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On the first weekend of December there is always a Christmas Fair at Nottingham Contemporary, in my view the gallery  is usually on the obscure end of the scale, much of the work is so highly codified it is almost inaccessible and that of course makes me wonder if  much of it has any merit.

The work by Alfred Kubin in one of their early shows was superb, and at the moment in the work of Marguerite Humeau (a French Artist living in London) they have another stunning show.  The show FOXP2  aims to portray the emergence of sentient life.

It works on the notion that elephants rather than man became the beings that mastered language,  the centre of the show is a matriarch in her death throws, her passage towards death triggers the evolution of others in their various states.

What’s great about this show is the way it works with all the senses, much of the sound is synthesised through a beatbox, in addition there are 2 configurations of room lighting, one being showroom like,  the second following the evolution process from each elephant manifestation.

This is a complex show, the stunning sculpture works on many levels, it is one of those shows that the beauty of the sculptures  initially draws you in, then the other dysfunctional elements start to ask questions so  that you want to find out more about the artist and what they want to say. If you have been looking for a reason to visit Nottingham Contemporary and see something worth seeing now is the time.

Yes, that stuff!

I have enough digital equipment to build something I can sit on and it is pressed into service every day of the week.   For some years I have had some serious film equipment that I have not used because of time pressures – I do plan to use it!

However earlier in the year  I bought a blad that takes film (there is a digital option) but it is a film camera. It has been a pleasure to do ‘slow’ photography, it is old school with benefits, you need to look, you need to think you need to see,  and you need to do that in it’s rawest form.

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When I first saw Not’s work I could not help but consider it against Henry Moore as my reference,  and you can see similar sensitivities.

I was fortunate to go to a talk by the artist at YSP supporting his current show  and it was fascinating,   the talk was almost entirely about his ‘houses’  that is far more a structure that is relevant to the land and people where it is located.

The impression I got was the sculptures  whilst important are not the key to the artist,  but the ‘houses’ land art and other structures are, as are his relationships with the people he works and collaborates with.

It is hard to understand the houses unless you see them, you  only get a taste of them (along with the bridges and platforms) through the  current show, however with Not there to guide you through them (he is building or has built on every continent in the world) it is eye opening.

The sculpture is stunning using techniques no longer found in Europe Not has to get them made in the Far East.

In the way that Moore looked at elephants bones Vital has produced a stunning sculpture of the bones of a camels pelvis in steel.   When you look at it directly you see what it is, however as you move round it you start to see two connected  separate entities,   who become dancers intertwined , as you move further round you see the frailty of two people supporting each other, however they arrived at that frailty.

 

 

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A few days ago I was in Central London heading back to Embankment station, what drew my eye was the red frontage of the now closed  Strand Station on the Piccadilly Line, following it round the corner  I saw more frontage on Surrey Street.

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As I went down the hill I saw a sign to a ‘Roman Bath’,    and this was given further credibility by being under the National Trust banner, of course I was curious and headed through the arch,  between the buildings and down the steep steps.

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Turning right (as the signs directed) I saw a notice board giving opening hours and instructions to observe the bath through the adjacent  window.

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There  is a brick lined bath full of water, that is fed by and underground spring, however this is the only piece of factual information you can rely on, in reality it’s unlikely to be Roman,  and more likely to be either 16th or 17th century  depending on what theory you believe.

What was very cool was the view up the steps with the mid air walkways joining the 2 buildings above the passage I had walked through a few minutes earlier.

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If there is a weakness in the Dot to Dot line up it’s the headliners, quite frankly they are rubbish – for the last 2 years they have been bands who if they were going to make it they would have done so long before now.  Rather than the very best of the up an coming for the last couple of years they have been the second best of the just going.

To at least be fair Dot to Dot are competing with the Radio 1 big weekend and people have flitted between Dot to Dot and Radio 1, and in the past one local artist simply did not come to Nottingham having done the first 2 days.  I’d almost put money on them not now being able to get Bastille who were on the Rock City stage at 3pm on a wet Dot to Dot Sunday a few years ago – and they shone then!

The treasure this year was (as in the past) in the early afternoon and mostly on the smaller stages, of everyone the one person who stood out was Hannah Grace in a filled room,  with her dark smokey voice she simply sung the blues – and WOW.

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We were treated to bands and artists from all over the world plus allot of UK talent, and this year some bands got the Red Room at Rescue rooms  absolutely right, it’s a tiny space and it is easy to overpower it, and lit with a single light it was an intimate venue with great sound a feeling of being part ofI saw Face and later Haus there, and as before it was out of there into the main stage where I saw Swmrs, Estrons, Georgie, Cloves and Crosa Rosa.

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This took us from hard core rock, post punk to ballads and indy all in a few short sets. There were bands with out a hair out of place and must have been nice middle class boys – but they did not really feel it, there were the new just finding their way and regulars who have played Dot to Dot many times. In all this I did find time to nip into Stealth and see some of the smaller acts in this dark and intimate little space Rivers and Raphaella Music were 2 of many on this stage.

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I was willing to keep an open mind on the headliners and went to both the Augustines and the Mystery Jets sets – the sound on the former was  poor, and the latter were just dull – I even got to wondering  what was wrong with youth of today if I could keep up and I was giving away 30+ years to many in the venue.

But I could easily get out of the Mystery Jets – it was full but not packed and I headed off to see Diet Cig a New York two piece led by Alex Luciano, huge fun, huge energy and a superb set.

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There is no doubt that Dot to Dot has some superb international acts, some good local acts but they really need to sort out the headliners!

 

If I said ‘The Olympics’ to you what would go through your mind? London, definitely, Rio probably – but Tokyo?.

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For one group of people say ‘The Olympics’ and their thoughts are of the games in Tokyo in 2020. These are the young athletes upon whom our Olympic future hopes rely – already born, early in their sporting careers and proving to be huge talents many are already on 4 year training programmes, this includes world championships, other significant competitions and then Tokyo 2020.

A few days ago I was privileged to work with one such youngster Elissa Mae Bradford,  at 14 years old she is already competing successfully at a high level and is on the British Cycling Olympic Development Apprentice Programme.

From here its her talent, hard work and coaching plus one other requirement; funding that will get her to the podium in Tokyo. Elissa Mae is seeking funding to get to the World Championships this year as part of her route to the Olympics.

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BMX like snowboarding is at the cutting edge of the fusion of youth, street fashion and sports culture, as a sport the risks are real, BMX is fast and energetic and someone who you would think is a demure school girl by day, even at 14 years old is  in reality a cross between a  hard working committed athlete and daredevil!  If you want access to all these brand values BMX is the place to be seen.

To support Elissa

For sponsorship  contact  Ellisa  through her parents via facebook    http://www.on.fb.me/1QnEiO1

For individaul contributions go to her just giving page  http://www.bit.ly/1OHmg7e

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Those of you who see my blog regularly will already have gathered my love of Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

P1060312As part of the commemorations for the 1914-18 War the ‘Poppy Wave’ is one of 2 traveling installations from the Tower of London and it has been installed at YSP, in the New Year it moves to Lincoln.

The Poppies were not the main reason for my visit, the installation in London was huge and worked on the basis of who it represented with each poppy being an individual who fell, and this gave it a scale that was never going to be matched at YSP. I went to see it knowing that it would not have the scale and thought that I may be making a token visit for that reason. In fact I found it to be a unique and fascinating visit and it has been thought provoking both at the time and subsequently, and that was not what I expected.

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With the intention of shooting the Poppy Wave I had to determine what I want to say about the lives of the soldiers it stands for and the war they were engaged in. I have never been to war, my knowledge of it is gained almost entirely second hand through written media, film and TV.

P1060303The majority of the pictures of the Poppies out there are little more than attractive chocolate box images, many shot in near perfect conditions on a sunny day, whilst many images talk about the scale of the fatalities I suggest that it’s more by chance than intention.

P1060304It was not a nice day when I went, at one point it was trying to rain, what I found the poppies doing was talking to me about the finality of death and how whilst individuals are remembered those who have been lost are lost for good, it also talked about how all those in conflict are intertwined. What surprised me though was it also talked to me about the men whilst they were alive, and how as ordinary young men many will have had aspirations and dreams they would otherwise have been reaching for. The most powerful image for me is of loud, noisy, lively individual men, with the banter and character you find in groups of men, but separately and darkly the same image in the midst of war shouts with the fear of forthcoming death.

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As you will have gathered from my last entry I am a Vulcan fan, the last flying Vulcan that has been part of a hugely successful aviation restoration project will cease to fly this October.

On Saturday I went to the Yorkshire Airshow where she was doing one of her last displays, on Sunday I also watched a dvd of a display from 1992 and she is still turning as tightly, power climbing as she did and whilst this display whilst was not quite as low as the 1992 show the show on Saturday did have a manoeuvre the ’92 show lacked.

Here is simply a set of images.

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Throughout the recession there has been an unlikely but welcome charitable success, this has been the campaign to keep Avro Vulcan XH558 flying. As the flying program draws to a close over the coming few weeks and XH558 flies for the final time it is worth reflecting on some of the many reasons why this has been such a success.

My guess is it is highly likely that many of the people excited about XH558 (and Vulcans generally) all have a different connection to her/them. For me Vulcans flew over my home as a child, I clearly remember standing in the garden as a small boy as they regularly flew overhead heading out towards the North Sea, and later seeing for the first time the colour change from white to camouflage. It was part of my childhood, beyond that it is a fascinating and highly complex machine that captures the imagination.

 

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For others it may have been part of their time in service, or part of a family members time in service, it could be as simple as the one easily recognisable aircraft at an air show – or just a spectacular big noisy aircraft that at a display you can feel through your feet and in your chest, or that howl that is unique to the particular Rolls Royce Olympus engines used.

By my analysis there have been three discrete stages to the project so far, 1) rescue and care and maintenance when it was purchased out of RAF service and kept in ground running condition, 2) restoration when it was taken from ground running condition to flying condition, 3) flight that is what it says and soon it will enter a fourth phase with an education programe that will preserve the aircraft as a diverse educational resource.

 

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There are many lessons for people to learn about why this project particularly phases 2 and 3 that have required huge sums of money, allot of hard work from many people and considerable goodwill, have been successful when the wider environment has been one of recession and huge economic hardship, after all, it is in the first instance an engineering project centred on aircraft designed and intended to carry and drop nuclear weapons during a cold war era.

I was heavily involved in the second phase to get the aircraft to flying condition and to first flight, this was an exciting time trying to make what was perceived by many as impossible possible, I’m still excited by the aircraft and I’ve been pleased to be a small part of this huge project that has so far spaned approximately 20 years and has touched and involved many millions of people as attendees at air shows, contributors and all those very close to the project on a day to day basis.

 

 

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There are many more aircraft that should be seen flying again in a properly maintained and preserved program, I hope that XH558 is the first aircraft of many and has found and defined the pathway for future projects.

The images here were taken at the Vulcan to the Sky Club’s recent club day and I can’t remember seeing the aircraft in better condition.

 

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