The Roses of Heliogabalus is an 1888 painting by the Anglo-Dutch academician Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1888)

Art: A Victorian Obsession at Leighton House

I was thrilled to be invited to Leighton House Museum for a private tour of a new collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings recently. I’m obsessed with the interiors of people’s houses; psychological most certainly to do with feeling disinherited as a member of Generation Rent.

The Arab Room, Leighton House Museum

The Arab Room, Leighton House Museum. Image: Flickr

Frederic Leighton’s house in Holland Park, speaks of an artist who was sociable enough to sustain his career, but not for a love of people; the rooms are opulent but there are no guest bedrooms.

It’s a solitary house, built to and for his own requirements (unlike Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, whose rooms flow into one another like it was built for a party and whose table was always set for friends).

Outside of the collection, the focal point of the house is the Arab Room, which is filled with Islamic tiles from Damascus. Curious, then, that he was no Orientalist. He created it simply, he said, ‘for the sake of something beautiful to look at once in a while’.

In an austere gallery environment, I can find portrait art a bit dull, but Leighton House is warm and enchanting in itself. Each room holds just enough paintings to let you take them in together with the room.

The Enchanted Sea by Henry Arthur Payne (c.1890)

The Enchanted Sea by Henry Arthur Payne (c.1890)

In the drawing room, I was drawn to The Enchanted Sea by Henry Arthur Payne. The baked, earthy colours make sense when you find out Payne worked with stained glass; the umbers and oranges seem cut through with sunlight.

One picture of Leighton’s muse Dorothy Dene really seduced me. In Crenaia (the Nymph of the Dargle), the muse is enveloped in the folds of her drapery, which flow into the waterfall behind.

Crenaia (the Nymph of the Dargle) by Leighton (1880)

Crenaia (the Nymph of the Dargle) by Leighton (1880)

The centre of the collection is the Roses of Heliogabalus by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda.

It tells the story of the Roman emperor Heliogabalus smothering his guests to death with rose petals, which apparently made little sense to critics at the time, since the people in the painting don’t seem to mind or have noticed.

The Roses of Heliogabalus by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda (1888)

The Roses of Heliogabalus by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda (1888)

A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón Collection at Leighton House Museum
14 November 2014 – 29 March 2015

Culture: Exploring With Bradley Garrett

I debated whether or not to write this introduction or just post my piece as is. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you may have seen a few angry tweets about Smith Journal stealing my freelance pitch idea for their new issue. I guess the wonderful thing about the internet is that it democratises people’s experiences and I wanted to let people know my side of the story. Whether I’m right or wrong – that’s up to you guys.

I wrote to Smith pitching an idea on Bradley Garrett and urban exploration of The London Underground.They originally said they liked the piece and I got to work interviewing Bradley and spending several days researching and writing. Once I sent this through, I was told they had changed their minds. Even though I offered to rewrite it or just publish a Q&A with Bradley, they told me the subject matter didn’t fit with the next issue. So I was surprised to find that they have contacted Bradley directly and will be publishing a first person piece in their next issue. I find it hard to believe their claims that this was done independently of my idea since I had been in contact with both them and Bradley’s publicist months ago and no one mentioned this.

Well anyway, I’ve not read their piece but wanted to post mine here so you can all judge for yourselves how similar it is This is a first person account, as told to me by Bradley and edited by myself…


I’ve always been an explorer. When I was growing up in California during the 90s, I spent most of my time skateboarding, which was mostly about exploring the city to find new spots to skate. When I got a car, I started driving into the Mojave Desert to look for old mining camps and ruins, where I could build a big bonfire, dig around and read. It seems to me that if you’re a curious person, who enjoys the feeling of discovery, you’re going to do that in whatever environment you find yourself near. So when I moved to London and met urban explorers here going out every night to find hidden places in the city, it made perfect sense to get involved.

I am so in awe of the London Underground, which is so immense and has so many in-between spots you can slip into. The train tunnels are threaded though and around bunkers, sewers and drains, the Mail Rail, cable runs and secret government tunnels. A lot of that had to be built blindly as well because the government wouldn’t tell engineers where the “secret” tunnels were underground. The complexity of it all just blows me away. And most of the tourists walking at street level, photographing Parliament, haven’t got a clue that it’s all tangled up under their feet.




The whole city is thick with layers of memory and often they’re very difficult to decode. Fredric Jameson once described ‘ontologies of the present that demand archaeologies of the future’. I love that idea, that we’re not just finding old stuff but we’re actually rewriting the (his)stories of these places with us in them as a fresh layer. Nothing is ever dead or lost. There are all sorts of associations that are connected to places that you can’t erase. They’re like old etchings just awaiting the curious explorer to show up and dust it all off; to start understanding it all again.

Then of course, the more time we spent exploring the city, the more certain things became visible. Like how people build relationships to places, how space is surveilled, controlled and regulated, how the city is built to influence not just our behaviour but to actually condition the way we think about what is ethical, right and even possible. As the geographer David Harvey has written, the freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is one of the most precious and neglected of our human rights. But that of course, in the current political climate around the world, is a mentality that some people find threatening. It’s a sad state the world is in, where playing seems threatening.

All photos by Bradley Garrett


Style: Big Fashion Week Adventure

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

Maddeningly coinciding with the half term holidays, Fashion Week hits London like a luminous bomb. It mushrooms over the city as the streets fill with the colourful, fierce and ludicrously heeled. They land like glamourous aliens, supping on espressos and peering over neon shades, mixing jarringly with bemused families on day trips. Narrowly, they miss stumbling into the roads with ill-timed catwalk turns and exuberant selfies (did I just use that word? Puke). The city heaves and sighs through Vogue smoke, the families take cover and sharp-eyed photographers stalk lines of waiting fashionistas to pick out a lucky few to pose in the manner of their idols.

Fashion Scout at Holborn’s Freemason Hall provides cutting edge designers with a platform to showcase their work in front of London’s hip young things (and yours truly). Shows range from the demure to the bizarre and music is used as a powerful, juddering force to accentuate and underline. It’s loud, really loud, causing slight changes in tone to be transformed into whooshing crescendos of noise, forcing you to pay attention.


Being pretty much half the height of the glossy giants and fashion bloggers that surrounded me (don’t wear Vans to catwalk shows, kids!) I could only pay a limited amount of attention, vision obscured by elaborate headpieces and slender shoulders vying to see and be seen. My iPhone was held constantly aloft over my head in the manner of a Biblical weapon that would at some point come crashing down on the head of my only son. Naturally, the pictures from every show were a streaky mess but praise be to Instagram for transforming them into something passable.


Timur Kim’s collection stood out for me as something uncanny and intriguing, giving a sleek twist on Americana from a Dallas-esque past, with luxurious fabrics in patchwork and lose Little House on the Prarie gingham-ish dresses. “American Pie” blared through the speakers elevating the loose trouser suits and tousled hair of the models from a stylish look to a sad statement evoking a lost past. (Or did it? I don’t know.) Despite my compromised view I found the collection inspired and thought provoking, and Kim himself a cheerful fellow as he ran exuberantly down the catwalk to thank the crowd.

Belle Sauvage

Belle Sauvage

The other show I found particularly impressive was Belle Sauvage, which was what I envisioned fashion shows being as a child. Brash, crazy and loud with silly hats. This is what I want from fashion. There was a true drama about it, making it an event, a true spectacle with electro-doom music, fringe-visors and beautiful rave baroque prints. The models were transformed into doom fashion warriors from the future, oozing stern camp and genuine menace, as a performance, I absolutely loved it.


Belle Sauvage

Belle Sauvage

Highlights included the rich reds and purples of the fur collars, the sharp angles in the tunics and the kaleidoscope acid prints that adorned most of the collection. It was fun an of the moment, not too serious, an 80’s vision of the future maybe, in which sun-god headdresses and flowing robes become the norm. I kind of wish it was.



There is something heartening about fashion week. While there may be themes occurring on the catwalks, the people waiting to see them are an extravagant and innovative bunch, throwing together the sublime and ridiculous to amazing effect. Last fashion week I felt a cloying seriousness over everything, this time around it was drenched in good humour and fun. For that I am eternally grateful.

If you’d like to see more of my attempts at fashion photography my Pinterest board is at

Culture: Rob Delaney at the Soho Theatre

 Rob Delaney comedian

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

Rob Delaney is a funny guy. A seriously funny guy. If someone on your Twitter feed hasn’t RT’d a couple of his peons to Adele or ‘quotes’ from Mitt Romney then truly you have earned my deepest sympathies because you my friend are missing out. At the risk of sounding like the most crawly sycophant; his tweets brighten up my otherwise doom and gloom feed like a gleaming SAD lamp in a poorly lit room. Imagine then, if you will, my unadulterated fangirlish joy when he announced some shows at the teensy intimate Soho theatre. Creepy, right? I’m not ashamed one little bit.

I first came across Rob Delaney by reading his Vice columns which varied from choice chat-up lines to a sinister blow by blow account of Katy Perry’s ‘Last Friday Night’ which did the internet rounds. Ho ho, good stuff. But he really struck a chord with me when I was sent ‘On Depression & Getting Help,’ a blunt and bleakly funny look at unipolar depression with a firm positive message that I’d recommend everyone give a read.

It’s this positive undertone to occasionally pretty grim stuff that makes his comedy so effective, translating well through both monologues on stage and one-liners on Twitter. I don’t want to hear about how we’re all terrible people going straight to hell, nor do I want Russel Howard-y relentless joy. I want cheery sex and poop jokes. Clever poop jokes, mind. Poop jokes that make me cackle at an uncomfortable volume and swish my pint about to and fro so much so that those sat next to me begin to edge away in fear. I want to see someone celebrate the occasionally rubbish bits of life while laughing heartily at it (not just poop jokes. But quite a few.)

Being there for the first night of a week of shows I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but as every London date had sold out the place was heaving and luckily a jolly mother- son combo on a night out graciously let us hog their table. Thanks guys! The set was a well honed hour or so of meandering stories with punch lines scattered gratuitously throughout; any first night jitters Delaney may have had were well disguised by observations on folk who brag about McDonald’s only ever being a last option and what to do if offered a hand job from John Travolta (accept it, obvs…) Belly laughs were had throughout until my stomach threatened mutiny. I got my poop jokes (and sweat and puke thrown in too) alongside some sobering yet ludicrous scenes from rehab centres and jail and cockle-warming views on family life. Ahhh…

A notable absence from the live show is the political humour that his Twitter account is rife with; dear old Mitt didn’t get a look in. While this may seem weird to online followers, the set worked perfectly fine without it, demonstrating that although his fame originated in Twitter, Rob Delaney can really hold his own without the 140 character confine and easy material from technologically stunted politicians.

This first night in Soho was a massive success all round, and probably one of the last times he’ll be performing in a venue so small. The audience hooted with laughter throughout soo much so that my friend and I were in considerable pain by the end. If you get a chance, he’s back in the UK in April, and you’d be a steaming idiot to not go see him.

Twitter: @NadiaReads

Arts and Culture: Wednesdays at Cafe Moka N1

Moka Wednesdays is a new event at Haringay’s well-loved Café Moka showcasing young talent from around London in a relaxed gallery environment. Taking place every second and fourth Wednesday of each month, curators Clare Bogen and Anveet Padda have high hopes for future proposals and collaborations including photography, narrative and paintings.

Anveet conceived of her ‘Birdcage’ photographs while considering the history of the Shoreditch area as an animal and bird market, where all range of creatures were sold in plots that are now trendy markets. They are haunting, blurred images, open to interpretation. With inspiration taken from these photographs, this launch event will include pieces by myself (a short piece of untitled writing), a film by Asher Thornton and illustration from Bryony Whitaker. As all involved have lived in East London in varying capacities, the pieces reflect diversity of experience and emotion with inspiration ranging from Greyson Perry to hazy memories of personal pasts.

I approached Clare for thoughts on this event who explained;

‘This is really a starting-point for me (Clare). I love working in the café, Moka, and it has become in many ways a community space in its own way – we’ve gotten to know all of our neighbors and regulars and I love that the atmosphere is one that both reflects and invites the neighborhood. I do see a gap in the community for a space like this and an event like this. There are few galleries in Harringay/ Crouch End and even fewer in London which are easily accessible for young or amateur artists to show their work for free.

I wanted to help artists with a step –up, a show in a private space, but I also want to expose the community to their neighbors who make art or are interested in art. From this first open house, we hope we can really figure out who in the community is interested in creating a sort-of community arts centre. We would love to turn ‘Wednesdays at Moka’ into something that truly serves the community – with local art projects, free art classes and children’s programmes.

Wednesdays at Moka already has another exhibit lined up for 25th of April (‘Scenery’ featuring artists Maja Theodoraki, Maria Gorodeckaya and Anja Olofgörsand) we are always looking for proposals. We are holding it every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month – for the Wednesdays we do not have a new exhibit, we will be holding a film night in our garden! The first we’ll be showing is Mr. Vampire is a 1985 Hong-Kong comedy/horror film.

Wednesdays at Moka survives on donations – so we ask for donations for the wine and nibbles and brochures we provide’

So please feel welcome to pop in, enjoy the artwork and support a genuinely grassroots community project. Their cake is pretty tasty too!

Style: Mary Katrantzou AW12

All hail Queen Mary. Over the last few seasons Mary Katrantzou has emerged as one of London’s leading young designers, her innovative use of prints and structural dresses setting fashion lover’s hearts everywhere fluttering. Her recent collaboration with Topshop took her to the masses, with the Oxford Street store collection stripped bare almost immediately.

For AW12, Katrantzou showed seven colour groups, each based on everyday objects. The yellow section was inspired by the humble HB pencil and included a dress actually embroidered with yellow pencils. We also saw typewriters, hedgerows and teapots used for prints: a fabulously eclectic collage of the everyday made surreal. “It was about showing product placement through different colours,” the designer explained after the show. “I chose the items per colour: it was important to me to associate colours with one everyday, mundane item.”

Katrantzou is perhaps best known for her SS11 tulip shaped dresses and we saw a progression of her structural technique with clever capped waists and sleeves. She also branched away from structure with some gorgeously girly floaty chiffon dresses, showing that she is definitely not a one hit wonder.

The biggest success of this collection is that even though it is made up of barmy references, it looked sophisticated and precise, rather than thrown together. We are used to seeing visionary designers do crazy and abstract and ending up completely unwearable but with Katraztzou, every single piece just really works. The best part is that Katrantzou seems a really warm and genuine person and always engages with her fans over Twitter, which is really endearing. I just can’t wait to see what she’s going to do next!

All pictures from

Blog: Santacon

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul

Ah, Christmas.

With every year that passes we are older, grumpier and more prone to waking up confused and hungover at 10 on Christmas Day rather than bounding down the stairs at the crack of dawn. An inevitable part of growing up; where once we unwrapped our choicest picks from the Argos catalogue we now receive socks, deodorant and the odd gift card for a shop we never, never frequent. Where the day was once spent in a swirl of mirth, glee and chocolate coins we now nap through the inevitable showing of Ice Age 2, drooling into our Christmas jumpers and only stirring to refill our glasses with the bitterest red wine. Oh, hallelujah! The Lord is come and so forth.

In one of the bleakest years to be a young person in the UK, in which every other week has felt punctuated by a cut, a march, some unnecessary violence or a catastrophic political gaffe by a Tory MP, there isn’t much to celebrate.

Christmas could easily go past barely noticed, another grey season like any other.  But lo!  Do not fear unhappy campers, one Saturday in December, every year thousands of Santas (or Santae, to use to correct plural) descend upon the unsuspecting streets of London to march, be merry, consume copious amounts of alcohol and spread their festive cheer far and wide, whether the city wants them to or not.Yes, the 10th of this month was the annual Santacon.

Santacon has been going for a while now, it’s participants steadily increasing in number each year with ever changing routes and afterparties. It began in San Francisco with sponsorship from surrealist group The Cacophany Society as a festive companion piece to their performance art pranks. While a few subsequent Santacons in Portland went a tad askew (drunk Santae terrorising families etc, now immortalised in Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Rant’) for the most part they have been peaceful, fun and a fine way to let rip in public without getting arrested or sectioned.

For London, there is no charitable cause or message behind Santacon, no protestation on the commercialization of Christmas – just an excuse for a big party. It’s somewhat heartening to see a mass of people take to the streets without the sense of rage and injustice that 2011’s many protests have had at their heart. Sometimes folk just want to buy a cheap fake beard and scale Nelson’s column at midday wielding  two litres of Strongbow and a plastic rifle. Is that so wrong?

No. It’s great.

There are Santacons all over the world under varying guises and aims with the main site reporting 227 locations in 23 countries. Our cheery London one consists of a pub crawl, carol singing and sprout fights around the city’s landmarks culminating in a huge afterparty, this time at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes. Like a big red flashmob minus choreographed moves and T-Mobile sponsorship, for one day the city crawls with beards and red pyjamas. Santas are encouraged to bring gifts for passing kids (though I imagine most would run screaming into the streets when confronted with such a mass)

This year was my third Santacon, and it’s gradually becoming a day I look forward to just as much or even moreso than the big day itself. My poor efforts at Santafication pale in comparison to most there, but the festival atmosphere and positive feeling of the event means even the most hastily crafted festive attire is welcome and passers by are invited to join the crowd. This year Santa marched from Victoria to Trafalgar Square, through the crowds in Soho and onto Bloomsbury. In 2010 factions came from North, East and West London culminating to party together in the centre. Each year it is different but reassuringly familiar.

 The next Santacon will be on the 15th December 2012. All are welcome! (Just avoid the elves…) For more information check out the Santacon blog. Many thanks to my good buddies Mark Kuggeleijn (Tactical Santa) and Becky Kirby (Maroon Santa) for letting us use their photos.

Arts & Culture: Cycling Crazy

Cyclists taking part in the Tour De Dalston

In the past year I have started cycling in London and I honestly love it. When I tell people I cycle it normally provokes one of these two reactions “You must be nuts” or “I love the idea of cycling but aren’t you scared?” The truth is I am scared as I sheepishly cycle around the backstreets of Hackney, midst what I can only describe as a sea of hostility from motorists and pedestrians.

As Nick Curtis writing for the Evening Standard recently pointed out the greatest trick the motoring lobby ever pulled was convincing pedestrians that cyclists are the problem. The truth is not a single pedestrian has been killed by a cyclist in London in the past 10 years, yet Curtis found himself receiving a £30 fine for cycling on the pavement at Chelsea Embankment.

A participant in last week's Naked Cycle Ride in London to raise awareness for safer cycling

Despite our Mayor Boris Johnson shouting from the rooftops about how much he enjoys cycling, a host of anti cycling policies are being implemented across London. Last week it was announced that cyclists will face a £200 penalty if caught riding in the “Games lanes”. In case you are wondering these are new lanes to be laid down reserved for speeding Olympic VIPs across the capital.

And cyclists continue to be fined for jumping red lights in a bid to avoid injury. This flies in the face of other cycle-friendly cities such as Stockholm, where they are testing a scheme where cyclists are able to jump red lights.

Cycling has a myriad of benefits not only for your personal health, it is also is an amazing way to cut down on your personal carbon footprint. It is an incredibly important issue considering London’s alarmingly high levels of air pollution (the worst in the UK) and among the worst in Europe. London’s polluted atmosphere is thought to be responsible for over 4,300 premature deaths per year.

Since starting cycling I have felt fitter and happier and met some wonderful people. Cycling fosters a community spirit. I have found that other cyclists have been incredibly helpful to me as a newbie, helping me to fix a puncture, change a chain and generally not injure myself. Maybe it is that as a community, London cyclists know they are involved in a risky business, with pedestrians, buses and taxi drivers all viewing us with suspicion.

Despite the suspicion and risk I would urge everyone to dust off their old bikes and give it ago. The wind flowing through your hair and the ability to dash around exploring new places for free and knowing you’re helping the environment is an amazing thing.

Cycling is definitely thriving. Take the Tour De Dalston; an event organised by Juilet Chard of Climate Rush, which took place last week as part of the Two Degrees festival of ‘Art and Activism – Climate and Cuts’. I turned up only knowing one person but by the end of our ride across Hackney I had made lots of new wonderful cycling friends and learnt that I do have a creative bone in my body.

This sense of community and caring for other cyclists is lovely. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if drivers had similar respect for one another?

We must urge Boris to fulfil his motto displayed on the GLA website: “I believe that the cyclised city is the civilised city”.

Here is a video of what can happen when cyclists are treated as invaders on the road:

Youtube – Cycling: Bike Lanes