Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Puddle Painting: Prime II by Ian DavenportPretty, isn't it? And it has a pretty name too - Fabstraction.

Wandering around Mayfair last week, Ian Davenport's paintings like this caught my eye.

The pic above isn't one of those I saw at the Alan Cristea gallery, but it is similar. Vertical lines of bright, vibrant colours skirt down the canvas and descend into an abstract messiness at the base of the picture. Lovely.

More about Ian Davenport - at Waddington Gallery, on Wikipedia.

Also a video about some of his work on display in Warwick University.

UK Eurovision Preview Party

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Last night's Eurovision Preview Party was a great success. There was a real fun, friendly, positive and enjoyable atmosphere. Here's a run-down:

Great vintage performances from previous entrants Nicki French, Friðrik Ómar, Jessica Garlick and Imaani.

Imaani is 8 months' pregnant, well done to her for coming along to perform! Jessica Garlick still sounds stunning, and Friðrik is a great fun performer giving us an acapella This is My Life which happily became disco-dance-tastic in the final chorus. (Jade Ewan - take note).

Nicki French is a national treasure, and should be preserved in aspic.

Polish singer Lidia sung well with two nice songs. Bulgarian Krassimir seemed like a nice, sweet guy, but a little uncomfortable on stage.

Romanian Elena really sells her song well and she spins around a lot. Awesome hair extensions from her. A troupe of dancing Balkan girls strutting around stage on Moscow will be a treat from her.

Icelandic Johanna was great - very strong singer and she delivers her song well.

Cypriot Christina proved she can sing - and sing well. Her Eurovision song is a little too big for her, as she seems quite timid and nervous. Hopefully the supportive and excellent reaction she received will help boost her confidence.

Ireland were great - they performed their song with great energy and enthusiasm. They just played one song, which I felt was a shame as the crowd were really loving them. Watch:

And then: Ukraine

Svetlana Loboda came on stage aloft on the shoulders of one of her 4 very hunky, very fit dancers. They all then proceeded to give a performance which beggared belief - muscular, powerful, dynamic, energetic and frenetic.

The dancers - chests and arms bared - were a surreal mix of rabid thuggish soldiers and gay boy harlequin marionettes. They performed Be My Valentine with such gusto, it will surely figure high in the placings in Moscow. They then performed another song with Soviet-style marching and flags depicted the mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

And then the dancers donned t-shirts and then took them off again. And then I got one (a t-shirt, that is). And then they proceeded to climb about the stage. And then writhed about. And then flexed their muscles. And then started to take bits of clothing off. And then we all fainted...

Watch for yourself - this is Svetlana's encore performance of Be My Valentine

Libraries in Norwich - a history

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I went to Norwich last week, on a whim. Having read that Norwich has the busiest library in the UK, being a library fan, I decided to go to see it for myself. I also learned that having opened in 1608, Norwich's library is among one of the oldest public libraries in England. So, the day was set for a fascinating day of library encounters.

Before I went, I had a look in the Royal Geographical Society's Foyle Reading Room at some old maps of Norwich - dating from 1946, 1914, 1910, 1830, 1834 & 1766. The later three showed two library sites, so I set off to find out what was there now.

The first Norwich library was established in 1608. Three rooms of a house belonging to Jerrom Goodwym, a swordbearer, were converted into a library for use by visiting preachers in a building adjoining this, St Andrews Hall. The library stood here for 193 years.

Site of old Norwich library - St Andrews Hall

This building housed a private subscription library, which also doubled as Norwich's library for some time, between 1837 and 1976. The building is now a tastefully renovated restaurant.

Sketch of Norwich library

Old Norwich library

Inside old Norwich Library

In early 19th century, Norwich was dubbed the "Athens of England" for its intellectual life and society. So there was call for a second library, and in 1857 another library opened at this building on St Andrew's Street.

Old Norwich library site

The owners, sadly, could not find a suitable notary to open the building (they had asked the Duke of Cambridge, Lord Stanley, Gladstone, Lord John Russell, and even William Ewart, a well-known library campaigner).

Apparently, this was the UK's first building specifically designed as a library. It's now gone, demolished. The site on St Andrews Street stood from March 1857 to December 1962.

Site of old Norwich library - St Andrew's Street

The library then moved to the site it currently occupies - although the building has changed. It burned down in 1994 due to an electrical fault. Here's what it looked like inside, sometime in the 1960s.

Inside Norwich library

And now, the library is a bright, open, airy place, all glass and light. It's laid out more like HMV than a library, and has Council information, CDs, DVDs, books, internet and local archives all on one site. And the books are good - I noticed an architecture book I've previously only seen in gallery shops. And to top it all, it's getting even bigger.

Norwich library @ the Forum

Inside Norwich library

I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Norwich, and its libraries. Here's hoping it continues to have success for another 400 years.

Litter on beaches

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I was right when I said that Chesil Beach was full of rubbish, with a coastal litter survey for the Marine Conservation Society today finding 385,659 individual pieces of litter on 374 popular beaches. Over a third of that comes from the public.

Lots of worthy comment in this article about needing dedicated litter reduction plans, incentives to recycle and so on, but one thing that may help are a few bins. I don't remember seeing any on Chesil Beach (admittedly, it's probably not so easy to install them there).

Turkish Trans Singers

Monday, April 13, 2009

I've recently been listening to two Turkish singers on Spotify, whose names I had seen in Garth Cartwright's Princes Amongst Men. The album covers showed very made-up, glamorous-for-the-80s women, but I was a little confused when I heard their quite masculine voices.

Bulent Ersoy Zeki Muren

Turns out that one of the singers is transexuals and the other transvestite. I would never have thought Turkey the place where trans musicians flourish or are even popular, but seemingly so.

Neither of them could be described as particularly poppy, however.

The first, Bülent Ersoy, began her career as a male singer. Already popular, in 1981, she went to London for a sex change operation. Ersoy kept the name Bülent even though it is a more common male name.

Zeki Müren began his musical career in 1951, which went on to span 45 years, enjoying popularity not only in Turkey but also internationally. Müren dressed effeminately, wearing large, ornate rings and heavy make up, especially later in life. He died in 1996.

Have a listen

True or False Tour #2

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A colleague who hadn't been on our True or False Tour / Pub Crawl in January asked me to do it again. I jumped at the chance - it was such fun putting it together.

So yesterday, I joined my colleague, and Susanna, Tobias & Caitlin from Sweden to see London, drink in some pubs, and tell lies and tell the truth.

I made a few changes this time around. Instead of having a helper, I was more like a traditional tour guide - except some of my stories were true, and some were false.

This gave me flexibility to make bits up as I was going along, and meant I wasn't talking for a very long time!

I'm happy to report it all went swimmingly well. Caitlin remarked at one point that I should do more of these tours, and I certainly am planning too.

So, in the meantime, if anyone wants a tour around London with fun true-or-false quiz game built in, let me know!

Sounds Like Teen Spirit - Junior Eurovision film

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I went to a screening of Sounds like Teen Spirit tonight, the documentary about Junior Eurovision. And it's about so much more than Eurovision: it's about being a kid, becoming a teenager, learning about life and love and losing.

We meet 4 of the contestants in the 2007 Junior Eurovision - Giorgios from Cyprus, Marina from Bulgaria, Mariam from Georgia and band Trust from Belgium - and follow their preparations to go to Rotterdam and their time at the Contest.

These kids are a world away from what you expect - not precocious stage school brats, they're warm, funny, innocent, disarming, chatty, shy, lovely kids.

10 year old Yiorgios from Cyprus is a chatty, funny guy who gets teased at school, but loves to sing and dance and be in the moment.

Marina, from Bulgaria, lives in a good home, but misses her father who is divorcing her mother. At one point, she wonders whether it's better to have no feelings, as then you never feel pain.

Mariam, from Georgia, is delighted to represent her country and have its flag among Europe's others, even if her family's TV only works long enough to see her perform.

And Trust, from Belgium - three guys and 1 girl - are teenagers learning about love and being endearingly awkward adoloscents.

I loved this film - it was warm, funny, sad and absolutely delightful. Director Jamie J Johnstone does a wonderful job, bringing the kids' personalities out with a warmth and honesty which shines through. He approaches the show without any cynicism which gives the film real heart and affection.

Go see this - it is life-affirming and heart-warming. It will leave you smiling, and thinking, for hours, and whether you like Eurovision or not, you'll come with a sense of joy in performing, music and youth.

Junior Eurovision: the movie

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Someone has made a film about Junior Eurovision - long since forgotten in the UK, but alive and kicking out East - and called it Sounds Like Teen Spirit. Goodness - it all looks rather jaunty. I've been invited to a preview screening next week so I shall report back.

Roisin Murphy draws the world!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I went out last night to the launch of Simon Henwood's new book. Simon Henwood - previously unknown to me - is the boyfriend of popdiva Roisin Murphy, and Roisin was DJing at the launch. So I popped along to hear her play some tunes.

In between spying the ridiculous Shoreditch types wearing outré clothing, I dug out my pen and pad and asked Dennis to draw the world and Sandro to draw Italy (always remembering my EuroGlobe & MyWorld projects, that's me).

But then a suggestion flashed my way from Henry & Dennis - go ask Roisin Murphy to draw the world. Could I? Would I? Should I?

It's a no-brainer. Of course I should. I drew my courage, held my breath and off I went. Once she finished swapping numbers with someone else, I tapped her shoulder.

Adrian - Hi, I wonder if you could do me a favour - I have a project where I ask people to draw the world. Would you do it for me?
Roisin - Yeah, sure (like it's the most normal thing in the world)

And so she did. So here's the world, as drawn by Roisin Murphy. It's surprisingly stark - no scaffolding, jaunty hats, no ostentatious glovery. But utterly delightful.