Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Keeping Rosy

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

This slightly blurry photo of Maxine Peake and Chriisse Bottomley doesn’t immediately bellow ‘Greenwich’. It was taken outside a pop-up cinema in Manchester for starters. But Keeping Rosy has Greenwich connections a-go-go. Its writer, Mike Oughton, lives in Royal Hill and it will be released just down the hill at the Picturehouse on Thursday. It was filmed in the Isle of Dogs, some of it looking out over Greenwich so it’s worthy of Phantom approval.

Mike’s very excited about it – it’s his first film – and I’ll be going to see it at some point (not Thursday, sadly, Mike…) If you’d like to know more about it here’s the official website….

I know, I know, this should be in Parish News (which I AM slowly updating) but hey – my blog, my rules…

London Bubble: Something for Now and Something to Look Forward to…

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

London Bubble Theatre’s annual ‘big show in the park’ used to be a high point in the Phantom social whirl. At their real height this wonderful company used to tour the parks of the capital with their trademark promenade performances of everything from Shakespeare to Kurt Vonnegut.  A warm summer evening, a glass of something nice and top-notch performers…fantastic.

I loved the way that you felt you were in an entire world when you watched a Bubble show. Things were happening in your periferal vision, just out of sight, that made you really believe that there were chessboard pieces fighting far away in the forest or that Puck really was putting a girdle around the earth in forty minutes.

Over the years I saw them in Chiswick, Highgate, Sydenham, Ilford… heavens, I saw them a lot...

The company’s changed slightly as the world’s changed, becoming more community-oriented and, as the funding dried up the parks got closer and closer to Bubble’s home in Rotherhithe, which, selfishly, was still just fine for me. One of my favourites was Oxleas Wood, which was one of the last places they played one of the ‘big gigs’ before the Arts Council decided they were far too popular. People actually enjoyed their shows which of course meant they shouldn’t be getting any money for That Kind of Thing.

They reinvented themselves with a ‘fan-made theatre’ production or two – basically crowd-funding before the concept was ‘invented’ by hipsters but more recently they’ve been concentrating on community based projects. They have one this week; more about that later in this post.

But to my exciting news. Jonathan Petherbridge, Bubble’s  Artistic Director, tells me they are planning a Big Park Show in 2016 – sounds like a long way off, but time has a horrible habit of moving on apace.

He hopes to challenge enthusiasts like me to sell at least 10 tickets. Anyone who actually knows my alter ego will know I will be able to do that easily – I have complete faith it will be fantastic. But I’m giving you a heads-up now, to cheer you up on a rather dull Monday morning.

Incidentally, before I move onto Bubble’s stuff going on this week, allow me to recommend a little something in the meanwhile.

If you like good-quality open air theatre, you will do a lot worse than spending a (free, gratis and for absolutely nothing) evening with Steam Industry Theatre up at the Scoop by London Bridge. They create (usually) three linked shows in an evening – the first will be family-friendly; as the evening wears on the content becomes more adult – for example when they did the Oresteia a couple of years ago, they started out with the story of young Oedipus as knockabout farce (no, really), working up to people screaming and covered in blood by the time the tinies were in bed. They’re doing the Ring Cycle this year – I can’t wait.

But back to the Bubble. If you’re free this week – starting this lunchtime (sorry about the late notice) check this lot out:

Creativity and Wellbeing Week

Monday 2nd June
The Start of Something 1-3.30pm
Female artists from London Bubble, young women from a local secondary school and female employees from Norton Rose Fulbright come together to consider their experiences of creativity and well being. During the session they will create an artefact which will be presented for discussion at the ‘theatre as connector’ conversation, later in the afternoon.

Theatre as Connector – a Conversation 4.30 – 6pm
Join representatives from London Bubble, Southwark Youth Offending Service, the Metropolitan Police and other agencies to discuss how we connect and build social wellbeing through theatre. The session will begin with a presentation of the artefact created at the earlier ‘the start of something’ session.

Tuesday 3rd June
‘Story Bubbles’ for young children and their grown up 1.45-3pm
Come along with your child to a Story Bubbles session, have some fun together, make up a story and act it out. Suitable for families with children aged 2-6yrs

Creativity and Wellbeing for children and their adults – a Conversation 4-5.30pm
Join this conversation if you are interested in the enjoyment and importance of intergenerational creativity. Representatives of Children’s Centres, Early Years Educators, Drama Practitioners share some insights and challenges about working creatively with young children and their grownups.

Wednesday 4th June
Theatre-making, Performance and Wellbeing 2.30-3.30
A conversation with Julia Voce about her work as Associate Artist Care and Creativity with London bubble, and the making of Ishbel and I.

Ishbel and I (a free performance of a piece emerging from development) 3.30-4.30pm
A play about ‘going to pieces and going on a bike ride’. A solo performer and two bicycles create the music, characters and worlds that take the audience on a moving, hilarious journey examining the minefield of mental illness and its effect on a large family.

Thursday 5th June
Creativity, wellbeing and the urban playground 6-7.30pm
Join us for a panel led discussion on Creativity, wellbeing and the urban playground, as:
· Paul Heritage, People’s Palace Projects
· Justine Kenyon, Wandsworth Arts Council
· Jocelyn Cunningham, Arts and Society
· Jonathan Petherbridge, London Bubble Theatre
explore how current artistic practice sits in a public or civic context, and its benefits on social and personal wellbeing.
There are many definitions of such work – participatory, community, dialogical…but what difference do such initiatives make and do people appreciate it?
What are the politics and mechanics of it?

Friday 6th June
Making is connecting 2-5pm
Inspired by recent research linking working with our hands to personal and social wellbeing, London Bubble are planning to throw open their workshop to the local community. But should it be a Men’s Shed, or a Community Workspace, or even a Hackspace ?
Join us for some whittling and some wittering as
· Martin Dittus – Hackney Hackspace workspace
· Michael Breakey – Artist/Maker and Workshop Animateur at London Bubble

· And member of the Men’s Shed movement

Discuss and demonstrate the quietly radical effects of coming together to make something.

All events are free to attend but require booking. To book or more details visit or call 02072374434

Placeholder Art

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Folks, I have to apologise for the lack of posting recently. Things are utterly crazy, both in and out of Phantom Towers – I’ve been away, horribly busy and without proper internet access in varying combinations and degrees for some time now.

Things will get back to normal soon, I hope – I have much to discuss with you – good, bad, drearily predictible, happy, sad, intriguing, beautiful – it will come I promise.

In the meanwhile I leave you with some wonderful images from long-term phantophile Stevie who says with all the amazing, changeable weather just now it’s time to get your camera out and get a few shots like these…

Now You See Him…

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Photo: Michael Graham Smith

… and Michael for one is delighted and has sent me photos of the wandering prodigal.

For anyone who doesn’t know the shenanigans, Greenwich’s ugliest statue disappeared some time ago, not long before Greenwich Inc, who had taken over much many of Greenwich’s once-great eateries and run them into the ground, went bust.

All kinds of rumours abounded over what had happened to the sculpture, most of which surrounded its ideal candidacy for being melted down to resemble that Henry Moore piece on Millbank and its projected value in metal form. If you missed it all, Greenwich Visitor covers it nicely in its Jan edition.

But then suddenly last Thursday, Jonathan at the Greenwich Society sent me this:

Photo: Jonathan Chandler

…and all the cards were back on the table.

In a very short time, he was right back where he’d been upsetting me for several years.

Photo: Jonathan Chandler

So what the hell’s been going on there, then..?

If he was taken away for cleaning/mending/whatever why were Greenwich Inc so bloomin’ cagey about it? They could have saved themselves a lot of aggro if they’d just given us a bit of proof of Nelson’s continuing existence. Perhaps a photo of him tied up in the workshop with a current edition of Greenwich Visitor tucked under his arm?

Everyone knows what I think of this particular bit of ‘art.’I am entirely neutral about the return of the ugliest interpretation of one of history’s sexiest men, but I am pleased that at least it doesn’t appear anything sinister went on with it.

What I am much gladder about is what’s going on in the background. See that scaffolding? It’s about bloomin’ time – there were cracks all over the venerable building paint peeling and buddlia growing out of the roof. I’ve been hearing very encouraging rumours about who might be moving in there. Fingers crossed my source is right but the main thing is that money is being spent on the old girl for the first time in ages. Too late for the little nautically-themed bar that was lost under Inc’s ownership, but perhaps in time to save the rest of the historic building.

And so, for people like Micheal who sent me this, who like the statue, I leave you with another image of the returned hero. As he says – all kinds of rumours circulated but “What the Hell! Let’s rejoice at its reinstatement – welcome back Horatio!”

Photo: Michael Graham Smith

For the rest of us I leave you with the image of that scaffolding and a ray of hope for the Trafalgar itself.

Gold Rush

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

I just couldn’t resist this photo by Jon – a double rainbow over Greenwich Park, bringing us all hope for Spring, that at last this ghastly wet weather is coming to an end.

The prize for whoever can work out the exact spots where it hits the ground: a double pot of gold. Maybe enough to bring us the Cycle Scheme. Or put a deep end in the new swimming pool. Or keep a few trees. Though maybe all of that isn’t really down to money, just the will to make it happen…

Wood Wharf Studios in the 80s

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Folks – a Phantom First today. Actually, probably a Phantom One-Off as I don’t want to make a habit of it, but I enjoyed this so much I’m making an exception here. I bring you a Guest Phantom.

No – not one of those ghastly things I keep being sent offering to write a blog for me on any subject I choose, all they want is to put a few cookies in it, I promise (though I confess the temptation to give them ‘a subject’ and see how they get on with it is strong…)

This, dear readers, is Phantophile Raymond Dunthorne’s experiences as aspiring drummer, gofer and Sandwich Maker to the Stars at the fabulously chaotic Wood Wharf studios in the days of music legend Billy Jenkins. It’s wonderful.

My only regret is that Raymond was so bloomin’ busy making craven images of idols in bread form that he never managed to take any photos. Not even of the sandwiches. He (and I) would love to see any that other Phantophiles out there may have (photos that is, not sarnies). Enjoy…

Wood Wharf Rehearsal Studio was next door to the last working barge yard on the Thames. In the day I would heave backline and drum kits from studio to studio to the sound of welding and some sort of barge-specific panel beating that involved the 6’6 curly-headed, bargeman repeatedly wazzocking the side of a barge with a sledge-hammer. At night local children would scamper over the barges leaping from one to the other, prompting yet another call to the river police, who eventually got sick of my misplaced concern and advised me – off the record – to get an air rifle and shoot near them.

The morning melge of industrial noises would be subsumed by the quiet sizzling of one of O’Hagan’s Sausages in the cottage kitchen, under the grill and watchful eye of Billy Jenkins. He – quite rightly –took his sausage seriously. I’d spend a lot of time in that kitchen, across the alleyway from the main studios, next door to the windowless back one, which sounded like you were rehearsing inside a shipping container. The upper floor of the cottage was where Billy, Annie and the twins lived.

When I wasn’t clearing studios, emptying ashtrays, not-recycling the empty Baltic lager cans (those were the days) and moving pre-booked gear from room to room while systematically failing to stop it getting stolen, I’d be cooking two huge turkeys for the week’s sandwich sales.

The catering really was one of the main earners and Annie oversaw it enthusiastically. I don’t know if a slip-up actually would have been more than my job was worth (£100 for 7 days a week, 11am to11pm) but I couldn’t afford to find out and I didn’t want to let Mark Ramsden, who had got me in the door, down.

It was an exciting operation: slicing peppers, radish, cucumber, carrot, stuffed olives and lettuce, all to extremely close tolerances, under the cormorant’s stare of Annie, who’d give me a Thatcher-like lecture if she spotted me risking the economy by buttering both slices of bread (one slice got the cheap catering margarine) or if I put so much as three blades of cress too many on a plate, before cling-filming it and writing the recipient’s name on it in marker pen.

I was an aspiring drummer relatively new to London and the cash was tempered with free studio time, plus all the turkey sandwiches I could eat. I think they said open access to turkey was part of the deal.

The place was relentlessly busy. Four bands in the day, generally someone you’d heard of, someone signed or about to be, or just various pros getting something into shape. Four bands in the evening, generally someone you hadn’t heard of and almost certainly never would. If you’re in a band, rehearse in the day. You’ll never make it otherwise.

Anyway, I made sandwiches for the lot of them.

Sometimes even if none were ordered. If they looked hungry and Annie wasn’t looking.

The big studio, with multiple soundproofed windows directly on to the river had just gone up not long before I started in 1980-something (I don’t want to think about it) just after Dire Straits and Kate Bush had been regulars in the next-biggest room. The owner of the land was an ex-magistrate and knew enough about planning law to ensure that all the building work was done at night, so nobody noticed.

This big room had a stage and Squeeze would book it out for a fortnight or more to get ready for a tour. The drummer, Gilson Lavis would park his camper van in the alley and live in it for the duration.

This struck me as peculiar.

They would all head out from about 4 in the afternoon and I’d practice on his kit in my downtime. Loose Tubes were regulars, which always meant a big sandwich order. I’d get the prepping done well in advance and was pretty quick, getting the salad arrangement down to such a fine art, I could do the face of whoever’s sandwich it was, the meager half-slices of things and stuffed olives making Raymond’s Sandwich Faces an obvious way to go.

There was one band I had a 100% success rate with. No need to write the name: the singer had a red beard (shredded carrot) the bass player was bald (easy) and the keyboard player was Chinese (obvious).

There was what looked like modern art on the walls of the second biggest room also directly fronting the river. These were large, abstract oil paintings by the owner’s wife. I can’t describe them, except to say that she must have been very angry about something. I tried to sell them of course. No takers.

There was a fairly idyllic flat above this room that no one ever lived in; it was for the owner’s ‘occasional use’ and stuffed full of statues. There might have been a chaise lounge. If not, there should have been. I’d have to dust and clean the flat prior to him flying in, almost literally once. He’d got clearance to land his float plane on the Thames and moor at Wood Wharf, but conditions weren’t favourable on the day. Whenever he did make it, there’d always be a brown envelope stuffed full of cash waiting for him on the coffee table.

You could get on to the roof in between the small studio and the second biggest: ‘No High Jinks on the Roof Terrace’ said the sign.

I’ve retained a few other things that mattered to me at the time. Don Henley booked in for a month, only to disappear after three weeks without paying the studio or the musicians. ‘Are you sure it was actually Don Henley?’ Annie interrogated. It wasn’t.

Billy thought this was hysterical. Django Bates laughed out loud at a Buddy Rich arrangement I was listening to in the office, quite rightly too. Bill Bruford stopped to enjoy some live Jan Garbarek I had on. I told Simon Napier-Bell to move his car (I didn’t ask, I told him) he laughed too. Then moved it.

The only person to treat me like I wasn’t doing something useful was a bloke who pulled up in his Porsche when I was looking after the place by myself for a few weeks. ‘How much do you want for this lot? A million do it?’ I said it would do it. He gave me a look over: ‘you’re the cleaner aren’t you?’ I said yes, even though I wasn’t.


The Phantom Comedy Group

Friday, March 14th, 2014

After searching in vain (even on this blog) for a comedy writing group in the area Anne, clearly a masochist of every stripe, not only wants to start one herself, she’s willing to organise it too, calling it the Phantom Writers Group, which is a bit of a joke really, given I couldn’t stand up and tell a gag if I tried.

Her suggestion is to meet up with people in the cafe in the Pleasaunce, which given the weather just now seems like a fine idea. If you’re interested drop me a line and I’ll pass you on to Anne.

I don’t know if she’s planning to just write stand up, drama or even comic novels. If they did the last they could be read by the highly sucessful Phantom Book Group and pop would eat itself…

A New Home for Galleon?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Okay, so I’m a bit slow on the uptake – this was one of the things that arrived when I had my eye off the ball at the back end of last year. We’d already talked about a new, purpose built theatre for Greenwich but it took a step further when the plans were submitted in December.

It would seem that Telford Homes in seeking to deal with the thorny issue of their having to provide affordable stuff in their Creekside development have gone with affordable workspace and, in a possibly interesting move, the opportunity for Galleon Theatre to move into part of it. You can see the proposals here.

The main proposal is the third document down and it it does have the potential to be interesting, and I’d love Galleon to find a new theatre space after the disgraceful, deceitful behaviour of Bed & bars over their last home at Belushis.

One note of caution though. I see that in the ‘smaller print’ Galleon have a specific amount of time to raise the funds for the fit up and if they don’t manage to do that Telford will sell it off at proper market rates, slapping themselves on the back for having kept their side of the bargain and provided the opportunity for affordable stuff, it was just The Poor People who couldn’t stick to their side. So if this goes ahead, I hope Galleon have a strong campaign in place for fitting-out or we’ll all be in trouble.

I’m sort of surprised I haven’t heard anything about this as if I was part of Galleon I’d already be out with a provisional begging bowl.

But then I’ve been under a stone. Perhaps I’ve missed that too.

Secret Sundial

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Cathy from the A Storm Is Blowing blog is curious about this sadly-now-gone home made sundial in Vanbrugh Park.

It takes a moment to realise it’s there – someone has taken the time to work out where the numbers should be and painted them on the pavement. But who? Does anyone know who created this lovely, ephemeral moment in time?

It’s sadly not there any more, the paint has worn away, which somehow says something poignant…

Puss In Boots

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013


WARNING: In the following review I may appear to be raving about this show. Sorry. I am.

Is this the best Greenwich panto yet? Beauty and the Beast runs a close second, and Jack & the Beanstalk was pretty darn good (I think that was the one with the most ridiculous version of Bohemian Rhasposdy I’ve ever heard)  but this one – oh, this one, is just wonderful.

Perhaps it’s because so few people know the Charles Perrault original which means that the result this year is bafflingly obscure – most adults in my party were totally lost (the kids got it completely) but, much like the other Perrault story with no real plot, Mother Goose, it gives so much leeway for – well, anything really, that the end product is anarchic, surreal and without any of that ‘that’s not what happened’ moments that come with some of the better-known interpretations.

It’s the most densely-joke-packed Greenwich Christmas offering so far – if you don’t like the gag  currently onstage, don’t worry, there will be another one along in a second you will like even less. I have this image of Andrew Pollard spending the rest of the year living in a Christmas cracker factory, surviving on discarded paper mottoes scraped up off the floor…

In fact a lot of the jokes are so fast, you almost miss them. One ‘Behind You’ opportunity was so throwaway the entire audience missed it. Some are delightfully topical – I got the feeling that one had been put in that very night as a  ’hmm…slightly iffy –  let’s put it in and see if it flies…’ Guys – it did.

My Christmas wouldn’t be right without Andrew Pollard’s Dame (Fruity Fifi – this year…) and Paul Critoph’s jolly Baron-character – without either of them it just wouldn’t seem right. Pollard gets panto (which is more than I can say for the writers of at least one other I’ve seen this year)

The Carry On naughtiness, the silly fun for the kids, the topical gags for the adults, the spurious scenes that have no relation whatsoever for the plot: ‘Oh – I seem to be a bit early for the picnic. Think I’ll go for a swim…’ the fact that everyone can sing, dance and act (not always a given, I have discovered elsewhere…) the range of songs – chart hits and oldies – the delights of a well-delivered slop scene and plenty of audience participation. Yes. That’s panto.

I had been slightly worried when I discovered that Anthony Spargo wasn’t to be in this year’s show. He’s a relatively recent addition but I had already got used to his gangly evilness as villain-du-jour. But I have to say that Robert Andonis Anthony fills those ridiculous sparkly boots extremely well. I loved the way that he made me a bit nervous when he first came on – I thought ‘ Oh, no – this guy actually takes himself seriously’ – then as soon as a certain word was uttered (repeatedly, tee hee…) the face, noise and posture he took made it abundantly clear that if he’s a serious Shakespearian thespian during the rest of the year, he’s on holiday at the moment.

Ditto the slightly-worried bit when I heard Luke Striffler’s American accent – but he is marvellous as the YRL Sam – gently ribbed by Fruity Fifi and if he may have to get a grip on himself with the corpsing if people want to get the last train home it’s hardly the worst crime at the moment – at least his giggles seem genuine where I’ve noticed recently a habit (on the West End stage, shockingly) of ‘staged corpsing’ that just leaves a nasty taste in the spectral mouth.

From the delightful shadow puppets, through the ridiculous French cliches (oui, no possiblité left unplundered there…) to monstrous set-pieces this is a delight. Crepes, dancing shoes, space-cats, pugilism, Liberace, Les Dawson, Les Miserables, vegetables and a ‘bikini’ that has been seared on my retina for life (thanks, chaps…) it’s just fantastic.

If I had to tweak it just a leeetle, I’d have started with more lives left and enjoyed a few more Road-Runner style deaths, given the chorus a bit more to do (though can I have one of those walkdown hats, please..?) had a singalong song I could have actually sung and – yeah, sorry – that probably was a bikini too far for me…

But that’s teeny, teeny stuff. Overall this is one of the very best pantos I’ve seen – and believe me – I’ve seen a lot.

I’ve actually only seen one other panto so far this year (it’s early days…) which was utterly, utterly dismal. I won’t reveal which it was as I really like the theatre – they used to be one of the best shows in town – sadly on the evidence I saw they aren’t any more – totally magic-free and with a cast that could neither sing, dance nor act,  but  I try to get to see at least the big indie favourites each year.

I’m telling you this because I want you to know that when it comes to this particular subject I’m not being my usual parochial Greenwich-is-the-best-at-everything self. I do actually know panto pretty damn well and Greenwich is still the best in London as far as I’m concerned – and I promise you I would tell you if I’d seen anything better.

I think it’s pretty much sold out – but if you can get a ticket you won’t be disappointed.