my big event this month was not in London, but in Poland, where I attended the first fotoartfestival in bielsko-biala. This was an international event with exhibitions by 25 photographers, one selected to represent each of 25 countries from around the world, including some very well-known names and me. i was showing pictures of london, not from this site, but from work that i did in the 1970s and 1980s, which is largely on the web elsewhere. you can read my full report on the show and see my snaps of it elsewhere.
london arts cafe is an organisation which promotes urban art and examines its contribution to urban life. its annual programme often includes some interesting visits, sometimes taking us to places we never knew existed. on saturday june 4 we were priveleged to be able to visit three very different private gardens, each it it's own way extraordinary. they are all among those featured in the 2000 book by george carter, the new london garden, where you can find more details about them.
we met george in the notting hill garden and he talked to us about his work and the importance of the garden in urban space, and we were also fortunate to meet the garden owners who also told us about their own gardens.
in north london, we visited a garden filled with sculptures of various types, making the most of the various locations. most were casts of bodies or parts of bodies. this garden, i think alone among the three we visited, is open to the public to visit on one day most years as a part of the charity open gardens scheme.
in notting hill, the garden was more practical in some ways, with a large expanse of lawn, but in one corner was a dark area of trees and bushes with a fantastic grotto.
most fabulous of all was the rooftop garden in chelsea, stretched along
the backs of four houses, all former studios of well-known artists. One
of the highlights for me was a scale model glasshouse built by decimus burton,
which used to create a miniature world with plants and figures. after spending
some time admiring the garden, we were also shown the art gallery in one
of the houses, with an incredible collection of pictures, including works
by picasso, braque, courbet, moholy-nagy and many other famous names, including
some fine work from the 1950s. their were also some fine rooms in the house,
including a modern kitchen and some fine period pieces.
i didn't manage to get to kingston green fair this year, but the same group was asked to organise the london green lifestyle show in greenwich park, held on world environment day, june 5, 2005 as a part of london's contribution to a more sustainable lifestyle. unfortunately the events were spread over far too wide an area of the park to really be successful.
as always, there was rather a lot of missing the obvious in the approach to a better environment. so there was little about the need to drastically cut down air travel, and relatively little about cutting down car use. casual visitors could certainly have gone away with the idea that if we all recycled our rubbish and perhaps switched to a green power supplier, everything was set for a rosy future.
i first spoke in public about the need for effective action to save the world in 1970. i sold the last car i owned in 1966, using a bicycle whever practicable since then. we've lived a relatively low-impact lifestyle, perhaps except for my addiction to cameras and computers! i changed jobs so i could cycle to work (and now work mainly online to avoid travel.) others i've known have done more, moving to become largely self-sufficient.
at the moment the government is playing lip-service to the need for urgent action on the environment, but falling short of taking or even discussing any effective actions, to do things like actually cutting the use of fossil fuels, or reducing the number of car and air miles we travel. i'm increasingly gloomy about the future, though the world will probably stay in reasonable shape for the rest of my lifetime.
we need to think far more seriously about quality of life, rather than
concentrating on things that are easy to measure like gross national product.
much of it is gross, and there are better ways to organise our lives around
the things that really matter.
carnival de cuba was taking place the same day at coin street (perhaps
the one successful development in london since the war.) i got there in
time for the procession, and clearly everyone was having a great deal of
from 9-13 june i was in poland, taking part in the first international fotoartfestival at bielsko-biala. the work i was showing as a part of this was pictures of london, mainly those in the 'london's industrial history' site, so perhaps it does deserve a mention here. there are some pictures from bielsko-biala and the festival on another of my websites, as well as some of the text from the three talks i gave there. (coming shortly)
wimbledon common hosts probably the largest village fair in london, complete
with 3 rings for the horse-riding events. i started the day there on saturday
18, and was impressed by the range of activities on offer, including a swimming
pool and maggot racing.
later i passed through trafalgar square to watch a little of the indian
dancing as a part of the crafts festival there.
to mark the start of refugee week, the crossroads centre in north london
had organised a theatre workshop, producing a strongly written piece about
refugees, that had its first performance at the end of the day outside kentish
town tube station. although the text was fine, there was really little visual
to hold an audience attention.
imagine islington was another green festival, but with rather more fun than some, taking place at 7 locations around the angel and islington green. on the green there was music from rhythms of resistance and weapons of sound, a giant mural to paint by hugh jart, an air-miles game and other attractions. elsewhere, there was a wind installation at st mary's church, a biodiversity garden in the ni centre, the incredible string trio pluck (they describe themselves as "the world's most muscially challenged string trio") in chapel market and more.
this was a pleasant event for the family but again largely concentrated
on the froth rather than the essentials.
i wanted to got to charlton simply because the annual horn fair there was
notorious for its "indecencies and frequent riots", eventually
leading to its suppression by an order in council in 1872. Unfortunately
its modern recreation turned out to be a much more tame affair, although
the charlton house remains impressive.
meanwhile in coin street, another refugee week event, celebrating
sanctuary, was taking place. Among the events i photographed were
albanian dancing, a chinese dancer with long streamers and african dancing
some of my work gets put into nice organised websites.
this isn't meant to be like that, but you can see some of the rest at
and you can read what I think about photography at