Category Archives: culture

Old Town

If you stand and listen in the Old Town showroom in Holt, Norfolk, you hear the ticking of the clock and the sound of the sewing machine upstairs, making garments from traditional, hardwearing materials. There is no sleepy electronic beeping or the soft hum of computer fans that  we tend to take for granted.

The list of fabrics they use reads like a hymn to the forgotten glories of British mills – not just Harris Tweed but also corduroy, heavy tactile linens, cavalry drill, wool serge, moleskin and flannel. Shapes are simple, inspired by workwear from the last hundred or so years, and crucially don’t change seasonally. If you find something that suits you can continue having it made for you in summer and winter weight materials.

Old Town started 18 years ago in Norwich as a retro kitchenwear shop, but gradually the clothes started creeping in, and gained a fanatical following.

In their own words “Our single breasted rever collar jacket is an unfaithful copy of one found in a tool locker during the demolition of Stratford locomotive works; locker and contents seen on offer at Lea Bridge Road car boot sale.

Handed in as lost property in 1936, the originals for our style know as ‘High Rise’ were then mislaid behind a radiator in the London Transport Lost Property Office until redecoration in the early nineteen eighties.

Our popular ‘Overall Jacket’ is the mutant offspring of a pre-war lamplighter’s jacket glimpsed on the back of a chair in Coffee Republic at Canary Wharf.”

The Old Town look isn’t a painstaking reproduction of a particular period, but more an exuberant ramble through Britain’s idea of its heritage. Playful references to the Nanny state (the ties you can just see in the photo above), a range of Fair Isle tank tops straight out of an Enid Blyton book, and the dreaded Aertex which sadly reminds me of the smell of my old school changing rooms, all contribute to a jolly air of faded seaside holidays and 1950s milkmen.

Everything both downstairs and up contributes to this feeling – there is no jarring note of  the 21st century creeping in.

Upstairs is a low ceilinged work room reminiscent of those on Saville Row, where everything is cut out and much of it sewn, the rest being sent out to local seamstresses before coming back for finishing. It is the exact opposite of buying semi-disposable chainstore clothes made in the Far East.

So, if you prefer Gill Sans to Helvetica, and paper cones of winkles to plastic trays of sushi, do investigate further. Telephone former Woolworths saturday girl Miss Willey, visit the store in Holt or their fine website, where most of the male models sport estimable beards and the ladies sensible shoes suitable for bicycling through country lanes.

Old Town clothing

Also turn to The Evening Star, their cheerful publication which makes the final demise of pale blue Aertex headline news. Next edition coming soon.

Old Town, 49 Bull Street, Holt, Norfolk NR25 6HP. 01263 710001. (they do say it is advisable to telephone before travelling any great distance).

Opening times Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Full of festivals

Secret Garden Party Pirate Ship

It struck me today that Cambridge, in particular, overflows with festivals. Whatever your hyperspecialised desire, there is probably a festival that will include it in this town. I just got an email from the Food and Drink festival about their fundraising quiz, where you go and drink wine and eat cheese and try and answer insanely specialist food and drink questions in one of the beautiful medieval college halls. Worth doing it for the architecture alone, which is frankly wasted on undergraduates.

The image above of dawn breaking over a pirate ship is from the Secret Garden Party. It’s a kind of English-country-house-themed tiny Burning Man, part music festival, part theatre event that takes place over four days in the grounds of a Georgian country house outside the city.

The University culture means that more cerebral festivals are strong – we’re having a Darwin Festival in July to celebrate the anniversary, and there is always the Festival of Ideas in November, to mop up anything intelligent that hasn’t been covered to death earlier in the year. Also the science festival starts this weekend under the auspices of the university, which deliciously has guidance on some events “Warning, loud bangs”. And for grown ups we can “join the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, Professor David Spiegelhalter as he discusses ‘Statistics: can we sex them up without dumbing them down’. ” Telephone booking is now open.

A particular favourite is the Shakespeare festival – it takes place in July in various college gardens, and is again worth it as much for the architecture as the acting, although the standard is fairly high.

Edit: I forgot Cambridge Word Fest, which is booking now for April with a cornucopia of literary events and workshops.

Then there is of course all the music, so much music. The Folk festival, the Summer Music festival, the Rock fest (in association with a beer festival, naturally) and on. Put out more flags, it’s going to be a beautiful year.

folk-festival-imagesImages of the Folk festival by Arkadyevna on Flickr
If I’ve left any out of my list please do let me know.
Science Festival 9-22nd March – Science fun for adults and families
Cambridge Word Fest 23-26th April – Book events and writing workshops for all genres
Cambridge Super8 Festival 29th April – 2nd May
Cambridge Beer Festival 18-23rd May – Real Ale drinking
Strawberry Fair 6th June – Free festival of music, theatre, arts and crafts
Cambridge Comedy Festival 8-14th June – Live Comedy
Cambridge Shakespeare Festival June-July dates TBC  – open air shakespeare in college gardens
Pink Festival 09 date TBC – Gay open air music festival
Darwin Festival 5th – 10th July – philosophy, literature, history, theology art and music arising from the life of Darwin
Cambridge Fringe Festival 16 July – 2nd Aug – open access performance
Cambridge Summer Music Festival 17 July – 8th Aug 09 – world class classical music
Secret Garden Party 23rd – 26th July – music theatre performance camping
Cambridge Folk Festival 30th July – 2nd August 09 – world class folk music
Cambridge Rock Festival 6-9th August – Rawk and Beer
Cambridge Film Festival 17-27th September 09 (submissions open 1st March)
Festival of Ideas 21st Oct – 3rd Nov – explore more about the society we live in
Cambridge Music Festival 8-29th Nov – Serious classical music trienniale, commissions new work
flags_and_skyNB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Birds Eye View is coming to Cambridge

Still from Love you more short filmBirds Eye View will be fetching up at the Picture House Cambridge on Sunday 8th March as part of International Womens Day with a programme of interesting short films by women directors. Not many people in this country know there is an international womens day – it’s not something we think about so much here, but the fact is that only 7% of film directors in the UK are women, and Birds Eye View is doing great work in supporting more coming through and showing great work by women from around the world.

I’ve been to a few Birds Eye View events and they are always thought provoking and high quality. Have a look at the shorts programme here. They are combining it with talks and a networking event, with people from local places like Wysing and the Cambridge Super 8 film festival.

See BEV’s listing here and book tickets here.

bev-logo

International Womens Day at Birds Eye View
Cambridge Picture House
38-39 St Andrew’s Street
Cambridge CB2 3AR
Tel: 0871 704 2050
Top picture from Love You More, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood
www.birds-eye-view.co.uk
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Memories of the Norfolk Broads

I’ve just been spending time on a fascinating site broadlandmemories.co.uk, an archive of photos and reminiscences of the Norfolk Broads from the 1900’s to the present day.

For me the best part is the photo galleries from the 1930’s and 1950’s – the men in their one piece wool bathing suits, wearing sports jackets in the pubs. Otherwise not much has changed – the same pubs and landmarks in the same places, the ineffable joy of messing around in boats…

Also such fascinating ephemera as original invoices and provisions lists:

Norfolk Broads provisions order formThis is from the 1950’s when Dunham’s stores would deliver to your boat in time for your arrival so you could immediately set sail with your three quarters of a pound of typhoo tea, four pounds of tinned pineapple, six pints of custard powder and three pounds of jam and marmalade. Sounds like they had a sybaritic week in store…

www.broadlandmemories.co.uk

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

China China China!!!

The three exclamation points are all theirs. The China China China!!! exhibition is Chinese contemporary art at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

wang yu yang artificial moonIt aims to be a wide ranging survey of the genre, or in their own words “Reflecting different perspectives on current art practice in China, the exhibition is organised into three sections – within which each curator explores the global market for Chinese art by selecting artists who are not bound by the market’s rules, but who represent the complex reality of a modern China.”

Not speaking contemporary-art-ese, I can only say that Wang Yu Yang’s Artificial Moon pictured above is a large, hypnotic ball of a thousand low energy light bulbs, and Art Chicken in Norwich by Duan Jianyu (below) does exactly what it says in the title.


art_chicken_in_norwich

The exhibition runs until 3rd May
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts


University of East Anglia
Norwich
NR4 7TJ
T 01603 593199

Opening Times:
Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm
Wednesday 10am-8pm
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Wysing Contemporary

Wysing Arts Centre is opening a new exhibition this weekend under the Wysing Contemporary banner, with a launch event on Saturday from 4pm with Matthew Slotover, director of the Frieze Art Fair. Greatness comes to the countryside!

Wysing ContemporaryWysing is interesting because it is one of these architecturally ambitious buildings tucked deep in the countryside, which functions mainly as studios for artists rather than being an exhibition space first. Wysing Contemporary is “[their] approach to the collection and sale of contemporary visual art. It is a brand new initiative for Wysing Arts Centre, with three exhibitions per year and an ongoing series of events around collecting contemporary art.”  

They aim to present some of the most interesting work being made in the East of England, on a non-profit basis, and see the exhibitions as part of their remit of nurturing artistic talent. Could be great, could be terrible, I’ll be interested to find out.

The building itself is surely worth a look too. Opened in Jan 08, it won a RIBA award. RIBA apparently said of it “The first view of Wysing Arts Centre approaching from Bourn is stunning, demonstrating in an instant that the architects have fulfilled the client brief to produce a ‘serious building’ and to raise the profile of the Arts Centre. Simple construction, natural ventilation, use of natural daylight and thoughtful detailing all contribute to a building which is direct and sophisticated. The black, ordered rectilinear elevation has the simplicity of a Dutch barn but the sophistication of a more complex building. Stunning architecture in the most unexpected location.”

The architects Hawkins/Brown have a nice page of pictures of  it.

Wysing building

 

ANIMATED runs Sunday 18 January – Sunday 1 March. Wysing is open every day from 12-5pm. Admission Free.

The centre is between Cambridge and Royston – they have a helpful find us page on their website.

Frozen fenlands

fenland skating
It has been cold enough this last week that the old sport of Fenland skating has been revived, with speed skaters out on the frozen flooded fields, the way they have since the early part of the nineteenth century.

It’s a little warmer today, but local commentators are hoping for a further cold snap so the Brithish and Fenland Skating Championships can be held for the first time in 11 years. The fens have been home to some of the country’s greatest speed skaters over the years with this natural resource at hand.

Read more in the Melton Times

 

Edit: I had lunch with family in the fens recently, and it was remarkable how many people in their village broke limbs skating on the frozen fens and have been hobbling through the snow with broken ankles and such. Ah well.

Photo of C.W.Horn, local skating hero from the Welney & District Skating Club website – they’re not updating their website at the moment, but they are the ones who will declare the championships if the ice gets thick enough.