Saturday, 31 March 2012


Back in 1997 I stared at the telly in my far-flung colonial outpost in total disbelief, gawking at the mournful British public in shock, planting a sea of flowers outside Kensington Palace gates and  grieving over the death of their sad, lonely (and reputedly crazy) Queen of Hearts. I've been lucky enough to live very close to the Palace since then and have this year managed to worm my way into their volunteer workforce.

One of the advantages of this kind of gig is the free access to the impressive exhibitions, lectures and  'infotainment' these kinds of historical institutions are renowned for. After several months refurbishment, the Palace reopened in a blaze of glory on 29th March and no stone has been left unturned in terms of luxurious thick carpets underfoot, moodily ambient lighting and atmospheric exhibits which totally contemporise the modern 'palace-going experience'. 

Much as I love the traditional National Trust-style visit to an historic residence, Kensington Palace has truly created a unique selling point with what they call an 'experience' - a completely curated environment themed around elements of HRH Victoria's life. Unabashed disgruntlement at the lack of traditional museum labels, bright lighting and glass cabinet exhibits from a certain contingent was a refreshing testament to the success of the Palace's post modern re-imagining and its attempt to remain innovative and engaging to a broader cross-section of audiences.

Artist Julie Verhoeven has created a bespoke wallpaper (below) illustrating the many glamorous guises of the Queen of Hearts in a quirky, watercolour treatment so kitsch it seemed to reference Japanese anime. The Diana 'room' also included an 80s Versace dress the lady herself had worn, its very texture, fabric and dimensions seemingly larger than life when experienced 'in the flesh' after witnessing such a multitude of 2D images over the years courtesy of the world's gutter press.

The liberal use of silhouetting, light projection and individually hand-crafted installations all combined with the classic motifs of Albion history such as seafaring to create a truly magical atmosphere within the palace walls and enable the history of the rooms to come to life. After all...the cat can look at the Queen can't she?

Sunday, 25 March 2012


Nothing says late night, maudlin street like the first day after the clocks go forward and a beautiful twilight slowly descends after a sunny London weekend. It takes six months of deepest, darkest, winter purgatory to really appreciate the first few weeks of summer and feel your entire being gradually revitalise itself. These shots were taken tonight along the Southbank where the whole city seemed to be out in force celebrating the official dumping of our S.A.D. lights for another year... 

Dour Glaswegian tunesmiths Glasvegas have helped me through many a Dickensian winter's evening and James Allan's lyricism truly captures the zeitgeist of a northern hemisphere winter...   

Winter blues no love for you
Seasons change in a gothic way
10,000 lux to lift us up
In these winter nights if I'm wandering alone
I'll turn on my S.A.D. light

As I'm staring at Alpha Centuri
All I can see is low it's glow seems so far
How did I get to this point of things playing so heavy on my heart
Twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
I'll turn on my S.A.D. light

Listen to the track here

Saturday, 24 March 2012


Theres nowt more iconic of the fine city of London than the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott-designed K6 red telephone boxes still in use throughout many parts of the metropolis (though its days are surely numbered - thanks Steve Jobs)...quite often stinking of tramp's piss and decorated by the discipline & watersports touting cards of Eastern European hookers. I came across these two beauties on my travels this morning, mysteriously pretty in pink and a kitsch departure from the usual red they were last week...was it a post-ironic art statement or just the Westminster council tax monies in full effect? (So thats why my rents gone up).

These two pinkies reminded me of this great installation (below) I saw down in Folkestone last summer as part of the town's Triennial art festival. The inscription on the box's window by the mysterious 'Kevin, aged 9' (presumably the sensitive, misfit offspring of some council flat chav teenage parents so endemic in English seaside towns these days) is utterly hilarious in its ironic and sensitive appreciation of the intrinsic value of art which will more than likely have the crap beaten out of it on a Friday night. Rule Britannia...and god bless the welfare state.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Some parts of London are just so pretty they look like you've just stumbled onto some Hollywood backlot. These East End snaps below (round Shoreditch way innit) were taken after a day's wandering around Brick Lane, scoffing noodles and visiting hipster gallery spaces. The cool thing about the east is it is quite conceivable that you'll spot Gilbert & George in full suit regalia, poncing down towards home on Fournier Street, maybe stopping off at Tracey Emin's gaff for an Earl Grey on the way. (Emin would have 'a proper drink', of course). I was discussing G&G once after a Brick Lane curry with a friend visiting from the Antipodes as we walked down Fournier St and who should we see but the very same in person. Their early stuff was tres bien but the recent output is a bit too obsessed with bum holes for my delicate sensibilities. Of course it just wouldn't be cricket to say so, old boy. Stiff upper lip and all that.

G&G on Fournier Street (Google)

The notoriously over-exposed bum holes (Google)

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Back in The Land Of Hope And Glory where I now reside (as opposed to The Land That Style Forgot where I was born), the sun is shining and we have a long, hot Diamond Jubilee summer on the horizon. I've been known to doze away many a pleasant hour lazing on a sunny afternoon in Kensington Gardens. Kensington is such a beautiful part of London and its narrow back alleys still remind me of a more innocent era, sadly now confined to the nostalgic mists of history books. On one of my many charity shoppe pilgrimages (a big shout out to the ladies at the Hammersmith Amnesty Bookshoppe, purveyors of the finest second-hand books at very reasonable prices) I came across a delightful old book illustrating some lovely parts of west London. A couple of Kensington back streets (below) were included and I wanted to find out how much had actually changed since the original photographs were taken. I reshot the following images in 2010, and as you can see the basic architecture remains unchanged, only the vintage signage, clothing and the notorious London grime have been 'disappeared' by money and progress's inevitable, odious onslaught. Its interesting to note too how the Dukes Lane top windows have been reconstructed and the exterior minimalised with the removal of the shutters and the posh white paint job. My guess is the original shots were taken sometime around the 1940s. How brilliant it would be to step back in time for a day, pause for a natter in the street about hats with the local ladies and poke around this long forgotten world...

Kensington Church Walk original photograph below :

My modern reshoot :

Dukes Lane original photograph below :

My modern reshoot :

Thursday, 8 March 2012


I know...I couldn't believe it either, is there no end to this bohemian oaf's talent? A difficult one to defend I won't deny but I maintain my respect for Doherty's determination to live life entirely on his own terms - two fingers to the red tops and dreary suburbanite haters, (styled by Primark, engaged to university sweetheart, holidays in Mallorca) lurking around office water coolers across this green and pleasant land accusing him of leading the kids astray with his blatantly drug-addled buffoonery or worse - obvious lack of talent. Lets face it, the guy is hilarious with his antics and if he was good enough for Cocaine Kate then hes good enough for me. Its called rock'n'roll people!! Nobody gave a shit when Keef spent half the '70s on the nod.

Peter, being a Rimbaud-reading boho now lives in Paris where his brand of louche decadence is perfectly acceptable, positively encouraged in some arrondissements. Everything about Peter from his nonchalant sartorial elegance to his pretty-boy-lost-in-a-dream-world-of-fey-literary-heroes-adrift-in-Arcadia countenance seems to fit like a glove with the je ne sais quoi, that indefinable charm of the City of Light. His reported recent friendship with a certain Madame Sarkozy seems the perfect Parisian fusion of his charisma and her inherent rebellion. Underneath the artifice...they are two sides to the same coin, the post modern Birkin and Gainsbourg.

LL Cool P....Parisienne mademoiselles know the score...
So Mr. Doherty has now evolved his notorious blood fetish into a new career as an emerging visual artist - his idiosyncratic canvases recently exhibited at the Cob Gallery in London's Camden Town. A few of Doherty's mono and neutral toned multimedia pieces were mildly interesting (below)...combining elements of collage, his own putrid blood, tabloid newspaper imagery plus the detritus of a chaotic life with his largely illegible 'word vomit' pencil scribblings.

Far more striking were the installations in the gallery's basement. Featuring all manner of symbolic, Dohertyesque objects (Babycham anyone?), the subterranean opium eater's cave was draped with threadbare flags, sweat-stained backstage passes, ancient typewriters, vintage guitars and beautiful antique crucifixes. The only things missing were burnt foils, dirty spoons and a crack pipe stained with Amy Winehouse's lipstick. Vinyl punk albums littered the floor and a decrepit Beatles poster from the (sadly) now defunct News Of The World gave the installation a real sense of authenticity, as though you were poking through this genuine music fan's own personal wreckage of the Albion Rooms circa 2001. Which I probably was. I love Doherty's celebration of his Englishness and pride in the ancient motifs of a once great country now consigned to the imagination of poets and dreamers. As a songwriter, Doherty's talent lies in evoking this lyrical imagery of a lost utopia. As a visual artist he offers up the tangible, literal interpretation.