The last days of June saw Fitzrovia Arts Festival — now in it’s sixth year — emerging buoyantly post-lockdown, in a slightly scaled back but upbeat and optimistic form.
Festival director Rebecca Hossack, creative director Daniel Bates, manager Julia Canavan, and the festival team collaborated with many artists on several events in a handful of venues across the neighbourhood.
This year’s programme included a day of classical concerts and recitals at the blossoming Fitzrovia Chapel. And the Lord Mayor of Westminster and a cheerily relaxed audience enjoyed the summery, soulful jazz of IndigoBlue at Rebecca Hossack gallery.
Artist Jesse Brown, whose playful watercolours illustrated the festival’s posters and programmes this year, presented a display at the gallery. In this one wall and table top exhibit of multiple works, Fitzrovia and London vignettes fuse present and past scenes of sociable and solitary city life. A light touch of observational and fanciful charm.
Jesse Brown at Rebecca Hossack — alongside key Aboriginal works at the gallery — currently showing for a little while longer. Next show, San: Contemporary Art of the African Bushmen, 17 July – 28 August 2021. (www.rebeccahossack.com)
Poet Edward Barker read engagingly from a selection of his works, including his latest poetry collection Bitumen, weaving wit and pathos, in tales of sharp realism splashed with surrealist detail, altogether paced with an innate humanism.
Edward Barker’s Bitumen, 2021, is published by Mount Orleans Press. He is also the director of a West London project helping the homeless with a range of vital services and creative activities (www.240project.org.uk).
Over at T J Boulting, curator and gallery director Hannah Watson welcomed back visitors during the festival to experience artist Kate Dunn’s illuminating installation. Dunn introduced her show The Tabernacle – Welcome to Pharmakon and left us to soak up the atmosphere in front of her arched window colour field visions. With an intense dance soundtrack these fixed scenes soon melted and reformed; rave altars loosening the gaze. Preparation for a step into another dimension. In the next room, we were handed torches and with these watched the light change bioluminescent pigment in Dunn’s big brush strokes. Travelling beyond the paintings’ switched up surfaces with the flick of a switch. Tripping the light fantastic.
Kate Dunn is at TJ Boulting, until Saturday 3 July. See www.tjboulting.com for times and tickets and info about the gallery’s forthcoming cutting edge shows.
Back at the festival’s hub, talking with author Matthew Sturgis, actor and director Nick Moran held an audience tight with his light, fun and informative stories from the screen, the studio sets and studio streets of London. He commented on the inspiring and productive value of these streets being the best studios of all. As someone who utilises the locale and the wider city as an almost ready made studio, I properly agree. The possibilities are always there and they keep coming as forms emerge afresh round every corner.
We watch trailers and clips from several Moran movies. The Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Harry Potter star spoke about his latest as director, Creation Stories, a biographical film about Alan McGee and his seminal Creation Records label scene (Primal Scream, Oasis, Saint Etienne, The Jesus and Mary Chain). Ewen Bremner plays McGee and Suki Waterhouse also stars. With a screenplay by Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh, there are several other stellar turns to watch out for here, including Steven Berkoff as Aleister Crowley and Moran himself as Malcolm McLaren. With this film and his previous as director Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, Nick Moran is marking himself out as a true auteur of modern and latter day British pop culture.
Creation Stories, 2021, now showing on Sky Movies, at film festivals, with a US release soon.
Then the turn of historian and author of Oscar: A Life, Matthew Sturgis, who led a spirited walk and talk across Fitzrovia on a bright grey morning. Sturgis cuts a characterful silhouette, describing many more, as we tour the places and people Oscar Wilde knew and visited. His overviews and details are astonishing as he recounts the subtle pleasures and rivalries of Wilde’s Fitzrovian friendships, and perhaps some daring postal encounters along Cleveland Street, too. Old resident Dickens might have warned him in letters ahead! Too late. This literary and social giant’s star was soon to fall, but would ultimately triumph against the age and rise to eternal heights.
Matthew Sturgis’ book, Oscar: A Life, is out now, published by Head of Zeus.
Many local and visiting faces, out in the summer sun and raindrops, relieved indeed and happy to be out and about, enjoying these much needed festival tonics and delights. For the area, those involved and taking part, it really felt like it came with a fresh springy step into this muddled summer. With more fizz across Fitzrovia popping up to look forward to and feast on, as the year finally opens up.
The Fitzrovia Arts Festival returns in 2022. To keep in touch and for more information visit fitzfest.co.uk
A M Hanson is an artist and photographer, based in Fitzrovia. His photo based installations and print works have been shown in solo shows including at Regent’s Place and group shows including Photo London and Turner Contemporary’s Season of Colour. His photo practice includes an evolving London series of portraits and photo stories, advertising and news. Recent and archive performance and social based images can be seen in a range of art, fashion and music magazines, books and biographies. www.amhanson.co.uk/info.