Artists Stay Home – Arabella Harcourt-Cooze

Artists At Home has been a feature of life in Chiswick for decades now. The annual Open Studios by artists in Chiswick, Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush over a long weekend in June is something many of us look forward to.

This year the artists will be ‘Staying Home’ as opposed to ‘At Home’, meaning they will not be welcoming visitors over the threshold, but they will be selling their work online instead. The Chiswick Calendar will be featuring some of the work of the artists taking part this year over the next few weeks.

Today’s featured artist is Arabella Harcourt-Cooze.

As a west London artist, Arabella is most interested in charting where she lives, seeing the topography and the continuance of the landscape shrouded by the city. Usually she paints the Thames, the seasons, the flowing tide. This is what she sees every day, her journey along the river, and she wants to capture and record this.

In recent weeks, having been quite ill with Covid-19, she has contented herself with painting vegetables at home.

Arabella writes:

‘I imagine that, like many artists, I thought lockdown wouldn’t feel very different from the rather solitary working life that we inevitably lead. Although in fact there are more people in the house, and throughout the day, than normal, husband, child no. three, a rather nice change, puncturing the painting day with queuing, cooking and eating.

‘Recovering from quite a nasty, although untested, bout of Covid, I rediscovered my work and found it a balm. Even if it had been allowed, I couldn’t have thought of going out, my usual river haunts were utterly beyond my energy levels. So it was my joy, I felt grateful and lucky to be able to sit at my kitchen table and sketch and paint whatever vegetables happened to be passing through our home, without thinking of anything other than their shapes and shadow and colour.

‘I had a strong feeling that I really wanted to concentrate on some small and solid thing. Stare at it. Lose my self in it. The simplicity. And that concentration for those hours would hold at bay all the worries about this extraordinary, incomprehensible time. Oddly, I have often noticed, that for me, that the wilder the times, the calmer and quieter my paintings become. I can now return to the river, reconnect with the landscape but still with the feeling that only with these first few small works, I want to shut out the noise, concentrate and consider and offer this moment, that day’.

Contact Arabella at:
Email: aharcourtcooze@gmail.com
Website: arabellaharcourtcooze.co.uk

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Artists Stay Home – Jill Meager

See also: Bedford Park Festival goes online

Artists Stay Home – Jill Meager

Artists At Home has been a feature of life in Chiswick for decades now. The annual Open Studios by artists in Chiswick, Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush over a long weekend in June is something many of us look forward to.

This year the artists will be ‘Staying Home’ as opposed to ‘At Home’, meaning they will not be welcoming visitors over the threshold, but they will be selling their work online instead. The Chiswick Calendar will be featuring some of the work of the artists taking part this year over the next few weeks.

Today’s featured artist is Jill Meager.

Raised in rural Scotland, Jill works primarily in response to wildlife – its resilience, its design and now increasingly its vulnerability. She exhibits regularly in London and around the UK and has been a finalist in both the National Open Art Competition and the V&A Inspired By series as well as being shortlisted for the RA Summer Exhibition.

She has designed Christmas cards for Farms for City Children and InterAct Stroke Support, and one of her hares has featured in a Michael Morpurgo short story. Her work is held at the Jane Newbery Gallery, Dulwich and The Ashburn Gallery in Ashburton, Devon. She has recently developed a range of prints, cards and gifts based on the images she has created. Jill trained at Cambridge University and Putney School of Art and Design.

“I have long been fascinated by wild creatures and I feel a strong emotional connection to them. In my portraits, I try to capture their beauty, the profound meaning of their existence and the important and often under-estimated role they play in our lives.

“On my journeys, it has been a great privilege to see hares, hedgehogs, puffins, kittiwakes and many other amazing creatures, but it has also been sad to acknowledge that many of them are struggling to cope in a man-made hostile environment.”

” It’s taken me a while to adjust to a Covid world: I thought it might be reasonably straightforward since as an artist I spend so much of my time alone, but I have missed visiting the wild places that inspire my work and I have missed people and chats and the daily interactions with the outside world that I took for granted. But on my walks, I have sketched ducklings, and so many birds, and have even had goldfinches at my bird table.

I also have a toddler in the house so he has had his portrait painted. As an artist, I am very interested in the fragility of the world – how each living thing is so dependent on a fine balance of circumstances and this fragility seems to be even more prominent at the moment. I hope it is a time to reflect on what we need to take care of in our future world.”

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Artists Stay Home – Jasna Bell

See also: Bedford Park Festival goes online

80th Anniversary of Dunkirk

Today (Tuesday 26 May) is the eightieth anniversary of Dunkirk, the evacuation of Allied soldiers during World War II from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk in northern France, as they were hemmed in by German troops.

By rights, Princess Freda (pictured here crossing the English Channel) should have been on a week long trip over to France and back to commemorate the evacuation, as she was there. Every five years the boat, now owned by Collier’s Launches and moored at Kew Bridge, has taken part in the crossing as part in the commemoration.

Although almost 192,000 Allied personnel, 144,000 of them British, were evacuated, the British Expeditionary Force lost 68,000 soldiers (dead, wounded, missing, or captured) during the Battle for France. Winston Churchill described it as a ‘colossal military disaster’, though somehow, perhaps because of the various film and television portrayals, it has entered our collective memory as some kind of victory.

In May 1940, Lord Gort, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, realised that his effort to protect France from German invasion had failed, and ordered some 338,000 British and Commonwealth troops to retreat to the port of Dunkirk, which was surrounded by marshes and old fortifications, and had one of the longest sand beaches in Europe.

A flotilla of  around 400 small boats from all over the south of England went over to help with the evacuation. They were used to ferry soldiers from shore out to the destroyers which were unable to come in close enough to shore to pick them up.

Images above: Collier family, Danny, John and John’s son Alex, an apprentice boatman, in the middle; Princess Freda full of passengers on the Thames, photograph by Tony Lodge

The Princess Freda was built on the Isle of Wight in 1926, and has spent most of her life ferrying passengers up and down the river Thames, operating for many years in the Hampton Court area. She had been built to sail in shallow waters and so was perfect for the job. Princess Freda was commanded by sub-lieutenant ES Foreman. At some point in the mission, Freda’s propeller failed and she had to be tugged back to Ramsgate.

Danny Collier and his brother bought the boat in 2001, and spent 18 months refitting her, stripping her back to her frame and building an oak and mahogany lined saloon, to transform her into a pleasure craft taking trips on the Thames. They run up river from Kew to Hampton Court and down river to Westminster, where they have two more boats moored.

Images above: Princess Freda leaving Ramsgate harbour in 2015; Michael Bentall and Garth Wright with Royal Naval Wren Lauren

In 2015 they sailed the boat to Dunkirk as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations and were joined on board by two Dunkirk veterans, 94-year-old Michael Bentall and 95-year-old Garth Wright.

Bentall, who had served with the 4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, travelled from Canada for the commemorations, which he described as “quite emotional really”. Wright, from Plymouth, said he thought he would never see the white cliffs of Dover again. “I remember everything as if it were yesterday,” he said.

“What an honour to be in their company” said Danny. The family also treasures the green beret presented to them by ex Royal Marine Corporal Shaun Kent on that trip as a gesture of friendship and thanks.

Two years later the film Dunkirk came out, written and directed by Christopher Nolan which brought home to later generations just how terrifying it must have been, with the rescue boats being continually strafed by the Luftwaffe and the sea ablaze with burning oil. After queuing patiently for hours to be taken off the beach, there was no guarantee you’d make it to the naval ships in deeper water.

This year Colliers launches have lain idle, unable to work becuase of the coronavirus, and the family has had to launch an appeal to crowd fund to survive the season. The company needs to raise a minimum of £25,000 to pay their overheads, such as licenses, tax and mooring rents.

If you would like to make a donation to keep them afloat, you can do so here.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Mayday – River Thames family business sinking

See also: Could this be the last season for Colliers boat trips?

Artists Stay Home – Jasna Bell

Artists At Home has been a feature of life in Chiswick for decades now. The annual Open Studios by artists in Chiswick, Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush over a long weekend in June is something many of us look forward to.

This year the artists will be ‘Staying Home’ as opposed to ‘At Home’, meaning they will not be welcoming visitors over the threshold, but they will be selling their work online instead. The Chiswick Calendar will be featuring some of the work of the artists taking part this year over the next few weeks.

Today’s featured artist is Jasna Bell.

“I have been focusing on painting trying to escape the avalanche of bad news” says Jasna. “It is a different time and feeling. Painting and focusing on colours, forms , lines , gesture, simplifying… I try to uplift my sense of existence”.

Jasna explores painting as a process of experience, sourcing memories and the unconscious, in which the paint marks reflect the passing time and movement of thoughts.

She says that the perpetual motion of our thoughts takes us towards a greater complexity of the world. Our experience becomes multi-layered and coloured with ever-changing perception of things. We often turn to art to find and understand our thoughts and emotions, a space to stand still in contrast to our internal chaotic existence.

Paint and brush become a vehicle to bridge the gulf between ourselves and unconscious, the canvas becoming a screen of reflection.

In the process of making, paint lends a body to this introspection and maze of sensation, the canvas being a gate of perception and realisation. In a single lifetime and even in a single day we inhibit different mind worlds and emotions. As we contemplate the rising and passing of various states of mind, we begin to liberate ourselves from reaction to and identification with them.

Contact Jasna at:
Email: jasnabell@gmail.com
Website: bellpaintings.com

To see other work by professional artists who live in the Chiswick area please go to The Chiswick Calendar’s directory of local artists.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Bedford Park Festival Summer Exhibition 2020 

See also: Bedford Park Festival Photography Competition 2020 

A vixen and her cubs – gallery

Lovely photographs of a vixen and her cubs by Mark Lawson @casenoter

 

New to cycling? Beware the small print when renting out a Santander Cycle

The coronavirus emergency has prompted a surge in second hand bike sales, as people see cycling as an obvious way to get around without getting too near to other people.

The use of ‘Boris bikes’ has also been on the increase. Santander Cycles, as they are properly known, were rented out in record numbers over the last weekend in April. They’re cheap to hire – just £2 for 24 hours. Unless that is, you return them late, as Francis Crighton has found out to his cost. He borrowed a bike and was charged a whopping  £92  for returning it and hour and 22 minutes late.

‘I understand how frustrating it can be to be charged an amount you weren’t expecting to incur’ writes Transport for London Customer Services Adviser Christopher Tosh.

‘I apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused’ he continues, but ‘you have been charged the correct amount of £94. This is in accordance of our terms and conditions. The cycle was out for over 24 hours and therefore charged accordingly’.

To add insult to injury, TfL subsequently took a further £98 from Francis’ account, without further explanation. Francis is a student, just turned 18, with no income.

His mother is a barrister, Ann Crighton of Crighton Chambers.

‘I am not satisfied with your response’ she wrote back, ‘because charging £94 for an extra 1 hour and 22 minutes is unlawful under the terms of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

‘Basically, the Act says that terms of a contract should be transparent, simple to understand, not take advantage of a consumer’s vulnerability and should take into account a consumer’s legitimate interests’.  In other words, unfair terms and conditions should not be hidden in the small print’.

The charge of £92 for bringing a bike back late is not made clear on the signage beside the bike stand, she says.

Image above: Francis Crighton, standing beside the Santander Cycles sign, which makes no mention of the late return penalty

‘In the case of the charge of £92 for bringing a bike back late – this has not been made clear’ she wrote to TfL.

‘I went back to the sign and it clearly states that the charge for hiring a bike for 24 hours is £2. It also states that the charge for the first 30 minutes is free and an additional charge of £2 would be made after 30 minutes leading a person to believe that if they kept the bike for, say, 25 or 26 hours an additional fee of £2 is payable – not £92.

‘Underneath the large print it states that up to £300 is payable if the bike is not returned or damaged.  As my son returned the bike and the bike was not damaged, that warning of up to £300 being payable can be safely ignored. Nowhere does it state that £92 will be payable if the bike is returned shortly after the 24 hour period.

‘My point is that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 TfL cannot make a charge of £92 for the late return of a bike because that is a term/condition hidden in the small print i.e. a term that was not transparent nor easy to understand.  My son is a student with no income and charging £92 late fee in these circumstances is not taking into account his legitimate interests’.

I feel like writing ‘the case continues’. It hasn’t gone to court, but I can’t see her letting it drop.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: When working at home turns out ok – Guest blog by Julia Langdon

See also: When will the pubs reopen and why?

When working from home turns out ok

Julia Langdon started working from home nearly 30 years ago after being unceremoniously sacked from her job as Political Editor at the Sunday Telegraph: ‘a “personality clash” which had found me out on my ear … I had never been out of a job and I was afraid we were all going to starve’. Looking back, considering her daily commute to the bottom of the garden, she thinks it might have been one of the best things ever to have happened to her. Journalism is probably easier than most jobs to do from home, but if you are considering making the shift a permanent one once lockdown is over, take heart from her article.

Working From Home

By Julia Langdon

As many of you have learned by now, the secret of working successfully from home is all about bums on seats. If you don’t sit down and get on with it, then it won’t get done. Some call this discipline, but what makes it work for me, as a journalist, is the deadline.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t procrastinate. I am as adept as anyone else at discovering an urgent need to walk the dogs, post a letter or turn out the bottom of the bathroom cupboard. I emailed a friend this week with the lineage I had researched on Wikipedia of a distinguished political family about whom we had been talking. “Ah,” she replied. “I detect diversionary tactics. You must have a piece to write.” Right, indeed!

Give me a deadline, though, and I’ll meet it. One of my regular occupations involves writing political obituaries and – this sometimes shocks people who haven’t thought it through – that includes writing about distinguished people who haven’t actually died. Yet.

(I have had to “do” David Cameron twice – once when he became prime minister and, again, when he left office, having by then somewhat rewritten his own story. The second time round I found myself thinking that if all goes well for him, his obituary is one that I am unlikely ever to read in print).

The trouble with this line of work, however, is that it is not often I spring from my bed and, having nothing else to do, start researching an obituary of someone who maybe isn’t even showing signs of age, let alone being unwell. Yet give me a deadline and I’ll meet it. Lunchtime Friday? That’s fine – and I’ll happily get up at 6 a.m., if I’ve somehow let Thursday go by.

Researching this piece, I have now discovered, to my complete astonishment, that I have actually been working from home for half of my professional life. I spent 28 years putting on a suit, metaphorically or literally, and going to “the office” and I’ve also spent exactly the same number of years going down my small garden to the shed. I was horrified when I was fired, 28 years ago – I had never been out of a job and I was afraid we were all going to starve – but it didn’t take long to discover the advantages of WFH.

Image above: Julia Langdon by her garden shed / office

Three months after the –er – “personality clash” which had found me out on my ear, I was offered another job, as political editor of another newspaper, and I can remember gazing across the table at the editor’s generous offer with a mixture of gratitude and downright dismay.

My brain said: “He means put on a suit and go to Canary Wharf at least once a week! It means an end to independence!” I had secured a year’s money (and the car) for the insult of my new-found self- employment; I had negotiated a continued lobby “ticket” as a Westminster journalist; and I had plenty of work. I also had a four-year-old, a six-month-old baby, sufficient help to enable me to work when I wanted and I ran my own agenda for the first time in my life. What’s not to like?

I stayed in the shed. That’s where I am today. The shed (and the baby) are both 28.

Until recently, however, I did continue to go out for work purposes. Under normal circumstances I go to parliament and pubs; I go to meet people and attend press conferences. I go to receptions and meetings and events. I go to interviews and broadcasting studios and coffee shops. Well, I did. Now I just go down the garden. Life just got a whole lot easier.

Those among you who have joined these ranks now also know, WFH has some huge advantages over the alternative. Of course, I appreciate and understand that this is not the same at all for those with babies and children at home, with no child care, no help and home schooling to organise as well. All that and maybe no garden either. Such families are run ragged. I am writing here only about my own experience of how working life has changed under lock-down and, despite the horror of the pandemic itself, staying in is certainly simpler.

No trains, no travel, no timetable. No make-up, no hair-cuts, no need to change clothes. No packed itinerary, no inadvertent running late, no cringing apologies. No stress. I miss my family and friends. I like my life but, I now realise, not all of my lifestyle. And yes I know I’m lucky.

But I have reverted to following what were once the two rules of child-rearing: Rule One: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule Two: compared to the world outside the front door, it is all small stuff. As a result I think I might also be a nicer person to be around. If there was anybody there to notice.

Julia Langdon has been a political journalist since 1971 and became a lobby correspondent in 1974. Leaving The Guardian in 1984, she was appointed political editor of the Daily Mirror, the first woman to hold the position on a national newspaper in the UK. She’s been a freelance writer since 1992.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: When will the pubs reopen, and how?

See also: Continued lockdown ‘ridiculous’ or sensible?

When will the pubs reopen – and how?

Images above: One Over the Ait, Brentford; The Pilot, Wellesley Rd, Chiswick

When will the pubs reopen is the $64,000 question many of us want to know the answer to, and how? How is it possible to enforce social distancing in a boozer? Who will want to eat a meal served by someone in a plastic visor and gloves, as if they’re delivering toxic waste, albeit with a smile? There hasn’t even been social distancing among the blokes sitting forlornly outside the shuttered riverside pubs, with their bottles and cans lined up on the muddy towpath, never mind inside.

Georgina Wald, Corporate Communications manager for Fuller’s, was in the process of trying to pick her way through this minefield when I spoke to her about how the planning is going. She is one of the very few people working at Fuller’s. All the pub staff have been furloughed. And I mean all of them. I spoke to one who had only been working at a Fuller’s pub for just three weeks when the pubs were shut, who is on the books, being paid along with senior staff who have worked for Fuller’s for years, and is duly grateful for the income.

Images above: George IV, Chiswick High Rd; The Bell & Crown, Strand on the Green

“I haven’t had to let a single one of my staff go” Ben Bullman, General Manger at George IV told me.

“Fuller’s have been fantastic”.

As an experienced pub manager who has only recently come to work for Fuller’s (eighteen months ago) he is in a position to compare and contrast hospitality companies, and he rates our locally based pub chain very highly.

“It’s good to know that they actually follow through on what they promise at interview” he said.

Images above: The Andover Arms in Hammersmith; The George & Devonshire, Chiswick

Tenanted pubs not charged rent

He was particularly impressed that Fuller’s have not been charging their tenant landlords rent. The company has a portfolio of pubs managed in house, which in Chiswick include the Bell & Crown, George IV and the Pilot, and they also have a number of tenanted pubs, such as the Andover Arms in Hammersmith, the Angel & Crown in Richmond and the George & Devonshire in Chsiwick. Where other businesses are negotiating with their landlords to reduce or defer rent payments, Fuller’s have just written them off.

“Tenanted pubs have not been charged rent since March” Georgina confirmed.

Fuller’s boss Simon Emeny posts videos every couple of days keeping staff informed about the company’s thinking. They make staff aware of mental health support from the Licensed Trade charity and the pubs make an effort to keep in touch with their staff.

“It’s important that people don’t feel isolated” says Georgina.

Fiona Sparkes at the Bell & Crown runs pub quizzes on Zoom to keep up her staff’s morale. The Red Lion in Ealing has turned itself into a community shop with an Italian bent, and the Angel & Crown in Richmond produces meals for homeless people.

Staff survey – ‘How do you feel about returning to work’?

Now the staff have all been sent a survey to fill out to ascertain how they feel about coming back to work.

‘Things are changing rapidly, and we don’t have all the answers’

Fuller’s admits, but they are looking to inform their decision making by asking staff (whose opinions they say will be represented anonymously) questions such as:

‘How are you coping with furlough’?

(I am coping very well and will continue to cope even if this goes on a while longer / I am starting to struggle and hope that this will be over soon / I am finding it very difficult and my mental or physical health is suffering)

and ‘How do you feel about returning to work’?

(Extremely uncomfortable, I really don’t want to / Uncertain, but likely to be OK with some reassurance and support / Comfortable / Can’t wait to get back)

Quite what they do if everyone ticks the first box for both those questions, I’m not sure, but at the moment they are looking at reopening the pubs in July / August with a strict system of seating groups at tables socially distanced from others.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: When working at home turns out ok – Guest blog by Julia Langdon

See also: Continued lockdown ‘ridiculous’ or sensible?

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How to serve a flat white

Roll on the next car boot sale

Guest blog by Polly Williams

There are many things I miss about pre-Covid life, but one regular mass gathering that I pine for in particular is the Chiswick Car Boot sale, which was the inspiration behind one of my recent illustrations.

I was first introduced to the Chiswick Car Boot sale by my partner, a lifelong Chiswickian, and his mother, for whom the monthly pilgrimage to the bric-a-brac mecca was a fond staple of his upbringing. I remember the first time I went: it was a brisk winter morning with the sort of icy chill tempered only by a hot bacon roll and the warmth of a cup of tea. We’d rolled out of bed uncharacteristically early for a Sunday morning. As my partner’s mother had warned: “you have to get there early for the best bargains!”

We paid our small entrance fee to the friendly Chiswick Community School volunteers, and I was immediately enthralled by the impressive array of stalls before me. Just about everything under the sun was on display. I immersed myself in the stalls, seeking out the most obscure and fanciful items I could find. I can’t describe the joy I feel from chancing upon something special, and my excitement at falling in love with an inanimate object that I never knew I needed. I love the thrill of entering into negotiations with unwavering sellers, managing to knock off a few quid here and there while other browsers enviously look on.

A couple of years and many car boots later, our flat has become littered with second hand goods – much to the annoyance of my housemate brother!

Our shared living spaces are a literal trove of my obscure findings: the Danish teak ice bucket, our matching set of Dartington glass corn-on the-cob dishes, the fashionable French antique opera glasses I optimistically bought for a bird-watching trip, the fish-shaped sea-green gluggle jug, the psychedelic painted 60’s butterdish (which, because of a stubborn rancid odour has been repurposed into a bed for cress!), the tiny pewter watering can (which is used to water aforementioned cress!) and an ever-growing collection of mismatched glasses that’s required an entire drinks cabinet — also second-hand — to house it.

My wardrobe, too, has benefited immeasurably from these outings: faux fur coats, cashmere jumpers, a fine felt hat with a glorious feather and a welsh woollen cape are to name but a few of the additions.

But beyond these items, what I love most is that the car boot sale, as well as being a place of transactional exchange, is also a place of exchange of stories, knowledge, ideas and fashion tips. An enquiry into an unknown item can reveal the decades-old habits and norms of our ancestors. It’s a place where even the most casual and mundane conversations can quickly elevate into the realm of the profound, where our hopes, dreams and fears are shared.

The car boot sale holds such a dear place in my heart that I was compelled to draw it. As an illustrator, I am drawn to hives of social interactivity and these scenes form the inspiration for my art. The car boot sale proved fertile ground for one of my pieces. I base my illustrations on my observations, embellishing them with my own surreal and imaginative touches or quirks. Much like the car boot sale itself, you sometimes have to look a little closer to find some of the hidden treasures peppered in my work.

There’s no telling how long it will be before the car boot sale opens its gates again, but I can’t wait for that time. If you, like me, share in this love, then I hope my illustration transports you back to those early morning ventures to the infinite wonder that is the Chiswick Car Boot.

Polly Williams is an illustrator who trained at Leeds Art School and works for companies such as VICE, Elle, Marks & Spencers

Instagram : @Pom_lette

Website: Pomlette.com

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Enter your photographs in the Bedford Park Festival 2020 photography competition

See also: Enter your art work in the Bedford Park Festival 2020 Summer Exhibition

Eddie & Elvis’ appeal to feed school children

Eddie & Elvis’ appeal to feed school children

Magic Breakfast needs your suport to stop children going hungry. Your donation will be used to give breakfast take-home packs to children living in poverty.

Currently 4.1 million children in the UK are living in poverty – that’s nine children in every class of 30 growing up too poor to afford the essentials that most of us take for granted.

Magic Breakfast provides healthy, nutritious breakfasts to over 48,000 children at risk of hunger, giving them fuel they need to learn.

During these unprecedented times, Magic Breakfast is committed to providing children at risk of hunger with access to a free, nutritious breakfast at the start of the day.

While it is no longer possible to run the Magic Breakfast provision as usual in schools, your support will allow Magic Breakfast to provide breakfast take-home packs for families across the UK.

For more information please see the Magic Breakfast website.

Please call on 0207 836 5434

Bedford Park Festival Summer Exhibition 2020

 

The Bedford Park Festival Summer Exhibition of art work will take place entirely online this year. You will be able to see photographs of all the art on The Chiswick Calendar website. Not quite the same as seeing it up close and personal, but as the coronavirus has put paid to events like that for this summer, it’s better than nothing! The pictures will be on display on The Chiswick Calendar from the evening of Friday 13 June – Sunday 28 June, the duration of what would have been the Bedford Park Festival.

The Coronavirus epidemic has kiboshed the Bedford Park Festival along with every other event this summer, but it has also meant that the need to raise money for the festival’s charities is greater than ever, so while there won’t be concerts and events in the normal way, there will be some elements of the festival, including some new ideas for events, taking place online.

Image above – one of Francis Bowyer’s paintings from the 2019 exhibition

Images above: Last year’s exhibition – photograph by Jim Cox; ‘Cotillion’ by Caroline Whitehead, which won the ‘visitors choice’ award for the exhibition visitors’ favourite work last year

Buy some original art and support local charities

The art work in the Summer Exhibition is for sale, with a third of the proceeds going to St Michael & All Angels Church charities, including the Upper Room which provides support for homeless people.

The Summer exhibition is open to artists, professional and amateur, of all ages, who live in West London, or have a connection with the Bedford Park Festival. Please submit a digital image of your artwork, providing the information outlined below.

Images above – one of Jim Cox’s paintings from the 2019 exhibition; Grey Ring with Pebbles by Claire Ireland from last year’s exhibition

Categories

The Summer Exhibition has only two categories – adult and 16 & under

How to enter

  1. Email us

To submit an artwork please email a digital image of your work to Bridget Osborne, editor of The Chiswick Calendar, and and Miriam Morris, organiser of the Summer Exhibition, at these addresses: Bridget@thechiswickcalendar.co.uk and Miriamjoymorris@aol.com with the following details:

  • Name
  • Address (including post code) (for our use only, will not appear on the site)
  • Telephone number (for our use only, will not appear on the site)
  • Title of the artwork
  • Medium
  • Size
  • Whether it is framed or unframed
  • If it is a print, how many copies are available (see terms and conditions below)
  • Price (all work must be for sale)
  • Age if you are 16 or under
  • Digital image of your artwork (see details below)

Last date for entries, midnight on Wednesday 10 June.

  1. Digital images

Don’t worry about the size, as long as the photograph is above 100kb. We are happy to resize larger images to make them suitable for the website.

We Transfer

It may be easier to send the photographs separately by We Transfer, especially if they are quite high resolution.

If you’ve not used We Transfer before, it is free and very simple to use. Just go to the We Transfer website – www.wetransfer.com and enter the following information:

Email to: Bridget@thechiswickcalendar.co.uk

Your email – Add your own email address

Message – Add a message: Joe Bloggs’ photographs for the Bedford Park Festival competition

Add Your Files

Click on the + sign. Find the photograph you want to submit on your computer, select it and click Open. When you’ve added all the photographs you’re entering the competition, hit Transfer.

  1. Terms and conditions

Artists can only submit one work of art this year.

We will exhibit all artwork which is submitted as long as the digital images are of good enough quality and the subject matter is suitable for general viewing.

All artwork must be original and by the artist.  We do not accept reproductions.

We do accept original prints, created by the artist, and in limited, signed and numbered editions.

We do accept three-dimensional work.

All work must be for sale, and a third of the proceeds from the sales will go towards the Festival charities.

Because the public will only see digital images of the artwork this year, it is very important that you provide details of the medium, size and whether the artwork if =s framed or unframed.

In submitting your work you agree that we may display your artwork on The Chiswick Calendar, and we may sell the work on your behalf and donate a third of the proceeds to Festival charities.

Images above: one of Martin Wharmby’s images from 2019; ‘Heavy-Headed Tulips’ by Glynis Porter from the 2019 exhibition

Theatres mark the centenary of the death of the greatest theatre architect

When someone says ‘theatre’, the image which pops into your head is probably something like this, the Lyric, Hammersmith, pictured above, all red velvet and gilt curlicues. That’s because the Victorian / Edwardian theatre architect Frank Matcham designed so many of Britain’s theatres. Those that still exist – 26 out of the 100 – 150 which he either built himself or in which he played some part in the design – will be marking the centenary of his death next Sunday, not in the way they would have liked, but at least by sharing pictures on social media.

I talked to Mark Fox, Chairman of the Frank Matcham Society, about this fascinating character, who designed both Richmond theatre and the Lyric, as well as the Chiswick Empire, sadly pulled down in the 1950s.

“He was an amazing man” says Mark, “the pre-eminent architect for Victorian and Edwardian theatres during a huge period of theatre building, he was totally untrained. He was a very clever man.”

You can hardly imagine that these days, when you virtually have to go to university to be an usherette, but Frank Matcham had no formal qualification in architecture. Instead, he learned from those he worked with and became a master of the art of fitting a large number of seats into small and awkward spaces, thus satisfying the theatre owners by packing in the punters.

Images above: Detail of the refurbished Proscenium arch at the Lyric, Hammersmith

“Actors love playing his theatres”

“If you think of the London Coliseum, it was designed to fit on a triangular piece of land, but it doesn’t feel like that when you go inside”.

The Coliseum was Oswald Stoll’s flagship theatre and office. Another of Matcham’s theatres in the heart of London’s West End was the Palladium, which he constructed within the existing walls of another building.

“The frontage was designed for the pre-existing building, the Corinthian Bazaar. The dressing rooms were a run of Georgian houses and where the bar is now was a warehouse”.

Matcham was also an expert at creating an intimate atmosphere between the actors and the audience.

“Actors love playing his theatres” says Mark, who gives tours of the London Palladium, one of the architect’s best known buildings. “They love the intimacy of them and the acoustics are always very good.

“That’s why people like Madonna want to be able to say that they have performed there. They want to have on their CV that they have performed at the same venue as Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. The Palladium has 2,500 seats but it doesn’t feel that big. It feels intimate”.

Images above: Detail of a box and a light at the Lyric, Hammersmith

We have Frank Matcham to thank for some of the now standard safety features too.

“He introduced the standard panic bolt, the push bar is his patent. He also understood the need for aisles, and if you notice, in traditional London theatres all the exits lead on onto different streets. That’s because when the first performance finished, the street out front would have been packed with the next audience waiting to come in”.

I’ve often wondered why it is when you come out of a play you find yourself in some dingy back street, totally disorientated. In Victorian times the cheap seats were unreserved, so there would have been large queues for those too.

For the public, the most obvious thing about a Frank Matcham theatre is its opulence.

“His theatres are a delight to go into” says Mark. “He warmed up the audience before the show started with his heady, eclectic interiors, which might be French Rococco or Moorish in design.

Images above: Chiswick Empire; entry in the Frank Matcham theatre directory

Chiswick Empire

The Frank Matcham Society has published a directory of all his theatres to make the centenary of his death. The Chiswick Empire, which he built at the end of his career, was opened on 2 September 1912 and pulled down in 1959. While it lasted, it was a ‘statement’ piece of architecture on the High Rd. Built for Oswald Stoll, it was ‘a good example of the last development of variety theatre design’. The facade was neo-classical, the interior ‘restrained and Jacobean in feeling, with two balconies above a large stalls area with three boxes each side’.

Chiswick Empire was one of the last to be called officially a ‘Stoll theatre’ rather than as a ‘Moss Empire’, in the famous theatre partnership. The stage was 55 feet across, fronted by a 44 foot proscenium arch and the seating capacity was 1,950. Comedian Billy Mersin led the opening programme in 1912. Huge acts such as Laurel and Hardy and Max Miller went on to perform there.

Marie Lloyd, Vesta Tilley, George Formby, Arthur Aspley, Wee Georgie Wood, Tommy Hensley. Albert Whelan, Donald Peers, Kenn Dodd, Terry-Thomas and Dickie Valentine, Vera Lynn, Alma Cohan and Cliff Richard were amongst the Variety stars to headline at the Chiswick Empire.

It was on the tour schedule for Laurel and Hardy in 1947. Operas and plays were performed there: Carl Rosa Opera, musicals including Brigadoon, Glamorous Night and The Student Prince and plays such as Rookery Nook and A Streetcar Named Desire also played weeks, with Gladys Cooper, Sybil Thorndike and Anthony Quayle among the stars who performed in them. The final week in June 1959 was headlined by Liberace.

Victorian entertainment venues were either built for music hall, small venues meant for just one person on stage usually, or they were playhouses designed for putting on plays. Variety theatres, as the Chiswick Empire was, came a bit later and were built to accommodate animal acts, trapeze artists, big dance troupes, knife throwing, you name it. The Empire was a step up from a playhouse but not as big as an opera house.

Images above: Richmond theatre

Devon boy makes good in the big smoke

Frank Matcham came from Newton Abbot, where his father was a brewer. He moved the family to Torquay, supplying entertainment venues, so young Frank grew up in and around pubs and places of entertainment. The family also happened to live next door to George Soudon Bridgman, a leading architect who designed the Paignton theatre and also Oldway Mansion for the Singer family, who made their money in sewing machines. Oldway Mansion had its own private theatre.

Frank Matcham was apprenticed to Bridgman and went on to be articled to Jethro T Robinson, responsible for circus and entertainment venues, pubs and gin palaces. Robinson was the chief architectural adviser to the Lord Chamberlain, who in those days licensed every piece of entertainment, so for a young man interested in theatre design, Jethro T Robinson was the best person in the country from which to learn.

It didn’t hurt either that Frank married Robinson’s youngest daughter Hannah Maria. Two years after the marriage, Jethro T Robinson dropped dead of a heart attack, leaving the business to Frank, so he had to step up immediately, his first project being the Elephant and Castle theatre. In characteristic style he made best use of all the space available, putting the bars inside railway arches.

He went on to design the Blackpool Grand and the Tower Balalroom in Blackpool, the Buston Opera House and theatres in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Portmouth, Cheltenham and Southsea, to name but a few – all distinctive pearls of theatre design.

Chiswick Empire has his penultimate theatre; the Bristol Hippodrome his last, but even after he had retired to spend a happy few years touring on the continent with his sketch pad, his company continued and moved into the construction of cinemas.

There was to have been lunch and a show and the unveiling of a plaque to go inside the Palladium. Instead the remaining Frank Matcham theatres will be sharing photographs of his beautiful designs, and the plaque will be unveiled once the easing of the lockdown allows.

Mark Fox is a theatre historian and Chairman of the Frank Matchman Society.

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Artist Sir Peter Blake designs montage of the Chiswick Empire

See also: Artist’s proofs go on sale

 

 

Chiswick’s greatest wartime claim to fame

The biggest name to come from Chiswick, who played a major role in World War Two was Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, (1887-1976), later Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.

According to the late Chiswick historian Gill Clegg, he spent part of his childhood at 19 Bolton Road, Grove Park. He obtained a commission in the regular army before the outbreak of World War I. At the age of 40 he married the widowed artist Betty Carver, who lived on Chiswick Mall, in St Nicholas Church. Betty was the sister of the future Second World War commander, Major General Sir Percy Hobart.

Following their marriage, Montgomery was posted to India, where their son David was born and where Betty died from a mysterious illness.

During World War II Winston Churchill appointed Montgomery the general commanding the Eighth Army in Egypt. The Battle of Alamein was the first of his many victories. He was promoted to the rank of Field Marshall and became a popular hero. Like Madonna or Prince, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC, DL, was so well known, he went by just the one name: Monty.

Painting above: Reginald Henry Lewis (1894–1973), Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: VE Day 75 year anniversary

See also: Lotte Moore, Memoir of a World War II Childhood

What lovely comments!

Chiswick Physio Online consultations

Chiswick Physio Online consultations

Are you working from home with an aching neck? Is your lower back sore and stiff? Are you finding it difficult to stand up fully after working all day? Are you getting pain into your arms and legs?

All these aches and pains can be avoided if you follow some simple daily rules while you work from home.

Chiswick Physio is doing online consultations, so you don’t have to suffer unaided. There’s a lot that you can do to help yourself at home. Chiswick Physio who will show you ways of reducing your neck and back ache, providing useful tips and ideas to help you while working at home.

Nathan at Chiswick Physio is offering a free group session on Wednesday 20 May at 12.30 noon. He also offers personal appointments online, for which Chiswick Calendar Club Card holders can claim 25% off.

Email Nathan Carter at Chiswick Physio on admin@chiswick-physio.co.uk or call him on 07900 603617

Chiswick Book Festival creates a timeline of Ealing writers 

The scale of Ealing’s literary heritage has been revealed this week with the launch of a detailed timeline of Ealing Writers and Books. Nearly 200 authors who have lived in, or written about, the Borough of Ealing have been identified by researchers for the Chiswick Book Festival.

The writers range from Henry Fielding, born in 1707, to Honor Blackman (1925) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (1985) – and include such diverse names as Agatha Christie, Ho Chi Minh and EL James. The names were compiled by Roger Green, the Chiswick Book Festival’s Ealing co-ordinator, with the help of The Pitshanger Bookshop and Ealing Borough archivist and author Jonathan Oates.

The timeline of Ealing writers can be seen here: chiswickbookfestival.net It includes writers of plays, films and music, and lists them by subject area.

“A year ago, the Observer wrote that ‘Chiswick may be Britain’s most literary location’ after we listed 250 authors on the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books” said Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival.

“We issued a challenge to other book festivals, libraries and local history societies to come up with their own lists of writers – and we’ve discovered that our neighbouring borough of Ealing is close behind.”

Image at the top of the page: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of Fleabag and head writer and executive producer for the first series of the BBC thriller series Killing Eve

Images above: Some of the books by published writers who’ve lived, worked or been educated in the borough of Ealing

The Festival undertook the research to mark its closer links with Ealing, after holding its first event there at Gunnersbury Park and Museum, the museum for Ealing and Hounslow. This year, subject to COVID-19 restrictions, more Ealing events are planned, including one that ties in with the major Hogarth exhibition scheduled at Pitzhanger Manor. The Chiswick Book Festival was started after the closure of the Ealing Literary Festival, and significant parts of Chiswick W4 lie within Ealing borough.

This week has also seen more names added to the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books, bringing its total to 425. These are now included on the two main listings pages
– Non-fiction chiswickbookfestival.net and Novels, poems and plays. chiswickbookfestival.net

Torin added: “We’re keen to hear of any Ealing authors we’ve missed so we can be sure to give Ealing its full literary due – alongside that of Chiswick. And now that people are living online, we think the lockdown is the perfect time to explore the stories and literary heritage revealed on our Timelines.”

Planning is continuing for the 12th Chiswick Book Festival, from 10-14 September 2020, subject to Government restrictions connected with the COVID-19 outbreak. In the past 10 years, it’s raised over £78,000 for reading charities and St Michael & All Angels Church which hosts, runs and underwrites the Festival. chiswickbookfestival.net

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Is Chiswick Britain’s most literary location?

See also: Chiswick Book Festival

Bedford Park Festival Photography Competition 2020

The Bedford Park Festival photography competition and exhibition will take place entirely online this year. You will be able to see all the photographs on The Chiswick Calendar website and vote for your favourite in each category, just as in previous years you have been able to do in person at St Michael & All Angels parish hall.

The Coronavirus epidemic has kiboshed the Bedford Park Festival along with every other event this summer, but it has also meant that the need to raise money for the festival’s charities is greater than ever, so while there won’t be concerts and events in the normal way, there will be some elements of the festival, including some new ideas for events, taking place online.

The photography competition is a brilliant community event, open to everyone, of all ages. Please submit a photograph, or photographs you’re proud of, telling us which categories you would like them to be entered in. The pictures will be on display on The Chiswick Calendar from the evening of Friday 13 June. Members of the public will have until midnight on Sunday 28 June to vote on their favourites. The public chooses a winner in each category and then a professional photographer will choose an overall winner.

All the photographs will remain on the website for all to see.

Photograph above: Gopher (?) by James Mumby

Some of last year’s entries: Animals – Stag by Mark Lawson / Landscapes & Seascapes – Garden by Mando Mendolicchio / Chiswick Life – ‘Pulling together’ by John Clare

Categories

  • Chiswick Life
  • Portraits & People
  • Animals
  • The Natural World
  • Landscapes & Seascapes
  • The Built Environment
  • Serendipity (quirky / funny or downright bizarre!)
  • Young people’s (16 and under, all subjects)

Prizes

The winners will receive vouchers from Snappy Snaps Chiswick for printing and framing. Category winners will receive Snappy Snaps print and framing vouchers to the value of £100. Overall winner will receive a custom framing voucher valued at £250.

John Fitzgerald, Chiswick franchise holder for Snappy Snaps, says they are:

“Delighted to support the Bedford Park Photographic Competition again this year with prizes for the category winners. Snappy Snaps remain proud sponsors of this event since its inception many years ago and we would like to wish all entrants the best of luck”.

One of last year’s entries. Serendipity – ‘Banjo’ by Ray Marsh 

How to enter

1. Email Bridget

To enter the competition, please email Bridget Osborne at this address:
Bridget@thechiswickcalendar.co.uk with the following details:
• Name
• Address (including post code)
• Telephone number
• Number of photographs you’re submitting for entry
• Which category each photograph is entered in
• Age if you are 16 or under
• Digital copies of the photographs you are entering.

Last date for entries, midnight on Wednesday 10 June.

Some of last year’s entries: The Built Environment – Nigel McFall / The Natural World – Anna Kunst

Photograph sizes

Don’t worry about the size, as long as the photograph is above 100kb. We are happy to resize larger images to make them suitable for the website.

We Transfer

It may be easier to send the photographs separately by We Transfer, especially if they are quite high resolution.

If you’ve not used We Transfer before, it is free and very simple to use. Just go to the We Transfer website – www.wetransfer.com
and enter the following information:

Email to: Bridget@thechiswickcalendar.co.uk

Your email – Add your own email address

Message – Add a message: Joe Bloggs’ photographs for the Bedford Park Festival competition

Add Your Files
Click on the + sign. Find the photograph you want to submit on your computer, select it and click Open. When you’ve added all the photographs you’re entering the competition, hit Transfer.

That’s it!

Your photographs will be reproduced on The Chiswick Calendar with a line of text saying that the photographer owns the copyright, but in any case they will be reproduced at too low a resolution for them to be downloaded and printed with any degree of quality. By entering the competition you are agreeing for your photographs to be shown on the website.

2. Pay the fees

Adults: £4 per photo or £10 for three
Young people (16 and under) enter free

Pay to enter on the Bedford Park Festival website. Details of how to pay will be on their website shortly. The money goes to the Bedford Park Festival’s charities. Remember it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part! Especially as we’re raising money for charity.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Winner & runners up in 2019 Bedford Park Festival Photography Competition

See also: Chiswick photographer’s portrait on show at the National Gallery

 

Suspicous puppy

Work of famous local artist Hugh Cronyn goes on sale

Image above: Hugh Cronyn sailing across the Channel to Dunquerque c. 1938

Guest blog by Krassi Kuneva of Chsiwick Auctions

Canadian-British painter Hugh Cronyn (1905-1996) led a fascinating life in America, Europe and England before World War II, thanks both to the support and connection of his family and friends, and his innate charm and talent. Young and impressionable, fresh from Vancouver, and with an irrepressible can-do New World outlook, Cronyn’s unpublished memoirs recount his study and travels and the many remarkable people whose paths he crossed.

He started out as an artist in Toronto under Franz Johnston (an early member of the Group of Seven or the Algonquin School of Canadian landscape painters in the 1920s and ’30s). He studied at the Arts Students League in New York and enjoyed Paris in the early 1930s. Tutored by André Lhote, he travelled widely across Europe (whether struggling over the Alps by bicycle, or rescued from puncture failure by his cousin’s chauffeur driven Bentley), and ended up in Hammersmith, where he immersed himself in the rich bohemian life he encountered in West London.

In Florence he was underwhelmed by his introduction to Roger Fry, but on his arrival in London was star struck by Ivon Hitchens, whose second solo exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery he helped hang. Living first in St Peter’s Square and thereafter in different studios on the Hammersmith-Chiswick borders by the Thames, he became acquainted with a swathe of leading artists and writers of the day, from Dylan Thomas to Henry Moore.

Image above: Hammersmith Mall

Painted in 1937, Hammersmith Mall captures the essence of the area as Cronyn knew it. The painting depicts the historic easterly end of Upper Mall, Hammersmith, leading to Dove’s Passage and its eponymous pub. Originally opened as a coffee house in the 18th century, The Dove is recognisable to the right of the composition from its cream pitched gable end, punctuated by a single window. To its right is 21 Upper Mall where the poet George Rostrevor Hamilton was living at the time. To its immediate left, at the end of Dove’s passage is 15 Upper Mall which once housed Doves Press, run by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker, and associated with the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris, who had lived nearby at Kelmscott House. On the left of the composition are numbers 22, 20 (tucked away) and 18 Upper Mall.

Cronyn first moved to 27A St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith in 1935 and subsequently to 9A Black Lion Lane, with the pub immediately opposite. In his unpublished memoirs he recalls the landlord and his wife Arthur and Florrie with affection, the skittle alley where he played frequently, and the life surrounding St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith up to King Street and Chiswick – pre-construction of the A4 dual carriageway – as being ‘like a small village’. The writer, humourist and politician and close friend of Cronyn’s, AP Herbert (‘APH’), would hold court at the Black Lion every Sunday. It was through such gatherings that Hugh met so many artists, writers and thinkers of the day. At the lively gatherings and parties held at 12 Hammersmith Terrace, Cronyn met such artists as Edward Wadsworth, Mark Gertler, Leon Underwood and John Piper. Ceri Richards lived nearby, as did poets Robert Graves and Laura Riding in St Peter’s Square. Cronyn became friends with Julian Trevelyan at Durham Wharf. On a trip to Dorset with Trevelyan he visited Eileen Agar at her farm, and was introduced to Kitty Church, wife of Anthony West, son of H.G. Wells. In his own studio he held sketching classes with Victor Pasmore, Claude Rogers and Elsie Few.

Images above: Black Lion pub and its skittle alley

Pillars of the local community, many were regulars at the local Black Lion pub. Having acquired passion for wood engraving from his neighbour Gertrude Hermes, Cronyn created some expressive pieces of The Black Lion and the new Skittle alley in 1939.

The pub had an additional importance for Cronyn, as it was there, at one of the many gatherings organised by A P Herbert, that the artist met his wife Jean Cronyn (née Harris; 1919-2003) in 1941. At the time, fresh out of Oxford, she was working for the Board of Trade, while Cronyn was on leave from the Navy; they married the following year. Jean later became secretary to AP Herbert at 12 Hammersmith Terrace.

Image above: Portrait of the artist’s wife Jean Cronyn

In this portrait of his wife, Cronyn uses free bold brushstrokes, strong outlines and vivid colours. On the left of the composition is an early dish by the studio potter Michael Cardew (1901-83).

Following the outbreak of War, Cronyn was commissioned into the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. His distinguished war record began with the award of a George Medal (GM) when he defused a 500lb bomb that had lodged unexploded in the hold of an oil tanker. He subsequently served on board ship in the North Sea and the Pacific, ending his naval service with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. From 1949-69 Cronyn was tutor of painting at Colchester School of Art alongside John Nash who became a great friend.

On 30th January 1965, the day of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral, Cronyn, a lifelong lover of the Thames and an ardent supporter of Churchill, secured a spot on the Embankment on the north side of the river. From there he looked across the floating pier on the South Bank, with the Royal Festival Hall to the right. Following the service at St Paul’s Cathedral that morning, Havengore bore Churchill’s coffin from the Tower of London up the Thames to the Festival Pier. From there his body was taken by train to its final resting place at St Martin’s Church, Bladon, close to Blenheim Palace.

In the ensuing oil Cronyn captured the stately arrival of Havengore at Festival Pier escorted by two bobbing pilot boats with Churchill’s body draped with the Union Jack. Above, silhouetted against the blue hoardings hiding the construction site of Queen Elizabeth Hall, is the heavy black form of the hearse to take Churchill’s coffin to the waiting train at Waterloo Station.

The first state funeral for a non-Royal for thirty years, at the time it was the largest and most watched event in history. Over 320,000 people queued to pay tribute whilst Churchill’s body lay in state in Westminster Hall for three days, 3,500 attended his funeral service at St Paul’s, and over 350 million tuned into the BBC to follow the occasion. During Havengore’s journey up the Thames sixteen RAF fighter jets flew in formation over Churchills’s coffin. Churchill’s widow, Lady Churchill memorably remarked to her youngest daughter at the end of what would surely have been an exhausting day for her: ‘It wasn’t a funeral, Mary – it was a triumph’, a note clearly borne out by the sense of celebration that Cronyn captures in the present vibrant depiction of this historic moment, despite the sobriety of the occasion.

Following Cronyn’s appointment as Tutor of Painting at Colchester School of Art in 1949, the family moved to Suffolk. In 1975 the Cronyns moved back to Chiswick Mall to live at 3 St Peter’s Wharf overlooking the Thames, the artists’ studios recently constructed by his old friend Julian Trevelyan. Cronyn exhibited widely during his lifetime, especially in London and Suffolk, including as a regular contributor to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and in Toronto, Canada. His paintings are in private and public collections in France, Sweden the USA, Canada and the UK.

Chiswick Auctions is excited to present a group of works by the artist for the first time at the secondary market. We hope to shed more light to Cronyn’s life and work, as they certainly deserve a wider attention and appreciation. Hugh Cronyn’s works will be offered as part of the forthcoming Modern & Post-War British Art sale at Chiswick Auctions, which will take place on Wednesday, 22 April at 11.00am.

Krassi Kuneva is a specialist in Modern and postwar British Art. Before joining Chiswick Auctions she worked for Christie’s. She studied Art History at the University of Warwick.

 

Staveley Rd Blossom 

Chiswick Market centenary

The group behind the Chiswick Flower Market proposal, of which The Chiswick Calendar is a part, has received overwhelming support for the idea from local traders and residents. There is still time for you to give us your feedback by filling out our survey here. We are hoping, and planning for the market to become a reality in the autumn.

The Flower Market will stand on the site of Chiswick’s original outdoor market, which was established in early 1920, in response to a different economic need – men returning home from fighting in the First World War who needed an income. The discussions at the time in the equivalent of today’s social media – letters to The Chiswick Times – are very revealing of the class and gender politics involved.

Images above: drawing and tinted photograph of the outdoor market at Chiswick

Middle class ‘feeling the pinch’

On 20 February 1920, a correspondent who signed himself merely as ‘X’ wrote to The Chiswick Times:

‘the amount of shop accommodation in the Chiswick High-road is altogether inadequate to the requirements of the locality’.

On 27 February 1920 The Chiswick Times reported:

‘At a meeting of the Chiswick Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Mr H Johnson presiding over a good attendance, Mr J Sander moved the following resolution:

‘That in the opinion of this meeting a municipal market for Chiswick as a permanent institution is desirable in order that the public of all classes may have full facilities for the purchase of commodities…

… He believed the commodities sold there were such as to benefit the people who had “felt the pinch”, and they were not always those who were termed the working classes, but many were of the middle class, whose earning power had not increased, through prices had gone up’.

Mr Sanders lost that vote, as the members of the Chiswick Chamber of Commerce saw the market as a threat to their profits. He lost the battle but won the war, as the outdoor market continued to trade for several years until it was moved inside Linden House in 1924 and became a permanent fixture where the police station is currently.

Image above: Indoor market

‘Members of the Chiswick Council will do well to remember that they depend on the vote of the women’

On 3 March 1920 a woman resident wrote to The Chiswick Times, giving the Chamber members something to think about:

‘Members of the Chiswick Council will do well to remember that they depend on the vote of the women, as well as that of the mere man (who never has to go shopping and make 10s go as far as a £1 would have done in pre-war days), and when they seek re-election we women shall bear this is mind.

‘Possibly the members of the said Council have never had to stand in a queue (unless perchance at a “first night” at the theatre) in order to obtain the commonest, commodities of life, as most of us were obliged to do during the war.

‘And now, when a market is forthcoming, where a few pence can be saved, a slight compensation for the tremendous increase in the cost of almost everything in our homes, one cannot believe that they will abolish what is, and has been, a boon to many of those whose incomes are but slender’.

The idea for the Flower Market predates the Coronavirus, and hopefully it will be one of the things which gets us back on our feet once it has passed.

Thanks to Tracey Logan for historical research and to Michael Robinson for picture research.

www.chiswickflowermarket.com

@Chiswick Flowers

 

Good articles on Covid-19

I alternate between being glued to the news and escapism. I’ve read a couple of good articles recently relating to the psychology of the Coronavirus emergency.

VICE UK has this report from correspondents in Italy and Spain:

What to Expect After a Month of Lockdown, According to People in Italy and Spain

“Don’t give yourself false hope – like thinking that after two or three weeks it will go away, and you will get back to your normal life.”

Read here.

Harvard Business Review has this piece with the world’s foremost expert on grief, David Kessler, to explain the feelings we’re dealing with at this time.

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

“We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different… The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air”.

Read here.

The New Normal

As my daughter lays out her yoga mat in the living room and goes off to find her laptop, the cat makes himself comfortable, naturally thinking its been put there specially for him. In fact it’s for the daily House Party gym session she holds with her mates in East London and Sydney. Part of the new routine our household has settled into. Surreal and frightening though this past couple of weeks has been, life on lockdown is already becoming the new normal.

Can it really have been only a week since Boris Johnson instructed us to “stay home to save lives”? Our household has settled into quite a comfortable existence. I’m aware how complacent that sounds. There are women trapped with their abusive spouse, families with young children and no access to a garden, others working long shifts. I and my two housemates, in their 20’s and 30’s, are able to stay home and work online. I got to number eight in the queue for hip surgery before all elective surgery was cancelled, so I am quietly grateful that I don’t have to rush around and go out and meet people. I’m quite happy sitting about, glued to my phone.

My daughter, recently home from travelling, had just settled into a pub job before the pubs were all closed, so she has reinvented herself as an online English teacher. “Hello, how are you?” she trills as we creep about, not allowed to use the bathroom or the loo or create noise of any sort during her sessions. Our lodger, aka ‘the intern in the attic’ is a software engineer, so he was self-isolating at the best of times. For him life hasn’t really changed, though of course perversely he now longs to go out.

The cats can’t believe their luck. Three people on hand to talk to them, stroke them and make a fuss of them. Three people each suckered into feeding them each time they enter the kitchen and fall for their plaintive meowing, which would have you believe they’ve never been fed in their lives before. Only when we compare notes at the end of the day do we realise between us we’ve fed them five times.

We’ve established daily coffee with the neighbours, to gossip over the fence. We’ve set up a street WhatsApp group, and doorstep drinks at 6.30pm has been mooted, though the dip in the temperature may put paid to that idea for a little while. I’m sleeping more, staying in pyjamas later, and meet-ups on Zoom tell me other people are also less well groomed than they usually are, with the men getting more scruffy and beardy and the women looking pallid and a little more dishevelled than usual. I tend to wake up early, read all the news feeds, realise it really is grimmer if anything than it was the day before, and retreat under the duvet for another hour or so.

It’s interesting how various friends have reacted. One, after the inital urge to turn out cupboards and organise her books in alphabetical order, seems to have settled into a torpor. Though she and her husband go for a daily walk and devour the news constantly. Another couple, with typical spirit, have organised themselves a schedule of online learning, one determined to have acquired a new language before this is all over, the other happily learning a new magic trick off the internet each day. They’ve also had ‘dinner with friends and family’ – in Chiswick and Sydney respectively – by Skype and play Scrabble online with friends in Scotland.

Our world is becoming smaller and slower. Another friend (who is normally like a whirling dervish) reports that she has discovered the joy of stillness, ‘sitting in the kitchen in silence without moving long enough for the fox to come and dig in the window box’ and getting satisfaction from the small things in life: ‘picking all the bits of peel out of a jar of marmalade’.

We have talked about death, in passing. I saw some pundit on the TV saying we should, because if you get the virus badly, its progress can be swift. My daughter was horrified, but she now knows where the essential paperwork is. Mostly I enjoy the contact. The phone calls from people I haven’t seen for ages, the odd bag of potatoes or bottle of wine which has appeared on the doorstep, and the constant exchange of funny videos (some of which I pass on in the newsletter) and home grown humour.

I leave you with the comment of one friend (she of the magic tricks) who’s passed on the advice of a TV psychologist.

“Heard a Dr. on TV say to get through the boredom of self isolation we should finish things we start and thus have more calm in our lives. So I looked through the house to find all the things i’ve started but hadn’t finished … I finished off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of Chardonnay, a bodle of Baileys, a butle of wum, tha mainder of Valiumun srciptuns, an a box a chocletz. Yu haf no idr how feckin fablus I feel rite now. Sned this to all who need inner piss. An telum u luvum x

Oh to have had shares in Zoom

Images above: More – The 10,000 Year Rise of the World Economy; author Philip Coggan

Two weeks ago I’d never heard of Zoom. Up till now there’s not been much call for international video conferencing with large groups of people on The Chiswick Calendar. Now at least once a day I find myself summoned to a Zoom conference. I am slightly handicapped by the lack of a camera on my PC, but at least have spared myself the embarrassment of the woman whose video has done the rounds when, forgetting she was on camera, she nipped to the loo mid conference.

When I’m not indulging in group gossip sessions, I’m reading Philip Coggan’s book More, a history of the world economy. Reading how populations have been decimated by famine and plague at various points in history and picked themselves up and continued, and even flourished, is oddly consoling. In 1000 AD life expectancy was 24 and a third of children died in their first year of life. It’s amazing we’re here today at all really.

Time and again we have invented technology to overcome adversity and prosper. The Chinese not only invented paper, but the stirrup and the wheelbarrow, which were both game changers in their time. They also developed printing 700 years before Gutenberg produced the printing press in Europe. As Philip says, it’s ironic that we (the West / America) now accuse the Asians nations of stealing Western technology.

Interview with Philip Coggan, author of More

There are seventeen ingredients in a typical tube of toothpaste, from titanium dioxide to xantham gum.

‘Its journey to your bathroom involves thousands of people and hundreds of processes. The titanium dioxide  that whitens your teeth has to be mined, probably in Australia or Canada, the calcium carbonate that acts as the abrasive has been extracted from limestone, and the xanthan gum used as a binding agent  comes from grinding up plants. The toothpaste in my bathroom lists 17 different ingredients and that doesn’t count the plastics used to make the tube’.

Then there’s the packaging, the manufacture, the transportation, the distribution, the retailing …

Philip Coggn traces the history of how the world has become so completely interdependent, from the earliest trading in prehistoric times to the modern economy ‘of dizzying complexity, and vast interconnections’.

‘If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the world to stock your house with goods’.

10,000 years of economic history

More is a fascinating read. Written by a journalist rather than an academic, it is very readable. It is not one of those books, that expounds a grand theory, like End of History  by Francis Fukayama or  Why Nations Fail  by Daron Acemoğlu and James Robinson. It deals in facts rather than theories: a meticulously researched history of how the world economy developed from ancient societies, coastal tribes exchanging fish for fruit gathered by those who lived inland, through the ancient empires, the trade routes of Asia, the ‘silk road’, the growth of Europe, the impact of manufacturing, of immigration and so on.

“There are a lot of books on economic history” Philip told me “but there hasn’t been one which attempts to tell the whole story like this one”.

More is a scholarly work. The appendix takes up quite a chunk of the book, showing just how much work went into it, all of which he did himself. But it wears its scholarship lightly, skipping along from one interesting fact or development to the next with his enthusiasm for the story. Most of his research was done online but he did get the odd trip out of it, to Felixstowe and Singapore to see the container ports, to Grand Central Station, a pilgrimage to a technological marvel which moves millions of people from their homes to their workplaces and back again each day, to factories in Malaysia and farms in California.

His chapter on the development of agriculture starts with a trip to the ‘Hanging Gardens of Boston’, a converted container growing lettuce, kale, flowers and wasabi inside it, in a carefully temperature-controlled environment which he trudged through deep snow in a blizzard to see. Freight Farms, the company behind the idea, have set up the container farm to be as efficient as possible, capturing moisture from the air and using less than five gallons of water a day while producing as much as two acres of farmland. Hydroponic farms are designed to grow food in the world’s most inhospitable climates. Philip uses it to demonstrate how human ingenuity can find new and more efficient ways of producing food.

Optimism for the future

“I think we can put Malthaus to bed” he says, in reference to the English economist whose book An Essay on the Principle of Population, published in 1798, predicted that an increase in a nation’s food production would improve the well-being of the populace, but only temporarily because it would lead to population growth, and food production wouldn’t be able to keep pace.

For him, the complexity of the modern economy and ever more ambitious growth in our expectations is no bad thing.

‘There’s a school of thought that belittles economic growth and the obsession with GDP statistics. Of course there is more to life than goods and services. But to understand how modern humans have benefited from economic growth, think back 600 years to the early 15th century. The typical European peasant would have had very little in the way of furniture but the odd stool to sit on (no upholstered armchairs) and a straw bed to sleep in (probably infested with fleas and lice); no privacy (all would sleep together, close to the fire, the only source of warmth); little in the way of cutlery (knives but not forks or spoons); and very little light at night (candles were very expensive).

Even within his own lifetime he remembers his mother on ‘washday’ spending ages doing the family washing and having to feed everything through a wringer before hanging it out to dry.

“I’m very suspicious of people who dismiss materialism. If you look at the invention of the washing machine, for example, a lot of the drudgery has been taken out of life, particularly for women”.

Life is easier and life is longer. In 1800 no country in the world had a life expectancy higher than 40. Now the world average is around 70.

“We value human life more now”

What of the current crisis? More went to press before the Coronavirus emerged, the last changes being made in October before being published in this country in February and in the US this week. I asked him whether he’d have to write a sequel Less, as the world economy shrinks and we all have to get used to being able to afford less.

Philip’s four years of research and writing have enabled him to view the current situation with equanimity. Taking the long view, by no means dismissing the seriousness of the situation now, he thinks within three or four years we’ll be back on our feet economically.

“Some things will have changed, but most things won’t” he told me.

Is it the first truly global pandemic?

“The Black Death spread from China to the UK, though it took five years”. (better not tell Donald Trump that. The Chinese will never hear the last of it). “Smallpox worked its way around the world, and so did the Spanish flu”.

“The way we’ve reacted shows how much more we value life” he said. “That we are prepared to disrupt our economies is an encouraging sign of the way we value human life now”.

Philip Coggan is the author of several books: The Money Machine, a guide to the City, which is still in print after 33 years, and Paper Promises, which was Spears’ business book of the year in 2012. ‘One of the most respected economics journalists on the planet’, according to Tim Harford, author of 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy. Philip writes the Bartleby column for the Economist and lives in Chiswick.

More is available to buy online

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Can the big shopping malls survive the Coronavirus?

See also: Businesses in limbo

 

Coronavirus lockdown in Italy

Italy is ahead of us in the development of the pandemic. Here’s now Italians around the country have kept up morale from their windows and balconies. Video by Andrea Carnevali, Chiswick resident originally from Italy, who has family in Milan and Rome.

 

Businesses ‘in limbo’

Restaurateur Michael Nadra closed his restaurant on 15 March.

“Over the last two weeks business had been slowing” he told me. “If we were the cause of an outbreak because of  a staff member or another customer that would have been a disaster”.

The award winning chef, who gets a mention in the Michelin guide, decide to close before Boris Johnson said all restaurants, cafes and pubs must shut, on Friday 20 March. Now he is now sitting back and considering how his business model might have to change once the current crisis is over.

Michael Nadra studied Naval Architecture & Ocean Engineering. As a student in the 1990s, at Glasgow University, he had no intention of being a chef. ‘When Michael walked into The Canteen in Chelsea Harbour he thought it was only going to be a summer job. But within two weeks he was cooking on the garnish section for up to 200 covers in a Michelin starred restaurant and was hooked’ according to the profile on his website.

From ocean engineer to top chef

When he graduated as an engineer he went to work with Nick Nairn, the Scottish celebrity chef who became the youngest Scottish chef to win a Michelin star in the early 1990s. He was opening his new restaurant and Michael got a part time job with him, as a Chef de Partie. He moved to London to work with Stephen Terry at Frith Street as Pastry Chef a year later, joins Petrus as Senior Chef de Partie and began baking for both Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road and Petrus, St James.

In 2000 he joined Bruce Poole at Chez Bruce, Wandsworth Common and soon became Sous Chef. After a spell at The Square in Mayfair and The Glasshouse in Kew, he joined La Trompette in Chiswick as Sous Chef, from there to Putney Bridge with Anthony Demetre. The Oak in Notting Hill and The Hempel in Lancaster Gate. He became Head Chef at The Waterway in Maida Vale for Tom Etridge in 2003 and moved to The Atlantic in Piccadilly for Oliver Peyton as Head Chef in the same year (who has recently set up Exit Here by Turham Green).

After such a meteoric rise Michael was ready to start his own restaurant. Fish Hook was his first venture, in Elliott Rd, a modern European seafood restaurant which he opened in 2005, but after a while he missed cooking meat, so he refurbished his Chiswick restaurant under his own name, Restaurant Michael Nadra in 2010, opening a second in Primrose Hill in 2012. His philosophy is to offer ‘high quality and great value, contemporary food, served in a relaxed and vibrant environment’.

Michael Nadra restaurant in Chiswick

His entry in the 2020 Michelin guide for his Chiswick restaurant reads:

‘Half way down a residential side street is this intimate little place where the closely set tables add to the bonhomie. Dishes are modern, colourful and quite elaborate in their make-up; it’s worth going for the sensibly priced set menu and the chosen wines’.

Closely set tables are of course the last thing that’s wanted at the moment, but Michael Nadra doesn’t seem to be the sort of person to throw in the towel quickly. He is trying to foresee how the economy will change once the current emergency is over, and how he should change his business model accordingly. They do say ‘every crisis presents an opportunity’ and he is trying to work out how his business can adapt and survive. They are, he said ‘in limbo’.

I asked him what he thought of the Government’s package of financial measures to support businesses. He welcomed the decision to cut business rates for a year. “That helps straight away” he told me. Premises with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will have no rates to pay in the coming year: an immediate saving of £10,000 on a property with a rateable value of £30,000. Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement last week that the Government would pay 80% of the wages of workers unable to work because of the Coronavirus emergency, was “great” he said.

“It’s a guessing game as to what people might want”

I wondered if he would consider doing takeaway meals, as many restaurants which haven’t previously are beginning to do. He is considering a ready meal service – providing “nice meals which can be cooked or reheated at home” but is waiting to work out the ramifications before he jumps to that decision. Before he closed last week he was offering a £69 six course tasting menu as well as a £20 express menu.

“We wouldn’t be making anything really” he told me. “We wouldn’t be making money on drink or a service charge and if I employ my staff to prepare food for deliveries, the Government wouldn’t pay 80% their salary” so he prefers not to take any risks at this stage. “In parts of Italy they did deliveries, but then they stopped it. I don’t want to start something and then find it is stopped”.

“After the initial reaction (to the Chancellor’s announcement of financial help) you think who is going to be paying for this? The Government has to do it, but there might have to be more taxes. And how is the economy going to work once this is over? Everyone will be cautious”. He will use these next few months he says to really consider how his business model should change to react to the changed environment. “It’s a guessing game as to what people might want”.

 

Spring and Summer fashion at Lizard on Turnham Green Terrace

Spring and Summer fashion at Lizard on Turnham Green Terrace

What will we be wearing this spring and summer? Ortenza Shehu has been talking to Kambiz and Jeannine at Lizard Fashion in Turnham Green Terrace.

Lizard Fashion sells beautiful and contemporary garments. With the heat of fashion week just around the corner I thought I’d pop in to see what this trendy outlet had chosen to feature for their spring/summer collection. What grabs the attention straight away is that there are a lot of vibrant colours: pinks and oranges, blues and greens, animal prints and abstract patterns. Looks like it’s going to be a bright and colourful summer.

Lizard are very keen on contemporary, feminine, unique brands such as Beate Heyman, Lu.el and NY77. There is strong European influence in their fashion; Baete Heyman for example is a German brand which Kambiz describes as “very contemporary” in its designs. Most of their garments use feminine shapes that accentuate the female body. For this summer, Lizard fashion has chosen some beautiful pieces from Baete Heymen, one in particular that caught my eye was this peacock dress that retails for £342.

The use of the peacock print has once again become a trend; it’s colourful, it stands out and it’s made of soft georgette material, making it a must-have statement piece for a hot summer day. The high-waisted tie around belt in royal blue gives this dress its final feminine touch. Beate Heyman features this peacock print in a few of their other garments including in a diaphanous blouse also made of georgette that retails for a much cheaper price of £129. With a drawstring at the hem for you to tighten, this blouse is ticking all the boxes of recent trends. Match it with a pair of trousers, creating a very casual look, all while remaining classy, stylish and dressed perfectly for a hot day.

The summer collection at Lizard also sees a return of the bohemian look, featuring intricate patterns layered on top of one another, contrasting colours bouncing off each other, and shining gems embellishing the garments.

A very daring look. As seen on this INOA
piece, we’ve got bright reds and soft oranges alongside subtle blues and turquoise, blending perfectly to create a fashion statement dress for this summer which is both a riot of colour and also somehow, calming. If you look closely you can also see the addition of gems which add the finishing touch to this garment.

Colourful, fun and versatile, this pattern is used on a few different pieces giving you the choice of styles. If you have more of a classic taste then maybe you’d prefer the v-neck maxi
dress with a tie waist to accentuate your curves, or if you’re on the more free- sprinted side, maybe you can pull off this off shoulder maxi dress? Made from 100% premium silk, these dresses are a luxury, made affordable, retailing at £199 and £210 Respectively.

It’s no surprise that we see the use of floral designs – a never-ending summer trend. There are many different styles to choose from, including maxi dresses, shirt dresses, two-piece top and bottom sets, blouses, you name it. If you’re not particularly feeling the colourful vibes this summer, I also picked out a few low-key pieces which use more subtle, earthy colours but still remain the same abstract style and gorgeous high-quality fabric. Such as this abstract, loose fit dress from Beate Heyman, also made of soft georgette.

Lizard Fashion is really the whole package; as well beautiful garments it also has a vast collection of original jewellery. Most of it come from Uno de 50 – a Spanish brand that is very quirky, using only silver and gold-plated materials.

They have this beautiful butterfly ring with a green stone – a perfect item to match the peacock dress.

An interview with Phyllis Logan and Kevin McNally

Images: Phyllis Logan and Kevin McNally

Kevin McNally and Phyllis Logan have recently become patrons of Chiswick Playhouse. The actors, who are married and live near the theatre, have been Chiswick residents for many years. They are delighted to have a theatre on their doorstep, and in between jetting off to exotic locations for filming (and not so exotic windowless, stuffy sound booths to do radio) they are willing to do whatever they can to promote it, alongside fellow theatre enthusiast and Director of the Chiswick Book Festival Torin Douglas.

When I talked to them about it, Phyllis was about to set out for the premiere of her latest film Misbehaviour and Kevin was just back from LA.

The obvious question which everyone always asks Kevin is: ‘Will there be another Pirates of the Caribbean?’ He plays Joshamee Gibbs, who alongside Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa, is one of the few characters to have appeared in all five films in the franchise. Whether there will be another and whether Johnny Depp will appear in it has been luridly discussed over the last two years with various of the interested parties chipping in periodically to fuel the rumours. Kevin was at Comic Con in Liverpool over the weekend and was asked the question a lot.

So will there? “I hope so” says Kevin, “we need a new car”. The series has proved a nice little earner over the years, but as he pointed out, they have spanned about 20 years. It must be a laugh to film. “Yes it is” he says, “like playing pirates but with really good and big toys”. They have been shot in the most fantastic locations as well – the Caribbean, Hawaii, Australia. “on big films like those you don’t tend to shoot much in a day” he says. So you’re stuck in a fantastic location without much to do … nice work if you can get it.

Why American directors love British actors

He recently came back from LA where is has been ‘pilot season’. He was up for the part of an older man who runs a government office in Washington. He didn’t get it but the producers wanted a British actor. Don’t American actors get very put out that so many British actors are employed to play American roles I asked him (Idris Elba and Dominic West in The Wire, Eddie Marsan in Ray Donovan). “Yes they do. Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut, the ex policeman turned hit man in Breaking Bad) once said to me at a party when I’d showed up for a pilot “Oh God, another damn Brit taking our jobs”.

So why does it happen so often? “I asked a director that once” says Kevin. “He said British actors are well trained, they do their research, they turn up on time and they stand on their mark”. Don’t American actors? “I get the impression some of them seem to see it more as a form of therapy”.

Misbehaviour

Phyllis was getting ready to go to the premiere of Misbehaviour, about the Women’s Lib demonstration at the Miss World pageant in 1970. Demonstrators threw flour bombs and squirted water pistols in protest at the ‘cattle market’ parade of women in ball gowns and swim suits, turning in a line on stage so the cameras could pan across their backsides and the judges could score them on their breasts and hips. At the time it was considered perfectly normal family viewing, watched by millions the world over.

“I remember watching it” says Phyllis, who would have been 14 at the time. “We all used to sit around watching it. It’s nice to do something with a historical angle I could relate to”. She has a cameo role as the mother of the main character, Sally Alexander, played by Keira Knightley and steals the film with her puzzled and hurt reaction to her daughter’s feminist activism. There’s a great scene in which Sally is at home with her mother and takes exception to her encouraging her own daughter to twirl around like a beauty queen. “You used to love playing Miss World when you were a little girl” says the mother. “Yes and we also liked eating our own snot” retorts Sally.

The film has a predominantly female cast, was written by two women: Rebecca Frayn, who also lives in Chiswick, and Gaby Chiappe, and directed by a woman, Philippa Lowthorpe. Phyllis had worked with Lesley before and knew Keira a little from meeting her on the Pirates of the Caribbean set with Kevin. “She’s lovely” says Phyllis. “She’s very nice indeed, very down to earth and easy going”.

Patrons of Chiswick Playhouse

Though both actors have had huge success in a particular role – Kevin as Mr Gibbs in Pirates of the Caribbean, Phyllis as the housekeeper Mrs Hughes / Carson in Downton Abbey, they both have an incredibly long list of credits to their name in film, television and radio and they are both always in great demand. Phyllis is about to do a radio play in Glasgow – Weir of Hermiston, based on an unfinished novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. (Writer Colin MacDonald has given the play an ending based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s notes).

Kevin has been working on the second series of Das Boot, a German television adaptation of the 1981 film produced for Sky Atlantic. “I play a very rich man trying for the Senate and illegally dealing with the Nazis. Unfortunately I didn’t get to work on the submarines”.

In between gigs they will be promoting Chiswick Playhouse. “I’m very pleased to be involved” says Kevin. “Chiswick is full of actors and it’s great that we have our own theatre. I’m very pleased and looking forward to it”. Phyllis also is proud to be a part of it. “We are so fortunate to have a local theatre”.

The theatre’s third patron, Torin Douglas MBE, has done a lot of research into the literary and theatrical history of Chiswick, creating a Timeline of Chiswick Authors for the Chiswick Book Festival website. He was recently asked by Fr Kevin, vicar of St Michael & All Angels Church, to give a Lent talk on people who have influenced his life and inspired him. He chose playwright Tom Stoppard, author Lady Antonia Fraser (widow of the playwright Harold Pinter) and his teacher Philip LeBrocq, who encouraged his thespian leanings at school.

As a teenager he was inspired to put on plays, “and to believe – quite wrongly as it turned out – that I too could write entertaining and clever dramas”. Now he’s quite happy to promote the talents of those who do, in a bijou theatre within easy walking distance of his house.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Guess who’s coming to dinner – Torin Douglas invites his fantasy dinner party guests

See also: Misbehaviour