Tuesday, 20 September 2011


It appears that I am going to be speaking at the Philosophytown Festival in Malmesbury after all.
If you happen to be in that delightful edge-of-the-Cotswolds town on the morning of Sunday 16th October at 9.30 (!) then you can come and hear me talk about the history of the London coffee house with added contribution about Joseph Addison from the festival organiser Michael Cuthbert.
The full programme is here.
Addison helped set up his wife's former servant Daniel Button in an eponymous coffee house in Russell St Covent Garden, just a few doors down from where Johnson and Boswell would meet many years later. He also visited coffee houses to get material for The Spectator.
Much more can be found in my book London's Coffee Houses. A short extract below:
'Some of the flavour of debate in London coffee houses is captured in Joseph Addison’s account of his visit, during the course of a day, to a variety of popular establishments, where he hoped to determine public opinion regarding a (false) rumour of the death of the king of France that was spreading across the capital. He started at the St James’s coffee house where,
“I found the whole outward Room in a Buzz of Politics. The Speculations were but very indifferent towards the Door, but grew finer as you advanced to the upper end of the Room, and were so very much improved by a Knot of Theorists, who sat in the inner room, within the Steams of the Coffee Pot, that I there heard the whole Spanish monarchy disposed of, and all the line of Bourbon provided for in less than a Quarter of an Hour.” '

Monday, 5 September 2011

Folkestone Triennial

Last week we camped for a couple of days at Little Switzerland just outside Folkestone. The weather and light conditions were such that France seemed a short swim away - see my photo above including the artwork Out of Tune by A K Dolven, a suspended bell on the shore that could be rung; although when we went to make it chime in the evening it was 'closed' - presumably so that people living nearby aren't kept up at night.

We were there on an Art Trip to investigate the Folkestone Triennial and nearby towns. Favourite works: Huw Locke's suspended model boats in the church, Cornelia Parker's Mermaid (my photo above), Towards the Sound of Wilderness where Cristina Iglesias created a window onto an almost unrecognisable Martello Tower completely covered in vegetation, and a video installation in a Masonic Hall by Olivia Plender, although the setting was more impressive than the work - Martin Creed's 'soundwork' in the Leas lift wasn't working. Tried to get into the GHost House (not officially on the list) but it was closed.

Also went to the Turner Gallery in Margate - impressive building but the acres of space inside had very little to fill them - the work that impressed me most was by Russell Crotty, a series of globes, maps, documents and starcharts. Hastings' own contribution to hopelessly optimistic 'regeneration through art', the Jerwood Gallery, has announced that as works are running a little behind schedule it will not be opening this summer - too late anyway - but next summer instead - not a good sign. Again, however good the building, is there any interesting art to put in it? I feel it should have been placed somewhere in the New Town - there's plenty of empty shops and a warehouse-like empty newspaper office - rather than in the already crowded area at the beach end of the Old Town.

Another interesting place was Morelli's ice cream parlour and cafe in Broadstairs - apparently pretty much unchanged since the 1950s.

Horse on the House

I've been painting the front of our house over the summer - finished in August and it looks wonderful. When we returned from our holidays this magnificent beast had appeared on one of the walls - I don't intend to paint over it. It's probably the work of an artist who has left animal stencil pictures around the town.