The Still and Star

I was so upset by the design of a new development in Aldgate which has been much in the press in the last week that I went to see the Still and Star, the old pub which is being demolished and reconstructed as a green replica underneath a gigantic and unspeakably hideous new building:-

Unique London Pub Under Threat From Developers | Londonist

Of course, the pub on its own is nothing special: just a lone survival of a Victorian pub down an alleyway opposite the underground station. But it is representative of what is happening everywhere in Aldgate, Spitalfields and Shoreditch: the demolition of what remains of Victorian London and its replacement by big, faceless office blocks, which will probably only have a life of twenty five years, before being replaced by another bigger and more faceless block, thereby abolishing any sense of character at street level, the texture of urban life at a human scale. I’m sure the architect won’t mind, sitting behind a computer screen in a faceless office block; nor will the developer in his house in the country. But I mind at the way the character of the city, and more especially its fringes, is being eaten away and destroyed, desecrating any sense of the past.

This is Little Somerset Street, down which one finds the Still and Star:-

This is what’s left of the pub, now closed:-

And this is the development site with the name of the vandals proudly displayed:-

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Loughborough Bell Foundry is saved

I was very delighted to hear on the Today programme that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given a big grant to save Taylor’s, the other historically very important Bell foundry besides Whitechapel based in Loughborough.

I have known for a long time that the HLF had chosen to concentrate its funding and resources on Loughborough rather than Whitechapel.

I just hope that it helps raise the importance of Bell foundries, their cultural significance, and will enhance determination to save Whitechapel rather than undermine it at this critical juncture in the campaign.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/uk-england-leicestershire-55355374

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Music at Charleston

We have just been listening to a concert by Melvyn Tan from Charleston: such a treat. It seems like a hundred years ago since the early days of lockdown when we listened to him playing on Friday evenings for a small group of friends. Now, it is a fully professional, staged performance, interspersed with readings from Proust and Virginia Woolf by Jack Farthing. He played Fauré, Ravel, Debussy and finally a Chopin Ballade.

Lockdown has been horrible in so many ways, but it has at least made one, or maybe it is only me, more attentive to the deep pleasures of listening to music, even if it is only secondhand.

The concert is available for a week only and you have to pay, but it is in the best possible cause:-

https://charlestontrust.digitickets.co.uk/event-tickets/31921?catID=22880

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Westcombe Cheddar Cheese

We came back from Somerset with some Westcombe Cheddar Cheese, four large chunks of it. We ate some in the evening and it was more unspeakably delicious than you can imagine, so full of the flavour of the fields, as if it had only just been made, which it maybe had. Since I know that independent cheese makers have had a hard time during COVID, I am posting information about it, not least because I have discovered that you can get it by mail order:-

https://westcombedairy.com/cheesestore/westcombe-cheddar-1

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Edmund de Waal

We also stopped off at Roche Court en route to Bruton to see Edmund de Waal’s very beautiful, select, choice groupings of objects of alabaster, porcelain and gold leaf, arranged with such visual attention and precision in groups behind glass in the gallery designed by Stephen Marshall of Munkenbeck and Marshall so that they can be seen and appreciated COVID-free from the garden:-

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Happy Christmas !

I was going to wait till next week to post my Christmas card, but I have noticed that I pay much more attention to cards which come early – or maybe it just the effect of COVID that one particularly appreciates those cards from people one has not seen for a year at least; or what I try not to call retirement. Anyway this is my way of reciprocating and thanking people for their cards and their loyalty to the Blog when news has been thin, particularly as I have been discouraged from commenting on politics, which has occupied so much of everyone’s time and thoughts during the last year.

So Happy Christmas to all my friends and perhaps, most especially, those friends who contributed to the fight to save the Bell Foundry !

2021 could not be worse…..

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Gathering

We had arranged to see Romilly’s exhibition at Make Hauser and Wirth Somerset in Bruton, a great treat as well as definitely work for her, before we are once more immured as a result of Tier 3.

I should know the difference between seeing work on the dining room table and seeing it in a proper gallery setting, beautifully displayed, with quotations from Edmund de Waal and Marina Warner, which I meant to photograph, but didn’t.

Installation is all:-

I particularly like the red dot !

https://www.hauserwirth.com/hauser-wirth-exhibitions/30396-gathering

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Artemisia Gentileschi

We went on a nocturnal visit to the Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition.

Judith and her Maidservant from Oslo:-

Danaë:-

Self Portrait as a Female Martyr:-

Judith beheading Holofernes:-

Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holfernes:-

Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting:-

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Middleport Pottery

I have been waiting for the article I wrote about Middleport Pottery to be posted online. It has now been. It was the result of one of my few excursions outside London in the last nine months as I wanted to see what Re-Form had done to preserve Middleport Pottery, as it has been viewed as a potential model for what they might be able to do at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Credit where credit is due. The scheme at Middleport was led by English Heritage, which makes it the more baffling that Historic England has supported the crass commercial redevelopment of the Bell Foundry as a hotel and not Re-Form’s much better and more intelligent proposals.

The Inspector visited the day after I did and I hope drew the same conclusions.

https://thecritic.co.uk/issues/december-2020/making-history/

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Patch Work

I have been reading Claire Wilcox’s Patch Work which has been written about as if it is only about her work as a curator at the V&A, handling old clothes in museum stores, but it is about far more and is only incidentally informed by her feel for fabric – at least as much by a very strong visual memory and a sense of the poetry of insignificance, each recollection written as a short and very intense linguistic meditation. She anonymises her memory of ‘The Keeper’ who was presumably the late Santina Levy, brisk and efficient like a house mistress jangling the keys to the stores and instructing lost visitors where to go. There’s a particularly good chapter on moths. But it’s all good.

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