Category Archives: UK

Bristol Harbourside Market and Tobacco Factory Sunday Market at Christmas

Bristol Markets and market stalls in Harbourside, including cactus plants for sale, and gifts at the Tobacco Factory, such as t-shirts

There’s nothing like a good outdoor market, whether it’s the Christmas season or not, and Bristol has plenty to choose from.

I’ve often blathered on about Bristol in blog posts: firstly, it’s one of the UK’s best and most vibrant cities, particularly for anyone interested in arts and culture; secondly, both sides of my family have history there, so I think of it as a home-from-home. From Bristol’s coffee shops to its street art, there’s always something quirky to see.

My sister and I were lucky enough to visit our Bristol-based cousin last weekend, and she is as much of a culture vulture as we are (when she lived in London, she introduced me to a fabulously-named café, Tina We Salute You, and countless art exhibitions). Going to a market was a no-brainer for us. read more

Exhibition Review: Dalí Duchamp at the Royal Academy

Dalí Duchamp exhibition poster at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London, featuring lobster phone and Fountain

Dalí Duchamp is the perfect injection of humour and zaniness towards the end of an ever-increasingly doom-laden year. Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp are both major names in the art world, but together they’re magnetic.

Some of you may have seen previous blockbuster conceptual art exhibitions in London – I loved the Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia epic at Tate Modern (21st February – 26th May 2008) – and others will be looking at these artists with fresh eyes. Whether you’re an aficionado of Surrealist art and conceptual art, or you’re just looking for a distraction from idiotic political games, you’ll welcome this Royal Academy exhibition. read more

The Best Independent London Cafes and Coffee Shops

Independent London Cafes Le Cordon Bleu London Bloomsbury coffee shop and lunch venue

Back in September, the BBC reported that the UK is heading towards its coffee shop saturation point. Even in small towns, you’ll find several different coffee chains and some independent cafes within 100 yards of each other. As for London, you can barely move for baristas, but finding independent London cafes is trickier.

We all like a trip to Costa (the UK’s most visible coffee chain) now and again, yet independent cafes are far more fun to explore: the mystery of a new menu, a different blend of coffee or tea, and finding out if there are books, board games or artwork to enjoy. This is definitely the case in London, though I do realise some independents can take the biscuit when it comes to prices and pretentiousness. With this in mind, here are the best unpretentious and independent London cafes you should try. read more

BelongCon: Talking Community Cohesion, Mental Health and Sharing in Brighton

BelongCon Brighton Conversation and Community event for mental health and sharing awareness featuring speakers such as Brighton Digital Women and Claudia Barnett

What does it mean to belong? Yep, that’s a very philosophical question for a Wednesday afternoon, but it’s worth asking – especially with the General Election looming.

Last night, I border-hopped from West to East Sussex for the second BelongCon event, to find out what belonging is all about: to belong in your community, in your tribe of like-minded people (something that’s big for those of us with mental health issues), in your industry, in your environment. BelongCon began as ‘Belong Conference’, with the first event held in March, but as it took shape, founder Alice Reeves realised ‘Conference’ didn’t really define her aim. It’s now become ‘Belong Conversation’, starting discussions about sharing, empathy, friendship and self-esteem, as captured by photographer Seb Lee-Delisle, above. read more

Things to do in between Brighton Fringe and Festival Shows

Brighton merry-go-round horse on pier with colourful paint

The Brighton Fringe is now in full swing until 4th June, and the Brighton Festival will be doing its usual artsy thing until 28th May, so the city is on a high.

If you’re a first-time visitor trying to see some entertainment, but wondering how to squeeze in some tourism on the side, help is at hand. You can absolutely see the city without missing out on niche Fringe shows, especially as many venues are right in the middle of the action.

The Classic Tourist Route for Brighton Fringe Visitors

If you’ve never been to Brighton before, you can’t ignore its most obvious tourist attractions: the Palace Pier (bright lights! Fish and chips! Out of control children!), the beach (pebbles! Hardy British swimmers! Sticks of rock, à la Brighton Rock!), and the Pavilion (cool domes! Really old! Once a hospital for injured WWI soldiers!). read more

Review: Incident at Vichy – Finborough Theatre

Incident at Vichy three main characters: Laurence Boothman as Lebeau, Michael Skellern as Waiter and Brendan O'Rourke as Bayard.

Incident at Vichy, a one-act play by Arthur Miller, condenses and multiplies his usual sense of foreboding. It’s 1942 in Vichy France and an assorted group of suspected Jews and ‘asocials’ have been detained by Nazis in a makeshift prison. One hysterical young man has had his nose measured. The drip-drip-drip of rumours and panic start to build as the waiting game continues.

Miller’s play is a window into French deportations of Jews, which took place between 27th March 1942 and 17th August 1944. 77,000 deportees from France lost their lives at Nazi death camps or concentration camps, and 1/3 of these were official French citizens. read more

Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Old Vic Theatre

Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire as Rosencrantz & Guildenstern on stage at The Old Vic Theatre in period costume

Half a century after its debut, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead returns to The Old Vic. Things may have changed around these parts in the last fifty years – off the top of my head, there’s a branch of Byron down the road, and the price of theatre tickets has increased dramatically – but this play, just like its venue, remains sharp.

It famously lifts two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who we know end up dead, hence the non-spoiler-alert title, and tries to fathom how they met their fate. Was it just a case of really bad luck? Were they a bit dim? Was everyone out to get them from the start? Stoppard may not have all the answers, but he scrutinises their unfair side-lining by the Danish court, and gives them a chance to voice their side of the story. That is, if they even know what the story is. Or where they are. Or which one is which. In these ever more uncertain times, where we’re bombarded with cries of ‘fake news’, conspiracy theories and 24-hour coverage of distressing events, The Old Vic treats us to lines like ‘We are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style’. This could have easily described Donald Trump’s tweets, and not a key character’s philosophy on the language of acting. read more

Review: Beginners Modern Calligraphy Workshop with Quill London

Quill Beginners Modern Calligraphy Workshop exercise worksheet and cake on table

Quill London is at the forefront of the local and national calligraphy scene, with a huge social following, a calligraphy workshop programme, pop-up projects and a physical store keeping up with customer demand.

I’ve chosen to test Quill’s entry-level course, the Beginners Modern Calligraphy Workshop (FYI, there’s no apostrophe). This is the perfect class for a novice because it’s only 2.5 hours long, so there’s no big commitment to make. The question is: can you actually pick up a new skill in less than half a day? read more

Mapledurham Water Mill: From Taboo Filming Location to Black Sabbath Album Cover

Mapledurham village, Oxfordshire, seen in Taboo, Black Sabbath album artwork and The Eagle Has Landed film stills

This is a post about a water mill in a cosy English village. Sounds pretty boring, right? Well, add a dose of Tom Hardy and a pinch of Ozzy Osbourne and things get more lively; Mapledurham water mill is perhaps the world’s most famous backdrop right now, thanks to TV, music and film.

The site, part of the Mapledurham Estate in Oxfordshire, was recently used as a filming location for the TV series Taboo, plus it appeared in the background of Black Sabbath’s self-titled album, released on Friday 13th February 1970. Now Black Sabbath have played their last ever gig, fans are craving a nostalgia fix. read more

Brontë Country: Exploring the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth

Miniature book by Charlotte Bronte, 1830, held at Bronte Parsonage Museum, Yorkshire, in glass case

In 2017 it will be 170 years since three Yorkshire sisters exploded onto the literary scene with their debut novels. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey are all classics, written under the same roof: the parsonage at Haworth, which is now the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

Anyone in search of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë will have this museum on their wish list. Over 7 million visitors have traipsed through the door, despite a dip in visitor numbers in 2015. This is why they keep coming.

Brontës in Haworth

The Brontë family lived in Haworth from 1820-1861, having moved from Thornton so Patrick Brontë, the head of the family, could take up his position as curate of Haworth, Stanbury and Oxenhope. There were six Brontë children, but their mother Maria, followed by the two eldest children, Maria and Elizabeth, were all dead by 1825. read more