Posted in London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

A visit to Parliament

I had never thought of visiting parliament before, in fact I wasn’t aware that it was open to the public so when I was invited to take a tour I was quite intrigued.

I’m not really much of a fan of politics and was a bit worried that I would find it boring if I didn’t know what they were talking about but there was actually so much more to it than just politics. For a start the actual building is amazing, from floor to ceiling it is full of intricate details, ornate decoration and historical paintings.

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I never normally opt to join in with tours as I like to just explore by myself but our tour guide Daniella was full of information, facts and amusing anecdotes. She really brought the subjects to life so as you are walking through you could imagine the queen in her robing room sitting on a sofa by the window rather than on the throne that has been sun damaged over many years.

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The Royal family play a big role in Parliament and since watching The Crown and Victoria on Netflix I have become much more interested in the history so found it all really interesting.

It felt very strange going into the house of commons after seeing it on TV for so long, it looks so much smaller in real life! I was really impressed with how much you get to see on the tour – not so impressed that I wasn’t able to photograph it all though! (you can only use a camera in the main hall and St Stephens hall) I mean have you even visited somewhere if you don’t have photographic evidence? I was going to request images of parts of the building that I wasn’t allowed to photograph but I think it is nice to leave it to you all to visit yourself as it is so much better in real life!

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Westminster hall is the oldest of the parliamentary estate and has played a central role in British history. There seems to be a lot of work going on so we couldn’t really appreciate its magnificence and many smaller details were covered up.

I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone interested in architecture, art, history or politics and you can finish off the tour with a trip to Voice and Vote: Women’s place in Parliament exhibition which features unseen historic objects, pictures and archives from the parliamentary collections, this will be on until 6th October.

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For quite a small exhibition tucked away in the corner of Westminster hall, there is loads to see about such an important subject. Although the tour of Parliament has a fee, this exhibition is free entry so great to take the kids over summer, especially all those budding politicians!

Have you ever visited Parliament before?


 

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Love is Love – Pride 2018

I have never been to a Pride parade before, they do look so much fun but I tend to avoid anything that is overcrowded as I had a bad experience at the Notting Hill carnival back in the 90s. As I was attending a tour of Parliament in the early afternoon and I knew that there would be people milling around Trafalgar square I decided to take a stroll towards there and see if I could get some photos of the festivities.

I didn’t realise as I approached that actually the parade would be passing through at the same time and I managed to see all the emergency services and floats from lots of different companies all in support of the day. Trafalgar Square itself was so full I didn’t attempt to go all the way up there but Whitehall was full of people but not too congested.

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I am so glad I took a walk to see the parade, it was such a joy to photograph so much colour and happiness and the atmosphere was truly electric. To top off the afternoon England won their game against Sweden and the jubilance continued on!

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Imperial War Museum North

While in Manchester we noticed that the Imperial War Museum was not too far from our hotel so decided to take a trip down by the river and pay it a visit while also getting a chance to explore the quays.

The imperial war museum north is the newest of five branches and was open in 2002. It has very impressive, modern architecture but doesn’t have the stunning entrance of it’s London Counterpart.

As you enter the museum there is a large seating area, shop and café where you can get a bite to eat or just relax after walking around.

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The main exhibition space is upstairs and although everything is in one large space, it is split into mini exhibitions and goes through a timeline of conflicts in Britain and the commonwealth.

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As well as life sized vehicles on the floor and hanging from the ceiling, the space is filled with memorabilia from the time, including posters, letters, clothes and weapons. There are also hands on activities designed specifically for kids. I really liked the idea of the trench stenches, although I wasn’t quite daring enough to have a sniff myself!

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Although there are little videos you can watch in different rooms, every hour there is an audio-visual cinematic display that takes over the whole space. It is a real immersive experience and you can either sit and watch it on the benches around the middle of the space or continue walking around while taking it in.

I find these performances really interesting as they are like watching documentaries and include recounts and stories of people that were around during that time in history. Each show is different so you don’t have to worry that you are listening to the same thing if you are still around when the next film starts.

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I really liked the Imperial War Museum North, although it is nowhere near as big as the London Imperial War Museum, I actually like that I was able to take it all in within a couple of hours rather than choosing certain sections to visit. There was also a really good exhibition in an adjacent room about the conflict in Syria but I think this is now finished and will be replaced in July with a different show.

The Imperial War Museum North is free to visit and it is situated in a lovely space around Salford Quays, about a 15 minute walk from Old Trafford football stadium.

Posted in Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Aalsmeer flower auction – Holland

 

I recently took a trip to Holland (the hub of the flower industry) to work on my photography project, looking into the production and importation of flowers, and was pointed in the direction of Aalsmeer by the lovely Catie who lives not too far away.

Aalsmeer (also known as Royal Flora Holland) is the largest trade centre for flowers in the world, described as a portal to a world full of scent and bloom, it is open to the public on certain days so they can take a look at the amount of work that goes into ensuring fresh flowers are available in your local supermarket whenever you feel like purchasing them.

A statement from Royal Flora…

FloraHolland is a cooperative venture belonging to the growers of flowers and plants. They bring their supply together to perform a single international trade platform, the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. The members/growers are the owners of this company. We are also a ‘Royal’ firm and have been ever since our centenary in 2011 when FloraHolland was presented with the royal title.

On arriving at FloraHolland we were met with coach loads of tourists queueing at the door which I was quite surprised about because compared to other flower attractions in Holland, particularly Keukenhof, this was not advertised anywhere. As you enter the reception area you can purchase tickets priced at 7.50 euros and receive a map, although this isn’t really needed as the route is very straight forward.

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You are basically on a viewing platform above the market floor in the form of a bridge which you walk the length of the building and back again on the opposite side. It is quite a surreal experience to just be watching normal people go about their daily work and you do wonder if they are aware, or care, that people are watching and taking photos of them. At the same time, for the sheer size of the place, I did feel like I was at one of the wonders of the world and really intrigued by the whole process.

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Along the journey we came across a room that is used for research purposes and was filled with flowers. A guy saw us taking photos outside and asked if we would like to have a look around inside, which we were privileged to do so as it is not open to the public. He explained that they are sent new crops of flowers that haven’t as yet been grown for sale and they test them to see how they react to certain lights and temperatures and give them a value depending on their life span and quality.

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As you reach the other end of the bridge you can see the auctions taking place through the windows, unfortunately they were not in full swing when we arrived but there were still a few people bidding on flowers so we got to observe the process.

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After we had watched the bidding and had a bite to eat in the small café we made our way back down the other side of the bridge. As we reached the end of the viewing platform, there was a room that looked like a museum that gave out some information about the history of FloraHolland through videos and photographs and some statistics on the industry via posters.

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If you are a fan of flowers then this is a great place to visit, it is different to other attractions as all the behind the scenes action is the actual show. There is nothing fancy or put on about it and it is a bit dated but I found it to be a real spectacle and so glad I visited. I also purchased some tulip bulbs from the gift shop so I can think of my trip when they grow in the garden.

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Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

Gursky – Hayward Gallery

The Hayward is a newly refurbished, world renowned contemporary art gallery along the Southbank in London that has just reopened in all its brutalist glory after two years.

This was my first visit to the Hayward and I was quite excited to see the work of Andreas Gursky after seeing his work in books and online over the past few years, you really don’t get to appreciate the scale of his work until you are standing next to it looming over you.

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You may be aware of Gursky as he previously held the title for taking the most expensive photograph ever when his photo Rhine II (above) sold for $4.3 million in 2011. It was nice to see the photo up close although I must say it is not one of my favourite pieces and I wasn’t that impressed by it!

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There were a few smaller photos but it was his very large scale images that really got my attention, I loved to look at them from afar and then go up close to see all the detail. Particularly the one at the airport and the block of flats where you could actually see into the windows. (maybe I’m just nosey)

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You may notice a lot of people in my photos, the exhibition was quite busy but I could have probably photographed the pictures without onlookers, I do however enjoy seeing the way people interact with the work as much as looking at the work itself.

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Gursky is known for his spectacular large scale architecture, landscape photos that often feature crowds and global economy or contemporary life. A statement from the Southbank centre website states:

Gursky makes photographs that are not just depictions of places or situations, but reflections on the nature of image-making and the limits of human perception. Often taken from a high vantage point, these images make use of a ‘democratic’ perspective that gives equal importance to all elements of his highly detailed scenes.

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You may think from seeing this post that you don’t need to see the exhibition because I have shown it all to you but I don’t think I even photographed half of the pictures in this show, the gallery is huge and just when you think you have seen it all you turn a corner and there are more photos. The work goes right back to the 70s so it is a large collection and probably one of my favourite photography exhibitions I have seen (and I have seen a fair few)

Are you a fan of the work of Gursky or visited the exhibition?

Gursky at the Hayward runs until 22 April so there is still plenty of time to get down there. A gift aided standard ticket costs £16 with various concessions available with kids under 12 going free. Check out the website for further details.

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Travel, Uncategorized

A ghostly walk in the City of London

When I was younger I loved all things ghostly, read the books and watched the horror movies but with age I find that the littlest things can keep me awake at night so I tend to avoid anything gruesome. I have however always wanted to go on a ghost walk around London and with it being on my list of places to visit this year, I couldn’t put it off any longer.

After Googling London Ghost walks I came across tours by Richard Jones. He has been in the business since 1982 and written 18 books on London and the paranormal so seemed like the perfect person to show us around the haunted sights of the city.

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As expected, churchyards played a big role in the tour and we passed many grave stones with Richard telling us stories of the chilling encounters of the long departed. Dressed as a Victorian undertaker and with the voice of a seasoned professional storyteller he really captured the attention of the audience. I was accompanied by my 19 year old daughter and was a bit worried that we might be alone on this walk but there was a really good crowd of people and Richard’s tours are obviously very popular.

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One of the sights we learned about was The Old Bailey where many men have been sent to their deaths, as well as a court house it also used to be home to The Newgate prison and execution site. The Viaduct Tavern over the road is thought to be one of the most haunted in London, if you buy a drink when it is not busy they may show you the cellar and if you buy a few they may just lock you in there!

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Onto Cock Lane and coincidently this was one of the first roads that prostitution was legalised, it was however made famous by the Cock lane ghost who occupied one of the apartments after William Kent’s wife died in childbirth but was this all a hoax or did people really see her?

A short walk over the road and we reached the place that all Sherlock Holmes fans will be familiar with at St Bartholomew’s hospital. I am more familiar with the hospital after spending many of my teenage years visiting the orthodontists in there. At 15 I remember having an operation and waking up in a room with eight beds but I was the only person there, it was quite spooky and it wasn’t any less spooky on this trip!

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I didn’t realise that there was a museum at the hospital but with it being founded 895 years ago I imagine there is a lot of history to be learnt about it. It is also the only place where you will still find these boxes collecting for the poor. Apparently the money was used to treat the poor in the hospital when they couldn’t afford medical care so it was mostly filled by the poor who were constantly worried about getting sick and not being able to get treatment.

As you leave the hospital towards Smithfield’s market you enter a large grass area which was used as an execution site, many people including William Wallace aka Braveheart faced his death here and it was reported that Bloody Queen Mary would watch from the Tudor building in the photo as she burnt people on the stakes.

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Our tour ended at the last surviving remains of London‘s old Roman and Medieval city wall. It is quite fascinating to see this wall that was damaged in the war with a backdrop of the cities newly built glass office buildings. Reports of ghostly sightings and sounds are often reported in the area.

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I wouldn’t say our ghostly walk was particularly scary but more of a historical lesson. I am usually supportive of old spaces being regenerated but feel a lot more appreciative of the history that is held in certain locations.

I have just touched on a few things that were covered in the tour and although it was cold and tiring on your legs I would highly recommend for anyone interested in the history of the city to take one of Richard’s tours around London.

Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

The Photographers Gallery – Soho

Working my way through my list of places to visit this year and I took the first trip to The Photographers Gallery in Soho.

 

The gallery is situated just off Oxford street and stands at 5 floors high, although it doesn’t seem that big when inside the building.

I wasn’t sure what exactly was on show before visiting so it was a bit of a surprise. The two exhibitions I saw were 4 Saints in 3 Acts and Instant Stories – Wim Wenders’ Polaroids.

4 Saints in 3 Acts

Described as a snapshot of the American avant-garde, 4 Saints in 3 Acts is the first exhibition to focus on the photographic dimensions of the ground-breaking American modernist opera. The show was renowned for having an all African-American cast that were recruited from the choirs and nightclubs of Harlem and offered unique glimpses of a largely unknown community. The photos capture the action on stage, behind the scenes and portraits of the classical music performers.

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Many of the photos on display were quite small and with the larger ones you could see the age of them by the wear and tear but this added to the history and story of the photos. A very simple but delightful exhibition.

Instant stories – Wim Wenders’ Polaroids

This collection of work offers a rare opportunity to see the personal and previously unseen polaroids taken by Oscar nominated filmmaker, Wim Wenders. Featuring over 200 images taken between the 1960s and 1980s of his journey across America he captures the people around him, still lives, street photography and landscapes.

 

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These images in particular caught my eye, it seems people were taking photos of their everyday food long before Instagram was around!

Again a lot of the photos were very small (obviously because they are polaroids) but there were also books so you could see Wender’s images close up. There was also a note board so visitors can share their views on the work which is a nice touch for the artists to get feedback.

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On the top floor was an opportunity to be part of the exhibition via Instagram. There was a set up studio area and rails of outfits and accessories so you could take your own photos and share online.

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As well as having work on show The Photographers gallery also has loads of workshops, talks and courses. There is a quaint café on the ground floor and a bookshop in the basement that you could spend ages browsing.

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If you visit before 12 when it is less busy there is free entrance so it is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. The two shows I saw are on until 11th February so I will be looking out for future exhibitions that I can see there!