Category Archives: UK

Who said pillow fights were only for kids?

We have had pillow fights as kids with our siblings and with friends at sleepovers. This time it was with complete strangers from 1500 to 1530 at Trafalgar Square in London.

The International Pillow Fight Day is celebrated on 2nd April all over the world. The pillow fight is part of the urban playgroup movement – a playful part of the larger public space movement.

The International Pillow Fight Day was started in 2008 by University of Toronto students Kevin Bracken and Lori Kufner.

The International Pillow Fight 2011 was held in 130 locations over the world including Adelaide in Australia, Toronto in Canada, Zurich in Switzerland, Seoul in South Korea, Paris in France and others.

The Rules

  • Fight only with soft pillow. Hard objects are not allowed
  • No feathers as they leave a mess
  • Remove your glasses and then jump in
  • Start when the whistle blows at 1500 and not before that
  • Swing lightly
  • Don’t swing at anyone without a pillow or holding a camera
  • Wear pyjamas and night clothes (no ugly-naked-guys)
  • Don’t take permission to hold the event. Public assembly is a human right.
  • Clean up after the pillow fight

Fund raising

The International Pillow Fight Day 2011 raised money through the sale of memorabilia towards the Japan Tsunami Appeal by the British Red Cross Foundation.

Memorabilia included the ‘whack and keep’ souvenir pillows for £5, t-shirts for £10.50 and tickets for the after party.

The fight

Trafalgar Square was full of people in their nightgowns, jumpsuits, overalls, onesies, fluffy slippers, bathrobes, long john’s and pyjamas.

The whistle blew at 1500 and people of all ages started swinging their pillows. As they were fighting, many pillows exploded and there were innumerable feathers flying all over the place. I was totally trashed and full of feathers but my pillow was intact.

At the end of the fight, many were exhausted and laid down at Trafalgar Square with their heads on their pillows.

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Create your own art

Electronic music and art group Disinformation exhibited its art show “The Origin of Painting” at Usurp Gallery.

Joe Banks, a research fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts at University of Westminster created the exhibition. This exhibition was first displayed at the Hayward Gallery in 2000.

The interactive sound and light installation allows visitors to create their own life-size shadows or draw with a light pen directly onto a wall to produce graffiti, abstracts and portraits.

The light pens are provided by the gallery where the exhibition has been installed.

The Wall

The installation uses blackout fabric and green paint. The fabric and paint are available easily in the market and are quite cheap. Therefore, Joe did not have to invest much money in the exhibition.

Facing the wall are photographic lights that help to create the visitors image. Each photographic light discharges 30,000 volts shock.

Impact

The Origin of Painting is the creation of the artist Joe Banks. However, this interactive installation enthuses and involves the visitor into achieving new heights of creativity.

The Origin of Painting is about how people relate to seeing themselves separated from their own shadows.

In this exhibition, Joe Banks is not the only artist. Even visitors become artists. Not only are the visitors as able to participate in creating images with the light pen but also create their own shadows in different poses.

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Beatlemania Vs. Road Safety

The Beatles fans have been flocking to the Abbey Road zebra crossing in an attempt to recreate the iconic album cover of the Beatles 1969 album titled “Abbey Road”

On the 8th of August, 1969, four famous men – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr of The Beatles walked across a zebra crossing on Abbey Road in London to shoot the cover of their penultimate album titled Abbey Road. Since then, Beatles fans from all over the world flock to Abbey Road to walk across the zebra crossing just like the Beatles did. Ever since the Beatles immortalised the pedestrian crossing in front of EMI studios on the cover of the 1969 album, over one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) people make a pilgrimage to this famous Beatles site in London each year. This number was estimated in 2005 by EMI studios now renamed as Abbey Road studios.

Due to its popularity, the crossing was given Grade II Listed Building status by the English heritage in December 2010. The pedestrian crossing has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour and has witnessed 22 deaths since the year 2000. This has attracted the attention to the councillors of the City of Westminster who are planning to relocate the crossing over fears that the number of people posing for photographs in the middle of the road is causing accidents and holding up traffic.

Beatle Mania

“You cannot come to London and not do Abbey Road,” says Hannah Achen from Germany. “I think this road should have no traffic. We love The Beatles and Abbey Road is the greatest album,” adds Wendy Afonso from Poland.

I stood at the zebra crossing on Abbey Road and observed fans as they attempt to recreate the cover of The Beatles album Abbey Road. They were causing chaos.

Sam Williams from Tennessee, USA came to London with three friends and enacted the Beatles album cover. He said, “We are from Tennessee, United States. We actually just got into London today. We came here because the Beatles were here and yes I did enact Paul McCartney.” “We came to Abbey Road because its famous and we wanted to be here and have a look what it was like and of course take a picture,” adds Maria Brown.

Frank Nowak, a photographer who takes pictures of the Beatles fans on Abbey Road. “I come here almost everyday and I ask tourists if they want to take private pictures. I try to stand in the middle of the road and take pictures when there is less traffic,” says Frank.

The crazy things fans do.

“The craziest thing a fan has done so far that I have taken a picture of is a wedding scene, the Royal Family and a naked man,” says Frank, a photographer at Abbey Road.

Richard Porter is the owner of the Beatles Coffee Shop and a Beatles expert who does the Beatles walking tours. “Some fans forget about the cars and they see people standing in the middle of the road taking a picture, which is not a good idea,” said Richard. “The first time I did the tour, I had these guys from East Germany. The place they wanted to see the most was Abbey Road and when they saw the crossing, they were overcome and burst into tears. I have seen people going down their hand and kneeled and kissing the crossing in the middle of the road,” he added.

The live webcam

The Beatles recorded almost all of their albums and singles at Abbey Road studios between the years 1962 and 1970. In August 2010, Abbey Road studios installed a high definition camera that streams live footage of the Abbey Road zebra crossing on its website. The footage shows the dangerous lengths Beatles fans go to just to imitate the 1969 album cover and get the perfect picture just like the one clicked by photographer Iain Macmillan.

“Watching images from the camera is fun. It shows people on the crossing and it gets people to the Abbey Road Studios website as well. People over the world watch the webcam,” says Richard Porter, owner of the Beatles Coffee Shop and a Beatles expert.

Safety hazards

Arthur Smith, a Beatles fan said, “I just came with my friends. I think there are definitely hazards but it seems pretty safe. I would be pretty annoyed if I were a motorist. I felt really awkward walking across and tried to keep it to a minimum of two crossings down and back.”

Some residents and motorists have expressed their concerns about fans creating a ruckus in the area. “I’ve been driving up and down the Abbey Road since 18 months now. It is annoying. All the fans do is pose on the crossing. There is somebody who is going to get knocked down one of these days,” says Damien, a Taxi driver.

However, Reg thinks otherwise. “I think it’s quite nice but sometimes when the traffic is bad it can become a bit of a pain. Everyone wants to get a photo. Sometimes we just push our way through the people who are waiting to cross. It is distinguishing who is waiting to cross the road and who is waiting to get a photo on the crossing.”

Resident’s ire

“I have been living here for 23 years in this block on the left. We find it’s a great problem for as they tend to damage our property,” says Martin Brown, a resident.

“This is a zebra crossing and it is by law that motorists have to stop. Many tourists and fans ask us if we know where Paul McCartney lives and what his address is. But we say we don’t know,” says Nicola Johnson.

I find it is quite bad for the driver because it is dangerous. I think if they just step on the pavement and take some photographs it’s OK but not keep crossing and wait in the middle of the road. It’s very dangerous,” says Kiki Ling.

Graffiti

It is a tradition for Beatles fans to pay homage to the band by writing on the walls of Abbey Road studios where the Beatles and many other famous artists have recorded their albums. The wall containing the fan graffiti is painted regularly.

“The graffiti on the walls of the studio is ugly and spoiling the area,” says Martin Brown.

The Legacy

The Beatles no longer exist but 41 years after the release of the album, their legacy still lives on. This pedestrian crossing looks just like any ordinary crossing but remains as popular as ever with fans continuing to risk their lives to capture the ideal photograph.

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My first experience of snowfall

Ever since I came to London to study, I wanted to see snow

I have lived in Mumbai all my life until I came to London two months ago. The coldest Mumbai can ever get is 20°C. I have been waiting for snowfall ever since I got here. However, everyone told me “it hardly snows here.”

Weather in London is highly unpredictable. One can experience all four seasons in one day. Over the past few weeks, I noticed that the grass outside my window and many vehicles had become frosty. I wasn’t sure if it was frost or snow, as I did not know the difference. I asked my cousin about the snow and he told me, “When it snows you will know it.”

I had been a part of many discussions about the likelihood of a snowfall anytime soon. I make it a point to check the weather forecast before leaving my house so that I am well equipped for sudden change in weather conditions.

My dream comes true
November 30 was a much-awaited day for me as the weather forecast predicted snowfall all day and it would be the first snowfall of the season in London.  Mumbai being a hot and humid city, experiencing snow in Mumbai is highly impossible. Witnessing a snowfall was a distant dream.

The snowfall was scheduled to begin at 0300 GMT. I was awake all night working on an assignment that was due for submission. At around 0245 GMT, my flatmate knocked on my door and told me that it has started snowing. I opened my window and what I saw next will etched in my memory forever.

My joy knew no bounds. I left me assignment aside, grabbed my coat and went out for a walk in the snow with my flatmate. The campus was a pretty sight. Everything had turned white. I was bursting with excitement to experience my first snowfall ever. i was jumping in the snow. And that’s when I realised that snow is slippery!!! The first thought was to have a snowball fight and make a snowman.

What’s next?

Today was just the first snowfall and the snow was not enough to have a snowball fight or make a big snowman. However, winter has just begun and I am expecting many more snowfalls this season.

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Winter Wonderland opens at Hyde Park

It is mid-November and the festive season of Christmas has begun in Hyde Park in London.

Twenty acres of Hyde Park has been transformed into a fair and Christmas market called the Winter Wonderland. Entry is free but you have to pay for the games, rides, observation wheel, circus, ice-skating and food.

Winter Wonderland is open from November 19, 2010 to January 4, 2011 from 10 am to 10 pm.

Things to do

Winter Wonderland is an ideal outing for the whole family. The event has something to offer to all age groups. “This place is really good. The lights, decoration and Christmas carols being played has has gotten me into the Christmas spirit more than a month before Christmas,” says Jackie Smith, a visitor.

Families can enjoy shows in a heated big top or a cosy meal in restaurants. Small children can enjoy the carousel or the helter-skelter. Older children can enjoy the rollercoaster called the Euro Coaster, outdoor ice-skating, the giant observation wheel and other rides such as the Black Hole and Power Tower. Young children can visit Santa’s free grotto to meet Santa Claus and receive a gift.

One popular activity for people of all ages is ice-skating called the Lidl Magical Rink. “I want to go ice-skating but I have never done it before and I am just too scared,” says Sam Blake. The ice-skating rink is the largest open-air rink spread over 15,000 square feet created from 405,000 pints of frozen water. There are several ice guides to help those who have never used skates before.

For those who want a glimpse of London, the giant observation wheel is an excellent alternative to London Eye.

Food and Markets

Angel’s Christmas Market is at the entrance of Hyde Park. There are over a hundred stalls featuring arts and crafts, jewellery, wooden toys, decorations and more from around the world.

The German Christmas Market has a range of wooden huts offering continental food and sweets like roasted nuts, gingerbread hearts, crepes and confectionary.

The Bavarian Village is an impressive wooden structure that offers Bavarian Hog Roast, seasoned steaks and hearty German Bratwurst sausages. Accompanied by the German food are Bavarian chilled beer and warming ‘Glühwein‘ (German Mulled Wine).

The English style cafés and bars serve real ales, pies, fish and chips, hot cider and other gourmet.

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Who will foot the Royal wedding bill?

Prince William is going to marry his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton.

After months of speculation, Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales announced today the engagement of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in October 2010 during their holiday in Kenya. The Royal wedding is expected to take place in the spring or the summer of 2011 in London.

The couple, both 28, met in 2001 at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

The cost of the wedding

The cost of the Royal union is likely to run into millions of pounds and will be largely met by public funds. The main expenditure will be the huge security bill. Securing the Royal Family, VIP guests and the important locations will be the expense. The high-profile royal wedding will be draw thousands of fans and onlookers who will surround the venue.

In last month’s Comprehensive Spending Review, the Queen agreed to cut the Royal Household expenditure by 14% in 2012-13. The Buckingham Palace has cancelled its £50,000 Christmas party this year in view of reducing public expenditure.

The Department of Culture shells out an annual cost of £15m towards the upkeep and maintenance of royal palaces. The department has demanded that maintenance costs and Royal travel costs should be reduced by 25%.

Who will pay?

When the debt-ridden city of London is facing spending cuts and people are getting laid off work, it would be unfair for taxpayers to pay for the royal wedding. If taxpayers do end up paying, they probably could demand an invite to the extravaganza.

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Where History Meets the Arts

The thought of the East India Company surely brings back unpleasant memories of our freedom struggle. However, with the passage of time, the company just made it to History books. At present, the East India Company is owned by UK based Indian Sanjiv Mehta and the furniture division called the East India Company Home is owned by Anurag Kanoria.

Located in Byculla, just around the zoo in New Great Eastern Mills, stands a sprawling 9,000 square feet double-decked showroom known as the East India Company Home.

The East India Company is the oldest company in the world that was formed on 1st January 1600 when the East India Company started colonising India. During its existence from the year 1600, the East India Company specialised in the trade of several commodities such as jute, sugar, saltpetre, cotton, silk, indigo dye, opium and tea. This company even had the largest defence force. After the uprising of 1857 against the East India Company, the British monarch took away the assets of the East India Company in order to prevent the latter from becoming more powerful. About four years ago Sanjiv Mehta acquired a 100% share in the East India Company from the original heirs. The furniture division is owned by Anurag Kanoria.

Tucked away within the premises of a crumbling mill, where the wild grass and broken walls show no sign of activity, an eager client will find his way along the tar road. The East India Company Home today, boasts of elegant pieces of furniture with intricate works of art handmade by their own carpenters and craftsmen. “Each piece of furniture is made of rosewood, walnut wood or Burma teak which is of very good quality,” says Anurag Kanoria, the owner of East India Company Home.

The East India Company has its head office in London. The company showrooms are currently in Mumbai and in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The third showroom will open shortly in Thailand. By the end of next year, the company plans to open showrooms in London, New Zealand, Moscow and the United States of America.

Konoria holds a master’s degree in Aesthetics and doctorate in Literature with Aesthetics as a specialisation. Thus, giving him an edge in furniture design. Kanorias furniture company earlier specialised only in high end furniture and interiors. After taking over the furniture division of the East India Company, Kanoria began to stock premium antique furniture.

Every piece of furniture is crafted in a limited edition. “Since the clients pay a premium for our furniture, they expect exclusivity from us. Therefore, we do not repeat models. If it is single model furniture, we do not make more than 12 pieces. However, the higher the price of the furniture the lesser number of units are made,” says Kanoria. “Even if we do repeat the furniture, we ensure that it is well spread out and does remain in the same showroom. In this way, the chance of someone spotting an identical piece is negligible,” says Kanoria.

The store is not just unique for its furniture but also for its collection of crockery and panels. Right from dinner plates and side plates of 22 carat to glasses, candle stands and napkin rings; the store has it all. Each dinner plate is hand painted. Even the embroidery and crochet on the upholstery of the furniture has been completed manually.

The store also specialised in Art Nouveau style of furniture. “We are the only manufacturer of art nouveau style furniture in the world,” says Kanoria.

Wood being the core raw material for the furniture could pose as an environmental hazard. “We are an environment friendly company. We make use of recycled wood obtained from government authorised plantations,” says Kanoria. “90% of the wood that we use is obtained from the wood that has been used in buildings. There are many buildings built during the British rule, which are now being demolished. The quality of wood back then was very good. Our evaluators evaluate the wood and then recycle them for making furniture,” he adds. The variety of recycled wood is Burma teak.

The furniture sold by the company is very elaborate and given the fact that real estate prices are increasing at an alarming rate, people try their best to save every inch of space. “Our clients include industrialists, NRIs, expatriates and people across the world that has sprawling houses and spending power. We advise people to take crockery or just single unit furniture in case they have a space crunch,” says Kanoria. Since the company also deals with interiors, the company provides flooring, upholstery, curtains, lights and taps that would suit the theme of the furniture.

Kanoria feels very privileged to be associated with the East India Company. “The name of the company holds a lot of weight and depth. Not only does it carry along with it history and culture but also a feeling of nostalgia and worth,” says Kanoria. queens charterAs the owner of the East India Company Homes, Kanoria uses the symbol of the Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I. Thus, on the first floor landing, there is a stained glass window with the imperial Coat of Arms of the East India Company with the words “originally established in 1600 by a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I”. In addition, Kanoria is one among the privileged few to have access to archives of the Royal family and of the East India Company in London. Sourced from the archives, hanging on the walls of the showroom are black and white photographs and maps of the East India colonies and books on the company history are placed on the tables kept on display.

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