EXHIBITIONS serpentine 1

Greatly anticipated each year is the Serpentine Gallery’s architectural commission for a free-standing structure housed on the grounds directly next to the museum, and this year’s entrant is exceptionally impressive, a gracefully curvaceous “unzipped wall” from Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. Composed of 1,800 hollowed blocks placed in an irregular, jagged step pattern, culminating in a soaring spire at the very top, with beautiful sweeps at the sides, as if the pavilion itself is engaged in the act of respiring, from every angle the building is an ever-changing optic marvel, sometimes breathlessly opaque, sometimes cheerfully, playfully direct.serpentine 2 Once inside the crevasse-like entrance, the space opens up expansively, drowned in a soft, translucent light coaxed into the interior by the fibreglass material. The pavilion will be on view until 9 October

Inside the central gallery is a show devoted to the pleasant, if a bit blank, landscapes and portraits of octogenarian American artist Alex Katz. He does have an unmistakable skill with colour, which he wields to great emotional effect, especially in his landscape paintings, suggesting the brilliant, dazzling hue of sunlight on pasture, or the deep, nocturnal play of moonlight on a woodlands.serpentine 3 He’s certainly able to engage the senses, and as his work has become steadily more abstract-the suggestive movement of paint on the canvas, meaning held just outside perception- the most recent paintings hold the attention in ways the blunt strokes of his earlier pieces cannot. Alex Katz: Quick Light is on until 11 September

In the newest Serpentine space, the Sackler Gallery (once a storage unit for gunpowder, with two beautiful vaulted chambers) is Etel Adnan’s The Weight of the World, a comprehensive retrospective from this celebrated poet, essayist, artist and feminist, including painting, film, tapestry and poetry. Much of the material addresses dislocation and exile-born in Beirut in 1925, Adnan studied at both the Sorbonne and Harvard, eventually settling in California teaching philosophy.serpentine 4 The most interesting pieces in this inclusive overview are her series of vividly coloured suggestions of mountainous landscapes, heavily daubed with paint, replete with the tranquil pain of nostalgia, and her leporello works, accordion sketchbooks of cities with accompanying text, impressive in scale and design detail. This exhibition is also on through 11 September.




August will be an exceptionally busy month in London with the launch of three major cultural programmes in various corridors of the city. The National Theatre will host a month-long series of curated performance weekends just outside their Southbank quarters, with a calendar including dance, live-dj sets and concerts, workshops for kids, mixed media works and even an outdoor film screening. First up is the lightheartedly naughty and wicked East End drag establishment the Glory offering up handfuls of glitter and sparkle to properly open the proceedings, and subsequent weeks will see residences from sources as varied as Latitude Festival, Rambert dance company and Bristol’s Mayfest. River Stage is a streamlined version of the erstwhile Watch This Space which offered a more free-wheeling, antic agenda of performances, often of greatly varying quality. From 29 July-29 August

In defiance of the behemoth that is the Edinburgh Fringe, the monumentality of which consumes most of the creative and cultural air available in the UK during August, Camden has staged their own ambitious and comprehensive performing arts extravaganza throughout the borough since 2006, steadily expanding the breadth and scale each succeeding year, offering opportunities and assistance to fledgling artists who may not have the financial wherewithal to journey to Edinburgh. This year 250+ events are staged over 25 venues, encompassing readings, drama, musical theatre, opera, stand-up, poetry, dance and cabaret. The extensive line-up is dizzying with options, and one would be hard pressed not to find something of interest. I’ve never attended this festival, but I intend to redress that fact this year-the research has commenced! Runs 1-28 August

I’d also like to mention the intriguing Farmopolis, located on the Jetty on Greenwich Peninsula, once utilised as a drop off for coal destined for the nearby Blackwall Point Power Station, which has been transformed into a wonder of a floating garden and cultural space. Under the auspices and guidance of Secret Productions, a major international events corporation and Wayward, an urban landscape design firm, thousands of plants and landscaping materials from the recent RHS Chelsea Flower Show have been repurposed for this new environment. It’s the intention for the surroundings to be used for talks, workshops, the occasional performance, and for dining opportunities. The plan is to remain open for a 12-15 month period. The endeavour opens to the public on 30 July.



VENUE E & C art 1

Long considered a grubby, disheveled fringe of the city, with some notorious housing projects, Elephant and Castle is in serious flux, now a vibrant cacophony of development and civil progression. At the forefront of this evolution is this new project, a two-floor creative hive of start-up businesses and shops, buttressed by a ground floor of cafes and restaurants, all in repurposed shipping containers. The top tier also hosts, in great civic duty, a temporary community library. Each Saturday will feature a craft and food marketplace, and there is a lively calendar of events, including live dj sets, yoga workshops, exhibitions, readings and performances, including a triple bill this week of Edinburgh Fringe comedians previewing their material on the regularly featured £5 Fridays. Unlike Shoreditch’s Boxpark, which is entirely given over to commercial use, the team behind this stylish hub has structured the space for more expansive communal outreach. This warm, inclusive philosophy extends even to the physical shape of the space, two extensions at either side, as if arms open to generously embrace the central covered seating area at its base.E & C art 2 In comparison, the sheer commerce of Boxpark is reflected in its almost regimented rectangular dimensions. If this area has long been off your radar, here is the perfect opportunity to explore it anew-there’s certainly a renewed sense of movement and commitment in place.



ACTIVITY canal walk 1

Incorporating 32 miles of waterside pathways and encompassing an astonishing array of landscapes (pine forests, meadows, pastures, fern fields, reedy swamplands), this idyllic peregrination just an hour away from London will transport you to a vision of England seemingly only possible in imagination or myth. At several junctures along the journey, an image would manifest with such sudden and furious senses-shattering beauty I would swear it could only be the product of hallucination. As there are several bridges that span the canal, you may adjust the distance you walk according to level of ambition (although no great hills exist to test cardiac fortitude, the course is intensely and strenuously continuous, and at times you are far from any convenience), with the path stretching from West Byfleet in Surrey to the fringes of Basingstoke in Hampshire.canal walk 2 Many of the towns through which the route weaves are heavy with military presence (Aldershot, Odiham), much of the land in fact owned by the Ministry of Defence-you stumble upon, with much bemusement, a few bunkers (snipers’ dens, really) and the odd in appearance “dragon’s teeth”, fortifications in the shape of pyramids used to impede the march of tanks. You also pass by many enviable waterside properties, and the lushly landscaped acreages of a few country estates. It was especially lucky to pass by the runway of the Farnborough airport the day after the annual airshow, and have an unexpected aerial serenade of the participating planes as they left the field to return to their homes (it was a treat to witness a Spitfire and Lancaster take to the sky, as well as some sleek and state of the art examples of international aeronautical engineering). Being a weekday, only a handful of other people were encountered, so it was possible to feel comprehensively estranged from all stress and strain.canal walk 3 For a similar experience a bit closer to London, I would suggest the Parkland Walk between Finsbury Park and Muswell Hill that follows the route of a defunct railroad that used to run between Finsbury and Alexandra Palace. At 4.5 miles, the scale and scope is much more accessible and modest, and there are many memorable sights and discoveries along the way, most notably the viaduct at Muswell Hill and the concrete remnants of a station stop just before Crouch End. But I can’t wait for an opportunity to travel back to the Basingstoke canal to conclude the trail (12 miles of it still need to be traversed, having now conquered, mightily, the first 20). The walk provides a truly satisfying and very sensual day trip outside London. Maintenance and protection of the canal and its environs is in the fiercely capable hands of the Basingstoke Canal Society, active since 1966 in restoration and preservation of this 1794 landmark.canal walk 4


EVENT gdif 4

This year’s Canary Wharf branch of the GDIF certainly did not disappoint in showcasing the eclecticism of movement and expression possible under the general banner of dance performance, the standard set enormously high each season by this inexhaustibly boundless programme of sights and sounds. Commencing with “Without End”, in which a sombre nomadic trio physically supports each other against precarious elemental tides (the piece greatly heightened by its Thameside setting and forceful winds off the water which carried the constant threat of rain ), next up was “Stuck”, a madly percussive and precise duet between two office drones whose wildly spiraling hand and feet movements drifted slyly from competitiveness to mutual defiance against authoritative routine and oppression. Following was the appealingly shambolic but energetic “H.O.H”, which sought to discover links between hip hop expression and the footplay of the great game, culminating in a gloriously askew but irresistible invitation to all children present to join the performers up on stage; gdif 3“You and I Know” was a tender and affecting pas de deux by two disabled performers, suggesting the arc of a relationship from giddiness to disillusionment to acceptance of imperfection-the male performer achieved an astonishing agility and poetry with his wheelchair, a true expressive extension; “Act of Strangers” felicitously presented a brief flirtatious encounter on a public park bench.gdif 2 Less successful were “Slice”, an ill-conceived aerial display that should have been workshopped at greater length-narrative was incoherent, and the staging was sloppy, and “Phone Box”, although vividly performed by its sole performer, as he scrambled up and around and within the titular prop, was overextended and thinly conceived. These seven pieces represent only about one-third of the shows on the official schedule for the day, so a bit of research and planning can customise a calendar built around the interests or tastes of a particular individual or group-there’s a solid guarantee that no one can possibly be bored with the variety on display. gdif 1


CAFE Creed Lane 1

Just off the heaving sprawl of franchise restaurants that ring St. Paul’s Cathedral, on, appropriately enough, the street that provides its name, is this oasis of freshly prepared food and pastries, all made in-house daily. After the visual feast that is the window display of cakes and cookies and muffins (a most beautiful optic assault), upon entry a customer is faced with a counter of prodigiously assembled trays of colourful salads, quiches, sarnies and pies, all affordably priced, with generous combination deals that cost no more than £7. Vegetarians are well served, with numerous choices from the day’s dishes.Creed Lane 2 The staff is very personable and welcoming, and there is a comfortably casual seating area well off the queues at the counter, so that dining in doesn’t become a claustrophobic horrorshow. It’s admirable that an independent business can thrive amidst the strong elbows of the establishment restaurants, and the adventurous visitor to the area would be wise to seek out this modest treasure. Along with Gerry’s, a traditional Fleet Street caff just down the main road, with a decidedly and defiantly less heart-healthy menu (but very satisfying nevertheless, on a more indulgent day), Creed Lane is a true original in a forest of mass consumerism.Creed Lane 3 While in the area, a walk along the passageways behind Creed Lane are a secret and endless delight of even more smaller scaled shops, proper restaurants and takeaway cafes, seemingly a world away from the hustle and bustle of the ravenous city.


VENUE arts hotel 3

My sole interaction with Wood Green has been on the few occasions I’ve passed through its Piccadilly Line tube station on my way to an event or concert at nearby Ally Pally-otherwise, the area is fairly nondescript. With the recent opening of this new arts based hotel in a purpose-built, erstwhile electric power supply office and showroom art deco building, newly and inexpensively refurbished by the enterprising “social entrepreneur”Nick Hartwright, another reason for an excursion to this neglected corner of north London has been birthed. A spiritual cousin to New York’s famed Chelsea Hotel, the intent is for visiting artists to find affordable accommodations and space for both rehearsal and networking while in town.arts hotel 4 Rooms are priced generously between £18 for basic and £80 for a studio apartment per night, a colossal savings from a stay closer to the heart of London. Hartwright stresses that although artists are given privilege, all are welcome to avail themselves of rooms. In addition to shared performance and work space, there is a café for public use, and a unique “incubator” structure is in place for the restaurant operation, which will host six-month residencies for emerging chefs, an experiential step before launching into the wider spectrum of the London culinary establishment. The general manager has a background in the music industry, the chairman is a veteran of luxury budget hotel schemes, so all the right people are in place for a successful venture. Charitable grants from both Greater London Authority and Haringay Council have assisted Harkwright to fully realise his vision (the Royal Court and Somerset House have already contracted with the hotel to host their artists), and it behooves all of us to pay a visit to this exciting new project.