Those of you who know me in ‘real life’ or follow any of my blogs might know that I have something of an addictive personality. I also like a challenge. Whilst living in London I took part in the Big Egg Hunt 2012 and Big Egg Hunt 2013, and also BT ArtBox; three similar events where fibreglass objects are painted by artists to raise money for charities, and members of the public are encouraged to hunt around to find them all. In the 2012 Big Egg Hunt I found 209 of the 210 eggs (one was never actually on display) and in 2013 I found all 102 eggs. I didn’t do as well with the phone boxes, and only found 69 out of 83 or 84.
Naturally, I was very excited to hear that a similar event was being held in Bristol this year, just after I moved to this fabulous city. These events are a great way to explore a place, and I learnt a lot about London whilst taking part in the previous events, so I was very keen to have a go at the Gromit Unleashed trail.
Gromit Unleashed runs from 1st July – 8th September, and sees 80 Gromit (the dog from popular animation Wallace and Gromit) statues scattered around Bristol and the surrounding area (with one in London Paddington). When I saw the map I thought there would be no way I could collect them all, even though I did have plans to go to London, because some of the ones on the outskirts of Bristol were just too far away. Distant locations included Cheddar Gorge and Westonbirt Arboretum, which would be very difficult to get to using public transport alone. Luckily, my Mum is as crazy as I am and was up for a spot of Gromiting by car! (‘Gromiting’, by the way, is the new word that has been coined because of this event. I hope it makes it into the dictionary!)
I spotted my first Gromit before the trail had officially begun, when the statues were still being painted in May, and today (with a LOT of help from my mum and her car) I found my 80th Gromit!
I’ve seen so much of Bristol and the surrounding area now and have got a real feel for the place. It’s been lovely to drive through the countryside, walk around different parts of town, and discover new things. All throughout the trail I’ve been glued to the official Gromit Unleashed app, which I have to say is absolutely smashing! It’s very playfully made, with great Gromiting music and little snippets from Wallace whenever you ‘find’ a Gromit. The whole event has brought out the child in me, and it’s been crackin’ fun, Gromit!
Of course, there’s a serious side to this, and one mustn’t forget that this wonderful event is all in aid of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity. The statues will be auctioned off in October to raise money for the charity.
If all of this sounds like jolly good fun to you, there’s still two weeks left to see the Gromits (until 8th September). Then, from 18th – 22nd September all 80 Gromits will form a public exhibition titled ‘The Greatest Dog Show on Earth’ at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Clifton, Bristol. For more information, visit: www.gromitunleashed.org.uk.
Here are the 80 Gromits, and for more pictures please visit my Flickr set.
You might remember from previous posts that I’ve got a little bit of a thing for the modern tradition of love locks; that is, people declaring their love for each other on a padlock, and locking it to (usually) a bridge in a public place. You can read more about love locks I’ve found before in these posts: part #1 (Brooklyn Bridge, New York), part #2 (Hungerford bridge & Tower Bridge in London), and part #3 (Shoreditch, London).
Now I’m back with part #4, because this weekend I visited the British Heart Foundation Love Installation at Covent Garden.
For a suggested donation of £3, Joe Public and his adoring girlfriend/wife/lover have been able to declare their undying love for each other on a red padlock this week, and lock it to a giant installation reading ‘LOVE’. Actually, looking at the love locks, it hasn’t just been romantic love that has been declared – there have also been friendships, family love, love for places, and memorials to loved ones.
I visited the installation on Friday night, but it was too dark to get good pictures. I went back on Saturday, but it was too crowded. So, not wanting to miss out, I decided to go into town again this morning before the shops opened and get some more photos. I was really moved by some of the declarations I read, and even left one of my own (see if you can spot it).
The installation (and a similar one at Camden Lock) were in aid of National Heart Month (February).
Last year I enjoyed taking part in the Big Egg Hunt and finding 209 eggs hidden all over London (see 2012’s post), so I was delighted to hear that the Big Egg Hunt was back this year. On a slightly smaller scale, this year there are only 101 eggs to find (plus the mascot, Eggbert), and this time the eggs are only scattered around Covent Garden, not the whole of London. Most of the eggs are really easy to find, and it only took me last night and an hour or so today to snap them all.
All of the eggs in The Big Egg Hunt are decorated and designed by different artists, painters, sculptors and ceramicists, and some of them are really creative and original. The headline artists are Sam Taylor-Johnson (formerly Taylor-Wood), Billy Childish, Alexis Harding and Michael Petry.
One of the best things about the Big Egg Hunt is the great atmosphere it produces. Suddenly everyone is on the same mission, and complete strangers happily chat to each other in the streets. I met this lovely chap today who made the effort to call out to me when he saw me again later and offer me helping in finding Eggbert, who was hiding. Usually in London people don’t look at each other, let along speak to each other, so it make a really nice change to discover that there are in fact some friendly people out there. The Eggsperts hovering around Covent Garden selling books and giving out chocolate were also lovely!
The Big Egg Hunt is sponsored by Lindt chocolate and in support of Action for Children, a charity committed to helping the most vulnerable and neglected children in the UK. The Big Egg Hunt will be in London until Sunday 17th February, before it moves off to Birmingham (19th – 25th February), Liverpool (27th February – 5th March), Manchester (7th – 13th March), Glasgow (15th – 20th March) and then finally back to London for Easter (22nd March – 1st April).
Find out more at thebigegghunk.co.uk.
Although I had the chance to check out Mr Brainwash‘s London show on Wednesday night, the official opening wasn’t until today. I heard on Saturday that the exhibition was opening at 2pm today, and that the first 250 people would receive signed prints. When I went on Wednesday, people didn’t start queuing until about an hour before, so this morning I got up and spent a lazy morning, thinking I would aim to get down to New Oxford Street at about 1pm. However… I was browsing Facebook while having my breakfast, when I noticed a picture on Mr Brainwash’s Facebook page showing that people were already lining up! It was only 9.40am…
I hesitated, but then figured I didn’t want to miss my chance and decided to get moving. I got to New Oxford Street at about 11.30 – two and a half hours before the doors were due to open.
As I was leaving my house there was an almighty clap of thunder and it started to pour down. By the time I got to New Oxford Street it was raining really heavily and the weather was quite grim. I couldn’t believe people would really be waiting outside the Old Sorting Office in that weather, but they were, and they went right round the building! I followed the queue round and finally found the end, where I waited patiently, read, and chatted with the girls in front of me.
Just before 2pm Mr Brainwash came round to check out the queue:
He then Tweeted that there were at least 1,000 people in the queue!
I had no idea if I was in the first 250 or not, but people kept counting and saying 182, 210, 266… It seemed like the number of people in front of us was going up, and I really hoped the waiting was going to pay off.
Finally, at about 3.20pm, I got in… and I was number 237! Each person got given a Mr Brainwash spray can, which they could later exchange for a print (once Mr Brainwash had finished signing them all!).
I absolutely LOVE my print, and it was well worth waiting about four hours for! People are already selling them on ebay, but mine’s not going anywhere.
There were more pieces on display today than there were on Wednesday night, and the lighting was a bit better so I took a couple of hundred photos in the end. I don’t care what anyone says – I love Mr Brainwash’s work! Here are my top ten pieces, in no particular order:
Mr Brainwash was around the whole time, signing posters and postcards (and pretty much anything you put in front of him), but I just couldn’t bear to queue any more.
I hadn’t eaten, and they’d taken my water off me at the door (they also asked if I had any pens in my bag when I was searched at the door, but luckily they didn’t spot the ones I had stashed at the bottom – hey, I’m a writer!), so after a good look around I decided to call it a day. I think I’ll go back for another round when it’s a bit quieter though, as the exhibition is on until the end of August. You can see my photos from today here, and photos from Wednesday night here.
For more information about Mr Brainwash and his London exhibition, please visit: www.mrbrainwash.com.
If Andy Warhol is the king of pop art, I’d like to declare Mr Brainwash the king of ‘rave art’. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I really like what Mr Brainwash is doing, and his new exhibition at the Old Sorting Office in London is unmissable.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the opening night of the show – a collaborative event by Mr Brainwash and musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be an exhibition and a simple private view with a bit of music in the background as I wandered around with a free glass of wine? Or was it going to be a full-on rave in a warehouse?
I’m still not sure what it was but, whatever it was, it was incredible (and my ears took a whole day to recover).
The entire ground floor was filled with huge Mr Brainwash artworks, ranging from “life-size” Star Wars figures made out of tyres to huge spray cans that looked like Campbell’s soup.
As I entered the exhibition when the doors opened at 8pm, the first striking piece was a massive set of Olympic rings, made out of paint cans and stuck on the wall. Standing by the rings were men dressed up as members of the Queen’s Guard, and further along were more people dressed as Stormtroopers. Everyone was clutching Burn energy drinks, and judging by the dancing I saw from one of the soldiers later on, I expect they had quite a few! (The event was supported by Burn.)
Club music was playing, and before long the DJ switched and Nicky Romero came on. People started to pay attention to the stage, but everyone was clearly waiting for Mr Brainwash’s co-star for the night, David Guetta, to take his place.
It was after 9pm when David Guetta came on – I lost track of time a bit actually, and it might have even been closer to 10pm – but he played right through until after midnight, when the event was supposed to end, playing just one more, and just one more – the crowd was relentless, and even I (not used to clubbing or staying out past 11pm) could have kept going.
Having been born at the beginning of the 1980s I was too young to appreciate ’80s pop and still slightly too young for the early ’90s rave scene. Instead I got stuck with the late ’90s and early 2000s – not the best period of music history. If I could choose to be 18 at a different time, I would almost definitely go for 1992 – the heart of the rave scene. On Wednesday night I felt I had come the closest to attending a real rave that I probably ever would. Even though the event was all aboveboard and commercially sponsored, I couldn’t help getting a rush of excitement and imaging I was doing something really underground. Not everyone got in – I heard there were around 1,700 people waiting to get in around 9pm and they were operating a one-in-one-out door policy – and I felt like I had been chosen to take part in something really special.
The whole event was filmed for David Guetta’s latest music video which I’ll be keeping an eye out for. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I do hope I might catch a glimpse of myself and my friends (we were at the front all night). Mr Brainwash was, of course, also filming and taking a lot of photographs. I actually saw him on the street before the event and took my picture with him.
I get irritated when people so easily dismiss Mr Brainwash’s work and say it’s rubbish. Often, the reasoning is based on the fact that he doesn’t produce a lot of the work himself (he has an army of people who do all the actual design and making – he’s just the ideas man), but I could name a lot of other artists who have teams working with them in the exact same way he does – Andy Warhol certainly did. The other thing people always say is that his work shows no originality, and that his ideas are clichéd, but that doesn’t bother me. His work is a bit clichéd I guess, but I like his messages – “life is beautiful”, “follow your dreams” and “you’re never too young to dream big”.
For me, right now, this art is relevant. Mr Brainwash is telling us not to take our lives so seriously and to have a bit of fun while pursuing our dreams – what’s wrong with that? As for his images of famous people, such as the massive Kate Moss picture on the side of the Old Sorting Office , what’s not to like:
Or a bit of David Bowie:
Or Obama dressed as Superman:
Mr Brainwash’s work may not be the most original or groundbreaking art of all time, but it certainly gets your attention, if only due to the enormous scale of many of the pieces.
This Artlyst review is worth a read, calling Mr Brainwash’s work “so bad it’s good” and “kitsch multiplied by twenty”. Whatever you think of Mr Brainwash and his art, I think you’d be a fool to miss this much-hyped exhibition, open from 5th – 31st August at the Old Sorting Office, 21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1 (you can’t miss it – the whole outside of the building is covered in his work!)
And, when you’re feeling cynical and judgemental about what Mr Brainwash is doing, just try to keep one phrase in mind: life is beautiful…
London is absolutely buzzing with culture at the moment because the Olympics are in town and all eyes are focussed this way. I don’t really care for sport, but I’m happy to see so many cultural events going on at the moment. In fact, there’s so much going on that I’ve been getting a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) again, but I’m trying to remember to breathe, keep calm, and carry on. 😉
As usual, I’m totally skint. You would think that this might bring a downer on things – no money = nothing to do – but that’s never the case in London. Last weekend, I managed to have an absolutely fantastic time without spending hardly any money at all. In fact, all the good stuff I did was absolutely free.
I started my Saturday at Waterloo Station, waiting to meet my mum who was coming up for the day. A hug from my mum is always free, and priceless. We headed down to the river, and eventually along to Arigato in London – a festival of Japanese culture. You can read more about that on my blog Haikugirl’s Japan.
The whole event was free, and included taiko drumming from the fabulous Joji Hirota and his taiko ensemble.
Along by the river there is always a lot going on, and plenty of entertainment for free…
As we were walking along, we ran into some people wearing costumes. They gave us flyers for a Korean music concert which was part of the All Eyes on Korea event at the Southbank Centre. They said that we could exchange the flyer for a free ticket, even though the tickets originally cost £10. I guess they couldn’t sell enough tickets, which is a shame for them, but great news for us!
We had originally planned to do something else, but quickly decided to change our plans and attended GongMyong present ‘Walkabout’ in the Purcell Room at the Royal Festival Hall instead.
I don’t know much at all about Korean culture or music, but I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and it made me interested in getting to know Korean culture better. It was the kind of music that makes you want to dance, and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the bits of Korean spoken between the songs because the music was in a universal language that everyone could understand. The musicians were very talented and creative, and used a variety of percussion instruments as well as random objects to make a carnivalesque sound. It was Korea meets Brazil, with a little bit of didgeridoo thrown in for good measure!
On Sunday, despite the very changeable weather, I found myself standing in line at BoxPark in Shoreditch waiting to get some free art. I had registered with the Graffiti Life event during the week, but didn’t really expect to be there early enough to be one of the first 100 people lucky enough to get a free box painted by a graffiti artist.
Well, it turns out I was third in the line! I made some new friends in the line while waiting in the rain, concluding that we must all be a bit mad to spend our Sunday in such a way.
But it was totally worth it to get this fabulous box painted by Adam Brazier, one of the founders of Graffiti Life.
When I got home on Sunday night there was just one more free thing to act as the cherry on my already very delicious cake… I got a free ticket to the opening night of Mr Brainwash‘s show in London!
The opening night was a collaboration between Mr Brainwash and the musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect, but was very, very excited! The opening party was last night… but more about that in another post! 😉
London really is a fantastic place to live, and you can have an incredible amount of fun without spending any money at all! To paraphrase the Mastercard advert: London rent? More than £700 a month. London experiences? Priceless!
When I was a teenager I didn’t fit in. In fact, as soon as I realised that I wasn’t like most of the other kids, I actively tried to do everything I could do be different from “the norm”. I thought other people were sheep, and rebelled against wearing labels or doing anything that was seen as mainstream. I dyed my hair every colour you can imagine, and got quite a lot of piercings. For anyone who’s interested, I looked like this.
My friends and I used to talk about how one day the “freaks” like us would rise up against the rest of the people. I had dreams about people coming up out of the sea like an army of pirates, ready to stand together and do battle against the people who tried to put us down.
I know now that I was just being a teenager, for the most part, but there is still an element of the non-conformist in me.
As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I really don’t care much for the Olympics. However, I felt that, as I was going to be in the area, I really ought to try to make the effort to be interested and watch the torch go by. It was, after all, probably the only chance I would ever get. I arrived at Great Eastern Street about half an hour before the torch was due, and there were already people lining the streets. I tried to feel their excitement, but couldn’t quite get in the mood. People banged on Coca-Cola sponsored drum things that were being handed out, drank free Coca-Cola and waved flags.
Prior to arriving, I had been at the Whitecross Street Party, dubbed “The Rise of the Non-Conformists”.
I had wandered up and down the street, happily snapping photographs of street art and artists at work, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I chatted with the artist DON about his recent work and watched him stencilling a new piece out on the street.
Then I popped in a gallery and a lovely girl dabbed glitter on my face and took my photo to put on Facebook, and I felt like I belonged.
Standing waiting for the torch, I listened to some people talking next to me. They were full of almost obsessive excitement for the Olympics, and I felt like turning around and just asking them “why?”, but I didn’t. They wouldn’t have understood me any more than I understood them.
When the torch came by, it was all over in a flash and something of an anti-climax. I barely saw the guy who was carrying it, and didn’t have a clue who he was anyway.
So I headed back to Whitecross Street, back to my people. When I got back there, the streets were buzzing with life, colour, good smells and great sounds. Eating a delicious chocolate brownie, I happily mingled with the non-conformists, and watched an artist called INKFETISH painting this somewhat anti-Olympics piece…
And another artist called FETCH painting this:
Enjoy the Olympics if that’s your thing, but these are my people, and this is where I’ll be.
The Olympics are coming, and boy do we know it. Here in London it seems to be all anyone can talk about. Forgive me if I sound a bit bah-humbug, but I’m afraid it doesn’t interest me at all. Yes, I know most of you will probably ask “How can you not be interested?” and tell me things like “It will only happen once in your lifetime!” and “It’s going to be spectacular.” I’m not about to argue with you. You’re probably right that it will be spectacular and I’m sure I will never forget that London 2012 happened in my lifetime. I’m just saying, I’m not really interested and I’m not planning to watch any of the games. It’s simply not for me.
I don’t really care what other people get up to though. Go crazy. Enjoy it. Fill your house with odd one-eyed mascots and union flags if you so desire. I won’t be joining you, but that shouldn’t stop you having fun. (Although I have noticed a strange tendency in many folk to try to urge me to join in – much like a colleague urges you to drink in the pub when you know you’ve had enough, but he still wants to get more wasted and can’t bear to do it alone.)
When it comes to the Olympics, while I am mildly fed up with hearing about it all, and wish the newspapers would talk about other things a little bit more (rather than the two-page spread the Evening Standard had tonight showing Twitter photos of Olympic athletes’ bedrooms), there’s only one thing that is really bothering me…
I love London. It’s a brilliant, diverse place to live. Each area, north, south, east and west, and each of the 32 boroughs, has its own personality and character. Whatever the Olympics brings with it, I have been crossing my fingers that it will only help to add more diversity and interesting culture to London. However, in a last-minute panic to “clean up” London, Hackney Council appear to be destroying the soul of my beloved Shoreditch.
On Sunday I was having one of my wanders around the Old Street/Shoreditch area, looking for new street art, when I rounded a corner and saw something that made me sick to the stomach. Hackney Council vans parked up next to gleaming white walls. I don’t know the extent of the damage yet, but I can tell you for one thing that the piece below is gone, and that was enough to make me really angry.
How dare they go around “cleaning up” the streets in this way, destroying art that has for so long made the area what it is? Who are they to decide what art should stay and what should go?
This wall on Great Eastern Street, I have recently learned, is “available for both Art and Commercial projects” for a fee “starting at $750 a week”. The wall has, in the past, been used by 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and The Disney Company, as well as Beck’s Beer and the launch of Soul Calibur V. I unwittingly took photos of the Soul Calibur ones myself, wondering if it was in fact art or advertising, and now I know. (Actually, the pictures in that case were really cool, whether they were advertising or not – I guess there’s a whole other blog post I could write on that topic!)
So graffiti artist CODE FC (who holds a degree in Public Art and Design from Chelsea College of Art) and graphic artist Jack Haslehurst (also from Chelsea College of Art) have participated in this ‘peace mural’ project, to celebrate Lord Michael Bates’ ‘Walk for Truce’ and broadcast Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson’s ‘Plight of Britain’s Disabled’ for the London 2012 Paralympics. CODE FC, who had an exhibition entitled “20:12” at the Curious Duke Gallery in London in June, has been creating Olympic-themed street art for a couple of years. What I don’t understand is why his work is deemed acceptable (and, in fact, legal according to this article), and other artwork on the streets is being destroyed.
For me, CODE FC’s work is pretty bland, although I guess the “cameras for heads” thing is making some comment about the media’s role in the Olympics. The mural is for a good cause, so I’m not saying it shouldn’t be there – I’d rather see this piece of art than some billboard featuring those bloody mascots or that awful 2012 logo – but why should CODE FC’s work be promoted in this way while the streets are being “cleansed” of other art which doesn’t quite fit the image the Hackney Council are trying to portray to the rest of the world?
Other street artists have also been making Olympic-themed art, but I suspect none of these pieces will last long if the Hackney Council “anti-graffiti” mob find them…
I wonder what would happen if Banksy decided to paint something for the Olympics? I suspect, like his Jubilee piece, a sheet of Perspex would be smacked over it immediately and people would flock to see it. But what makes Banksy or CODE FC any different from Mighty Mo and Gold Peg, whose piece above was recently painted over? Surely the concept of “freedom of speech” should apply to the artists who work on the streets of London. I want to hear what they have to say – don’t you?
It was with this in mind that I allowed myself to be persuaded to attend the Saint George’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square today.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy myself. When I had gone down to Trafalgar Square for Chinese New Year it had been very crowded and uncomfortable, and I basically ran away (well, shuffled – it was impossible to run anywhere). However, what I found today was very different. The Saint George’s Day celebrations weren’t very well advertised, and so it wasn’t hugely crowded down at Trafalgar Square. The space did fill it, but it never became impossible to move, and I always felt like I had enough space.
My friend and I were met with a very quaint, English country garden atmosphere, complete with temporary flowers, fake grass, and plastic ducks and swans swimming in the fountains.
The event consisted of music…
Pearly Kings and Queens…
And, of course, tea and scones…
I almost forgot I was in central London while I was in the tea tent, as it felt very Sussex-y, like I was in some country park somewhere.
I really enjoyed the music, especially ZeTrio:
And the Robbie Boyd Band:
The music hall performances from the Brick Lane Music Hall were fun, too.
The whole event got me thinking about how patriotic (or not) we Brit’s are. There was a smattering of red and white flag-clad, Stella-swilling football fans, and a few people dressed in red and white getting pretty into it, like these sweet ladies who let me take their picture:
But overall it wasn’t too nationalistic. However, whenever there’s a chance to be proud to be British, there is always this slight feeling that “British pride = not open to other cultures”, which simply shouldn’t be the case. As a Londoner, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the St George’s Day celebrations just as much as the Chinese New Year, Japanese Matsuri, or any other festival.
I’m no royalist or nationalist, but I did really enjoy indulging in a little British culture today. It’s so easy to forget where you come from when you live in such a multicultural city. I spend so much of my time submerged in Japanese culture, even though I live in England, that I sometimes forget to enjoy my own country’s culture.
I think the Londoners and Brits at the event enjoyed it, and I do hope the tourists and people from other countries also enjoyed the taste of British culture displayed in London today. I’ve realised that British culture is perhaps not as sophisticated or mystical as some other cultures, but we certainly do know how to have a good knees up! 😉