Archive for April, 2015

April 21, 2015

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

Here’s another music-related post for you — about another music-related exhibition.

On Saturday I got the bus into town, to see an exhibition about fifty years of record shops in Soho. It was the last day before the exhibition closed, and it also happened to be Record Store Day.

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996
(there’s a better view of the map here)

The exhibition was in Berwick Street, which used to be home to so many record shops that it was even known (amongst my friends, anyway), as “The Famous Street of Record Shops”. I think at one point we counted 16, if we included music stalls in the market, and some of the shops on the streets leading off Berwick Street, so although we used the name ironically, it was also well-earned.

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

As part of the Record Store Day celebrations, there was a mini music festival in Berwick Street, so the area was rammed with people sitting in the streets, although they all seemed to be waiting around for something to actually happen, and there wasn’t any music playing. I didn’t notice many of them holding any record shop bags, either (mostly they were just holding beer), but the sun was out and there was quite a nice atmosphere. You really can’t beat Soho in the sunshine.

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

The exhibition itself was pretty interesting, and there was quite a wealth of information, ephemera and memories crammed into a small space, of which the images here were only a small selection.

One of the first things I noticed when going around the exhibition was how many of the shops’ bag designs had the same red+black+white colour-scheme.

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996
(oops, just realised that Musicland bag is featured twice, oh well)

The other thing was that I didn’t spot anything of the shops I used to go to back in the 1990s, like Selectadisc (which closed down, but still has a shop in Nottingham) and Sister Ray (which is now in the spot that Selectadisc vacated, though it used to be further down the street). I was also puzzled as to why the collection only went up to 1996, which is almost twenty years ago. I know 1996 is fifty years on from 1946, which is a nice round number and all that, but they could have extended the dates to 2006 and celebrated sixty years of Soho record shops, which would have included more of the time I actually shopped there myself (although I was shopping in Selectadisc and Sister Ray before 1996, as well). Hopefully they’ll be able to extend the exhibition and put it on again next year, when it will be seventy years since 1946. In fact, they really have enough stuff to make it into a book. They should make it into a book. (If you fancy reading more about the record shops in the 1990s, this is a great post on those days.)

After seeing the exhibition, I popped next door to Gosh (one of my favourite bookshops), to say hi to my artist chum Lizz Lunney who had mentioned on Instagram that she was going to be there (she currently lives in Berlin). Unfortunately I didn’t really get to chat to her because the shop was heaving with people and she was busy painting the window (one of the things I love about Gosh is that they regularly get artists and illustrators to paint their windows with wonderful pictures). On the upside, I bumped into another artist chum, Andy Poyiadgi who has a new comic being launched at Gosh this very Friday. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s about a postman who finds all the things he’s ever lost have been stored in the local lost-and-found, which is very similar idea to this artwork by Lally MacBeth, don’t you think? It’s funny how certain ideas seem to find their Time.

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April 19, 2015

Secret 7s

Last week I popped into Somerset House to see the Secret 7″ exhibition that’s on display until May 3rd.

Secret 7'' at Somerset House

Secret 7″ is an annual fundraising project that raises money for various different charities (this year is Nordoff Robbins music therapy). Each year they release seven 7″ singles, each one with a pressing of 100, with 700 individual covers designed by various creatives. The “secret” part is that none of the cover designs are officially credited until the records are sold at auction.

Secret 7'' at Somerset House

Some of the designs are completely random and it’s not obvious who’s designed them or which record the design is for.

Secret 7'' at Somerset House

Others are more immediately obvious. I’m pretty sure that’s a David Shrigley design in the middle of the selection above (although the others are pretty random; I just liked them). The ones below are all designs for Reflections by Diana Ross & The Supremes, which is one of the seven songs chosen this year.

Secret 7'' at Somerset House

With 700 different cover designs made in different media, including collage, sculpture, embroidery, crochet, and wood marquetry, as well as the more standard style of record cover design, there’s a great variety of creative design work on display, and the exhibition is worth a look if you’re in central London over the next couple of weeks.

But if you can’t make it, here’s another visual treat for you:

April 14, 2015

2 Temple Place

I have a special knack for making it to exhibitions just before they are due to close, or else just plain forgetting about them until the day after they’ve closed. (Although it’s probably not so much a knack as a lack of organisation which is the culprit…)

2 Temple Place was somewhere I had been wanting to see for a while, but it’s only open a couple of months each year and, what with one thing and another, I never got there, always missing it for another year… Until the Saturday just gone, when I finally made it, only a week before it closes again until January 2016.

2 Temple Place

The house is currently (until Sunday) playing host to a marvellous wunderkammer, and the rooms have been filled with curious artefacts collected by eminent Victorians, but in this post I’m going to focus on the incredible details in the house itself.

(I apologise in advance that the photos aren’t the greatest quality, but the house was dark, and I forgot to charge the battery of my proper camera, so I had to make do with using my phone.)

2 Temple Place

The house was originally called Astor House, and was built for the American William Waldorf Astor (politician, publisher, hotelier, faker of his own death — by all accounts an interesting fella). It’s a gothic fantasy, covered in carvings inside and out — and the perfect place for such an exhibition as is currently on display there.

inside 2 Temple Place: cotton in a vase / marble floor / stained glass roof / lanterns in a corridor

As I mentioned, there are carvings everywhere inside the house, but they’re a bit more unique than the usual stuff you see in these places, and many of them are charmimgly characterful.

inside 2 Temple Place: carved details

inside 2 Temple Place: carved details

inside 2 Temple Place: carved details

inside 2 Temple Place: carved details

Many of the carvings represent characters from some of Astor’s favourite books, including plays from Shakespeare, The Last of the Mohicans, Rip Van Winkle, The Scarlet Letter, and The Three Musketeers.

inside 2 Temple Place: carved figures on the staircase
carved figures from The Three Musketeers

There’s also some lovely stained glass, which throws pretty colours across the wood panelling whenever the sun shines through.

inside 2 Temple Place: stained glass

inside 2 Temple Place: stained glass

The attention to detail was even noticable in the ladies’ loo, which had a very grand door, and nice views out of the windows. There was a pipe that for some reason had been painted to match the grain on the wood-panelling, and I noticed that the pretty piece of vintage cotton on display under the mirrors was embroidered with golden thread.

inside 2 Temple Place

From Cotton To Gold is closed today (Tuesday) but open from tomorrow until this Sunday, the 16th. If you can’t make it (though I recommend you do), then you can read a pretty detailed account of the house here.