#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

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