By damekor, Sep 4 2014 05:45PM

Published on Off ThHoo digital Magazine 12th August 2014

Black Women in the spotlight in the first exhibition - Re-Imagine Black Women in Britain at the new home of Black Cultural Archive.

Things come in threes and this is my third blog on happenings in Brixton...this is a biggie. A success story you need to know about. And with every success story there’s always a struggle, a fight along the way. And with a vision so big comes a budget so big...we're talking £7 million. The roots of Black Cultural Archives (BAC) dates back to 1981, a group of people got together led by Len Garrison, with an idea, a dream, a shared purpose to create an archive to document and celebrate the history of Black people in Britain and therefore be a resource of education for all. They started out in a shop front, just down the road from their current home in Windrush Square, fought every step of the way and finally secured big helping hands from various donors including Heritage Lottery Fund, Lambeth Council, and Esmee Fairbairn. 33 years later and the new home of BCA is in a grade II listed building with modern extensions, which includes the exhibition space, the archive library (which I’ve heard it also includes the Black plays archives), there’s a café, shop and an open courtyard where I sat with my friend after we’d visited the exhibition supping an apple juice in the sun. This is an important place. It’s historic. We’ve never had anything like this before, on such a large scale and accessible to all. When I arrived at BCA I was greeted by a well manned reception and handed an audio device, with which you can hear snippets of interviews and further accompanying information to the exhibits. We went on a Tuesday afternoon and there was certainly a healthy flow of punters coming and going, black, white, men, women, younger and older, you name it, this exhibition is attracting us all.

Re-Imagine: Black women in Britain. This exhibition is focused on strong, powerful, successful, influential, inspiring, challenging women who’ve made a mark, made a stand, made a difference, and made history.

With the way the world is today I feel I’m being constantly flooded and bombarded with a lot of meaningless information, latest this, latest that, must see, must have, must know, must go, everything but everything gets it’s fifteen seconds of fame and soon forgotten come the sixteenth. Even with those that achieved great fame, their achievements can be forgotten, thrown away, records lost, discarded. If it ain’t happening, and it ain’t happening now, where’s it’s place in society. It’s great to just stop for a minute, breathe, take in and reflect, contemplate, investigate and gain a little more understanding than you had before. You can certainly do that here. There is a quote on a wall in the exhibition;

"I realised I had to know who I was otherwise somebody was going to tell me" Linda Bellos.

I love this quote, it’s all bound up in personal responsibility, accountability, labels, identity. Now obviously Linda Bellos, who has been honored with an OBE is a revelatory feminist, not only is she mixed-race, she’s also a lesbian, and an ex-politician. She was the second black woman to become a leader of a British local authority, and she’s talking about big things. Its inspiring. Know yourself and get on with being you. The knock on effect of knowing who you are, where we’ve come from, acknowledging the legacies and ancestry before us, has a big bearing on who we can be, relationships we have, where we are going and how we can make the change we want to. There’s so much to hold onto and remember. And, be thankful for.

I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, so I’m not going to mention all the women in the exhibition, it’s for you to discover when you go. But what I will say is theres women you have heard of and women you just wouldn’t have. You are bound to have heard of Mary Seacole, the nurse who looked after British soldiers during the Crimean war. I was amazed to see on display here an actual photograph of Mary Seacole, in a book that was found in a school.

There’s also a great image from the university of Reading, by Aaron Watson, entitled Hail Sister, which is a three part image starting with the skull of an Ivory Bangle Lady of African decent who lived in York during the fourth century, and the next two images are a reconstruction of her face suggesting what she may have looked like, which in fact is a very modern image of a woman’s face you could see walking around Brixton today. Upon further investigation I have found that new research was published in the journal, Antiquity proving that the population of York even in the Roman times was more culturally diverse than we’d been led to believe. Also by analyzing her skeleton and the objects that were buried with her in her grave, such as elephant ivory bracelets and earrings, the Ivory Bangle Lady is thought to have been part of the high social circles, so not everyone of North African decent at that time would have been slaves. A skull is such a powerful image, ever reminding us that we are all equal, behind it all, all the same.

The staff were certainly friendly, informative, and patient with me, lets just say I’m an inquisitive type, and lucky for me, I met Tracey who works at BCA and runs workshops there, is a mother of four and also a student at School of Oriental and African studies, she was very engaging and was only too happy to answer my questions.

The exhibition for me was motivating, inspiring, educational and enriching. Thank you Black Cultural Archives. I wish you continued success. I’ll be back to visit again, maybe read a play or two.

Re-Imagine runs till 30th November. Black Cultural Archives, 1 Windrush Square, Brixton, SW2 1EF. Opens 10:00 – 18:00 ~

By damekor, Aug 13 2014 07:00AM


By OFH, Jun 3 2014 10:34AM Posted on Off The Hook Website

This week I've flown over the pond and am reporting from the USA! Here I am in the largest city in Minnesota, right on the Mississippi River and adjoining Saint Paul, known as the "Twin Cities" and the "Land of 10,000 Lakes".

So what have I found so far that's ‘off the hook’ here in Minneapolis?...

Well, they have a great creative and arts scene, and when I heard they have a major exhibition featuring 22 paintings and sketches of Hopper's work at the Walker Art Centre, that had to be my first excursion. This centre is up there and hailed as one of the top five museums of modern art in the US, so I was expecting great things. I jumped on the number 6 bus and rode from Downtown to 1750 Hennepin Avenue and there it was…an interesting shape of aluminium-mesh, concrete and glass. Formally opened to the public in 1927 and prior to that, it began life in a room at Thomas Barlow Walker's home with twenty of his favourite pieces of art hanging on the walls. Now on 9 levels and boasting over 6 gallery spaces, a theatre, cinema room and a restaurant, it has grown some. The exhibition, "Hopper Drawing: A Painter's Process" is truly fantastic and inspiring. Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was an incredibly gifted and talented artist. His work is beautiful, deep, simple and minimalistic. He loved architecture, his use of lines, shadows and dramatic lighting is both alluring and thought provoking. He focused on urban and rural scenes, also figures at work, home, in different environments including hotel lobbies, bedrooms and a famous painting you will have seen before Nighthawks, four customers and a waiter are in a diner.

One of my favourite pieces on display has to be Soir Bleu. I love the colour, the characters, the mood and atmosphere, although in this work there are a group of figures, they are all in their own world and a strong sense of solitude shines through. His paintings are emotional and there is a feeling of loneliness and contemplation surrounding his figures. His figures are often looking out of windows or through the viewer’s eyes. It's like we've caught them in private moments and we are left to complete their stories.

In 1913 he sold his first painting 'sailing' for $250. In 1999 actor Steve Martin purchased ‘The Hotel Window’ for $10 Million and seven years later it was sold for a cool $26.89 Million. His fantastic legacy also includes the great influence he had on other artists, notably inspiring Alfred Hitchcock's work; replications of his images can be seen in films such as The Rear Window and Psycho.

His wife Jo, influenced his work and would model for him, she would go on to do this for 40 years. Edward died in his studio and ten months later Jo followed him, leaving behind decade’s worth of wonderful and extremely valuable work.

It was fascinating to see his work and accompanying sketches and studies that lead to each creation. A pleasant bonus at the end of the exhibition was a studio to test our skills, an 'Old School Art School', complete with a scene to draw, pencils paper and drawing boards. What a great thing to do! I have to say I did enjoy it and listen, I don't want to boast or anything, but the rather lovely and encouraging tutor Raymond Robinson did give an A+ for perspective and shading. Something must have sunk in! What a great day. So all in all, an exhibition not to be missed.

By damekor, Aug 8 2014 11:49AM

Posted on Off The Hook Magazine May 2014

Most recently I’ve been mooching the south west streets of England, our sixth most populous city and the ninth most populous urban area, a neighbour to Bath and Gloucester, with fantastic architecture, which includes hundreds of Grade I and II listed buildings. It also boasts theatres such as the Hippodrome, the Tobacco Factory, QEH, the Redgrave, The Alma Tavern and the Old Vic Theatre Royal, a museum and art gallery, a rugby union club, a number of football clubs including the oldest, The Rovers, and Football League, City, it hosts an International Balloon Fiesta (hot air ballooning). This city is also known for building aircraft, playing a key role in the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner project. In 1969 The British Concorde took flight from Filton, and in 2003 Concorde 216 made a final flight home to Filton. It has it’s own university, with graduates including Matt Lucas and David Walliams, it’s own drama school which was opened by Sir Laurence Olivier in 1946, alumni include Helen Baxendale, Jeremy Irons and Daniel Day-Lewis. It has a hilly landscape, and the river Avon runs through it, with a short coastline on the Severn Estuary, flowing into the Bristol Channel. Yeah you got it, I’m talking about Bristol. The Bristolians whose dialect is that of ‘Brizzle’, it’s proper lush here me lover.

Founded in c.1000 and named by ye old English people, Brycgstow, meaning the “place at the bridge”, oh yes it also has bridges and I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous suspension bridge, anyhow back in the day trade was thriving so much, they even had their own mint, and I’m not talking the one with the hole, I’m talking silver pennies. In the 12th century, business was booming all through the 13th century with manufacturing and ship building trading with the Irish, gaining County status as the population and boundaries of the city expanded. Then came the Black Death of 1348-1349 up to half the city’s inhabitants, gone.

Bristol played a big part in the Slave trade, along with Liverpool in the 18th century it was part of the Triangular trade. It fitted out over 2,000 slave ships, goods were taken to West Africa and exchanged for Africans, who were then transported as you can imagine in the most horrendous conditions, across the Atlantic to the Americas and then sold to the aristocracy to be house servants. The Abolition of the Slave Trade act was passed in 1807, William Wilberforce led the British campaign, but it wasn’t until 26 years later that slavery fully abolished.

Come the 19th century, new industries were growing and new tracks were being laid, I’m talking Great Western Railway, connecting Bristol to London Paddington. And that’s the very Railway I rested my bones for the two hour journey.

Well I certainly had a great week experiencing the arts and culture scene here. There is so much to report back on as the scene is thriving. I stumbled upon this gem, Co-LAB, a cool funky shop that describes it’s self as “A Window into Bristol’s Independent Art Scene”. It was the t-shirts that caught my eye, cool prints of animals, but they do it all here, gifts, cards, jewellery. And the best thing for me is that they have local artists and creative’s work on sale and a workshop at the back where the artists create.

I became a frequent punter at Roll for the Soul. Satisfying my taste buds with freshly cooked and healthy food, I’m talking chunky chips with falafel wraps the ‘everything’ includes salad, halloumi and falafel, m mmm, delicious. Roll for the Soul is a pretty funky place with a great vision, it started in 2012 and is a not-for-profit café come bicycle workshop. On the first floor is The Hub which is a meeting and events space, they host live music, yoga class, and currently there is a photography exhibition running until the end of the month.

I definitely recommend a visit, and if like me you like a bit cake, the coffee n walnut cake went down a treat.

Read more about it

Now this is where I met up for coffee with non other than the rather gorgeous and rather talented Gary Beadle, who was playing at the Tobacco Factory in the one man show, Banksy: The Room In The Elephant. You’ll know Gary from Eastenders, he played Paul Trueman, and if you are old enough to remember Grange Hill, Gary played Elroy. He was also in the tv series Making Out, Absolutely Fabulous, Holby City, the Bill, and Hustle to name a few.

Gary is on tour with, Banksy: The Room In The Elephant by Tom Wainwright and directed by Emma Callander. Beadle is highly energetic, utterly engaging and compelling to watch as he takes us on a wonderful journey through Tachowa Covington’s story in this very interesting play based on the ensuing events when Tachowa’s home, an old abandoned water tank in LA, was stencilled by street artist Banksy, with the sentence “THIS LOOKS A BIT LIKE AN ELEPHANT”. Tachowa’s home then became a tourist hot spot and no longer his home. Tachowa is an eccentric, free spirit, dressed in a home made suit of armour he would roller-blade along the boardwalk at Venice Beach, and charge tourists 30 bucks a snap. This vagrant was a former Chippendale dancer and Michael Jackson impersonator, Tachowa is a true survivor, he seeks out unconventional abodes, including caves and tents in woodland to live rent free and separate from society at large, describing himself as self-sufficient.

So what’s up next for Gary? Well…currently he is filming on Tony Saint’s new eight part drama, The Interceptor for the BBC, focusing on the adventures of the UNIT a dedicated surveillance team. And most recently he finished working on the feature film, Heart of the Sea playing William Bond and directed by Ron Howard! This film is currently in post-production, so keep your eyes pealed next year for its release.

If you are a theatre lover I also recommend getting yourself down to Bristol Old Vic Theatre on King Street, one of our Countries oldest continuously operating theatres, Grade I listed, it is beautiful, with a 12million pound redevelopment project complete on the Georgian auditorium. Currently May Fest (Bristol’s annual festival of contemporary theatre ~ is underway and there is soo much to see at the theatre ~ visit

By damekor, Aug 8 2014 11:38AM


By OFH, Feb 25 2014 04:45PM Published on Off The Hook

This week, quite by chance, I stumbled upon a lovely exhibition at the Nancy Victor Gallery in the west end of London. ‘Memories of a Child’ is Olatunde Oyinloye’s first solo show and is curated by Andrew Mashigo. Olatunde was born in Nigeria, the first in his family to enter into the arts, and middle child of five to parents who work in business.This self-taught artist comes from a background in electrical engineering and telecommunications. His exhibition certainly is inspiring and his work is beautiful. I was lucky to be able to arrange a time to meet with these interesting and charming men at the studio to find out more about Olatunde and his work. The three of us talked and laughed, reminiscing about childhood games, which are a big feature in this exhibition.

DK: Where did your love of art come from?

OO :I’d always loved art from childhood. My earliest memories before I even knew how to pronounce the word ‘draw’ were of my uncles who could draw. I always wanted them to draw a car or a man, so drawing has always been a fascination of mine. I enjoyed my art classes in primary school. I remember for an examination I did a drawing of a man climbing a tree. I was ill so I wasn't in school for a few days and when I came back everyone said that the teacher had said that my art work was really good. Somehow there was such a rave about this drawing and painting, it was a water colour work. When I came to the UK in 2005 I was still into technology and then in 2008 something interesting happened. I decided to do a sketch of my wife who was then my girlfriend. We both liked the outcome and from there I decide to get some art materials to start painting. In 2010 I bought my first canvas.

DK: How did you go about teaching yourself?

OO: I read a lot of books, watched videos, watched other peoples work and experimented, trying to see what I could create with oils and acrylics. In my telecoms work there was an art group that I was part of and we met regularly, twice every week, we also had studio sessions. Then I joined an art group in Newbury.

DK:When did you decide you really wanted to pursue being an artist as a career?

OO: As I was painting I was loving it more, but there was a conflict in my mind, would I do Technology or Art? I’ve now come to the point where, right now I’m focusing and developing the art side, although I still have a passion for technology.

DK:Which artists influence or inspire you?

OO: I like the impressionist artists. I like Claude Monet and portrait artist Ben Lustenhouwer, and lots more.

DK: Being an artist can be such a solitary process, do you have any other creative outlets?

OO: I love drama and dance. I sing in church every week. I had a group in Nigeria, I mostly lead the songs but we all sang. We wrote songs and sang at concerts and around town, but then we had to break up the group as everyone got on with life.

DK: How did this exhibition come about?

OO:The exhibition is here as a result of the observations I’ve made over the years about peoples' misconceptions of countries like Nigeria and other African countries. Most of the things people get to know about those countries are negative. I did a project where I had to do research on African children and the results were mostly negative. The results didn't represent the childhood I had or my friends had. There had to be some education, so people could see the bigger picture. From there I decided I needed to build this body of work. Whenever I see Nigeria on mainstream T.V. it’s usually negative and doesn't show the nice places. To fully understand a place you need to see a bigger picture. I also thought about a country like India. If you asked me what is a childhood like in India? What I would be able to tell you is what I've seen on t.v, in the films and the media. Lots of kids living in the not so developed areas of India, but I believe there are wealthy areas and so there must be wealthy kids. So my works address not just what goes on in Nigeria but also other developing countries.

DK:How did you both come to work together?

OO: Someone introduced Andrew to me, and we got talking and he happened to like my work. Andrew has been very encouraging and is one of my biggest fans. He sees something beautiful about my work.

AM: We had a quiet chat to see where he was coming from, then we had a series of meetings. I began to feel his passion for his kind of art. He felt he was ready to show and I said we can do some work together. Originally we thought of ‘Memories of a child of Africa’ as the title for the show, but rather than limit it, we changed it to ‘Memories of a Child’, that way people regardless of their back ground can relate to it.

I want to create a platform for emerging artists to show their works to international audiences: anything from developing creative peoples work, increasing brand awareness to curating an exhibition. I curated my last art exhibition 10 years ago in Knightsbridge then I decided on a slight deviation in my practice and work at Tate Modern in London, freelance with the Design Museum and collaborate with both The Met and MoMA in New York, in an Access capacity. That programme opens up visual art to the Blind and Visually impaired. Organising exhibitions is my personal passion.

DK: What response have you had to this exhibition?

OO:The responses have come in two forms. One from people who don’t really know what growing up in Africa is like, they seem to be getting more education on the side that people don’t see. And the other response has been from those who have had positive experiences like mine. On the night of the private view, someone from Botswana said ‘oh I know that game, but we have a different name for it’. Someone from Romania said ‘this exhibition is similar to my childhood which was very happy, but considering what’s going on right now in my country people must think I had a very bad childhood’.

You can purchase Olatunde’s work from £995 and the top price is £1,050. The print sizes are from A5 to A0 and prices depend on whether they are framed, on MDF, plain print and the sizes required.

By damekor, Aug 8 2014 11:35AM


By OFH, Mar 4 2014 04:59PM Posted on Off The Hook

Recently I ventured back to the British Library to check out the current exhibition ‘Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain’.

The Georgian era of British history started in 1714 spanning more than a century, this era saw the reign of four kings ending in 1830 with the death of George IV. In the entrance of the exhibition we are given a brief history of these kings. George IV passionate about fashion and the arts was the successor to George III patron of the arts and sciences and King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain after 1801 with the union of these two countries. He succeeded George II of Great Britain, the last British monarch to lead an army in battle, who was successor to George I of Great Britain, the first monarch of the House of Hanover. However, his powers were diminished as Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, led the first cabinet government.

The design of the entrance was very striking. A mass of images and text hung from the ceiling and adorned the right hand wall. There are snippets of historic headlines, for example…“Abolition of the slave trade in 1807”, “Gin act increases duty on spirits provoking riots 1736”.

The legacy of Georgian Britain is all around us, in the buildings and parks of London and provincial towns and cities. Our daily lives are still shaped by a period when urban life was transformed.

After the introduction there is a section on Tea. Yes, tea, a great staple of Britain. Although a tea bag nowadays costs about 2p and anything in the region of £1.50 for a cuppa if you have it out, in the Georgian era it was part of a ‘luxurious’ past time, to take tea and converse, it was expensive and how well a women poured tea spoke volumes of her social accomplishments. What really made me laugh was…On the table lay a pamphlet called ‘The Tea Table’ in which you could read about suitable topics for conversation at your tea table, with your tea caddy and china teacup, saucer and pouring skills.

It all felt a tad restrictive. They were dictated to, being told what the ‘right’ conversations are to have whilst drinking tea! Why not just have conversations? But then I guess it could come in handy if ever you find yourself in an awkward silence at the tea table with nothing to talk about…then again, there’s always the weather!

I shouldn't mock it to be fair, the idea behind it was all based around politeness, etiquette and improved sociability. The Georgians placed a big emphasis on politeness and civilised behaviour, striving for better it seems, a pleasant society, and were big on guide books and rule books. It made me think about the popularity in our day of the ‘Self help’ books.

On display at the exhibition is Jonathan Swift’s book on “Polite Conversation, consisting of smart, witty, droll, and whimsical sayings collected for his amusement and made into regular dialogue” and “Lord Chesterfield’s Maxims: or A New Plan of Education, on the Principles of Virtue and Politeness”. They loved to read and write for pleasure. It was something to be encouraged. “Novels, newspapers and magazines were all avidly consumed, for entertainment and to keep up with the latest in politics, high society and elite taste”. I couldn’t help but think that all feels a bit regimented and conformist, with rules on conversation, what to wear, how to behave, how to move, how to dance, how to woo the opposite sex…enough to induce anxiety and social disorder complexes in those who really feel the pressure for peers, family, society to adhere to the rules. I wondered what would have been the consequence of breaking these rules. I know there is a time and place for things, and politeness is certainly something to be praised and part of our culture, but I’ve always been a bit of a rebel a bit of a rule breaker. I guess I would have been talk of the town.

The Georgians loved a good gossip and loved scandal. I’ll come to this later…

So tea was for ladies, but what about the men you’re thinking. That’s okay they had coffee. See, I’d probably like to partake in the Tea Table conversations for a bit, but it seems the men had more fun in the coffee houses of Covent Garden, that plus I’m a coffee addict. The image of the bustling, loose and lively coffee houses with discussions on any and everything, including reviews of plays is frankly slightly more appealing. And apparently all classes were treated equally in the coffee houses, that’s got to make for a more interesting conversation.

So it seems from this exhibition we have a lot to thank the Georgians for, the birth of the fashion industry, pantomime and ballet. It seems they were doing it all long before us. They even had the whole celebrity obsession sewn up, they loved celebrity and like I said, scandal and gossip, not just on the actors and actresses of the times, royalty, society but also they loved being abreast with the criminal Jack Sheppard who was a big celeb. He did escape prison FOUR times; I mean you got to hand it to him. The boom of the print culture made people famous. Hordes would hang out at the pleasure gardens, which were all the rage. They had a split personality…during the day the gardens were the place to have a good gossip, the place to be seen by certain people, to see certain people, and at night the place to have a good seeing to, (if you get my drift.) good ole debauchery. I’m not a big one for gossip, quite frankly most of the time I couldn’t care less who was seen with whom and where, but each to their own, and I have to admit it does sound quite exciting back then.In some way it really must have been an interesting time to have been alive, I mean the things we take for granted today were being founded then. How mind blowing must it have been for people when museums and art galleries were being opened and it all became accessible not just to the privileged, and people who’d never travelled seeing things from other countries. Theatre was a bit of different ball game, it was well established and it was another place to be seen and heard. Audiences were rowdy and in 1763 there was a riot in the Covent Garden Theatre because ticket prices were rising, the riot left the auditorium wrecked and of course the performance cancelled. Imagine if people then knew the prices some of these west-end shows are demanding now, with ceilings falling in on the audience, I am of course, talking about the recent disaster at the West End’s Apollo.

The exhibition is predominantly focused on the middle classes of the era and what they got up to and how they helped the poor, with exhibitions and benefit performances to support The Foundling Hospital, where women unable to care for their little ones would leave them. There was one print specifically about the poor that stood out to me, and that was a drawing of four characters, clearly deeply affected by alcohol. Otherwise, the focus was horse races, cricket, fireworks, playing music, decorating their home, being at the height of fashion and swanning off to spas and country holidays. Oh and they loved to shop. Just as much a consumerist society as we have today. It seems also that many people were in debt, just like today, but at the time it didn’t really have the stigma attached to it as it does today. And the murky truth behind it all was the slave trade, although abolished here during the Georgian era; we still play a part in it in other countries.

I enjoyed the exhibition a lot, there is a lot more than what I touched on, it’s worth going to. It certainly does focus on things that feel very familiar; however, I’m sure there is so much about the Georgian era that we really can’t relate to. I also would have liked to have found out more about what life was like for the poor, the criminals who weren’t celebrities, the underworld, the women who left their babies at the Hospital, the widespread alcoholism, the binge drinking in the gin lanes, the gin riots, basically…the dirty, devastating and grittier aspect of life in that era.

The exhibition runs until 11th March.

The British Library,

96 Euston Road,


Tickets £9. Concessions £5

By damekor, Aug 8 2014 10:31AM

Kathryn O’Reilly has returned to Out of Joint to give a widely-praised performance as the ferocious, damaged, and very funny Liz Morden in Our Country’s Good. Here she talks about her character, the play’s messages and her own experiences of the power of theatre.

“Punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal”. Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845)

It can take one person to help change someone’s life, or steer them in the right direction. When I was at school, and they were trying to chuck me out, I went to my first drama teacher for help. The head of the board of Governors asked me, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” “An actress” I replied. The head scoffed and said “I suppose we think we have another Emma Thompson on our hands.” My drama teacher was very encouraging and I found drama such a positive way to channel my energies.

Theatre has had a massive and positive impact on my life. Prior to training at LAMDA, I spent years working in forum theatre and role playing in equality and diversity work. I worked for the NHS, the Police, and ran my own children’s theatre company.

Our Country’s Good asks massive questions about society, crime and humanity that I find absolutely fascinating. Its great theme for me is the power of theatre in changing, inspiring and educating lives. I believe passionately in this power of the theatre and the arts.

I play a character called Liz Morden, a convict who comes across as pretty intimidating when she first joins the cast of The Recruiting Officer in the play. Liz had virtually no chance from the off. Her journey from victim to perpetrator is incredibly interesting. Of course, not every person who suffers like Liz turns to crime and ends up behind bars but it is easy to see how it happens. And it makes sense to Liz too: by the time in the play when she is arrested for stealing food, and put into prison within the colony – a prison within a prison – and facing death, it seems inevitable, as if everything in her life has been leading up to this.

Liz’s story is timeless. She was born into extreme poverty, with a broken home life and no formal education. A lack of positive role models, of love, care, affection and encouragement. She has to grow up very quickly. She’s betrayed and abandoned by her family. She enters a life of crime. Sentenced and imprisoned.

When she was still a child, her own father betrayed her: he shifted the blame to her very publically for a theft in order to save his own skin. She was beaten and humiliated in the street , with no one running to her aid, and so this traumatising experience further fuelled in her feelings of low self-esteem, a confused sense of identity, fear and rage and . In that moment of betrayal, her chances and choices in life were suddenly and dramatically shrunk. Liz also feels deeply unattractive. Her own brother tells her to her face she is ugly and he plants the seed that she can earn money by going on the game, suggesting that, after all, most men don’t look at the mantelpiece. This is further rammed home by her pimp who tells her as she ages to supplement, or “spice”, her dwindling earnings by following in her father’s footsteps to be a “nibbler”, or small-time thief.

It’s easy to see, with this kind of cycle, how the idea came about that crime was (to use modern parlance) in the genes; that there was a criminal mind, even a “criminal class”. In the play, we hear Captain Tench describe the convict’s as “born that way”. Back then, when Our Country’s Good is set, the Government dealt with this criminal class by initiating the biggest single exile in history, loading them on a ship and sending them half way around the world. Out of sight, out of mind. Thinking this would eradicate them. Liz is described as “foul mouthed and lower than an animal” by officers. Times change, but the language used to write off a whole section of society doesn’t sound all that alien to our own era.

But Liz has a hero, in the figure of the progressive Governor of the colony, Captain Phillip. Whether you believe “act like a king and people will treat you like a king” or “treat someone like a king and they will act like one”, belief and behaviour has to start somewhere. Phillip believes this. That we are born free, that everyone is equal – and then life happens. “Treat her as a corpse and of course she will die” he says. Instead, “try a little kindness”. As I said, it can take one person.

Liz was played by Linda Bassett in the original production 25 years ago (no pressure!). I see her as my most prestigious role to date and I’ve had to dig deep to portray her. As an actor you have to find the character you’re playing, from the text, all the facts about them, the events, given circumstances, goals and obstacles, what other characters say about them, the language your character uses, all these go into building your creation. Working with Max Stafford-Clark he also requires us to carry out research, reading books and reporting back on interesting findings, he also sets improvisations as well as facilitating a delving into one’s own personal stories from which a parallel can be drawn and used effectively. For example, to help me find the sense of empowerment Liz gets from taking part in a play, Max asked me in rehearsals “when did you fall in love with theatre?”. I was thirteen, playing a Jet Girl in West Side Story (with my first drama teacher directing it). It was completely thrilling.

I love Liz. She has integrity, humour, and she’s a survivor. I hope you’ll enjoy meeting her too.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter @kathryn1oreilly

Photos by Robert Workman

By damekor, Aug 8 2014 10:22AM


By OFH, Apr 27 2014 01:11PM Published on Off The Hook Magazine'S-TREASURES/8014419

This week I've been mooching about the streets of Croydon. But there's some confusion here, some say it's still part of the Borough of Surrey, which it was, until a boundary shift in 1965 from Surrey to Greater London. And it seems the boundary battle continues to this day. So with a CR0 postcode, is Croydon South London or Surrey? Well, in the Old Town area of Croydon there is 'Surrey Street Market', one of the oldest markets in the country dating back the the 13th Century (and without the Surrey prices). At one stall I purchased 4 limes for 50p, who can argue at that?! Especially as I'm used to paying 30p+ for one at a supermarket whose name I'm not giving any promotion to here. The other great thing about this lively market is the atmosphere, it has the feel of them proper old school markets, with traders v ying for attention, shouting about the produce and the cost, enticing punters, giving it 'four for 50p', all that! People know people here. I noticed stall holders addressing punters by name, on top of that the Old Town is home to over a hundred independent shops, and that can't be a bad thing. Croydon is incredibly built up, very much a concrete jungle with a mixture of architecture, including post-war and high rises from the sixties,

Talking of architecture, only last year The Architecture Foundation had a Croydon Urban Pioneers Programme, bringing local students together to engage in workshops with artists, writers, urbanists, to explore and examine the built up area.

"We bring together the public and professionals to cultivate new ideas and talent, stimulate discussion, and improve the quality of the built environment." (

Now the other side of town, the new town is equally hustly and bustly with all the usual retail suspects lining the high street. Croydon has a very diverse population and there's a sense of pride in the air. Which brings me to the Museum of Croydon. It is really is for the people. You get a real sense that matters here.

The staff were very friendly, helpful and only to happy to demonstrate how to use the interactive touch screen monitors that accompanied all the displays and talk about the exhibition, and that most of the items on display have been donated on permanent loan to the museum from people of Croydon for their Then (1800-1899) & Now (1980-Today) Exhibition.

Now Surrey is home to many a rich n famous star, to name but a few, there are musicians, Ringo Star resides in Cranleigh, footballers, John Terry in Oxshott, tennis players, Andy Murray in Oxshott, and thesp after thesp of stage n screen, Michael Caine in Leatherhead, Judith Dench in Outwood and the wonderful Celia Imrie was born in Guildford. But lets take a look at Croydon, what they got? Who they boasting?

Kate Moss and the Academy Award winning legend Dame Peggy Ashcroft were both born in Croydon. But you won't find that out here. What you will find out is that Sislin Fay Allen came to England in 1962 from Jamaica, and changed the game by being the first black woman to join the metropolitan police. And on one of the screens you will hear her talk about her "first day on the beat in Croydon".

Croydon also had a theatre called the Grand with its own Theatre Company. Upon further investigation I found out this theatre was a massive deal, opened by the actor manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree in 1896, bringing with him the likes of Sarah Bernhardt and Henry Irving to grace the stage.

It also had a fair which took place on the Fair Field, were talking back in the 1800's, it was a three day affair and apparently the best attended of all the London Fairs.

I just have to tell you about my favourite piece in the exhibition. An incredible oil painting entitled 'Croydon Courageous' by Norman Partridge. It is a depiction of the aftermath of bombings in the Second World War, reminding us that war was also fought at home, with over 100 characters in this painting it captivated my attention for ages.

Also in this building is a research library where you can look at their massive archive database and trace roots of people of Croydon. For me the bonus of my visit is a little gallery space at the entrance to the research library with a very interesting display of a collection of brilliant work that up until a few days ago was just sitting in storage. Again like the museum I was informed that most of the art work had been donated. Artists on display include fantastic work in pencil and black crayon by John Harris Valda. At 21 years old Valda opened an art school and boasted to be the first school in Britain to teach magazine illustration.

It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. Museum of Croydon is on Katharine Street 5mins from the High Street.

Well, for now, whether Croydon is Surrey or South London...give it six years, what with the regeneration plan 'Croydon Vision 2020', people will have other things to talk about. Croydon's aspirations are getting bigger and bigger aiming to be "London's Third City".

Image 1:Grand Theatre

image 2:Croydon Courageous

Image 3:Clock Tower Museum of Croyden

Image 4:John Harris Valda

Image 5:Sislin Fay Allen.

By damekor, Aug 8 2014 10:08AM


By OFH, May 9 2014 09:06AM Published on Off The Hook Magazine'S-ON-HER-TRAVELS.../8082366

This week I've been treading the historic Roman streets of Colchester, or as the Roman's named it, Camulodunum (which is actually a Celtic name), back at the end of the 1st century BC. Along with Ipswich, Thatcham, Newstead, and Abingdo Colchester claims to be the oldest town in Britain. It’s amazing to walk around it’s fascinating historical surroundings, including: red brick ‘Jumbo’ the largest remaining Victorian water tower in Britain, Colchester Castle, built by the Normans in the 11th century (which has just reopened after a year of closure and a £4.2 million re-development) and its 23 surrounding acres of park, the Balkerne Gateway built by the Romans in AD 49, and remnants of the Roman Wall built in AD 60 after Boudica and her gang the Iceni tribe, burnt Colchester to the ground. Reported to be one of Britain’s fastest growing towns, it’s only an hour or so away by train from Liverpool Street, London. It is also a very important Garrison , currently home to the British Army’s 16th Air Assault Brigade and the Military Corrective Training Centre. Not only that, but back in 2011 it had a £225,000 injection from the European Union to boost its cultural identity.

Now, I really didn’t think Colchester would have so much to do and see. I’ve really been happily surprised with the visits I made, the Murcury and Lakeside Theatres, The Natural History Museum, Hollytree’s Museum with its Georgian portraits. I took a mooch about The Minories Gallery, currently there is a show (running till 10th May) called USE / A Miscellany of Collections, more of a display in my opinion, consisting of everyday objects in different shapes, colours and sizes from different eras, an array of coat hangers in a single line run around one wall and a multitude of buttons on another and hooks and whisks on another, and all ordered according to either size or shape or material. With this logic and order it’s quite pleasing to someone with OCD, but I was in and out in ten minutes. The Minories is connected to the Colchester School of Art and an MA course runs from the building upstairs, the shop is cool sells work by artists including past students and teachers. I enjoyed a nice cranberry, brie and bacon sandwich with a coffee in the café and can imagine in the summer it’s a cool place to chill, especially if you fancied sitting in the garden area. It also boasts a zoo, university, football club and Colchester Jazz Club one of the UK’s longest running having first formed in 1956. Fifteen Queen Street ( is a community lead space, with a network of creative’s, and is funded by the Arts Council, Haven Gateway Partnership, co-founded by The Creative Co-op in partnership with first site. Creative Co-op’s brief was 'create a community owned space that connects people and helps creativity flourish at grass roots in Colchester'. There seems to be many opportunities to work on projects, collaborations, with many events each month and lots of creative people operating there. I met Jack, who works there and also runs a board game club, attracting families and hard core gamers alike. Not only that but Jack also runs The Coffee Darkroom, instead of using chemicals to develop photos, Jack uses coffee! Check him out on Facebook ~ The Coffee Darkroom & the Waiting Room...

This brings me to someone equally passionate about art and creative development... Jack’s wife, Bethan whom I met at first site. She kindly showed me around her very exciting up and coming project ‘Voices of the Quarter’.

Bethan says... ‘It’s a micro social history project, and the idea is to create a History Achieve for the quarter, helping to create a new identity. It works like a modern digital library, except you don’t take something you leave something. There will be a phone, and people can leave their story, and it will be available for other people to listen to on a radio’.

The décor in this Micro library is 70's style. How did you decide on the style?

‘the wall paper went up first, then I found some ducks that I thought would go well with the wall paper then I found some curtains that I thought would work well and it just grew’. I say look out for this, because I think it will be fun to get involved with and experience.

So, firstsite. It caused much controversy and up roar amongst the locals, not least because they lost their old bus station to this gallery, but it took five years to complete and cost £28 million instead of the original £18 million budgeted, it was funded by the Arts council, Essex County Council, Colchester Borough Council, East of England Development Agency, University of Essex and foundations, trusts and private sponsors. £28 Million is a lot of money and many people would argue there is other, maybe more important things for the people of Colchester to have had this money spent on. Hardly in keeping with the image of this old Roman town, is first site a mass of glass with a steal frame clad with a gold colour copper-aluminum alloy, sloping curving walls like a banana, high ceilings and lots of natural light flooding in. I instantly thought of the Curve Theatre in Leicester, and sure enough I found out that the very same man designed both buildings, the award-winning Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. The curve was yet another building that went ridiculously over budget, costing £61 million, instead of the budgeted £26 Million. Still I guess this structure adds more diversity and modernism to the landscape, the firstsite building lies on Scheduled Ancient Monument land with archaeological artefacts buried beneath! One of which you can see at the heart of the site, on permanent display, the Berry field Mosaic, originally unearthed in 1923 and dates back to 200AD, apparently it would have been an everyday day feature to have something like this on your floor. Viñoly trained in the late sixties gaining a diploma in architecture from the University of Buenos Aires followed by a Master of Architecture from the School of Architecture and Urbanism.

The shows here are great; Henri Chopin dans l’Essex, a pioneer of sound and visual poetry, truly inspiring. Aleksandra Domanovic From you to me, traces the history of the internet domain .you as the ragions of Yugoslavia gained independence. Roger Hiorns, Untitled, 2010, two decommissioned jet engines from spy planes that saw service in Afghanistan, and inside the engines Hiorns has placed antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, making us think about the power of the engineering and pharmaceutical industries. ‘The work makes reference to the creation and the alleviation of anxiety on both national and personal levels, addressing the connection between global security and individual well-being’. (Accompanying note).

Not my favourite, nor most inspiring, but controversial. Simon Denny ~ The personal Effects of Kim Dotcom ~ (Runs to 1st June).

Now, I’d never heard of Kim Dotcom, so this installation taught me something. This supposed internet entrepreneur who really is into money laundering, racketeering and copyright infringement, with a string of previous is currently trying to avoid being done properly and extricated to the US. He has cost Hollywood $500 Million in lost revenue through his website mega uploads which allowed people to download films, music etc. on a massive scale. That’s going to be a lot of people’s lives he’s affected, oh, but it’s okay because he puts his dirty money into anti-terrorism, not really the Robin Hood figure it looks like he’s trying to be. When he was arrested in 2012 his possessions were seized including $175 Million in cash that he had lying around. So Denny’s installation is to give us an idea of the world Kim lives/d in, showing us imitations of possessions that were seized, a quarter of a million pound bed, exact models of a couple of Mercedes cars, a Harley Davidson, just a few of the 22 vehicles he had. So it has a showroom feel to the exhibition, the more interesting bit for me was the newspaper lined walls of The New Zealand Herald that has been documenting this on-going saga.

I have to say that the young women I spoke to work there, Ruby, Bethan and two other’s whose name I didn’t catch, actually made this exhibition a really good experience for me. I’m not sure how much I like the exhibition or if indeed I agree with it, however, the young women were so engaging, friendly, informed and encouraged me to think and debate the show and themes such as ownership in the digital age, with them. For me this is when art works, when debate is created and people engage, connect and are challenged. I also like the fact that a lot of skaters are drawn to the area and gather around first site, ollieing off little concrete walls at the front of the building. I had a chance to speak to the local people, some joked that it’s a very expensive public toilet, others said 'you can just nip in to spend a penny', and someone else said 'it doesn’t feel inclusive; it’s not really about Colchester'. But that really is part of the appeal. it showcases international artists and brings something new to Colchester, connecting it to other places. The thing is, of course this type of art just might not be someone’s cup of tea, and I know it’s tough when big changes happen in towns, art can become quite useless to society on the whole if people feel excluded, but it takes two to tango, I say, give it a go, have a look, go and ask questions and get involved. Include yourself. You never know you might enjoy it.

Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1JH -

Pics in order:

Berryfield Mosaic

Colchester Castle


Henri Chopin dans l'Essex

Roger Hiorns

By damekor, Aug 8 2014 09:51AM


By OFH, Mar 20 2014 06:39PM Published on Off The Hook Magazine

Dog Fish Dame K Blog Cambridge
Dog Fish Dame K Blog Cambridge

This week I've been checking out the arts & culture scene of the flat land with its cobbled streets and ancient buildings in the heart of East Anglia. It's home to one of Britain's four round churches The Church of the Holy Sepulcher built by the Knights Templar. The four time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter and actress, Grease star (one of my favorite films of all time), Olivia Newton John was born there. And it’s home to one of our most prestigious universities,Cambridge.

One of the first things I noticed was...they seem love their cycling here. There are bicycles chained up everywhere and cyclists zooming around ever corner. It's a mix of tourists, academics, students and the people who live and work in the city, and as you can imagine there is a strong creative scene. It has half a dozen theatres including the Corn Exchange an entertainment venue that has a lot of dance, comedy, and music, and also receives a lot of musicals ~ next month they've got Happy Days, don't know about you but I was a big fan, and yeah I will admit it, I was in love with the king of cool, The Fonz. And talking of cool, these guys I really like, the fresh new talent from Zimbabwe with their eclectic mix of pan-African styles and Tonga rhythms that is Mokooba are playing live on 3rd April at the Junction. Also worth knowing because it looks great, outside of the town in a village called Bourn, is the Innovative arts centre Wysing which recently celebrated its 25th year.

I had a little mooch about, the city is busy, and also fairly peaceful. It's quiet and relaxing with none of the argy bargy of London. Although, I'm sure on a weekend when the students hit the tiles to let their hair down it probably gets just as raucous as anywhere. I saw two buskers, one of which was a very typical middle class looking lady with white hair in her sixties and singing along whilst playing her guitar, and the other, a young fella also on his guitar. Then I hit the river and was almost seduced to go punting, I had picked a good day for it, as they say, the sun was out and the river was quite alluring as it glistened away and punting just looks like a relaxing pastime. Instead I continued through the centre and past the colleges of the universities. Feeling parched, I decided I'd have a half a cream tea, the cream half that is with coffee instead of tea, I do love my coffee and clotted cream. I can't get enough of that pasted thick on my scones with a nice dollop of jam oh yeah...well, when in Rome. So fuelled up and ready to move on I made tracks to catch the retrospective exhibition 'A World of Private Mystery: John Craxton' at The Fitzwilliam museum which is on Trumpington Street was founded by the Irishman Richard Fitzwilliam, the 7th Viscount of the Fitzwilliam family. I really enjoyed the exhibition curated by David Scrase and opened by Sir David Attenborough. John Craxton is considered to be one of Britain’s great artists of the 20th century and the last neo-Romantic. I'd never seen his work before and I do really like his style, I am a fan now.

Venturing out of that museum and back down some cobbled streets I stumbled across Cambridge Contemporary Art Gallery, on Trinity Street. They showcase artworks made in the UK, and on display now until 23rd March you will find a lovely exhibition featuring the wired and wonderful world of ‘The Traveling Circus’ by Marie Prett, lots of bold and captivating paintings and figurative sculptures which she specialises in.

Next, I was drawn into the shop Dogfish, mainly because of all the Nike Airs in the window, some time soon I will be treating myself to a new pair, but I was also drawn there because it was the coolest shop I'd come across all day. This is where I met a rather gorgeous and helpful young man who told me about an exhibition around the corner which sounded great. And it was. I loved it. 'Memento Mori' is a Black Rat Project and hosted by Changing Spaces, which is an artist run project that takes over empty commercial or council properties and negotiates with them to showcases work until the property is needed again. I'm all up for Changing Spaces, I think they've got a brilliant thing going on. "The project may best be described as a nomadic, city-wide installation deployed across multiple locations on a pop-up basis". (From their website

So if you are going to Cambridge anytime soon, check these guys out Cambridge is only a hour from London on the train and you can get there and back for about £25. Gotta be worth taking a punt for a nice day out!

Photos :

Dogfish Shop

Marie Prett The Travelling Circus

Changing Spaces pop up gallery

Candice Tripp ~ Memento Mori exhibition, Changing Spaces

Vanitas Skull by Ignacio Alcarez, Memento Mori exhibition, Changing Spaces

External Fitzwilliam Museum ~ John Craxton Exhibition


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