Saturday, 27 November 2010

Crossrail on Display

There is an exhibition on at the Building Centre Store Street, off Tottentham Court Road showing the designs for the Crossrail stations, plus a very large and snazzy model of London outlining the route and stations. I went yesterday, but if you can't get there have a look at the London Reconnections site where many of the pictures are on display. There is much talk in the exhibition of 'regeneration' and 'urban quarters' around many stations but a fair amount of demolition has also been involved. Nevertheless some of the designs, especially Canary Wharf, look impressive.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Patrick Keiller

To the BFI Southbank (I hadn't realised it had changed its name from the NFT, but I haven't been for some years) to see Robinson in Ruins followed by a panel discussion. This article in yesterday's Guardian explains the background much more eloquently than I can. I managed to book the very last ticket online on Friday and the film started just after I finished work.

I liked it, but I preferred the previous two films. I must say I loved Paul Schofield's narration and found Vanessa Redgrave's less engaging, also on this occasion I felt that the camera lingered just that little too long on the locations, especially in the agricultural scenes - the lack of people was very noticeable and I'm sure deliberate, making a point about the industrialised countryside. In most locations, together with birdsong and sounds of rustling undergrowth, there was the almost omnipresent noise of aircraft or traffic.

As usual there was a great deal of useful if often depressing information and statistics about defence establishments, the amount of cereals used as animal feed, evidence for global warming and species extinction, but the kind of arcane connections made in the first two films were less in evidence here. The panel discussion at the end never really got a chance to get going as there were too many participants (including Doreen Massey and Patrick Wright) who would have been good value on their own and too little time. Apparently a book based on the film's 'research project' is on the way, written by members of the panel.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

London Jazz Festival


To The Forge in Camden last night to see Troyka, part of the London Jazz Festival, described by Time Out as, ‘King Crimson for the iPod generation’, a tag I imagine the band feel a little uncomfortable about. The three-piece look very young, especially the drummer, but they play with considerable skill and imagination. The prog rock comparisons are clear from the tricksy, constantly shifting time signatures and spinning-on-the-heel changes of mood and tempo.

There are definite echoes of Robert Fripp’s accelerated arpeggios in some of Chris Montague’s constantly inventive guitar playing but the guitarists he cites as influences - Wayne Krantz and Marc Ducret - I’m not familiar with; I heard Marc Ducret on the radio recently, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard Krantz. Kit Downes provides an unusual backing on organ, only rarely soloing, on occasions Mike Ratledge seems to stand at his shoulder. It got ‘rockier’ as the evening progressed and they did a cover of Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box; I’d go to see them again. A waiter (the manager?) said to me afterwards that the usual gigs there are not as 'hardcore', more supper jazz - give me the hardcore.

Often grouped together with the Portico Quartet and Troyka by critics, Polar Bear played at Westminster Reference Library last Saturday and I got to see their first set before having to get the train home – the second set was a collaboration with a rapper. Still interesting stuff, although I prefer seeing them live to listening to their records, there are long improvised sections where they can get pretty ‘far out’.

More music next week: Gilad Atzmon in Hastings on Monday and The Fall in Bexhill on Wednesday.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Talks, Talks

Thursday night's talk for the South East London Folklore Society in the Old King's Head near London Bridge station went pretty well - I was on in the first half talking about stuff in the new book and Scott Wood went on after a short break to speak about urban legends and a bit about ghosts. Again, a very good turnout of around 60 people, only 2 books bought, but luckily that was all I had with me.

Another talk request has been received which I have agreed to do: the Chelsea Society in the Small Hall of Chelsea Old Town Hall on Monday 10th January 2011 kicking off at 18.30. The venue looks beautiful and large, if the usual numbers turn up it should be able to accommodate them.

On Wednesday heard Prof Ronald Hutton deliver the talk 'How Pagan were English Medieval Peasants?' at the Warburg Institute. The answer was 'scarcely at all' according to all the evidence thus far available, the cult of saints making up for the panoply of pagan gods until the Reformation. He is a great speaker and indomitable question taker, his books on calendar customs and his peerless history of modern witchcraft The Triumph of the Moon are invaluable for anyone with an interest in these areas. He kindly signed my copies before his talk.

Monday, 8 November 2010

L T C Rolt

Interesting programme this morning on Radio 4 about the writer L T C Rolt, whose works I've consulted for background information on the history of engineering for Subterranean City - lucid and entertaining, they are a great introduction for non-experts like myself. He also helped revive Britain's waterways, wrote the classic book on train crashes Red for Danger and one of my favourite ghost stories The Bosworth Summit Pound.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Battle Bonfire


To Battle last night to witness the Battle bonfire parade. Every teenager in Sussex seemed to be there, in various states of inebriation. We stood outside the Yesterday's World museum and got a pretty good view of proceedings. Our previous experience of the Sussex bonfire societies has been at Hastings and Rye and I hadn't realised that these are relatively sedate and peaceful compared with Battle, which I imagine is very similar to the famous Lewes event on November 5th - I've never had a chance to get to that one - not sure I want to now (someone was seriously injured there on Friday night).

I'm no fan of loud bangs and there were enough deafening explosions during the parade last night to give me a powerful impression of the Blitz in London - you could actually feel the percussive effect on your body, fortunately I had some earplugs - amazingly our son slept through the whole thing. The usually sedate town is an excellent place to see the parade as the streets are wide and there are plenty of places to get a good vantage point - the centre with the 'token' bonfire with a guy was a mob scene. Hastings Old Town is a bit too narrow and confined to get the full effect, I noticed this year that there were a lot fewer flaming brands than in previous years, not the case at Battle where they made an impressive display. The atmosphere of potential anarchy was exciting, but we went to the Senlac Inn by the station when the parade entered the battlefield (site of the 1066 encounter) as we had had enough explosions for one year - the display itself was remarkably muted. We made our way back past the cars abandoned by their owners when they realised that the road through Battle was closed for the night.

Lost Steps


My friend Phil Baker was interviewed for the excellent Resonance FM programme Lost Steps last week - the results can be found here - he mainly talks about Austin Osman Spare, artist and occultist - I own a work by him - there is an exhibition of his work at the Cuming Museum for a few more days, which I don't think I'm going to be able to get to. it was featured in this recent Culture Show profile featuring the great Alan Moore. Phil's books on absinthe, Dennis Wheatley and William Burroughs are also recommended.

I was featured earlier this year on Lost Steps and the interview may still be up on the site, many of the other interviews are well worth hearing. I have not been particularly impressed by my interviews (my performance, not the interviewer's), but this is one of the better ones despite my repetitive inarticulacy.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Social Network

We made out annual trip to the Hastings Odeon this week to see The Social Network, which I thought was great - witty, sharp script, good perfomances, especially from Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg and even from Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker. I probably need to see it again on dvd to catch some of the rapid-fire dialogue that I missed in the cinema. The obvious central irony of the film is that the man who invented the world's most popular social networking site offering the possibility of making hundreds of 'friends' has few of his own and those he had are taking him to court for a part of his multi-billion dollar empire. And nobody pulls out a gun during the entire two hours - very unusual these days in a Hollywood film.