The blog for hip + arty urban adventurers. Uncovering things to do and places to go in London and beyond. Visit the main site at a www.theculturalexpose.co.uk and click here to join the mailing list...
Those up for adrenaline-tinged entertainment might want to visit this year’s CircusFest. Following success in 2007 and 2010, CircusFest 2012 may prove to be the most exciting of the trio as it aims to bring together global circus performers in a range of diverse acts, blending various forms of circus-related art in a five-week extravaganza.
Starting from March 28th, The Roundhouse will be featuring major premiering performances in their main space, and audiences can join the ranks as circus performances are brought to a whole new level. In Il Pixel Rosso: The Great Spavaldos, audience members (two at a time) are taken on a video-powered journey into a flying-trapeze double act’s hidden history. One can even learn trapeze skills from experts in the Roundhouse car park.
Professor Vanessa’s Wondershow is also opened for the first time at CircusFest: a green space turned into a vintage circus (dating back to the ‘30s and ‘50s) where one can marvel at a number of awesome spectacles. The professor is also the director of the Sheffield National Fairground Archive and the world’s leading expert on circus history, so you’re guaranteed to experience the golden age of the circus with original sideshows, aerial performances, contemporary cabaret, a promenade experience studded with headless women, an insect circus and Electra – the 27,000-volted woman.
Equally stimulating for the less sensational-inclined are film screenings, a photographic exhibition by Phil Fisk and talks with Vanessa Toulmin and John Paul Zaccarini, leading rope artist and circus director. (Words: Li Yin Soh)
CircusFest 2012 is at the Roundhouse from 28th March to 29th April 2012. Click here for more information.
In a nutshell… Once a dead-end place where you wouldn’t want to hang out at night, Finsbury Park has undergone a pleasant change in the last decade and as a result has become a rather nice place to be… if you know where to go. The transport hub on Seven Sisters Road may not be the most lighthearted of spots but get onto Stroud Green or Blackstock Roadand there are some interesting things happening. The different cultures living in the area make for an excellent mix of smells, sounds and sights. Also home to the mighty Arsenal , Finsbury Park is good mix of proper North London and a bit of bohemia.
If you have a couple of hours… If the suns out, you can’t miss the 115 acres of park and maybe take a turn on the boating lake (rowing boats for hire in the summer months). Next the Stroud Green Road offers excellent refreshment opportunities and the variety on offer is for all tastes and pocket depths. The Korean Dotori and Season Kitchen and Dining room mark a slight upmarket turn for the area whilst long-term favourites such as Jai Krishna (the BEST vegetarian South Indian Restaurant in London- Bring Your Own Bottle) keep eating very affordable. On a back street you will find the unusual old world sports pub, The Faltering Fullback (don’t worry I’m never usually taken by the word ‘sport’ and ‘pub’ in the same sentence - but the decor is old school and interesting, check it out). If you have time, Rowans Tenpin Bowl will provide wholesome family fun or take a wonder down Blackstock Road (a Stoke Newington Church Street in the making perhaps?) in search of that first edition in a second-hand book shop or an original art deco table.
Don’t Even… Go there on a match day (unless you’re intending to go to the football that is). Streets are crowded, Tubes are sweaty and the pubs are heaving with red shirts. It’s no place for a hip and arty urban adventurer! (Words: Laura Thornley)
The director/brother combo of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have created a film I would describe as very… ‘French’. In this context, it means a film that is wonderfully dissimilar to the Hollywood approach to story-telling. It also means a film based in reality, which has been shot simply and beautifully.
This is the story of Cyril, a twelve-year-old boy abandoned by his father in an orphanage. On impulse Cyril asks Samantha, a woman who kindly restores his bike to him, if he can stay with her on the weekends and Samantha agrees. However, distraught by the rejection of his father, Cyril turns from Samantha to those who are affectionate only as a means of manipulating him. The frightening question of this film is whether Cyril will not only destroy Samantha’s love for him but himself.
The Dardenne brothers have an incredible skill for summarising a complex situation in a few seconds. A prime example of this is the opening scene where Cyril is on the telephone dialling and redialling his father’s now disconnected number. That kind of image plunges you right into the heart of the matter, however, much of the film is not as forthcoming. The motivations of Samantha and Cyril’s father are purposely subterranean leaving much open to your own interpretation and this is where the power of the film lies. It invites you to become involved and form your own understanding rather than telling you what to think.
A Kid With A Bike is a testament to those few and extraordinary people with an exceptional capacity for love and it’s difficult not to be moved by that. (Words: Beth Downey)
Visit any circus worth its big tops and you’ll usually be wowed by the trapeze acts - the swinging stars who perform breath-taking acrobatic stunts mid-air (and from the looks of things, probably pay a steep premium on life insurance). So when offered the chance to have a go by an organisation called Gorilla Circus, I’d been assured repeatedly there was a net… and despite my warnings of having no flexibility, balance or coordination, the instructors insisted they’d look after me; I’m told their oldest flyer so far was 78 so I should really stop being a wimp!
GC provides flying trapeze classes to the general public and you can sign up for just a taster lesson or even a full course if you really want to learn the basic moves and get the chance to progress further. The class begins on the ground where you can practice the simple trick on a low bar, before it’s time to climb the ladder and get ready to fly! As a total beginner I hoped my yoga practice would help me out but all thoughts go out of your head when you’re actually swinging through the air attached to a few ropes. Despite my lack of ability (I blame my family - none of us are sporty) if you are able to grasp the basic moves you can move on to letting one of the instructors catch you, which the majority of my class were able to do. It all provides for a great atmosphere to see people progress so quickly in a 2 hour class (maximum 10 people) and able to leave performing these fantastic stunts.
Despite my lack of skills, Gorilla Circus offers a great time, allowing you to try something most people have always wanted to try when they were first taken to the circus as a little kid and never thought they would get the chance to do. And to really get that ‘I’m a bird’ feeling, the circus operates outside in locations such as Regents Park but they use venues all over London such as Greenwich and Camden from May until September. Prices are £22.50 for a taster and £24 for a 2 class.
Visit gorillacircus.com for more information and to book a class. (Words: Lucy Palmer, Extra editing: Matilda Egere-Cooper)
In a year that even Hollywood bowed before the exquisite artistry of French Cinema –with The Artist receiving five Oscars and legendary filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen delivering their own cinematic love letters to Paris - the Rendez-vous with French Cinema should not be missed by any self-respecting film lover. From March 21st to 24th, this charmingly titled fest will showcase eight eagerly awaited French films in four of the most loved film venues in London: Ciné Lumière, Curzon Soho, Curzon Mayfair and The Clapham Picture House.
Keeping in line with the currently popular theme of nostalgia, the opening film of the festival follows the romantic adventures of a mother and a daughter from Paris in the sixties to London’s modern days. Directed by Christophe Honoré with an all-star international cast that includes French idol Catherine Deneuve , Parks and Recreation alumni Paul Schneider and Czech director Milos Forman, Beloved sways through romance and drama with the characters intermittently bursting into songs.
Two other highlights of the festival also revolve around the idea of l’amour fou. Goodbye First Love, which has already been screened in some of the biggest film festivals in the world, tells a heartfelt tale of teenage love, while Delicacy is a romantic dramedy about a workaholic widow who is courted by a Swedish co-worker, starring the always lovable Audrey Tautou.
Moving away from romantic films, there is Olivier Marchal’s (creator of the hit TV cop drama Braquo) intense gangster film with the apt title A Gang Story. Finally, parents and children alike will definitely be enchanted by Tales of the Night, the latest film from celebrated French animator Michel Ocelot (Kirikou and the Sorceress).
Add to this eclectic mixture of films, some exciting Q&A sessions with A-list talents such as Deneuve and A Prophet’s wonderful star Tahar Rahim, as well as a number of intriguing after screening events like a Norman nautical party, and you have five genuinely “jours de fête” as our Gallic friends would say. (Words: Apostolos Kostoulas)
For more info about screenings, visit the links below:
A bit like the Royal Variety Show, but without your Royal Majesty sitting in a crown and a gown, DONG is the night where comedians, dancers, DJs and hip-hop karaoke merge to create a delicious mash-up of all things fun and glorious. It only happens every two months and it doesn’t look like it’s one to be missed…
Rich Mix will be hosting the event featuring comedian Fergus Craig, from the BBC sketch show Sorry, I’ve Got No Head and Rahzel-inspired Beardyman, a double UK Beatbox champion and vocalist extraordinaire who has previously collaborated with Foreign Beggars and Fatboy Slim.
The absence of the Queen at this show will be eased with Mr. B Gentleman Rhymer, a “chap-hop” rapper who waxes lyrical about cricket, banjo-playing, pipe-smoking and all things genteel, with a mission to introduce the Queen’s English into hip-hop. Whether he will accomplish his mission and impress the deep, dark depths of east London will be intriguing to see and hear.
Doc Brown will also be showcasing some of his down-to-Earth rap comedy, “I got a flash car… a Vauxhall Astra”. Videos found on YouTube of his acts show that his smooth delivery and surprising punch lines will almost guarantee some belly laughs and wry smiles. Who knew hip-hop could be so funny?
Elsewhere on the bill, comedian Cariad Lloyd, usually performing with her various alter egos, will be delivering a set and rap star wannabes will finish off the night in classic DONG style with a hip-hop karaoke session. Great night, guaranteed we thinks. (Words: Lamiat Sabin)
Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, the latest film from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and joint winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes last year, will be an exercise in patience for the average cinema-goer. At 157 minutes long, ‘slow burner’ only partially conveys the way the film lingers in the moment - think Lost in Translation minus the action, and you’re halfway there - but this contemplative drama veers away from pretentious self-indulgence; stick with it, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your patience.
Mood most certainly takes supremacy over plot here. A killer captured by the police, is leading a search party of officials including the chief of police, prosecutor and the local doctor, through the bleak hills of Anatolia, looking for the place where the body is buried. Ostensibly it turns into a night-long goose chase, beset by false leads, a reluctant murderer and weary officials.
Athough it’s based on a true story, the plot almost feels secondary, because Once Upon a Time In Anatolia is as far away from murder mystery as CSI is from rom-com. Set at night, amongst the moody backdrop of the steppes, Ceylan’s film broods with tension, not from the recent murder but from the feeling that each man is keeping something back. Snippets of dialogue, seemingly banal small talk as we watch, unfurl into portents of underlying turmoil as the film progresses, ensuring that viewers are compelled to imbue these little moments with meaning. When the beautiful daughter of a village elder serves each man coffee after dinner, the reactions garnered appear to mirror those inner lives, from the prisoner who looks at her with amazement and gratitude, to the prosecutor, whose imploring look of recognition leaves the audience wondering. With no protagonist revealed until the final twenty minutes, this feeling, that everything and nothing is significant, is compounded further.
If this all sounds horribly worthy then relax; there are perfectly pitched, if rare, moments of humour. Ceylan is a deft hand, leavening even the most grim of scenes with humour that seems utterly believable - the prosecutor’s lackadaisical approach to procedure when the body is found, being one such scene. The excellent cinematography (the candle-lit dinner scenes are reminiscent of a Renaissance painting) makes this a beautiful film to watch too. This may not be one for popcorn hounds, but if you can handle the (slow) pace, you’re onto a gem. (Words: Jane Duru)
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good full English fry-up on a Sunday but if you’re looking for something a bit different or unique, how does a soul food brunch with gospel singers inspiring you with a side of ribs sound?
At Altitude 360, a bar and restaurant with the best view of the London skyline, the London Community Gospel choir can be found performing every Sunday until December. Based on the 29th floor of Millbank tower, the panoramic view takes in the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, the river Thames and more, giving diner’s undoubtedly one of the best views you’ll find in central London. Combined with the American style soul food, the whole atmosphere makes you feel like you’ve been transported to New York.
And the food is good, with classic soul food including cornbread and ribs alongside the American breakfast dishes of French toast and waffles best washed down with a bloody mary and a coffee. Leave some room for some desserts too (you know it’s what America does best) and with cheesecakes, brownies and ice cream sundaes, you’ll be grateful they encourage the use of doggy bags so you can take the generous portions home with you for later.
Happy Birthday to The Bush Theatre! Established in 1972, The Bush doesn’t let a little thing like 40 years slow it down because, as we all know, there are benefits that come with age. When you get glammed up for a night out with this middled-aged wonder you don’t just get one experience - oh no, you get three.
Number one is the theatre itself, an intimate space where the best new talent in playwriting is offered up for your enjoyment. And when I say the best, I mean it; the folks at The Bush are sent over 1000 scripts a year and read every one of them. With so many writers clamouring to be produced it is you, the audience, who ends up absolutely spoilt for choice.
Next we have the bar, which provides a relaxed scene where you can indulge in pre-drinks and post-show chat. The staff are friendly and well-versed in ‘what’s on’ at the theatre and - most importantly if you enjoy a night out on the cheap like me - the drinks are reasonably priced and the snacks delicious.
Completing our hat-trick is the library; a big room just off the main entrance, crammed with mismatched tables and arm-chairs and bookshelf upon bookshelf of plays. There is everything to suit your tastes from well-known classics to modern niche scripts and as The Bush opens early and closes late you’re left plenty of time to grab a coffee, snuggle down into a chair and peruse at your leisure.
Tickets range from £10- £20 with discounts for nearly everyone including young, old and local. For more information and bookings go to: www.bushtheatre.co.uk(Words: Beth Downey)
I’ve come to dread the lunch break - the rudimentary sandwich is just…BORING! - so, any food outlet that wants to inject a bit of life into midday meal has my support. Cue Poncho No 8, bringing Mexican food to St Pauls and Spitalfields. Founded by buddies Frank and Nick around three years ago, the restaurant manages to balance quality grub with speed and convenience.
White walls, wooden decor and urban-inspired design scream modern London; in fact, you probably wouldn’t guess it was a Mexican food outlet. However, the contemporary interior allows the food to take centre stage.
With an ordering process, reminiscent of Subway, you can pick various elements to add to your meal, with burritos, nachos, tacos on offer. As for fillings, there’s three types of rice to choose from, plus various beans and meats including seasoned steak, tender marinated pork as well as a veggie option of chargrilled vegetables, tofu and fresh guacamole.
Named by ES magazine as having one of the best burritos in London, I chose to give the chicken version a test run. Tightly wrapped, and deeply filled with parsley rice, beans, and cheese, I happily received the hefty portion. The chicken had a wonderful grilled flavour plus a bit of chilli kick too, but at £6.10, it could be seen as little pricier than the popular Wahaca version, which also comes with a side of tortilla chips.
The drink selection is limited to four options, starting from £1 (including different flavours of homemade aqua frescas) going up to £4.50 for frozen margaritas. There aren’t any sweet snacks on offer either, but as a quickie lunch hotspot; Poncho No 8 is a pretty decent option. Catering for the hungry and impatient customer, here’s a no-frills yet modern outlet that just prides itself on offering real Mexican food – what more could you want? (Monique Todd)