Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stitchin' in the rain!

I love Southbank, and I love village fêtes, so when the two combined this bank holiday weekend, I could not resist braving the threat of rain and going along to check out what was on offer.

The Alternative Village Fête was set up outside The National Theatre, and I have to admit, upon arrival, I was a little disappointed at how small the event was. I suppose I was hoping that as it was held at such a prominent spot, where there are always a lot of people milling around, that it would be on a grander scale, and there would be more things to see and do.

I am sad that they haven't run the Innocent Village Fête for the last couple of years, because that used to be super dooper fun, with great food, awesome bands (I saw Paloma Faith perform there before she got famous), free smoothies, an abundance of things to see and do, and funny traditional games like wellie wanging, ferret racing and geese herding!

That said, looking around the stalls with my niece, we still had fun. Dj El Nino was on hand spinning excellent tunes (again, as seems to be the story of my life, there was nobody to dance with!) in between bands, who were simultaneously performing and teaching the audience folky type dances to go with their music.

So along with cupcake stalls, vintage clothing, The Chap, jewellery, art and music, there was a monster making stall. Naturally, my eyes were drawn to this, and after establishing that we had free reign on the wide array of colourful fabric, buttons, felt, thread, string and feathers for free, we set to work stitching, together with a crowd of people.

Even when it starting drizzling (ok, raining) a little, we stuck it out for the sake of taking home a pair of badly stitched monstrosities that we have no use for! They handed out free rain ponchos, which I was reluctant to use, for vanity's sake (although tempted, for my hair's sake)...

Ultimately, I enjoy crafty projects, and despite getting a little impatient at points (why couldn't they provide some glue so we didn't have to stitch everything?!) I enjoyed sitting amongst a group of adults, all focussed on making the best potato-headed fabric monster possible.

For a small fête, it was fine - it attracted a lot of people, it was in a beautiful setting by the Thames, there was enough to keep you entertained for a while, and it got us out and about for free on a Saturday afternoon!

Retro Hollywood museum muses get glam...

On Friday the Victoria & Albert Museum had a 'Retro Hollywood Glamour' late night event to coincide with the Grace Kelly exhibit that is currently on display.

V&A Friday Late takes place on the last Friday of each month, when the museum stays open until 10pm, and events which include performances, arts & crafts, film screenings, fashion, debates, workshops, special guests and DJs, start at 6.30pm.

So I went along to this free (woohoo!) event where you could take part in a 50s pin-up/pin badge making workshop, screen printing, an exhibition tour and film quizzes, as well as watching classic film trailers or getting a Hollywood makeover at the hair and make-up booths.

Funnily enough, although I had a wander around, I didn't actually end up participating in any of the happenings, and instead spent most of the time in the foyer where the DJ was, chatting to friends and listening to the music! The queues to take part in the various workshops were fairly long, and I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere, rather than feeling like I had to come away from the event with a screen printed scarf.

As there was a bar set up in the foyer, these evening events are a great alternative to just going to the pub! I am currently cutting back on my alcohol intake, so this kind of night out is great, because even if your friends are partaking in a cheeky tipple and you're not, it's far more interesting than just sitting in the pub whilst everyone around you is getting drunkie drunk...

Which leads me to my next point: the V&A is such a beautiful setting to spend an evening, especially because you get to see the courtyard all lit up. I really like the idea of a museum being a place to socialise and get dressed up for - a grand setting to visit and appreciate as a venue, rather than just to go and try to cram in as many exhibitions as possible.

One thing I was surprised about was the lack of dancers! The DJ was playing fun music, and clearly, there was a lot of space for dancing. I would have thought that the museum would have invited along some dance teachers, as a bit of swing dancing would have gone quite well with the theme. In any case, a couple of our friends had a few dances together, and had the crowd entranced with their moves! Unfortunately, the rest of us happy footed folk were all girls, so we had no one to give us a spin on the museum's mosaic tiles.

Funnily, a friend and I became the subjects of many photographers, as people (both photographers and general visitors) asked to take our photo all night! So this is how it feels to be followed around by the paparazzi? Well, I am curious to see where our photos will pop up...

I wont be around for the next couple of Museum Lates, but will be keeping an eye out for future events, as I had a fun night!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kicks, flicks and frolics in Tanguera...

Wowzers. Let's just say, my desire to learn Argentine Tango has been reignited!

I went to see tango musical Tanguera at Sadler's Wells last week, and was blown away with how beautiful, passionate and fast the dancing was.

The show tells the story of a French girl, Giselle, who moves to Buenos Aires and falls in love. However, as she is drawn into the dark underworld, and begins working in a brothel, the pathway to love becomes complicated...

The classic tango music played by the house band immediately enticed me - I love it and it makes me want to get up and dance! In fact, the show opens with a spotlight on the band, who perform a song before the dancers even appear on stage, flirting with the audience and building up a sense of anticipation.

The interplay between characters takes on a fierceness, with intricate kicks and flicks, as well as the sensuality of unerring eye contact, and smooth-flowing, mischievous footwork between the dancers. I just couldn't take my eyes off the performers gliding across the stage - the movements were so beautiful....and the dancers all had such fantastic bodies!

There was not an empty seat in the house, and the sold out show did not disappoint with its portrayal of love, drama and zeal, and a simultaneous mix of playfulness and intensity.

The cast members include Maria Nieves, who plays the brothel madam. At 75 years old, she is highly regarded in Argentina....and wow, she has amazing legs! Interestingly (and inspirationally), despite having danced her way around the world, she has never actually taken a dance lesson.

Tanguera has a running time of 1.5 hours, with no interval, and was captivating enough that I didn't get fidgety. In fact, I liked that the performance was uninterrupted.

Sadler's Wells is a great venue, with a very modern industrial vibe in the theatre itself. In contrast, the rest of the building and bar areas are light and airy. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the performance due to a) photography being restricted in the theatre and b) my stupid semi-busted camera.

The show has now finished its run at Sadler's Wells, but as it continues its world tour, I would recommend going to see it if you get the chance.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vintage at Goodwood.

The Vintage at Goodwood festival, celebrating music, art, film, fashion and design over five decades, took place a couple of weekends ago (13th-15th August), and has had rave reviews.

I was beginning to think that I wan't going to be able to make it, as the tickets were quite pricey, but on the Friday I nabbed myself a ticket for free through a friend of a friend, for the Saturday! Yippeeeee!

So I set off to Goodwood on Saturday morning, getting the bus to London Victoria (damn you Jubilee line for never running on the weekends that I need you) and taking the train to Chichester (which takes around 1 hour and 30 mins) and then taking the 'special' open top vintage double decker bus which they had put on to transport people from the station to the festival. Reading this back, it sounds like more hassle than it actually was, and door to door took around 3 hours.

The weather was very iffy indeed, grey and drizzly all morning, so I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived and the sun was shining! Hooray! The day ended up being a mixture of sunshine and showers all day, with more sunshine. It rained twice, maybe three times, for short spells, the whole day I was there, but I was indoors watching bands and dancing so it didn't really make much difference. The grass got a little muddy in places, but I came wearing my cowboy boots, expecting the worst, and the organisers were very good about putting down woodchip on the slightly slippery areas. Let's just say, the grass was easy enough for girls to walk on in high heels, which leads me to my next point...

Never before have I seen so many beautiful, glamorous, immaculate people at a festival before! Given that we were in the middle of a slightly muddy field, with many of the people there camping, I was amazed at the perfectly styled hair and make-up and the gorgeous dresses I saw on many of the lovely ladies strutting around the place. Fittingly, the lovely Lipstick & Curls girls were also on hand over the weekend, going around the festival fixing hair and make-up.

I heard that the camping area had showers, sockets to plug in appliances like hair curlers and straighteners etc. If the toilets were anything to go by, then I can believe it - this was the first festival I have been to that had clean toilets that flushed, with toilet paper, running hot and cold water and hand towels. Amazing.

So the festival celebrated the best of British, with numerous tea and cake stalls, an East End boozer (complete with Union Jack bunting), different buildings with stages constructed for the last five decades (the crazy old carpet used in the 60's soul 'working men's club' was a nice touch) vintage clothing stalls, classic cars and motorcycles, a vintage cinema, beauty salon, famous British 'pop-up' shops (John Lewis, Fortnum & Mason etc), fashion shows, classic fairground rides, wall of death, rollerdisco, outdoor music stages and various arts & crafts projects scattered around the grounds. The layout and design of the buildings and tents was beautiful! They did a really great job making the place pretty, and it was especially lovely at night when all the string-lights and fairground rides were lit up.

The Tanqueray Torch tent was beautiful - made up like a 1940s nightclub, complete with dance floor, lots of round dining tables around the edges, a bar and even a chandelleir! I got to watch some great bigband performances in there, along with DJ sets by Tim's Jumpin' Jive. Unfortunately the dancefloor was on a slope, so it was quite hard work dancing on it...

The 1950s Let It Rock tent was great, with a huge black and white checkered dance floor and tiki bar. I got to see a few bands in here throughout the day, including teenage Hep Cat band, The Caezars, who put on a bleedin' marvelous show, literally - I think the singer conked his nose on the mic, after the first couple of songs, and continued the rest of the set with a face dripping blood. Now that's what I call rock'n'roll! This band is great to dance to, and also very fun to watch as they are a) enthusiastic about their music, b) lively and c) very handsome. Watch the girls in the audience at any of their shows and expect to see a lot of swooning!

I caught a bit of Alvin Stardust, Martha and The Vandellas and The Noisettes on the main stage as I was walking about. I was impressed with how energetic and fun the set by The Noisettes was, and both their costumes and the stage lighting were great. Unfortunately I have no photo evidence, as my camera decided to go on the blink during the afternoon. Talk about bad timing. I think the problem is the backlight, as the screen stays black when I turn the camera on, but it can still take photos - you just cannot see what you are taking photos of - so I didn't use it much after this point, and the pics I did try to take were very hit and miss.

By the time I had to leave I was exhausted! I had a super fun day, catching up with friends, dancing, listening to good music, people-watching, browsing the vintage clothing stalls (I have to admit I was a little disappointed in this department though), eating chocolate guinness cake and drinking tea out of fancy old china, celeb-spotting (I saw cute tv chef Gizzi Erskine wandering around) admiring the various classic cars dotted about the site and aimlessly trying to take photos.

Would I go back next year? Most likely, yes!