trade show, and managed to take one afternoon in which to have a look around the city. One thing that became immediately obvious was just how much graffiti covered any available surface. It reminded me a little of the outskirts of Paris, but the difference being that in Paris they seem to have been able to keep more of a control over it as you get closer to the centre.

One phrase / statement that I kept spotting was “NO TAV”. Without a clue what it meant, it became something that I started to look out for and become more interested in. Sometimes it was scrawled very quickly on the open surface, others had a little more time taken over them with larger block letters, and eventually I began to notice stickers too. Realising that “TAV” must be something bigger than some teenager putting a tag up, I consulted our old friend Google to see if it could shed any light on the matter. It would appear that NO TAV is actually a huge movement [beginning in the middle of 1995] fighting against Government plans to build a high-speed train link between Turin, and Lyon in France. There seem to be various reasons as to why the group are against the building of the train. one is that it is felt it would be uneconomical due to the high cost. Another is felt that it is simply being used as a profit-making scheme for the large shareholders investing in the programme, as they will primarily be the ones benefitting. Other reasons site noise pollution, environmental damage and disruption to water. There is an official NO TAV website [http://www.notav.info/] and various other propaganda websites discussing the subject, but as with all of these types of protests it seems that violence has become a by-product of the campaign.

This is from Italy Calling, posted in the summer of last year:

After a crowded torchlight march on the night between June 26th and 27th, the Free Republic of the Maddalena in Piedmont was brutally assaulted by a full-scale military operation performed by around 2000 forces that turned the place into a battle site: teargas thrown at eye level, bulldozers and heavy vehicles used to evict the camp, water jets against protesters, beatings, tents and equipment smashed up. In the nearby town of Venaria, a riot police vehicle on its way to the site ran over and killed “by mistake” an elderly woman. Demonstrations, pickets and several other initiatives were organised all over Italy to show solidarity with the NO TAV movement that for years has been fighting against the construction of a high-speed train line between Turin and Lyon in France. A national demo was called out for today 3rd July, and  it’s still going on as I’m writing this.  It’s about 8.40pm and it’s difficult to have a clear idea of what’s been happening at the Maddalena today, but what is clear is that there have been hundreds of people injured on both sides (but it’s only one side that I care about). Police have been using rubber bullets and at least one young man is seriously injured after being shot in the face. Protesters have compared the military operation to the repression in Palestine…

Personally, I know much too little in order to have an opinion on the movement, I just find it interesting that noticing two words on a wall led me to the complex political web touched upon above.

On Eagle’s Wings: British Adventure Comics 1950 – 1969

March 4, 2012

Currently tucked away in a small corner room at the V&A Museum [Room 74, Level 3 to be exact] is a modest exhibition showing how the adventure comic grew in popularity in post-war Britain. The “baby boom” following the end of the war coupled with a relax in conditions of rationing meant that by the 1950s a new generation of children emerged eager for entertainment, with pocket money to spend.

Although old favourites such as The Beano and The Dandy first appeared in the 1930s, it seemed that it took a little while for the idea that comics didn’t have to be “comic” to grow. The adventure comic probably came to fruition post-war as children became more interested in the stories of their soldier fathers and also as they genuinely became more educated about the war itself.

Eagle was the first true adventure comic publication and featured new hero Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future [founded by John Marcus Harston Morris]. Morris had noticed a trend of British youngsters buying American ‘horror’ comics intended for reading by GIs. Impressed by the high standard of artwork in the US magazines, but disgusted by their content, he realised that a market existed for a children’s comic which featured action stories in cartoon form, but which also would convey to children the standards and morals he advocated. Running from 1950 to 1969 the publication was hugely popular [900,000 copies of Issue One were sold]. The comic was heavily publicised before its release; copies were mailed direct to several hundred thousand people who worked with children, and a “Hunt the Eagle” scheme was launched, whereby large papier-mâché golden eagles were set on top of several Humber Hawk cars, and toured across the UK. Those who spotted an eagle were offered tokens worth 3d, which could be exchanged at newsagents for a free copy of Eagle.

Eagle spawned many imitators and also gave rise for the first time of magazines for younger people to be marketed by gender with publications like Girl and Marilyn aimed towards young girls. These publications soon began to introduce readers’ issues sections creating the first ‘problem pages’ and laying the foundation for this section typical in so many of today’s magazines.

Stratford Then & Now

January 10, 2012

When I left Stratford a little under a year ago, I took a few photographs of the area for posterity, with the hope of seeing how it might change with the imminent arrival of the Olympics in June of this year. This Saturday, I finally got my bicycle back on the road and went for an early morning cycle to have a look around those areas I explored previously.

I came away with the feeling that Stratford is very different to the place I remember, but then equally it is very much the same. It’s a hard feeling to describe…aesthetically, on the surface, it is a very different place. A multitude of new residential buildings seem to have sprung up in every available space, radically altering Stratford’s horizon. and general appearance as you enter the area. However, turn down any corner or back street, and the Stratford of ‘old’ is never far away. The new tower blocks surround the old council estates, almost swamping them with their slick modernist facades…but nothing can hide the fact that they are still there. I am not saying by any means that those estates should be removed, but Stratford almost seems to be trying to paper over its own cracks rather short sightedly instead of thinking about long-term planning for the future.

It will be interesting to see how the area changes again, as July creeps ever closer – it seems that there is still a large amount to do to make Stratford into the ‘Olympic City’ it is being touted to be.









New footbridge spans the road into Stratford. I think that this is part of the redevelopment of the ‘Greenway’ walkway which allows people to walk directly alongside the Olympic stadium.

This is the corner of the road I used to reside on, and both of these buildings were not there one year ago.

The derelict building opposite my old apartment is STILL there, but now surrounded entirely by new builds. The Anish Kapoor Olympic sculpture can also now be seen in the distance.

Anish Kapoor sculpture [The “ArcelorMittal Orbit”]

The last time I saw this site, it was a garage.

Demolition of the canal side factory buildings in progress.

The Patek Phillipe Museum

October 7, 2011

On Wednesday I visited Switzerland to go to the office of Antima, who manufacture watches for Burberry. On the first day of the trip, I had some spare time in Geneva so decided to visit the Museum of Patek Phillipe watches. A brief history [from the official website]:

“On May 1st, 1839 two Polish immigrants, Antoni Patek (Businessman) and Franciszek Czapek (Watchmaker) joined forces to found « Patek, Czapek & Cie » in Geneva. In 1844, Mr. Patek met the French watchmaker, Mr. Adrien Philippe in Paris where the latter presented his pioneering  stem winding and setting system by the crown. In 1845 when Czapek decided to leave the company and to continue his activity on his own, the company name changed for « Patek & Cie ». Later on, in 1851 when Mr. Philippe officially associated with the company, it  was rebaptised « Patek Philippe & Cie », before changing once more in 1901 for « Ancienne Manufacture d’Horlogerie Patek Philippe & Cie, S.A. ». In 1932, the company was purchased by Charles and Jean Stern, two brothers owners of a fine dial manufacture in Geneva. Since then, « Patek Philippe S.A. » remains a family owned firm. In 2009 the company presidency was officially transmitted from the 3rd to the 4th generation : Mr. Thierry Stern became president and his father Mr. Philippe Stern, Honorary president.”

The collection at the museum contains not only Patek Phillipe watches, but also a good range of general historical watches. It is interesting to see how watches moved from being pieces that denoted only the hours, to the chronographs and extended editions that are available today. Patek Phillipe themselves invented the self winding system for watches – prior to this, all timepieces required a separate key to be carried in order to wind them up daily to keep them going. This is why when people are seen to be wearing pocket watches in historical imagery, the chain usually has two sections – one for the watch and one for the key. In the late 1800s, the enamel painting technique became very much in Vogue, as watches became more a symbol of status and wealth than actual items for telling the time.

Wrist watches only became popular in the early 1900s, but were mainly the preserve of women, and not seen as manly at all. However, during the First World War there was a move towards wrist watches for men, as soliders’ found a pocket watch to cumbersome and impractical to use during battle. In the present day of course, men are rarely seen to be wearing pocket watches. It will be interesting to see what happens to the humble watch as mobile phones, iPads and other electronic equipment all become the first port of call for obtaining the time. I have seen an ‘app’ that actually gives your iPod/iPhone etc a clock face, removing the need to carry a separate watch at all.

The Patek Phillipe Museum is in Geneva, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, Switzerland.


September 18, 2011

It gives me great pleasure to be able to [finally] share some information regarding the debut collection from newly established womenswear label MASC. The project is something very dear to me as it is the fruit of the labour from life and business partners Duncan Shaw and Belinda Yick, whom I would say are amongst my most loved people in the world.

The collection has been under wraps over the last year whilst brand DNA was established, business plans formulated and ultimately the garments themselves took shape. I knew that the end product would be of the highest calibre, but I have to say now that I have seen the brand come together as a whole, it surpasses even my expectations.

It has been great to be involved with the project from the start, and really watch it grow and became a ‘real’ fashion brand. I am full of admiration for Duncan and Belinda and it has been great to watch them pool their resources from around them and really submit themselves to something they truly believe in.

Selected to show at Vauxhall Fashion Scout during Fashion Week, the MASC team will be there until September 20th and I highly recommend taking the time to go and see what they have achieved whilst they are still on such a small scale.

More information can be found at www.behindthemasc.com.

The Elephant Will Never Forget

September 4, 2011

I have recently started learning a little bit more about the BFI, and the staggering range of  film and television heritage that they have preserved.  For those not familiar with the BFI, here is their own description of what they do:

“The BFI  promotes understanding and appreciation of film and television heritage and culture. Established in 1933, the BFI cares for the world’s richest and most significant collection of film and television, preserving almost one million titles.”

Along with film and television DVDs, they also publish books, show films at their own sites, and run the annual London Film Festival. One particular area of interest to me is their archive of ‘public information films’ which are basically collections of short films that were shown across Britain offering information on a wide range of topics as far-reaching as public health, safety and making journeys. I find it such a good insight into ‘how we were’ so to speak.

I picked up a collection of four films by John Krish titled ‘A Day in the Life: Four Portraits of Post-War Britain’. Krish has worked as both a director and a writer of films, and is mostly known for his documentary film making, but has also written and directed a number of feature-length films. The first film is ‘The Elephant Will Never Forget’ and revolves around the removal of the tram system from service in London in 1952. The name is taken from the Elephant & Castle former depot.

The story goes that Krish was asked by British Transport Films to attend the closing ceremony to shoot a short piece of film showing the final tram pulling into the depot and capture the moment the Chairman of London Transport shaking hands with the driver. However, Krish felt that there was an opportunity for something a little more celebratory given the event, so ‘borrowed’ multiple reels of stock film depicting trams in operation, and shot 8 more reels of film 5 days prior to the last tram ceremony showing the contribution that the trams made to London life. Seeing the result, Edgar Anstey [Chairman of British Transport Films] actually sacked John Krish! In the years that have followed though, the film has come to be known as something of a cult film, and much more than a simple information film. Some of the shots are brilliant, and the narration is perfect. Krish has managed to make me somehow sort of miss the London Tram, even though I have never had the opportunity [nor will I] to use them. It’s actually quite incredible to see the journey of the last tram – 20,000 Londoners came out on the streets to see and salute it. I find it difficult to imagine that sort of community spirit would occur in today’s world..

Here are some stills from the film, but I would try to view it [I’m sure it’s online somewhere] if you ever find yourself with a spare 20 minutes or so.

It seems to be a little bit of a grey area as to why the trams were actually put out of service, but there are some interesting points here.

Homepage for the BFI is here.

The Museum of Broken Relationships

August 25, 2011

Last night I went to see the recently opened exhibition titled ‘The Museum of Broken Relationships’ hosted by the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden. Set across two venues, the exhibition is put simply a collection, or documentation of failed relationships through symbolic items / artefacts. As sombre as this may sound, it made for quite an interesting evening, with a very varied mix of items displayed, each with equally varied stories about what the symbolised of the ruined relationship. Some items seemed to be there in order to get a laugh, but others were genuinely touching [for example one lady donated her entire album of Wedding photographs…]. All items are donated for free by individuals, either anonymously or with as much detail as they are willing to go into.

From the official website: “The Museum of Broken Relationships grew from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins. Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves, the Museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum’s collection. Conceptualized in Croatia by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, the Museum has since toured internationally, amassing an amazing collection. Although often colored by personal experience, local culture and history, the exhibits presented here form universal patterns offering us to discover them and feel the comfort they can bring. Hopefully they can also inspire our personal search for deeper insights and strengthen our belief in something more meaningful than random suffering.”

Admittedly, there is an air of ‘teenage angst’ surrounding some of the items, but if you want to see something different of an evening, I definitely suggest a visit. it is open until 10pm most evenings, and runs until September 4th.

More information here.


The Titanic at the O2

August 19, 2011

This afternoon, I took advantage of ‘Summer Hours’ and went to visit the long-running exhibition at the O2 all about the Titanic, and artefacts found within it. As far as I know, it is the only place in the world that you can actually see genuine artefacts found within the sunken ship. I learnt today that it wasn’t until an unbelievable 72 years after it sank that they were able to utilise the technology and get deep enough down to explore it.

The exhibition itself is actually worth the entry fee, spread throughout many rooms, and containing a large variety of interesting items to read and look over. Photography is not permitted anywhere within the exhibition [I got scolded by the ‘security’ guards a few times just for having my mobile phone out let alone for taking photographs]. However, that said I did manage to get a few photographs in. It’s quite amazing what they have actually managed to rescue from down there. There are linen handkerchiefs that have been on the sea bed for over 80 years, that still look somehow in pretty good condition. Probably still blow my nose on it today if I am honest. Along with this, there are so many personal possessions that have somehow been tracked back to their owners, creating small case studies of the passengers that travelled on the one and only voyage.

Below is what I managed to take photographs of, but there is so much more and I highly recommend paying it a visit if you have time between now and August 29th.

These are the floor plans of the various levels that made up the Titanic. Apparently it was the first vessel of its kind to feature a revolutionary three propeller system.

Draughtsmen working on the layout of the Titanic

This is a recreation of how a room would have looked on the First Class deck

This is a tap from the First Class bathroom suite, set into marble. Apparently all the taps had a spring back mechanism to ensure that water wasn’t wasted on board.

Fixtures and fittings used for handrails etc

Wine and Champagne bottles. This bottle here still contains Champagne, and hasn’t been uncorked since it was recovered.

This is the actual signal wheel used to send messages down to the engine room, and popularised by the film ‘Titanic’ etc. Think ‘FULL SPEED AHEAD’ and other commands.

Adolphe Saalfeld carried perfume vials on board as he hoped to take them to America in order to sell the scents. Amazingly, the vials survived and the scents can still be smelled today. The box that these were in had holes cut into it so that you could ‘sample’ them.