Category Archives: Upcoming Events

GUEST POST – CULTURE IN LONDON: Fridaze by Leonie Ellis

Note from Sasha: So our celebrant tells us that organising a wedding should be fun as the day itself flies by, and y’know what, it is. Yes, it is, really. Planning menus and tasting wine and talking about flowers and eating cake and planning a fantastic party for all the people you love, is fun. I even bought Monica-from-Friends style cocktail sticks so we can do a pop-up table plan. But, it means daily life sort of goes on hold for a bit (thank god we decided to get married quickly, I couldn’t keep this up for more than 6 months) so I’m not really checking out much of London – apart from gyms, yoga classes, facialists and wedding shops. So I’m leaving the exploration of London to my brilliant friend Leonie who has summed up all that is fabulous and beautiful in London in January. She does a weekly round up of what’s on in her “Fridaze” emails – tweet her to get on the list @Leonie_Ellis.

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ART

A couple of weeks ago, the West end art galleries held their first opening shows of 2012 after the Christmas break. Eastcastle Street and Mayfair was heaving with a throng flitting between each gallery like a swarm of fevered bees with impoverished artists scrambling for the free beers at each stop. I would recommend heading to ‘Sex and Friends’ by Tobias Rehberger at Pilar Corrias on until Feb 17th.

Irene Alvarez has taken the art of tapestry to a new level with an exhibition of lurex, Walt Disney, synthetic flou inspired pieces. Check out her work here.

Martin Parr has curated an exhibition featuring Richard Simpkins and Simone Lueck entitled ‘Richard & Famous’ which explores our burgeoning celebrity culture and its increasingly blurred boundaries. The exhibition takes its title from Australian star-hunter Richard Simpkin’s extraordinary project Richard & Famous. Since 1989 Simpkin has pursued celebrities to have his photo taken with them. LA-based photographer Simone Lueck posted online adverts inviting older women to pose in the guise of their favourite movie star. The image below is Mara as Brigitte Bardot shot in 2009. Dazed and Confused interviewed Martin Parr about this exhibition.

Future Map 2011 - Future Map is an annual survey show exhibiting the best cutting edge talent from the graduating year at University of the Arts London. Reviewing all the graduate and postgraduate courses in art, design, fashion and communications, an illustrious panel of industry experts chose works they feel best represent the next generation of creativity. On until 5th Feb.

Graffiti artist Stik started out by spotting likely looking walls, sketching and planning his ideas for them and spraying them in just hours, or even minutes, in order to run off before the police found him, but these days  bookshops, galleries, cafes and social centers in both London and Bristol are commissioning him to paint their walls. And for the first time he’s started to rent a studio and to sell canvases and sculptures through galleries. A map has been created on Google of where to find Stik’s work around London. Here it is.

Need some creative inspiration? Haw-Lin is a website with nothing more than than a collection of random images that might just spark that idea you need.

PARTY

I have never entered into the futile attempt of a ‘dry’ January and just as well I haven’t disappointed my tradition this year as I have discovered these 2 drinking establishments:

The Whistling Shop - This bar takes elements of Victorian and Dickensian drinking culture, fusing them with very forward thinking and bar tending techniques. They have a laboratory in which to experiment with flavour, multi-sensory perception and theatrical cocktails which can then be enjoyed whilst being surrounded by wood and glass pannelled rooms and gaslight. This just about trips every switch for me.

69 Colebrookerow - Tony Conigliaro is widely acknowledged as one of the UK’s pioneering drinks creators, and is continually working to break the boundries surrounding drinking experiences. A team of lab-coated bartenders habit this Islington hideaway. Old school charm is at the centre of the bars ethos combining 30′s jazz, faultless service and the odd bow tie.

Artists LuckyPDF are hosting Bubblebyte after party at the Bussey Building in Peckham on the 27th Jan with  Will be good. Check out this link for details.

Main Room
✺ AIDS-3D hot from Miami, cold from Berlin
⊙ DJ SKYPE beaming in from Amsterdam
✺ CRAXXXSMRYF ?????? (¿Germany¿)
⊙ MATTHEW STONE returns from NYC, finally
✺ EDDIE PEAKE = www.eddiepeake.com
⊙ FELIX LEE (NATIONAL GRID)
✺ BRADLEY ZERO (RHYTHM SECTION)

Bunga Bunga Lounge
✺ Enchante (Greco-Roman / TopNice)
⊙ STAN IRADANOV (HOUNDS OF HATE)
✺ Paul B. Davis (Beige / TopNice)
⊙ Hampus Time (Top Nice)
✺ Burning Bush (Top Nice)
⊙ T-Trak

MUSIC

Some new blood going under the name of Pandr Eyez. Have a listen here and read Don’t Panic’s interview with the band here.

Some more new talent Peepholes. Have a listen to their soundcloud here and read their interview with Dazed and Confused here.

This list an excellent list of the recent albums you need to listen to.

Go and discover some new musical  talent at HMV’s ‘The Best New Bands’ event

FASHION

Steaming, bubbling geysers on the verge of explosion, blue lagoons and wishing wells carry particular significance in Tze Goh’s S/S12 collection after a trip to Iceland to witness the Northern lights. Read Tze’s interview in AnOther about the stunning country and how it inspired here.

My friends at Barebones have created this frankly amazing T Shirt that I will be wearing permanently until it falls apart over the summer. You can buy one too for a mere £15 from the BareBones website where you will also find a spectacular array of illustrations.

AND JUST BECAUSE I LIKE IT……

GUEST POST – Sophia St. Viller introduces Naked Girls Reading (and win tickets to the next show)

Note from Sasha: Ever since I watched a programme on burlesque, I have admired the women who do it – their confidence in their bodies and sexuality, their sense of humour and sexiness and fun. And I love the vintage other-worldliness about it – the Marilyn Monroe / Joan from Mad Men style and glamour. So I was delighted to get in touch with Sophia St. Villier (“The Tantalising Titian-Haired Teaser”) , London’s own burlesque performer and model, and I’ve been dying to see her Naked Girls Reading for a while now. I’m sadly away next week (celebrating my engagement to The Chef – more soon!) so will miss it but thought this was a good chance for Sophia to explain all about it here. She has also kindly offered a pair of tickets to a lucky HPL reader to see it. Enjoy!!

Sophia St. Villier is a London-based, New Zealand-bred burlesque performer. She produces the shows Naked Girls Reading London and Gals and Gags - an event combining stand up comdey and burlesque striptease. She is also co-founder of Be a Pleasure to Yourself, an event where women learn about vintage lingerie and seduction.

Once upon a time, three brainy and beautiful princesses got lost in an enchanted pub in the land of Nudity. They decided to calm a rowdy audience with fairy tales from the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault and Angela Carter.

Naked Girls Reading is a cross between a book club and burlesque. I invite some of my burlesque friends to join me on stage to read stories. Each event has a unique theme.Previous themes have been London, Royalty, Bedtime Stories and Classic Mythology. On Tuesday 27th of September at a Secret Location very close to Kensal Green station, we are reading Fairy Tales, as voted for by our fans. Naked Girls Reading unites two of my passions: literature and gorgeous, naked women. I have been performing burlesque for three years in London and I am a total book worm – the child who read with a torch under the blankets. People who attend our events say how much they enjoy being read aloud to and it is a lovely environment to see women enjoying their bodies. I love the moment when I get on stage and see everything magically come together – the pieces the girls and I have decided to read, the chemistry between the performers, the interaction (verbally!) with the audience. This month I am sharing the stage with blonde beauty Lil Miss-Chievous, who has brilliant comic timing (she can read a dry, Victorian piece and have the audience in hysterics) and Crimson Skye, a witty, sexy performer who recently had a sold out one-women show at The Lowry.

I am particularly excited about reading Fairy Tales, as I have been fascinated by Fairy Tales since I was young and studied variations of ‘Bluebeard’ at university. The tricky part is picking what to read!

I hope to see you at Naked Girls Reading – it promises to be an exciting and educational evening. I am offering a pair of tickets to Naked Girls Reading Fairy Tales to the first three Happiness London Project readers who answer the following question correctly:

Who wrote ‘The Little Mermaid’?

a) Walt Disney

b) Hans Christian Andersen

c) The Brothers Grimm

I will pick a winner from comments left by 3pm on Friday 23 September. Naked Girls Reading Fairy Tales Tuesday 27th September 2011 Secret Location near Kensal Green 7:30pm.

http://nakedgirlsreading.com/london/

Gigs, festivals and the chance to win 2 tickets to the Roundhouse Moby gig

What was the last gig in London you saw? And the best? The last gig for me was probably Amos Lee at the Jazz Cafe. And the best would be a toss up between Doves at the Brixton Academy or Rufus Wainwright at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Oh, who am I kidding – it was the Proclaimers at Glastonbury OBVIOUSLY *jumps in the air wildly with arms around all friends*.  

There is no greater joy than going to a fantastic gig or festival, and listening to that song you love, have always loved, played live, knowing that you will remember that moment forever. I will always remember being 13 and snogging to “Love Song” at a Cure gig. Or the moment the sun came out at Glastonbury to Brian Wilson singing Surfin’ USA – when a guy in the crowd started crowd surfing ON A SURF BOARD. What all these memories have in common is the feeling of freedom and nostalgia, moments when your hands are in the air or hugging the people you’re with (or randoms, if its that good), singing along, smiling and feeling moved in some way. Watching live music has to be one of the best experiences you can ever have, and London has to be one of the best places in the world for watching famous, eclectic and up-and-coming artists in some brilliant venues.

That said, I’ve been pretty shit lately. I’m yet to go to Koko in Camden, I really want to see a band at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell, I’m long overdue a revisit to Cargo in Shoreditch, and I didn’t make it to a festival last year which made me jealous of all my mud-splattered Glastonbury friends. This year I’m off to Latitude and want to start getting myself to a few more gigs after the summer.

In the meantime, and the inspiration for this post, was an email I got from the lovely people at goseethem.com which is an event ticket comparision site – really easy – go have a look for the gig you want to see and check out who’s selling at what price. It means that before you go spending a fortune, you can compare who’s selling - they compare thousands of events in the UK helping you find the cheapest tickets online for your budget.

They have very kindly offered one lucky HPL reader 2 tickets for the Moby gig on Thursday 2 June @ The Roundhouse in Camden. Its the ONLY date he’s playing in the UK on his European tour and its a sellout. 

To win, just leave a comment to this post and I’ll pick a lucky reader randomly on Friday 27 May. Let’s get a bit excited about gigs and music and summer festivals shall we? Tell me about the best, first, worst gig you’ve ever been to, your funniest / wierdest festival moment, or what festival you’re going to this summer. And good luck!

UPDATE 27 MAY: CONGRATULATIONS to Yen Lin Chung who was randomly selected by random.org to get the tickets. Have awesome fun and let me know how it goes!!!

A night on The Cut – Baltic and the Young Vic

The Cut is one of London’s amazing gastro streets – like Dean Street or Upper Street or Kingsland Road – veritable gourmet gold. And it sounds cool too. It has Meson Don Felipe with its amazing Spanish tapas and live music; the Anchor & Hope , sister resto to Great Queen Street and full of huge sharing plates of rabbit and beef and lamb and tumblers of wine; and Baltic just round the corner on Blackfriars Road with its gorgeous interior and cocktails and Polish food. Its the perfect cultured night out – pre-theatre meal followed by a night at the Old Vic or the Young Vic just along the road. So last week I went along with The Chef, Pipalippa and assorted friends to grab a bite to eat and watch Vernon God Little at the Young Vic, which I’d been meaning to go to for ages (it’s on until 12 March so you may still be able to catch it).

Baltic sticks in my mind for several reasons – its absolutely gorgeous inside, really romantic and light and an amazing room, has wonderful cocktails, really lovely service with an adorable waiter and beautifully light and interesting food. Although I’m a little biased as I lived in Praha for 6 months and a love of all things Central European has remained with me ever since.

The cocktails were amazing – the 1937 Clubland came with a glass of white port and a jug of vodka served on ice. The Polish Martini with bison grass vodka and honey and apple juice was absoutely delicious and served in a beautifully heavy cut-crystal glass that reminded me of the shops of Prague. The Chef loved the pork rillettes and I enjoyed my beetroot & smoked mackerel salad which felt light and healthy although they were incredibly stingy with the mackerel – more please! For mains I tried the grilled herring with celeriac mash & lingenberries - really light and tasty and when do you ever see herring on the menu? Pipallippa loved her ox tongue too.

If you can get a table before 7pm you can do the pre-theatre menu which is great value £15 for 2 courses. If you add a cocktail (about £10 each) and wine you’re talking £30 a head which is still decent. I really liked the food – it wasn’t perfect but for the cheapie theatre menu it was great. And I’d love to go back to make a proper night of it.

After stuffing ourselves with food and cocktails we headed to the Young Vic which was my first time there. It also has a great bar (above) and although it’s a lot bigger than my favourites Soho Theatre and the Barbican, it has a great intimate atmosphere and even our cheap seats (£15 each) had a brilliant view. Vernon God Little was excellent – after a slowish start, it swelled to a giant concerto of sofa-moving, soul-singing excellence about how easily we condemn others and trial by media. Some really brilliant acting, we’re so lucky in London. If you don’t manage to catch Vernon God Little then I’ve also heard good things about And The Rain Falls Down which sounds intriguing, and soaking wet, or there’s lots more coming up. I’m yet to try the Old Vic either which seems infinitely posher and more grown up, but I’d love to see Rattigan’s Cause Celebre with the wondeful Anne-Marie Duff. And War Horse - when oh when will I ever get to see War Horse!

Baltic on Urbanspoon

Richard Layard on Happiness @ The School Of Life

I’ve been meaning to go to The School of Life for aaages. It was founded by Alain De Botton and is the sort of institution that only a great city like London could produce. It does breakfast seminars and classes on fascinating subjects about life, love and the pursuit of happiness such as How To Be A Better Friend, How Necessary Is A Relationship and How To Fill The God-Shaped Hole. I’d love to do a breakfast lecture in their central shop, but last Sunday they hosted Richard Layard from the Action for Happiness - a new charity which aims to create a mass movement for happiness in society, and I had to go. And I dragged The Chef along for good measure, who commented that he would enjoy nothing more on a Sunday morning than getting up early and going to listen to someone talking about the science of happiness.

It was a Sunday sermon held in the Conway Hall on Red Lion Square. And wowser, it was incredibly busy when we arrived – the queue snaked round the entrance, all ages and types of people, babies and oldies, all keen, some taking notes, many giggling, and we barely found 2 free seats on the balcony. And it truly was like a Sunday sermon. The Choir With No Name (brilliant – check them out if you can) had us on our feet singing Happy Together by The Turtles and Movin’ On Up by Primal Scream. Singing in unison and in medleys and enjoying it totally. Made me remember how singing en masse with soaring soprano bits and clapping is super fun and one of the things I miss most about going to church every Sunday as a child.

And then Richard Layard told us about the Action for Happiness’ 10 keys to happier living. These were decided by a swat team of happiness dudes who argued at length about what was most important in creating a society that aimed to create happiness and lessen misery. So, after careful deliberation, they came up the following rules, split into how you interact outwardly with the world each day, and your inner mind:

  • Giving (to others, makes you feel better as a result – apparently the same bits of your brain triggered as when you eat chocolate. So far, so HPL)
    Relating (like my “connect” but more I think – to change your minset to realise you aren’t COMPETING with everyone but that you are all in it together, people are on your side and can be trusted)
    Exercising (yeah yeah, got it already, “be active”)
    Appreciating (like my “be curious”)
    Trying out (I suppose this is like my “learn”)

So I felt quite chuffed, part of the zeitgeist. That my rules that I collated on the back of a fag packet on the tube one night would have taken a team of scientists many months, even years, to come up with. Internal high fives all round. But then with one fell swoop I realised that my rules were missing something incredibly fundamental, something that I’ve touched on with my thoughts on happiness but not really concentrated on, to this blog’s detriment. And that is the rules of the inner mind. The most important rules. The rules without which I don’t think you can be truly happy. I was now mentally slapping myself on the forehead repeatedly. They are these:

  • Direction (you need some sort of aim or goal – but not too challenging)
    Resilience (the idea – that I’ve heard said in various philosophies like Your Erroneous Zones, and a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt - that you do not have to be the victim, you decide how you react to any situation, no-one can force you to feel anything you don’t choose to feel)
    Emotional positivity (again, hugely important. Can you take a brilliant day where crappy things happen and allow the positive to outweight the negative?)
    Acceptance (the acceptance of yourself and others, allowing yourself to forgive)
    Meaning (the understanding that you are part of something bigger – in whatever spiritual or religious way you want it to be)

As well as kicking myself for not thinking about these before, I’m also delighted to have discovered them now – like I’ve just found the biggest piece of the jigsaw behind the sofa.

But if I look at their rules for “In Our Mind” I realise how horribly short of the mark I am for many of them. Direction is OK – I sort of know where I’m going now after a few years of dithering and I’m incredibly focused when I need to be. But I’m not emotionally resilient one bit – I feel mortally wounded by the smallest criticism, and if I’m ever told off I feel like curling up in a ball and licking my wounds for a month. And emotional positivity? Well yes I’m enthusiastic, and laid back at times, but a brilliant film has been known to be ruined for me if I have bad seats, a great night out ruined by an insensitive comment. Emotionally, I can be a glass-half-empty-and-a-bit-chipped kind of girl. I need to work on this because when I AM in a positive frame of mind (and I am a lot of the time, honest) I feel much better, bond better with friends and family, basically am less of a moaney bitch.

Oh god and then acceptance! Well I have only recently managed to accept myself. But I still think I’m a bit of a dick much of the time. But at least I accept others right? Well to an extent. Although if someone does things differently from me – a different attitude to friendship or holidays or recycling or music or text message vocabulary or SQUEEZING THE TOOTHPASTE, it can rub me up the wrong way. It’s tiring and annoying for the people I love. And then I get annoyed at myself because I think “live and let live, for fuck sake Sasha” (which always reminds me of that theme song from Bond of the entirely opposite meaning) but I still find it hard. So I need to work on this one the most perhaps. And don’t talk to me about forgiveness. I still have gripes from circa 1983 and fights with my sister at the school bus stop.

There’s a lot to work on. But this blog needs more shape and depth than just the best places in London to find a flat white (although that will continue, I’m “trying out“, innit). So, I have decided to take one “inner mind” rule at a time and examine it closely over the space of several weeks, months even, however long it takes. Work out what it means to me, what I’m doing wrong, little exercises to get better. Fact is, I’m not going to find nirvana through attending dance classes or eating the best burger in London (although I enjoy the instant gratification I get from them), so I want to make this my new focus.

For now, I’m going to start with the exercises on happiness they gave us at the sermon which you can do too:

1. List 3 things that have happened in the last 24 hours that you are grateful for; and

2.  Write down 5 acts of kindness you can do this week.

It has taken me a while to think of mine and I have, but they are a little personal so there’s some things I need to keep to myself. Included however are having lovely people to show me a great cycle route to work; the lovely Chef and details thereof; cooking Burns supper for 10 friends; and making Lady B playlists of music to give birth to. I’ve joined the Action for Happiness and encourage you to do the same - they need lots more supporters to built their happy society based on equality, trust, kindness, peace and high-fives all round (the last one is my idea). Just think – a society where you don’t need to fight to be better than anyone and it’s not all about having the most money / best looks / nicest handbag. If you like you could have a read of Richard Layard’s book on happiness too.

Check out the School of Life’s upcoming events too. Their breakfast lectures look fab – all that culture before you’ve even got to work – and they’ve got Grayson Perry talking about Kinky Sex on Sunday 13 February. I’d also love to go to their lectures on Mindfulness, Photography in London and…ahem…How To Be Cool. London I salute you.

Happy New Year & fun things to do in January

So here’s the start of 2011 and so far, so typical. Have awoken several pounds heavier than when I checked before Christmas, and am ridiculously dehydrafted due to overdose of wine-drinking and other assorted booze-related escapades over the Christmas season. Skin is terrible, I have spots and an unidentifiable illness that makes me feel crap and cough a lot. If we are what we eat then I am a wine-soaked slab of greasy bacon with a stilton and coffee chaser.

And yet, I am sure we have all done the same thing today. I weighed myself – yikes! - and then made various mental notes about my behaviour this month. Starting mostly TOMORROW of course (well, I have not the mental nor physical strength today). And then I had a breakfast of mango and pear smoothie (Gwyneth’s detox doctor in the Sunday Times says two – two! – of your meals per day should be liquid), green tea and a hard-boiled egg. I am craving a strong coffee but I won’t, I won’t! I have been gardening. And I’m taking my bike out to cycle to the supermarket to buy some ingredients for a veggie soup for laters. Which I will have with WATER not wine not wine not wine. I am planning to go to the gym tomorrow to slog it out with the other losers who haven’t been for the last month or so. I’m going to be dancing and yoga-ing all month. I will turn up to work early and leave at a decent hour. I will concentrate more, be focused and not get distracted. I even have a new pen…

…All of this sadly points to the inevitable fact that January is not going to be much fun (unless it is your birthday in which case, none of your friends will be detoxing, honest). However, there are still many many things you can do with your friends and fan-damily that can be a larf and needn’t involve boozing, pigging out or sitting on your sofa, so I thought some of these might be of interest:

  • To ignore your hunger and make up for lack of nights in the pub, you could get in some big-hitting culture – the Gaughin exhibition at the Tate Modern perhaps, or see a play like the Black Watch at the Barbican or FELA! at National Theatre.
  • In fact, this Sunday 9 January you can watch Buster Keaton’s The Navigator silent film with live piano accompaniment at the Barbican, which should be brilliant.
  • Or on Friday 28 January there are late night exhibitions of China Through The Looking Glass at the V&A and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum.
  • A comedy night is bound to cheer you up although normally necessitates beer, sadly. There’s tons of comedy venues in London but for a nice intimate venue and good quality comedians, I really like the 99 club on Leicester Square, the Chuckle Club or Banana Cabaret.
  • If you can’t bear the thought of going to the gym (don’t blame you) then perhaps take a group of friends to do something active – cycle to Richmond Park and take some photos, have a bowling night at Bloomsbury Bowls or All Star Lanes, do the charleston or the tango at the Wapping Project or salsa at Bar Salsa, or indulge your guilty I-love-Step-It-Up-2 side with a hip hop class at Street Sessions which start at the end of January.
  • Or if you want to do lots of crazy Scottish dancing you can celebrate Burns’ night around his birthday on 25 January (see my suggestions for a DIY Burns dinner here) with a Ceilidh Club dance and haggis fest, although unfortunately whisky drinking is pretty much obligatory.
  • Wrap up warm and take a long walk down the South Bank and catch La Soiree featuring the stars of La Clique at the pop-up South Bank big top, followed by a wander down the Thames.
  • Finally, if you’ve done your detox and fancy a treat then both Gingerline and Leluu of Fernandez & Leluu (read my review here) are doing supper clubs on Friday 21 and 22 January.

I hope it isn’t too miserable for you all and as always please feel free to comment with stuff you’re doing that I may have missed. Hasta pronto 5 pounds lighter I hope x

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize @ the National Portrait Gallery

Tic Tac and Tootsie (twin sisters Carrol and Shelly McKean) by Jeffrey Stockbridge © Jeffrey Stockbridge [3rd Prize]

I love photography exhibitions. I’ve been to see the Jim Goldberg and Sally Mann exhibitions at the Photographers’ Gallery and I try to see the Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery and the Wildlife Photographer Prize at the Natural History Museum every year.  

I think I get more out of photography than I do from art. It might be because I know sod all about art, but I find photography more compelling and real. I love the techniques - the blurs and the movement, the focus and what that tells you – the fact that a close up shot of someone’s face can be incredibly moving. I love the light and the colours. But more than anything I love the stories - the fact that a good photo can tell you everything about someone, that a good photo means that the photographer understands its subject and is letting you in to this life for just a split second. What happens before and after that moment is for your imagination.

Huntress with Buck from the series ‘Hunters’ by David Chancellor © David Chancellor [1st Prize]

So we went along to the National Portrait Gallery last night for the Thursday late. On Thursdays and Fridays, the NPG is open until 9pm and you can wander round the gallery or check out the exhibitions. The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is just £2 admission and really worth it. The photos are pretty breathtaking, some shocking (yes I’m talking to you Second Prize), some sad. The one at the top is of two drug-addicted prostitute sisters -desperate and tragic but almost monkey-like, comical? There’s one of a Middle Eastern woman Wafa who has the same aloofness and strength as the Mona Lisa. There’s photos of war, prison, celebrities, nudity, families, poverty, sex, that make you think about other countries, other issues and other lives. The photo above is incredibly beautiful like an oil painting - of a young girl game hunting in South Africa, but I think I liked other ones too - the scary scary prisoners in Burundi, the woman between the trains in Bangladesh, the close up photo of a student taken by his teacher, the Ugandan teacher marking homework which had the same light and colour as the old Italian masters. And the Second Prize (which they sent me but which I won’t post because I would ruin the surprise)? Well, I’m still trying to figure out what I think about it but it certainly made me think.

As you know, I love late night exhibitions - it’s so nice to have a drink and see some cultural stuff rather than always heading to the pub. The NPG isn’t quite up there with the fantastic V&A lates but its getting there – good DJ with nice music, a bar which is good because cultural appreciation is certainly enhanced by the provision of booze, but £6 for a tiny prosecco in a plastic glass and £4 for a plastic glass of yukky plonk is not so good. Also would be nice for places to sit and relax. But they’ll get there. If you want to do something different after work tonight then I’d definitely recommend it – a quick drink, an hour round the exhibition, some beard-stroking analysis of the photos, and then dinner at Dishoom, Wahaca or in Chinatown

All photos courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010 runs to 20 February 2011 at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The gallery is free but the exhibition is £2 (barrrrgain). The exhibition and gallery are open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

Fun things to do in January

Update: This was posted last year – find fun things to do in January 2011 here

January is such a miserable month.  Everyone’s skint from Christmas, you can’t have much fun due to promises to lose weight or detox, and it’s so cold all you want to do is curl up on the sofa under a duvet. I missed pretty much all of January last year on holiday, and am very tempted to do the same next year. 

However, The Happiness Project London has deliberately booked some fun stuff this month to cheer me up and thought I’d share these with you.  I’d love to hear what you’re planning too and remember, warmer weather is just around the corner:

- First, and rather dull (but January is a dull month so its OK), I’ve started making giant pots of healthy soup - tasty, healthy and cheap – making soup is strangely soothing and the beetroot one especially tastes and looks awesome. 

- This Thursday, I’m going to see Dirty Dancing with the girls at the Aldwich Theatre - not very cool I know but I’m in that thirtysomething bracket that grew up knowing all the songs, and apparently the bit when they say “No-one puts Baby in the corner” is worth the ticket price alone.  Actually very excited about going – ha!

- Annoyingly, even though I’ve not much in the diary this month, Dirty Dancing clashes with my friend Tom’s band – the Marthas & Arthurs (the “folk ABBA“) at Monkey Chews in Camden.  I’d certainly have gone along as heard they sound fantastic – definitely worth a look.  (Other good music on this month is Martha Wainwright at the Jazz Cafe tonight , Camille O Sullivan at the Apollo Theatre until 16th, and The Jazz In Paris Project at the Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec on 23rd). 

- On Friday (15 January) I may pop down to the British Museum to see some crazy-sounding Aztec-electronica music with singer, band and dancers, followed by drinks – I loooove all things Mexico.  One of THPL’s main supporters, subscribers and soon-to-be guest writers is helping organise this event so please pass on your deets if you want more info.

- On Saturday (16 January), I’m heading to Brixton market for the all-day food event with free food tastings, competitions, and pop-up shops and restaurants, including the wonderful Brixton Cornercopia where El G and I bought the most amazing home-made piccalilli (sp?) last weekend.

- Sunday, I’d like to go to the cinema – amazing films on at the moment and I’d like to see Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Nowhere Boy or Nine.

- Next week I’m hoping to go see some live music with Pablo at The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell and to start my search for London’s best burger with El G at Byron on Gloucester Road (if you don’t know already, one of my greatest pleasures in life is a good cheeseburger and Byron has great reviews in London’s food blogs).   

- On Saturday 23, El G and I have been invited to a Burns’ Night - I can’t wait for more haggis although the whisky hangover is never great (if you fancy trying a Burns’ night then the  Ceilidh Club is holding various events at the Hammersmith Town Hall – I’ve been before and its great fun – lots of dancing, sweating, boozing and haggis).

- Finally, in the last week of January, I’m planning to see some comedy at Banana Cabaret in Balham, check out the Nat Finkelstein exhibition including photos of Andy Warhol’s Factory at Idea Generation and/or see the free photography exhibition Points of View at the British Library, and I’d like to go to Richmond Park to take some photos myself.