Jago Hazzard on Phoenix Garden in West London

The Hidden Garden in the West End

Hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of West London is Phoenix Garden, community garden and registered charity. The garden is located near Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road and started life as a site for houses and a pub before it became a WWII bomb site, then a car park and finally a garden. As Jago explains, the garden nearly closed permanently in 2016 but reopened in 2017 thanks to charitable donations. And if like me, you recognised it from a recent film, that’s because it featured in the 2019 film, Last Christmas starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding.

The ghostly signs of London

A wall with a faded version of the old Boots Chemist logo on it
Photo by Roy Reed

Before abandoned billboards showing sun-faded adverts from your childhood, there were painted signs on walls that barely stood the test of time. In a new book called Ghost Signs: A London Story, Sam Roberts and Roy Reed look at London’s “ghost signs” and their history.

‘[The signs] are voices from the past, they are public pieces of history written for a past audience, we can only see them by the quirk of their survival,’ says Roberts. These typographic landmarks have survived against significant odds and have a precarious existence in an ever-changing urbanscape. ‘Very few are listed, and many may be lost in the future,’ Roberts adds.

(via The Spaces)

The Victoria line could have been called the Viking Line

Whatever Happened to the Viking Line?

As Jago Hazzard explains in the above video, there were several proposed names for the Victoria Line on the London Underground and the best one was the Viking Line. But it had nothing to do with the seafaring people of 8th century Scandinavia—it was a portmanteau of Victoria + King‘s Cross as the line went through both stations.

[…] King’s Cross and Victoria was also played with neither of these really sounded right. But wait a second… King Vic… Vic King… Viking! Brilliant! That’s the toughest name ever given to a tube line but, no, not quite what they were looking for.

We were robbed!

'Bold Black British', curated by Aindrea Emelife

© Ibrahim El-Salahi

‘Bold, Black British’ was an exhibition held at Christie’s London between 1–21 October, showcasing Black British art from the 80s until the present. It was curated by Aindrea Emelife who wanted to show a wide range of Black British art besides a few paintings:

‘I like to see my curatorial practice as a Trojan horse,’ Emelife explains. ‘I want people to go into exhibitions with one idea, and have other ideas leap out at you, challenging and moving you at unexpected turns, asking you to look again at the history you thought you knew, or look closer at a history that has been seldom looked at.’

I found about this way too late but you can see some of the art via Wallpaper.com and a list of the featured artists on the Christie’s website as well as a 3D virtual tour.

Liam Wong – After Dark

Liam Wong's After Dark book

We’ve featured Liam Wong previously and now he’s back with a new book called “After Dark”.

After Dark is a one-of-a-kind publication documenting Wong’s nocturnal journeys through the world’s most captivating cities. Following his début monograph, TO:KY:OO, which captured Tokyo’s beauty at night, Wong widens his lens from the city that became his spiritual and photographic muse to Osaka to Kyoto, London to Seoul, Paris and Rome. But he goes still further, seeking the rich tapestries of night-life in the foggy historical streets of his hometown Edinburgh, penetrating the backstreets of the megacity Chongqing, seizing the verticality of Hong Kong from its rooftops.

In classic Liam Wong style, the book has been crafted with a meticulous eye for detail. I particularly like the cinematic feel of the shots and the custom typeface, designed by Toshi Omagari exclusively for the book. 

If you love photography or cinematography, you’ll love After Dark. A crowdfunding project was set up by Volume and met its goal within 48 hours. You can still pledge for a copy here.

'Barbican Stories' details racism experienced by current and former employees at the Barbican

The Barbican holds a lot of sentimental value to me but after hearing of racial discrimination in the workplace, I don’t look quite as fondly at the Brutalist icon. Barbican Stories details accounts of racism by current and former employees and I first heard about it from their article for gal-dem:

As in many workplaces, 2020’s summer of protest – triggered by the murder of George Floyd – brought increased visibility to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which meant conversations about “diversity and inclusion” could no longer be tabled.

The Barbican’s response was bureaucratic at best, and gaslighting at worst. For me, it felt like BLM was a “comms issue” for the institution, it was not about change but image. Barbican Stories was a way to cut through this delusion, and hold a mirror up to the institution. It breaks systemic racism down into everyday occurrences to show the Barbican that it is not in a position to simply comment on racism, it needs to recognise itself as an organisation that is currently racist. 

The stories are plentiful; enough to warrant a second print run of the book “for distribution to public records and archives”. The Barbican’s response was standard—”We fully recognise the pain and hurt caused by these experiences“, so if they’re recognisable, why wasn’t anything done?—and it remains to be seen if anything will actually be done about the past, now, and in the future to ensure working environments are safe.

12 alternative versions of famous monuments

These are incredible from oobject.

Included here among various alternatives for Tower Bridge, the Washington Monument, The Chrysler building and St. Paul’s Cathedral are proposed extensions to the White House, a 5 million tomb alternative to London’s famous Victorian cemeteries and a particularly uninspiring second place entry for the Sydney Opera House competition. My personal favorite, however is the Triumphal Elephant which could have capped off the Champs Elysees in Paris. If someone could only find the rejected competition entry for what became the Eiffel Tower, which consisted of a giant replica of a Guillotine.

Some I wish existed, some I’m glad didn’t become reality, and some I would like to see and then never see again.

More “12 things” posts: 12 objects unnecessarily covered in gold and 12 abandoned islands

Roy Mehta's 'Revival' explores Brent's multiculturalism between 1989–93

Revival book cover

Roy Mehta is a London-based photographer and in his latest publication, Revival: London 1989-1993, he reconnected with his roots in Brent, north-west London. The book is a collection of Roy’s photos taken in a 4-year period from the tail-end of the 80s to the early 90s.

During this time, in 1989, Roy was living in Farnham, but he knew the area of Brent like the back of his hand – he just hadn’t been there for a while. So he packed up his camera and started to wander the roads of his old hometown, taking pictures along the way and observing the streets that he once used to roam as a child. “I gradually got to know the people and began to be accepted into churches, pubs, homes, dancehalls and other places in the community,” Roy tells It’s Nice That. “This was a long time before digital photography and social media, so photography was a different kind of practice; people related to the camera in a different way.”

Quote from It’s Nice That

Revival: London 1989-1993 is available from Hoxton Mini Press and on Amazon. There will also be an exhibition of the work in March 2022 (you can check some of the photos from there too).

Sophia Tassew's Khula jewellery brand is dope

Sophia Tassew with 4 models wearing Khula earrings

Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.

Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”

I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow. 

Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.

I especially love the late 60s/70s vibe from the designs, which she said inspired her alongside her roots from East Africa and South Africa:

Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.

If you can, please support Khula and buy something from the store when the next batch drops. And follow both the Khula brand and Sophia on Instagram.

(featured image taken by Chad McLean from Instagram [his website])

Animals on the London Underground

elephant drawing made out of London Underground lines

A really cool site I found while I was digging through Kottke.org’s archives.

Animal’s on the Underground’s backstory:

The animals were discovered by London-based designer, Paul Middlewick in 1988. They’re created using only the lines, stations and junctions of underground railway maps. Paul first spotted the elephant while he was staring at the world famous London Underground map during his daily journey home from work.

The more he looked, the more animals he found and the elephant was quickly joined by many other cute animals including a bat, a cat, a polar bear, several dogs and even a bottlenose whale.

But over time, people have discovered animals on other underground transport systems including the Moscow Metro, the New York Subway, and the Paris Metro.

You can buy a desk jotter and a pack of 3 notebooks from the site to help maintain the site as well as donating to them directly via PayPal.

Sadly, no hippos have been found yet.

Unwind LDN lets you unplug and unleash your potential

Things are pretty shit right now because of that horrible C-word and it can be difficult to relax. There are ways to destress and one of them is through art therapy.

Priya Chandé felt the benefits of art therapy to manage the stress of her career and that turned into Unwind LDN. Launched in 2019, the business provides workshops to help people unwind and unplug through “artistic expression”. Some people like to talk through things, others like to thrash it out in the gym, and others take to art and creativity to improve their mental health. And that’s what Unwind LDN is here to facilitate.

Benefits of unwinding with art

Art is cool but it’s more than just paintings in art galleries. Unwind LDN harnesses some positive health benefits from the workshops they provide such as:

  • Cognitive resilience (which can help with diseases like dementia)
  • The freedom to create
  • Increased productivity
  • Relaxation
  • Improved focus
  • Growth

Creative workshops can also provide necessary distractions and gateways to better personal development.

Workshops on offer

Unwind has a group of “Unwinders” that you can book for workshops and share their work. Some of the types of workshops include:

  • Modern calligraphy
  • Letterpress printing
  • Lino printing
  • Screen printing
  • Gold gilding
  • 3D pen art
  • Stitching and hand embroidery
  • Knitting
  • Watercolour painting
  • Papercraft
  • Illustration
  • Candle making
  • Handmade soaps and cleansers
  • Shoe making

Unfortunately, businesses like these are the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic but it’s good to know that they’re around.

Follow Unwind LDN on Twitter and Instagram.

Facts and figures about the London Underground

London Underground sign

Back in the day, there was a train journey that had no barriers at either station. My home station eventually changed that but I always wondered what journeys you could make with the potential to just walk right on through without a ticket (I do not endorse this btw).

Who is Geoff Marshall?

Geoff Marshall is a TfL enthusiast and created a page on his website dedicated to London Underground facts and figures. It’s particularly helpful for disabled people as not all stations have escalators or lifts. Also interesting to see how many stations are so close together in terms of journey time. Leicester Square to Covent Garden, for example, takes less than 40 seconds on average.

Check out Geoff’s YouTube channel for more content about TfL.

More Secrets of the DLR

Yoroshiku 4649

yoroshiku 4649 - nice to meet you

Firstly, this isn’t sponsored – I just like them. Yoroshiku 4649 is a fashion brand from London with a Japanese aesthetic. Their name comes from some Japanese wordplay meaning “nice to meet you”.

Their main style uses camo print featuring the Yoroshiku logo, itself made from Japanese katakana characters for the term.

Yoroshiku Classic: Lips (White)

Amongst their collection, they sell T-shirts, hoodies and jumpers, Jackets, headwear, and accessories. They also have a freebies section with desktop and phone backgrounds (I got some myself).

Sizes come in unisex, men’s and kids and prices are affordable for an indie brand. I got myself a t-shirt with discount for £10 and I’m super excited to get it.

Yoroshiku 4649 logo

And that discount? Fill out their survey and get £20 off anything in-store when you spend £30 or more.

Introducing… Yoroshiku Crest

Hibaq Osman - The Heart Is A Smashed Bulb

Hibaq Osman - The Heart Is A Smashed Bulb

Hibaq Osman is a Somali writer born and based in London. Her work centres women, identity and the healing process. I’ve been following Hibaq online for a number of years and it’s been wonderful watching her grow as a poet. Her words cut and soothe in equal measure.

The thing about blood
it reeks of metal
baby,
aren’t you sick of chains?

What a verse. Just wow.

The Heart Is A Smashed Bulb is a four-part anthology and you can download it via Google Drive. I also recommend you buy A Silence You Can Carry and Where The Memory Was as well.