Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Concert Platform

Few parks can be as rich in myth and memory as Crystal Palace. The headless lady and her few surviving stone friends linger on like ghosts reminding us of Paxton's long gone masterpiece, and the sphinxes remain solemnly on guard. Elsewhere the buzz of the remote control cars racing around their miniature track remind us that the greats of racing, including James Hunt, once sped around the park for real. While the annual gatherings of vintage minis recall Michael Caine shooting a scene from the Italian Job, right here, on the terraces. Grand dinners in the belly of a dinosaur, and whispers of entombed Victorians in an abandoned railway tunnel, FA Cup matches, a ski slope, and raves in a half forgotten moorish subway all make their contribution. And then there's the music. From the great Handel concerts held regularly in the palace to Bob Marley et al, playing to huge crowds at the concert bowl back in the 70s and 80s. Long after those heady days, an award winning new structure was built on the lake by architect, Ian Ritchie, to create a permanent performance space, but alas the striking Corten steel design had its flaws, and it's been many a year since any legend trod its now rotting boards. Like many other things in this park, its future is shrouded in rumour, doubt, and mystery.

However, the building flickered back to life at the weekend, as part of Open House London, in conjunction with hugely oversubscribed annual opening of the Subway. The backstage rooms housed an exhibition of work by local artists, photographers and school children, under the theme: 'Inspired by the Subway'. In another room an impressive working train set model of the former Crystal Palace High Level Station was installed, of which the subway is the only actually surviving remnant. The weekend was a huge success, thanks to the tireless work of  Jules Hussey, Sue Giovanni, and a team of volunteers. The subway had 757 visitors, the exhibition in the concert platform had 951, and a grand total of £1460 was received in donations.

Mirror by Beth Mander
Julian Davies, Photographer

Matt Bannister, Artist

Sinead Taylor, Artist

Film footage of the Subway and High Level Station

Houses on Farquhar Road, still under construction.

Enter, stage right

The Stage
Early the next day, I returned to the park to capture the concert platform in the soft september morning light.

The non-functioning water feature by Gustafsson Porter, designers of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in  Hyde Park.

Friends of Crystal Palace Subway

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Lady Crimplene

Nylon, polyester, dralon, velour, viscose and crimplene. Whatever happened to manmade fibres? Not that I have any nostalgic attachment to those jumpers that used to make sparks fly off the end of your nose, and your hair stand on end, when taking them off. But the names hark back to that mythical rose-tinted 'midcentury' world that many of us grew up in; in houses, furnished in G-Plan and Ercol, with avocado bathroom suites, Rediffusion TV, Tretchikoffs on the wall, and formica everywhere. Helen Desai, otherwise known as Lady Crimplene, has recreated this world at her 1930s semi on Patterson Road, just behind the former cinema. Helen and husband Steve, have lived on this friendly street since 1996, but the collecting of all things vintage goes back even further. A Dansette record player, a set of flying ducks and a boat shaped cocktail bar were among the first things she bought, and the collection keeps growing. Much is found locally at the shops on Church Road, but friends are forever contributing items too. However, it was in the wardrobe that collecting almost got out of hand, so much so that in 2010, Helen launched a vintage clothing boutique from her spare bedroom. The name, Lady Crimplene, goes back to her DJ days while at fashion college in Epsom. It was the perfect name for her venture, and comes with it's own cartoon logo image drawn by a friend, long ago. Currently the 'shop' only opens a few times a year, although you may have also caught her earlier this summer at the Overground Festival's 'Vintage up the Palace'. All has to be fitted round the day job, which for Helen, is Art Editor on You Magazine, while husband Steve is a Painter & Decorator. The long term goal however is to run the clothing business full-time, and make the home pay its way as a location for film-makers and photographers. And film is close to Helen's heart, overlooked as her home is by the brooding hulk of the former Rialto Cinema. She, like the rest of us would love to be able to walk around the corner to a local picture house. In the meantime, she has jokingly discussed with neighbours, the possibility of using the huge flank wall of the cinema building as a giant outdoor projection screen.
With autumn upon us, Helen is getting excited about Halloween. Pumpkins and other decorations will no doubt start making an appearance on Patterson Road shortly. But more importantly there are a couple of opportunities lined up, to rummage through the Crimplene wardrobe. At Christmas, Helen will be taking part in the vintage pop-up, upstairs at the Sparrowhawk Pub. But before that, on October 10th, is Penelope's Vintage Pitstop, an event in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support, being held at Goodliffe Hall on Highland Road.

Lady Crimplene

Lady Crimplene

You might also like Belle Coco & No.9 Crystal Palace Parade

These images originally appeared in Heart Home Magazine.