My other discovery this morning has been a slightly eccentric café in Dalston called Farm: shop where you can drink your coffee in amongst fluorescently lit exotic pot plants:-
I had in my diary that Natasha Kerr had an open studio today beside the Regent’s Canal near Broadway Market (G6 Northside Studios, 16-29 Andrews Road E8 4QF). I like her work. It’s quiet and thoughtful, based on autobiography and the memory of her refugee family and its dysfunctionality, using patchwork, collage, painting and quiltwork (she calls them textile pieces):-
In my recent peregrinations round Hackney, I have grown increasingly to like London Fields, the curiously shapeless and essentially nondescript patch of grass and trees north of Broadway Market, which people crisscross on their way to do their Saturday shopping and to the lido at the north. It’s got a long history as an area of common ground where drovers would allow cattle to graze before taking them to slaughter in London. It’s surrounded by good and interesting houses. This is Navarino Road:-
In waiting for breakfast at the Arts Club, I had a look at Ely House along the way in Dover Street. It was designed in the early 1770s by Robert Taylor in the purest and most refined neo-Palladianism for Edmund Keene, a former Master of Peterhouse who, when he was Bishop of Ely (hence the mitre on the façade), sold the old and historic Ely Place in Holborn to build a new smart town house in the West End. He was apparently ‘as much puffed up with his Dignities and Fortunes as any on the bench’:-
I went tonight to an event to commemorate the late Sheikh Saoud Al Thani, one of the great collectors of recent years, who collected across the range – vintage motor cars, photography and most of all antiquities, all of which are still apparently stored in warehouses in Qatar awaiting a decision as to what will happen to them in the longer term. He was photographed by Richard Avedon and established an annual photographic award, announced tonight. The event began with a salutation not just to ‘Your Royal Highnesses’, but to ‘Your Exalted Highness’:-
On Monday, I went to an event held at the Battersea Arts Centre in which Ed Milliband talked to an audience drawn from the recently established Creative Industries Federation about what will be the arts policy of an incoming Labour goverment. Most of it was fairly uncontentious, filled with good intentions, but no promises which might cost money. What I have been digesting from attending open fora with speeches from the floor on both Monday and Tuesday is the depth of public feeling and anger about many issues of current public policy and indeed attitudes to the polity as a whole. I wasn’t convinced that this strength of feeling was reflected on the podium.
I was on a panel of an arts equivalent to Question Time last night. It’s a new formula, possibly a one-off, intended to raise issues connected to the arts before the election and to coincide with the BBC’s campaign to encourage creativity (Get Creative). I had never done a programme involving a studio audience. What struck me was how articulate, well informed and vehement the audience was about a whole range of public and cultural issues, including the low wage economy in the arts, the strike at the National Gallery (how do they know so much about this ?), the operation of the Arts Council, the bias towards the capital in arts funding, the reduction in drama teaching in schools, and the disastrous consequences of high tuition fees in arts education. Kirsty Wark chaired it brilliantly. It goes out on screen on Sunday.
It’s not often that I’m in the City in the morning. Yesterday I made the mistake of running up the Monument, all 311 steps of it. Almost nothing to see at the top, just office blocks. Hard to reconstruct the symbolism of the Fire of London, the sense of achievement in the reconstruction of the City, Christopher Wren as Surveyor General, helped by Robert Hooke, submitting various alternative designs to the City authorities and then using it subsequently as a telescope. Caius Gabriel Cibber was responsible for the carving of the emblematic plaque in which Charles II directs operations, assisted by liberty, architecture and science. There used to be a model of it which was owned by William Chambers and by descent to Isambard Kingdom Brunel:-
Every year I get invited to Anya Hindmarch’s runway show in London Fashion week. Every year I decline. But this year I thought I should at least experience the full glories of the London fashion industry, late starting, a lot of hanging about having cups of strong coffee, then lots of stick thin models marching up and down, holding handbags as traffic signs, ending up with full Wagnerian pomp as motorway workers joined them in full orange fluorescence. A form of performance art:-
I have just been to Sandy Nairne’s leaving party after twelve years at the helm of the NPG. It was a wonderful event, saluting his many achievements: the establishment of the Portrait Fund, the acquisition of the Van Dyck Self-Portrait, keeping the institution going in an era of cuts, extending the range of sitters, and doing some wonderful exhibitions, including, most recently, William Morris and Virginia Woolf. Engagement not inspiration was how he described it. It’s not bad to have a paean in free verse from the former poet laureate.