Archive for the ‘Entertainment & Arts’ Category

Sophie Stevens bathroom design. Image courtesy of The Queen of Hoxton

Situated in the shadows of Shoreditch, The Queen of Hoxton boasts the best interior designs, from the UK’s most talented artists.

Outside the venue a spray-painted sign reads on the door: ‘Welcome to the Queen of Hoxton, a youth club for adults’. Pink graffiti-style drawings adorn the sides of the building, and you can tell from the outset that this bar does not contain a single trace of magnolia paint.

As part of their first birthday celebrations, The Queen of Hoxton ran an online competition asking various artists throughout the UK to put forward their ideas to illustrate throughout the venue. A complete re-vamp ensued, resulting in customers stepping into an artistic space, making it so much more than your typical East-End pub.

Designs range from window stencils by graffiti artist Pure Evil who interconnects the theme of humans and conflict with the softer images of rabbits, butterflies and polar bears to individual bathroom designs, pleasantly know as the “washroom galleries”. One of the washroom galleries illustrators Sophie Stephens describes where her ideas come from:

I wanted to do queens from past and present, and I really wanted to do the female toilets because I liked the fact they were a bit grotty. Eventually, it evolved into a boudoir scene” she said.

Tip Toe Collectives' installation art

The creative process

Her 60s monochrome design oozes the glamour of a real-life powder room, and never before has a trip to the bathroom resulted in an almost unwillingness to leave.  A fashion illustration graduate who started her freelance career by launching a series of T- shirts for celebrity fashion designer, Henry Holland she describes what inspires her to produce such intelligent, quirky designs, pausing she says:

“I try not to have creative heroes. “I am inspired by people, fashion, humour, weirdness, the macabre and history. Jealousy fuels my inspiration to work harder and inspires me to make better drawings. I find Alejandro Jodorowsky’s films very encouraging. And I’m very jealous of Aurel Schmidt- she is far too talented.”

On the Ground floor, a large-scale installation by Tiptoe Collective’s Mark Whittle, James Nicholls and Ian Caulkett infuses colours that give the feeling of a frantic, yet wonderful runaway circus.

“We have never doubted that we have the ability to work in the creative industry; it’s just having the determination to keep going” said Ian.

We draw inspiration from pop art, Warhol, Caulfield, right through to the way Banksy has made the medium his own. But there are some great contemporaries out there, Blu for instance. The creative process for any artist is individual in itself. English Socialist Graham Wallas presented one of the first models of the creative process in his 1926, work the “Art of thought”.

In this, he outlined that the process involved five stages: preparation, incubation, imitation, illumination and verification. Explaining their personal steps towards the creative process, Ian said: “When a project first comes in we tend to sit there and look at each other for a bit, waiting for an idea to form, which never seems to happen. An idea usually hits us when we least expect it, from which point on, generally speaking, we’re all on the same wavelength” he said.

When asked if they have any advice they would like to give to young artists, Ian said: “Don’t forget your paintbrush.” The Queen of Hoxton, although youthful in age, serves as a canvas for the showcasing of the best talent in Great Britain. So, the next time you visit this club, remember the names, you might just see them at the next Tate exhibition.


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Copyright of Claire Noble

Peckham has long been associated as an area of high crime rates and crumbling Victorian architecture. But, beneath this shoddy exterior lies a bubbling art community that is rapidly declaring its takeover of East-London’s hedonistic art scene.

A chatty crowd assembles outside the doors of Auto Italia. It seems that punctuality is a necessity for members of this club. They are an hour early. And, as the doors open, the crowd pours in. Ladies wearing tea dresses, the majority sporting tomato-red hair, pick up their paint pots and begin to weave their drawing onto one of the eight shop windows. While men, donned in plaid shirts and battered plimsolls quickly find a pane and get creative.

This is Auto-Italia, a project lead space that aims to explore and support the ideas of a growing peer group of artists. Situated in a disused car show room in South-East London, their values are simple; non-hierarchical powers, that allow all ages, all humans and styles to take part in a communal art space. Today hosts Sumi-ink, an ongoing drawing collective by LA based duo, John Finshbeck and Sarah Anderson.

Project coordinators of Auto Italia, Amanda Dennis, and Kate Cooper explain the concept behind Auto Italia as being: “All about inspiration”. “The building was donated; we have no overheads and can concentrate on putting our money into these projects. It’s a fantastic place for young people to express themselves” said Amanda.

Copyright of Claire Noble

“Auto-Italia has been going for over two-and-a-half years, we’ve had over 30 projects here and some in the Tate, but Sumi-Ink is the first of its kind in London. I haven’t seen it done anywhere else.” said Kate. She gestures with red-nailed hands: “Grab a pot and get stuck in”.


Paintings range from witty slogans like “don’t milk over spilt tears” to portraits of social issues, nature, the quirky and bizarre.

In the words of Pablo Picasso: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

This quote could not be more relevant to today’s art session as each painting portrays a hilarious, distorted view of reality as they see it.  Hannah Tindle, a fine art student at St Martin’s College is drawing a rather manic looking Edward Norton inspired stick character, she giggles: “I only live down the road from here, I should come more often.”

But these drawings are far from off-putting. In fact these paintings, all shared by strangers help to establish friendships, as while admiring each other’s work, they begin to chat like friends. The concept of sharing each other’s ideas and encouraging artists to work together is a core factor of what Auto Italia represents. Kate Cooper looks around the room and smiles at the large crowd that has now assembled inside, she plops her paintbrush into her plastic pot and says:

“Our primary focus is not allowing the artist to work alone; we all engage and interact with each other.” It helps to bring the art community together. You would think they were a snobbish crowd that is the main perception. But look around you, there not at all. I went to art school for four years and never picked up a paintbrush, now’s my chance.”

Copyright of Claire Noble

The Sumi-Ink club has seen shows in, Chicago, Malmo, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Bahal, India.

Peckham Pavillion

Sarah Anderson is floating around the room, busily painting each piece of clear pane she spots. As co-founder of the Sumi ink club, she describes its formation as a way of: “Gathering with friends”. I lived in Providence, Rhode Island and we would always meet in the street. It was our only way to get expressive, and draw our emotions. We could draw whatever we wanted, without constraint, this is what we pride ourselves on today, and it’s non-hierarchal,” said Sarah.

This low-key artist run space has been making the headlines not only in the UK but also in America. The New York Times recently ran a story documenting that the East-End art scene is no longer more and that if you want art, it’s right here, in Peckham.

It heralded the South-East London art scene as a ‘countercultural challenge’ to the ‘established north-of-the-river world of the Frieze art fair and the gentrified East End’.

Auto Italia is just one of the many artist led spaces that are emerging around South-East London. The Hannah Barry Gallery, home to some of London’s most talented artists, and project space Area 51 are beginning to make their mark on the art world. The Peckham Pavilion, an exhibition organized by the Hannah Barry Gallery, propelled her work to fame at the 53rd Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition held once every two years in Venice.

With this commendable set of values, the South-East London art community can only continue to flourish. And maybe, just maybe, tease East Londoners South of the Thames to see what all the fuss is about.

Copyright of Claire Noble

The following article was written for my Magazine production class, at the University of Westminster. Together with my colleagues, we are in the process of designing and creating our own glossy style magazine called MUSE,  that will be available on April 30.

I’ll upload my own contributions to the magazine, and also share with you my In-Design layouts.

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Like Marmite, you either love or loathe Rossy. For those preferring the latter today marked a triumph, as Jonathan Ross announced his resignation from the BBC after 13 years of service.

Stressing that money was not the reasoning behind his departure,  the announcement, made this afternoon came completely out of the blue. In a statement Ross revealed that he has decided not renew his contract when it ends in July this year.

Revealing that this step was not “financially motivated” –  I somehow found this pretty hard to digest.  I recall reading a piece about massive pay cuts being slapped down on the beebs high earners – up to 50 per cent.  And as the highest paid star in the corporation  –  of course they were going to come after Ross first.

Agreeing  to the cut –  insiders later said it was not enough.

The question everyone  now asks is: who will fill his lucrative Friday night chat show spot, Radio 2 show and  film review programme.

  • After his announcement Ross took to his Twitter and thanked  fans for supporting his decision saying:
  • ” Thanks again for all the kind words – nice people! Love to you all.”
  • “It’s reported that his contract, issued for three years untill July 2010  was worth an estimated 18 million.

Friday nights, who do you want to see presenting?

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Hand over mouth, a woman stares at the raw image captured before her. A young mother lies motionless on the streets of El Salvador, gunned down as be-wildered schoolchildren helplessly look on.  This is one of the 196 thought provoking and shocking images portrayed at the World Press Photo exhibition in London’s Royal Festival Hall.

There’s something for everyone here as each image varies in content from the harrowing scenes of violence, drug trafficking and prostitution to the delicate capturing of nature’s most elusive creature on earth – the snow leopard. Their placement on either side of the ground floor serves as a possible metaphor for the demand of public attention on various issues.

  • Gripping social issues of poverty, murder and homelessness appear on the right.
  • While on the left, sporting events, humour, daily life stories and the addressing of contemporary issues portray the lighter side of photography.

Overall winner Anthony Suau’s imagery suggests the times we live in as a new kind of war – the war on a fallen economy.  A chilling black and white photograph depicts a lone, armed sheriff entering a ransacked US home. At first glance one would be convinced that this is the result of a serious crime, however this is not the case.It is reflective of the times we live in, as one family, struggling to make mortgage repayments, subsequently lose their home.

His images, all black and white suggest the dark mood felt throughout the US as businesses, families and employees attempt to adjust to the sheer reality of a credit crunched world. The next shot captures the mood on the floor of the Chicago Stock exchange, you notice, with a chill the unpredictability etched on each employees face. Crumpled shirts, paper strewn floors the folded arms and blank expressions all predict unease.

  • What Anthony Suau achieves in his photographs is the ability of relating to the viewer.
  • He’s current and portrays this ‘new war’ by capturing people at their most fragile.

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London Strategic Housing - Student block.

Decked in a delightful navy blue pinafore and armed with the most colourful assortment of washing utensils Aldoha Savickiene, has just finished her cleaning shift at London Strategic Housing’s student block.

Outside a group of trumpet wielding students attempt to play Jingle Bells, and after five minutes of flat notes, we move inside.

You get the feeling that sitting down is a rarity to Aldoha. But, given the opportunity its one she cherishes. Sipping on her coffee she begins to tell me why moving from Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania to Harrow, North West London has, what she calls its “hidden advantages.”

“Oh wait… I almost forgot.” She hands me an envelope of pictures, from her hometown of Vilnius, saying shyly “just to give you an insight of Lithuania.”

Out of the twenty something pictures she shows me, it’s evident that family life, for Aldoha is ultimately her top priority. I’m introduced to each and every member, even the in-laws. Knowing that she has highlighted the most important part of her existence Aldoha relaxes, and begins, what seems to be the unfamiliar task of speaking about herself.

“I saw it coming you know? This fall of economy, I knew it would happen.” Aldoha was a specialist in consumer banking in Nord Bank, Vilnius before a high cost of living coupled with low wages finally took its toll, forcing her and her family to make hard decisions about the prospect of life in the UK.  

“The price of food in Lithuania is the same as here” she says “but wages are very low.”

It was her job to predict market trends, recommend mortgages, chair meetings and devise the best insurance policies to those that came her way. A world apart from the 55 kitchen sinks she greets every morning in Kodac Court. Her decision to leave Lithuania wasn’t easy resulting in the painful separation of a mother from her husband and three children.

“I came to London to improve the lives of five people.” “This responsibility was enough to keep me working” she says. “They need a future. My husband looked after the children and I came to get us a job.”

A new start

Aldoha arrived in London in 2007 with no English. She says “I couldn’t even ask anyone for the time and if it wasn’t for my sister-in-law I don’t know what I would have done.”

She started off by working three jobs on minimal pay in Central London hotels. She begins mapping out her journey to me. It’s incredible.

Every morning at 6am, Aldoha would travel from her sister-in-law’s East London home to begin work in three separate hotels, starting in Southwark, moving onto Westminster and finishing up at 10pm in Farringdon.

Humour never fails Aldoha, as ever the optimist she smiles through these tales of language barriers, relocation and says:

“It’s funny, I’m fluent in Russian and Polish but I never thought I’d need English.”

After six months of hard work and sending money back home, her family arrived in London. Her husband works six nights a week as a handy-man and Aldoha now works a more relaxed schedule at London Strategic Housing.

When asked does she ever feel saddened that she had to work so hard, having enjoyed a life as a top end banker she says:

“cleaning is the wrong job for my brain, but I’m not scared of change, everyone needs it I’m grateful to get what I’m given – even if it’s not what I’m used to.”

Her choices of career sacrifice over family security are as inspiring as they are humbling. I ask her does the prospect of ever returning to Lithuania enter her mind?

She takes a second, glances downwards at the neat pile of photographs on the table and replies:

“I love my Country. But life as a family doesn’t work. I need to think about my family. A month’s wages in Lithuanian is equal to a week’s pay in London. My children get proper education and healthcare here, so financially, my answer would be no.”

Its Aldoha’s birthday next week, I ask her will she be celebrating. “Nah…work, Christmas all these things, if anything it will be a quiet affair.”

Christmas day will be spent in London with her family, a well deserved break for a mother in every essence of the word.

I tell her she’s more than welcome to view the interview before it’s published, to which she hastily replies:

“Thank you, but do you think I have time to be reading, (before bursting into laughter,) and what would I be doing reading something about myself?

At that, she takes out a battered notebook, scrawls down the Monday to-do list and cursing the very existence of the Great British weather, she walks away, with a smile that could conquer the world.

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Randa El Tahawy cites French as her nationality and always will.  But, for now – home is Egypt.

However, this also has its disadvantages. Randa describes her attendance of French school in Egypt lead to the questioning of whether she was a “true Egyptian.”“Life has taught me a lot you know.” These life lessons are clear as we speak of her past and what the future holds. So far Randa has written but not expressed.

Sitting upright Randa begins, detailing with passion and poise why she wishes to write about the unwritten. Society pressures, dictation of living standards they all affect her one way or  another.

I was never able to go further than the commercial publications, its shallow and not me.” She tells of life in Egypt as that of great “prosperity” but buried beneath is a great societal  pressure, especially on young Women like herself to get married as soon as possible.

Randa tells me “it’s a marking of social status” and that “you are officially  member of Society” once the exchange of vows has taken place.

Although she says that people may believe  reporting on Women’s issues to be a  “cliché” subject, it’s an issue that she holds dear to herself and as long as it still exists she’ll no doubt report on it.

Representing her Country

I refuse to live my “life as a blank page, I dont want some bland reference every time someone mentions me, I want to be remembered.”

During her period as a professional Journalist and prior to her move to London Randa has written for three publications, all of which have omitted the chance to speak of  “real issues.”

These issues are more important now than ever as Randa believes by living in London she is “representing her country.”

Aspiring to fix the views of the Social elite and break restrictive reporting are two overwhelming aspirations, that will no doubt be touched on and possibly overtaken throughout her career path.

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I had to laugh at this one…

Following a conversation I had with a mate back home in Galway via the friendship lifeline that is Skype, I was  informed of the recent goings on around my old college NUI Galway.

Apparently building is nearly completed on Ireland’s largest and most modern engineering building, a class act so I’m told – but it’s what thats occurring regarding parking facilities thats got everyone in a spin.

Courtesy of stock.xchng

You see in order to construct this state of the art building, two car parks had to be sacrificed, proving hazardous to

employees, staff  and students but such was its grandeur this sacrifice seemed only correct. A  “park and ride” service from Dangan, ten minutes away, was the solution, only someone  overspent the Budget and now they haven’t got the money to run the shuttle     bus let alone get it to leave the car park, maybe they went to the Bertie school of Business?

So with this ridiculous sense of budgeting NUI are left with one big building and no students to put in it. Being from Ireland, you’d find this both familiar and funny resulting in a sigh, giggle and the familiar line:

“Sure only in Ireland”.

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