Vikingur Ólafsson

For those who are not already familiar with the playing of Vikingur Ólafsson and perhaps more especially for those who are, I very strongly recommend his current series of radio programmes, which not only gives a very clear and illuminating description of his musical interests, but also an indication of the differences between those who believe in a presumed authenticity of interpretation and those like Olafsson who advocate a much freer use, adaptation and transcription of the original score, particularly Bach:-


Romilly Saumarez Smith (2)

Although Romilly’s current exhibition is only online, the house has been turned into a museum, with small precious objects laid out on the dining room table, as if they are fresh discoveries from the crypt:-


Arnold Circus

As the sun was shining, I went to investigate what was happening in Arnold Circus, the beautiful centrepiece of the Boundary Estate, where there was a low-key, local demonstration about the fact that the Council has sent contractors in to rip up the pavements in order to introduce a new scheme of pedestrianisation. Dan Cruickshank was there, talking knowledgeably, as ever, about the history of paving stones, how wooden setts were used in the west end to reduce the noise of the coach traffic, cobbles in Calvert Avenue, and the quality of the York stone paving stones and granite kerbs laid out by the LCC and which are at risk of being lost:-


Howard Hodgkin

On a very rare trip into the west end, partly to deposit books at the London Library, I was able to catch the beautiful, choice exhibition Memories, devoted to the work of Howard Hodgkin. They are nearly all small works – deeply intense and atmospheric recollection of things seen, mainly while travelling in Venice, America and Tangiers, the distillation of the ways in which they are half remembered and half abstracted in the mind.

Leaves (1987-88):-

Venice Sunset (1989):-

Italian Landscape (1990-91):-

After Degas (1993):-

Chinoiserie (1994-7):-


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (67)

I am posting a formal letter I have just received from Professor Toshio Kusamitsu in Tokyo who has been following the plight of the Bell Foundry from afar. I knew that he was deeply knowledgeable as to what the Bell Foundry represents in terms of its industrial history, but I was moved by the amount of feeling which has gone into his plea to the Inspector to save it at all costs:-

To whom it may concern,

Sir Charles Saumarez Smith has asked me to write to you an appeal for the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. I am very happy to express my deep concern about the building of the oldest manufacturing company in Great Britain. Charles has been a very good friend for nearly thirty years and I have been following his blog in order to catch up what’s going on in Britain. Recent posts have been rather discomforting, namely about the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. I am a historian of the British Industrial Revolution and received a PhD from Sheffield University which discussed the relationship between crafts and industrialisation. I lived most of my stay in the U.K. in London and three years out of six I lived in Spitalfields in the East End of London. I used to explore in the near by area, and I came across the dignified and a little austere building and admired its historically heavyweight presence. I think that Britain is a country which values and protects the historically important monuments together with the private sector organisations such as the National Trust. I remember during my period in Britain that the Ironbridge Gorge Museums won the Museum of the Year Award in 1977 and the same award went to the Quarry Bank Mill in Styal in 1984. I am stressing this because Britain has been a pioneer of preserving and protecting the heritage of industrial sites and buildings. When I was at the University of Tokyo I took about twenty students on a  tour to industrial and literary places including both the Ironbridge Gorge Museums and Quarry Bank Museums. I am happy to say that the students were very impressed by their histories and in particular the way they were preserved. As a student myself of John Ruskin (I am a councilor of the Ruskin Library in Japan) and William Morris, I am a strong believer in protection and preservation of historical relics and especially important legacy that would teach the future children of their pride in history.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is significant historical evidence which will teach us and future people how the history was made, although bell making may be a small-scale industry. But you should listen to the bells ringing at the Big Ben and other places where the products of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry are still living examples of the superb quality. It is my belief and indeed desire that the Whitechapel Bell Foundry should retain its building as a whole and should be retained by the worthy hands to create its manufacturing function as well as museum like facility to those who are interested to observe the process and crafts of British manufacturing industry. I sincerely hope that the strong voice against American company’s ugly redevelopment on the site of Grade II building should be heard and the future of the building would be saved. I ask you to consider that the saving of the historical building would benefit the appreciation from the people in future.

Yours faithfully

Professor Toshio Kusamitsu PhD (Sheffield), FRHistS, Emeritus Professor of the University of Tokyo 


Old Town Clothing

For those of you like me who are enthusiasts for Old Town Clothing (, I strongly recommend the closest they will ever get to marketing, which is a short film shot in Super 8 by the filmmaker Jamie Muir on the marshes by Salthouse church in north Norfolk close to Holt where Old Town is based (once upon a time, it was in the old town in Norwich). It says nothing to indicate that the only thing they all have in common is that they are dressed in Old Town from head to foot, but those who know will know:-


Old Masters New Spaces

I’m posting the details of a round table discussion I’m involved with in ten days time, partly because you would have to be fairly eagle eyed to find it and partly because it’s such a good and interesting topic – the Frick as presented by Marcel Breuer, hard to imagine:-



I follow American politics vicariously and not in any detail, because I love the country and don’t want to be distracted by its current political turmoil, but the attached photograph told me much more than I ever need to know about the current total corruption of its belief in liberty and free elections. It tells you more than any image I have ever seen of the corrosion of its values:-


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (66)

I have allowed my blog to rest for a bit, mainly because I spent most of last week absorbed by watching the Inquiry on which the fate of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry depends and have been discouraged from commenting in any detail on it.

The main presentations finished on Friday. I could not help but notice an imbalance between the presentations by the professional advisers working for Raycliff who have presumably been paid very large sums for their work over the last three years and ours who have mostly been working pro bono, but who were subjected to at least the same level – actually much greater – cross questioning over the details of their cost plans.

I very sadly missed the presentation by Adam Lowe on Thursday which was by all accounts brilliant, authoritative and funny, refusing to dance to the hostile lawyer’s questioning and demonstrating how superbly well qualified the Factum Foundation would be to running the Foundry as a working foundry, which is what we all want.

Now there is a day on the 27th. for public witnesses, a day of summing up, and a day when the Inspector visits Middleport. Then we wait and pray.

We still need £15,000, not least to pay our advocate who has done an absolutely brilliant job – tough, but invariably polite, and worth every penny. Any suggestions, please contact