Southbank: Graffiti Photo Walk

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a Focus On: Graffiti photo walk with The Photo School and I got to meet the lovely Melizza from Sifting Through... Expat Edition. I’ve been to a couple of events hosted by The Photo School and each one has impressed me greatly.  On this day, for the price of just £10, organiser Natalie Clarke guided us through the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel near Waterloo and the Southbank skate park and gave us all excellent advice on camera settings, lighting and composition..

It goes without saying that I was in my element. I know that many people wonder about my fascination with derelict buildings, skyscrapers, graffiti and other hallmarks of urban development but to me, this is just beautiful.

It is incredibly hard to take photographs of graffiti and indeed, it was far more difficult than I expected it to be.  Unless you get the angles right, your photo will resemble exactly what you are capturing: some paint on a two dimensional wall. 

Added to that, there is no natural light in the tunnel and instead you have unnatural strip lighting.  If I could go back in time, I would go back to late-2008 and tell myself that one day, I would be able to take photos in fluorescent and tungsten lighting.  I remember being so disappointed with indoor photographs in the past!

I took a ridiculous amount of photos that day and only chose my very favourite ones for this post.  Strangely enough, the photo above was the first I tried to capture of this particular scene.  I tried several more and even came back later on and then decided in the end that this first one was the best.

The Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel is an authorised graffiti area and the sign above states:

No Sexism, No Racism, No Adverts
Please take empty cans and litter home
All painting on grey walls will be removed
You don’t have to be a gangster to paint here,
and please don’t act like one

I experimented a lot with black and white photography on that day and once again, I realised that it is not as simple as it seems.  My uncle used to do a lot of monochrome photography in the 70s and 80s and I would love to experiment with it some more.

We met some street artists and they absolutely challenged what I thought I knew about graffiti artists.  They were older than I expected and in fact, the one I chatted to was the same age as me.  He said that he had not done graffiti for about eighteen years but was getting back into it.  He said he liked painting in the tunnel because you could take your time and that they would be there for most of that day.  He remarked at how different this was to rushing like they had to when they were painting the sides of trains or buildings.

The world famous Banksy is said to have started the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel back in 2008 as part of his Cans Festival.  The face of the tunnel is forever changing and I imagine that it is the kind of venue that I will want to visit again and again.

Look out for a guest post on the fabulous Stik later in the week!

Smithfield Market, London

Almost mid-way through our Secret London photo walk, we came upon an area of such decay and ruin that it was quite a contrast to the exquisite sights we had seen on the first half of our walk.  Naturally, I fell in love with this area with its burned-out shells of buildings and boarded-up shops.

 The Red House - Smithfield Market London

This is the Fish Market and Red House, the former cold store of the Smithfield Market.  Like the General Market next to it, this complex is in danger of demolition.  The Fish Market was built in 1888 and the Red House was built between 1898 and 1899 and is a wonderful example of Victorian architecture.

The Fish Market - London Smithfield Market 

This is one of my favourite photos as I love the upwards elevation.  There had obviously been a fire in the building at some stage and it was incredible to see such a grand old building in such a state of disrepair.

The Red House - Smithfield Market

I can imagine it must have been quite impressive in Victorian times but at the moment, the very fabric of the building seems to have fallen victim to time, neglect, fire and ruin.

Red House elevation

The Red House building has been given Grade II listed status as it is the "the earliest existing example of a purpose-built powered cold store".  That means that out of all the building in the complex, it is the only one that might be saved from greedy developers.

Red House dedication - London Smithfield

The plaque at the corner of the Fish Market.

The Circular Corner of the General Market

This is the exquisite and intricately detailed circular corner of the General Market, a building almost certainly destined for demolition.

We rounded the corner and walked up the road to discover the strangest sight we had seen all day.  Any one who has seen the lurid display of 1970s architecture in downtown Johannesburg and Hillbrow will be quite familiar with concrete monstrosities such as these.  It was just unusual to see them in London!

Seventies London in 2011

Hillbrow, corner Plein and Twist Streets?  No, this is London! (See: Johannesburg landmarks for a few examples).

Boarded up Pharmacy - Smithfield

Our final photo opportunity before exiting this intriguing part of London was the old Port of London Authority building on Charterhouse Street. 

Port of London Authority Building - Smithfield

Next to the Port of London Authority Building is the Central Cold Store which is used as a power station now.  How the mighty have fallen.  Actually, how the mighty did fall: Wikipedia says that “Smithfield has a bloody history of executions of heretics and political opponents, including major historical figures such as Scottish patriot William Wallace, the leader of the Peasants' Revolt Wat Tyler and a long series of religious reformers and dissenters”.  Very interesting!

Blood Brothers at the Phoenix Theatre

Blood Brothers-Phoenix TheatreBlood Brothers is Willy Russell’s masterpiece and is currently in its twenty-third year at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End.  It is a touching yet hilarious musical set in Liverpool from the early 50s to the late 70s.  I had seen the play in Liverpool in 1996 and had always wanted to see it again.  After a run of disappointing outings to West End musicals, I finally decided to head for a play that I knew wouldn’t disappoint me.

Opening with the line “So did y’hear the story of the Johnstone twins?”, Blood Brothers tells the tale of two brothers born of the same mother but separated at birth.  Mrs Johnstone is a working class woman who has five children by the age of twenty-five.  Destitute and abandoned by her husband, the pregnant Mrs Johnstone discovers that she is expecting twins and confides in her employer in a moment of desperation.  The scheming (and barren) Mrs Lyons suggests to Mrs Johnstone that she doesn’t need two more mouths to feed and she convinces her servant to give up one of her babies.  The deal is sealed when Mrs Lyons makes Mrs Johnstone swear on the Bible that she will uphold their deal.

Blood Brothers - Natasha HamiltonAll too soon after the birth, Mrs Johnstone realises her mistake but Mrs Lyons reminds her of her promise and takes one of the babies, leaving her with Mickey.  Insecure and jealous of Mrs Johnstone, Mrs Lyons eventually terminates her employment in order to keep her away from ‘her’ baby Edward.  She warns the suspicious Mrs Johnstone of an old wives tale (which she has conveniently fabricated) that if twins are ever separated, then they must never know of their sibling status, for if they ever discover the truth then both of them shall die on that very day.

Blood Brothers - Stephen Palfreman, Natasha Hamilton and Simon WillmontDespite the  intentions and scheming of the mothers, Mickey and Eddie meet at the age of seven and begin a friendship that will span the next twenty years.

Natasha Hamilton of girl band Atomic Kitten has landed the coveted role of Mrs Johnstone and this is her first theatre role.  With her powerful voice and convincing 50s and 60s style, I had no idea that she was a theatre novice and thoroughly enjoyed her performance.  Vivienne Carlyle played Mrs Lyons and Louise Clayton played Linda, the girl that starts off as Mickey’s best friend and ultimate comes between the brothers. 

Blood Brothers - Natasha Hamilton and Philip StewartSpecial mention goes to Stephen Palfreman and Simon Willmont as Mickey and Eddie.  My favourite part of the play is the first act where Mickey and Eddie meet as seven-year-olds and all the children of the neighbourhood play in the street.  It is played out by the adult cast and was absolutely delightful in this performance. 

My favourite actor in this performance was Philip Stewart as the narrator.  As narrator he is the voice of fate, warning of the tragedy to come and Philip gave a chilling and powerful performance.

Blood Brothers-Phoenix Theatre interiorI could not fault this production of Blood Brothers and enjoyed each aspect of it.  The stage design and props went a long way to representing the changing face of Liverpool in the 50s, 60s and 70s and the costumes were lovely.   As a play, Blood Brothers captures the innocence and naivety of childhood as well as the silliness and the games children play.  It is an uplifting and enjoyable play and I would absolutely recommend it. 

All production photos © Landmark / PR Photos

Touring Scotland: Crieff Visitor Centre

Back in August, we visited Scotland and we had the most amazing week.  Some could say too relaxing because it has taken me some time to sort through all of my photos.  Well, all stories must have a beginning and ours began at the Crieff Visitor Centre.  We’d been in to Crieff town centre to look for some information on the attractions in the surrounding area and the ladies in the Tourist Information Centre had suggested that a very good place to start was the visitor centre up the road.  There we would learn a bit more about the history of Crieff as an important cattle-droving centre and about the town in general.

Highland Cattle - Crieff

This gorgeous young man is an excellent example of kyloe or Highland cattle.  Highland cattle are famous for being sturdy which is important given that they were bred on the treacherous Scottish Highlands.

Highland Cattle - Crieff Visitors Centre

Groups of Highland cattle are called ‘folds’ of cattle as opposed to normal cattle which are grouped in herds.  We found them to be rather shy except for when we tried to gently attract their attention and then they seemed rather scary.

Caithness Glass at Crieff Visitors Centre

The visitor centre has a factory and outlet for Caithness Glass, a famous glass-making enterprise.  We had the privilege of watching some of their most skilled glass-makers at work.

 Caithness Glass Factory - masters at work

My photos don’t even begin to do justice to the painstaking pace at which these masters work to make the most beautiful paperweights and other objets d’art.  If you visit the Crieff Visitor’s Centre website, you can see examples of the finished products.

The final part of the centre that we visited was the Drovers Exhibition. This is a lovely exhibition that tells you all about the cattle-droving trade that made Crieff an important crossroads in Scotland in the early 1700s.  They were really hard and brutal times and the exhibition tells you all about how the cattle drovers survived and what the markets must have looked like.

Drovers Exhibition - Crieff Visitors Centre

This was the first major history lesson that I had in Scotland and it was to be a week where I learned much more about the people, culture and history of the land.  It was the first sign I had that Scotland really is a very different country from England and it was really interesting to learn about it all.

We left the visitor centre and headed out on our very first Scottish castle-hopping experience.