Category: Arts Culture

Art in the Arches

Art in the Arches

Covid has given retail a right royal kicking. With people stuck at home, many have swapped their shopping habits from the high street to the internet. Where Amazon and the rest have benefited, shops from Debenhams to our local gift shop Max & Melia are shuttering. Take a walk through the City of London and you’ll see a retail graveyard. Even Piccadilly, in the heart of the West End, has space to rent.

Picture by Thomas Kirk Shannon

Unfortunately, the same is true in our neighbourhood. Vauxhall styles itself as The Vibrant Place though some of its vibrancy has washed away as shops and restaurants close. The same is true of empty railway arches at Vauxhall Cross. To be fair two places I always liked, Counter Vauxhall Bar and Brasserie and the motorbike shop Metropolis, closed before the pandemic took hold.

Picture by Roxanne Dewar (Bucket and I thought this was the best)

Vauxhall One, the local business improvement district, does huge amounts to keep Vauxhall clean and green and they commissioned a series of murals to paper over the empty spaces.

Not art, just me and Bucket having a snoop

The artists have done a great job, but in many ways I’m ambivalent about the whole project. The pictures brighten up the place but I’d far rather there were thriving businesses in their place.

Picture by Luke Embden

For art we can go to the Damien Hirst Gallery on Newport Street or Tate Britain just over the river.

But don’t let me put you off, take a stroll to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, and look at what the artists have achieved. Some of the paintings are exquisite.

Picture by Leila Vibert Stokes

Here are the artists along with their Instagram links

Mr Penfold (Tim Gresham)

Luke Smile, a typographic artist

Susheel Basra, graphic designer

Illustrator Roxane Dewar

Italian artist and illustrator Gianinna Delpino

Botanical print designer Leila Vibert Stokes

Collage designer and animator Flavia Felipe

Graphic designer Craig Yamey

Muralist, illustrator and self-professed doodler Luke Embden

Artist and graphic designer NERONE

Thomas Kirk Shannon, VAULT Creative Arts

The featured image at the top is by Gianinna Delpino

Liner Notes

Liner Notes

I have a new album out which goes under the snappy title of ‘Cat in the Spirit House’. The picture below will give you a rough clue as where the name came from.

Full disclosure: These are not actually new songs but are taken from the two albums I released in the 1990s. ‘Don’t stare at the celebrities’ came out to wide- spread acclaim (hang on that should read apathy) in 1995 and ‘Shopping in bed’ followed two years later. These ten cuts represent the best songs those two albums had to offer.

In the nineties I moved to journalism and worked largely with ABC News covering the first Gulf War, the Concorde crash and the Bosnian conflict among hundreds of other stories. News features quite heavily in the lyrics if you know where to look. I was still in touch with an amazing group of musicians from by recording studio days. All these years later their playing still sounds extraordinary. Thanks to one and all.

Credit for this new album should go to my old comrade in arms Simon Webb who came up with the idea and who also suggested getting Ian Tompson to re-master the chosen tracks. Ian did a wonderful job pulling off the cobwebs using all the dastardly wizardry at his disposal.

Click here to listen to the album

Love to all

Jim

Spring 2021


Credits

Voice/guitar: Jim Preen

Guitar: Les Davidson, Tim Stone

Bass: John Gordon, Jeremy Meek, Phil Manley, Richard Lee, Simon Edwards

Drums: Richard Marcangelo, Steve Dixon

Percussion: Phil Overhead

Keys: Mick Parker, Damon Butcher, Tim Bradshaw

Vibes: Roger Beaujolais

Harmonica: Mark Feltham

Tenor sax: Ray Carless, Nick Penteloe

Backing vocals: Helen Hardy, Sonia Jones, Zoe Nicholas, Susie Webb

The Kick Horns: Roddy Lorimer (tpt), Simon Clarke (bari), Tim Sanders (tenor)

Brass arranged by Simon Clarke


Songs remastered by Ian Tompson

Photograph: Judith Hurst

Design: Rob Anderson

Framed written by Leiber & Stoller

Mr Siegal written by Tom Waits

JP responsible for the rest of the malarkey


Click here to listen to the album

The year of living dismally

The year of living dismally

We’ve never lived a year like it. Just over twelve months ago the Prime Minister told us to go home and that’s pretty much what we did albeit with a slight hiatus over the summer. We’ve mostly been home, cooped up and closeted.

Life has been directly informed by whether you like your home and the people in it. We were told we were ‘all in it together’, but that ‘it’ varied wildly from those with a large house and garden surrounded by a loving family to those closeted in abusive relationships or living alone twenty stories up in a tiny apartment with no access to a garden. It’s been a series of very different journeys which have determined how tolerable or otherwise our lockdown has been.

Pernicious disease

Then of course you may have caught Covid, a most pernicious and almost incomprehensible illness. Some caught it, displayed no symptoms and are still unaware they ever had it. More than a hundred and twenty thousand got sick and never recovered. For others still hanging on after being ill for weeks or months it continues to be a long brutal battle.

And what about babies and very young children, usually the most vulnerable to disease? It seems to have had little or no impact on their young lives. How can that be? Slightly older kids may not have been physically affected by the disease, but many have been hurt badly by the psychological fall out.

Our house

Days seem to pursue a relentless course of not very much. In this house we all work or are trying to navigate ‘A’ levels. We moan when the broadband is as bad as dial-up and our super important call disintegrates into digital dust.

In the evening we watch Netflix or a BBC iPlayer boxed set. We’re currently on the wonderful French farce ‘Call my agent!’ and then settle down for the 10 o’clock BBC News, unless the news is too dreadful to watch. I’m now fully acquainted with all Sophie Raworth’s broadcast outfits and frankly Soph it’s time to go online and select a couple of new ‘fits as I gather, they are now called. (Thanks to daughter for that). I really need to get out more, but then again so do you.

If you’re a keen reader of A little London Life, you’ll know that over the summer we moved to Essex for three months while our kitchen was given a complete makeover. Builders seemed to have worked right through the pandemic.

And there in the Essex house that we rented from friends was a small upright piano. I was determined to do something during lockdown that would mark some kind of growth and started hammering out gibberish on the piano. Well, that hasn’t stopped as a lovely friend from my days at ABC News gave me a digital upright which now gets beaten into submission on a nightly basis. I’m still an astonishingly bad player but having played guitar for almost 50 years I do understand music’s basic wiring. I know what’s going on under the hood, which I’m now struggling to translate on to the keyboard. It’s a battle but I’m in it for the long haul. Sorry neighbours.

Suddenly, nothing happened

So how has it been for you? Still struggling to coming to terms with it all? Doing OK? Coming up for air?

It’s odd to try to recall what happened when almost nothing happened.  The major events that typically bookmark our personal orbit round the sun were in short supply from March of last year. No holidays, no going out, no meeting with friends, no journeys, no business meetings. Social interaction reduced to a Zoom call. Work seems like a series of tasks rather than a collaborative experience.

What do I miss most? Is it gigs, theatre, art galleries, cinema, having pleasant things in my diary to look forward to? Yes, all of that but not really that either. What I really miss is just being in the presence of my fellow humans. Hugging, kissing hanging out, drinking, chatting. Life with a forward trajectory built into it. How do we know we’ve achieved anything if we keep busy but are often busy doing nothing?

Vaccination action station

It’s certainly not over yet, but the various vaccines are a beacon of hope. I remember talking with someone at the start of it all saying I thought the chance of getting a vaccine quickly was slight at best and there was a good chance there would be no vaccine at all. Science has come to our rescue, we have vaccines, there is a way out. Let’s have no mealy-mouthed anxiety. Roll up your sleeve.

As the little bumper on the BBC says: The future isn’t cancelled. See you on the other side.

Can we put the civil back in civil society?

Can we put the civil back in civil society?

‘Why do we scream at each other? This is what it sounds like, when doves cry’. Prince

The culture wars, from Brexit to Trump and beyond, have driven deep wedges between different sections of society. We now communicate on cultural and political issues with the caps lock PERMANENTLY ON. This is most obviously played out in the snake pit of social media, but it can also result in a cab driver screaming at a bicyclist (me). We seem to operate on a very short fuse or in many cases on no fuse at all. We blow up in each other’s faces.

Whether social media has caused this or whether it just provides the perfect forum for abuse is tough to say.

I remember when we first came back to London having lived in Asia for eight years, being struck by the latent anger that everyone seemed to carry about with them. Asia is quite different, and people don’t tend to lose their shit in a microsecond. If you start screaming at people out East then their reaction is generally no reaction and if you are screaming at them to get something done, then good luck, because you’ll get nothing. Unfortunately, the anger I noticed in London on my return is still there, but now I just take it for granted.

Perhaps social media has jacked us all up to screaming pitch, but I wonder if there is any way we can disagree with a little more courtesy.

If you go back to my second Little London Life blog titled ‘Hey Londoners: Be better’, I was talking about something similar.

It’s embarrassing to admit that there are many people in my part of London who I meet and interact with on a regular basis, but about whom I know absolutely nothing. I may well see them more often than I see my friends, but I don’t even know their names. It works like this.

 Perhaps you’ve found a café that sells a decent flat-white close to your office, you generally get served by the same bloke who becomes ‘your barista guy’. You are starting to behave like an aloof millionaire not wanting to interact with the servants – despite only having £10 in your bank account to last you to pay day. You are morphing into that person you hate, the one who is unpleasant to waiters.

I ended the piece by saying: Be better, be courteous.

Recently, I was listening to Politics on the couch, a podcast by Rafael Behr and he came up with an interesting analogy. Global warming has heated the seas and when the water becomes too warm, corals will expel the algae living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. It’s called coral bleaching and the coral will likely die. Our public discourse, and yes, I am thinking of President Trump, is now so heated that it’s bleaching out our ability to have civil conversation.

I may profoundly disagree with your politics and you with mine, but we have to find a way to have a conversation without screaming at each other. When you scream nobody is listening and the culture war wedge is driven that little bit deeper into our already divided society.

It may seem incredibly old fashioned but courtesy and civility lie at the heart of a decent society. Why do we scream at each other? Let’s talk instead.