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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

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While trawling through the internet yesterday afternoon Dearbhile happened to come across a picture of myself and Tanya on the Elle Magazine website.

Tanya and I faintly remember a lovely lady asking to take our picture at the Swarvoski Rocks Giles party during London Fashion Week, cialis 40mg information pills but what with all the cocktails, store here and bizarre celebrity sightings, price we thought nothing more of it. Turns out our hounds tooth prints caused quite a stir. According to Elle they’re bang on trend this season, which is great news considering both items were fairly cheap vintage discoveries.

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Visit the Elle page here and read the story of our night on the website.

Nestled in one side of London Fashion Week’s cavernous exhibition is the fascinating, more about intriguing and enlightening Estethica mini exhibition. Now in its fifth season, it is a celebration of all things eco, organic, and environmentally friendly.

Truthfully, Monsoon has only ever conjured up thoughts of a high street chain store catering for people on a budget who were clinging to the boho chic look of, oh you know, decades ago. Quel surprise! Monsoon are actually a strong force in ethical fashion markets and I was embarrassed by my naivety towards this fascinating label, which works with communities around the world to meet ethical standards of work and runs trusts to support children, working communities and families. Their clothing and accessories feature the finest examples of craftsmenship from around the world to ensure these glorious techniques stay within the public realm – embrodiery from Afghanistan, printing in India.

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Monsoon here represents a host of fabulous brands who are challenging the constraints and, frankly, sticking the fingers up at fashion power houses. They are proving that there is simply no excuse for not being ethically minded. The handout states ‘only through a combined effort can designers, industry, government and consumers create a more sustainable clothing culture’. Agreed.

The heads of Estethica are having their feathers ruffled, though. In a society where everyone is becoming more aware of their social responsibilities (some, albeit, slower than others) it’s long become fashionable to be ethical. Sadly (but not surprisingly) brands are jumping on the band wagon. Labels are including ‘vintage scraps’ in their collections just to appeal to the conscious fashionista, or using fairtrade cotton in one t-shirt line and shouting it from the rooftops. Oh dear. So how do we know that this isn’t going on here? A green logo or a photograph of child smiling happily as he/she worked in cotton fields wasn’t going to be enough. Well, this season Estethica have appointed the Estethica partners – a team of individuals and organisations who subject anyone claiming to be ethical to rigid analysis and thorough checks. Okay, I’m convinced, now show me some hot looks!

Well, first up – Nitin Bal Chauhan. His vibrant, decadent jump suits and elegant (but still wild) tailored suits would fit perfectly into any fashion confident wardrobe. Launched in 2005, his fashion label promotes the ‘Himachal handloom and handicrafts industry by using exclusive fine woolen fabric,’ which is hand woven by skilled craftmen in Delhi, India. A eco-concious man, Nitin’s fashion label sisters his film and art projects, which promote similar causes to great effect, and to critical acclaim – no less than a nomination at the Asian Film Festival. A talented visionary and you should expect to see a lot more of him in the future.

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If you were looking for a celebrity endorsed ethical label, look no further than the Environmental Justice Foundation. Luella Bartley and Christian Lacroix have already provided (free of charge, I might add) their own designs to apply to their ethically produced t-shirts. This season, step up http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/fashion/article3369780.ece, Allegra Hicks, John Rocha and Zandra Rhodes, who provide their own take on earth matters. Giles’ tee is expectedly minimalist chic – a simple flower design, whilst Zandra’s is vibrant and playful. They’re designed with childhood as a theme – a tribute to the million plus children forced into labour. Suitably, all the profits go straight back into charitable causes, so grab one of these ‘must have ethical items’ before they’re gone.

I had a very interesting chat with a fabulous woman known only to me as Agent Zuzu. She wasn’t as illusive as her name sounds, and she did tell me her real name, mind you, but the second she told me it I knew I’d forget it. I’ll have to refer to her as Zuzu, sadly. Her assistant was a big fan of the magazine (natch), even quoting the countless bands and designers that Amelia’s has been a platform for. Zuzu (I’m sorry) is the promoter behind the eco label Makepiece who produce beautiful clothing, right here in the UK, with a conscious. They too want fabulous outfits – but they also want human rights, environmental sustainability, reduced chemicals and carbon footprints and an end to the landfill. They trust who they work with and all of their pieces are compostable (like you’d be throwing any of these items away). From the tightest knitted dresses with ruffle cap sleeves (produced ethically in North Yorkshire) to casual tops and skirts, fashion and style are no obstacle here with a range of colours and cuts.

Not all brands were about womenswear. Brazilian, youthful footwear brand Veja (Portugese for ‘look’) produces stylish footwear, not dissimilar to Shoreditch plimsolls – but with more of a choice than black or white. Organic cotton and wild rubber from the Amazon are fused together by Brazilian workers who are paid fairly for the craftsmenship, to produce stylish and practical footwear for fashion concious men and women.

Continuing with shoes, Beyond Skin claim to produce ‘beautiful AND ethical footwear’ and they proved this at the exhibition with a mixture of stiletos and flats in a varied colour pallete – neutrals, which seem to be popular this season, and brights.

…and there was so much more. I was exhausted. I was just about to leave this fascinating area of creativity, heading for the nearest, chicest bar where I could get a Chambord cocktail or a mug of tea, and I stumbled across Bllack Noir. This Danish label dispells any fears fashionistas might have about having to wear a shapeless hemp sack to wear ethical. Their lavish frocks and luxurious fabrics hold a secret – they’re ALL dreamed up and manufactured ethically. Luxury silk trousers, sharp, glittered tailored suits and bias cut dresses all feature and sit side by side any fashion powerhouse rival.
To see it for yourself visit their website which features all of their looks and displays an interesting (if not a little lengthy) code of practice to which all of their products are made.

There were over 40 brands on display in this part of the exhibition, too many to go through each in detail. If you’re interested in ethical fashion, do check out Article 23‘s fusion of smart menswear and sportswear, produced in India by a women’s cooperative; Deborah Lindquist‘s brave and edgy knitwear, made from – amongst other materials – recycled cashmere; Junky Styling and Revamp’s fantastic recycled clothing, catering for a the hip end of the market (where no two pieces are the same – everything re-cut and transformed from recycled charity shop goods); and so on.

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Refreshingly though, this segment of the exhibition didn’t throw it in your face, as I had feared. I understand that this emotional technique is often needed, but I don’t think it was that necessary here – and after all, we’re here to interpret fashion. I think too much Save The Planet flapping would have distracted from the clothes themselves, and the resounding point is that with careful consideration, research and a conscience, you can still look fabulous.
1950s & 1960s is showing at the Photographers’ Gallery until the 16th November. The exhibition is a selection from three sources: Jean Straker, about it David Hurn and The Daily Herald newspaper, more about all of which document aspects of Soho during its rather peculiar epoch.
Images, historical images, rarely fail to spark up some sort of intense flash of nostalgia within me. Perhaps because such images show things gone forever: beautiful things, exhilarating and ominous things, which create a sense of loss, of missing out on a bygone era.
At the moment of the 50s, beehives and gin hummed through London, somewhat more voraciously than any previous 50s revival. It’s quite nice then to plunge into the place from which it all derived.
It seems today’s Soho is all but a faint charge of the former sexed up version, being now composed of some rather dreary sex shops and a denizen of bars. Maybe history romanticized Soho in the 50s. However I think Soho was, most certainly awash with something dark and glittering.
Unfortunately this isn’t really shown at The Photographers’ gallery, not really. There’s lots of nudes, and yes, that was a huge part of Soho, a vast part even, but it’s a bit dull after awhile. The photographs by David Hurn are quite funny (I just hope they’re supposed to be). They document Soho’s strippers both at work and resting. The strip clubs themselves are the funny bit. It’s a rather odd set up-the way seats are arranged around a boxing ring. Members of the audience have hilarious expressions, riddled with awkwardness.
There are some edited photos, accompanied by cuttings, all by anonymous photographers of the Daily Herald. These are the most interesting part. They capture the rush of excitement, the buzz that you think about when you think of Soho in the 50s and 60s. A plethora of crime, music, gin and Tommy Steele (whom I’d hadn’t ever heard of, and am not embarrassed to say so; but I am sure he was and is-for he still remains with us-spectacular. He looks like an awful lot of fun regardless.)
Soho Archives is ultimately a historical exhibition: it doesn’t really do anything. It only presents a small fragment of Soho which feels slightly limp.
Along side Dryden Goodwin’s exhibition Cast, this is going to be the last exhibition held at The Photographer’s gallery before it moves. Featuring an exhibition such as this does show the Galleries value of the importance of photographic Archives.

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The London Vintage Fashion Fair takes place every six weeks at either the Hammersmith Town Hall or the Olympia Hilton hotel in Kensington.

In this tough economic climate, cheap there’s an abundance of lifestyle features about the art of credit crunch chic. “swap clothes with your friends” they suggest, more aboutinvest in classic pieces, healing ” they murmur. My cheap chic solution? Vintage. Or TK Maxx, but vintage sounds much classier.

It’s perhaps serendipitous then that The London Vintage Fashion Fair took place recently. A hallowed six-weekly affair hosted by either the Hammersmith Town Hall or the Olympia Hilton hotel in swanky Kensington, that was dreamed up by vintage dealer Paola Francia-Gardiner five years ago.

The London Vintage Fashion Fair is not the only brainchild of established antiques purveyor Francia-Gardiner. A long-time vintage maven who is said to have coined the now omnipresent term ‘vintage fashion’ and founder of the popular fair which attracts more than one hundred vintage dealers from the UK and abroad, Francia-Gardiner’s fair offering pieces dating from 1800 to the 1980s.

Hammersmith is conspicuously absent from my go-to list for clobber, having resisted the urge as a student to frequent the area’s once flagship Primark. But, armed with a map, a longing for genuine – i.e. not of supermarket provenance – vintage and a determination to find this so-called vintage fashion Mecca, I made a rare foray into West London.

With fabulous Art Deco crocodile bags from £35, original seventies costume jewellery by the likes of Givenchy and Kenneth Jay Lane at upwards of £40, and a wealth of vintage clothing from manifold decades, the organisers’ description of the fair as “the Rolls Royce of the Vintage Fashion Fairs” is not hyperbolic.

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The fair I attended appeared to have an emphasis on earlier vintage but gladly my current favourite fashion epoch, the covetable British boutique movement, was represented in the form of a fabulously psychedelic full length Zandra Rhodes confection and a rather chic Janice Wainwright jersey column replete with panels made out of tricky-trend-du-jour lace.

My only cause for concern was the changing rooms – or rather lack thereof. Needless to say it took some time to become accustomed to trying on sixties Parisian couture in the imposing Art Deco hall’s toilets, but this is a very small price to pay for access to this incredible fair’s stock and refreshingly friendly sellers.

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Despite the wealth of beautiful vintage on offer, I left the London Vintage Fashion Fair empty handed, but armed with a new go-to place for vintage. The London Vintage Fashion Fair is indeed a vintage Mecca; and a pilgrimage for any vintage lover.

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As if the boom of green living (just what do we print on exactly?!) wasn’t enough to fill designers with fear, information pills the current collapse of the economy doesn’t exactly leave much hope for us creative minded.

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Climate Camp 2007 on the march for Heathrow, click cardboard images represent a cross-section of the worlds population created by John Jordan and the Climate Camp team

Yet, cialis 40mg as Jody Boehnert of Eco-Labs writes in Creative Review designers are actually an important player in the move toward a sustainable society, defined as “key intermediaries between science, policy and the public.” Furthermore Alastair Fuad-Luke author of the Eco Design Handbook outlines us as designers employ “the power of the design process to engage, raise awareness, amplify existing capacity and generate transformative actions.” A perfect example of this is the manifestation of Climate Camp in the bringing together of diverse individuals to create peaceful protests demonstrating the importance of change, particularly in our dependance on fossil fuels. Workshops, meetings and marches culminated to successfully shut down the Kingsnorth power station this year.

“The camp makes sophisticated use of the media and its networks through an extensive communications strategy” remarks Creative Review. Not only in the handling of the media, but the artwork it employs to target awareness of change acts to “transform voices of activists into legitimate high profile calls for change.”

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The Swiss army knife logo was found pasted around London, on flyers and as the opening image on the Climate Camp website

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A spread from the Climate Camp newspaper “You are here”

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Map from the Climate Camp newspaper

Take the Swiss army knife identity for this years Climate Camp created by Manchester based studio Ultimate Holding Company and how it intelligently depicts all tools of activism… a wrench, book, wind turbine, loud speaker. Or this years newspaper entitled “You Are Here,” which cleverly uses word and image to draw you into the debate slowly, climate change is not mentioned until you’ve read a few pages. John Jordan, activist at the camp and contributing designer of the paper explains the idea of the paper, “to make publicity materials which have the slickness of corporate media yet the punch of rebel flyers, the poetic writing of literature yet the political analysis of radical theory.” This combined aesthetic Creative Review claims to hold similarity to anarchist revolutionary visual codes of earlier activists movements, yet the effect is to be attractive to everyday people. Perhaps this explains why there was such a varied background was achieved at at this years camp (including all of us from Amelia’s!).

A fresh perspective with the brief of saving the world now, designers need to engage participation and desire, to “create a sense of a generational mission and help build understanding of a very real planetary emergency.”
Denim, stomach that noble savage of fabrics, approved is a tough one to get overly excited about. Granted, pills there is nothing like the comforting hug of an old faithful pair of jeans. And it has been a pleasure to get reacquainted with the stonewashed species after years in the cold. But any attempt at something ‘different’- embellishment, embroidery, paint splashes, frills, feathers-no matter how expensive or supposedly tasteful, always seems to end hideously.

So it was with trepidation that I approached the ‘Lee Cooper 100 years‘ auction project, part of a year long cavalcade of events celebrating a century of the Cooper family business. Designers, celebrities, companies and, erm, Playboy were invited to create unique and iconic pieces from denim, for sale at a special auction in Paris on 29th September, with all proceeds going to the French Red Cross and Aids charities.

This kind of affair, a celebrity endorsed event for famine/climate change, does tend to have a distasteful odour around it. Ideally, the bidders and celebrities would just donate money without all the palaver, but the world doesn’t work like that. One has to be pragmatic about these things- especially for such undeniably important causes.

It would be great to say some aesthetically unexpected and wonderful emerged from all of this; say Linford Christie as London’s next big design talent, perhaps? However, it seems to be the usual suspects doing their ‘iconic’ thing, with the rest as a heavily embellished filler.

Giles Deacon heads the pack with an armour-like, precisely cut dress that looks starched to within an inch of its life. It is a glorious combination of (literal) toughness and softness, almost like a prom dress crossed with a nun’s habit; serious in its high, austere neckline but playful with the accompanying vampire smiley necklace. Jean-Charles de Castelbajac matches Giles for barminess (the people would expect nothing less); a jacket and sofa heave under numerous denim teddy bears. Visually more kaleidoscopic than it sounds and a sunbeam of humour.

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Giles Deacon dress

The rest is fine to unpleasant, with some bad paintings and even worse embellished denim, but there are a few (nice) surprises. The denim Playboy bunny suit is a collision of two American icons and is trashily good fun. Jade Jagger’s contribution is surprisingly good, with a little help from a certain rocker; a denim jacket with a gold pair of the Stone’s melting lips emblem on the back.

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Jade Jagger jacket

Some of most arresting pieces aren’t clothes at all, such as the denim Marshall amp and upholstered Landrover. The auction itself promises a few secret surprises- the denim version of the eccentrically attired fashion blogger Diane Pernet’s signature get-up sounds the most intriguing. A few stand out pieces, plus the promise of more on the day, maybe isn’t such a bad lot after all.

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Johnny Foreigner are a glimpse of what the world would be like if we all still loved Blink 182 as much as we used to. Filled with an overbearing predisposition for teen angst, sale I can imagine a lot of people walking away saying little else than, pill “Well, price they were a bit annoying and whiney.”

There are moments where all the Dude Ranch influence is teamed with some very English, Hot Club De Paris style guitars and vocals. It seems to work in a really wrong way. It’s the kind of music you of have to lower your music taste to enjoy fully. I found it best just to forget the fact that I stopped listening to bands like this about the same time I realised how awful the Austin Powers movies are – sorry if this makes me sound pretentious, but it was more the fact that bands like this have been around for ages. Go to any town and you’ll find a band with a similar sound. There’s no doubt that Johnny Foreigner do it well, it’s just not what I’m accustomed to enjoying anymore.

One wonderful thing about the gig was that it was the first time I’ve seen a crowd go genuinely wild for quite some time, especially in a club like Madame Jo Jo’s. The crowd seemed to be almost tidal, with people literally being thrown around. People screaming along, with their hands aloft – I think if a band can have that effect on a crowd you can’t really fault them.

The end of their set saw the guitarist from Dananananaykroyd join them on stage. I was sorely disappointed to have missed their support slot (manly due to lengthy, mad dash around Piccadilly Circus trying to find my friend before the gig). It kind of made up for missing them, and the lead singers crowd surf was well worth staying to the end for. The entire gig seemed to be one big guilty pleasure.

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Since I went up to Wales to attend the Howies Do Lectures I have found myself hanging out even more with my friend Tamsin Omond, sick trying to figure out ways to put the world to rights, and more specifically to engage the public in the need for direct action to affect the policies made by our government on our behalf when it comes to Climate Change. Tamsin is one of the Plane Stupid crew who climbed onto the roof of parliament in order to protest against airport expansion, and a mere year since her first involvement in the Climate Change movement she has decided to create the Climate Rush. This was inspired by the discovery that we are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the Suffragettes Rush on Parliament, which took place on October 13th 1908. Christabel Pankhurst deliberately used the ambiguous word Rush to imply urgent action, although she was not clear what precisely she meant, saying that “by rushing the House of Commons, the suffragettes mean going through the doors, pushing their way in, and confronting the Prime Minister.” Following this momentous action (and many others less well known) women were given the vote.

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getting ready for an action in an alley near Parliament Square

Tamsin has decided to celebrate this awe inspiring event with a rally of her own to lobby for Climate Action, and so was born the Climate Rush. She and I are part of a fast growing movement of eco-activists who believe that marches, petition signing and other purely lobbying actions do not seem to be having the effect that we urgently require. Look at the anti-war marches! Despite vast numbers of people marching for peace the government did not listen to the voices of their people. Step down shamed, Mr Blair. So here is the perfect chance to dress up and emulate a pivotal point in history, hopefully with as much effect as the direct action of the Suffragettes so many years ago.

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we headed for the Churchill statue overlooking parliament, where a banner was unfurled just like the ones that the Suffragettes used.

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point made well I think, looking somewhat triumphant

The main rally for the Climate Rush will of course be held on October 13th 2008, and I urge you, men and women (whilst this is a women-led cause, it is entirely inclusive – we all live on this earth) to join us, preferably in Edwardian costume. A great line-up has been secured, including the indominatable Caroline Lucas, Green MEP and activist, prominent feminist Rosie Boycott and former Lib Dem MP Baroness Tonge. This event is for us all, and we’d love to bring 60,000 people to Parliament Square, just like the brave Suffragettes did all those years ago. We will be calling for No New Coal, No Airport Expansion and a fair and realistic new Climate Bill. (Clue – if the government goes ahead with its plans for New Coal and Airport Expansion as currently planned then it will fall short of any sensible targets for mitigating the kind of Climate Change that will drastically alter life on earth.)

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and onto Nelson Mandela’s statue. I think he would approve.

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Prior to this event we are going to be raising awareness with a nod and a wink to the Suffragettes before us. So, with that in mind, today we got up ridiculously early (5.30am folks) and, dressed in Edwardian garb and red sashes (the Suffragettes wore purple) we dressed the statues of Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square. We then walked on to Victoria Station where we daubed chalk slogans on the pavement for the benefit of the stream of commuters exiting the station on their way to work. Expect more inspiring actions to follow in the weeks leading up to the rally, and I look forward to seeing you at the Climate Rush!

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chalking on the pavement

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hopefully people will remember the date! there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned form of spreading the word…
Inside Out is a quarterly magazine that seeks ‘to promote the use of creativity for personal development through […] a focus on self-awareness and self-help.’ Included is work by artists and writers in the UK, viagra sale with an emphasis on those who use the mental health services.

But do not fear- there are no outpourings of gushy sentiments and there are no teenage angsty pieces. Instead Inside Out weaves together reader submissions, dosage interviews with well known writers and artists, information from experts, both in the fields of therapy and healing arts. What I like about it is the poems and creative writing, that in other publications are limited to a page, but here it is allowed to be more expansive. Also short stories are personal recollections that obviously mean something to the writer.

With an avalanche of new zines and magazines in London it’s hard to stand out from the crowd and make your own mark. However, Inside Out does not seek attention or feel the need to promote a ‘cool image’ of itself. Instead, it creates a hub for creative thinkers in a free flowing way by including work from a range of talented people who would otherwise be unheard. With an aesthetic that includes: buttons, sketchy drawings and some Cy Twombley inspired paintings, in the latest issue-it is rather good reading for a rainy day, or if you find that commute into work a tad tedious.

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Brian Wilson has never lived anywhere apart from Southern California. In fact, cialis 40mg he’s never lived further than 20 miles from where he was born. Therefore, case it makes sense that ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ is ostensibly a concept album, celebrating the sounds, vibe and people of Wilson’s home state.

Supporting Wilson are The Wondermints – a backing band par excellence. However, it seems as if they’re more excited about the idea of working with Brian Wilson the Legend, rather than Brian Wilson the Songwriter. Wilson’s mental breakdown is fleetingly acknowledged in ‘Going Home’ (“At 25, I turned out the light/’Cause I couldn’t handle the glare in my tired eyes.”) but instead of the lines coming from the mouth of a tired old man, they’re gleefully harmonized by the ever-chirpy Wondermints. As a result, what could have been a thoughtful and fragile record, filled with reflections on aging and former glories, becomes an artificial overly-commercial enterprise. Wilson creates an elegy- instead of a paean- for his earlier work.

Pet Sounds collaborator Van Dyke Parks shares most of the song-writing credits, and also penned many of the ‘narrative’ passages that litter the record. Gleams of SMiLE’s brilliance can be heard echoing through the record, most fittingly when the backing band are relegating to supporting duties. On ‘Southern California’ Wilson reminisces about the origins of The Beach Boys (‘I had a dream/ singing with my brothers’), and allows sincerity to shine through. The opening harmonies on ‘Morning Beat’ and the final moments of ‘Southern California’ are the most authentic and most gorgeous moments on the record. Fittingly, they’re the lines in which Wilson sings of his one true desire- to finally go home.

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It’s not often that you enter a town hall that is festooned with greenery. But then it’s not often that you encounter a group of people dedicated to turning their bit of a huge city into something quite wonderful.

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not sure what it is, troche but it’s green!

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a packed hall awaits eagerly

Actor Duncan Law was inspired to create the Transition Town Brixton movement after hearing Rob Hopkins speak 2 years ago. In the last 18 months he has managed to create something really quite wonderful, with over 1000 people joining the cause, and tonight was the official “unleashing” of their plans to create an Energy Descent Plan for the whole area. An Energy Descent Plan is a document put together by a number of committed people who are working on all different areas of society from transport and waste to health and food issues. It creates a vision of how society can live as we move into an era of rocketing oil prices and oil shortages combined with the devastating effects of Climate Change, and then explains how to get there. The beauty of the Transition Town concept lies in its positive attitude – and the idea that we can create a better society starting from now – by engaging communities in a localised way that ignites friendships and creates growing excitement.

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the introductions

I grew up very close to Brixton and spent much of my youth hanging out in various squats. I then lived there for a few years before moving east to Brick Lane. I don’t live there anymore, but I do know Duncan and his sidekick (in charge of finances) Jody Boehnert, who runs design initiative Eco-Labs. So I was there when they put on a local economy workshop day, and I was determined to see the fruits of all their hard work in the unleashing.

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Duncan and Jody

Rob Hopkins, the guru who started it all (he would hate that term – he’s very down to earth even though he’s an absolutely amazing guy – he even wrote about the Positive Future illustrations in my current issue of the mag, issue 9, fact fans) was unfortunately unable to attend the event due to illness and sent a suitably humourous apology.

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Rob’s apology

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In his place we had key speaker Ben Brangwyn, who helps Rob to manage the Transition Town network in Totnes. To a packed hall he gave a highly entertaining yet hard hitting speech. Some key facts – up to 9 calories of oil are used to create 1 calorie of food – does this seem like a sensible idea in this climate?! Worldwide oil production peaked in 1964, ever since it has been in overall decline. Oil production in the UK peaked in 1979. And yet we continue to guzzle the stuff at a completely unsustainable rate. However it is an anomaly to say we are “running out” of oil – we aren’t – there will always be someone rich enough and crazy enough to create oil out of tar, shale and so on. But we are running out of cheap oil. To witness the devastation caused by mining tar sands in Alberta check out this map.
Agrofuels are often mooted as our saviour but this is plain ridiculous – they are grown in place of food, and they pollute, using up precious water and gas. Gas supplies in the UK are dependent on producers such as Russia, a volatile source, and Norway, which does not see the UK as a primary concern. BERR, the government department that is charged with predicting prices for business, has forecast some truly ridiculous prices for oil and gas.

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combined trouble ahead

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symptoms of a reality check!

Ben spoke about the wonderful example of Cuba, where the collapse of the Soviet Union (and an end to a cheap supply of fuel) prompted a complete change of life – where farmers were paid as much as engineers and 20% of the population returned to the land, even in the cities, where carparks were turned into farms. “I love the idea of digging up carparks!” said Ben. “In fact there is an unofficial competition amongst Transition Town groups to see who can dig one up first. I reckon you could do it overnight!” Apparently there are plans afoot to dig up a car park in Totnes already – and they are going to see whether human power or oil power is more effective.
Do you know what proportion of our vegetables and fruit are grown in the UK? 50% of vegetables are grown here, but a staggeringly low 5% of our fruit comes from home. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? That is shocking – we’ve become so accustomed to foreign fruit that we don’t even realise that we have become totally unresilient en route. Ben mentionned this in respect to the fuel threat that we faced when the hauliers went on strike a few years ago. 80% of our fruit and veg is purchased through the supermarket system, and it was widely quoted that we only have four and a half days worth of food in the system if the trucks stop rolling. Yet his conversations with people in an unspecified midlands town sound even more critical – this town apparently had a mere 2 meals worth of food left if transport broke down. The Transition Town initiative is all about addressing this issue of resilience – about communities reclaiming their lives, not leaving their fates up to a far wider picture than they can possibly see.
In an amusing if worrying interlude Ben then told us about the survivalist websites in the US where people discuss whether it is better to own a club or a gun in the event of civil disruption. Apparently a gun is better – because when you run out of bullets you can use it as a club. Scary stuff. The point of Transition Towns is to look the future in the face and actually plan for it in a positive way – so there won’t be any people clobbering each other over the head in Brixton, hopefully! Ben cites the fuel crisis of the 70s as a time of inspiring creativity – what tends to happen is that people discover resources that they never knew they possessed – so in the US the freeways closed on Sundays and solar power was widely adopted. There were no “hordes of people tearing around the streets eating each other.” Those survivalists will be so disappointed.
A major part of the Transition concept involves “visioning” – which is precisely what I attempted to do with my Positive Futures illustrations in issue 9.

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positive films!

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oh shit, there’s me! I helped to launch the Brixton Brick local currency a few months ago

Rob has put together an amazing book to help look at ways that communities can follow the Transition Town concept. Sharing information through training sessions is intrinsic, followed by an inclusive attitude towards business, schools and local communities. “I think there’s a great future for supermarkets!” grins Ben. He goes on to describe how the biggest land owner in Brixton, Tesco, could become a new marketplace, selling veg grown in the converted car park. It’s a vision which raises more than a few chuckles. Inner transition is also an important aspect of the process and groups are encouraged to create a ‘heart and soul’ group to deal with the changes people feel.

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Ben and Duncan listening to the speeches

What is so amazing about the process is it is led from the bottom up – but also engaging with the top down policies where needed. And most of all it encourages people to follow their individual passions. “I am part of the most useless generation that ever walked this planet,” laughs Ben,” I’m very good at moving pixels around on a screen… and fixing bikes…” His point being that we have become totally deskilled when it comes to the most vital ones we need – and we need to relearn these for ourselves instead of relying on others to provide for us.
There are now hundreds of towns, villages and islands who are heading towards Transition, all over the world. However, only 5 have unleashed, ie. decided to really and truly go for it. And Brixton is particularly ambitious in being the only place embedded in a huge city – with this in mind there is going to be a Cities Transition Conference in November in Norwich, who also unleashed earlier this week.
Hopefully more will be encouraged to join the movement instead of feeling hopeless in the face of such enormous change.

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Duncan speaking

Duncan Law then stood up to explain how he formed the Lambeth Climate Action Group a few years ago but became disillusioned with it because he wanted to head towards something positive instead of worrying about the negative. “Your seratonin levels will be enhanced when you leave here!” he told us, and went on to explain how the tidal wave of energy had to be unleashed, “or it will tow us away!” Transition Town Brixton has spent 18 months awareness raising and now is the time to design the changes that are required ahead of the curve. He spoke of the many benefits of taking part in the synergy intrinsic to the movement and noted that the famous film about Cuba’s move towards a resilient society is subtitled “The Power of Community” a subtext that could be applied to the Transitions movement. When he put out a call for estates in brixton that were interested in growing their own food, 6 responded, so he feels that Transition Town Brixton is in the enviable position of being at the forefront of the inevitable. Working groups have sprung up spontaneously because people want to make it work. “We need to reconnect with our place, our planet and our people, and we can if we work together.” I couldn’t agree more – if you are an illustrator please do read my new brief here.
We then had a succession of brief updates from those most involved in the individual groups that have formed in Brixton – Will works with the building and energy group and wants to see a zero carbon Brixton. “It may seem pie in the sky, but it’s a fast approaching pie and we can either plan to catch it and enjoy delicious organic food or we can get covered in gravy!” Wiz is part of the transport group or the “car free living project” who are working towards a more viable alternative to high levels of car usage. She urged people to attend a meeting on Oct 14th. Sophie works with waste, talking to market traders about curbing plastic bag usage, and also making rubbish tangible – so that it can be reappropriated and reused. She envisaged lots of jobs being created in the repairing industry, and talked of the lost skills we might be able to regain from the refugee community. “I would like to see an immigrant watchmaker teaching an unemployed city banker!”
Sue from Hyde Farm Climate Action Network then spoke about the importance of involving neighbourhood groups so that everybody can be reached, otherwise it is hard to start the right conversations even though so many people want to be involved. “4000 people probably live in one street in Brixton – that’s the same as in the whole of Totnes!” Ben informed us that there are actually a massive 8000 in Totnes. The scale of the task was suddenly brought home to us all. Sue’s group are holding a conference tomorrow as part of a wider network of Low Carbon Communities. I was supposed to go to Wales for it but I now hope to make it to the South London one instead.

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the invite to the south london gathering

Mamudin spoke about economy and business – apparently it was Ghandi‘s birthday yesterday too – he who spoke at length about local self sufficiency.

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Hannah spoke about “Remade in Brixton” which plans to bring local creative businesses together to work with waste. “There is no such thing as waste – just a resource we need to make better use of.” Here here. Philippe is a businessman who owns a restaurant on Acre Lane and he is enthusiastic about the opportunities. “I think that this crisis is the best thing that ever happened to us, because it means we can look at the way we live and make it better!” He would like to make Brixton the cradle of green enterprise, with inclusive community-led regeneration, and land owned by a community trust, which got a very big clap. The communications group spoke of the many protests and campaigns they have helped to support, and their aim to stop Tesco from expanding.
Jody, who is head of communications and all else that needs sorting out, spoke of the need for a little more cash, and urged the crowd for donations in these early days when the movement is growing so fast. The ultimate aim will be for everything to be self sustaining but the realities of fast expansion are tough.
Lastly Duncan came back on to rally the troops “Are you inspired cos I am! I’m going to bounce out of bed tomorrow morning!” he exclaimed theatrically.

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His energy is just fantastic. After a rousing round of applause the sparklers were lit on the phenomenal cake, made with 30 local eggs by the good folks of Transition Town Tooting.

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lighting the cake!

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Ben and Duncan cut the cake

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okay, so I really liked this cake….

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and it tasted good too…

There followed a brainstorm in small groups of ways in which Brixton could move into a positive future, which resulted in a huge board full of creative ideas.

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the inspiration board before the visioning exercise…

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during the exercise, deep in concentration

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and after

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community projects

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more ideas

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the Brixton windmill is getting a makeover

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the board at the end of the evening – awash with creative ideas

If you would like to get involved with the Brixton Transition Town they would love to have you jump onboard. If you are interested in forming a Transition Town with your local community you can find all the resources here! Be inspired.

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and did I mention that I really liked the cake?
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I have been most remiss in writing up a whole series of really inspiring events that I have attended over the past year. But today is the start of a new era – no more trying to play catch up (and failing) I’m writing up as things happen! I am determined to keep on top of it… but we’ll see…
With that in mind I bring you the key ideas we talked about at today’s Low Carbon Communities get together in South London. Several months ago I was invited to the Low Carbon Conference held in Llangollen today, website which I was very excited about attending. However, with time drawing nearer I started to realise the financial and logistical impossibility of getting all the way up to Wales for a one day event with no attached accommodation. Plus I am exhausted from travelling so much in the past month. So I was pleased to find out that a sister event was being hatched in London, near to where my parents live, (going to their house is always a bit of a holiday from my everyday life)
So at 10am this morning I found myself in the Weir Link community centre. Hyde Farm Carbon Action Network had put together a packed day of workshops with the intention of linking up several loosely linked South London environmental groups.

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Chris Church of London networking group London 21 had also intended to go to Llangollen but like me he didn’t fancy negotiating a dodgy B & B for the night and came along to facilitate proceedings.
We started with an ice-breaking game of Climate Bingo before going on to discuss the projects we have been involved with over the last year in smaller groups. This had the anticipated effect of making us all feel as though we are actually doing something, not just talking about it, which was nice. One particular idea that stood out for me was Project Dirt, which aims to link environmental organisations together in an online format that enables everyone to be more effective in their aims. It is still in its testing stages but South London locals are already using it regularly.
We then got into groups to discuss separate issues – I opted for the food group since I wanted to find out about Seb’s intriguing Food Up Front project, born out of a permaculture course that he did with Nicole Ferris of NatureWise in the same year that I did a weekend course with this inspiring woman. Seb pointed out that we often do too much talking and not enough action, so when he heard that he was on a long (900 long) waiting list to get an allotment in his local area he decided to take matters into his own hands and put his south facing balcony to good use growing food. After a bit of leafleting in the local area he also realised that there were a considerable amount of people interested in doing the same thing but they needed a bit of a kick start to get going, maybe even the human demonstrative touch in the form of Seb. Since the initial idea formed Food Up Front has acquired funding and a team of volunteers to help newbies get settled in. Within 6 months 50 households had joined up and membership now stands at 300 households a little over a year later.

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Seb describes his project

Seb also links up with Landfit which attempts to fit lazy/busy/elderly/differently abled landowners together with eager gardeners. He tells us the successful story of a young lady in Streatham who bought a large house because she loved the garden and then discovered that she had arthritis – she offered her garden up to some eager garden-less gardeners who have since created a pond and raised beds in her space.
It is very clear that there are often gluts of space, equipment or goods which can be put to good use if the right networking facilities are in place – this includes urban foraging to turn neglected apples into jam, pooling resources to buy large quantities of organic flour and the like, car sharing and the recycling of jam jars into aforesaid jam. Tooting Foodival is on this Sunday 5th October. I love the name of this event! Fliers also all feature hand-coloured tomatoes, which brought a smile to my face. Put together by Transition Town Tooting it will feature all local produce, including an indian dish made from aubergines and chillis grown in a flat. The aim will be to map local food producers and users such as local restaurants. We all felt that once people were aware of the resources available on their doorsteps they were much more likely to engage with them. The Urban Wine Company will also be there – and I look forward to sampling wine made just outside London from a selection of London-grown grapes – Chateaux Tooting has a particularly promising ring to it.
We also learnt about the brilliant DOTT07 project staged a city-wide locally grown celebratory meal enjoyed together by 8,000 locals in the city of Middlesbrough last year.
Whilst London Food Link attempts to link those who care about sustainable food on a city-wide level the need for mapping on a more local level was discussed, which could then be linked into national networks. It sounds like quite a few people are interested in doing this so I look forward to seeing how it develops.

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The transport group told us that it was important we stop thinking about how to get from A to B and start making A a better place to B. Which was a neat little saying…. but on a more serious note it was acknowledged that we must all start to recognise the implications of everything that we do, and we must figure out why people make journeys in the first place and then provide alternatives, for example car sharing clubs and group outings. Along with this should come the promotion of holidays within the UK and within non-flying distance.
The footprinting group talked about fun ways of cutting carbon footprints and recognised that some simple steps (like not wasting food) could make drastic differences to individual carbon footprints. On an aside I made another shocking discovery today – the average carbon footprint of a Londoner is 7.5 tons, in Hackney it is 4.6, and in my neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets it is a shocking 11. And why, dear reader, would that be? Because Tower Hamlets encompasses the energy guzzling Canary Wharf. All those City wankers fly a hell of a lot.
But I digress, empowerment is key, and accessibility to information is super important – I picked up a copy of the lovingly designed Three Tonne Club Handbook produced by the Women’s Environmental Network and I really will make an effort to measure my carbon footprint as soon as possible. Simple demonstrations designed to show equivalent human energy use could be staged to show us just how much human power would be required to do the things we find so simple in the age of cheap oil power. On a more practical note Transition Town Brixton have set up a brilliant deal with efergy to persuade more people to buy a smart meter, thereby making it easy to figure out energy expenditure. With the cunning code TTBrixton the meters can be purchased at £10 off. I think I may get myself one (or ask for one for christmas – although it’s a bit unsexy isn’t it?!)
The household group spoke of the urgent need to reduce domestic energy expenditure through reduced wastage and insulation as well as other lifetstyle changes, for renewable technology alone will not provide the answer to Climate Change without a parallel decrease in energy usage. Maybe this could be made clearer to individual homeowners through public service announcements on the telly!

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lunch!

We then broke up for a lovingly sourced local lunch “although locally-sourced chickpeas were a challenge!” Our bread came from a number of named sources, the cabbage came from Barnet, the delicious apples and blackberries in the crumble were foraged, and the flour could be traced back to a water powered mill in Lyme Regis.

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colourful veggies

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crumble for pudding

My attention was also drawn to a big bowl of Kent cob nuts – amazingly juicy friends of the hazelnut. They were truly wonderful! (god, I’m such a foodie…)

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cobnuts from Kent

We then spent some time discussing the problems and possible answers to organising in groups once they have been formed, and particularly of devolving control whilst retaining cohesion and keeping focus. There is a multitude of people wanting to get involved in good stuff but they just aren’t sure how to contribute, and drawing these people in and then keeping them engaged is a major challenge of many newly formed groups within the environmental movement. I certainly know that this is a problem that we are trying to figure out within the Climate Camp movement, and I reason that to a certain extent we are having to relearn how to communicate within small groups of humans because we now live in a society that has encouraged individualism in the form of small family units, governed by large state bodies, with very little room for mid-sized community-level organisation of the type that would once have been normal in human settlements.
Another problem that many groups seem to encounter is how to most effectively utilise multiple forms of communication without drowning members in various missives. A common vision is crucial in binding a group together and the Transition Town visioning concept provides a key model of how to aim towards a common goal. Most groups could probably agree on a mutual aim but the tricky business of how to actually get there can be particularly fraught (and lengthy) especially as a group grows and fragments.
Outreach is an important issue for most groups and the issue of how to engage minority and working class members of the community is one that comes up time and time again within the movement – we look around the room and see just how white and middle class we all are, and we know it’s not enough – we have to engage everyone in whatever way we can. I don’t think there are any easy answers, and I will be very interested to see how the Climate Camp movement grows over the next year.
There are 12,000 environmental groups in the UK, but there are a staggering 3/4 million existing community organisations that can be tapped for support. The importance of human contact cannot be underestimated, and with that in mind online social networks can provide forums for idea exchange but it was acknowledged that they can never replace meeting face to face.
Hyde Farm are keen to emphasize the importance of having fun in all that we do, and I couldn’t agree more – the reason that Climate Camp has seen such an upsurge in members is that we had such a great time at the camp this year (entertainment every evening was a core part of the experience) and now that everyone realises that they actually quite like each other’s company we all go out for a drink after our weekly meetings.

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rounding up the events of the day

As the day drew to an end Chris ran through a list of actions that we could all get involved in right now – my contribution being an invitation to take part in the Climate Rush. After a bit of communal tidying up many attendees set off in a “walking bus” for a drink at the local bowling club, I cycled home happy that whilst I may not have made it to Wales I did meet a whole new bunch of most excellent people.

“Charlie says…

Fierce, price distressed, cialis 40mg unstructured tailoring affixed with hints of military insignia.
Ravaged reconstructed tailed parkas, cialis 40mg
bowlers, bowties and boots,
gnarled and weathered,
eroded and battered.
Bespoke maxi dresses skewed with rough, unrefined tailored suggestions.
Jackets and accessories crafted from worn leather gloves
mimic sentiments of time forlorn.
Striking feather adorned dresses and collars awash with
cascading archaic handmade lace.
Ravishing black, petrol blue, and soft tea with hints of gleaming lustrous bead work, speckled with an aged golden whisper.”

If Reem Alasadi hadn’t become a fashion designer, she would probably be a poet. The collection from the Iraq-born, British-raised newcomer, staged at The Royal Academy as part of On|Off – can quickly be summed up as something between Ann Demeulemeester, Bora Aksu, Oxfam and, of course, Charlie Chaplin; “Because of his clothes’ ragged tailoring, uneven hemlines and the fact that he was accepted into society as long as he wore a suit – even if it was dirty.”

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But instead of putting on a traditional LFW show during which you usually only get a quick glimpse of the garments from far away, often having to wait for half an hour (or two hours, if we remember the big Menkes vs. Jacobs fallout last year), Reem opted for a more up-close-and-personal presentation of her collection. Located in the RA’s west wing, the salon-style presentation included an installation, screening (of the actual show in Tokyo in November) and party all in one. Rather than the usual squeeze onto narrow tiered benches, guests were placed under a tent where we could hang out, network and talk about exciting future project launches (all zipped – sorry…) on beautiful vintage garden chairs surrounded by Greek-style columns, flowers and chandeliers – while of course topping up sufficiently on white wine.

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However, it wasn’t just the presentation that was unique. Everything Reem produces is 100% organic, naturally hand-dyed and -crafted in factories that are ethical and up to trade standards – all of which is not used as a selling point since Reem thinks that this is just normal and goes without saying. Feathers, leather and fur come from ethically conscious farming; mink, wild foxes and fur from other endangered species isn’t used at all.

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Moreover, instead of giving in to the impossibly speedy fashion production cycle, Reem always shows two seasons in one. “I have never met a journalist, buyer or designer that does not complain about the relentlessness of Spring/Summer-Autumn/Winter season round,” she says. “Imagine the collective impact of our fashion carbon foot print if every designer worked this way – I actually predict this will happen as the recession bites.

Reem’s story so far: Instead of taking up her place at Central St. Martins, 37-year-old Reem Alasadi has been selling reworked vintage clothes on Portobello Market (junction Acklam Road) for the last 10 years. Discovered by a tiny few of the fashion cognoscenti who had been shopping at her stall, she later started working in trend forecasting and brand consulting for the likes of Stella McCartney, Robert Carey-Williams and John Richmond, which introduced her to the fashion circle. In 2002, she finally did her first catwalk collection (“based on vintage, not made from it!”), which she showed as part of Tokyo Fashion Week in collaboration with hip department store Laforet in Harajuku. The move to London followed in 2007. She now plans to set up a factory abroad; “To look after women and their children. So not only will you be able to buy a beautiful Reem garment, you will also be contributing to the quality of life for the workers from Third World countries.”

One of my favourites pieces from the installation was a crème/brown skirt made of weathered lace, tulle and corsets, feathers and rusted underskirt wire, all poetically re-constructed, back-to-front, inside-out, to a 21st-century crinoline that architecturally plays with texture, volume and proportions. On top, a black and white perfectly tailored gilet and oversized bowtie that balance out the frilly skirt, giving it an androgynous edge. Also fascinating were the supersized Amish-cum-military hats with feathers and sequins dangling down the edges. And the racerback dress with the glove shoulder piece on one side. And the colourful charm neckpieces. And the asymmetrical skirts, Cul-de-Paris-style. And …

Reem is gonna be big!

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Monday 6th October

CSS and Magic Wands – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, viagra dosage London
Friendly Fires – Audio, Brighton
Esser – The Cluny, Newcastle
Tricky, Wild Beasts and Skream – Barbican Centre, London
The Moody Blues – Royal Albert Hall, London
Lykke Li – Thekla Social, Bristol

Tuesday 7th October

Foals – Academy, Newcastle

Friendly Fires and Jape – King’s College Student Union, London

Hooray for mid-week gigs, especially Friendly Fires mid-week gigs. Something where you know nearly every song, and it isn’t too experimental to get your head round. Just, really fun. Lets hope there aren’t too many raucous students there.

Hot Club de Paris – Bodega Social Club, Nottingham
Pivot and Snowman – 100 Club, London
Pre and Throats – White Heat at Madame Jo Jo’s, London
Ladyhawke – Scala, London
Holy Fuck – The Faversham, Leeds
White Lies, The Joy Formidable and Post War Years – ICA, London

Wednesday 8th October

Jeremy Warmsley – King Tuts, Glasgow
The Hold Steady and The War On Drugs – The Roundhouse, London
Dirty Pretty Things – Metropolitan University Union, Leeds
The Ting Tings – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Travis – Astoria, London

Thursday 9th October

Collapsing Cities, The Velcros, The Hosts and The Ghost Notes – Monto Water Rats, London
Seasick Steve – Rock City, Nottingham
Example and Plastic Little – Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London
The Streets – Carling Academy, Glasgow
The Spinto Band – Bodega Social Club, Nottingham

Friday 10th October

Amanda Palmer – Koko, London
Jeremy Warmsley – Barfly Club, Cardiff

These New Puritans, John and Jehn and Mothlite – The Monarch, London

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After seeing them for the first time recently, I’ve become re-obsessed with These New Puritans’ album. They’re great live, go see them.

O Children – Ghost School at The Macbeth, London
Errors – Oran Mor, Glasgow
Little Man Tate – Carling Academy, Glasgow
The Datsuns – Borderline, London
Cajun Dance Party – ULU, London

Saturday 11th October

Gig of the week…

Gang Gang Dance – Hoxton Square Bar, London

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Gang Gang Dance have created what I think is probably my favourite album of the year. It looks like this is going to be their only gig of the year, so now we can see how the hell they made such a wonderful record. The only downside to this gig is that I’m guessing they won’t have Tynchy Stryder there to do Princes.

Bonobo and DJ Vadim – Soundcrash at Cargo, London
Faust, Lydia Lunch, Factory Floor and Blurt – Union Car Park, London
The Last Shadow Puppets – Civic Hall, Wolverhapton
FrYars, Ezra Band and Hot Machine and Tin Can Telephone – Dirty Bingo vs Loud & Quiet at Last Days of Decadence, London
Glam Chops and Shrag – Buffalo Bar, London
Mark Ronson, Supergrass, These New Puritans, The Teenagers and more – Diesel XXX at Matter, London

Sunday 12th October

Elbow and Jesca Hoop – The Roundhouse, London
CSS – Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
The Subways and Natty – Exeter University

Something to look forward to…

DFA presents: Special Disco Version Party, curated by James Murphy – October 24th at Matter

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Special Disco Version is the alias of James Murphy and Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem, when they turn up and play their favourite disco records. As well as this, other acts playing will be DFA’s Juan Maclean, Gavin Russon, planningtorock (live), Yacht (live), Morgan Geist, Optimo, Horsemeat Disco, Still Going, Mock N Toof, Babytalk and Guccci Sounsystem.

All of that in Fabric’s new super-venue Matter. Sounds like a little bit of a party, and there really isn’t a better sight than James Murphy podgy little face.

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