Tag Archives: London

Slumming It

The Atlantic Cities on London’s re-emergent ‘sheds with beds’.

We recently contributed to Feargus O’Sullivan’s piece in The Atlantic Cities, about the return of slum living to London. David Cameron’s Middle-England-vote-catching proposal to relax planning laws (UPDATE: currently under parliamentary review) may only exacerbate the issue. Here’s an excerpt:

All over London, so-called sheds with beds have been cropping up like toadstools, presented to planning authorities as family home extensions but then surreptitiously rented out to strangers. Many of these are poky warrens let out to the desperate, part of the growing number of Londoners who have lost hope of gaining social housing and are forced to make do with whatever they can get. The government has vowed to tear down these new shanties, with UK housing minister Grant Shapps and some press cameras even joining in a raid on one. It is unlikely that they would be such a problem, however, if the government hadn’t cut funding for social housing by 50 percent, pushing poor renters into the private sector.

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Shiny things #2

Items of interest from around and about …

Femtech – Genevieve Bell’s research shows that (older) women are now tech’s lead adopters.

‘More Olympics cash in tie in nonsense’ – Douglas Murphy’s latest take down of London2012.

Mean Streets no more – an analysis of how NYC radically reduced its crime rate.

And from the old NYC … performance art legend Penny Arcade talks to Run-Riot about bringing her ‘sex and censorship’ show Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! to the West End.

An anecdote to twee – vandalised vintage crockery from TrixieDelicious on Etsy (as keenly recommended by Regretsy).

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Happy Birthday Dalston Superstore

How time flies when you’re having fun…

Outside Dalston SuperstoreSeems like only yesterday that still-coolest-venue-on-the-block Dalston Superstore opened its doors for business. In fact, we were there a few days before those doors were even screwed on properly… downstairs at the pre-pre-launch party. We were convinced then — and time has proven us right — that Superstore was more than a little special. Our photo, above, showing amongst other early birds, BST Co-editor Anne-Fay and friend Tom Hopes, even ended up in a Vogue Italia spread on new cool London…

So… Happy Birthday, Superstore!

Read the interview we ran with Superstore founder Dan Beaumont back in 2009, and the feature-ette that Superstore ran on BST’s very own Darrell Berry, earlier this year…

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Netmasked Avengers — The Coming of the Digilantes

Tracking down the rioters, the high-tech way…

Not quite the Big Society our current leaders wished for, but we’ve seen some signs, over the past few chaotic days, of Londoners taking the protection of the streets into their own hands (Dalston shop-owners, we salute you)

Now we read in Forbes that a group of community-minded developers are working to identify some of the ‘malefactors’ from the London riots themselves, the high-tech way.

Un-inclined to suit-up and hit the streets, RLSH-style, these more technically-savvy crime-busters propose to run images of the rioters through off-the-shelf facial-recognition software, to put names to the shameful images of the past few days.

The plan might yet, we, guess, run aground on the rocks of the Law, but we wish them well in their quest.

UPDATE 15 August 2011: Evidently their software didn’t make the grade, and they’ve given up, to slink back into the shadows from whence they came…

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Kinetica Art Fair 2010

Interactive lushness at the electronic art fair.

Here at BST we have a ‘kid test’. If kids immediately ‘get’ a piece of interactive art and are engaged with it, then that’s a clear indicator of the effectiveness of the piece. Of course, all art is subjective, but interactive and new media art in particular can suffer from a degree of convolution and — to be frank — irrelevance. The kid test filters a lot of that out. One parent was overheard patiently explaining to their daughter that ‘not everything moves’, but if the art fair is called ‘Kinetica’ that’s a fair expectation.

There are lots of pieces which pass the kid test at this year’s Kinetica art fair at P3 in Marylebone. Special props go to Squidsoup‘s Ocean of Light, a startlingly beautiful ‘dynamic light sculpture’ that reacts to music. We can see all kinds of amazing artistic and commercial applications for this piece, not least in live performance. Bjork, get in touch! Cinimod Studio‘s Flutter which produces a rabble of virtual butterflies is also charming and effective — a real example of how digital art can be humanised. On the more Dorkbot-esque side of things, Monomatic’s P.E.A.L. replicates bell ringing with tubes of light, lasers and a iPhone remote (note, expect to see A LOT more iPhone remote controlled applications).

The fair also has some neat examples of first generation hacker art, such as Miss Rosa Bosom, a robot created by Bruce Lacey which won the Alternative Miss World in 1985 and SAM, a sound reactive cybernetic sculpture from 1968 by the late Edward Ihnatowicz. As an argument for the continued importance and relevance of digital and electronic art (are you listening, ICA?), Kinetica 2010 makes a pretty compelling case.

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(Just Say ‘No’ To) Form 696

Running a club night in London will require reporting of all acts and ‘target audience’ to the Met. WHAT?

Indeed that’s the case, under new plans from London Police. Event organisers in 21 London boroughs are requested to ‘co-operate fully’ with police, by completing the new Form 696 before the event, in the interests of ‘risk assessment’.

Requested are not only details of promoters and onsite security, but also the contact numbers and real names of all performers, description of the ‘expected audience’ and the genre(s) of music expected to be performed, the examples given on the form being bashment, R’n’B, garage. No surprise then that many feel the Met is actually planning to use this data to focus police attention on clubs where such ‘dangerous’ forms of music are to be played, as well as for the profiling of the scene(s) and communities who organise and attend.

According to early reports, the form also included questions about the ethnicity of expected audiences. The current version on the Met’s site doesn’t include such information, so we can’t comment on that.

Concerns have been raised by many, including once-Undertone Feargal Sharkey, who now heads up the music campaign organisation UK Music. There’s a petition running on the 10 Downing Street website, a FaceBook group has been set up, and the mainstream press are paying attention.

Simply misguided urban policing, or the precursor of some modern day version of the 1994 Criminal Justice Bill’s rave-busting criminalisaiton of ‘repetitive beats’? Watch and wait. More importantly, act against this.

[Thanks for Helen Noir for tipping us off to this]

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Hackney Council v Yellow Pages

What do people actually do with Yellow Pages directories these days?

This door-dropped card from Hackney Council offers their considered opinion on the subject — Yellow Pages is the only branded item on their list of useless waste (think engine oil and foil) to be put in their green recycling bins. We think they’ve got it about right.

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Anonymous vs the Church of Scientology

Internet flashmob does V proud in central London

Anonymous vs ScientologyFollowing an online call-to-arms, London yesterday saw a flashmob of mask-wearing, beatbox- and poster-wielding protestors converge on the Church of Scientology’s centre on Tottenham Court Rord for some good old-fashioned British fun-poking and rabble-rousing. Bless.

From Deathboy’s blog:

One guy in a full-on V outfit made an announcement in a very dull and proper fashion that none of us could hear properly. We were busy heckling him (anonymous has no problem with criticising anonymous), when he reaches the end of his speech and presses play on a boombox. Rick Astley: Never Gonna Give You Up

The crowd went fucking wild.

500 people rick-rolling the UK Scientology head office. It was at this point I saw the corners of the cops’ mouths twitch into smiles as they realised it was ok: we were from the internets.


[Image presumably taken anonymously -- let us know if it's yours!]

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London innit?

It’s not all clubbing and possums around here: introducing Bigshinything’s highbrow culture correspondent

maria-callas.jpgIf anyone asks me why I live in London, I always say, “For the culture, darling, for the culture”. Unfortunately my life usually revolves around working till I drop occasionally punctuated by wine fuelled loiterings in a pub. Recently, however, I managed to spend a couple of weeks soaking up culture enough to last a year.

Wagner was the major motif for this cultural overdose, with the added bonus of a visit from Father and Sister – long overdue and acting as the catalyst for the other events. Although the trip was organised a year in advance I made the significant sacrifice of giving them the two tickets allocated my “Friend of Covent Garden” status. With hawk-like concentration and swooping tactics I managed to get returns for all performances except the all important Walkyrie featuring Domingo as Siegmund. Undaunted, I queued for hours outside the ROH for the privilege of a daily return. (Note to anyone who queues for day return tickets: If the person in front of you asks if it’s okay for her friend to join her in the queue the answer is No. However, Karma made a brief visit and allocated me the next return two minutes after they got the last of the day release tickets – and a much better seat it was too. Ha!)

As an opera lover, I am amazed at how infrequently I manage to get myself to the ROH or ENO. Perhaps it’s a bit extreme to do no opera for 7 years and then cram 20 hours into 1 week – and since I thought I’d not be able to get tickets for the performance I also went to the rehearsals. Mmmm. 40 hours of opera in the space of 3 weeks. But absolutely worth it. Not for the fainthearted, what with all the naked rhinemaidens and incest, but a glorious celebration of some of the world’s most debated music. And the lights. My god the lights.

Not sufficiently sated with this mammoth Wagner-fest, I felt honour bound to offer my family an insight into all this culture I supposedly drown myself in on a regular basis. We went walking in Kew Gardens and admired the Henry Moore. I can recommend this to anyone as a fantastic day out – and if you arrive by 11:40 sign yourself onto the free guided tour.

We followed this up with a performance by Einaudi and Friends – and my, what friends he has. A real treat to hear Ballake Sissoko on the kora, and Djivan Gasparyan on the diduk.

All fired up with the washes of emotive sounds from one of the leading minimilists of our time, we hotfooted over to the Barbican for a little Sibelius. Nothing like Sibelius to rouse the blood. Throw in an entirely unexpected debut performance of Saarioho’s Quatro Instants with an inspired rendition by Karita Mattila and you have an evening of glorious culture which deserves extended wallowing.

And in amongst all this opera, symphony and art? Trundling over to nearby Peckham to attend the “Fall into Place” art event: an unexpected experience I am convinced could only happen in London. Housed in an unassuming terraced house on a quiet residential street accessed through the ground floor window, this innovative celebration of art and music was great fun. Unfortunately, I timed it badly to coincide with a non-musical half hour, but after a slightly ungainly entrance, and possibly more literal interpretation of falling into place than was wise, I had a jolly wander through the rooms. I particularly liked Alice White’s portraits in the main room, and the bathroom decorations.

All in all, a couple of weeks to remember. I live in London for the culture you know, darling.

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Logo Puts the ‘Limp’ in Olympics

Olympic identity appears to fall at the first hurdle. But, is it all just a clever marketing stunt?

London Olympics logo So that’s what £400k spent on Wolff Olins’s endless meetings and stale Pret sarnies bought us. Good to see that some of the money ‘freed-up’ by the arts funding cuts we mentioned earlier has been spent so wisely.

But, enough enough already with the sarcasm. More constructive critics might argue that the desire for “reaching out and engaging young people” (presumably that’s a reference to the ‘funky’ shapes and colours, a la Thompson Twins 7-inch sleeves circa 1982) could have been more usefully satisfied by — for example — actually reaching out and engaging with them. London has a unique street-art culture, and that 400k could surely have funded some ongoing recognition of and support for the nascent design talent on the streets of East London — which might have generated some real interest in the design aspects of the Olympics amongst young people. And just maybe, a better logo. A sadly missed opportunity.

(BST’s editor points out that it does look just a teeny bit new rave. Maybe. If you squint. Hard. After downing a litre of ‘vodka’ at a mid-week Dalston lock-in.)

Anyways. You know you’re experiencing a post-‘that kidney show hoax‘ sign-o-the-times moment when the BBC News blog speculates that the whole thing might be a set-up to get publicity, after which the plan is to replace the controversial identity with one ‘made by the people for the people’.

We believe they really do think that their design rocks. The suspicious absence of ‘approved’ comments on the official london2012 blog posting also suggests that they don’t want anyone cluttering up their special happy place with naysaying negativity. Maybe they need ‘blogging’ explained to them, as well as ‘design’.

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