Posters with a purpose

If you happen to find yourself in and around Piccadilly anytime soon (up to August 24th) I can recommend a trip to see Posters with a Purpose, a preview exhibition of London Underground posters due to come up for auction later in the year. All duplicate copies, they are being sold by London Transport Museum and demonstrate the wealth of talent that has been employed by London Underground over the years; from Man Ray and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy to Edward Bawden. Christies is shrouded in scaffolding at the moment so probably not drawing the passing crowds so, as I did, you may have the galleries to your self.

NB, the sale in October will be at Christies South Kensington, but the current exhibition is at Christies, King Street, SW1

I also stuck my head around the door of White Cube, Mason’s Yard where Damian Ortega is exhibiting until September 8th. The piece, Hollow/Stuffed, in the downstairs gallery is great. In the darkened gallery his sculpture of a submarine made from industrial aggregate bags is hung from the ceiling and is gradually leaking its stuffing of salt on to the gallery floor like an ever deflating balloon.



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Cruel Summer

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Bryan’s Ground – in the rain

I thought that I had posted about Bryan’s Ground previously . . . and I had – almost 2 years ago to the day. The much vaunted 4 day long weekend is one of those things that passes you by if you work in retail; bank holiday bank schmoliday. Tuesday however happens to be our day off anyway – and despite the rain we stuck to a plan to visit Bryan’s Ground, which lies just outside Presteigne on the border with Wales.

It can’t have been an idea that resonated with many other people as we were the only ones there – a tea break necessitated by the showers and two very soggy sets of footwear at the end of it but still a beautiful garden. The fennel held drops of water magnificently and the long scalloped canal was teeming with newts and water boatmen. Despite being relatively nearby their plants are way ahead of mine – hemerocallis and roses were both in flower – but it is the mass planting of iris sibirica under fruit trees that is the star of the show at Bryan’s Ground.

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This is how it feels

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Natasha Laflin – charity auction/raffle

My recent blog posts have all included personal anecdotes; at the risk of over-sharing, this one is going to top them all. This Friday a charity auction and raffle is being held in London to raise funds for my friend Natasha Laflin. A hugely talented craftsperson, Natasha’s life (and those of her family and friends) took a sudden shift 4 years ago when she had a massive brain haemmorhage. Initially admitted to hospital in Paddington and then to the Royal Neurological Hospital, Natasha’s prognosis was pretty grim. It has since got much better. She was moved to the National Hospital for Neurological Disability (where she staunchly suffered the indignity of being sung to by the Great Western Singers – I apologise, we were on less than good form that day!) and from then to two successive rehabilitation homes. The past 4 years have been far from easy, or indeed smooth. Natasha’s health has improved and then regressed again on a number of occasions but, following the withdrawal of one of her drugs she has moved on massively and consistently. Her family and friends now believe that the best place for Natasha’s further care is back at her home and that . . . good reader . . . is the reason for the raffle/auction.

Natasha has always been a community person. Great Western Studios was one of the communities that she played a huge part in – often by means of being the first person at the café in the morning (peanut butter on toasted bagel from memory) – and by valuing the friendship and support of her fellows artists and craftspeople and repaying that friendship and support similarly.


I have three pieces of Natasha’s work at home. The watch seller was a commission for Alex – her research was impeccable – Alex can name the make and model of the millimetre high watches. The rabbit was a gift – my first semi-house rabbit had his own cushion and was treated royally. Alex bought Amor Perdido from Tash at an Open Studios. Natasha’s artistic output is seeing light again. An exhibition of the works in the auction has already been installed at the new Great Western Studios by her partner Sid and Tash tweeted on Monday that she was going to see it on Tuesday and with typical self-abasement that she was worried about seeing her own work.

The raffle and auction (which is being taken by Anne Robinson – her of the telly) includes some great lots and some great prizes (the odds on the raffle are pretty good as well). If you fancy your luck, or indeed fancy contributing to the appeal to get Natasha back living amongst her community, family and friends then the website for all of this can point you in the direction of doing so.

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Owen Duff

The lovely video attached to this post is Owen Duff singing his cover of Björk’s Unravel. Owen is the brother/stepbrother/halfbrother of my friend Helen. Helen and I shared a house in Norwich when we were at University and I recall the two of us listening to Homogenic (the Björk album on which Unravel appears) on repeat.

Helen is now one of those academics about whom the Daily Mail throws up it’s collective hands in outrage (a sure sign that she is doing something right); she works at Warwick  – as associate professor in television and film studies no less – and undertakes really interesting research into television historiography (one of my favourite words) and the history of television for women.

They’re an interesting bunch the Wheatleys – Phil, Helen’s dad was Director General of the prison service. I was once arranging to meet Helen at King’s Cross in London over the phone and we were discussing whereabouts in the station to meet, Phil was in the background overhearing our conversation and suggested that we meet “next to the prostitute”. We didn’t. Or at least I don’t think we did.

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