Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Avoid the crowds - see some fantastic art for free

There are currently a number of 'big name' art exhibitions drawing big crowds in London including Picasso at Tate BritainLucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery and David Hockney at the Royal Academy. I'm sure these are all excellent exhibitions but at around £14 for a ticket, they're not cheap options and it seems a shame to pay so much for art that you have to see over the top of other people's heads.  Far better, I say, to take advantage of many of the free exhibitions available which bizarrely enough are sometimes less crowded than the paying ones.

I had this in mind when I found myself near the Tate Britain at lunchtime one day last week with an hour to spare. My main objective was to see an exhibition by the photojournalist Don McCullin that I'd read about. This was smaller than I'd expected - may be around 30 or so photos in total - but certainly didn't disappoint. The pictures, all black and white, were typically bleak but thought provoking, particularly the pictures of homeless people in East London which were taken in the 70s and 80s but could have been taken yesterday.

With abit of extra time on my hands, I had a quick look at some of the other parts of the Gallery. They are currently previewing an interesting-sounding exhibition called Family Matters that starts in October and which will show the way in which families have been portrayed in art through the ages. I can't imagine many family portraits like this nowadays.

I also saw the Chris Ofili painting 'No woman, no cry' which as well as being a beautiful piece of work is a tribute to Stephen Lawrence.

Finally, I watched a short piece of video art called 'High Wire' by Catherine Yass. I'm not usually that keen on video art but if you're a fan of 'Man on Wire' then you'll enjoy this short film of a man balancing on a tightrope suspended between two tower blocks (somewhere in London I think but I couldn't quite work out where). For some reason he doesn't walk all the way across but stops about two thirds of the way across and walks backwards to where he started - very nerve wracking even though you know he's unlikely to fall off.

So all in all an hour well spent.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Free films on Fridays

I know it's been a while since I last posted. I've been focusing on other things over the last few months but I have still been taking advantage of having more time when I can and there was one event that I managed to take advantage of recently that made me realise I really should start blogging again.

The lovely people behind the Nunhead and Peckham Free Film Festival have organised Free Film Fridays during February. Basically, it does exactly what it says on the tin. There's a free film at 1.30pm every Friday this month at Buchan Road Tenants and Residents Hall, Buchan Road, SE15 (near Nunhead station). There's free tea and biscuits available too before and after each of the screenings for those who have time to arrive early or stick around afterwards for a chat.

I went along to the first showing the week before last. The film was Passport to Pimlico an Ealing Comedy made in 1949 and shot partly in Lambeth despite being set North of the river. The after effects of the war are very much in evidence in the film from the continued impact of rationing on daily life to the bombsites that still need to be cleared and made safe. It is whilst playing on one of these bombsites that a group of children accidently denonate an unexploded bomb. No-one is hurt but when the local grocer falls in the bomb crater he stumbles a treasure trove and a document that is to have a major impact on the residents of that part of Pimilico and test the British government's negotiating powers to the limit.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot than that as I really knew nothing of the story before I saw the film and enjoyed it all the more for that. It is very funny, particularly the various attempts by the public to outwit officaldom, and needless to say there is a happy, though typically British, ending!

Last Friday, they showed An American in Paris which I didn't see (it's a musical which isn't really my thing) and the film this Friday is 84 Charing Cross Road which I would like to see but I don't think I'm going to be able to make it. It's based on the book and play of the same name and tells the story of the lengthy correspondence between an American woman and the manager and staff of a bookshop at that address.

For the final one of the Free Film Fridays on 24th February they're showing a selection of rare archive film of old London (1941-1951) from the London Metropolitan Archive. I went to see one of their film screenings last summer which I really enjoyed so I'm hoping to get to that one if I can.

The main Nunhead and Peckham Free Film Festival takes place in September and the idea is spreading as there are now plans for one in New Cross too in late April/early May. If you'd like to help with the organising of the New Cross one, there's details on their website for their next planning meeting on 27th February.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Five of the best - and all for free

To celebrate the end of the first five months of More Time, here's a round-up of my top five favourite activities from the things I've done so far. So, in no particular order, here it is:

    Billy's Big Busk
Best one-off experience: Billy's Big Busk with Billy Bragg on the South Bank at the end of April. Spring sunshine, dozens of musicians, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people singing along - a wonderful afternoon and a great way to start the summer. Let's hope it happens again next year.

Best rainy day experience: Watching films at the Mediatheque. With a choice of thousands of films of all types and from all eras, I could easily spend hours here even when it's not raining! 

Best learning experience: Gresham College Lectures. This was a new discovery for me and one I intend to make more use of this Autumn. The College offers lectures on a range of topics including 'very unusual' nearly every week of the year.

Best exhibition: London Street Photography. With so many exhibitions on offer, it was hard to know which to choose but this is my favourite partly because it was the first that I was able to visit with More Time so could take advantage of visiting when it was less busy. It closes soon and is definitely worth catching if you can.