#23: Kensington (Olympia) – 17/09/2018

This station has an interesting and chequered history as a London Underground station, but since December 2011, District line services terminating here have been restricted to a limited weekend shuttle service to/from Earl’s Court and a very early morning weekday service. Read TfL’s briefing note explaining the decision behind this.

This was a weekday visit, so I arrived on the Overground service on one of the shared platforms with Southern Rail. The station also once hosted a British Rail Motorail point, but this was closed in 2011 too, the space now used as a car park.

The main attraction of the day was a visit inside Olympia, but as I’ve been a frequent visitor to various IT exhibitions inside the centre over the years, and therefore had some knowledge of what to expect, I felt the surrounding area warranted an investigation first.

 

Blythe Road and Brook Green

Within a short walk of the station, Blythe Road skirts the western side of Olympia and reaches into a residential area with a mix of social housing, terraced houses and local shops. You can’t miss Blythe House though, on first glance, it reminded me of the large, isolated house in the Addams Family. A tall almost gothic like styled building inaccessible and surrounded by high railings and heavy security with access only gained by ‘invitation only’.

In fact the building is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum where the archives of all things art and design are stored. Blythe House is also adjacent to a Royal Mail sorting office with an interesting mosaic embedded in its wall, and further along turning into Caithness Road I find an interesting building ‘arofton lodge’; sadly though there’s no internet reference for this building

I reach Brook Green and discover St Paul’s Girls School where Gustav Holst once taught, and not far away, the Holy Trinity Catholic Church. This brings me out along Hammersmith Road and I reach another entrance to Blythe Road and I’m struck by the reflection of buildings along a mirrored office block – just nice to see.

Turning onto Hammersmith Road, and directly opposite Olympia, there’s a typical Kensington’esque mansion block. The one I admire is Glyn Mansion, but to be honest it’s fairly representative of the accommodation in the surrounding area. Prices are also fairly representative of the affluent area too: a one bedroom flat reaching £0.5 Million!

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Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre – Olympia

The centre is an architectural mix of Victoriana, Art Deco, and 70’s build. What was once the main Victorian frontage faces the station but is partly hidden by functional modern blocks; and the Art Deco facade sits on Hammersmith Road. Both iconic in their own way.

 

Plasa 2018

For those not in the know, Plasa is the ‘entertainment technology association’ bringing together ‘…the cutting edge of lighting, live sound, AV, rigging and staging…’. So why did I attend? Well, when researching my visit to Kensington (Olympia) I thought it would be novel to visit an exhibition as a photographer rather than a visitor with a professional interest in the wares on display. Previously having attended IT and Security exhibitions over the years, I knew the layout of the main centre, so I thought it would be an interesting learning experience applying different professional skills.

A brief exchange of emails with the organisers not only secured me rights to take pictures professionally, but also to enter free with a Press Pass – is this a new career?

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My first impression was that of a smoke filled arena awash with sound and bright lights from all types of light projectors, moving light walls, LED displays of all shapes and sizes, racks and racks of equipment that to my mind would sit more comfortably in an air conditioned IT network room and many types of smoke machines – great fun walking through them.

Oh yes, and thousands of interested professionals talking intensely about the minutest of detail…BUT that’s what an exhibition is all about; an opportunity for suppliers to show off their latest products, and those with bulging budgets, or more likely limited funds to play with the toys. As with all exhibitions, some folk rate the success of the event with how many free goodies they can walk away with. I didn’t get the name of the company, but my prize for innovation went to the company that gave away tool boxes as they were too big to be packed away in a rucksack, so those leaving the exhibition had no option other than to advertise the wares emblazoned with the suppliers logo…

For an exhibition partly promoting stage rigging, there was no better example than how the area had been set out with partially suspended ceilings over all the main exhibitors on the ground floor creating a vision of a false roof at the height of the first floor balcony. Miles of cables and tons of power winches.

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My professional interest was less in the tech and more in the visual impact or statement the exhibitors were making, and I learnt quickly there’s an art, I’ve yet to capture, in taking photos of digital lighting systems. You see, and it’s logical when you think about it, when lights are displayed either on a pixelated wall or as LED’s, which are clearly designed to create a visual overload by changing colour quickly resulting in different designs and effects, a camera set at auto takes the moment and not the effect, so my first hour was somewhat frustrated in not getting the picture I was seeing. Here’s an example…

But as time passed, I thought about the final presentation and believed a different approach might be more effective. Here are some collages of the lighting effects on display. Let me know what you think?

As with all exhibitions, there’s a main sponsor who, probably having made a significant contribution to the set up costs, gets the largest floor space, and in this case, the largest staged area to promote their products. Plasa 2018 was no different and it was ROBE lighting who excelled by giving a stunning stage show, showcasing many of their lighting products. Here’s a little sample..

 

West Kensington Design District

One of the Exhibition Centre’s challenges is how to constantly promote itself and on leaving the centre, Olympia clearly doesn’t rest on its laurels as advertising for the next exhibition was on display: 100%Display, which is also being used to showcase the recently launched West Kensington Design District, and signage around the area was beginning to emerge to point people to various locations.

Ah, another interesting day…

 

See all Kensington (Olympia) pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

See the side bar for a sample of Kensington (Olympia) pics on Instagram

For more info, look up Kensington Olympia Station on Wikipedia

#22: Beckenham Junction- 12/09/2018

Arriving at the terminal station courtesy of Tramlink, Beckenham Junction is one of the three destinations created to serve the growing population east of Croydon. The platform is also adjacent to the main line station which offers through trains into Central London and into the heart of Kent.

Beckenham has a villagey feel but probably large enough to be called a town comprising of two main streets. Nothing unusual other than being relatively quiet as school has now resumed so the streets aren’t littered with school children. However walking deeper into the heart of the town I found myself on a wildlife adventure as I explored and circumnavigated the lakes in Kelsey Park.

 

The Town and its historic landmarks

Turning south out of the station I entered the meandering High Street which is dominated by St George’s Church and as well as being an imposing building, it’s adjoining cemetery is a Commonwealth War Graves location although sadly looking a little unkempt. Across the road is The Public Hall another equally imposing building, a multi-purpose Victorian built venue. It’s rooftop catching my eye as it has a Gothic Swiss villa look to it.

Walking down the hill, I  pass the old police station, now a trendy spa and restaurant, recessed from the main road where the local Farmer’s Market is occasionally held. In contrast, and slightly tucked away from the main road is The Coach & Horses, an attractively decorated traditional pub.

Continuing through HIgh Street, I note a mix of independent shops interlaced with a modicum of closed shop fronts, however the town is working hard to improve the landscape by repaving a significant part of the street.

At the bottom of the HIgh Street, there’s an iconic art deco Odeon Cinema still trading as a cinema, and this landmark acts as my turning point back up the High Street.

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Walking around the town I notice several alleys, cut throughs and dead ends that have novelty and informative street names highlighting their historic past. An interesting way to draw attention to otherwise bland and forgotten places. Here are some examples found at: Church Hill Alley; Thornton’s Alley; Legion Alley; Wood House Alley and Burton’s Yard

 

Wildlife at Kelsey Park

I stumble across Kelsey Park by chance at its entrance in Manor Way and take a peek in through the main entrance looking for shelter as the rain starts to fall. I later realise the stream flowing from the lake is named The Beck, no doubt helping to give the town its name?

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A combination of the rain and it being school term meant the park was quiet with only the hardy few, dog walkers and parents with non-school aged children in tow. Most were polite as we exchanged pleasantries, and some chit chat followed.

Time to swap the standard lens for the 75-300 mm zoom telephoto to take advantage of the wildlife. The lake was awash with a variety of birds and on a distant island two herons were encamped high up. Every now and then, a gathering of geese started their runway wing flapping take off display flying off seamlessly and in harmony with each other.

Most of the birds close to the shore were inquisitive enough that they came in close almost posing to have their picture taken, so I took advantage. Overhead, there was an unexpected sound, but for regulars tuned into wildlife around London will know that it’s no longer unusual to hear the squawking of a flock of parakeets; yes even in sleepy suburbia. I think I counted at least a dozen in a free flowing aerial display.

The lake also boasted at least two cormorants, one high up in a tree proudly displaying its wings, and another doing likewise perched on a post mid lake; a good opportunity to test my ability to keep the camera still at full zoom.

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I probably spent an enjoyable hour bird watching under a chestnut tree sheltering from the rain, engaged in conversation with passers by equally enjoying the bird displays; but time to move on. And on leaving, I spotted a baby heron fishing in the stream; his/her eyes in a steely gaze mesmerised on a hidden fish…AND WHAAAM! Fish for lunch as the heron gulped it’s prey down it’s slender neck. It’s movement so fast, the best I got was a picture of the drips falling from the heron’s mouth. Satisfied with its catch, the heron walks onto the path and uses it as a runway to glide gracefully into the trees..

The day was an interesting sojourn,  reminding me to simply embrace whatever each location offers up as points of interest and record for my personal pleasure and entertainment.

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See all Beckenham Junction pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

See the side bar for a sample of Beckenham Junction pics on Instagram

For more info, look up Beckenham Junction Station and Beckenham on Wikipedia

#21: West Croydon – 07/09/2018

Other than a fleeting visit to East Croydon during a recent visit to Wimbledon, I’d not been to Croydon before, so my only awareness of the area has been influenced by media reports and personal accounts of friends and work colleagues. But as with other places I’ve been to, by keeping an open mind and a willingness to talk, it’s surprising what can be seen and learnt. Croydon was no different; in fact there was an unexpected surprise that made this visit so memorable – read on…

 

The Station

West Croydon sits as one of the four terminal stations of services out from HIghbury & Islington and shares its location with Southern rail with onward destinations to Surrey, and adjacent to West Croydon Tramlink.

This is a fairly typical functional commuter station with passengers seen rushing to and from trains eager to look at their mobile phones rather than their surrounds. But a glance up and around will reveal how The Energy Garden project, through its friends at West Croydon are brightening up the station.

It’s fair to say the long hot summer has taken its toll slightly on some of the floral displays, but when I met Helen and Grace, two enthusiastic volunteers just finishing off their watering for the morning, their passion, enjoyment and commitment in what they were doing just shone through as we chatted about their work and how else they could further improve the displays. It was lovely to meet you two ladies, and this meeting helped set my journey into Croydon up with a smile.

 

Rise Festival

Getting into the heart of Croydon, I was struck by the number of, and quality of street art on display. Why do I call it ‘street art’ and not graffiti? The populist understanding and legal distinction is that of ‘permission’ being given for street art, but a quick Google search reveals a multitude of interpretations. Nevertheless, I knew what I liked and I was in awe of the scale of artistry on display. It turns out I arrived in Croydon in the middle of London’s largest urban arts festival and artists could be seen throughout the town. As the festival moves on, the artist’s work is displayed on the festival’s Instagram account

What made this special was that the scale of the art being crafted was no barrier: the size of the murals already painted and outlined ready to be painted were on a massive scale. Artists using spray paints, brushes of all sizes, and even rollers with the artists poised on ladders, scaffolding and even cherry pickers. Once realising what was happening, I became consumed by the colours and creativity and felt compelled to talk to the artists, all of whom were more than happy to share their thoughts and the history of their work. There is a risk I could flood this blog with just this item and pictures, but in the interest of balance here’s a sample of the pictures that caught my eye, and the artists I met:

  • Morgan Davy who could be found painting on the entrance doors of a disused 60’s high rise building opposite the Town Hall. Morgan explained this creation was a re-interpretation of an earlier piece painted on the original entrance but now boarded up to prevent rough sleepers from using the sheltered space. Check out his Facebook and Instagram pages
  • Saroj Patel who I found painting in Matthews Yard and was just outlining her creation, later entitled ‘Shakti’. I felt her work has a particular uniqueness blending light colours with fine art drawing. See the finished Shakti and more of Saroj’s work on her Instagram page

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I also got chatting with Tom, a professional photographer who had been commissioned by the festival to take photos of the various works, as he was taking a time lapse sequence of a work being created alongside the steps leading down from the Arcade into Surrey Street Market…and curiously, he said he had just finished working for a company called the EndoftheLine – how bizarre

Let me indulge you with some of my other collections from the festival I felt compelled to capture.

 

 

Social Commentary

By contrast, here are some examples of graffiti, and some interesting wall plaques I found in Station Road, tucked away in a quiet corner of West Croydon used to promote social gatherings.

 

Buildings

Croydon is sometimes portrayed as a bit of a concrete jungle with high rise towers, and in the northern part I would agree, with modern apartment developments, Government and multinational companies occupying architecturally un-interesting buildings blotting out the skyline and creating wind tunnels. However the deeper into the heart of Croydon I walked, the more I saw of the town’s commercial history, its historic Victorian architecture and its retained facades. The following shots represent an eclectic mix of the town’s delights through its historic facade:

…and its more modern facade:

 

Places to gather

…and finally, the heart of Croydon, it’s people and where they interact, and there’s no better place than to find the best examples in shared spaces. By that I mean shopping spaces and entertainment spaces. The High Street is Croydon’s main artery and at its northern end, you have the Whitgift and Centrale shopping centres. The High Street is awash with market and food stalls with local workers queuing up for a taste of the myriad of flavours on offer.

Continue south through the entertainment centre, and further into Croydon’s self styled Restaurant Quarter where you’re spoilt for choice by the food on offer; a gastronomic delight I’m sure.

My journey’s end was at Boxpark Croydon, adjacent to Croydon East station. This was an unexpected find as the inside, a shared eating/drinking/entertainment space, was full of folk sharing their end of the week stories whilst listening to the DJ mixing his decks. An exciting place to end the week; or start the weekend…

…and so the weary travels meanders homewards…

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See all West Croydon pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

See a sample of West Croydon pics on Instagram

For more info, look up West Croydon Station on Wikipedia

#20: Highbury & Islington- 29/08/2018

Today was looking like it was going to be a very wet day; a much needed one after the exceptionally dry summer, but thankfully the clouds parted as I arrived; and those I talked to on my visit were surprised that Highbury & Islington is an end of the line until I explained the overground ran from here with four destinations to New Cross, Crystal Palace, West Croydon and Clapham Junction.

The current station is the latest iteration of a station built over a 100 years to serve a growing population and rail services, and partially survived a doodlebug bomb in 1944. The original ‘HIghbury’ station is now derelict and is seen across the road as you exit north.

I had two options to travel: Northerly to explore HIghbury or as I decided, Southerly to explore Islington,  an area I’m partially familiar with. Islington is a vibrant area with a diverse range of hostelries, eateries, entertainment and religious venues and its vibrancy can be seen during the day by the eclectic mix of visitors, which is multiplied several fold into the evening as the ‘gentrified locals’ return from a day’s graft.

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Wining, Dining & Entertainment

Diversification is the key to survival in the demanding 21st Century where suppliers and providers need to find an ‘edge’ to their products to make them attractive and marketable. Rarely, in London, do you now just pop into a pub for a drink, as today’s punters look for that little bit extra too. This is demonstrated very well within a short walk of the station where there are several pubs; so how does each attract the commuter after a busy day? Here are some alternatives:

…but imagine your dilemma if you’re a discerning footy loving thespian?..I guess you just have to visit each in turn!

Some venues, despite diversifying, don’t quite make it, and the former Florence Tavern which became Dans Kards is one such example. Thankfully, though, the ornate tiling on the outside of the building can still be seen, but I suspect these may soon disappear once/if the building is redeveloped.

Upper Street, which forms the main artery out of London (A1) and cuts through Islington, is also blessed with many entertaining spaces, either on or just off the main road and so their proximity to good eateries isn’t a surprise. Those that caught my eye include:

 

Charlie Allen bespoke tailor

Intrigued by the wall mural on the upper level of the Dead Doll’s House, I cross the road to take a closer look, and find myself drifting into Coopers Yard up a cobbled path to what looked like redeveloped and repurposed stables although the yard’s name gives a hint at its former purpose. Adjacent to eight luxury mews, there’s an attractive, and yet understated business named ‘Charlie Allen’. I’m drawn to a large display window, which has hanging in it a very attractive and sharp dark terracotta suit and a collection of ties, so clearly methinks this is a fashion outlet. Whilst trying to compose my picture and ensuring I don’t capture any car number plates, and whilst walking backwards to get the right frame, I’m beckoned by a smartly dressed gent who introduces the premises as that of Charlie Allen: Bespoke tailor.

In explaining my purpose I’m invited inside on the basis ‘if you’re going to write about us, ‘…then best you know who we are and what we do…’ and what a pleasant distraction this was.

I meet Charlie, who’s a composite professional and carries on with pressing a recently cut pair of trousers whilst I’m introduced to the intricacies of his small, yet industrious bespoke tailors. I count 6 people working on various garments at various stages of preparation, each paying meticulous attention to their task in hand.

I’m impressed by everyone’s calmness whilst I’m distracting them taking photos, and delighted by their open invitation to spend a little time in their presence. The dark terracotta suit in the window display is part of Charlie’s latest collection (SS19 Lookbook) which is partnered by a very striking electric blue suit with lining inspired by the artist José Chapellier.

Charlie has a strong pedigree of famous clients and recently redesigned the Umbro England football team kit; and in a recent BBC documentary (go to 3 minutes in), he’s described as an illusionist. However I have no illusions about the potential costs of a suit, although I am offered a 5% discount for every referral through this blog – so come on readers, let’s make it 20 referrals and I could get a free suit?

Thank you for your hospitality Charlie, and good to meet you all

 

Compton Terrace

This is a peaceful terrace of restored Georgian houses hidden from the main road by a narrow strip of gardens, but wide enough to dampen the sound of traffic. On first glance you wouldn’t think of giving the terrace a second glance until you walk around and find an historical plaque commemorating the loss of 26 lives due to a V1 flying bomb on the 27th June 1944. This link is one of many personal accounts of a local resident that can be found on the internet. The bomb not only destroyed part of the station (which was the intended target), but a large part of the surrounding area too, including 12 houses at the end of Compton Terrace.

The Terrace yielded other surprises too: the Union Chapel, which describes itself as being ‘an architectural treasure that’s home to a working church, an award winning venue, a unique organ and The Margins Project for those homeless and in crisis in London’. Unfortunately I was unable to enter as the stage was being prepared for an event that evening.

Close by, I also met Gary, a building contractor who was working on a nearby property and my interest was piqued by the word ‘Rockbone’ painted on the inside of his van. It turns out he’s part of a four piece rock band who plays the local pubs, so if you’re looking for a classic rock band in the Tring area, get in touch with Gary – good to meet you Gary…

 

Shopping

Only a few shops caught my eye, as in the main and with a few exceptions, I find high street shops to be bland repetitive templates of national chains. Maybe I’m being unfair on the smaller independent shops which always have a quirky attraction especially if they are selling locally made/sourced goods or antiques…and this is exemplified throughout Camden Passage and its Market. I was particularly captivated by the street feature outside Danny Oh, a local hair salon.

At the bottom end of Upper Street, you reach Angel (Islington) which forms a cross roads to Kings Cross to the west, Shoreditch to the east and Farringdon/Barbican to the south. The local shopping centre at Angel Central has understandably adopted the iconic winged image as it’s main centrepiece, although many will know this stop for being the first light blue space on a traditional Monopoly Board.

Finally returning back up Upper Street to it’s junction with Almeida Street, I’m struck by the facade at 168, the home of a fashionable department store Aria in a former music hall – Barnsbury Hall. On first glance, I was unable to make out the design purpose, but after spending some time following the window shapes and openings, I suspect the building development may have wanted to keep the original dour features within a modern purpose – if I’ve interpreted this correctly, I think it works well. Unfortunately I’m unable to find any information on the former use as a Music Hall, so if any readers have any information please get in touch as I’d be happy to update this blog.

 

Regent’s canal

Few people know that Regents Canal runs directly under Islington so I decided to see how this happens, but en route I stumble across a few interesting sights. Firstly, Bambi – street artist, who is proclaimed as the female Banksy, has recently adorned some hoarding in Shillingford Street – go and have a look.

Then, as I turn into Duncan Street headed down to the canal, I notice Islington Council has installed some colourful cycle stands in the guise of large flower displays – very creative.

Continuing down Duncan Street approaching the tunnel, I look down and see a series of markers embedded in the pavement. These mark out the Towpath Link which run the course of the tunnel and helps guide walkers and runners from one end of the tunnel in Islington to the other near Caledonian Road.

The canal is busy as boats queue to pass through the tunnel and I continue along the towpath and end my journey at City Road Lock where the canal opens into City Road Basin. I stop and chat to one of the Canal Trust’s many volunteers who was acting as lock keeper, and we chatted about the forthcoming Angel Canal Festival.

A very pleasant day out…

See all Highbury & Islington pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment, and a selection of pics on Instagram

For more info, look up Highbury & Islington on Wikipedia.