The United Kingdom is a sovereign country consisting of 4 countries, a federal district, 14 British Overseas Territories, and 93,628 square miles of land. It’s tiny but thanks to pillaging and colonialism through the old British Empire, the UK has a major influence on the world. Read more about it on this tag page.
Of all the characters on Peep Show, Johnson has to be my favourite. Played by Paterson Joseph, Alan Johnson is a former senior loan manager at JLB and Mark Corrigan’s boss for much of the show. His style, confidence, and reckless attitude are enough to make Mark question his sexuality but that love is never returned (due to Johnson’s professional work ethic and heterosexuality).
Paterson Joseph started his acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company and he throws a lot of that style into the character. His delivery of some of Johnson’s wildest lines has gotten me through some tough times during this ongoing pandemic.
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.
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.
I’ve been following Marijn’s site for some time and they made a list of predictions for this year covering a range of topics including the UK, the US, tech, and entertainment. Some are quite bold but make sense, others less so but still make sense. A few of my “favourites”/ones I can see happening:
– There will be no mask or distancing mandate in England by the autumn equinox. The “plan B” measures will likely be relaxed at some point in March — perhaps earlier if Tory backbenchers get too fed up.
– The booster jab rollout will proceed unremarkably, as we all silently accept that we’re just going to have to treat covid like the ’flu now.
– The “metaverse” will neither be a gigantic flop nor as big as its proponents hope. Some people will quietly adopt virtual office spaces, teenagers will get VR headsets for their birthday, and furries will continue being furries, but there will be no great revolution.
– The NFT bubble will burst. Sorry, i mean, uh… the token that represents your claim of ownership to a jpeg of the NFT bubble will burst?
Please let that NFT bubble burst. I hate them. As for the boldest prediction? Queen Elizabeth II’s death (but after the Platinum Jubilee celebrations):
Queen Elizabeth will die. I say this every year, but i genuinely do think this will be the year — it’s not uncommon for widows to pass shortly after their spouses, and she’s been attending notably fewer public events recently.
I’ll come back to these as I’m sure they will too.
In more recent times, the hugely popular exhibitions Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (2017), The Place Is Here (2017), and Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers (2019) have galvanised a new audience, generating an overwhelming interest in art by Black artists from the general public, students, institutions and the private art sector. The value and necessity of Black art should, by now, be a moot point, and instead the weight and responsibility should remain on those who ignore Black artists and are reluctant to engage with charged personal histories that are uncomfortable to them.
These overdue advancements aggregate the possibilities and implications of Black British art created in the 20th and 21st centuries. Accessible digital technology, image- and text-based social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, and growing creative capital have provided a much-needed revamp to the unwritten rulebook of the largest unregulated market in the world. Our culturally meaningful experiences appear in multiple forms, and visual content and codes migrate from one to another.
I went to Soul of a Nation at the Tate and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad more Black art is being seen but the circumstances that sparked this renewed interest aren’t ideal, at least from a non-Black perspective. The ideal situation is Black viewers feeling inspired to express themselves and their surroundings in similar or unique ways and that is all we can really hope for.
There was a particular pride to be taken in hosting parties, especially “Why not?” parties that didn’t call for any specific occasion to circle its way back around the sun. “People say we Nigerians take parties too seriously – and yes, we do!” D Boss would say, punctuating the air with a nod in agreement with himself. “It’s part of our tradition. Parties are never forgotten.”
My earliest memories of these parties are distinct. The familiar scents of hard liquor and spiced foods carry me towards the kitchen. In the corner of my eye is a blue bucket full of ice moving like Tetris, cradling bobbing bottles of Supermalt and cans of Lilt. As soon as you arrived, the aunties would say, “Oya, go and play with your cousins!” – as if they had been waiting for the moment they could drop their shoulders and just be – and off you went with a group of children who you weren’t sure were your actual cousins or just the children of the elders.
There’s just something about Black parties. That warm buzz of community and togetherness, people enjoying themselves, laughing and drinking, dancing and eating—I’m not nearly as social as I used to be but when it comes to a Black party, I feel right at home.
It’s no longer with us but the spaceship McDonald’s, just off the A1 in Alconbury (UK), was an icon in the 90s. But it wasn’t always a Maccy D’s. The building opened in 1990 and traded as a Megatron, a space-age restaurant (below), but 3 years later, it transformed into a McDonald’s.
According to a former worker at the McDonald’s restaurant, the building had computer systems that allowed you to order at your table, predating the ordering kiosks by a couple of decades. However, due to echoey walls, poor lighting, and rising maintenance costs, the spaceship closed in 2000 and was demolished in 2008.
‘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’ve not really written anything specific about Black History Month this year but I have thrown in some Black British content here and there. So I’m going to emulate last year’s BHM round up post for 2021. It’s been tough finding decent BHM content because so much of it is whitewashed or performative. People are retreading the same steps and the same “look at these famous slaves!” lists of influential Black people, often written by white people. Or pledges for more action that were made last year and the year before. I’m also not pleased about a few articles regarding more Black presence in the police force which is the most counterintuitive suggestion to make in any month, let alone Black History Month. But I digress.
Same format as last year—some stuff from the Web, some stuff from the Cultrface archives, and people you should follow.
The very talented TheArtfulGabby demonstrated her makeup talents for spooky season by transforming into different characters every day this Halloween month for charity. So far she’s done Frankenstein’s monster, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Joker (the 3 most recent ones), Harley Quinn (my personal fave), and some Marvel characters (Black Panther and Spider-Man).
I’m scaring myself with horror games over on Twitch and doing 31 days of Halloween makeup to raise money for the Born Free Foundation! They’re an amazing charity that work to stop the exploitation and suffering of animals in the wild and in captivity. I’m not a fan of horror at all, so this is a big challenge for me this year, but we’re currently on £930 when our goal was £450! At £1,000 I have to shave my eyebrows off live on stream! Eek! 😂
For AnOther, Sagal Mohammed spoke to Rhea Dillon about her first solo exhibition, entitled Nonbody Nonthing No Thing. The Black British-Jamaican artist, writer and poet uses a variety of media to interpret what she calls the “‘rules of representation’ as a device to undermine contemporary Western culture” and “‘humane afrofuturism’ as a practice of bringing forward the humane and equality-led perspectives on how we visualise Black bodies”.
Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is one of those works, showing abstractions of Blackness in the form of 7 paintings and sculptures. The above image depicts “landing” and how the Diasporic experience for Black Africans and Caribbeans meant leaving the known and landing in the unknown. That fragmented journey, which doesn’t stop when the plane touches down or the ship anchors, is captured brilliantly in this work.
Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is at VO Curations in London from 15th Oct–11th Nov 2021 so get there if you can.
London-based artist Kemka Ajoku put together a photo exhibition highlighting the lives of Black British people living in the UK following the Windrush era as part of a wider exhibition.
Called England’s New Lenses, it’s part of a major exhibition at four English Heritage sites across the country: Wrest Park in Silsoe, Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, Middleham Castle in Yorkshire and Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, where photographers challenge the definition of heritage.
The exhibition started on 5th August 5 and runs until 31st October (likely to coincide with Black History Month) so if you can, get down to Wrest Park.
“Community is the act of coming together, but for me, it’s the coming together to achieve something,” says Fahima Jilani, the owner of Mosa Mosa, a Bengali food platform based in the West Midlands. Fahima began Mosa Mosa back in 2017, born out of a love for food passed down through her family. Initially, she was working at markets and catering small events like birthdays, and then the British Red Cross approached her to ask if she would be interested in providing meals for teenage asylum seekers, who were attending guidance sessions.
“These asylum seekers come predominantly from East African countries like Sudan, Eritrea, and I think they do genuinely appreciate spicy food, and I bring them South Asian food that is also spicy. Although it’s not the same culture as theirs, I think it’s comforting,” says Fahima.
Nik Sennhauser and I share a common sentiment. We both miss air travel. To combat his FOMO and general quarantine boredom, Nik decided to start making his own airline flight meals. This from a Thrillist article:
“Having been grounded for nearly a year in January 2021, I was so bored during the weekends with absolutely nothing to do due to restrictions. Like in many other countries, we were confined to our homes,” the Scotland native told Thrillist. “This, combined with the Scottish winter weather, it was just plain miserable.”
He said that one Sunday in January, he made himself a to-go breakfast of hash browns, omelettes, and sausages, and caught himself thinking about what a great in-flight meal it would make.
“Being an avid airline dinnerware collector—I have an airline trolley stocked with plates, glasses, and trays—I plated up the breakfast like an airline meal, actually making use of my collection,” Sennhauser said.
He continued plating regular meals on his airline dinnerware “just for fun,” but soon had the idea to start actually recreating the dishes he had experienced on his travels.
Now that I’m double vaccinated (and I hope Nik is or will be soon), I’m hoping to experience this soon albeit a short-haul version when I plan to go to Lisbon and Nice at the end of the year.
As a way to feed my nostalgia habit (and an act of self-care because the world is always on fire in some way), I watch old adverts from the 90s. It reminds me of my childhood and I can revisit adverts or products I’ve not heard of for decades. They also act as mini time capsules for brands and products that are no longer with us.
The above videos show some of those defunct brands and products from the UK, ranging from one2one (originally Mercury One2One, then becoming one2one, then rebranding as T-Mobile UK, then merging with Orange as Everything Everywhere, and finally becoming EE. Phew!) to Dollond & Aitchison (the opticians), the Goldfish credit card (later bought by Barclaycard), and Tandy.