Victoria Park

Victoria Park has only been in the news recently in connection with bad behaviour, but my limited experience of it during lockdown, and especially today is the opposite: large numbers of well-behaved people – small children and families, a few sunbathers, people on roller skates, using the park as it was originally intended when it was first proposed in 1840 as the lungs of east London, providing light and air to alleviate the burden of urban deprivation:-


Stepney City Farm

I found it oddly reassuring to be able to go back to the Saturday farmer’s market at Stepney City Farm and see mostly the same stallholders as before – the bread stall, the stall which sells apple juice – but some new as well, including a stall selling freshly made pasta and a proper cheese shop; but also the sense of nature in the middle of east London even including the pigs:-


Millicent Fawcett

Given the amount of interest at the moment in public statuary, I took the opportunity yesterday to walk across Parliament Square, which is in some ways the nation’s Valhalla, although a gloomy one, normally little seen because it is treated as a traffic roundabout. The most recent addition is Millicent Fawcett, unveiled in 2018, done by Gillian Wearing. I thought it was effective, more so than many recent statues, and was interested to find, which I had assumed, that it was modelled using the latest 3D scanning system, based presumably on original photographs. It demonstrates that it is still possible to produce convincing contemporary monuments, worth looking at as a model as the demand grows for new ones as replacements for those which are removed:-


The City

I walked through the City this morning: as deserted as the West End, maybe more so. Not a worker in site, just people hurrying along the pavements.

A few familiar sites. Eric Parry’s new building at 120, Fenchurch Street:-

The Lloyd’s Building:-

St. Paul’s:-

Charles I in Temple Bar by John Bushnell:-


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (36)

Every fortnight I attend a Zoom meeting about the current state of the plans for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

This week the key issue was whether or not the recent controversy surrounding the granting of planning permission to Richard Desmond’s plans for housing on the Isle of Dogs will in any way influence the views of the planning inspector who will be responsible for the planning enquiry opening on October 6th. Two things may arise. The first is the question as to whether or not Whitechapel will need a new luxury boutique hotel post-Coronavirus and whether or not it is going to be economically viable. Who are the tourists going to be who are going to want to swim in a tenth-story swimming pool overlooking the local mosque and pay Soho House rates when Soho House itself is rumoured to be in financial difficulties? The second is the extent to which the planning process is susceptible to lobbying and how far the current system is so heavily weighted towards developers who can afford to pay expensive planning consultants and political lobbyists, not to mention attend tory party fundraising dinners where a case can be put directly to the Secretary of State over coffee. Please keep October 6th. in your diary. There needs to be a show of public support for keeping the Foundry as a foundry and not allowing change-of-use.


The breach of lockdown

I think it would maybe be a good idea if the planned awayday of Special Advisors organised by Dominic Cummings began by asking them to watch the accompanying film made by Open Democracy and then asking them to hold a roundtable discussion on their response:-


Portrait of a Black Gardener

I have just been reading Christopher Woodward’s characteristically lively account of the Garden Museum’s timely acquisition of Harold Gilman’s Portrait of a Black Gardener, a remarkably interesting picture by Gilman, who married an American and died young of Spanish flu:-


New Statues

I support this proposal (as below) to commemorate Mary Prince which feels like a good and constructive idea to make use of the existing plinth outside the Docklands Museum. But the question will soon arise as to who should undertake the commission ? And the truth is that there are very few people who have the skill and interest to make good and convincing modern commemorative monuments, as I learned when I was involved in the group to commission a monument to Lloyd George in Parliament Square where there were so few sculptors even willing to enter a proposal. Until the recent upsurge of public interest in civic monuments, it was treated as a dead genre and no-one has been taught or trained to undertake them for at least three generations (ie since the second world war). Or am I wrong ?


The West End

I had my first trip back into the west end today – to see Linda Heathcote Amory’s exhibition at Browse & Darby and have a sandwich in Green Park. It was a strange sensation – the streets so empty, so few people about, just a very few tourists forlornly carrying Fortnum & Mason’s green bags. One doesn’t know quite how to behave, giving people the widest possible berth on the pavement, half acknowledging their presence as fellow survivors, but without warmth. And yet the shops of Burlington Arcade were all staffed up, waiting vainly for customers. Then I got absolutely soaked bicycling home. I had forgotten that it rains sometimes.


The Blackbird

A blackbird has built its nest right outside our dining room window. I feel more than faintly intrusive taking a photograph of her as she probably thought she was safe from prying eyes, deep in summer foliage, and I feel she is looking at me backwards and resentfully:-