The London Breed

31 10 2009

I was at the Museum of London Galleries of Modern London press briefing this week, where we heard all about the £20m renovation and extension plans for the museum. As I stood there with my hard hat and high-visibility vest listening to how they have reversed the chronology of the Modern Galleries, I caught a giant poster with a photograph of Benjamin Zephaniah and his poem, The London Breed.

It is not often that someone can take the inside of me and express it to the outside world exactly as I feel it. This poem by Mr. Zephaniah does just that. I could never have said it better myself.

Benjamin ZephaniahThe London Breed

by Benjamin Zephaniah




I love dis great polluted place
Where pop stars come to live their dreams
Here ravers come for drum and bass
And politicians plan their schemes,
The music of the world is here
Dis city can play any song
They came to here from everywhere
Tis they that made dis city strong.
A world of food displayed on streets
Where all the world can come and dine
On meals that end with bitter sweets
And cultures melt and intertwine,
Two hundred languages give voice
To fifteen thousand changing years
And all religions can rejoice
With exiled souls and pioneers.
I love dis overcrowded place
Where old buildings mark men and time
And new buildings all seem to race
Up to a cloudy dank skyline,
Too many cars mean dire air
Too many guns mean danger
Too many drugs means be aware
Of strange gifts from a stranger.
It’s so cool when the heat is on
And when it’s cool it’s so wicked
We just keep melting into one
Just like the tribes before us did,
I love dis concrete jungle still
With all its sirens and its speed
The people here united will
Create a kind of London breed.

Too Black Too Strong Blood Axe Books, 2001


Is Deptford the new Shoreditch? Or Dalston? Brixton?

28 10 2009

Claire Carponen pondered in the Times on 16 October 2009 whether Deptford is the new Shoreditch. Secretly, I am glad she did. Because it isn’t, but it damn well could be. Claire continued along the lines of the havoc wreaked by the New York Times in this article, which I covered in my very first post on this blog here.

Deptford is, as Claire writes, a place where ‘blue collar workers meet creative types’ in Southeast London. The annual Deptford X festival and the stretch of artists studios along Creekside are testament to the creative scene going on in Deptford. However, just because an area has creative types (ie, white middle class 20-30 somethings and teen overspill from Goldsmiths who have all found something charming enough in the area to stay) does not make it the new Shoreditch.

Why are we comparing anywhere to Shoreditch anyway? This is done with every  ‘up-and-coming’ area of London, that’s why. A recent Timeout article by Dave Swindells: Brixton Club Scene Revisited does a good job not to compare Brixton to Shoreditch. Much. The article looks at The Brixton Collective’s dual-sided mission statement: to erase stereotypes that Brixton is a dangerous area and to put together top club/music venues and even multi-venue festivals to put Brixton more firmly on the music and club maps.

Of course if you were to call a place ‘the new Shoreditch’ then Brixton is much further along than our Deptford. Deptford shares the Amersham Arms and the Royal Albert pub with New Cross, and the Albany and Deptford Project Cafe are creative spaces to be sure, but Brixton has got The Fridge, Mass, Plan B, the Dogstar, cocktail bars, cafés, restaurants, a pub and Dex Club – a members’ club and boutique hotel, not to mention the massively popular Rosie and her deli cafe!

The comparison of Brixton to Shoreditch came late in the piece, instigated by Ben Kreeger from Plan B. Ben believes that  the only way to really change perceptions of a place for people is to experience it first-hand‘Dragging new people into the area is what changed Shoreditch and King’s Cross’.

What about Dalston? The Times online declared Dalston the new Shoreditch in the 1 December 2006 article Shoreditch is over lets go to Dalston, a theme which the East London Local blog revisited in June 2009 as a reaction to the Guardian’s claim in April 2009 that Dalston is now the coolest place in Britain. Dalston seems like the most obvious answer, with Kingsland Road teeming with teeny-boppers and twentysomethings up and down the road. Dan Beaumont, who runs Dalston Club Night Disco Bloodbath and the Dalston Superstore moved east to Dalston after the opening of posh members’ club Shoreditch House and Terence Conran’s Boundary Hotel
in  Shoreditch because, “not everyone wants to drink fancy cocktails on roof terraces.”

It would seem that the ‘new Shoreditch’ is just a metaphor for an area where creative types live amongst blue collar workers in a place that can claim no members club, thereby narrowly holding gentrification at bay.

If that is indeed the case, then absolutely, categorically 100% YES! Times Online – Deptford is most certainly the new Shoreditch and will remain so for at least a good couple of years.

Juliette Lewis rocks the Shepherds Bush Empire

24 10 2009

Juliette by MissDani

Juliette by MissDani

Juliette Lewis rocked the Shepherds Bush Empire last night, albeit for a minimal 65 minute recorded for DVD session which left all fans wanting much, much more.

Shepherds Bush Empire is one of my favorite locations in London. It’s small enough to be intimate but justlarge enough to really rock. Top names play there, tickets for standing are almost always available, and the venue itself is ornate in that ‘great venues of times past’ way.

The opening bands varied in quality and style, but for £14 a ticket, Juliette certianly offered serious musical bang-for-buck points.   Easily our favorite opening band of the night, Officer Kicks opened to all of 40 people. A surprisingly good London-based foursome, the music was classic rock, very american rockabilly at times. I’d buy the album or download it from iTunes. Officer Kicks’ lead singer needs to work on his stage moves a bit more, and maybe take some cool lessons from his lead guitarist, but definitely a great start to the night.

Next up was not-your-typical girl-led band Little Fish. The lead singer was masterful on the guitar and not afraid to pluck, twist and scrape her strings. The music was dark, a bit Goth at times and lyrics were not to be understood, nor were her talks to the audience. I got that they were from Oxford, that was it. Not a great trio, but she would make a pretty edgy solo-ist.

*NerdAlert* Last up before Juliette were Attack Attack from Wales. They are talented and high energy, and if they were better looking, they would probably already have a hit record, but for now they are geek without the Chic.

Juliette Lewis was a complete pro, though heading towards ‘diva’ if you ask me, coming on at 9:45 and ending promptly 65 minutes later, no encore. Dramatic, and completely in character, Juliette the rockstar has a new band The New Romantiques and was clearly ready to go down this more theatrical route. We were in the second row standing at Shepherds Bush Empire, and we were moshed by a very young and very ready to rock crowd. Juliette even came down and into the crowd, and touched/highfived and sweat all over us all, even kissing one lucky guy on the cheek. She loves the energy and feeds off the crowd. Check out photo exhibit A of Juliette hamming it up!

Juliette Lewis eats it up - photo by MissDani

Juliette by MissDani

Juliette sings her heart out - by MissDani

Juliette sings her heart out – by MissDani

Though an annoyingly short set, Juliette rocked new songs along with old – including Licks favs ‘Youre speaking my language’, and “Pray for the Band Latoya” (Oh yeah, stay righteous!).

Juliette - photo by MissDani

Juliette - photo by MissDani

The songs from her latest album Terra Incognita, were much better live than my first impression of the disc, and Juliette pulled out all the stops, including bongo drums and a nice string quartet for the last number: Suicide DiveBombers

That's the end, Juliette? - Photo by MissDani

That's the end, Juliette? - Photo by MissDani

I’ll go back to every show she does in London – even if she were to sell out the o2!

It’s Who You Know…Niamh and Danny from Thames River Adventures

16 10 2009

In a previous post here, I vividly imagined what it would be like to kayak on Regents Canal early in the morning with Thames River Adventures. The company offers sunrise, daytime and sunset kayak tours on Regents Canal, Hampton Court and Tower Bridge.

At 5am one recent Saturday morning, I met with Niamh and Danny on the bank of Regents Canal and spent over 90 minutes peacefully kayaking through London. As we paddled through Regents Zoo territory, we were very quiet not to disturb the sleeping animals, but otherwise throughout the rest of the tour, we exchanged stories and learned quite a bit about each other and Thames River Adventures. The idea is original, the tours, invigorating, and Danny and Niamh make even a total beginner feel right at home on a kayak.

Kayaking on Regents Canal

MyMetropole: I hear non-London accents – Where are you both from originally?

Thames River Adventures (TRA): Danny is from Christchurch, New Zealand, and Niamh is from Dublin, Ireland.

MyMetropole: Where else have you lived?

TRA: Danny has lived in the US, I (Niamh) in Cork and together in London.

MyMetropole: How did you end up in London?

TRA: Both of us came to London for work – Danny came originally as a psychiatric Nurse.

MyMetropole: Have you both always been big kayakers?

TRA: Not really, Danny introduced me to kayaking. He has been kayaking for the last 10 years.

MissDani on Canal

MyMetropole: What is your most exciting kayaking experience?

TRA: Danny kayaked on the Padis River Grade 4 White Water in Borneo. But Danny’s favourite place to kayak is London
because the urban experience is so unexpected. I love the Abel Tasmin in New Zealand because of the dramatic scenery and tranquillity.

MyMetropole: How did the idea for Thames River Adventures come about?

TRA: I (Danny) spent a summer kayaking through London and realised what a unique experience it is to kayak on the waterways in London. We thought it would be an great business opportunity as well as a eco-friendly, green business. We also were pretty sure other people would enjoy what we were doing.

MyMetropole: How is business going?

TRA: Business is going well – we now have 4 instructors working for us and we have seen business grow this year due to the year of the ‘staycation’. We even took out Natalie Imbruglia for Tuition session for one hour with her PA and stylist in preparation for a music video which she was due to film in Hawaii kayaking.

MyMetropole: What is your favourite time to be out on the kayak?

TRA: For me (Danny) it is sunrise on a crisp clear Autumn morning. Niamh loves the 10am Lunchtime Tour at Hampton Court and stopping for the well deserved pub lunch at a good old English Pub.

MyMetropole: What does Thames River Adventures have coming up?

TRA: This year 2009/2010 we will continue through the Winter. Last year we travelled through to South East Asia, Antipodes and South America. This year we look forward to seeing and kayaking London in the snow!

Regents Canal

Subtle Mob…Revisited

15 10 2009

I had a response from Duncan, who is running the subtle mob in London on the 12th of November.

His comment was just so well written, I thought I’d give him his own post. Duncan describes this subtle mob this way:

Flashmobs are inherently outward facing, they often create visual spectacles that gain a larger audience on YouTube than in the physical space they occur, hence their rapid appropriation by advertising companies.

‘as if it were the last time’ (the name of this subtle mob) is essentially a soundwalk, (a mixture of narration and music heard on mp3 players) for a mass audience listening simultaneously. I’ve been making soundwalks for a few years now and it was always interesting to me how cinematic the world around you can become while listening to the right soundtrack, mundane moments of the everyday become powerful poetic scenes. Recently I’ve been working with performers to stage these scenes of the everyday while audiences drift through the city listening, the actions of the performers ( a couple holding hands for example) are essentially invisible to anyone else walking past , but for the audience hearing a story about a couple deciding whether to have a child, the scene becomes the embodiment of what they hear in their headphones. I’m in love with the bleed between the staged and the real that happens in the public space during these shows, sometimes audiences never see the actual performers but map the stories they hear on to passers by.
I’m also interested in the way mobile technologies are very good at connecting us to remote locations but they also distance us from our immediate surroundings. So the idea with these soundwalks is that the audience pays more attention to the world around them (possibly a slightly feel-good naivety on my part).

The shift towards this ‘subtle mob’ idea for me is quite simple,

‘why not get the audience to perform for each other rather than using actors?’ – that way the listener can reflect on the scenes they see both at a distance, and then first hand as they are asked to recreate them for themselves.

A perfect subtlemob should be redundant on youtube, the actions so subtle (a ha!) that a film of it would just appear to be an everyday street scene.

And somewhere deep down I really just think I’m trying to make a beautiful piece of music that soundtracks the city, I’ve got the luxury of working with some amazing musicians and directors to make the content.

Very intellectual, very creative. I love it. This is from Duncan who is running the event

Subtle Mob

13 10 2009

Flash Mobs used to fascinate me. Using technology as a way to organise groups of people in real time to act in a subversive way as a means to communicate a message or create spontaneous artistic messages.

A flash mob just a few years on is no more spontaneous than a waiting for a train at the station. You know one will come, you’re fairly certain about when, and the people who take part are not creative. It’s almost a routine.

I’ve gotten wind of a ‘Subtle’ flash mob. I dont know what that means, but at least they are admitting that it is planned and more like a theatre performance.

Sign up here to participate or check it out at least on the day:

November 12th in London

A ‘subtle’ Flash Mob?

It’s who you know…Interview Sahara C

6 10 2009

An introduction to It’s Who You Know…Interviews:

You walk down the street in overcrowded London, bumping shoulders with strangers all day, pressed up against them in an overcrowded tube carriage, phoning them for information or reservations, never knowing who the individuals are. Through my work I am able to meet some very inspiring individuals, people who are really out there living their dreams, being creative, and inspiring others. ‘It’s who you know’ is not some Paris-Hiltonesque attitude about climbing a social ladder – It’s Who You Know Interviews are about the  people I meet in my life who influence and inspire in big ways and small.

It’s Who You Know…Interview: Sahara C

Sahara C

As an absolute outsider at Zimfest 2009, the festival opened massively opened my mind as it exposed the very multi-racial, multi-ethnic population of Zimbabwe, and broke several stereotypes about what a ‘Zimbabwean’ actually is. The news agenda only supports the doom and gloom coverage on Zimbabwe, but as this feel-good event made clear, there are hundreds (if not more) Zimbabweans doing something positive, right here in London, to help their country and the image of their country and its people abroad.


MyMetropole had the chance to interview Sahara C, a Zimbabwean singer who took part in the Zimfest festival in London. Sahara is a great example of a positive Zimbabwean, and I caught up with this inspirational singer to ask her a few questions about her career, life in London, Zimfest and what Zimbabwe, and London, mean to her.

MyMetropole: Are you enjoying Zimfest?

zimfest 006Sahara C: I think Zimfest 2009 is a resounding success!  The team worked very hard for the artists and to get the event organised properly, no major hitches! I am very pleased to have been part of such a professional show.

The main message from Zimfest is one of solidarity – across all ethnicities of Zimbabwe and I feel that moment was captured when Siyaya Arts was on stage and the entire crowd, a mixture of skin tones, all danced and enjoyed the music.

I also really enjoyed the performance of DKR.  Before my performance I was very nervous, but afterwards I was ravenous and I ate some sadza, muriwo & nyama from one of the food stands – can’t go to Zimfest and not eat traditional Zimbabwean food!

MyMetropole: Where are you from originally?

Sahara C: I’m was born in Harare, in Zimbabwe

MyMetropole: What brought you to London, when did you move here?

Sahara C: I came to England in 1997 and settled in reading before moving to Hither Green in South London. I came to England to pursue my music career.

MyMetropole: Do you consider yourself a ‘Londoner’?

Sahara C: I’m not sure. I have now moved to Milton Keyne to be closer to friends and family, so I don’t live in London anymore. But I think as an individual, I’m definitely a Londoner. I love the nightlife, and I love the fact that you can find so many specialist shops amongst the larger ones. I absolutely love shopping in London.

MyMetropole: What is your favourite location in London to sing – why?

Sahara C: There is a lovely little venue in North London called Viva Viva. I like singing there, although it has been a long while since I was last there. The staff are great and the food is wonderful… and it’s a very cute little venue with a stage that’s up close and personal with the customers, so you get to connect on a real level with people who are often hearing you for the first time

My Metropole: Describe yourself in 3 words

Sahara C: Brave. Strong. True.

MyMetropole: Now, describe your music in 3 words

Sahara C: Soul. Smooth. Real.

MyMetropole: In dealing with other people, what is your biggest pet peeve?

Sahara C: I can’t abide people who don’t talk straight – people who promise something and don’t deliver.

MyMetropole: What’s been the biggest challenge in your career for you?

Sahara C: It’s always a challenge to find the finances to record and release music, and to have my music heard.  Exposure has traditionally been impossible for the indie artist. To overcome it I use the internet a great deal… I have web presence almost everywhere that I can – all the social networks you can think of .  I’ve managed to get listeners all over the world, so its slowly starting to happen.

Sahara CMyMetropole: And what’s the dream?

Sahara C: The dream is to be heard… If I can sing every single day and get paid from it, if I can release music and have it bought and heard, then I will be very very happy.

MyMetropole: What do you love most about singing?

SaharaC: I get a rush.  I don’t have any other vices (don’t take drugs, don’t smoke – though I do enjoy the occasional tipple now and then) but I get a real rush from singing in public, and I love it.  Plus I get to say in song what I often won’t say in words.

MyMetropole: If you could meet any person, alive or dead, who would you want to meet and why?

Sahara C: I’d like to meet Maya Angelou.  She’s a straight-talking, wisdom-sharing woman who brings light to the darkness.  She is a beautiful poet, with words that she knows how to use well and to good effect, and she has been through a lot of troubled times.  Although I have read many of her books, poetry and quotes, I would still love to sit in her company for a bit and share some of her thoughts.  She’s truly inspirational.

MyMetropole: What’s coming up for you in the future?

I just recently got results from the 2009 UK Songwriting Contest that my song Last Goodbye placed in the semi finals with a score of 7… I’m really chuft about that because 7 is borderline finalist (according to their website) and this is the 3rd time I have placed so well.  My scores have gotten better progressively since I entered first in 2007.  I hope this means that my next entry will win…!
Check out Sahara C’s music on MySpace, Facebook, ilike, Reverbnation, Twitter, and Lastfm

sahara C 3

Living London

2 10 2009

I figure I write bits and bobs about what what’s worth checking out in London, but I thought I’d start including my weekend plans. There are some weekends where MissDani and I don’t do anything more than frequent Tesco and Fitness First, but most weekends we are in London are jam-packed 2-day staycations. What’s the point of living in London if you’re not out exploring?!

Our plans for Living London this weekend include:

Kensal Green Cemetery
I’ve lifted this blurb from the website: “Inspired by the cemetery of Pere-Lachaises in Paris and founded in 1833 by the Barrister George Frederick Carden Kensal Green Cemetery comprises of 72 acres of beautiful grounds including two conservation areas and an adjoining a canal.”

Kensal Green Cemetery

The Elgin – Geronimo Inns has bought and refurbed the Elgin on Ladbroke Grove. Having lived right up the road and knowing it only as an old man’s bar, I am excited to have lunch here.


Portobello Road Market – We’ll be around the corner at the Elgin, so any excuse to hit Portobello Road is always taken! Even though we are going there with Hellafied the weekend after as well.


Deptford X – We’ll check out the Tea Dance and maybe some of the open studios around the neighborhood. I would very much like to see Deptford X Award winner Patrick Hackett’s Scape Boat exhibit at Laban. The Deptford Dame has a great article about the festival here.

Though I was hoping to check out the Almodovar double bill at Riverside Studios, time has not allowed for this. We are most likely heading to my favorite movie theatre (okay, okay, cinema) in London – The Coronet – to see The Soloist.

Coronet Cinema

Post Codes Planned:

w10, W11, SE8, SE11 and W1

Why W1? Oh, we’d thought we’d start Saturday by heading here again for a free coffee and a better camera!