Category Archives: Culture

Disappearing Cambridge

Here is another “episode” of Disappearing Cambridge, again in Mill Road – place of my birth. In a private courtyard at the end of the road near the centre of town, just about opposite the swimming pool, there were two mosaics. Sadly one is almost completely worn away and the other is in a very poor state. Given the condition of this art I think it will not be there much longer. They were commissioned from a world-renowned specialist mosaic artist in 2004. I can find no photograph of them in original condition online. Here they are as of now, sadly. Based on the one still visible, I think they had real class.

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Amazing Building

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Isleham Baptist (High Street Church) new Church building “The Ark” is approaching second fix stage – interior ironmongery, lights, switches, although there is still some panelling/ dry-lining/ partitioning to do.

Started around 2009 on donated land, built in English vernacular wooden-frame style (Tudor!) wholly hand-made from New Forest hand-picked individually felled 150-200 year old Oak trees, without officially any architect, all designed by volunteer master carpenters. Everything is hand made bespoke. Basically only some sanitary-ware and second fixings are proprietary.

It is  about three to four stories high with double and treble hammer-beam almost gothic roofing. It is HUGE. The car park is gigantic. There are many large classrooms (enough that it could be school), 2 huge refrectories (eating rooms) and a full size commercial kitchen. There is of course a baptismal pool. There is room after stunning room, balconies, a courtyard, cloisters and minstrel galleries. All wired CAT6 for ITC. Check out the herringbone brickwork. This is Hampton Court (Royal Palace) level work, just a half-century later!

The price is so low due to donations and volunteer work that my Quantity Surveyor friends cannot believe it is so far only £3m. This is about as incredible as the mosque I am working on and about the same size, but around order of magnitude less cost. Wow!

Enjoy a few pictures. Remember all is hand-made bespoke.

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All photography in this article is my own Copyright©2018 kevintangodance not to be used without my prior permission.

Brittania: Resurgemus!

Being a global citizen is simply a matter of being British. To succeed in the world, act British. Discuss.

I am British (you guessed already), quite specifically born 1959 English in Cambridge, UK. That has shaped a lot of my outlook. Post-war (WW2) post-Empire post-Cold-War and brought up with and amidst USAF people stationed in the UK at the time of the moon-landings. Add in 44 years of UK EU membership and travelling Europe extensively in my twenties. Those factors and an enquiring mind have given me a somewhat international outlook.

Here we used to look to the USA for the wow factor. Europe was a bit exotic too. We Brits felt a sense of great history and entitlement, technological, cultural and military superiority. Now we look to China for wow factor and wonder what our trade, prosperity, ease of travel and future will be. Yet, I feel my country will ultimately benefit from the forthcoming Brexit shock to make it strive again to be the exciting prosperous place it has shown in the past it can be.

Mine is the country that did the industrial revolution, invented the internet, jet engine, railways, maglev trains and phones, designed the mallard, spitfire, e-type, harrier, mini, miniskirt and half of Concorde and the channel tunnel, as well as giving the world Shakespeare, the best translation of the Bible into English (partly by Shakespeare) and at least half of pop music. I want us to put the Great back into Great Britain so it not just the geographic descriptor for these islands.

This is I feel, necessarily about us as individuals. I am too small to steer history in any meaningful way whatsoever and nor do I seek to, but I can still be a butterfly wing beating out fractal consequences, cheerleading and hoping for a nascent hurricane. I define myself as and enjoy being a global citizen and urge my fellow Brits to delight in being multicultural, outward-looking and to play and shine on the stage that is the world.

I watch La Tour, support the Baltimore Orioles, listen William Gibson audiobooks, wear a Mondaine Swiss watch (or “for best” my 1942 limited edition Juvenia), cheer England in the world cup, suck a Ricola, enjoy a McDonalds breakfast (still miss the old Big Breakfast), drive a (unique special edition – one-only OEM) Smart car, listen to (South African) Kaya FM, work for a global construction consultancy headquartered in North America with internationally known architects, read Monocle, Flipboard and Cool Hunting, watch Paul Begley, New China TV, SerpentZA and Naomi Sexy Cyborg, on my many different Apple, Windows and Android devices of course. I sponsor two children in Kenya and enjoy Scandinavian, French and German TV crime dramas. I dance Tango and listen to Jazz and Classical from everywhere. I eat British, Indian, Chinese, North-African, Middle-Eastern, American, Thai, Polynesian, Spanish, French, German, Dutch and Italian food. I like root beer, British, green Sencha and Macha, Moroccan mint and lemon tea, coffee, beers, lagers, really fine French wines (Margaux), the very best Scottish single malt whiskies, Swedish Vodka and that French café speciality La Bomba (Cognac in hot chocolate). I snack on corn chips, pretzel sticks, and peanut puffs. I love merguez, belly pork, falafel and Singapore fried rice. For chocolate probably Rittersport tops it. I am a born-again Christian helping construct a mosque designed by a Jew, sponsored by Turks, fabricated and assembled by Swiss, Irish and Greek people.

Almost everything in my homeland’s culture including food, language and genetics result from us invading others or others invading (or trying to invade) us – mutual assimilation. We are perfect mongrels on a just-enough-isolated island that has made us fiercely independent seafarers, traders, invaders, exploiters, explorers, colonisers and conquerors. Romans, Saxons, Angles, Vikings, Normans, the Crusades, the Empire, the Napoleonic, two World Wars and numerous other wars have made us rich, strong and diverse. Our history is certainly not all noble but the result is incontrovertible. To me Jamaican is a very British accent, curry is a typical British dish, American English is just an old Elizabethan accent, the best bridge in France was designed by one of my countrymen and so were all those lovely Apple computers. Brits are the Borg – we assimilate everything. If we invade you when we eventually leave we take all you had that was good and leave you our language and culture which is also quite good, if you invade us we assimilate your language and culture and eventually you simply become us.

It is however not now simply about looking back, sitting on laurels and past glories – those things past are just examples of what we are capable of time and again at every point in our history, I believe because the psychosocial identity we share as a nation. Right now we are the financial capital of the world and we will not let the EU steal that. We lead in satellites and are global players in aerospace, defence (defense), energy, biotech, physics, pharma and have Oxford and Cambridge amongst our universities. We are a nuclear power and sit on the UN Security Council. We are the fifth or sixth largest economy on the planet (argue amongst yourselves while we make more money by inventing insurance – oh we already did that). We will play every advantage we have. We will no longer be contained and constrained by a couple of rich old rivals in Europe keeping us from competing with them too well by getting us to pay for all the poor countries they have appended.

I notice that Britain never really got the Marshall Plan money after WWII – our share was more than cancelled out by lend-lease war debts to the USA. How convenient. Europe and Japan got all the help, then as we started to get out of the economic dip we got lured into the EC. A very good way for competing economies to keep us down post-Empire (I think they were scared of our capacity to dominate the world and conspired to keep us down to their advantage). Imperial competition between Britain and German led to WWI and on to WWII. The Japan-US Pacific conflict of WWII was also a trade war. The USA wanted to be the next empire, economically if not territorially, so keeping the UK away from the money and playing Europe and Japan made sense. Getting the EU to mop up Eastern Europe post USSR was also a cheap way for the USA to counter Russia. Britain has been paying a good bit of that bill for a long time. That era has ended. Europe is falling apart. America is receding, China is rising. India is a player too. Africa is the next sleeping giant and China already can see it. It is time for a newly free from the EU Britain to carve its own path again. Not the old path, although strangely there is a tiny little space for a new British Empire in there – countries in our Commonwealth that might ask for a really close relationship with us in return for stability and protection from terrorising neighbours – much as China is subtly offering some African states already. So something new, something better, something great. An international multicultural future beckons.

The future belongs to the brave, so confidence is all important. On the past 2000 years’ form – taking the long view – I think have every reason to be confident.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start.
(Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act III)

FREEDOM COUNTDOWN

Disappearing Market Street, Cambridge UK

“Trollbeads” the very idiosyncratic jewellery (faux) Art Nouveau-fronted shop is no longer there. Perhaps the lovely shop front will be retained if the unit can be let, although the number of empty shops even in prosperous Cambridge centre is now quite scary – feels like 5%. It is true that Main Street / The High Street shopping is dying as clicks overtake bricks – sad and horrible, because “going shopping” is something fun to do even if one is only “window shopping.” Therein of course lies the problem.

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Gormley @ Kettles Yard (Cambridge UK)

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http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/events/antony-gormley-subject/

Do this one if you can. This gallery is so aesthetically and architecturally well-curated it is almost too much off a good thing. As engineering, Gormley’ installations, as his sculptures of necessity are, impress. Floating man, warp speed space cube thing, laser-like representations of the three dimensions. This is a very nice couple of hours in a very well-manicured corner of Cambridge. Gormley never fails to entertain. Sure he does all the arty philosophical deep semiotic sociological psychobabble stuff, but he cannot do other than entertain. A welder-showman building big dippers for folks’ heads to ride. As a tanguero might put it, “This is serious fun.”

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The floating baby on the gallery’s toilet sign seems strangely prescient today…

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All pictures in this blog article are photographs Copyright 2018 by me kevintangodance,  of works created by the artist Antony Gormley and displayed at Kettles Yard Gallery. None of the images in this article/webpage/blog post may be used without my permission. All Rights Reserved.

GastonoME Bury St.Edmunds, UK

The popular and chic GastonoME bistro in Bury St.Edmunds, UK has just relocated to larger premises on the fashionable Abbeygate Street.

Bury (as it is known locally) is a fine and fashionable market town with a wide range of private individual businesses such as jewellers and boutiques, a large Saturday market and a good selection of national chainstores including Debenhams and M&S. There are are also extensive historic public gardens. It’s perfect for a sunny summer Saturday. There is also a great arts venue and a gallery with music and art festivals regularly held. Pay a visit if you want a more relaxed alternative to crowded Cambridge.

I took my wife to GastronoME in Bury for a spot of Saturday lunch and was suitably impressed. We had always liked the ambience and high quality food of GastronoME’s original venue, and they have translated it perfectly into their more accommodating premises. The cafe was crying out to be upgraded to something more spacious and the new situation is spot on.

The design at the new property has the right blend of quirky je ne sais quoi and a reassuringly practical layout that compliments circulation, sight-lines and comfort. The food quality is quite simply 5-Star and the service and friendliness of the proprietor Michael and his staff is second to none. They really do have the savoire-faire to produce a sociable and convivial eating experience that will bring you back. The menu is pitch-perfect, not over-reaching itself, being mettre au point to an accessible modernity that still respects your pocketbook. Chic, yummy, and good for palates of every age.

No one has asked me to write this or paid me in any way for doing so at any point. I just like to share what I find is good with you.

They are good so they will get busy. Do use the booking form on their website at https://www.gastrono-me.co.uk

 

 

Ghosts of Mill Road, Cambridge UK

I was born in Mill Road, Cambridge UK. I remember Mum taking me to buy clothes at Barneys shop when I was a boy about 50 years ago. It closed down some years ago, but recently they stripped it back to the concrete, and there is the outline of the old sign still there over the entrance. The Penguin “American” Laundry still there, has been running as long as I can remember.

If you are an old Cantabrigian like me, enjoy.

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Odeon Arcade Building Leicester

There have been number of cinemas in Leicester called Odeon, indeed there is still one. However the one I spotted has not played a movie in a very long while, and it has certainly seen better days. There have been various plans for this old cinema, which have not yet come to fruition. Here was one such plan from Studio Four Architects https://studiofourarchitects.com/odeon-arcade-leicester/

It was very hard to get an angle to include the frontage. There is something I like about this old building. I don’t much like the plans Studio Four had for it. Maybe the rendering on their website is just a low-res model, but if losing the windows and surface textures of the building is what Studio Four really had in mind, then no. They do say “whilst preserving a traditional façade on one side of the development” so hard to tell really. I think the detail on that façade is all the building has left now. The interior at ground level is long gone. What is upstairs I could not get access to. Perhaps there are former glories still inside up there, perhaps not – I could not tell. An estate agent (realtor) website says “The property comprises a retail arcade with former Odeon cinema above set over basement and 5 floors.” On another site here http://www.auction.co.uk/residential/data/full_text/may2017/pos231.pdf 
there are clues that there perhaps is still a cinema upstairs.

This NOT the famous Leicester Athena, former 1930’s modernist Odeon building.

A cinema history website at https://www.foxestalk.co.uk/topic/104842-leicesters-40-lost-cinemas-do-you-remember-any-of-these/ says: “Odeon Cinema, Marketplace –  This started off life in 1924 as the City Cinema, with The Covered Wagon the first film to be screen there. It had 2,200 seats in stalls and circle, an Apollo organ and also a cafe. But it was closed in April 1964 and the auditorium was demolished. Six months later a new cinema was built behind the original facade. The ground floor was the shopping arcade that you can still visit today, and the cinema was the on the first floor. It was notable for its 70mm presentations on the curved screen which measured 45ft wide by 26ft high. It became a ‘roadshow’ cinema, a term used by the film industry for cinemas where films opened in a limited number of cities for a limited time before they went on national release. And the The Sound of Music had a two year run at the cinema. But on May 31, 1975, the cinema closed. It then briefly became an independent movie house called the Liberty Cinema which screened Bollywood films. Since then, it has been used as a bingo club, amusement arcade and a music venue.”

I like this old 1920’s building.

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What a Gas

Hey ho, I took a visit to the National Gas Museum <– click for their website. Yeah, sounds crazy but it is a really interesting tiny museum in the UK city of Leicester (famous for red cheese). IMHO it’s actually one of the best museums in England. Size isn’t everything.

Now BE CAREFUL if you want to visit about whether they are REALLY open. The website might say they are, but the curator has been known to go away and close the museum and not update the website. Phone ahead and ask a human. I drove 100 miles to be there, having checked the website, to be told they were closed for that very reason! However a kind volunteer happened to be there and allowed me to have a private viewing. Wow. Megathanks.

I have only put a very few photos – you need to go see it. They have a Gas Powered radio. Yep there is such a thing (but no photo here – no spoilers).

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