LE GUN of LE EAST, SAMUEL JOHNSON & THE SOCIETY CLUB

Art, books, london

LE GUN are my fave collective of illustrators:  their drawings and installations rip through urban horror like Hogarth on a bender with Hunter S. Thompson.

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Getting in early on the Christmas pop-up scene, they’re strapping us into a dentist chair to inhale a Le Gun kinda Halloween in Notting Hill of the East: Clapton.*

29th November – 1st December: 33 Chatsworth Road, Hackney, E5 OLH

*Yeah – I’ve heard there’s a Hackney House opening up on a council estate…(part of the Soho House group).  That’s what happens when a ‘fashion hub’ gets invented around the Burberry, Aquascutum, Anya Hindmarsh outlet.  Hackney – from murder mile (other than that shooting in the butcher’s the other day) to Bicester village – how lovely.

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These black ink superstars started at the RCA, before creating their own worlds as installations in Brick Lane, Red Gallery, V&A, Shakespeare and Company and far beyond –  I interviewed two of the original founders, Robert Rubbish and Chris Bianchi for the book I wrote for RED GALLERY – the interviews took place in 2012, when Shoreditch’s visible colonisation by the evil overlords was nowhere near capacity…

Chris Bianchi rolls along Rivington Street with an up-all-night glide.  He’s tall with humble shoulders.  His eyes catch me like the wells of ink that create the tribal, post-psychedelic stories of his art.  Around in the Bricklayers’ outdoor yard, the Summer 2012 Artist-In-Residence of RED tells me he sees the world in cartoons, and a ‘lil more:

Where are you from, originally?

CB: Malta, born and bred – 1977 – there was no art school there, I had to come here.  I started off in a basement in my parents’ house and used that as a studio, making paintings, I had a darkroom, made music, had friends there, and it got to point where I was 18 or 19 and came here and went to Chelsea, then Camberwell, then finished at the Royal College.  I tried to stay in art college for 8 years – I’m an art college whore!  But at the Royal College I met the Le Gun – it was good to find like-minded people because I didn’t have an art college education at a young age.  It took me a while to find myself; here in secondary school you have art classes, but not in Malta, so it came from me.  My old folks helped me out because I built myself an easel, and they saw it as a sign of commitment, and they were serious, wish I still had it, probably still in the garage.  My dad’s a lawyer.  Mum did a bit of social work but has loads of grand-children, she plays cards and they’re all Maltese.  The education’s in English over there, it’s like a suburb of England, everyone speaks English, although they’re trying to change that…it’s got a population of 250 000.

There’s an island off Malta called Gozo, there are weird things and weird people there, I’m half from there, there’s an isolation to it.  They take a roundabout, and a guy will start drawing on this public place, makes it nicer, they do a lot of that.  In Malta there’s a lot of rural strangeness, decorating farmhouses with old dolls and wind chimes made out of old toys, there used to be a lot more.  That’s getting lost, in the fields they have machines that set-off to scare the birds.  It does take over, technology.  I was in Sri Lanka, and there were all these amazing scarecrows, handmade, they look like people, scary.

So from Malta you came to a bigger island?

Robert [Rubbish, from Jersey] and I always used to say: two boys, two islands, two reprobates, two drunks – it carried on like that, we’re both from small islands and wanted to escape, Jersey is about the same size as Malta, everyone knows you, we were both trying to escape that.  In London you can be whoever.

Where in London did you live to start off?

I lived in a flat in Fulham and every time you took a bath it leaked into the kitchen, really crazy flat, crazy people.  And I knew some people from Malta, who knew all these rich people in penthouses in Chelsea, with billiard rooms and coke, and thought: this is great!  This is London!  Then moved into Camberwell and my vision was shattered, ha.  But five of us were living in a flat down in Camberwell, with two hundred people coming to parties, and our landlord was an E dealer, and there’d be a pile of pills outside his door upstairs where he’d pulled his keys out.

I was cagey about being at art school and the change of being here as an immigrant, so met some guys who I’m still very close with, Harry [Malt] and I stayed in touch, we got a studio together in 2008 and started Bare Bones, and did shows with RED.

With Bare Bones, I wanted to do something that was more immediate.  Le Gun had a formula – we did ten issues of Bare Bones, then Harry wanted to move to the country.  He lives in Walsingham in Norfolk where there’s a shrine to Mary.  He grew up around there, in Hoe.

When you’re here and on your own, you start new families: your friends become your family, if you need any help, you have them, my real family are three thousand miles away and I’ve been with Steph [Von Reiswitz, also an illustrator and part of Le Gun] for 13 years.  She’s pregnant:  it’ll be a new chapter, inspire new thoughts, ideas, feelings, as a human, good to experience.    

So Robert [Rubbish] came through Soho, did it have that much of an impact on you?

Soho was more Robert and Neil [Fox]. I used to like walking around Soho alone, and when there was stuff to discover, then Robert and Neil showed us around, it lost its mystery.  It’s changed, it used to be rougher, there were more dives and social clubs – nudie dancers for a quid.  The charm of it is meeting it, and Robert and Neil had a B-line of hangouts, where famous people drank.  Neil’s work’s about that, and Robert did the Rubbishmen of Soho [a band].  It’s fun but not the beginning and end for me.  They like olde worlde stuff.

So the Max Nog Shop, the first installation…

We wanted to make a drawing you could walk into.  It took about two months, we were papering the walls, everything.  I think we called it International Festival Le Gun.  It was all about making then, y’know, we’ll work out what it is and what it means later, and have fun with it.  Nog shop became a club where bands would play, take a few cans, he called it the Cave.

That’s what Faris’ club (from The Horrors) was called…

Maybe he came down, saw it.

Nog stood for something stupid, Nuclear Organic Graphics or something.  I think [Max Nog’s] mum was married to a Visconti, so every time he got broke, he’d just go and sell a house in Rome.  He had a skate park in his house, he pissed off a lot of people, he was in New York in the 80s, friends of Madonna, William Burroughs.  I think he liked young boys.

I’m not really into the fame thing, if you become notorious, people are taking photos, Pete or Amy Winehouse, it’s not very nice looking at someone coming out of a club off their head.  Yet, you need to be part of it – I haven’t got a Facebook account, but do have one for BareBones.  And you need to tweet or you get left behind – but I think you can rebel against it – someone like Robert, he didn’t do it until a year ago and now he’s all over it.  I’d rather stay away from social media and see what happens, but you need people to know about it and you get to 3000 people at the hit of button.

I found the best way: I did a show at RED and I was there from eleven in the morning to eleven at night and talking to the people buying your work, I don’t think it gets better than that.  You can go global on the internet – if someone buys my art I like to talk to someone.  Most collectors like to know the artist, it’s important.

I’ve been listening to Grayson Perry, the Reith Lectures.  You get your art, your handbag, and your car.   Sol Campbell was at Frieze.

Is it a strength that you came from illustration?

Street art, boundaries, high art, low art, whatever.  Banksy setting up a kiosk, selling it for forty quid, it’s challenging, he’s playing with that, he’s concerned that he doesn’t get that freedom, he’s the papa of street art, it’s stencil art, but he’s social commentary, he’s like a Hogarth of our time.

I’d rather go to the National Gallery and go see old paintings, I see the world in pictures, that’s how I see the world, in cartoons, that’s why I did illustration.  I like the primal instinctive – if you look at my paintings they’re coming from that old school – the iconography.  Symbols and metaphors and making your own symbols…

I met a woman the other day, at a private view, Gaynor O’Flynn – performance artist – she said: What do you do, I said: A bit of an illustrator/artist, she made me think I’m just gonna say: I’m an artist.  I make money as a commercial illustrator, but do my own art.  Andy Warhol did commercial art, it’s all about adapting to your environment.  I’m not an accountant, I quite like Visual Artist – I quite like the constraints of commercial work, coming up with solutions for things that aren’t your own ideas.  Sometimes, as an artist, you can do anything, so it can get narcissistic.  I like to make interesting images that make people think and get a reaction.

I’ve been writing for the last few years, I’m a closet writer and poet, and I was going to burn them and thought these are quite good, that’s something new, but I was dyslexic and scared of words and reading,  I’d rather listen to an audiobook, because if I read, I’d jump massive sections.

Would you perform?

Performance would be too much about me, the drawings are performance.   Would I do it though?  If I came up with an idea I liked….

Le Gun –  are you doing much now?

I took a break for the V&A show because I wanted to find myself a bit more, thought I was getting a bit lost, so wanted to do the [solo] show at RED.

And I was doing Bare Bones and Le Gun together for a while, so was doing a lot on others, not myself.  I feel I can go back now, reinvigorated, and with an understanding of how I fit in the gang.

Will hipsters kill East London?

They have.  It doesn’t mean that East London’s dead – the truth will always be stronger, and there’s always going to be people doing strong stuff, but that’s not the end, just got to learn how to live with them, it’s a bit annoying that rent’s getting more expensive because artists wages haven’t gone up.  Maybe more support would be good.  We should get the corporations to pay for studio spaces and be given more of a helping hand, stop it being so elitist: ten people making loads of money and then thousands struggling.

I think there’s an attitude of: you’ve chosen to do it, live with it…

Yeah, deal with it.  I used to do a bit of teaching but there’s no part-time and the colleges are a bit broke. With Le Gun we set up a shop and have had to turn it into a business but should we, as artists, be the businessmen?

Do you think there’s space for countercultures in London?

It’s suppressed, they look at people who protest and they’re terrorists.

…I spoke with Robert about the Poverty/Organic divide…

It’s always been split, what can you do?  I feel privileged, I’ve never come from a poor background, middle-class norm, I’ve never experienced it – but I struggle to pay my rent and my brother became a lawyer.   He’s got the Volvo, the pool, but I do have a richer life.  I dunno, when he can do what he wants – I hope it won’t be like this forever.  I’ve never paid NI, I think I pay enough, you pay tax on everything you buy, on council tax, on and on.  I don’t make that much so why should I pay more, and then big corporations skimming…

Consume or be consumed.

Yeah, and all they’re doing is making money.

Yarda [Krampol] and Giuseppe [Percuoco], they take me out for lunch, when I’m doing a bit of art for them, and they’re starting it from scratch – there has to be money if you’re spending money…

What do you think of the way RED runs, as a vague co-operative of ideas?

I think RED, if you explain an idea, they give you space and don’t ask too many questions.  They’re supportive, and financially – they’re there for you – I did all the work in a week, for the show and they liked it – so they did the catalogue, I gave them a bit of artwork, they gave me a space.  I’ve been speaking to Yarda about spreading a residency programme over Napoli, Prague, and London.  Rather than an application process, I hate those people.  It would be nice to approach [artists], make it more exciting.

And then speaking to Yarda about pop-up galleries, there are spaces for it – you have business rates, so if you do pop-ups, it avoids it, and the landlords, that’s in the pipeline.

So projects with me and Yarda and Giuseppe, they’re not paid jobs but there are some artists, like a Turkish guy who I really want to do a show with, I really like his paintings, and he’s sort of trying London out, it’s not easy to just come here in two years, a lot of people have to leave – it would be good to support people who are here.

I think RED do goody-goody causes, sometimes a bit too many and the graff art, it’s getting worse and worse, I think it should be controlled – it can be quite rash – it could be really important.  I don’t know that scene but if that was curated better – and spend some money on getting really good people, it could be a lot better.

I live near Toynbee Street, people have moved up to Stamford Hill.  I have this thing where I really like London and social problems, I don’t know if we are getting pushed out or if it’s because we’re getting older, I don’t want to move to the countryside, I think maybe it’s time for another city – I can make it in new cities, my wife likes comfort.  I like the South, somewhere in the Mediterranean, or maybe as an artist, go and look at the world more.  I was in Madrid recently and you go two stops on a train and it’s gypsies, and it’s wild, and no one works, I was there for this festival, San Juan, 25th June – it’s a different scene.  I went there twice in a row, gypsies singing for a week.  I’d like to do some work about that: belonging, and where we fit.   I don’t think I could live anywhere but London and fit in.  Maybe San Francisco rather than LA.  In LA people buy [art] out there, it’s a bit older – we need a gallery who could do that, maybe organise doing something.  We did China, Istanbul, Berlin and Paris, and it’s fun to take what you do to new places, we spend a lot of time working with the space and working it out.  It’s good fun.  It’s that thing of talking to people, living and breathing the space.  I feel like a traveller – I don’t think I’ve found my home yet – I don’t want it stop here.  But y’know, I leave my house – I can have Chinese, sushi, Thai, whatever in a very close period of time.

I like the city.

But you have to blend with your environment, in this toxic city.

That’s a good name for a show, Toxic City.

http://www.chrisbianchi.co.uk

http://www.legun.co.uk

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Robert Rubbish’s facial hedging swirls in puffs of dandy, tweedy smoke around us.  His ebullient stature lumbers through the gates of RED Market, like a Churchill of yore.   A confident statesman for Le Gun, he painted the MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING mural behind the sandpits for the shoot we did for Freestyle magazine over the summer of 2012.   

Where are you from, originally?

I’m from Jersey.

And how did you end up here?

I came first off to Bristol to do a BA in Illustration in the mid-90s, although I’d lived in London in the early 90s, living with a mate, but progressively slipped into mundanity and went back to Jersey, did a course that got me to Bristol because I’d left school with an art GCSE because I’m dyslexic, eventually moved back to Jersey for a couple of years, then in 2003 I moved back to London to go to the Royal College of Art to do a master’s in visual communication…

What did you get out of that?

I got in a lot of debt but good friendships.  I met Le Gun guys and we started a magazine.  I went there to expand my work but ended up collaborating a lot, and it was a meeting place for all these new people, and I’ve been here since.

Where did you live to start off?

I lived in Hammersmith and moved East in 2005, we were going to Soho a lot…

That’s where I got a lot of my education…

Yeah, us too, and there was stuff going on East and after college we got a collective studio space where we worked together on Le Gun, it was near the London Fields pub on Mare Street.  We’d have parties there.  It was probably better around there then: it was a bit crap, and I couldn’t afford a space, but when we had a big project we’d work there together, so it was a hub of where we were hanging out, and it carried on after college, some of Le Gun are still there.  There was six and now there are seven.  Steph [von Reiswitz] , Chris’ [Bianchi] girlfriend didn’t go to the Royal College so she got involved later, she’d been doing other stuff…and it was around then, 2006, that we met Yarda [Krampol].  We did that thing in Brick Lane in the Max Nog gallery on Brick Lane, where Yarda was working – a black and white cave of drawings, and we did a back room.  That was good for us, he was a bit of weird slippery guy, though, Max.  He gave us free reign which we couldn’t quite believe, and we thought he’d come along and say he didn’t want this or that.  We covered the ceiling in chequered paint, glossed the floor.  We were building a world and we thought it would last a month, but it was there for longer, and it was a nice place to hang out, and made us think we could actually build stuff.  It was quite immersive, you could tell it was our sort of thing and it was better than a sterile gallery.

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Is it a strength that you came from illustration?

I think individually we’d worked on separate things, but together we were putting on parties to fund the [Le Gun] magazine, so we’d do a six-foot drawing to sell in the Royal College bar, then we’d hone it, and realise we could do a better by drawing and embellishing it for each other, and we sold it, and that would fund the magazine.

How does the physical process of building an installation, such as the one at RED, occur?

First off, an idea, whether it’s Le Gun, or a commercial project, we think of the idea, and then see how feasible it is, if there’s a budget we’d cost it – say here, we did a twenty-five metre room in there, which has now toured everywhere, but we need a set builder or carpenter, price up the wood, and that starts a story.  With the RED one, we did a drawing of a story and the drawings turn from 2D into 3D, there’s not one person that’s good at this, people don’t go over each other’s work, but someone might shadow it, add to it.

It’s very instinctive.  When it’s taken back down to a commission or a drawing it gets tighter and more annoying because they say: Can you move that?  But it’s a free-for-all if it’s just us…

We did a Bare Bones show here first, then Le Gun and Bare Bones.  Both times we had parties in the basement, but it all comes from parties.  We got to know Yarda better because after the Nog shop, we did a Le Gun party in a block in Cambridge Heath where we had a studio, Yarda did the door for us, and he started doing stuff here, and introduced us to Ernesto [Leal].

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Will hipsters kill East London?

Yeah – they have already.  In my view.

I think all of London, there’s a bit of a problem.  Without sounding very, very negative, the hipster thing is causing problems because it’s areas that people went to because they were cheap because other areas in centralised areas were too expensive, so cheaper areas create artist colonies out of economic reasons and it results in the trendification of East London.

I like that word: trendification.

It’s making out something is creative when it’s just capitalism.

Consumerism.

Yeah, and it’s just all they’re doing is making money and pushing people out of areas, not just artists, I don’t understand where people go to.  It might be doing some people a favour!  But price wise, my experience in London: I now live in Stamford Hill which is South Tottenham which is nothing, and it’s never going to be.

Shoreditch is obviously too expensive to rent.  Dalston, Hackney, wherever, they get regenerated, revived, whatever, but where’s the choice, like you get organic or nothing.  On Mare St, we used to have a caff there, where you could just buy a meal but now there’s a burger place that’s dressed up, it’s got writing saying THIS IS AN EXPERIENCE or whatever but it’s just a burger place, instead of where you could get a meal, there’s either really shit fast food, or that.

Poverty or organic.

These two cultures living together, one is survival, the other is affluence dressed up as something else.  You’ve got to have a certain amount to buy into that kind of lifestyle, and it’s just money driven.  I don’t think it’s creative, I’d like to see artists making money from it, but it’s entrepreneurs opening up Things.

Central London will become everything up to Tottenham and parts of the South and it will be unaffordable to most people.

Y’know Shoreditch Box Park, it’s not temporary but it’s sold as a pop-up experience, but it’s just the high-street dressed up to be something else.  Somewhere else, it’s just like: this is a shop.  I think people are being made to buy into the mythology of recent past history.

People in London buy into areas that become a product of their success and then the real people can’t afford to be there.

I think East London was bombed catastrophically, and it’s been used as a toilet for immigration.  The East London thing is not the same as regentrifying Notting Hill or Chelsea.  There wasn’t a cash machine here when I first moved in the 90s, and the contrasts have always been hyperbolic.

This band I used to manage in South London have a thing called Yuppies Out, in Brixton, which is a bit misguided but they are scumlords fighting back, half of it is funny, but half of it ridiculous, that there are fromage and champagne street parties now in Brixton.  The band are Fat White Family – they’re unruly, but I was managing them for a while but got my fingers burnt.  The lead singer I’d been working with was in my film and we’d been working for a while, but the band had drug problems and I had this first-hand insight, everyone’s on heroin, on crack, none of them had train fare to get to the studio – and I made them a video and artwork and it got somewhere but I was giving myself to them, and I loved what they were doing but they’re so like that, they don’t give a shit about themselves or anyone else, but there was a hostile takeover from another guy and I love what they’re doing, but had to depart, and you see what you see, and you know if you go into the lions den, that’s what it is…

Is that like London?

The things that are dangerous and scary would attract me when I was younger, and London’s got a lot of it. The band were the last bastion, I found it exciting, and all the older people behind them were in Brixton holding banners around Thatcher’s funeral…London creates those people.

There are a lot of pricks to kick against here.

It’s attractive in some ways but it’s good to look at it from a distance, unless you’re bulletproof.

(We run in from the rain, resettling in the RED Market marquee.)

We’ve changed sides…so yes, inside here, the RED Gallery are willing to give people a chance, to do an exhibition, a crazy night, when I was doing that mural there, talking to Yarda and Greg [Konready], they both grew up in Communist countries and Ernesto was going on about doing a hammer and sickle but what they were saying was critical, yet they’re all doing a…

Co-operative.

You are drawn to what you like, even though you don’t even know what that is, Greg’s view on Communism and the west, he’s harsh about communism.   What’s nice about Le Gun is we share money and we work as one, and that’s the same as here, they use a bit of business…

They give this space away for free.

And they’re in the centre, I enjoy what they’re doing, and it’ll take groups of people like this…

I’m reading a book at the moment about Rebel Cities, and city centres needing autonomous places to form ideas.  Chatting to Gary Means, from Alternative London, he’s like, you couldn’t replicate this where he’s from, in the Isle of Wight,  because there aren’t enough people to make it diverse.  

I think I was growing up in extreme capitalism, in Jersey, but in the late 80s, early 90s, they had free parties, and we’d go there to smoke weed, take acid, but all the nutters, all the druggies and no-one was fighting. Like skinheads or rockers.  So it was interesting for a while.  The police didn’t know what to do, but they banned it – Jersey can pass their own laws in about three weeks, so they made one where you’d get imprisoned.

The background I come from, it’s only drugs that allowed us to crossover into that world of rich people, but they can’t keep their kids away from hooligans, in the same way.  We ran this club, through a grammar school, and it had a private members club, where you could sign people in, so I’ve always been interested in, I guess, collectives.

Collectives sound like a bad jazz funk band.

Yeah!  It does.

It can be horrible working with people and their moods but it can be amazing, and you eat, party and work together…

I think if we tried to label what we do, it gets complicated and money has never been our driving force, so if you’re excited about something, you can worry about the money later.  Money taints it.  But that’s how people make money, and some will leave.

I’ve been living hand to mouth for so long…not everyone can cope with that…

I want to live a life that’s interesting.  It’s more important than amassing fortune, but maybe some more balance would be good.

Ha! 

It’s exciting and it’s shit.  The agony and the ecstasy.  Throughout history I like the balance of you’re broke but partying with whoever, where the world is blurred.  I used to be friends with, did you know Sebastian Horsley?

I met him in the last three weeks of his life. 

An interesting three weeks…

I was quite reserved in the friendship because I thought it was going to be one that lasted…

I knew him for quite a while, and someone I considered a good friend for a while and, of course, there was bravado but genuine compassion, he was fascinated and fascinating.

He introduced me to this filmmaker once and he was like: “The reason I love him is because he’s got nothing.  He’s got nothing!  And I was like, what do you mean?  What he was saying was that broke isn’t a badge of honour but this guy was doing what he wanted to do, whatever the consequences, and couldn’t get on in whatever world.  I think if you look at the old dandy thing, of two amazing looking guys smoking in poverty…

Like Rimbaud and Verlaine, or Withnail and I…

Yes…it’s all about those ideas.  London’s got a big history of that.  And that is the best quality, where genuinely good ideas get attracted to it, from toffs to the people on the street, they all gravitated towards Sebastian.

Our British attitude towards culture is not embracing like France, here we don’t put creatives on a plinth.  We get shat on, it encourages imperialism…

I think England is a very interesting place because of our working classness.  Deep down, I think they want to be ruled and oppressed.  They’ll never have a revolution, certain things will happen but they won’t connect, or think they’re the same because there’s so much suppression – my theory’s not watertight, but the British get really into football, not getting rid of poverty, not getting rid of the Tories. When Margaret Thatcher died people were saying you can’t say this or that, but she ruined whole communities and those communities are being victimised by the new Conservatives for not having jobs.   She destroyed lives, industry.  Now they’re supposed to feel bad about what was done to them, and media maybe works really well here, but there is not a mass uniting to save the NHS, and I think in British culture there’s an affluence issue.

Affluenza – Ernesto came up for a word for it: Arrivista – in French/Spanish, it’s a cuss in Spanish, means you think you’ve arrived and look down on others.  Always looking up, hegemonic culture…

Always being ruled and being oppressed.  Coming from a small island, London always feels like there’s an immense amount of freedom, some people say you’re on CCTV, the police etc. but I feel very free.  I’ve walked across the city, at 5am, coming down from whatever, and I’m the only person here.  I like walking across the city in Paris too but here, you’ll meet someone you know but also have the anonymity to drift across it and that feels better than walking in the hills and country.  I find it has a lot of spirit.  I think maybe I’m out of touch, but there will be a way for the young, as long as they aren’t victimised for being poor or living somewhere.

Could RED be replicated in Jersey?

No.  Architecturally, no, you couldn’t do it – there was a funny incident when Le Gun were invited to go and do a show in an old magistrates court and the police cells, it was part of the Branchage Film Festival, my friend was organising it and I found it weird that I’d been there before with friends who had been sent to prison and we did a show in the old cells, and took this guy, Lord Bath [aka Paul Vincent Lawford, not “thee real Lord Bath”] to DJ, after the Mayor of Jersey had done his speech, playing Fuck Da Police, and it was going really nuts, like Chris was getting kids to skateboard along the parquet, and it was proper nuts, and it brought a little bit of something but then we’d probably be arrested, so for one night, maybe…

If you tried to recreate this in Jersey, they’d find something to really hate, and be negative about, and you’d get ten people and a dog there. I think this is unique but if you took these characters and gave them an opportunity there, they’d make something, but something else.  I think they’ve made a lot just out of the building, from the Bare Bones show in November with no heating, freezing hands, thinking why are we doing this, then when they started to get electrics it grew, but that non-permanence…

Do you think that’s part of its appeal?

I think because it’s not going to be here, it would have to be run established as an arts space where we had charitable studios, which kinda happens.  It’s like Berlin-past, a bit rough and ready.  I think what they’ve done is allow people to curate their own space, and that works when you have good people involved.  I think it’s an interesting thing.  Out the back of my mind I always think it’s going to be turned into a hotel with a Banksy in perspex, and they’ve done so well, for what it was, it was all a bit shit.  So when it changes into a hotel, you’ll think, wow, that was a good space, but London is layers upon layers upon layers.  Every room in Soho has layers and things reoccur, like this was something in the 60s, it’s been everything and now it’s something similar – I mean could this work somewhere else in London?

Blue in West London, my husband’s joke.  They did a successful pop-up in Ladbroke Grove…

In this space, when it began, with all the agro with The Foundry, the squat, they were looking at these guys in one way, and I think the whole of London is becoming more friendly to consumers, so Soho is like Covent Garden…

The world is like that, you’ll walk down streets in Madrid, Barcelona, Tokyo, and all the same brands’ll be on the same streets…

In Soho there are going to be some major architectural changes.  City Road is changing really quick, with canalside developments.  I think progress is good but having something of the past is good as well, that’s when London works, I don’t know how new flats culturally improve something.  My vision of the future is that there’s a circle being drawn around London, and you won’t be able to live in it.  In Paris all the estates are out of the city, it’ll be reversed here.

Do you consider yourself to be tech friendly, or a luddite?  Where do you fit with TechCity?

50% luddite, 50% technology.  The problem I have with technology is the same problem I have with my dyslexia, like if you showed me how to do something on Photoshop, I couldn’t remember it.  I find Social Media fine, but technology to aid my art is frustrating, and I have no logic in that area, but we’re in interesting times with technology, you can do films and stuff you couldn’t have done 5 years ago, it’s bringing an affordability to making things, but the gatekeepers and distribution problems still exist.  I think technology is good and empowering but frustrating and I don’t think it’s going to make anyone more creative than they are, it’s a tool.  You could get the best camera ever, and call yourself a photographer…

Some people would say the democracy of the internet allows everyone to hear it, but I think it would be possible to record the best album ever and remain obscure.  It may be that rising population combined with a wider access to cheapened technology means there is more content, but indie stuff is always battling mainstream distribution…

You can make a print but may spend ten years getting that money back.  Or you could ask someone else to sell it, make half the money, and have more time.

I made a film, a seventy-minute psychogeographical detective story, purely narrated because I didn’t have any sound equipment, I don’t give a shit what happens with it.  I went to see festival doctors, it’s not my world, but I’m fascinated with having it exist.

You have to be certifiable to work in film…

I agree, it is the nuttiest world, and there’s development money flying around, and technology has enabled it.   It’s very emotionally draining.

It’s like Laura Mulvey, it gets a lot bigger than you.  And £100K minimum publicity and advertising budget is essential to even remotely play in the arts cinemas.  So why bother making something in that format if it’s never going to make it.  Even the Netflix/HBO/Amazon series – it’s all getting sewn up by the same gatekeepers, so as indies we have to find our own way.

I was like: I’m going to make this film, and I’d have meetings with people trying to do it the right way, and they’d say, you need a crew of fifteen people.  And in the end I was like, right, I can make something but it’s not the same way they’d make it.  I’m with you that you can’t expect mass cinema release.  There is interesting stuff, but you have to be a Social Media fanatic, it’s something I feel I should be doing more than I want to.  You can get people to do that.

Technology is not going to improve creativity.  It does enable it, you can make a film that looks alright that is digital, but you can make a film on a video camera and make it look good, I think if you can get a good balance with it, it’s good.

I think it’s more useful to have the internet in the country than in the city.

Yeah, John Reith saw communication as a way to educate and inform farmers.  

It’s all regional, but linked.  The human race will survive and adapt but technology may not be used for entertainment – Social Media was used in the Arab Spring for something amazing, and in the West it’s used for privileged entertainment to make sense of our stupid lives.  Taking pictures of food.  People call themselves foodies, like, we’ve all gotta eat…

I did ten years without food!

We’ve all eaten tissue paper, for our time in the catwalk, ha, but it’s fascinating I was only on Facebook this year, to promote my film, but I got suckered in, and it’s funny, that’s exactly what they’d do if you were sitting with them, so people do connect in the same way, in social entertainment, it could be used for good to help isolated people, it would have blown my mind on Jersey as a boy.

I got that through magazines, The Face, reading i-D.

I don’t know if we knew what we looking for – you’d get a record, read the sleeve notes, it was manual.  I think digital is interesting but it’s like anything [is available], I’m not going to listen to stuff on a valve amp ‘cos it’s authentic, or Modern is Bad.  Because we live in the modern, some of it is shit, but computers have helped me personally in some respects but can be a bit annoying if I’m there with my girlfriend, and I’m on Facebook.

I’m time obsessive and it kills me how much time it leaks.  

We do like to kill time though, boredom, we have to be entertained…

http://www.robertrubbish.co.uk

http://www.legun.co.uk

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IF YOU GET THIS FAR:  HERE’S THE PROMISED SAMUEL JOHNSON, from 1738…

Tho’ Grief and Fondness in my Breast rebel,
When injur’d Thales bids the Town farewell,
Yet still my calmer Thoughts his Choice commend,
I praise the Hermit, but regret the Friend,
Resolved at length, from Vice and London far,
To breathe in distant Fields a purer Air,
And, fix’d on Cambria‘s solitary shore,
Give to St. David one true Briton more.

For who would leave, unbrib’d, Hibernia‘s Land,
Or change the Rocks of Scotland for the Strand?
There none are swept by sudden Fate away,
But all whom Hunger spares, with Age decay:
Here Malice, Rapine, Accident, conspire,
And now a Rabble Rages, now a Fire;
Their Ambush here relentless Ruffians lay,
And here the fell Attorney prowls for Prey;
Here falling Houses thunder on your Head,
And here a female Atheist talks you dead.

While Thales waits the Wherry that contains
Of dissipated Wealth the small Remains,
On Thames‘s Banks, in silent Thought we stood,
Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver Flood:
Struck with the Seat that gave Eliza Birth,
We kneel, and kiss the consecrated Earth;
In pleasing Dreams the blissful Age renew,
And call Britannia‘s Glories back to view;
Behold her Cross triumphant on the Main,
The Guard of Commerce, and the Dread of Spain,
Ere Masquerades debauch’d, Excise oppress’d,
Or English Honour grew a standing Jest.

A transient Calm the happy Scenes bestow,
And for a Moment lull the Sense of Woe.
At length awaking, with contemptuous Frown,
Indignant Thales eyes the neighb’ring Town.

Since Worth, he cries, in these degen’rate Days,
Wants ev’n the cheap Reward of empty Praise;
In those curst Walls, devote to Vice and Gain,
Since unrewarded Science toils in vain;
Since Hope but sooths to double my Distress,
And ev’ry Moment leaves my Little less;
While yet my steady Steps no Staff sustains,
And Life still vig’rous revels in my Veins;
Grant me, kind Heaven, to find some happier Place,
Where Honesty and Sense are no Disgrace;
Some pleasing Bank where verdant Osiers play,
Some peaceful Vale with Nature’s Paintings gay;
Where once the harass’d Briton found Repose,
And safe in Poverty defy’d his Foes;
Some secret Cell, ye Pow’rs, indulgent give.
Let —— live here, for —— has learn’d to live.
Here let those reign, whom Pensions can incite
To vote a Patriot black, a Courtier white;
Explain their Country’s dear-bought Rights away,
And plead for Pirates in the Face of Day;
With slavish Tenets taint our poison’d Youth,
And lend a Lye the confidence of Truth.

Let such raise Palaces, and Manors buy,
Collect a Tax, or farm a Lottery,
With warbling Eunuchs fill a licens’d Stage,
And lull to Servitude a thoughtless Age.

Heroes, proceed! What Bounds your Pride shall hold?
What Check restrain your Thirst of Pow’r and Gold?
Behold rebellious Virtue quite o’erthrown,
Behold our Fame, our Wealth, our Lives your own.

To such, a groaning Nation’s Spoils are giv’n,
When publick Crimes inflame the Wrath of Heav’n:
But what, my Friend, what Hope remains for me,
Who start at Theft, and blush at Perjury?
Who scarce forbear, tho’ Britain‘s Court he sing,
To pluck a titled Poet’s borrow’d Wing;
A Statesman’s Logic, unconvinc’d can hear,
And dare to slumber o’er the Gazetteer;
Despise a Fool in half his Pension drest,
And strive in vain to laugh at H—y’s jest.

Others with softer Smiles, and subtler Art,
Can sap the Principles, or taint the Heart;
With more Address a Lover’s Note convey,
Or bribe a Virgin’s Innocence away.
Well may they rise, while I, whose Rustic Tongue
Ne’er knew to puzzle Right, or varnish Wrong,
Spurn’d as a Beggar, dreaded as a Spy,
Live unregarded, unlamented die.

For what but social Guilt the Friend endears?
Who shares Orgilio‘s Crimes, his Fortune shares.
But thou, should tempting Villainy present
All Marlb’rough hoarded, or all Villiers spent;
Turn from the glitt’ring Bribe thy scornful Eye,
Nor sell for Gold, what Gold could never buy,
The peaceful Slumber, self-approving Day,
Unsullied Fame, and Conscience ever gay.

The cheated Nation’s happy Fav’rites, see!
Mark whom the Great caress, who frown on me!
London! the needy Villain’s gen’ral Home,
The Common Shore of Paris and of Rome;
With eager Thirst, by Folly or by Fate,
Sucks in the Dregs of each corrupted State.
Forgive my Transports on a Theme like this,
I cannot bear a French metropolis.

Illustrious Edward! from the Realms of Day,
The Land of Heroes and of Saints survey;
Nor hope the British Lineaments to trace,
The rustic Grandeur, or the surly Grace;
But lost in thoughtless Ease, and empty Show,
Behold the Warriour dwindled to a Beau;
Sense, Freedom, Piety, refin’d away,
Of France the Mimic, and of Spain the Prey.

All that at home no more can beg or steal,
Or like a Gibbet better than a Wheel;
Hiss’d from the Stage, or hooted from the Court,
Their Air, their Dress, their Politicks import;
Obsequious, artful, voluble and gay,
On Britain‘s fond Credulity they prey.
No gainful Trade their Industry can ‘scape,
They sing, they dance, clean Shoes, or cure a Clap;
All Sciences a fasting Monsieur knows,
And bid him go to Hell, to Hell he goes.

Ah! what avails it, that, from Slav’ry far,
I drew the Breath of Life in English Air;
Was early taught a Briton‘s Right to prize,
And lisp the Tale of Henry‘s Victories;
If the gull’d Conqueror receives the Chain,
And what their Armies lost, their Cringes gain?

Studious to please, and ready to submit,
The supple Gaul was born a Parasite:
Still to his Int’rest true, where’er he goes,
Wit, Brav’ry, Worth, his lavish Tongue bestows;
In ev’ry Face a Thousand Graces shine,
From ev’ry Tongue flows Harmony divine.
These Arts in vain our rugged Natives try,
Strain out with fault’ring Diffidence a Lye,
And get a Kick for awkward Flattery.

Besides, with Justice, this discerning Age
Admires their wond’rous Taients for the Stage:
Well may they venture on the Mimic’s art,
Who play from Morn to Night a borrow’d Part;
Practis’d their Master’s Notions to embrace,
Repeat his Maxims, and reflect his Face;
With ev’ry wild Absurdity comply,
And view each Object with another’s Eye;
To shake with Laughter ere the Jest they hear,
To pour at Will the counterfeited Tear;
And as their Patron hints the Cold or Heat,
To shake in Dog-days, in December sweat.

How, when Competitors like these contend,
Can surly Virtue hope to fix a Friend?
Slaves that with serious Impudence beguile,
And lye without a Blush, without a Smile;
Exalt each Trifle, ev’ry Vice adore,
Your Taste in Snuff, your Judgment in a Whore;
Can Balbo‘s Eloquence applaud, and swear
He gropes his Breeches with a Monarch’s Air.

For Arts like these preferr’d, admir’d, carest,
They first invade your Table, then your Breast;
Explore your Secrets with insidious Art,
Watch the weak Hour, and ransack all the Heart;
Then soon your ill-plac’d Confidence repay,
Commence your Lords, and govern or betray.
By Numbers here from Shame or Censure free,
All Crimes are safe, but hated Poverty.
This, only this, the rigid Law persues,
This, only this, provokes the snarling Muse;
The sober Trader at a tatter’d Cloak,
Wakes from his Dream, and labours for a Joke;
With brisker Air the silken Courtiers gaze,
And turn the varied Taunt a thousand Ways.
Of all the Griefs that harrass the Distrest,
Sure the most bitter is a scornful Jest;
Fate never wounds more deep the gen’rous Heart,
Than when a Blockhead’s Insult points the Dart.

Has Heaven reserv’d, in Pity to the Poor,
No pathless Waste, or undiscover’d Shore?
No secret Island in the boundless Main?
No peaceful Desart yet unclaim’d by SPAIN?
Quick let us rise, the happy Seats explore,
And bear Oppression’s Insolence no more.
This mournful Truth is ev’ry where confest,
Slow rises worth, by poverty deprest:
But here more slow, where all are Slaves to Gold,
Where Looks are Merchandise, and Smiles are sold,
Where won by Bribes, by Flatteries implor’d,
The Groom retails the Favours of his Lord.

But hark! th’ affrighted Crowd’s tumultuous Cries
Roll thro’ the Streets, and thunder to the Skies;
Rais’d from some pleasing Dream of Wealth and Pow’r,
Some pompous Palace, or some blissful Bow’r,
Aghast you start, and scarce with aking Sight,
Sustain th’ approaching Fire’s tremendous Light;
Swift from pursuing Horrors take your Way,
And Leave your little All to Flames a Prey;
Then thro’ the World a wretched Vagrant roam,
For where can starving Merit find a Home?
In vain your mournful Narrative disclose,
While all neglect, and most insult your Woes.

Should Heaven’s just Bolts Orgilio‘s Wealth confound,
And spread his flaming Palace on the Ground,
Swift o’er the Land the dismal Rumour flies,
And publick Mournings pacify the Skies;
The Laureat Tribe in servile Verse relate,
How Virtue wars with persecuting Fate;
With well-feign’d Gratitude the pension’s Band
Refund the Plunder of the begger’d Land.
See! while he builds, the gaudy Vassals come,
And crowd with sudden Wealth the rising Dome;
The Price of Boroughs and of Souls restore,
And raise his Treasures higher than before.
Now bless’d with all the Baubles of the Great,
The polish’d Marble, and the shining Plate,
Orgilio sees the golden Pile aspire,
And hopes from angry Heav’n another Fire.

Couid’st thou resign the Park and Play content,
For the fair Banks of Severn or of Trent;
There might’st thou find some elegant Retreat,
Some hireling Senator’s deserted Seat;
And stretch thy Prospects o’er the smiling Land,
For less than rent the Dungeons of the Strand;
There prune thy Walks, support thy drooping Flow’rs,
Direct thy Rivulets, and twine thy Bow’rs;
And, while thy Beds a cheap Repast afford,
Despise the Dainties of a venal Lord:
There ev’ry Bush with Nature’s Music rings,
There ev’ry Breeze bears Health upon its Wings;
On all thy Hours Security shall smile,
And bless thine Evening Walk and Morning Toil.

Prepare for Death, if here at Night you roam,
And sign your Will before you sup from Home.
Some fiery Fop, with new Commission vain,
Who sleeps on Brambles till he kills his Man;
Some frolick Drunkard, reeling from a Feast,
Provokes a Broil, and stabs you for a Jest.
Yet ev’n these Heroes, mischievously gay,
Lords of the Street, and Terrors of the Way;
Flush’d as they are with Folly, Youth and Wine,
Their prudent Insults to the Poor confine;
Afar they mark the Flambeau’s bright Approach,
And shun the shining Train, and golden Coach.

In vain, these Dangers past, your Doors you close,
And hope the balmy Blessings of Repose:
Cruel with Guilt, and daring with Despair,
The midnight Murd’rer bursts the faithless Bar;
Invades the sacred Hour of silent Rest,
And plants, unseen, a Dagger in your Breast.

Scarce can our Fields, such Crowds at Tyburn die,
With Hemp the Gallows and the Fleet supply.
Propose your Schemes, ye Senatorian Band,
Whose Ways and Means support the sinking Land;
Lest Ropes be wanting in the tempting Spring,
To rig another Convoy for the K—g.

A single Jail, in Alfred‘s golden Reign,
Could half the Nation’s Criminals contain;
Fair Justice then, without Constraint ador’d,
Sustain’d the Ballance, but resign’d the Sword;
No Spies were paid, no Special Juries known,
Blest Age! But ah! how diff’rent from our own!

Much could I add, —— but see the Boat at hand,
The Tide retiring, calls me from the Land:
Farewel! —— When Youth, and Health, and Fortune spent,
Thou fly’st for Refuge to the Wilds of Kent;
And tir’d like me with Follies and with Crimes,
In angry Numbers warn’st succeeding Times;
Then shall thy Friend, nor thou refuse his Aid,
Still Foe to Vice forsake his Cambrian Shade;
In Virtue’s Cause once more exert his Rage,
Thy Satire point, and animate thy Page.

SAME AS IT EVER WAS

AND HERE IS MR KIRSTY IN A BEAUTIFUL MEMBERS CLUBDSC02888 DSC02892It’s the closest to our house…next to me:  Danielle Kendry aka Porcelain, of Porcelain and Red – my fave vintage shop ever, next door to The Society Club.  x

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Philly Press – Shoreditch as a cultural model

Journalism, Press

Spirit

After writing the Red Gallery book on Shoreditch last year, I was delighted to be interviewed by Andrew Mark Corkery for this three-parter comparing Shoreditch with his hometown of Fishtown, in Philadelphia…

The last chapter is my favourite. And there’s also this lil film he put together with me n the artist/editor of Dark Times, Paul Sakoilsky.

http://spiritnews.org/articles/a-fish-out-of-water-spirit-reporter-discovers-another-fishtown-across-the-pond/

A Fish Out of Water: Spirit Reporter Discovers Another Fishtown Across the Pond
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BY ANDREW MARK CORKERY | JUNE 17, 2015

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A street festival in Fishtown, and a street festival in Shoreditch.
A street festival in Shoreditch, and a street festival in Fishtown

Art galleries, coffee shops and street art. Community gardens, street food festivals and First Fridays. Start-up tech companies, converted warehouses and creative spaces. You may think theses elements describe the vibrant community of Fishtown, but not in this case. What I’m actually describing is a community similar to our Riverward, only this one is more than 3,000 miles and an ocean away in London, United Kingdom.

In this “A Fish Out of Water” series, we’ll take a look at this far away neighborhood called Shoreditch, see what similarities we can find between it and Fishtown and maybe even learn a thing or two from that community’s developmental process.

But why compare these two communities? Are they really that similar?

According to Fishtown resident Nadia James, they are.

“I actually just came here visiting a friend and never really considered [living in] Philadelphia at all,” James said. “But I came to Fishtown because it specifically reminded me of where I used to live in London—an area called Shoreditch.”

James had lived in London for a couple of years, but a desire to start her own business led her back home to North Jersey where she launched her content marketing consultancy firm, Griot Digital. Not long after starting up, James found a new home in Fishtown because it possessed the same creative business environment she loved back in Shoreditch. Today James serves customers like Rutgers University, SemperCon and Practice Unite from her office space located at 2424 Studios.

Shoreditch and Fishtown share commonalities throughout their respective histories. Both communities have a long, storied past of being working class neighborhoods.

Charles Booth, in his 1902 book “Life and Labour of the People in London,” described Shoreditch by saying, “The character of the whole locality is working class.” The UK blog Book Snobs say Shoreditch’s “working class roots” remain an element of the community’s vibrant nature today.

Kenneth W. Milano, a local historian who has published six books on Fishtown and other surrounding neighborhoods, characterizes the Riverwards’ roots in similar terms.

“It’s always been a working-class community,” Milano said. “You have families from the 1730s that are still living here. I think it goes to show the character of the people of Fishtown and the attachment to their community. [It is] a 275 year-old working-class neighborhood.”

Conrad Benner, an artist and street photographer, grew up in Fishtown and his family still lives in the community. Benner remembers how his father installed fire alarms for a living and his mother worked at a bank. Together his parents bought their house in the neighborhood during 1970s. According to Benner, his family will never leave Fishtown; their attachment to the community has become a large part of who they are as people.
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Live music in Fishtown and live music in Shoreditch.
Live music in Shoreditch and live music in Fishtown.

“When I was growing up I really loved it,” Benner said. “I mean, it was definitely rough around the edges, like most American cities at that time, but for the most part [the neighborhood’s residents] were great, loving people.”

Even with these proud working-class traditions and demographics, Fishtown and Shoreditch are also linked by their well-documented past of embracing artistic culture in the community.

It’s not widely known that the first theaters of London were built in Shoreditch. The first of these playhouses was simply and aptly called “The Theatre,” built in 1576. Shoreditch is also partly responsible for breathing inspiration into the man who many would come to regard as one of the greatest playwrights the world has ever known: William Shakespeare. He came to the area as an actor during the 1590s and lived in the community. He wrote a few characters into his plays based on people he had met while living there. Some of his earliest works were even performed regularly in Shoreditch, including Romeo and Juliet.

Milano believes that Fishtown has also nurtured artists and creative people getting their start throughout the neighborhood’s history. He cites influential artists from a more recent history like Frank Bender—who is considered one of the foremost forensic sculptors in American history—as one of the many creatives who have called Fishtown home.

It’s important to note that what’s considered an artistic profession has changed over time; the folks living in Fishtown a few hundred years ago would definitely be considered artists by today’s standards.

“You always had artisans,” said Milano. “You always had craftsmen, cobblers, furniture makers and so forth. But we didn’t bill ourselves as artisans; we were working people with a job. We have always had artists in Fishtown, but it wasn’t an art community. It wasn’t artsy in a sense that it was called artsy. We didn’t have galleries, we didn’t have a scene, but people were definitely artistic.”

The two communities’ storied artistic traditions have stood the test of generations, manifesting their creativity in a number of forms through the openings of boutiques, galleries, cafes and street art.

Philadelphia-based photographer and artist Jen Cleary, recently took a trip to Shoreditch and stressed how impactful the experience was for her own creativity.

“I was told that that’s where the art is, so I just spent a whole day in Shoreditch walking around and shooting as many photos as I could. I remember being like this is a candy store…holy shit,” said Cleary.

“It reminded me of Fishtown. Just so much of it was in one compact area. Like the part next to the Old Street train station in Shoreditch [where] it’s just non-stop street art. That reminds me of underneath the El between Girard and Berks Station.”

It wasn’t until recently, over the past few decades or so, that Fishtown and Shoreditch were openly considered by the public as landmark arts communities with creativity emanating throughout the broader culture of each area. This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. According to New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), more than anything else, it takes years of community development articulated with a vision put in place by people who genuinely care about the community they inhabit.

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Row homes in Fishtown and row homes in Shoreditch.
Row homes in Shoreditch and row homes in Fishtown.

Sandy Salzman, a fourth generation Fishtowner, has been Executive Director of the NKCDC since 1998. She credits her community’s progression to its residents as well as partnerships with various city agencies and organizations like The Philadelphia Horticultural Society and Mural Arts.

“When I started [at NKCDC], Frankford Avenue was a mess,” Salzman said. “We decided that we were going to make it into an arts corridor. We didn’t have one gallery; there were no artists living on Frankford Avenue. We didn’t even have a coffee shop.”

In her office Salzman keeps a picture from 1998 of a trash-strewn lot at Montgomery and Frankford Avenues. The photo paints a clear memory in Salzman’s mind and vividly symbolizes the more than 1,100 vacant lots scattered throughout Fishtown during the the 1990s. Close by is another image of that same lot, but in 2004. It shows a starkly contrasting view of an upstanding and well-tended pocket park with several trees that continue to grow there.

Shoreditch’s similar transformation was put into words by Wong Joon Ian, an East London based journalist, at the start of his article “Gentrification Without Displacement in Shoreditch,” published in the Center for Urban and Community Research’s blog.

“First came the Young British Artists, then it was Banksy and his cohorts,” Ian said. “Now, it’s the million-dollar startups of Silicon Roundabout. Shoreditch and its brick-walled Victorian warehouses have been branded a cultural quarter since the Young British Artists moved into the hollowed out, lightly industrial area on the City’s edge in the early 90s.”

Kirsty Allison was one of those Young British Artists and is now a professor, filmmaker and writer, with articles appearing in publications like The Guardian and a recent book entitled “Making Something Out of Nothing: Red Gallery Shoreditch.”

Allison believes the Young British Artists undoubtedly took ownership of the community and laid the groundwork for transforming Shoreditch into what it is today.

“[Shoreditch] used to be a lot more black and white, but now it’s very, very colorful,” Allison said. “It’s a very fluid area, which means it contextualizes to whatever is around it, and whatever is incoming into the community. It adapts naturally.”

As the neighborhood adapts, so do its businesses, with new tech startup companies like Soundcloud bringing more creative energy to an area well known for its entrepreneurial spirit.

“There are so many tech companies now, which are really part of creative industries. They are the kind of business side of creativity,” Allison said.

In 2013 the Silicon Roundabout of Shoreditch brought 15,720 new tech/creative startup companies into the community, making it the most popular and sought-after startup destination in all of the UK.

While the number of tech startups in Fishtown isn’t quite as staggering, there has been an influx of companies coming to the area, partly because the neighborhood falls under Philadelphia’s Keystone Innovation Zones—geographic zones where young tech and life science companies can apply for up to $100,000 of saleable tax credits. Tech companies in Fishtown include Boxter, Bluecadet, Pixel Parlor, and 3D Printing Dog, among other new and creative businesses popping up at places like 2424 Studios.

According to Fishtown resident Nadia James, another element that makes the local tech startup scene so incredible is the sense of camaraderie and passion she experienced first-hand during Philly Tech Week.

“I came to [Philly Tech Week] and everyone was really open and supportive when I was telling them I was starting my consultancy company, so I just knew this would be a great place to start my business,” James said.

She added:

“What I also really liked about Philly, particularly in Fishtown, is that you get a small community feel even though you are in a big city, and that’s probably the biggest thing I loved about London,” said James.

After moving back from London, James wanted to find someplace similar to the area of Shoreditch. Being a North Jersey native, New York City seemed like the obvious choice. But The Big Apple just felt like too big of a place and lacked a sense of community.

“I mean, you can live in a borough but it does not necessarily mean you get to know the people around you and feel like you know you are a part of something,” James said. “I felt like that in Shoreditch—a neighborhood where I could meet people. When I moved to Fishtown I felt the exact same way.”

This sense of community is fostered in several ways: First Fridays are staples of the monthly calendar in both Shoreditch and Fishtown, and an important component of how the arts stay in focus and at the forefront of the community. According to James, both areas’ First Fridays are nearly identical in layout, setup and overall community vibe:

“Free wine and beer, you just walk around the same little streets. It’s very close together and you talk to people.”

As James continues living in Fishtown, she wants to play a role in adding more elements to the already dynamic nature of her community, especially relating to London’s work culture. James was an account manager for Linkedin, a slightly stressful position at times, but she notes that on random sunny days (which can be rare in London) her manager would tell everyone busy at work to leave the office.

“Everything that I experienced there I want to have for the people that work for me here,” said James.

Workplace etiquette and random lunches aside, James’ attraction to living in Shoreditch came from its blending the conventional with the alternative. She sees the same synergy in Fishtown through the colorful variety of people who call the neighborhood home.

“I don’t really fit into either box personally but I enjoy different aspects of both. So I may be going to a pub that’s full of yuppies [or] I may also like to go to a dive bar that’s maybe full of hipsters. I felt like I could get all of that in Shoreditch and I feel the same way about Fishtown.”

Back in London, writer Kirsty Allison believes that this mix of culture and creativity plays a large role in what makes communities like Shoreditch and Fishtown so inviting and unique.

“It’s about maintaining a spirit of creative community and freedom within a space that should be available for everyone. It’s about cultural equality as much as anything,” said Allison. “There is an important part of cultural progression that needs freedom to articulate itself, and needs space where you can be free to express yourself beyond existing paradigms.”

Allison stresses the life-changing effect that communities like Shoreditch and Fishtown have on the folks who are a part of them. When speaking about Shoreditch directly, Allison stated: “It’s created me.”

“I would not have written my book—it’s a product of a friendship through the community. It’s also inspired my fiction work. My whole novel is set in 1990s Shoreditch,” said Allison. “I would not be who I am without having had the experience and freedom that I have had here. It’s given me my identity really.”

Conrad Benner, photographer and lifelong Fishtowner, echoes the same sentiment about his own home and how it has effected his own personal and artistic growth.

“I would definitely not be the person that I am today if it were not for growing up in Fishtown.” said Benner. “It’s not just the sense of the community and the support that community inspired, which has shown itself throughout the years. It’s also about what it taught me about the world. I saw the world first through the eyes of Fishtown.”

Want to learn more about Shoreditch and the ways it compares to our home in the Riverwards? Check out Spiritnews.org in the coming weeks for more in this “Fish Out of Water” series.


http://spiritnews.org/articles/a-fish-out-of-water-part-two-class-and-sustainability/
A Fish Out of Water Part Two: Class and Sustainability
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BY ANDREW MARK CORKERY | JULY 2, 2015

“A Fish Out of Water” is our ongoing series describing the similarities between Fishtown and a community in London called Shoreditch. The series will explain how these communities have adapted over time to the challenges they face. Part One described similarities of both communities through the lenses of their creative environments, illustrious histories, working-class traditions and deep impressions left on those who have lived there.

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Photos from Shoreditch courtesy Jason McGlade and Kirsty Allison. For full image credits, please refer to the free digital edition of Making Something Out Of Nothing
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These hip and developing communities, heralded as they are, often bear the brunt of divisive generational and class divides. In particular, the alienating divide of cultural stereotypes provoke deep-seated misunderstandings, frustrations, and occasionally points of anger in those who inhabit these neighborhoods.

This section of “Fish Out of Water” focuses on exposing what might cause these tensions in the community and how best to cultivate understanding through a culture and policy perspective. Beneath the tension and misunderstanding there are new, albeit tentative, perspectives circulating. And in it, the power to make these communities sustainable for the long term by harnessing the same creativity and diversity that made them so dynamic.

When speaking on diversity and its role in the community, Nadia James had this to say about Fishtown:

“You can have racially diverse communities but very rarely…is it also diverse in class. What I love about Fishtown, at least in this moment, is that you do still have that class diversity. I think it has a lot to do with the history of Fishtown and that a lot of people have been here for multiple generations,” James, a former Shoreditch and current Fishtown resident, said. “You have a working class and a young professional class and they are all coming together.”

Her claim is backed by statistics. Census data shows a noticeably wider spectrum of median household income, ethnicity, length of housing tenure and education level in Fishtown than in nearby neighborhoods like Mayfair.

Conrad Benner is an artist and photographer who grew up in Fishtown and still lives in the community today. Benner agrees that this blending of cultures and classes has had a unique role in shaping the community but feels as though he has experienced the community through a different lense than James. Benner believes that the cultural makeup of Fishtown is not something that can be garnered from the narrow context of these census tracts or the framework that broader society uses to define class.

“[There’s] this whole idea that working class families are different than the people moving in because [the newcomers] are creative. I would almost argue that the people moving in are in fact the new generation of working class,” Benner said. “This is the economy of the 21st century. I work in digital marketing and these are the jobs that are available to us. Everyone is working class.”

Kirsty Allison, an English writer, professor and filmmaker, echoes similar sentiments from across the pond:

“I wouldn’t use class to determine people. I just think that the class categories have become outmoded and they are no longer relevant.” said Allison. “The creative people that are actually doing innovative work rarely have that much money.”

As we reported in Part One, Shoreditch boasts a large population of creative people working in an array of tech, art and creative industries.

According to statistics from accountants at UHY Hacker Young reported in London’s Financial Times, 15,620 new businesses were set up in and around Shoreditch between 2013 and 2014. In addition, 305,000 sq. ft. of office space was rented to startups, about double the amount in 2012. With this new, booming industry Shoreditch has been dubbed by many as the primary hotspot of digital creative industries in all of the UK.

Regardless of Shoreditch and Fishtown’s ongoing development of industry and the class discussion that surrounds it, both communities have a distinct collaborative nature where everyone seems to help one another.

As James puts it, “People are trying to build one another up.”

As people build each other up in a personal and professional sense, the ways in which each community has been structurally built up differ. The types of buildings and construction projects happening in each area and how those spaces function within the community highlight some of the major differences between Shoreditch and Fishtown.

Fishtown has always been a largely residential area with rowhomes and condos making up a large amount of landscape, still remaining that way even following the continuing influx of people to the community. As more people have moved into the neighborhood, so has development of additional low-rise residential spaces to accommodate the growing population.

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Photos from Shoreditch courtesy Jason McGlade and Kirsty Allison. For full image credits, please refer to the free digital edition of Making Something Out Of Nothing.

In Shoreditch it’s a much different tale. Before The Young British artists moved there in the 1990s there was actually not a lot of residential space in Shoreditch. Because of that, the area and its property values are currently booming and developers are flocking in to build more.

“There is a supply issue and there is also a rent issue because of the way that housing is done in London and in the UK. There is not enough social housing in general and the total amount of housing is also going up and as a result you have a crisis from the supply side,” Wong Joon Ian, an East London-based journalist, said. “Add to this a spike in global demand because global investors view London property as a desirable and safe asset”.

It’s not just that people are being displaced and forced out of their houses only because the rent is rising. Ian says it also has to do with the fact that a large amount of new residential space is being built to accommodate the influx of high-income people moving into the area, most of which is high priced real estate.

“You have declining supply and increasing demand from outside. So the people who do get squeezed are the people who don’t have the capital to compete with the demand and don’t have the capital to find new supply,” said Ian. “But you have to ask yourself who is that new supply for, who can afford that new supply?”

Some would say the biggest and most controversial “new supply” of housing and real estate on the horizon in Shoreditch is the Goodsyard, an £800 million ($1,254,240,000) mixed-use scheme by joint developers Ballymore and Hammerson. As reported in the Financial Times of London, if the project obtains planning permission more than 1,450 new homes and 600,000 sq ft of office space are set to be built.

“There’s a lot of money in Shoreditch at the moment,” said Matt Cobb of Hatton Real Estate in the FT. “That can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing, because whatever you decide to build you have to make sure you won’t be destroying what made the area desirable in the first place.”

Ian stresses some alternative ideas about the gentrification of Shoreditch in his article, Gentrification Without Displacement in Shoreditch written for the Center For Urban and Community Research Blog.

“Unlike the narrative of commercial or industrial gentrification, in this case, the displaced property owners welcomed the move out of the area. Again, this upsets the narrative of wealthier incoming gentrifiers displacing existing residents,” said Ian. “In the case of Shoreditch there were no existing residents to displace”.

In Fishtown, Conrad Benner believes the traditional narrative of gentrification in his own community may not fully apply either. Benner critiques the framing of gentrification put forth by outlets that influence public perception and offers his own counter argument.

“The media sort of projects this idea that when gentrification happens it’s this clash between cultures, but that’s just not what I have experienced,” said Benner. “On a human-to-human scale and as someone who grew up in the neighborhood, I am very excited to see the way that [Fishtown is] changing in positive ways. Business are opening up, Girard Avenue is getting redone, the highway (I-95) is getting redone, more and more transportation options are becoming available and all of these things are happening because there is a renewed energy in the neighborhood.”

While Nadia James hasn’t been in the area as long as Benner has, she was in Shoreditch during that neighborhood’s development and feels that Fishtown is starting to reach a similarly uncomfortable level.

“I think that there is actually way too much property being developed in Fishtown right now. Every block I go down I see a new building coming up. The good thing about Fishtown, though, as opposed to Shoreditch, is that at least there are the building limitations,” said James.

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Photos from Shoreditch courtesy Jason McGlade and Kirsty Allison. For full image credits, please refer to the free digital edition of Making Something Out Of Nothing.

There are two 42-story skyscrapers planned for development in Shoreditch that have been set on a timeframe to be completed by the late 2020s, as reported by The Independent. This would never be the case in Fishtown though, thanks to specific zoning classifications in the area that would not permit the construction of the skyscrapers currently set to be built in Shoreditch. The only designated zoning code in Fishtown that would permit something close to the 42-story Skyscraper in Shoreditch would be designation SP-ENT.

There are also additional checks and balances on the development of larger buildings in particular areas, including Fishtown. One of these checks that involves the community most is Civic Design Review, a process that occurs when a plan requires both an appeal and a design review. Then there are public meetings and hearings which occur before a Zoning Board, and when City Council considers amending the zoning code they do so with input from the public. Through these processes, the public has some power to influence the development of their own community.

“I think here in Fishtown people want it to be more balanced though so it doesn’t turn into the next Brooklyn, or I mean even just thinking of other Philadelphia communities. There is a reason why people are paying to live here and not Rittenhouse Square,” said James.

In Shoreditch, a number of people in the community sympathize with this same view but within the context of their own community. The Shoreditch Community Association sees the area’s continued development as something that needs to be guarded, regulated and watched closely for foul play.

“There isn’t enough balance on the development. The Council (local government) wants to see only commercial space, the estate agents and developers only want to see residential units—for overseas investors to pay over the odds for but never live in. And the historic locals are trying to protect the historic balance of the area,” said Rachel Munro-Peebles, a leading member of the Shoreditch Community Association. “Everyone, big businesses, companies, and people wants a slice of Shoreditch but it’s only the people who live and work here who understand it and want to protect it.”

Kirsty Allison was part of the movement that lead to Shoreditch becoming cool, and understands the importance of keeping a watchful eye on development. But she also notes that there is an invariable part of community regeneration that we must all come to accept on a fundamental level in order to have progress.

“Change is change, and that’s the thing about it,” said Allison. “That’s the issue with rent control and where artists fit into a community, and whether society values it enough. A lot of people would say that rent control is necessitous to retain a community. There are still a lot of artists and creatives living around here but I don’t know who could get a warehouse now, they would move further out,” said Allison.

With that said the cost of a one bedroom flat in Shoreditch varies anywhere from £335,000 ($513,488.00) to £725,000 ($1,111,280). Additionally the sizes of these flats are regularly priced at £1351.35 ($2071.35) per square foot.

Whatever the multiplicity of factors behind the fundamental changes in communities, it’s imperative that everyone be looking at the issues we all face today through a sense of broader contextual vision.

“Look at how we arrived here. What are the factors driving it? These are global trends and recognizing that, these may not be issues a local council can solve on their own. Maybe there needs to be some redistribution of legislative power or something,” said Wong Joon Ian.

As real-estate prices are skyrocketing in Shoreditch, the market in Philly remains sustainable by comparison. Robert Beamer lives in a repurposed residential warehouse in Fishtown. He sees Philadelphia and Fishtown as a much more economically sustainable environment to live than most other high-priced cities in the U.S., and others internationally. In fact, it was Philly’s affordability that brought him here in the first place.

“Most cities are intensely crowded and expensive,” Beamer said. “But here I can go to a show and see a world-renowned artist, then I can also go to an amazing dinner and not pay an arm and a leg for it and the dinner is going to be really amazing.”

James concurs with Beamer and sees our community as an area that may really remain less affected by these global trends noted by Ian in Shoreditch, in relation to affordability and sustainability. She sees Fishtown as somewhat immune to the high, unaffordable nature of city life that some believe is currently affecting Shoreditch. She notes that Fishtown is not next to such a massive financial hub like London, which in her understanding makes it easy to develop since financiers and developers are only a 10 minute train ride away.

“Somewhere like New York or London, they are international cities and Philly is more of a regional city. So I think that plays a massive role in the development of each city because you have all these foreign investors in these other two cities. And yeah they have the money to throw at Brooklyn or Shoreditch and make it what it is becoming. As where in Philadelphia we don’t have the same kind of people, ” said James. “There are very few large enterprises here in Fishtown and for this area thats a good thing. Because when you’re small you can’t bully and say this is what we are doing.”

But regardless of Fishtown’s fundamental and developmental differences to Shoreditch and other large cities globally, by the numbers Fishtown is actually becoming more unaffordable. From the 2003 to 2013 Fishtown saw a staggering 270% increase in home property value.

Local historian Kenneth W. Milano has seen this first hand.

“What does a working person make, $50,000, $40,000? The point is that a working person cannot afford a house in Fishtown, can’t really even afford a house in Kensington,” said Milano. “So you would need 20 percent down to buy a house, 10 percent in a better economy, and then pay $1,000 a month for every $100,000 you borrowed. Well $1,000 a month is a lot of money. So I mean thats still only a $120,000 house, that’s a little row house in Fishtown, not even Fishtown…Kensington.”

Here lies the issue at heart—gentrification and displacement in both Fishtown and Shoreditch.

Some believe these factors could risk pushing members of each community apart from one another if not handled and understood through the proper framework.

James feels, having lived in Shoreditch and now living in Fishtown, that both communities confront the issues of gentrification and displacement on a daily basis and that they have varying degrees of societal impact.

“It comes down to the economics of things. So if the rent is too high then people and business can’t stay here. And it’s the smaller businesses that make it what it is,” said James. “If you have people who are really only interested in themselves and what they do, then those are the same people who don’t mind there being monopolies. But one thing I’ll say about Philly and Fishtown is that everyone is really collaborative and I think that is because the economy has been small”.

With regards to people being displaced in Fishtown, Benner feels it’s an issue that warrants a certain level attention given the climate of gentrification that the community is experiencing. But at the same time he sees his own experience first hand as an anecdote that counters full fledged displacement.

“It’s a question and issue that really needs a study but I can say anecdotally it has not pushed my parents out and it has not pushed me out. And definitely the block I grew up on the vast majority of people I grew up with on that block still live there,” said Benner. “Again, I think that Fishtown has had so much space to grow that there’s room for more people.”

In spite of the fact that Benner feels strongly that there are alternative experiences and viewpoints revolving around society’s limited contextual understanding of what constitutes displacement in Fishtown, he notes though that the increases in the cost of living more generally are, without question, cause for concern.

“An apartment that I would look at three years ago would have been at least $300 to $400 cheaper then it is today. And I do really worry that may really not need to be the case,” said Benner.

Crossing the pond once again back in Shoreditch, Allison believes wholeheartedly that regardless of the community under no circumstances should that kind of systemic and systematic injustice “be the case” as Benner puts it.

“It does not matter who they are no one should be living in a squallored environment if there are people living next door living a good lifestyle. Everyone in an environment should look after each other it does not matter where you are,” said Allison.

“The issue is though whether or not there is a divide being created in the community between the people who have every right to live here and who have their community here and the people who are being sold the lifestyle here for a million pound for a flat. It’s gone to a different level of greed…That is what will destroy it too is mass greed.”

http://spiritnews.org/articles/a-fish-out-of-water-spirit-reporter-discovers-another-fishtown-across-the-pond-part-3/

A Fish Out of Water: Spirit Reporter Discovers Another Fishtown Across the Pond (Part 3)
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BY ANDREW MARK CORKERY | JULY 20, 2015
SOLUTIONS, DISSENTING VOICES AND CULTURAL OWNERSHIP

Despite the varying levels of affordability and overall differences in the sustainable economic climate of both Fishtown and Shoreditch noted in last weeks (Fish Out of Water Part 2), many whom we spoke with believe these communities are prime examples of how people work together to create the essence of a neighborhood. In addition people noted that communities like these are needed on a fundamental level because of the way they are able to help guide society at large.

The way these communities often look to guide our society is through their dissent.

President Deight D. Eisenhower once described “dissent” as inherent within American culture.

“Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion,” said Eisenhower.

Despite Ike’s heartfelt patriotic characterization of “descent” the phrase “dissenting voices” however is one that over the years is sometimes confused, not fully understood, and in conversations about communities is often not invoked for fear of upsetting the status quo.

Through this series of stories though it’s clear that time and time again when offered the status quo Fishtown and Shoreditch often opted to reinvent themselves, staying vibrate and taking on an entirely different approach to community.

However the most basic components of the phrase dissenting voices remain murky at best. When pressed for a definition one will find some variation in meaning that includes straying from the beaten path of authority and utilizing speech in some form to do so.

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Spirit Journalist Andrew Corkery and Professor Kirsty Allison

Regardless of how general the definition it still paints a focused clear picture of what the communities of Fishtown and Shoreditch offer to the rest of the world, a vigilant dissenting voice on issues and culture within the larger spectrum of modern global society.

One facet making up the dissention within both Fishtown and Shoreditch is how the communities, to a certain extent, exist within an alternative economic landscape.

Nadia James, a former Shoreditch resident and current Fishtown resident, believes that the fashion and art sectors of these neighborhoods contribute to their environment of independent sustainability.

“It’s not going to be a Forever 21 that has a small up-and-coming artist have a pop up shop in the community, it’s going to be another independent boutique owner,” said James. “So you need those small small local businesses there to sustain each other.”

Across the pond in the UK , professor, writer, and filmmaker Kirsty Allison also sees those same sustainable independent economic models as prevalent elements of their developing community culture in Shoreditch.

Allison’s recent article published in The Guardian entitled “The Cultural Revolution Starts Here” discuss particulars of how many in the Shoreditch see themselves as a part of a more all encompassing economic, political and social movement, dissenting against status quo power structures.

“East London was the first zone to co-opt creative people into its ‘regeneration’ program[me]. The current phase witnesses remaining native communities and cultural migrants rebelling against economic apartheid, creating an urban laboratory of flexible arts spaces for symposiums, screenings, street-food festivals – anything really … IF YOU’VE GOT NOTHING, THERE’S NOTHING TO LOSE is painted high by artist-in-residence, Chris Bianchi of Le Gun,” wrote Allison in The Guardian.

Back in Philadelphia, resident Jen Cleary believes art is what drives the multifaceted discussion fueled by these dissenting voices. She feels it furthers those conversations outside the community as well, and into a dialogue within broader society.

Cleary is a photographer and spends a lot of time in Fishtown and other areas of the city photographing street art. Earlier this year she also took a trip to Shoreditch to experience the street art like the piece mentioned by Allison above, among many others.

She focuses on street art’s unique ability to embody dissenting voices through a medium of social and political commentary that seeks to derive the impetus for societies structural change and progression.

“It comes from a place of rebellion, its the art of rebellion really, and being able to say something through a visual medium,” Cleary said.

Cleary notes that important issues throughout history were brought to the forefront of society’s collective consciousness through foundations laid by street art in years past, which continue to influence other street arts projects today.

“In the 80s [prominent gay-rights activist and artist] Keith Haring had a lot of things to say about how gay men were treated during the HIV Crisis in New York. It was huge,” said Cleary. “And now were talking about people in Shoreditch and how they really don’t think the Tory Party [UK’s conservative political party] treats them well.”

Creativity particularly in the form of street art in Cleary’s view invites people from all walks of life in a simple emotionally powerful manner, to question the world around them and look for solutions within themselves to help solve society’s complex problems. She also sees how similar forms of street art to those mentioned during the 80’s HIV Crisis are represented through different forms of creativity in Fishtown, depicting today’s pressing social issues.

“At one point there were these little cat calls that were on the ground, and you would find them at every bus stop,” Cleary said. “As a woman that kinda shit can happen to you a lot. They were just little pieces of art spray painted on the ground with a stencil that would give you little things that you could say back to Catcallers. It was good to see, it lets you know that you are not alone and it wasn’t just you. And it opened up the dialogue.”

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Shoreditch London

“The funny thing is that it became a city-wide action to place anti-catcalling signs on all SEPTA transit. So its always a political statement, which we need we always need. Every society needs a dissenting voice.”

Street art may be providing a dissenting voice in these hip communities. According to Conrad Benner, a local photographer, these voices are even more dignified in areas like Fishtown because the artists live within the community and respect it. While some may interpret street art as vandalism, the artists who create it do so in a way that is beautifying and thought provoking.

“I think one of the greatest things about artists that live in Philadelphia is that by and large they pay respect to people’s private property and to businesses,” said Benner. “So when they put up a wheat paste and a sticker or some stencils, generally speaking, it’s on abandoned spaces which are sort of abundant in Fishtown. So it’s exciting to watch.”

Robert Beamer lives in a formally abandoned warehouse in Fishtown that has since been converted into creative living space. Beamer agrees with both Cleary and Benner in that the development of dissenting voices along with creativity’s place in that process is not only exciting to watch, but even more inspiring to be a part of.

“Living in a building where every other apartment is filled with other artists, the ability to bounce your ideas off people, to throw a flyer on the wall and know that people are going to see it, it lends itself to creativity.”

In the eyes of those living there, places like Fishtown and Shoreditch are communities that celebrate their residents and the lives they lead. In addition they often function as an olive branch extending the impetus for societal progression in one form or another to those the world over.

Still many questions face these communities today. How do we keep these communities functioning in a manner that benefits all who are apart of them, along with continuing their substantive and positive impact on global society, rather than benefiting just a few?

How can we ensure that vibrant and necessary communities like these will stay at arm’s length from people only looking to take advantage of their message by commodifying the “merchants of cool” surrounding the fabric of the community?

How can we know that 20 years or more from now places like Fishtown and Shoreditch will still remain viable and sustainable for all people?

Having lived in Shoreditch and now calling Fishtown home, James feels she knows part of the answer.

“I think you need a balance. I think Fishtown does that really well. For example you can have the bigger establishments but then you can have a small, little Indian restaurant like Ekta,” said James. “Most of the companies I have seen, they all came up because other people helped them. They understand the value of helping other people, playing it forward, and giving back.”

In Shoreditch Allison agrees with the principle of balance in theory, but offers advice seeing changes play out in her community within a somewhat uneven landscape filled with a seemlinging endless amount of individual interpretations.

“Everyone has their own narrative about what has happened. I don’t know if I am into mass sweeping generalizations about do’s and dont’s for anyone but this idea of ownership is where all the problems start. But what is ownership? Is it a financial investment, or is it creative ownership? So that goes back to the idea of the social and cultural economy. How do you measure those though?” said Allison.

Allison sees cultural ownership as an element that factors heavily into the complicated equation of keeping communities sustainable, but still senses an innumerable amount of questions about how to quantify the concept.

“Do you do it by the amount of time you invest into something, do you go Malcolm Gladwell and say it has to be 20,000 hours you put into Shoreditch to make yourself part of Shoreditch? How does that work?” said Allison. “I think that people still need a space to be a part of the community, and to have a space that is a long term investment. That would be a really radical thing to do.”

Beamer in Fishtown believes what Allison advocates for should not necessarily be such a radical decision, but unfortunately in our modern global society it is. That being said, Beamer recognizes that sustainability is in fact the most sensible choice to make.

“You need to stick around the neighborhood that you helped create, and we should learn from those mistakes and missed opportunities of other cities,” said Beamer. “There has to be some sort of a fusion between making a lot of money from these spaces and keeping them around.”

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I WROTE THIS BOOK & GUARDIAN STORY: RED GALLERY

books, Journalism, The Guardian

I was first approached about writing the book which became MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING in 2011. It was published in December 2014.

We had a party. I escaped before dawn. RED gave away 2000 copies. If you weren’t there, you can read the book here. It’s designed by Tomato, art directed by Jason McGlade.

Here’s the related article in The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/18/cultural-revolution-red-gallery-east-london-shoreditch-regeneration

Grateful to the Red Gallery’s Ernesto Leal for awakening many of the thoughts that made the final cut. Also for he and Yarda Krampol’s trust in my exploration of the Shoreditch I’d recently returned to. I approached it like a documentary, an archive. Left some interviews entirely unedited.

The essay explores the cultural legacy and necessity of Red – plus 30 interviews with people involved with the building of this unparalleled contemporary hacienda. Thanks to all contributors/interviewees and those that supported the creation of the book.

Pics below by Urte Janus, more here, the cover pic is thanks to Fiona Cartledge.

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BOOK LAUNCH – MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING, RED GALLERY

Art, Design, Film, Journalism, Music, Nightlife, Poetry

Shoreditch’s RED is the creative force engaging local communities through facilitation of the continuing Cultural Revolution in the heart of East London.

This versatile, multi-functional space has welcomed a myriad of creativity through its doors since opening in 2010; transforming a derelict group of buildings and unused land into chameleon like art studios, galleries, live events venues, offices, screening rooms, open air event setting, incorporating a street food market and bars.

In keeping with its ethos of cultural guardianship, RED has actively encouraged not only artists and local residents to engage with the facilities, schools such as St Monica’s Primary have utilised the space and in keeping with their continued commitment to communitas, RED plays host to an annual symposium of the religious arts initiative Urban Dialogues, bringing together people from all faiths.

A year in the making, MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING documents elements of the magic that takes place behind the doors (and often on the walls) of RED through interviews and photographs.

To celebrate the launch RED will be hosting a photographic exhibition and in keeping with its anti-hegemonic practice, 2000 copies of the book will be distributed at the launch.

Additional commentary from visionaries such as Stirling Ackroyd’s James Goff, Tom Burger Bear – one of the chefs who led Time Out! to dub Red Market as being the birthplace of ‘the new food revolution’, curators and artists such as Alice Herrick of Herrick Gallery, Jerwood Prize winning Svetlana Fialova, Paul Sakoilsky, Chris Bianchi, Matthew Hawtin of Minus, former street artist, Part2ism,Dimitri Hegemann of Tresor Berlin, trends author Dr. Lida Hujic , fashion designers: Roggykei, patron Nick Winter, Stephen Shashoua of 3 Faiths Forum, music consultant: Juan Leal, Gary Means’ Alternative London street art tours and more.

BOOK PRESS RELEASE

Thurston Moore + Burroughs + Cunnilingus

Fiction, Journalism

Never has the art of getting down and worshipping sounded as sexy

BURROUGHS 100

COVER OF CATALOGUE of BURROUGHS 100 NOVA CONVENTION at RED GALLERY, JULY 1-13. FEAT. WORDS BY NAROPA CLASS OF 2014

Thurston Moore is as close to William Burroughs as I’ll ever get.  Moore’s band, Sonic Youth, were borne on the back of the New York punk scene which groupied the king kong of cut up.

I’m born on the back Ciccone Youth – one of their best albums.  Covers Madonna songs.

Thurston, currently living in this joyous town of layers (LDN) with girlf, Eva Prinz both curated this show at Red as part of the Burroughs 100 series – celebrating the centennial of the guy who shot his wife dead in the head, when playing William Tell.  William Burroughs was a Yale grad with a parental stipend, put most of it in his arm.  Which, as Thurston rightly said in an interview to NME, will continue to inspire folk forever – the act of being creative on drugs, not everyone can afford it…

The show at Red Gallery DOES IT THROUGH PHOTOS OF BURROUGHS HANGING WITH MUSICAL COLLABORATORS + THOSE HE PATRONED WITH CROAKED OUT WORKS OF ADVICE.  It’s a black n white who’s who of the world’s renegades standing aside their hero.  The catalogue features a total list of his recorded works. Oh, HIGH praise, I give.

Back from teaching at the Naropa University (Ginsberg’s palace to Kerouac et al), PRINZ MOORE put together a nice lil ‘catozine’ – feat. interviews and work by the students: METAL DREAM MACHINE MUSIC – that kinda explains the show as good as anything.

But the pictures on the wall,

Burroughs got about.  NAKED LUNCH. SOFT MACHINE. JUNKY.  QUEER.  BLADE RUNNER…

SUCK IT TO ME: THE BEST COLLECTION OF POETRY EVER

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THIS WAS ON THE TABLE, AN OFFERING – better than buying newspapers with stories about a world I cannae change

 

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Cool bananas

 

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You gotta read to believe – Tom Verlaine from Television is in there under a pseudonym…GEEK OUT, PUNKS

THE RED BURROUGHS 100 FAMILY

THE RED BURROUGHS 100 FAMILY

KIRSTY N ROSIE

Me n Rosie – pic by PAUL SAKOILSKY x

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THE RED 100 FAMILY

 

 

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RED FANZINE: BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED BY CHRIS BIANCHI

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THE JAMES GOFF INTERVIEW I WROTE COMES IN THIS EDITION OF THE RED FANZINE – No2. AVAILABLE AT THE RED GALLERY, 1-3 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DY

YOU GOTTA GET DOWN TO GET UP

https://www.facebook.com/events/1439112289685534/ 

 

 

Born FREESTYLE

Journalism

 

HOT IN THE CITY, HOT IN THE CITY – it was, when Jason McGlade, editor and publisher of Freestyle, parked up in my mate’s gallery, RED, blogged me with this picture, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, awwwww….

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Producing an entire issue of a magazine which is ROUND and comes in a FRISBEE – from the back of their converted van – FREESTYLE needed a journalist for a feature about RED and this is what we made:

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I’ve done a LOT of sit-ups since seeing that picture…

THE AMAZING ARTWORK is by LE GUN‘s Chris Bianchi and Robert Rubbish.

FREESTYLE IS AVAILABLE FROM GOOD STORES & ONLINE, get in touch with them to find out more.

This is issue 4, and was crowdfunded.  Previous collectable frizbees designed by Paul Smith, Eley Kishimoto, Matthew Williamson – this edition is all Berlin black vinyl and has a super-fly, augented reality app – showcased in the video above…

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My bag doth protest

Design, Travel

ATHENS: beautiful day philosophising with Vassilis Haralambidis who runs Bios – soon opening a new space, in an edgier area, continuing his natural propagation of cultural agendas.

We first met when I was writing about the Design Walk for Dazed.

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He’s creating workspaces and a union of designers from all fields. They also have a great bar and club for performances etc.

It all fits with the whole Something Out Of Nothing concept that we’re articulating at Red Gallery in Shoreditch, London.

On the plane to Belgrade after, I found these in the airport magazine, which I adore:

Yannis Karlopoulos demo bag

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These geezers bonded over Fasolada westerns – Greek bean soupers – spaghetti for Olympians – high quality Greek productions with classic soundtracks by Vangelis and Yiannos Spanos.

Berlin SubCulture to London NoCulture

Art, Journalism, Money, Music, Politics

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I’d been going on at Ernesto Leal to programme Danielle De Picciotto in his Red Gallery in London’s Shoreditch, and am super-proud he invited me to steer this panel.

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I knew this picture of Danielle De  Picciotto (with her husband, Alexander Hacke, of Einsturzende Neubatten) prior to knowing much else about her…

It was Chris Bohn, editor of The Wire magazine, who turned me onto Danielle – he was reading her book (The Transgression of Beauty – which I whole-heartedly recommend – she’s a true inspiration, the type of woman I don’t find enough of, and trust her schedule will allow her to perform at Red later this year…) – Alexander Snelling – my boyfriend and I were meeting with Bohn and his girlfriend, Keiko, to discuss a film Alex is directing about psychedelic-techno maverick, Manuel Gottsching (the Berliner who went up a mountain with LSD-guru, Timothy Leary, managed to come down to be chased by Nico, recorded with Ashra Tempel, and made this, the definitive Balearic track, sampled on Sueno Latino, nicked by countless inferiors, re-sampled by Derrick May, who, incidentally, believes Techno is a power greater than the mechanical consciousness feared by The Frankfurt school – which I’ll get to – but let it be known, Gottsching is the DUDE).

So we’ve visited Manuel’s scene in Berlin – and I’ve fallen in love with the city’s embrace of techno-academic philosophies guiding ART (I’m a long-term fan of Christiane F- Hacke’s first girlfriend, and I love the Helmut Newton gallery by Zoo Station, and just knowing that Iggy Pop & Bowie hung out in West Berlin kills me – I’ve been lucky enough to visit amazing private views over the years and have a few of Sven Vath’s Harthouse records, a couple of Kraftwerk, some Detroit, Belgian, some of Jeff Mills Underground resistance and old Tresor records in my collection…) but the biggest appeal to Berlin for me is the rationalisation and need for structural understanding of  CULTURE in the programming at festivals such as Transmediale, and discussions at squatted buildings which support discussion as an essential element of progressing thought and practice – call it Neo-Marxism, or techno-democracy, stemming from The Frankfurt School (which I have State-lectured in – under the guise of Contextual Studies for Media – in the old syllabus for undergrads, before Marxism disappeared from the current outline, which came out shortly after the current government – NB – how the fuck can you discuss technological and democracy without Marxist-models is beyond me – but I find it easy to blame the State’s need to have conforming, non-questioning workers who love life in the Mall – another soapbox/blog, another day)…however, the German need to evaluate is likely the intelligent evolution stemming from their post-Nazi situation, I find an inherent German characteristic is logic and REASON (I don’t care if nationalistic identification is perceived as rascist, again, another soapbox, another blog) AND I love working with Germans for this, in my experience, Germans deliver – and progress is why, when I used to write for NME, DJ, Mixmag and many other publications including The Face, Sky, Dazed and Raygun (before DJing and going onto make music documentaries for BBC Radio) – I was always on about the ELECTRONIC VANGUARD, and that’s what Ernesto’s events have always been about – which is why we’re drawn to each other – but aside from Ecstasy, Peace, Love & Unity, the aspects of rave culture shared by the British and German scene-are people came together from different worlds – when the Berlin Wall fell,  the former-Soviet East and the Western bloc (which had been broken into districts ruled by the ‘Western Allies’, France, the US and Britain – with consultation with West Germany), having parties in warehouses in former GDR-land (German Democratic Republic/Soviet) where ownership and legislation was murky, dancing under initial idealistic ideologies of anarchy and optimism in much the same way as we did around the M25, in pre-Criminal Justice Bill Britain – before super-clubs, capital super-greed and State taxation were instigated by the devisive mega-minds at the top of the power tree –  so what evolved, particularly in the grimy warehouse clubs of Berlin such as E-Werk, and all the ‘stay up forever’ principals of Doctor Motte’s LoveParade, was the Techno philosophy of Newness being the Future.  Space – the final frontier…

Ernesto has a pre-occupying theme of gentrification, which becomes as explosive as Shoreditch rents when combined with Berlin’s 90s trance culture and the MASS POSITIVISM which accompanied the WHITE LIGHT/WHITE NOISE-TOTEM championed by DJs such as Paul van Dyk, a discovery of Mancunian, Mark Reeder who was drawn to Berlin in 1978,  having started The Frantic Elevators with a certain Mick Hucknall – before becoming Factory Records label rep in Berlin, moving into East Berlin – the nutbag – started managing and engineering bands like this female punk band, Malaria!


He formed the band which toured with New Order, Die Unbekannten (as Shark Vegas – a more pop version) with Alister Gray and Thomas Wylder, who went onto drum with Die Haut and Berlin lurkers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds:

Setting up a label “Masterminded For Success” MFS – the initials of the Stasi, Ministry for State Security in East Berlin, in 1990 – he encompasses a brilliant musicological ‘rock family tree’ –  stemming from this post-Geniale Dilettentan (Martin Kippenberger-style post-Dada transdisciplinary movement), post-punk East Berlin-isolation, into electronica and trance.  I’m delighted to get the chance to hear him because cultural entrepreneurialism around the delapidation of the Berlin Wall echoed the rave scene I became involved with in London at the age of about 14 – despite a folk-background, I became a wildchild, aware that acid house had the counter-cultural Power to stand as the last revolution against kill sprees and capitalism, to achieve what Flower Power had failed to…sadly, the fantasy failed again -being part of Thatcher’s youth, I was one of the apolitical monghead tools who thought going to a Spiral Tribe rave was a political dancefloor move (huh hurr), but, it meant a generation led the following generations to float in the bland mediocrity of existence, coupled with Generation Fear – those brought up wary of Bin Laden and if not watching Big Brother, being filmed on CCTV- that no-one can ever be bothered to watch (another soapbox – I’m reaching for the stars on those boxes today).

Our economy has been on a downward spiral since acid house – I don’t blame the drugs,  I’m with the half-glass full, Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, who suggests LURVE will get us out of our current financial straits – basically, positive spending energy encourages positive energy – embrace, LoveWorks – bring it on, let’s just get in debt forever, it will always be future debt.
I’ve previously said I believe there should be a Global Charter of Corporate Social Responsibility (with relative social ‘taxes’ – not wholly binary, or financial – more altruistic and community-based) and with this in mind, should base-level creative projects, such as bars, clubs, and galleries, and those feeding from their existence such as property people and businesses, support the underground matrix of artists which offer them credo – (Shoreditch being a prime example of essential co-existence – if Westwood and McQueen have lots in Redchurch St, will they want to stay there without a little of the grit that attracts hipsters to Boy – or will East have moved South by then – I suspect the rents will have pushed them there) but an alternative model could perhaps exist through something in the grasps of corporations: Land, and the provision of it to artists – seeing as we cannae squat civilly nae more – from September it will be a criminal offense to squat in the UK,  I would suggest areas encouraged giving land to artists to aid gentrification, perhaps if their taxes and business rates aren’t doing so well, what with all these empty shops – but if it is done borough by borough, communication can exist in a real sense between those who need to be provided for in some sense by those bigger than them – let’s call it the the parental duty of the 1% if they can be philanthropic enough to assist, but we know it’ll never work – as long as there is greed and need…
But I hope THE INNOVATOR, DIMITRI HEGEMANN (who’s the key speaker) can spread some advice here – he gives grants to artists, supports them with one job to lead to another, a good guy – labelled a Techno activist through, what I suspect will be a belief about DIY-ism, he had the Fishburo bar, turned it into the UFO club, before setting up Tresor -does his embrace of Techno side along using the Internet and whatever private-app based networks we can think we’re underground communicating upon – to achieve this – because what this talk at the Red Gallery sets out to do, is explore the relationship between Subculture and Creative Industries – Tresor, being a prime example of a Creative project, so passionate in its advancing of the techno arts that it became a philanthropic sport of Hegemann to provide lifeblood to the underground matrix of artists.  Is it as simple as Subculture being another word for Lifestyle – so said Alvin Toffler, the futurist who is cited by Detroit-Juan Atkins (Cybotron, Model 500) for inspiring him with his writing on ‘techno rebels’ in his book, The Third Wave.  Is it true the underground no longer exists in our networked world, and instead, the choice is Lifestyle – and whose we’re buying into, because Money Corrupts Equality.

And if we have to be part of a Lifestyle, can we do it without guys like Dimitri investing in progressive artists in an era where it’s Google vs The World?  (They have  Orwellian-powers you do not want to believe) –  where does the capital fit in with art?  Currently through gallerists – bless their sweet souls, but howabout musicians – it’s hard out there, and writers – wow – well, I lecture, and have a PHD is Ducking n Diving.  Is it as black and white as being either DIY and thoroughly indie-pendent, is there a rainbow of opportunity to find support through sponsorship as a working class artist – or one that has to work.  To offer complete autonomy to artists takes a truly maverick brand, and in my experience, there are very few who don’t want to imprint some level of Ownership, and a corporate-instigated belief system or another bullshit masquerade.    I love the principals of GEMA (the copyright society of Germany) who are responsible for ‘protecting artistic works’ but such are their endeavors, to protect the artist as a creator, they are superstrict – and German YouTube is not as liberal in content as elsewhere (another blog -Creative Commons etc and the need for ownership).  Is freedom of expression the same thing as freedom of audience – in Idealistic times, yes.  Which seem historical by their very notion – amoral times, ladies and germs (that’s a Garfield-ism, he was my philosophic hero when I was growing up).

Is there a middle ground of compromise where artists don’t have to do as De Picciotto and co did – which was recluse to a castle, only to have a hundred skinheads as their door- or is the point to co-exist, to log-in to culture and leave the studio as and when required, rather than build a wall around culture, forcing us to totally DIY it, leaving our small castles to get attacked – do we need to be more unSocial than Social – UNwiring ourselves to the networks where corporate/capital cyber-control leave Analogue the only freedom fighter in the ongoing flotilla of post-modernism – because even private networks will always be hackable, because people and artists will always be buy-able.  Let’s all go and buy an island of ideals.  It couldn’t possibly be this planet.  What is the revolution?  As I read in Vanity Fair’s current issue, Woody Allen has endorsed Smirnoff, Kurt Vonnegurt – credit cards, Hitchcock- Western Union and Salvador Dali – Alka Seltzer (!) – Bobby Gillespie sold his soul to Uniqlo – if you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’re stupid enough to believe it – but free economy… (another box of soapsuds, another blog).
As I draw to a close, I would suggest the corporate wave of digitalisation has overthrown the Techno dream of a democratic internet, and new-tech or old-school are the NU NEW.  All power to Anonymous, or maybe not an oligarchical portion.  Folk jumpers and the craft they represent worn with iPhones continue into the next season, my darlings…(iPhones, I know, still – despite a recession, what can everyone sport?  The symbol of not being lonely.)
So the velocity of techno-times have passed, to be replaced by the arguments for living anti-Socially whilst being wired in – PHEW – had to get that out –
Techno-culture was always the melting of new forms, dripping towards a virtual existence – we are in that place – where morals have been replaced by armageddon.  The devil’s playground, which is what the underworld and new world’s can offer – Money and art, and where the twixt wane, cultural capital and it’s involvement with the state – let’s embrace the arts and intellectual like a fist full of dollars and challenge and progress at this event on Thursday 7th June.  Which is full  – but message me if you’re super-keen and I maybe able to swish you in under my magic cape…or stay tuned on here, Twitter and my mailing list, and I hope to upload the discussion soon…
My mind is sure of one thing, there needs to be cultural friction, such as that caused in the competition for Berlin to reclaim its capital status against Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and the riches of Bavaria – cultural friction causes us to fight for progress, unless we’re just creating, man, either in a fog of auteurism and drugs – what Simon Reynolds enchantingly labels some aspects of techno as, “A full-scale retreat from the most radically posthuman and hedonistically functional aspects of rave music toward more traditional ideas about creativity, namely the auteur theory of the solitary genius who humanizes technology,” or in other words, the bedroom DJ – a precursor to the ‘Dead Boys’ of Japan, who are called so because they literally do not interact with society – and this is the darkside, the last frontier, or crossroads that an artist has to do a deal with the devil at in order to create a new beginning…perhaps the Techno dream has come true.

Crossroads and fringes have to shake their tassels right back to the core to have any effect -Techno was a reaction of modernity, a quest for the future, to live on spaceships, in clinical, scientific beauty – away from the wishy-washy drug music of psychedelia – whether Berlin can continue to do this now that the wall’s come down remains to be seen, or as British politics currently suggest, there is, in fact,  a dark secret that if you Build walls, spectacular things will occur, but only once they’re destroyed.

Where are you moving to next?  I heard Athens is pretty cheap…Britain overlooked the importance of allowing people to live as artists to produce exportable merit.  We’ve been drugged goddamit.  And all nanny wanted to do was help.  I take responsibility…TECHNO FOREVER!!!


(the intro track to this, Sugar Daddy, is made by my ex, Kris Needs – he was double my age, I was young, dumb – and errr, full of…blonde ambition – seriously, I was only just out of my teens…don’t do it, Kids, never mind how much you want to learn…)

DO CHECK THIS SELECTION OF TRAX- THEY WERK…

YUMMY

Kirsty Allison, London, June 2012

48 galleries, but tonight’s top three are…

Art, Fashion, Journalism

6pm:  Stuart Shave Modern Art: sophisticated, chic & beautiful.  My favourite gallery owner in London.  23/25 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8DF.  The new show is called Damned Women by Lara Schnitger.  It takes a Yinka Shonibare twist on figurative work combining fabric and stencilled Fiona Rae plaid sofas, painted candleabras and naughty licking horses. She works in LA.  Lucky girl.

7pm: East End Promise at the RED GALLERYOur History and Paul Sakoilsky have taken it upon themselves to big up the cultural migrants to Shoreditch from 1985 to current day.  On arrival, the picture above taken in the 1990s by my fiance, Alexander Snelling shows the occasion when a partygoer named Mole fell from the 3rd floor roof of The Bricklayers’ Arms.  The car saved his life.  The exhibition is a collage of faces and scenestarters.  There’s a particularly beautiful painting by Mark Jones I’d recommend…

8pm: Black Rat Press: Run by Mike Snelle and Sarah Morgan, these free radicals are injecting a contemporary patina to street arts by selecting the most successful artists.  This week they sold one Banksy for megabucks, but there are sketches for a few hundred quid.   It’s a cool space, round the back of Cargo on Rivington Street, and they’ve installed a shop selling their books.  Tonight was a launch for Street Studio – The Place of Street Art in Melbourne, published by Thames and Hudson.

TOMORROW (FRIDAY 9th) the ultimate gallery to land in, beyond these, will be the The Outside World on Redchurch Street as owner, Cate Halpin tells me they’re hosting a Mario SCHWAB sale from 12-9pm…TASTY!

White jacket, Alexander McQueen.  Leather skirt, Alexander McQueen.  Shoes, Joyca.  Lace top, American Apparel.  Shades, Celine.