One of my favourite films of all time drew me to the superb Audrey Hepburn exhibition Portraits of an Icon at the National Portrait Gallery last month. This photographic journey through Hepburn’s life starting as a chorus girl in the West End right through to her philanthropic work for the United Nations is quite stunning. It seems an entirely appropriate venue for one of the most recognizable head and shoulders of the 20th century. The exhibition runs until October 20, so don’t hang around for this one.
Another art gallery drew my attention for all the wrong reasons – walking past the gallery at the foot of the OXO Tower on London’s Southbank, I was stunned to see what looked like an exhibition of AK47 assault rifles. There was something compulsive about it and on entering the studio I found a great story which needs to be told. The artist, known simply as McCrow has displayed guns and ammunition in provocative, ironic and counter-intuitive ways to bring attention to the terrible proliferation of weaponry around the world. There is a colourful rifle, appealing to children with toy labels on it and another in gold, taking a sideswipe at the links of vast wealth to gun violence.
The art itself is impressive, there is a skull made of ammunition shell cases, but the message is a powerful one. McCrow believes there are simply too many guns in the world (with an estimated 75,000,000 AK47s alone, he has a fair point) and he has established a charity called One Less Gun with the aim of destroying a million guns around the world. Take a look at www.mccrowart.com to find out more.
Still El Vino
Back in the newspaper glory days of Fleet Street, a favourite haunt for journalists was El Vino, a fantastic old wine bar which has barely changed since it was opened by the Bower family in 1879. Now the bar is in the news itself with the revelation that the original founding family has sold it to the Davy’s wine bar chain. There is a promise to keep the name and it seems unlikely that too much will change – located opposite the Royal Courts of Justice and still a popular haunt for barristers, this London institution, which featured in the Rumpole of the Bailey books will no doubt continue a tradition of stocking the best range of wines in town.
Once again the most famous clock in the world hit the headlines last month when, shock, horror, it was six seconds out. BBC’s Radio 4 uses the chimes live each day on its broadcasts, so listeners had their daily routines thrown into disarray! The 156-year-old clock can be a little temperamental, and three dedicated clocksmiths worked, well, around the clock of course, to remove a little weight from the pendulum and solve the problem.
The iconic restaurant where you can dine alongside stars of film and TV closed for six months this year to undergo a major refurbishment. The Martin Brudnizki Design Studio were brought in to enhance the glamour but also modernise the facilities in time for the restaurant’s upcoming 100th anniversary in 2017. Frequented by everyone, from Laurence Olivier to Elton John, this great dining venue now looks very smart indeed with comfortable new seating, a central bar, and stunning new artwork including pieces by Damien Hirst and Maggie Hambling. There is a new menu to boot with some old favourites like Shepherd’s Pie and also some new European-inspired lighter bites.
And book your table right now for your chance to appear on TV! Yes, a camera crew has been seen in the restaurant, apparently filming for a forthcoming documentary highlighting the enduring appeal of the Ivy to the glitterati.
Amid darker tales of London life, it is always pleasing to hear stories of that better side of human nature in Britain’s capital city. City barrister Claire Miller was run over by a black taxi cab when she popped out for lunch recently. In what looked like a horrifying accident with Ms Miller stuck underneath the wheels, quick-thinking office workers rallied around and lifted the vehicle completely off her. Amazingly, she suffered only minor injuries and was discharged from hospital the same day. Speaking afterwards, a grateful Ms Miller said: “There are just no words to thank these people. It just proved that Londoners are some of the greatest people on earth.”
This affluent suburb of West London comes to life every August Bank Holiday weekend for the Carnival, which is hailed as Europe’s largest street parade. When you wander the well-heeled, gentrified streets on the western side of Hyde Park, you might wonder why Notting Hill? Well, the answer lies in this area being a hub for immigrants to London in the 1950s from the Caribbean and South America. Then there was the hippy culture of the 60s. The richly diverse, exotic culture which the immigrants brought with them, and the flamboyance of the decade of “free love” combined to produce the first carnivals, which then started to become more organised in the 1970s.
Over the years, the Carnival has attracted notoriety on occasion with serious criminal activity blighting the fun, but these days the event is well policed with intelligence-led swoops on known criminals taking place beforehand to minimise any chance of trouble.
But unfortunately, all the preparation in the world does not deal with that one potential spoiler – good old British weather! And so it was this year – in a summer noted by sweeping bands of Atlantic low pressure drenching the entire country, August 31 saw half the month’s usual rainfall in just one day. The crowds were still there but probably a little thinner than usual, and certainly the vendor of Union Jack ponchos was doing a roaring trade! Spiky pop princess Lily Allen was spotted without her husband dancing alone and enjoying the Carnival, fag in hand. Classy.
By Richard Lamberth