Part 2

Fast forward to Sunday. After a day of rest on the Saturday from my escapades at King’s Place I decided to keep Sunday free. Legacy friend had already DM’d me to say she would be in the queue with another friend at 9.30am. – yes, you did read AM. Impressed by this enthusiasm from someone who had only seen Prince the previous Sunday, I said I would keep the day free and decide when it arrived. One friend had mentioned dinner on Sunday but I said “not tomorrow, I might be doing something” and another had tentative plans to meet in the afternoon but I put this on hold, even though I was still not fully convinced about getting up so early on a winter’s Sunday morning to queue for something I might not get into, again. (Prince. Part 1).

Sunday arrived and of course I get up  early. It’s a sunny, if still cold day, but ideal to stand in a busy street in Camden and while away the hours? Would I last? Could it happen? I got dressed – always a good sign -made a quick stop at The Old Post Office Bakery in Landor Road, jumped on a tube and before you could say Alphabet St. I was in a Prince-fans only lift coming out of Mornington Crescent at around 11am ready to go. I shocked even myself.

Walking over the road to join the already existent queue a young man WITH A PEN said hi and asked me if I was joining the queue. I said yes, he said something about a number. Legacy friend was already there and I quickly joined her and started to talk about my hand number. After much discussion I went to the back of the queue and got the young man to write a number on my hand. This made me feel IMPORTANT and definitely part of SOMETHING HAPPENING. Legacy friend had already met lots of new friends by then so the first part of the day was spent being introduced to some new people who I might have nothing in common with other than wanting to see Prince. The sun was staring right at us, in February, so the cold did not feel cold (at first) and the engaging conversation made the hours – and there were hours – tick by. By engaging conversation I don’t just mean he’s doing 2 shows, I hear he’s doing 3 shows; its £70, no it won’t be, it’ll be £10 like last week. Ronnie Scott’s, not sure? Though we did say all that.

People started talking about other music they liked. Where they went. What they did. Did anyone want a coffee / biscuit / raw vegetable? Sharing seemed the order of the day. (Thankfully the croissants from The Old Post Office went down ok.) I began to learn things. Kingston – Kingston, Surrey, I hasten to add – turns out to have the best live music in town. (I had heard of and on-line once bought from the famous Kingston Banquet Records shop there so was not unaware of it’s reputation, though not as THE live music magnet of London/Surrey/Earth.) Tegan and Sara’s last album – which I had wanted to investigate but hadn’t – IS apparently fab. And yes, apparently One Direction can sing.

Buses went closely by the corner pavement with Top Deck people giving strange looks at the hordes of, let’s face it, a slightly odd crowd of people queuing round the block for something on a Sunday at KOKO. A modern church service? An audition? A job? Perhaps they didn’t know Prince was in town.

Feet started getting cold for some, though luckily Marks and Spencers were around the corner so a ready supply of socks were available, purple of course. A couple who had claimed a space but then went off, with queue-approval, to a can’t-miss parents’ lunch – returned later, very thankful with drinks for all, much appreciated. Meanwhile a vigilant eye was cast on anyone who was going to try and ‘jump in’ the queue by a certain member of the group, and much discussion was had about a stranger who stood by the road and didn’t move for thirty minutes. Who was he, what was he doing? Don’t think you can push in mate! MI5, you are missing out on some very good recruits!

The band’s music kit arriving proved a popular highlight as it was on the side of the road and we could later be seen on the Prince fb page hanging out by the kit with THE SIGN on it (photographed by hundreds of people). I kept looking out for Friday people but only caught the man with the hat as he was walking by.

The day was passing quickly but the sun went down, the feet got colder, and a quick pub lunch was called for. I waltzed round the corner only to be startled at 3pm to see just how many people were prepared to queue up, though one of the things that made this a very hopeful queue was we were near the front and all things being equal WE WOULD GET IN.

Excitement built, especially when at one point we could hear a soundcheck. A photo on someone’s twitter revealed Prince HAD entered the building and a frighteningly friendly and gentle ‘security’ man started to do the rounds. An announcement that it was cash on the door meant a panic for some. The next minute half the queue were at nearby cash machines, probably causing passing bus passengers to think that free money was being given out – I’m sure some people jumped off the bus to join in!

I was still in disbelief. Would I really be seeing Prince all these years later at (as I still call it) the Camden Palace? It appeared definitely possible. Strategic decisions were being calculated i.e stay in the first circle, run down to the stalls, try for the right side of the stage – or left?

The time approached 7pm – the first show – and with excitement overload the doors opened and everyone was checking their cash. We paid at the counter like an old fashioned 6d for the picture house (ok, I remember that, perhaps not the rest of the gang) and whilst moaning that there was no actual ticket to treasure ran olympic-style downstairs to get in the front bit of the stalls.

The gig? Well I can’t tell you too much as I was too enthralled. Ten yards away, who wouldn’t be! Best see the set list. though that doesn’t tell you how it felt. 3RDEYEGIRL came on first to rapturous applause and chatted – a polite conversation – to us about no cameras please during the gig, it spoils the connection. I applauded, I didn’t I want to see Prince through someone else’e latest Samsung/ HTC / iphone. Then the man himself came on and they started – started! – with Let’s Go Crazy. No warm up for this band, they were on fire as soon as they got on stage and throughout the whole gig. Fantastic. This band could rock and Prince looked like he was having a ball. The encores? There were several, with the audience NOT wanting to leave, singing a football-like chant and bringing Prince and the band back when even I thought it might be time to go for the exit.

Post-gig it was a still very excited bunch of people in the pub opposite. I bumped into Friday Man with the hat. He had the beamiest smile ever. He had seen a funky, sweaty gig, as he had wanted, not an acoustic session, and gave a graphic account of how him and his mate, family middle-aged men, went to pieces when Prince stood before them.

And me? I had done it – I’d seen him again, after all those years. Thanks, whoever I need to thank!

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The inspiration to write this blog comes and goes. It’s been a few months since I wrote anything and it’s probably not because I have not been inspired by anything but a combination of being busy and lazy. I have been to a few arts’ and music events that have been worth writing about  – the fantastic semi-staged Billy Budd at the BBC Proms Royal Albert Hall (London, not the Manchester venue currently in the Prince news), the imaginative and wonderfully cool Lorde who I did see at White Heat, Madame JoJo’s, and whose emergence in the past year has absolutely fascinated me – but I haven’t put pen to paper, as it were. More participatingly (is that a word?) I have been involved myself in some creativity happening just beyond the sw4 postcode, including The Events with Clapham Community Choir at the Young Vic Theatre, and Resolution! at The Place with the Rhiannon Brace-choreographed 2012LegacyProject (check out the trailer please – ).

Today though is the first day for a long time I am sitting down at the laptop trying to put my thoughts into words and it is because of one man, Prince. IF he hadn’t been performing in the UK this month and IF I hadn’t had the weekend I have just had I might well be writing about an exhibition or a play or….. but no, it’s music and it’s Prince/3RDEYEGIRL.

It all started when I heard he was in town and a friend from the Legacy cast chatted to me and talked about going and I thought yes, this is the time to see him again. For some strange reason it had been a long time. I missed the 21-date residency at O2 and Indigo gigs, all the previous tours before and, though I had sometimes wondered about seeing him in Paris for some reason, my last actual sighting of Prince was an incredible evening in the 1980’s. Yes, I told myself, let’s catch up with him. So my friend kept me posted on fb and then strangely I had a weekend where I was meeting up with people I hadn’t seen for a long time who I had first met in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. It’s like things are returning to me from that era, astrologers can surely explain, though it is not quite saturn return again, thank you. After one such meeting, a friend’s birthday lunch, I got home to a private fb message saying my legacy friend was in the queue at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and did I want to join her? Well the lunch had been in Gloucester Road that afternoon and I could have nipped round from there and met her and I would have seen him but by this time I was back in sw4 and thought it was too late (we will never know, I have since heard that some people went quite late and got in) and I just wished her the most fantastic raspberry beret of a gig, which she did have! Somehow I knew Prince-season was not over and my time would come.

I can be fairly intuitive when I wish and it had not escaped my notice that Prince would surely play on Valentine’s night – he IS Prince after all- so I, along with many others, kept an eye out for gigs. Come the lovers’ night itself I was watching the Winter Olympics and then tuned into the Guardian’s sports website, as you do when you can multi-task (well, duo-task really) and keep 1eye on the TV and the other on the web, and lo and behold the Guardian’s sport’s blog writer announces that if you are a fan of Prince he is playing downstairs at King’s Place tonight. What? In between discussing Bronze medal and Gold and someone falling on the ice – and that’s before we’ve even got to the essential bit about GB Curling – the Guardian sports’ blog just happens to casually announce the most intimate Prince gig this side of the Electric Ballroom. Wow! It’s not like I distrust the Guardian writer but I did think have they got this right, let me just check twitter – and there it was, confirmation of at least one show at King’s Place. Oh yeah! Sign!

Those who know me know that I can be quick off the mark but also can be in DO NOT RUSH ME mode and thinking I have missed the first show already I decide to eat. (What, are you serious?? – Prince fans). I thought I am probably too late for the first show but if he does a second show who knows, I might get in. I tell my legacy friend and she is “gutted” as she has just gone from work at Kings X back to West London and was kicking herself for not checking the rumours the last minute before she left King’s X, so I had my meal (I needed to eat, it could be a LONG night), left the house, got cash in case it was cash-on-the-door and navigated the continuously confusing Kings X underground interchange in record time.

The queue itself wasn’t that big but I have been to a gig at King’s Place, to see the brilliant singer-songwriter Karine Polwart – – and I know it is a small venue, 350 max?, and so I wasn’t expecting, just HOPING, to get in. Soon standing on the very windy canal bridge chatting to everyone I realised IT DIDN’T MATTER. I was here and I was waiting. That was enough right now. I am staying. Whatever the weather. The young mild-mannered King’s Place security staff man nicely ‘advised’ us we would not be getting in but, though chances were slim, NO WAY was I going home.

The possibility of seeing Prince/3RDEYEGIRL in this intimate venue was just too much. A second show was announced on twitter, even by the venue itself. Who knows, it might happen, I may get to see him and this amazing new band he has. Chatting to people in the queue EVERYONE seemed to have seen him before at least five times and were back for more –  some at the Electric Ballroom the previous week, some at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and one fan who told us she had seen him 48 times. I couldn’t remember when the Lovesexy tour was when I last saw him but I was categorically told (these fans know their dates) that it was 1988. Only once? Enough to make me feel I am just a novice, even if it is the tour lots of people still talk about.

Further standing in the queue continued, gale force winds not moving us, and eventually we got under King’s Place cover, but not in the building. They wouldn’t let anyone in until the second show people were inside, which we – I now realised I was WITH people, not on my own – would miss out on by about 60 people. No third show announced, but who knows with Prince? Eventually we got into the bar area indoors and started to hear the stories of people who had been to the first show. “He covered a Bill Withers track” (first pangs of jealousy), “he started the set singing the words ‘take me with you’ on acoustic guitar and it’s my birthday” (oh, stop, even I am almost now sobbing). The excitement was like a magical, communal potion. And real.

The great thing was some people didn’t want to tell us about the gigs they had just seen as they didn’t want to rub our noses in it, how sweet was that? Yet some of us demanded to know all about them and, as Prince later said, SHARE. Confirmation of more gigs at Koko on Sunday, Ronnie Scott’s on Monday and Manchester next weekend came, and we all start planning, ruminating, and questioning the truth. Meanwhile I loved it when one fan who did not get in said he wasn’t bothered about the acoustic thing as really wanted to hear some dirty funk – I could understand that – and when another was quite cool about missing the two gigs as he really wanted to go to the proper gig i.e. the after-party, which sadly no-one was giving anything away about. The last brilliant thing for me was when the second gig had finished and I managed to go to look at the stage and see all the equipment where He had just played. Oh yeah! Sign!

Suddenly lots of people I hadn’t known 3hours before were people I felt I knew – and special mention to the very friendly Alexa. Strangely I felt I had come home. Where had I been since 1988?!!

To be continued………….

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london bag

it in the bag

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art harbour

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wynyard quarter

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SAM and Silo

One of the pleasures of travelling, for me, is being able to pop in to galleries, museums and markets and try to get a feel for the local arts’ culture. Whilst the world may, acccording to some sources, be shrinking and art works also travel more easily these days, it is rare that I visit somewhere and haven’t seen something that catches my eye that is local to the region.

Stopping off in Singapore en route to my niece’s wedding in New Zealand and visiting a photographer cousin – see his captivating photographs at – I roamed the city for the very first time. I was curious as to what the arts scene would be like there and whether a short stopover would allow me to see much. As it worked out I can’t pretend to have got my head around the local arts scene – like Loch Ness it definitely would require a more in-depth search – as it certainly doesn’t stand out at you screaming, unlike some cities. However following a beautiful morning visit to the acclaimed Botnical Gardens I took a bus which passed all the shopping malls – no, not quite my kind of thing – and led me directly to the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). Museums that require an entrance fee just to get in do make me think twice usually – spoilt, me? – but following a much needed cool refreshment at the calm, adjoining air-conditioned cafe I decided to take the plunge and pay my dollars.

The museum is housed in a former De La Salle Brothers’ Catholic boys’ school, the St. Joseph’s Institution, a building completed in 1867 and now a Singapore National Monument. Whilst still retaining some of the structure of the original building and the ‘feel’ of a college it has a likeable modern-meets-the-past quality. Viewing different rooms requires some sense of direction but, once found, the many rooms held some excellent work. Boo Junfeng’s video projection, Mirrors 2013, had me captivated and left me questionning my own obsessive reaction to the piece, Ryf Zaini’s technologically interactive installation, Unveil the curtain to the window with no ledge, set off light bulbs in my own head (both showing until Sept. 2013 as part of President’s Young Talents), and Aisha Khalid’s Appear As You Are, Be As You Appear, a fabric and steel needles embroidered velvet jacket, in The Collector’s Show: Weight of History, was highly thought-provoking, art not fashion. The individual artists reminded me how art can reflect local, regional and universal culture, and the work was presented in an engaging way.

The Panorama: Recent Art from Contemporary Asia and President’s Young Talents exhibitions were both fascinating and, in addition, I was also suprised to come across an arts exhibition by the Singapore Association for Mental Health. Titled Every Thing Matters, a combination of pop-art inspired pieces and still life by several artists working with Singaporean artist Justin Lee, this provided an unexpected bonus for myself, someone who has been involved in working and curating in the arts and mental health field. Given the variety of exhibitions within SAM, the design of the building, and the slightly disjointed but commonality of the building, I definitely would recommend SAM to any ‘stopovers’ or indeed anyone who lives in the area. Finally the onset of the regular, but my first, Singapore thunderstorm was an added delight to the gallery experience, with the ability to watch from behind glass or participate and get soaked within the courtyard.

From one  space that has been transformed to a gallery to another unusual space now lending itself to performance – the silo at Wyndham Quarter was an unexpected event I came across whilst wandering around Auckland. I had heard about some changes to the docks and the arrival of ‘the cloud’ but I hadn’t been prepared for the new use of space in this area. Cavernous restaurants, childrens’ play area, pop up pizza and bar, all within a operating port area with passenger boats moored alongside luxury yachts, and ordinary sailboats nestling among refineries and silos.

I became happily emotional sitting in this area with my extended family in a space eerily recalling our own Birkenhead Docks  – whose current owners Peel Holdings I doubt have such artistic intentions!  – and noticing the invitation to a free performance in a silo, part of the White Nights evening and Auckland Arts Festival, I was too intrigued to miss out. Concretion, as it was called, turned out to be a fascinating sound and vision experience and one, months later, I can still recall.

Entering the silo itself was fascinating – my first silo! – and soon I was mesmerised by the sound of a cannister being bashed against floor and wall, by the movement involved by the artist in doing this, by the visuals projected on to the structure of the building and by the freedom to wander around, listen and watch, and note other people’s various different reactions. The mix of industry, art, sound and vision unexpectedly provided a total not-out-of-body-but-in-the-body experience, and the artists Robert Carter, Kim Newall and Clinton Watkins appeared to work in industrial harmony. I know it is not the same as in person but some of it is on video if you want to have a better idea:

Though this was a site-specific piece it made me think could Concretions be transported, a silo tour perhaps? Though no expert in silos myself – I am sure there are some out there – I guess it would depend on how many empty silos there are just waiting for these artists to come and bring their creative energy. What was the artists’ intention? To be frank I am not sure I know. I enjoyed it, in fact more than enjoyed it, and noticed it connected with the history of the place, the flowing movement of grain and industrialisation. Strangely, given the enclosed structure of the building, it also exploded with a sense of freedom, of anger almost, creating a dynamic event. A great happening within the Wynard Quarter, itself a fascinating, unusually unrestricted, experimental and slightly commercial vibrant dock area, Concretion provided a briliant way of engaging in local and international art and history. With SAM and silo we have two very different historic buildings providing space for experience, reflection and interest and may we retain more for the future.

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in by the art door

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tatari ki ngā manuhiri

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Spazio di Luce (Space of Light)

A rainy Friday in December and I am on my way to an appointment. I am a bit early, so rather than get out at Liverpool St. I decide to stay on the tube to Aldgate and see whatever is currently exhibiting at the Whitechapel Gallery. On arriving I find that the artists – as far as I remember – are unknown to me. Mel Bochner’s exhibition is curious and colourful, but I decide it needs more time on another occasion. I then wander into the large space with the sculpture. At first intrigued, my mind starts asking questions about the piece, my voice starts asking the gallery assistant if I can touch it.

I sit down, and reflect. I stand up and wander round. I sit down again. I decide to spend the rest of my time just in this space, on the carefully placed bench, slow art thinking. I sit and ponder, enjoy the textures, and watch the reaction of passers by.

I am quite overwhelmed, the day seems as though it was made for me to see this piece of art. I hadn’t read about it beforehand, seen any images or heard about it from anyone. I find out that the artist is Guiseppe Penone. I realise I may have seen some of his work as part of Arte Povera, probably at Tate Modern, but I couldn’t be specific. This sculpture is titled Spazio di Luce (Space of Light).

I leave the gallery literally lightened in mood and feeling, as though I have been in a special space and, as occasionally happens, in the right place at the right time.

It’s free, it’s on until September 2013 (though I urge you to visit before the end of March), and rather than going into further detail about the sculpture and potentially influencing your initial impression I just ask you to take my (humble) advice and go and spend some time there. Subtle coercion, all post-visit feedback welcome!

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