Tag Archives: shoreditch

Sunday Inspiration: poetry ‘vandal’ Robert Montgomery gets first solo show in Hoxton

5 Feb

A new exhibition opened at the KK Outlet in Hoxton this week, showcasing the work of poet ‘vandal’ Robert Montgomery. After clocking an article in the Telegraph, I was blown away by some of Montgomery’s pieces. Simultaneously famous and infamous for hijacking ad space in London, the artist creates striking, inspirational billboards that tackle topics like Capitalism, the Occupy movement and the concept of freedom in the city. Part poetry, part politics – think of him as Banksy with a typepad instead of paintbrush.

Montgomery describes his work as ‘post-situationist’, referring to an artistic movement that liked to capture the audience’s attention in unexpected ways within the public realm. Sensationalists famously saw poetry as an agent for political changed and contributed to the 1968 riots by scrawling poems on the walls of the Sorbonne. It’s a technique that very much echoes with his own – a strong supporter of the Occupy movement, one of his billboards on Old Street talks of ‘100 black flags of anarchists held up at night 100 miles apart.’

Today, Montgomery and his team regularly get met with hugs from impressed bystanders. They famously covered some of Cameron’s campaign posters without getting busted, and his work has recently been spotted on the sides of trucks in Istanbul, on fire in the streets of Paris and lighting up the Brooklyn sky at night.

What really strikes me is the way Montgomery highlights how impacting words can still be. In an age where images are everything and we’ve become complete slaves to the ‘a picture tells a thousands words’ adage, his ad highjacking technique is overwhelmingly simple but still seriously punch packing.


What do you think – have you seen any of Montgomery’s work in situ? Would you be impressed or underwhelmed?

These images are all borrowed from The Independent’s gallery – click here to see all the images. 


From the Blitz Party to Britannia Road: a review…

2 Feb

Last weekend I had the pleasure of putting my glad rags on and popping down to a Blitz Party, London’s spectacular WW2 shindig. Held in Shoreditch’s Village Underground, as soon as you enter (or actually, as soon as you encounter the victory-rolled cigarette-smoking beauties waiting outside) you’re instantly transported back to 1940’s Britain. A live band plays Glenn Miller classics (very authentic, bar the one Paolo Nutini track that somehow snuck in?!), there’s plenty of Gin Fizz and lashings of Spitfire Ale, enough hairspray to set a world on fire and possibly the most impressive array of vintage regalia I have ever set eyes on (Brick Lane must have got completely cleaned out).

A photo of me and the boyfriend in my brother’s extremely 1940s-esque kitchen.. all photos after this point are too gin-addled for public enjoyment…

Anyway, the Vera Lynn on repeat made me think of a great wartime book I recently read, a debut that came out last year called 22 Britannia Road. It went on to be longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize, but I don’t think it got any further. Which is a shame if you ask me, because it’s a story full of all the good stuff – love, betrayal, death, survival – and I really loved it. If you like child narratives I’d especially recommend it.

So without further ado, let’s get nostalgic. Here’s my review that was published last year:

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

22 britannia road, amanda hodgkinson, reviews, books, book reviews, critics, wartime, novels 1940s, britain, debut

Every now and then a story comes along that is so powerful and so beautifully written that you completely lose yourself in it. 22 Britannia Road, an impressive debut about a young Polish family struggling to re-build their lives in post-war England, is one of those stories.

When asked her profession, Silvana answers ‘Survivor’. She and her eight-year-old son Aurek have been living in the forests of occupied Poland, hiding in trees and killing wild animals to stay alive. When the war ends, her husband Janusz locates them, and they move to 22 Britannia Road, Ipswich, to start a new life together.

But after six years apart, Janusz and Silvana have experienced things they can’t forget, and both are carrying dark secrets. Retrospective chapters are woven into the narrative, unravelling the harrowing events that changed the couple irrevocably. Gradually we realise that the happy ending they deserve is barricaded behind torturous memories of the past, and there’s no easy way out.

The chapters from Aurek’s point of view are particularly heartbreaking. Slightly reminiscent of Emma Donoghue’s Room, the little boy struggles to make sense of his new surroundings and longs for his forest past. The gradual transition in his relationship with his father, who he initially dubs ‘the enemy’, is delicately handled and extremely moving.

There are lots of novels based on wartime secrets, and comparisons could be drawn with Sophie’s Choice – prepare to get teary eyed more than once. But this story feels unique thanks to the characters’ unusual experiences of the war and Hodgkinson’s poetic turns of phrase used to expertly capture their complex emotions.

A story about the strength of human spirit and the power of love, you’ll be rooting for the Nowak family from page one.

Which wartime novels would you recommend?

Random moment of inspiration… Cargo, Shoreditch

18 May

cargo, shoreditch, club, graffiti, drunk, inspiration

Never be someone else’s slogan, because you are poetry.

You know how everything seems more profound when you’re drunk? Yeah… But I still like it, and it’s still going up. Plus I think toilet graffiti has really moved on since the days of ‘call 0754345434543543 for a good time’. In fact, it was a piece of toilet graffiti that convinced me to change jobs recently. And now look at me, writing about toilets! For the world to see! I’ve made it!

Anyone else ever spotted anything surprisingly poetic in a weird place?!

Adios Mad Men, hellooooo Boardwalk Empire…

24 Feb

If you’re still swooning over Don Draper and dressing up in circle skirts and cardi combos, I’m hear to tell you it’s over. I know, I know. Our relationship with Mad Men was a beautiful one. Any programme that makes you want to channel a housewife with an alcoholic adulterous husband has to be a little bit special.

But just as we were starting to kind of hope that the ‘a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’ adage was actually true (the only way to get the Christina Hendricks walk, surely), the fabulous fifties have been banished to the background as we go back further through the history books to an era of hard liquor, fast women and the wonder of Coco Chanel. Allow me to present you with your next obsession: the roaring twenties.

WATCH: Boardwalk Empire, Sky Atlantic

HBO’s latest super-slick drama is hyped to be the best thing since the Sopranos. Set during the Prohibition era in Atlantic City, the show is based on the dealings of real-life criminal bad-ass Nucky Thompson. But whilst it’s true that the gun-toting, booze-smuggling, face-smashing-in shenanigans of gangsters like Al Capone will keep the blokes entertained, I’ll be more interested in investigating the sociological implications of restriction and its emotional impact. And like, the sparkly dresses and stuff.  Yeah, mostly the dresses.

READ: The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. Out 3 March, Little Brown

A fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s relationship with his first wife Hadley, this is a brilliantly evocative tale of love, betrayal and ambition, set against the flamboyant background of Jazz Age Paris. When the couple marry and head to Paris, they’re thrown into the heady realms of bohemian Paris, spending their time in an absinthe-fuelled blur with writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. McLain’s research makes their world so real you can almost taste the bitter absinthe and smell the musky wafts of Chanel No.5.

DANCE: Prohibition, London

I know what you’re thinking. It’s all just too wonderful. If only HG Wells had pulled his finger out and you could whizz back to the land of tipsy twinkly girls and men with proper manly ‘taches and waistcoats. But a Prohibition party held in a top secret West End location is definitely the closest you’ll get to going back in time. Don your finest flapper gear and knock back plenty of liquor before trying your luck on the gambling tables and launching yourself into a Charleston in front of the live band. Tickets sell out faster than a bottle of bootlegged booze, so sign up for their emails to avoid missing out.


Obsessed yet? Much?

Dancing with the green fairy: Belle Epoque, Shoreditch

2 Nov

It’s a Saturday afternoon. I’m ridiculously hungover and yet somehow I manage to find myself stumbling under the lurid fluorescent lights of Claire’s Accessories, mumbling something to the sales assistant about ‘fishnet tights’.

She drags me into a corner, where I squish up against a gaggle of girls all feasting their eyes upon a multitude of one-size-fits-all hosiery.

There’s only one time of the year when fishnets regain fashion kudos – Halloween had arrived. To steal an amazingly accurate line from the psychologically high-brow realm of Mean Girls, ‘Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.’

This year, however, I was going to a slightly more up market event. Oh yes, no tacky house parties with fake cobwebs or Thriller soundtracks for me. Tonight, I might have been hoisting myself into a boob-crushing corset and piling on the slap, but I was doing it in style – I was going to a Belle Epoque Party.

Pardonnez-moi, I hear you say? What the devil is this Belle Epoque of which you speak?

One of the latest parties to come out of the B&H Events stable (they’re the seriously cool Shoreditch party organizers that host the Second World War themed Blitz parties that sell out months in advance), the Belle Epoque events take you back to the debauched elegance of late 19th century France. This is the wonderfully flamboyant period in French history where it was all about being bohemian. It was during this golden age that haute couture was established, champagne was perfected, and when you daren’t leave the house without being peacocked in fur and feathers. Think of the knickerbocker flashing frou-frou dancers at the Moulin Rouge (ooh la la), absinthe-fuelled poetry sessions in smoky Montmartre cafes, and weird little Toulouse Lautrec tweaking his moustache and dothing his top hat.

If that doesn’t merit a ‘magnifique’, I have no idea what does.

Arriving at Belle Epoque is like walking through a distorted, green-tinged time portal, emerging from the streets of Shoreditch into a red velvet-clad music hall. You can barely see for all the top hats, and if Movember was ever looking for an event to sponsor, by golly this is it. I rub shoulders with a busty corseted wench, nearly plough into a Gauloise-smoking dandy and then risk a run-in with Edward Scissorhands (well, it was Halloween…) to make it to the bar.

The drinks menu even has un air poetique about it, and I ponder a few deliciously decadent spirit combinations before finally opting for La vie en rose, an absinthe-fuelled cocktail with vodka and raspberry liqueur (best not to quote me on this… I fear the liquorice tang of the absinthe may have gone down a little too easily for me to remember exact details…). The barman funnels the elixir of bohemia through a glass decanter and a sugar cube which gives the spirit it’s greeny tinge.

There’s a whooping in the hall and a near fatal moment for my cocktail as the can can dancers are let loose into the crowd. It’s a high-octane performance of frilly knicker-flashing excitement that goes down well, and followed by performances from aerial acrobats that twirl daringly above our heads. A sultry strip tease performed by a flame-haired burlesque pianist has to be the real crowd-pleaser, with wolf-whistles and rapturous applause aplenty.

As the swing band roars into action, playing a slinky, music hall rendition of Britney’s Toxic, an exuberant haze seems to descend upon the music hall. I spot Medusa getting off with a giant gorilla. Then I clock a 6’ transvestite with a head of hair so vertiginous it would fit in with a Broadway rendition of Hairspray. I also get a puzzling smile from a tiny old man dressed in a pink lycra dress.

I tip back the remnants of my absinthe cocktail and I think, yeah, those Frenchies really had it good, but the spirit of debauchery is still alive and kicking in Shoreditch.

Vive la boheme.

Belle Epoque parties take place throughout the year. Check out www.belleepoqueparty.com for the next event.