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Discovering London

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Monday, 27 June 2011

London Doesn't Warm to Sculpture

The newest sculpture in the City of Sculpture series has been unveiled in Berkeley Square.

It is entitled Berkeley Square by sculptor Jeff Lowe and is strangely the first piece to have been created especially for the programme. It is intended as a "Celebration of the London Olympics".

Speaking from his "retreat" in the Algarve,  the artist has claimed  that  “People don’t warm to sculpture easily in London."

I wonder, what on earth could have led him to form this opinion? Perhaps it is born out of a very personal experience.

The artist explains his ambitions in an interview with Unique "I wouldn't be happy knowing that all I’d done in my life was to make good sculpture. I want to do more than that. I need to feel that I’ve come up with something that’s difficult for people to understand." First ambition, highly unlikely; second already achieved?

More on Jeff Lowe, including a variety of carefully selected, but badly scanned, pdfs of his press coverage, from his website here.

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Royal Heritage of a Pimlico Curry House

July 1st 2011 will mark what would have been Princess Diana's 50th birthday. For one Pimlico Curry House her memory is ever present.

Many restaurants have pictures of celebrities who have dined within but Top Curry Centre in Lupus Street have taken their celebrity association to a different level. In the window, they have a large framed picture of the future Princess walking right past their front door.

The photo shows Diana walking to work at the Young England Kindergarten, just around the corner in St George's Square. It was taken by Peter Simpson of The News of the World.

I suppose, that in celebrity association terms, having a photo of Diana, Princess of Wales walking past your business still trumps having a photo of some minor personality tucking into a Vindaloo on site.

Top Curry Centre has certainly done more than the Young England Kindergarten to remind us of Pimlico's Royal connection. The nursery where Diana worked has no plaque and makes no mention at all of her employment on their website.

So bizarre though the display is, I think we should be grateful to Top Curry Centre for providing the only public memorial to this happy phase of Diana's life in Pimlico.

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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Nymph Returns to Carlos Place

The statue of a Nymph that stood outside the Connaught Hotel in Carlos Place, Mayfair has returned.

This somewhat clumsy piece had been removed to allow the installation of the magnificent new Tadao Ando water feature. It's old plinth now stands in Mount Street Gardens. This week the nymph returned to squat in Carlos Place.

The statue is by Emilio Greco and dates to 1973. The inscription reminds us that the fountain and statue were "‘A gift to the City of Westminster from the President of the Italian Republic 20th November 1987. Sponsored by the Italian Banks in London". The good people at London Remembers tell me that an identical statue is located in Padua.

The statue certainly looks happier on it's new marble plinth but somehow it seems to detract from the Ando just a few feet behind.

The Ando fountain, Silence,  was bound to overshadow anything in it's immediate proximity, so perhaps the nymph should have travelled just a few yards further, together with it's old plinth, to Mount Street Gardens?

See labels for links to related posts.

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Move Over Dancing Hares - Gagarin is Coming

Fans of Barry Flanagan's dancing hares have only a matter of days left to enjoy them in their current position.

This work, Large Mirror Nijinsky 1992 is to be resited somewhere in Westminster. Currently it stands outside the British Council's Offices on The Mall, near to Admiralty Arch.

It was installed to mark the British Council's 75th Anniversary but the British Council, together with the  Russian Space Agency, have successfully proposed a new sculpture to replace them during Westminster City Council's City of Sculpture festival.

The hares will be replaced any day now by a copy of a 1960s Soviet sculpture of Yuri Gagarin that stands in Space City. The Gagarin statue will commemorate 50 years of manned space flight. It is planned that the Gagrin statue will be in place for a year, just across the road from Captain Cook.

I have not been able to find out where the hares will be going but there is a major retrospective on Barry Flanagan, who died in 2009, planned for Tate Britain this September, so maybe they will feature there? If you do spot them popping up elsewhere, please drop me a line.

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The Violette Szabó Mural 10 Years On

This mural in Stockwell was unveiled on the 26th June 2001, on what would have been Violette Szabo's 80th birthday. Click to enlarge images.

The mural is part of the Stockwell War Memorial, Stockwell Road. It is painted on the side of a WWII deep level shelter.

It commemorates, Violette Szabo who lived in Stockwell and who was an undercover secret agent for the SOE (Special Operations Executive) in Occupied France during WWII. After undertaking two secret missions, she was captured, tortured and executed in 1945.

Her life was famously dramatised in the film Carve Her Name with Pride, starring Virginia McKenna and  the book of the same name by R. J. Minney. As an agent in the SOE, she was issued with the haunting coded poem The Life That I Have.

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause

For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours
And yours

This is not the only memorial to Violette Szabó in London but it is the only one under threat. A decade of sunshine has faded the colours and the paint has started to peel.

London Mural Preservation Society exists to "protect, preserve and celebrate murals in the communities where they were created." There is a link to their feature on this mural here. There is also an opportunity to volunteer or to donate to their work.

For more on the remarkable life of Violette Szabó and her Stockwell connections, see this article from  Stockwell News. For details of her other memorials in London see the excellent London Remembers site here.

The full text of the accompanying accompanying plaque reads:

In Memory of 
Violette Szabó GC
and the
Stockwell Residents
who gave their lives in World War II

Unveiled by Virginia McKenna at a Special Remembrance Service on 26 June 2001, the 80th anniversary of Violette’s birth,. in the presence of Tania Szabó, the Mayor of Lambeth and the Brixton & Stockwell British Legion.

Mural designed & painted by Brian Barnes and Marya Harris, based on designs from pupils at Stockwell Park School.

A Stockwell Partnership project with the Clapham & Stockwell Town Centre Initiative and Transport for London Street Management

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Friday, 24 June 2011

Number One London - More Power, More Torque !

OK, Apsley House hasn't gone all Top Gear but on a walk around Central London today I did spot this.

This must be the ultimate number-plate for a London nerd, such as myself.

It is all a little bit wasted on me, I don't drive, never have, I don't understand the personalised number plates idea and if I ever had a spare £66,445 (plus the cost of the plates) I would probably spend it on wine and books instead, but ...

As a London nerd I really liked it! As a confirmed pedestrian, objector to Chelsea tractors and as a total vehicle ignoramus it still worked for me.

My only question is, is this the best vehicle to bear that set of plates? Are they wasted here on a Range Rover? Shouldn't they instead, be upon a Bentley, a Rolls or even a Ka?

Assuming that one of us wins £105 million tonight on the Lottery, and we want the ultimate number plate for a self-respecting London nerd's chauffeur to drive us around in, to what vehicle should they be attached?

Suggestions please.

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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Horse's Head Found in Mount Street Gardens

Yesterday morning this new sculpture was delivered to Mount Street Gardens in Mayfair.

It is Fire by Nic Fiddian-Green, the sculptor who also brought us Marwari - Horse at Water at Marble Arch. More on this artist, who has been producing monumental horse's heads for over 25 years, from his website here.

Another of his works is currently outside the Sladmore Gallery in Bruton Place where he has an exhibition running until the 26th August. Details from the gallery here.

The Mount Street Gardens head is the latest piece in Westminster City Council's excellent City of Sculpture initiative.

The programme has so far delivered the temporary public display of major sculptures such as Jelly Baby Family, by Mauro Perruchetti, Vroom Vroom and Force of Nature II by Lorenzo Quinn and Core Femme by Jill Berelowitz as well as the Bruce Denny group in Soho Square.

All these, and many more are planned, have been installed at zero cost to the council. All the costs associated with installing and insuring each work have been met by the participating galleries and patrons.

See the City of Sculpture label below for links to related posts.

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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Elephants In London Prize Quiz - Must End Soon!

How many of these elephants can you locate in London? I first posted this quiz back in May but have not had one complete winning entry yet. At this rate I will never be able to award the prize, a handsome copy of "Animal Freaks" by Jan Bondeson.

So the rules have been modified a little. The prize will now be awarded to whoever correctly places the most elephants by June 30th, or to the person who first names them all!

For those of you who have already entered, thank you. You don't need to do anything I have your entries stored safely but, if you want to add more elephants to your existing tally and so improve your chances of winning, just email me.

So if you think you can name a few, a lot, most, or even all of these pachyderms, please do have a go!

For larger images from the original quiz please see here.

Please post entries to me at by 30th June 2011. The winner will be announced on the 1st July. Happy hunting!

Update: 1st July 2011: RESULTS PUBLISHED HERE

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Sunday, 19 June 2011

This is a Canvas - Definitive Street Art?

This is a Canvas

Spotted in Pimlico, on Vauxhall Bridge Road, near the corner with Regency Place.

A number of the same messages have cropped up in London on walls and bollards, often in different typefaces. I don't know if they are all by the same artist. As this one is sprayed directly onto the street, it has become my favourite.

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Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Tastiest Elephant in London

Went to Brixton Village Market today, I hadn't been for more than two years, I'll be going a lot more now!

I am one of those awkward veggie types, so whilst the market's displays of Goat's heads, Giant African Snails (sold live) and Pig Tails by the box, were always interesting  to pass by, I had never really considered the market as a dining option.

Times have changed, there are now loads of really nice looking little places to eat and drink. On account of the name alone, a friend and I chose this one for lunch.

It is tiny, a two man operation specialising in authentic Pakistani street food with room for no more than 16 diners. It has been open for just over a week. One inside wall is decorated with this rather lovely wallpaper.

It won't be the wallpaper that draws me back though, but the quality and value of the food. An absolutely delicious veggie Thali  cost just £6.50, comprising Curry, Rice, Daal, Salad, Raita and Naan. Chicken and Keema are just 45p more for carnivores. They also do Samosas, Pakora, Kulfi, Masala Chai and Lassi.

The Daal was the most perfectly spiced that I have ever had. Next time I might just have Daal and Naan for a mere £4.50.

Every table was occupied during our time there and you could hear from the conversations going on around us, that everybody felt that they had just made a fantastic discovery. Nobody paid their bills without personally thanking the chef for the great food and the co-owner for his friendly service.

These guys have got a great formula and I am sure they will need bigger premises very soon.They currently occupy 55 Granville Arcade, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8PS.

Apparently the Market has become a dining destination for foodies only relatively recently, most of the new cafes are less than 18 months old. So even if Pakistani street food isn't your cup of chai there are loads of other new places to try out, along with art, vintage fashion etc. Still plenty of traditional stalls left too for curious veggies or determined meat eaters.

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Bertolt Brecht & The Baroness on Effra Road

Walking in Brixton today I spotted this tile, newly affixed to a lamppost. Please click to enlarge.

What is the crime of the bank robber compared to the crime of founding one?
A very professional piece of street art by The Baroness, aka Carrie Reichardt. 

I don't know whether she placed it here herself or whether somone bought the tile from her and has decided to donate it to the people of Brixton.

You may have seen her PhooLan the Elephant outside the Natural History Museum as part of the Elephant Parade last year.

"Carrie Reichardt along with her partner, co-founded The Treatment Rooms, the UK's only ceramic house of resistance."

There is a lot more information about The Baroness and her work, on the Carrie Reichardt website here.

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Friday, 17 June 2011

The Seven Noses of Soho Discovered

After many hours of tramping around Soho and the surrounding area, I have finally managed to locate all the "Seven Noses of Soho".

The Seven Noses of Soho and an Imposter

This could be a life-changing event for me, as the legend has it that anyone able to see all seven will "attain infinite wealth". Obsessive checking of my bank balance suggests that whilst the legend may be true, the effect is certainly not instantaneous.

Until this year I had never heard of the Seven Noses of Soho. As I discovered more of them, spoke to other observers, followed tip-offs and read more about them I became mildly obsessed with seeing them all and separating fact from fiction..

It all started in 1996, when a sculptor, Rick Buckley decorated several London buildings, mostly in Soho, with casts of his nose.The noses are still there, they have their own Facebook group, a film-maker made a short documentary about them and an awful lot of misleading information about them can be found on the net!

Locating all of them has taken quite some time. In addition to the Seven Noses, there is also an eighth nose-like object "The False Nose" and strong rumours of a mysterious ninth, "The Ghost Nose".

If you would like to see them all yourself and learn more about this intriguing bit of London folklore, I offer walking tours and can help you find them too. Please see the "Seven Noses of Soho Walking Tour" tab above for full details.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

E J Clack to Move Centre Stage at Green Park Station

This water-fountain and statue that stood in The Green Park for over 50 years has been permanently removed from it's original location.

This is the site now, tarmac is being removed , the pinth, fountain and statue are long gone.

But they will be back with a vengeance in 2012, when the work at Green Park Station is complete.

Green Park Station and the surrounding area are currently undergoing major works, in time for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Part of the scheme includes a brand new entrance to the Tube station direct from the park. When it is complete, this fountain will be re-sited as the centrepiece of this new entrance.

The statue is "Diana of the Treetops" by Estcourt J. Clack originally unveiled in 1954. In the base is a water fountain and even a water fountain for dogs.

Estcourt J. Clack, known as Jim, was a full-time woodwork teacher at Blundell's School in Halberton, Devon. He won a competition to produce this fountain. It is one of the many fountains commissioned by the Constance Fund in London.

The Constance Fund was set up artist Sigismund C.H.Goetze's widow, Constance,  in his memory. Its aim was “to encourage and promote the art of sculpture in London Parks.”.

The only other EJ Clack I know of in London, is the Charles Dickens Plaque on Marylebone Road. I am pleased that this, his previously lesser seen work, will now be in such a prominent position. Who knows, there may even be postcards of it by this time next year and "Jim Clack" might soon be a household name!

More on the history of this fountain from the National Archives here

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Monday, 13 June 2011

London's Smallest (and Rudest) Blue Plaque?

At the entrance to the Newman Arms in Rathbone Street is this.

Not an official English Heritage one then, but a very affectionate memorial all the same. I particularly like unofficial Blue Plaques. The strict rules of the official English Heritage scheme would not permit so many interesting memorials. The plaque is tiny, you might just spot it here, to the left of the door.

I did drink in there a few times before Mr Jenkin's passing, though I never approached the status of "regular" and so never experienced a barring, I wish I had now, he sounds like a great London character.

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This Isn't What It Looks Like ...

This is a rare rear view of the Vitruvian man in Belgrave Square. Rare because Belgrave Square is only open to the public for 7 hours a year through the Open Garden Squares Weekend. For the rest of the year this particular view is reserved solely for the enjoyment of key-holding residents.

The plaque on the statue reads:

"From the original conception by the Italian Sculptor Enzo Plazzotta (1921-81)
Completed by his assistant Mark Holloway in 1982
and sponsored by
Mr & Mrs John Harbert III Birmingham Alabama"

In winter, non-residents can just glimpse the frontal view through the foliage, but here it is unobstructed.

For a map of the location and more details visit London Remembers

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Champion, The Wonder Pub

The Champion, that fine Sam Smith's pub on Wells Street, is well known for it's excellent stained glass but I couldn't find a full set of photos anywhere on the net. So to remedy that, here are images and the accompanying text for all the major panels, please click on them to enlarge.

David Livingstone
Originally sent to Africa as a missionary, he explored and mapped vast areas of the continent.

Captain Matthew Webb
Was the first to swim the English Channel (30 miles in 21 hours) he died swimming across Niagara Falls.

Edward Whymper
Became a traveller and mountaineer first man to climb the Matterhorn and Chimborazo in the Andes

Queen Victoria's Reign
[Victoria Regina Imperatrix]
Earl of Mayo
Richard Bourke an ideal Viceroy and one of the best loved of the rulers of British India

W.G. Grace
A legendary figure whose all round ability and enthusiasm dominated cricket for over thirty years

Florence Nightingale
Gained professional status for nurses and raised hospital standards, especially in the Crimea

Bob Fitzsimmons
“Ruby Robert” is the only Englishman to win three world titles at different weights

Young Tom Morris
Won four consecutive Open Championships, the first at the age of 17

Captain Bertie Dwyer
“Flying” Bertie Dwyer was one of the early Cresta riders, a President of the St Moritz Tobogganing Club and winner of several trophies

Fred Archer
Possibly the greatest jockey ever, being Champion jockey for thirteen consecutive years, with twenty-one Classic victories

William M. Renshaw
Winner of seven singles and seven doubles cups, he with his brother, made Lawn Tennis into a sport

This little pub, near the eastern end of Oxford Street is a multi-coloured gem. It's the next best thing to having a pint of Alpine in a cathedral.

The Grade II listed pub dates from c 1860-1870 but the Victorian and Edwardian heroes and heroines are actually a quite recent addition. They were commissioned from stained glass artist Ann Sotheran and were completed in 1989, over a century after the pub first opened. More on the artist from her website here.

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