Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Folk Day

I met Offsprog One on Friday afternoon at Tate Britain so we could see the Folk Art exhibition.
From the second we stepped into the galleries, we were entranced. There were woolwork ship embroideries made by sailors with different and fascinating ways of rendering the sea and the sky( look here, David Hockney!) that surrounded and threatened their spindly little ships, flags fluttering from their rigging. There were gigantic boots with narrow ankles- one advertising Timpson's, a company still fixing broken shoes to this day. There were two embroidered boxing matches, a chicken made of bone by a French prisoner, a violin made of bone... and a room full of ship's figureheads, nothing short of splendid.
An odd man had painted lots of versions of a goose woman in a red coat, obviously working to a template but with every one different. Scraps of fabric adorned paintings; the artefacts ranged from the doodlings of the bored, sometimes in three dimensions, to articles of religious or commercial significance. There were photographs too- I particularly liked the fairground mounts, carved wooden rides, some with the heads of chickens and some, centaur-like, with the heads of Otto von Bismarck (or his doppelganger).
It is so brilliant that even though it's expensive to get in, I'm going back for second helpings as soon as I can.
It was a very muggy evening but an invitation to an informal performance by The London Gypsy Orchestra was impossible to resist. I know Karen Yarnell because she used to drum for The Gymslips back in the days of punk, and she has been telling me about this new musical outing for a while. Normally there are around 45 of them but even this smaller group of about 15 packed a superbly infectious punch. They were gathered at the foot of the stairs at the student bar at SOAS and at times there were more of the band than there were of the audience. They were totally foot-tapping, even the 7/8 numbers, and I loved the way the whole lot of them burst into song from time to time. They were so absorbed by what they were doing that each player moved constantly, giving the impression of a shoal of colourful fish being carried along in a flow of Moldavian, Romanian and Greek music. There was a lot of unselfconscious smiling and I was struck by the positive sight and sounds of a group of people doing what they really loved doing. Fantastic to see authentic enjoyment of playing! Two fingers up at the often horrible networky and calculating music business side of life: I can't wait to see them in their full splendour, perhaps in the autumn when the leaves are falling and  bands are re-grouping.
I know they were going to play again outside later but I wanted a walk so I left them as they headed to the bar, and I walked up to Camden thinking about folk art, folk music, and the joys of doing things for the hell of it.


Wilky of St Albans said...

I believe I still have the Gymslips album somewhere....

Anonymous said...

Otto Van Bismarck had a battleship/Cruiser named after him. It was virtually unsinkable!