Category Archives: Out and About in London

Sara’s pictures

This Sunday, Regent Street will become your personal time-machine of transport design

Whether you enjoy being one step ahead, curiously looking out for future innovations, or you are more of a Victorian, born in the wrong century, Sunday’s Transported by Design festival has you covered, as Regent Street divides into past, present and future zones.

For one day, this exciting festival will transform the iconic location into a spectacular display of transport design, taking you back to the Victorian times, where you can see horse-drawn buses, and leading you from the present to the future. During the day the road will be closed to traffic, marking the start of ‘Summer Streets’, which will see Regent Street go traffic-free every Sunday in July.

The free event will be hosted by TfL and the London Transport Museum, bringing heritage vehicles to the streets of Central London. Not only will this offer a window on how Londoners used to travel back in the old days, but you will also have a chance to experience classic advertising posters, maps and signage from the past.

Transported by Design - press imageThe festival will stretch from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus, giving an idea of what the future of transport design may look like, while also offering great insight into its history and present.

There will be a range of fun activities for all ages, including a London Transport Museum pop-up shop, a kids’ zone, a ‘Cycle Spin Fun’ zone hosted by Santander Cycles, and ‘Moquette Land’ – a hip showcase of the colourful fabric used on the transport network.

Within the ‘London 2040’ future zone you can see, hear, and feel what transport could look like in the future, through a sensory cinema, virtual reality headsets, and a selection of TED-style talks on technology and design.

The event runs for one day only, Sunday the 3rd of July from midday to 6pm.

Images from TfL

Let there be light

London is preparing for the 9th Bloomsbury Festival. The event, centred in Russell Square, will run across Camden from the 22nd to the 25th of October, and is expected to host around 50,000 visitors.

Camden Council has awarded a community grant towards the festival, which will promote 100 events throughout the four-day extravaganza. The team, headed by Director Kate Anderson and Festival Co-ordinator Caggy Kerlogue, have planned what they describe as “a creative explosion of performance and heritage events… giant cinema screens you feel you can walk into, a grand night of fire and music, a rainbow of garden squares and hub of festivities around Bloomsbury throughout the long weekend.”

The 2015 festival will be themed around The International Year of Light. IYOL Programme Co-ordinator Toby Shannon describes its cultural significance: “The year aims to celebrate the impact of light on the world we live in and its potential to improve lives. The Bloomsbury Festival provides a unique opportunity to cross disciplinary boundaries. The theme of light will be explored through art, music, theatre, science, technology, poetry, history, and through stimulating collaborations to explore light in all its uses, appearances and moods. The Festival offers a rich environment for the exchange of ideas in London.”

The official launch took place on May 20th, in an event run by Donne Alexander of The Wellcome Trust. Guests were introduced to a UV gallery of light, where artists, academics and scientists learnt more about the rudiments of glo-germ gel (demonstrating how bacteria can survive on skin even after hand-washing) and had a chance to wear a rather fetching pair of SPIE rainbow glasses.

Mark De Rivaz, Steward of Bedford Estates, explains how the event has evolved: “The Bedford Estates has been a partner of the Festival since 2010. We will provide The Bedford Square Garden, free of charge with the provision of a marquee. The Duchess of Bedford is the Festival’s patron and she has been involved with judging the art competition in July for the branding and imagery of the 2015 Festival (which was won by designer Andrew Long of Central St Martin’s).”

UK Age Concern Camden and UCL have worked with Dr Michael Eades of The School of Advanced Studies since 2013 to create Festival in a Box, allowing local people with dementia to interact with proceedings from home, using sensory aids. Eades explained: “It will offer those living with dementia an opportunity to share their knowledge and stories of the area, providing insight into Bloomsbury and surrounding areas of London. The outreach programme will not only be an opportunity for them to actively re-engage with community life, but also to participate in re-narrating the history of Bloomsbury itself. These boxes will become miniature ‘archives of engagement’.”

Key supporters such as The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are engaging with performance artists to interpret their work. Vicki Bazalgette explains: We are excited to be a Festival Partner for the first time this year. Our activities will allow our researchers and members of the public to delve into discussions about health in creative ways.  School researcher Dr Catherine Carver is collaborating with The Place and choreographer Subathra Subramaniam on a new piece of contemporary dance inspired by light in medicine and health, which will be performed by the youth dance group Shuffle. We will be hosting a ‘Living Library’ towards the beginning of the Festival – an event where our staff are cast in the role of living books, and you can come to ‘read’ them and take part in discussions about health around the world. Our family event will take place on the Sunday, where people can find out how clean our hands really are in our UV activities tent.”

Katy Jackson of The Weiner Library has opened the Library’s Holocaust archives to local residents. “Our first event for the Festival took place in October 2012 when we opened up our doors and offered behind-the-scenes tours of our exhibition Remembering Raoul Wallenberg and Lives Saved, which will form the basis of our travelling exhibition for 2015. We took part again in 2013 at the main site in Bedford Square. Partnering for the 2015 event was a natural development for us after taking part in previous festivals. We’re delighted to be involved.”

James Wilson of The Swedenborg Society is keen to introduce international artists: “We first participated in the Bloomsbury Festival in 2010. That year was our bicentenary year and we decided to tie our participation in the festival to a performance and exhibition from our two artists in residences, Paul Tecklenberg and Nissa Nishikawa. This year, we’ll be doing a literary panel discussion with our new president, Homero Aridjis, one of Mexico’s most celebrated poets and authors, who will be discussing his new poetry anthology An Angel Speaks. We hope that by participating, Bloomsbury Festivalgoers and Swedenborg Society members become aware of each other’s work and events programme (including exhibitions, performances, talks, readings, and film screenings, which are open to all and free of charge).”

Music has an integral part to play within the local community, bringing different faiths and backgrounds together.Katie Price, Head of Communications at SOAS, discusses the busy timetable of events planned within the festival programme. “Throughout the year people come from across London to our free world music concert series, our lectures and our wonderful Brunei Gallery. The Bloomsbury Festival enables us to reach a completely different audience through the World Music stage that we have organised each year since 2010. It brought new audiences to the Brunei Gallery (for example, in 2011, 400 new people came to a Bloomsbury Festival event there). This year the Head of our Department for the Study of Religions is working with a chaplain from Goodenough College to explore light in religion, reflecting the Festival’s 2015 theme of light. The 2016 Festival theme will be language – a perfect opportunity for us to showcase our language research (we teach more than forty languages, from Igbo to Urdu to Japanese and Chinese) and celebrate our centenary.”

Artist Simon O’Donovan is working on light exhibitions at The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras: “My work primarily focuses on representations of sight and blindness in mythology, theology, science and culture. I work with biography and the invention/ fabrication of memory. Is the shadow cast a reality? How is truth manipulated through time and not a necessary condition for sight? The proposed work is realised as a series of belongings and objects. It charts a period of time in the life of E.B. Ames, a nineteenth century gold prospector, a murderer, a rebel against the light.”

Dr Matthew Beaumont of UCL presents literary talks on London history. “I have given talks to the festival over the last two years. I will be providing a lecture on ‘night walking’. I published a book on the subject this year called Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London from Chaucer to Dickens, about the history of people who walk the streets of the city at night from the 13th to the 19th century. My previous talk in 2014 was a collaborative set of talks organised by Florian Mussgnug called London’s Burning on apocalyptic visions of the city. The festival is a good way of encouraging more diverse and transdisciplinary intellectual interests amongst the student community.”

Andrew Youngson of Birkbeck College remarks, “Birkbeck came on board with the festival from 2012, showcasing literary events at Senate House. This brought together academics and authors who compared their personal and professional history of Bloomsbury including Birkbeck’s Professor Sir Phil Cohen, author Iain Sinclair and UCL’s Professor Rosemary Ashton. The Bloomsbury Festival is a great platform for academics, writers and philosophers to share ideas and inspire new audiences.”

Artist Geoff Harrison has been hugely impressed by the rich diversity of the festival: “In 2010, I undertook an art commission to produce a series of drawings that were displayed in the Chapel of Rest in St Georges Gardens. For 2011, I curated an exhibition at the Orange Dot Gallery on Tavistock Place and for the 2012 and 2013 festivals, I produced a public participation event called the People’s Portrait Project, which got together a group of artists in a tent to draw free portraits of festival goers. I love the fact that the festival has always been free; the atmosphere around Russell Square is electric and there’s lots of fun and exciting things to do for the weekend.”

The final word goes to Stuart Reeves, Digital Media Producer of The Science Museum: “The openness to interpretation of the festival is exciting, conjuring up so many differing perceptions. The IYOL will give those attending a clear understanding of the importance of Light Science, vital for existing and future advances in medicine, energy, information and communications, fibre optics, architecture, archaeology, entertainment, art and culture. What a wonderful way to bring everyone together!”

For details on how to donate, volunteer or support The Bloomsbury Festival, visit

Clerkenwell Design Week Returns for a Successful Sixth Installment

Several thousand designers and design enthusiasts descended on Clerkenwell last week for the sixth installment of Clerkenwell Design Week. Founded to showcase Clerkenwell’s burgeoning status as an international design hub, CDW provides an opportunity to look around the largest concentration of design showrooms in the world, and to hobnob with the world’s foremost architects and interior designers.

Larger in scale than previous design weeks, this year included over 80 showrooms, as well as the shared exhibition spaces in the Design Factory and the public installations CDW is famous for.

Highlights included Glaze, a multi-coloured glass pavilion installed on St John’s Square, the opening of Old Sessions House to the public by Icon Magazine, the Shed and five storey old warehouse at the Design Factory used for exhibits, and Buzzispace’s new outdoor work space the Buzzished.

The Shed in the Design Factory. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian, and used with kind permission
The Shed in the Design Factory. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian, and used with kind permission
Glaze public pavilion on St John's Square, created by architects Cousins & Cousins and glaziers GxGlass
Glaze public pavilion on St John’s Square, created by architects Cousins & Cousins and glaziers GxGlass

One installation of particular note was the wooden Invisible Store of Happiness installation underneath St John’s Arch, created by sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon and furniture maker Sebastian Cox.

The Invisible Store of Happiness by Laura Ellen Bacon and Sebastian Cox
The Invisible Store of Happiness by Laura Ellen Bacon and Sebastian Cox

Named after the invisible store of happiness a craftsman leaves in each piece of work they produce, the installation had an additional function as an example of diversifying the range of timber used by furniture makers, so that an overemphasis is not made on a select few species. In this case, Laura and Sebastian used maple and cherry as an alternative to a current trend for white oak and walnut.

A deeper exploration of the Clerkenwell shows a unique emphasis on materials, with organisations such as the SCIN Gallery holding one of the only material libraries in Britain, this shared emphasis is part of the explanation for the exponential growth in design firms moving to the area. The other explanation is the unique relationship between architects and interior designers that has encouraged firms to cluster around each other.

A simple walk along Clerkenwell Road through to Old Street will reveal dozens of showrooms all in close proximity to one another, and it is not just Clerkenwell Design Week that will enable you to poke around a bit deeper.

Clerkenwell Design Quarter is another popular event in designers diaries as an official destination within the London Design Festival this September. And Craft Central, an unique charity-supported building in Clerkenwell Green that provides studio and workshop space to artisan design-makers, regularly opens its doors to the public. Here you can find hand-crafted jewellery, gold, silver and copper engravings, ceramics and fashion, and take away something truly unique.

Icon's House of Culture, in the Old Sessions House. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian
Icon’s House of Culture, in the Old Sessions House. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian

The energy in Clerkenwell can be summarised by several out of town designers who were overheard saying ‘we just have to move here’. With space still relatively cheap and designers desperate to get in on the Clerkenwell design scene, Clerkenwell looks set to grow even further as a design hub, and CDW 2016 will definitely be design event of the year for architects, interior designers, and anyone with an enthusiasm for design in the UK and beyond.

Scarcity-Waste @SomersetHouse

‘How in a world that is so desperately short of resources can we ensure that there is enough land, food and water for everyone and for future generations?

The Syngenta Photography Award aims to inspire photographers from around the world to engage with the tension between scarcity and waste. Somerset House presented the incredible results, exploring some of the environmental and ethical issues that face our society: recycling, landfill, food waste, drought, population growth, and pollution. From over 2,000 submissions, the works of 42 photographers from 21 countries have been selected for exhibition across 10 rooms.

Exploring Global Challenge
Exploring global challenge

In the professional category, Mustafah Abdulaziz (USA) took first prize for his series of pictures about water, a natural resource in crisis. His next project will look at misuse of water in California, examining how it is determining our future: “What I began in West Africa by looking at the problems of water, sanitation and poor infrastructure will continue in my homeland as I examine how a place renowned for success and excess, beauty and potential, may be humbled by the challenge of scarcity and waste.

Dirty drinking water scratched from riverbed by M. Abdulaziz
Dirty drinking water scratched from riverbed by M. Abdulaziz

His Dirty drinking water scratched from riverbed is the final picture of the exhibition. The simple image evokes the extreme hardship suffered by the women and young girls in the Konso region of Ethiopia, who must queue for hours to scratch water from a dry riverbed.

In the open competition category, Stefano De Luigi (Italy) took 3rd prize for his series on drought in Kenya, which severely affects both people and animals. Stefano wrote of his work: “The series about Kenyan drought has affected me more than any other story I’ve done”. Opining a sense of shared responsibility in the use of the planet’s resources, he presents a series of touching images, including a giraffe that perished because of the drought.

Drought in Kenya

Each room presents a powerful response to the award’s criteria, approaching the issues with curiosity and reflection. Affecting environmental facts are dotted around the exhibition; for example, did you know the UK produces enough waste to fill the Albert Hall every two hours?


The Syngenta Award, now in its second edition, aims to underline the stark fact that the world’s demand for natural resources has doubled in the last fifty years, and that to continue producing waste and consuming resources at this rate could provoke an environmental catastrophe in the near future.

Plastic waste in the ocean
Plastic waste in the ocean

The message from these surprising, often thought-provoking pictures is clear: something needs to change.

Post Pop: East meets West @Saatchi_Gallery

Unexpected, stimulating and original: The latest Saatchi Gallery’s exhibition encloses more than 250 pop-influenced works made in the past 40 years. 110 artists from five different countries – UK, USA, China, Taiwan, and Russia – propose a huge variety of works that stress different ideologies from the same influence.

Post Pop: East meets West brings not only artists but also three curators to create and play with imagery. Constructing an interesting way to look at the pop art movement, the curators organised the show into six themes, rather than dividing the works by country, to highlight how the East and West are different but also similar in some aspects.

It begins with the theme Habitat. Starting with ordinary mass-produced artifacts, you suddenly stumble into the chaos created by the Russian artists Iliya & Emilia Kabakov. Incident in the Corridor near the Kitchen (1989), composed by two paintings and fluttering pots and pans, reproduces a typical pop domestic space that leads us into another mad work by the duo: Unfinished Installation (1995). Reproducing an ordinary and real scene of unfinished building constructions, the artists want to underline how everyone is more interested in looking at things under construction rather than finished, in particular if we know the plan for the finished product.

Leaving the domestic habitat, the gallery next illustrates how advertising and consumerism influenced the post-war period. The typical American consumerist messages contrast with more politically engaged works by Russian and Chinese artists. Formed under Communist regimes, they surprisingly emphasize how their societies have been transformed by propaganda and marketing. These pop-inspired works are as colourful and powerful as is the line of blasphemy in the Ideology and Religion rooms.

A sense of confusion overcame me when I saw the installation by Sergey Shutov, Abacus (2001), where life-size women, knocking on the ground and covered in dark fabric, seem to move contemplating an unspecified religion. I proceeded ahead and my attention was captured by one of the most powerful works of the exhibition: Two Profiles (1989) by Leonid Sokov. It exemplifies perfectly the theme of contrast found throughout the gallery. The representation of a serious bronze Stalin’s profile next to a black and white photograph of a laughing Marilyn Monroe is the emblem of the exhibition, even if it lacks a significant characteristic of pop art: colour.

Two Profiles (1989)

From there, the exhibition progresses through the Sex and the Body rooms. Taking into account that the majority of pop-artists have been young men, it is remarkable that sex and female bodies were a major topic of controversy in the pop art world in the 1960s. Unsurprisingly, the curators leaned towards graphic images to tell the story of sex in the last half-century.

Walking to the top floor, you finally arrive at the heart of the exhibit. After a series of pictures, sculptures and works inspired by Andy Warhol, the section ends with Rostislav Lebedev’s A Dream Comes True (2008). As Sokov’s previously mentioned work, it is truly a painting where East meets West. The top half is a typical American pop painting style reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein‘s comic books, while the bottom depicts three bathers near the seaside in an unmistakably Russian style.

A Dream Comes True, 2014
A Dream Comes True (2008)

My journey through the exhibit ends in Mass Media, where the phenomenon of celebrity culture is portrayed. The variety of techniques found in these last works appears ambitious but effective. For instance, at the entrance you encounter a life-size female tennis player made entirely of wax by Oleg Kulik – a symbol of how mass media shows a version of reality.

Tennisplayer, 2002
Tennisplayer (2002)

Everything in the show is in contrast. The ability to create such proficient comparisons in style and ideologies in pop culture language is incredibly rare and the merit goes to curators. Even though I can’t say I liked everything, it is interesting to explore how a movement that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s in Western countries has influenced the other side of the world in provocative and powerful ways over the years.


Post Pop: East meets West, Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY. Phone: 02078113070.

Free admission. Open through 3 March.

(Pictures by Caterina Mirra)