Now this was a slightly unusual weekend in that my best friend from school days in Aberdeen was paying a visit to London, how exciting! As a kindred ‘adventuring’ type of spirit, I thought it might be nice to include her in something that would be fun but perhaps not too high octane. I picked at random from the ‘Seasonal Events’ category and drew out a trip to the Royal Academy Summer Show. Excellent, again, possibly a surprise to many that in my 11 years in London I have never seen it. Keen to maximise my time with her, I also drew one from the ‘Food and Drink’ category. This was a cocktail masterclass with a quirky little bar called the Rev J W Simpson. I had heard of this place from its’ sister outlet, ‘Bourne & Hollingsworth’ on Charlotte Street. Now slight spanner in the works was that there was no masterclass on the weekend she was down and so we ‘settled’ for a good old fashioned visit/drink. Even that is not so simple in this little bar, however, as you need to book your place. We settled on a post shopping visit on a Friday night and had to keep our wits about us to find this little gem hidden downstairs on Goodge Street. Well what a find, it truly fits into the ‘Secret Life’ box, a tiny basement bar with a real step back in time feel. To add to the quirky vibe, I was delighted to see that there was a further opportunity to indulge in some fate related choices. Who remembers making these little origami future teller things at school that you put your fingers into, “pick a colour? Red…..R-E-D…pick a number…..” and so on. Well, I had to do that of course! I chose a Pomegranate Haze, followed by this amazing lovely tall gin drink which for the life of me I can’t remember the name of…yes, you can see how this night was going! We both felt like we had been invited into a strangers living room in central London…a very nice stranger it has to be said, who was very accommodating!
And so our ‘additional’ adventure was complete – onto the Royal Academy! We decided to go along on Sunday morning after a weekend which had by now involved many bars and restaurants, which although not secret, should probably not be discussed…OK, how can I have never been to the RA? For a start it has the most impressive courtyard which is just a haven in itself off busy Piccadilly. You are immediately greeted by the staircase at the entrance, a kaleidoscopic optical burst of an installation. Although it gives the illusion of being painted, this is actually put together by hundreds of pieces of vinyl tape by the artist Jim Lambie. As my friend pointed out, it bore more than a passing resemblance to a painting in gouache I had done for my art school portfolio, which her mum bought all those years ago. Food for thought, perhaps I should enter a piece some year?
Over 1,100 works are in this exhibition, which I found out is the largest open-submission exhibition in the world. You can trust London to be the best! There are of course mutterings from visitors as you walk around and some scathing sniggers of ‘my child could do that!’ but such is the nature of an open exhibition, the sheer variety and accessibility of it. I am always drawn to either bold blocks of colour, or extreme detail in monochrome and so I loved Tim Head’s ‘Fictions 3’ and William Kentridge’s ‘Remembering the Treason Trial’.
And yet another step back in time to my art school days came in the form of one of Ron Arad’s chairs. My dissertation was on ‘Furniture Design By Architects’, and whilst I had a real nostalgia moment, my friend had a different recollection of my research stating ‘Wasn’t that the time we came to London, walked til our shoes didn’t fit our feet and got lost in Liverpool Street Station?’ Ah yes, that was the very trip.
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.