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 11:49AM

27/09/2013 12:42

There’s something very alluring about the Southbank for me, (not just because as a kid I used to bunk off school and find myself there, but...) I got my first proper full time job there, working for LWT (London WeekendTelevision). I loved it! There will always be a place in my heart for the South Bank. It’s vibrant and has so much going on. Always busy, always things to do and see, home to ITV the Oxo Tower, IBM, The National Theatre, the BFI, the second hand book stall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, The South Bank Centre, The London Eye and a Salvador Dali Gallery AND the Undercroft skateboarding and Urban Arts space. Southbank has been around for donkeys!

This week I found myself at the South Bank three times. Once to see Amen Corner by James Baldwin at the National Theatre, starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who’s career shot to fame as Hoertence in Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies, opposite the wonder that is Brenda Blythen. Jean-Baptiste has an amazing career, receiving nominations for a Golden Globe, Academy Award and a Bafta as best supporting actress. She then went to France to work with Peter Brook and had many an invite to the Big Apple, which of course she accepted and spent seven years working on Without a Trace.

She got to show off her singing talent in this show too, and said in a materclass held at the Haymarket Theatre last week, in response to a question from an audience member about her preparation, that ‘the rest of the cast get enough of her, as she blasts Gospel music from my dressing room each night before going on stage.’ I caught up with Erik Kofi Abrefa Who plays David’s (Jean-Baptiste’s character Margaret Alexander the Pastor) 18 year old son, who plays piano during his mothers church sermons and desperately wants to leave and live his own life, he has enrolled in music school and secretly goes to a Jazz club.

Erik Abrefa And boy is that man fit! I couldn’t help but admire his biceps when he was on stage, but up close wooh my legs nearly gave way! Everyone who know me well, know...I do like a man with muscle!

Well it turned out to be a great day for me, because who then do I see but the beautiful actress that is Anne- Marie Duff currently playing Nina in Strange Interlude (which I am yet to catch). Duff smashed it as Fiona Gallagher in Shameless. Anne-Marie is a fantastic actress with four BAFTA nominations under her belt.

Anne- Marie

She is super friendly and willing to have her picture snapped, she said I’ve “got no make up on and I’m with my shopping bags!” I said “Anne-Marie that’s what is all about”. It just goes to show how down to earth this top class actress is.

My second visit of the week was to the to BFI to see Heaven’s Gate.

The definitive final cut restored and back on the big screen. It received five stars from Time Out.

And my third visit was in passing, I stopped as I often do to watch the guys (and some times gals) in the skate park, on skateboards, BMX bikes and younger ones on scooters all practicing their skills, doing their tricks. Brilliant.

Then I see a table set up in front of the skate park for signatures – why? This I can’t believe. There has been a proposal by the South Bank Centre to demolish the skate park’ve guessed it, put up ‘apartments’ and restaurants. Apparently a £120 Million redevelopment. Nice one South Bank Centre, right on, just what we need! What a stupid idea, and of course all for money, it’s certainly not for the people.

Yes, we need more housing, but lets put it this way, I’m sure an ‘apartment’ on the river bank in that exact

location will be for the rich. And if the buffoon that Boris Johnson is, pulled his finger and got on with

doing what he said he would, you know, like bringing back thousand of empty properties into commission, there would be more homes available.As if there aren’t already enough resultants and places to eat on that stretch. Not only is the skate park a great place for people to hang out and practice, it looks like such a cool little spot with great graffiti, adding real colour and energy to the area.

And it’s not just for the ‘youth’ to get them off the streets – (which of course is amazing), there are also

older guys there practicing, I see parents stop with their children to look and marvel at what’s going on, it’s

a cool place to hang out, where people learn the art of skating and graffiti artists can throw up their

designs, AND it has a lot of history to it. I remember when it was ‘cardboard city’ before the skaters really took over. It is now a well-established part of the Southbank. So, who’s campaigning? Long Live Southbank. A non-profit organisation comprised of people; skateboarders, activists, academics, local residents and artists who want to see the skate park preserved in its current location. They have applied for the space to be recognised as a village green under the Commons Act 2006 and their application has been granted to protect the area as an asset of community value.

Go to for more info

What else can you do? Go down to the skate park and like me, sign the petition!

By Kathryn O’Reilly

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Posted in Uncategorized ( | (

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 10:22AM


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 09:57AM


By OFH, Mar 14 2014 09:55AM Published on Off The Hook Magazine

So, this week I’ve been mooching around the streets of Sloane Square in the Royal Borough of Chelsea. I know, it’s not at the top of the list for urban happenings, and it’s kind of trendy in a traditional sense, but not exactly the most hip hop edgy of exciting places to be hanging. The whole vibe can be perceived as quite poncy, quite snooty and generally populated by the rich and filthy rich toffs. It also attracts a lot of tourists, what, with Harrods a ten min walk round the corner and Buckingham Palace less than a twenty minute walk away. You need a pretty penny to privately rent a one bed ‘apartment’ in Sloane Square, and you’ll be looking in the region of spending in a week what would you would in a month to rent in a less affluent area. However, if you’ve got it, why not. You may have heard of the terms ‘Hooray Henry’ and ‘Sloane Ranger’ well, these are associated with the wealthy upper classes, with ‘plumy accents’ or those who speak in an RP accent, which is the standard pronunciation of British English. These people live and socialise in Sloane Square, High Street Ken and Fulham Roads and generally love a bit of country sports. They are sometimes aristocratic types like Diana Princess of Wales who was one of the most famous of Sloane Rangers of her time before she married Charles. The Kings Road in the swinging 60’s and 70’s was the place to be seen and Bob Marley was there living in a town house off the Kings Road in Oakley Street in ‘77, the era of Jamin’ and One Love.

Chelsea has always attracted famous types to live and work there, including Laurence Olivier, Mick Jagger, Sylvia Pankhurst and of course Sir Hans Sloane himself. Other hugely successful famous artistic types who took up residency in Chelsea were Oscar Wilde, painters Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Singer Sargent and Whistler. It’s quite hustly and bustly walking down the Kings Road, and although it has this exclusive, glamorous feel, with its boutiques, pricy restaurants and independent stores it also has your typical high street stores and of course Macky D’s. I, myself mainly frequent this area to go to one of my favourite theatres in town, The Royal Court, but on this occasion for the first time I visited the Saatchi Gallery. I have to say some of the work I’ve seen displayed here, to me, is Off The Hook. I was drawn by the title of the current exhibition ‘Body Language’. I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t wholly what I was expecting from that title, the work on display seems to be more about narrative, depicting little scenes than body language. But listen body language is displayed all around us every second of the day and yes there is an element of this theme in the work, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was the main focus. 19 artists from around the globe are showing here and one of the things I was struck by most was how big so much of work is, some two metres tall by four metres wide. It’s a big spacious gallery with lots of space so the pieces look great. I love Eddie Martinez’s ‘The Feast’ which is a mixed media piece on canvas. It’s pretty insane. And if it’s not size its quantity. Chantal Joffe has done 81 pieces of oil on gesso board and the series is about the life, loves and friendships of a pre-pubescent girl, and is called ‘untitled’. I also particularly enjoyed the ‘Beer Garden at Night’ by Nicole Eisenman. There is something crazy, vivid, eerie, weird and ugly about the characters in the beer garden in various stages of inebriation. My initial reaction to ‘Vandal Lust’ by Andra Ursuta was wow this is mental and I almost laughed, I thought I know the feeling sometimes when it seems as though you are hitting your head against a brick wall. But this was a whole body, so a completely different take on ‘body language’. Someone, a body, a person crushed and damaged by being catapulted by a powerful machine into a brick wall, the resonances are deeper, humanity crushed by the powers that be. I also visited the ‘New Order II British Art Today’ exhibition; again I’m not sure how accurate a reflection this title is. The body of work includes video, installation, sculpting and painting, it consists of the work of 13 artists who either live or work here in Britain, young artists, including some recent graduates. I really enjoyed the wax figures crafted by French artist Virgile Ittah, she used her father’s mental illness as inspiration for this work.

This exhibition finishes on the 23rd March 2014. However the gallery has 15 gallery spaces and there is a permanent installation, ‘20:50’ by British Artist Richard Wilson in the basement gallery. It is a wonderful oil installation. I found it really fascinating. They say simple can be best and this quite literally is a tank filled with recycled engine oil. That’s it. You’ve got to see it to understand it. I love the way it distorts our idea of the space when you look at the white reflected walls in the black oil. It’s definitely worth a visit and it’s free! Saatchi Gallery, Kings Road, SW3 4RY

Picture 1:Walking with Vito by Henry Taylor.

Picture 2 :Beer Garden at Night by Nicole Eiseman

Written by Dame K

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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