You may have noticed in the media in recent months that 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the TV show Friends. Although I was an original fan back in the 1990s, a whole new younger audience have come to love the show thanks to Netflix and Comedy Central. This Christmas season, the sell-out FriendsFest is back in London with a festive twist. Hosted by ComedyCentral UK, FriendsFestive gives fans of the show a chance to hang out on the sets, see authentic props and costumers from the show, and pose for photos and videos as you recreate memorable scenes.
I had previously visited the first FriendsFest back in 2015 and was fortunate enough to meet actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther. The original FriendsFest was a much smaller affair with only one proper set and I had seen through friends’ social media photos that subsequent Friendsfests had got bigger and better. FriendsFestive differs from the others because it offers a twist on the theme with many references from Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes, as well as a lot more interactive spaces and photo opportunities.
When booking, you are given a timeslot for a set tour, before being given free time at the end to explore the photo areas, shop, and food and drink spaces. As we waited for our tour to begin, we were given time in a sort of Friends mini museum, full of authentic costumes and props from the show. You’ll recognise Rachel’s horrific pink bridesmaid dress for Barry and Mindy’s wedding; Monica’s red prom dress; the turkey ‘headpiece’; Ross’s letter comparing Rachel and Julie; Chandler’s gold ‘bracelet buddy’ from Joey; Ursula’s porn video; amongst many others.
The guided tour started in Monica and Rachel’s apartment living-kitchen area, which had been suitably decked out for Christmas. The kitchen had familiar items fans from the show would recognise such as Phoebe’s skull full of liquorice, Rachel’s disastrous trifle-mince pie hybrid and a cardboard box full of Monica’s broken posh plates. Our group were given opportunity to explore the set and pose for photographs, before clearing the room so an empty photo could be taken. Helpfully, this was factored in for every room so you could get some decent shots without random people ruining your shot. Next, we progressed to the hallway, complete with candy basket hanging on Monica’s door. Moving on to Chandler and Joey’s apartment, it had cute touches like Hugsie the penguin on the sofa, and the drum kit Phoebe bought Joey to try and force Rachel to move out. Finally, it was the Central Perk set, with the iconic orange sofa, the neon service sign and Phoebe’s guitar on stage. Read the rest of this entry
The Spitalfields Music Festival is an annual celebration of innovative music, featuring local and international talent. Venues across east London play host to a wide variety of performances. The last event of the 2017 festival in December was the captivating Schumann Street. Sixteen artists from very different genre and backgrounds were invited to perform their own interpretation of the songs in German composer Robert Schumann’s 1840 song cycle Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love).
The audience were split into groups to start our journey on the immersive, promenade musical installation. For the evening, eight local residents of the Huguenot houses of Spitalfields had opened their doors to stage two performances across different floors. The whole event takes place over 75 minutes so participants were invited to come and go as we please from each house, spending just long enough to hear the 16 pieces. We started our experience in Wilkes Street, a small group of us stepping into the parlour of a charmingly creaky early 18th century home. With just six of us squeezed into the wood-panelled front room, we sat quietly as a pianist Andrew West and tenor Rob Murray provided an interpretation of one of the song cycles by candlelight. Next, we headed upstairs for a cosier experience with a guitarist Aart Stootman accompanying singer Abimaro by a roaring fire in the living room.
Despite being a classical piece, the story of Dichterliebe was told to us through hip-hop, Bengali folk, soul, jazz, R&B, blues, as well as a classical. We stood, sat on chairs, tables and floors; or lingered in dark corners as we snuck in and out of the performances trying not to interrupt. The song cycle is about love, then loss, with the musicians giving musical expressions of the joy and the torment the heart goes through. One particularly enchanting performance was Mara Carlyle and Liam Byrne in the basement kitchen of a courtyard home. Carlyle sang while wearing Marigolds and washing up at the sink, as Byrne accompanies her on the viol. She then switches direction with a musical saw, bringing a quirky, modern end to the piece. Moving upstairs, we were greeted by an incredibly emotional performance by soprano Héloïse Werner and harpist Anne Denholm in a darkly lit living room. Werner looked positively heartbroken as she forlornly belted out lines from Und Wüssten’s die Blumen. I also particularly enjoyed German duo Apollo 47 depicting the torment and obsession that love can inflict as they rapped Hör’ ich das Liedchen Klingen. In a room covered in lyrics on the wall, the pair were oblivious to the audience as they rambled around with their lanterns trying to make sense of their emotions.
In the end, I only visited seven houses and was disappointed to have missed the last one, due to the fault of my own time management. I enjoyed the different stagings – from a more formal setting of a singer by a piano, to a drunken singing rampage around another house. While some artists acknowledged your presence, for many of the others, it felt like we were eavesdropping on a private or mundane moment – the writing of love letters, household chores, a lonely moping session. In addition to being entertained by very different performances, I felt privileged to see inside these amazing Georgian houses. I loved checking out their original shutters, fireplaces, wood panelling and window seats. Overall, it was certainly an ambitious premise, but the Spitalfields Music Festival certainly pulled it off. The result was a quirky, innovative experience which brought the classical workings of Schumann to a new audience.
- The Spitalfields Music Festival will return in December 2018. To keep up to date, visit the Spitalfields Music website.
Spitalfields is full of fascinating buildings, with Georgian, Victorian and early 20th century well represented. Many businesses are moving into the area, with some redeveloping or demolishing older buildings. While some historic architecture has been restored and changed for the better, there are others which meet a sorry fate (see my post on a crime against architecture in Artillery Lane). One of the things I love about the Spitalfields area is its many old lanes and alleys. Although many were destroyed during the Blitz, some still remain despite the encroaching modernity and skyscrapers of the City. As businesses come and go from the area, it’s interesting to see which ones embrace the history and heritage of the buildings they occupy… or completely annihilate any original features.
This post focuses on one particular street and one of its buildings. Widegate Street is just 200ft long and connects Middlesex Street and Sandy’s Row. The name Widegate comes from the former ‘white gate’ entrance into the Old Artillery Ground, which was established in the 16th century. Areas of the ground were sold off for housing and shops in subsequent centuries, with its legacy living on today in names such as Fort Street, Gun Street, Artillery Passage and Artillery Lane. Widegate Street used to be longer than what you see today, but some of it was absorbed by Middlesex Street in the 1890s. Today, Widegate Street features a mix of narrow historic buildings, including two listed houses at No.24 and 25 dating back to 1720.
No.12-13 is currently home to Honest Burgers, who have branches across London in a variety of historic premises. However, long before burger buns were being served, more traditional buns were being baked on site. The building was designed in the 1920s by architect George Val Myer as a bakery, in a neo-Georgian style to complement neighbouring buildings. The ground floor features glazed white bricks, giving a clean, clinical look. The two upper stories are made of red brick, Crittal windows and a strong cornice projecting above. The most striking part of the building are four ceramic panels, giving a permanent reminder of its origins as bakery. ‘Bakers Relief’ were created by Brixton-born sculptor Philip Lindsey Clark (1899-1977) in 1926 and were fired by Carters of Poole. The white and blue glazes are 1.2metres by 50 centimetres and depict the baking process. The panels start with a man carrying a sack of flour; a baker kneading the dough, baking the loaf in the oven and a baker carrying a tray of loaves. The original business itself was called the Nordheim Model Bakery and was opened by Charles Naphtali Nordheim (1864-1941). It carried on trading for several decades after Charles’ death (see a 1973 photo of the bakery). In the 1970s, the words ‘French Vienna and Rye Breads’ had been fixed to façade in between the 1st and 2nd floors. Although the bakery moved on in recent decades, today customers are still their getting their carb fix thanks to buns with their burgers.
- 12-13 Widegate Street, Spitalfields, E1 7HP. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.
For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.
Returning to London this December is the annual Spitalfields Music Festival. Over eight days, local and international musicians will gather in east London for a programme of bold and innovative performance. This year has been curated by conductor André de Ridder, with his vision shaking up the festival for 2017. Ridder is Artistic Director of Finland’s largest Contemporary Music Festival, founder of the ground-breaking ensemble s t a r g a z e and has worked across many genres with artists such as Nico Muhly, Damon Albarn, Max Richter, Uri Caine, Brian Eno and Jonny Greenwood.
Among the wide variety of performances and experiences include an immersive time-travel journey in a Spitalfields Huguenot House, meditation-inspired music under an interactive light display, an art commission in a church and a new work inspired by US punk band Fugazi. Acts include Sam Amidon, Bryan Benner, Sam Beste, Liam Byrne, Uri Caine, Mara Carlyle, Rahel Debebe-Desselegne, Anne Denholm, Abimaro, Lisa Hannigan, Topi Lehtipuu, Katherine Manley, Phil Minton, James McVinnie, Robert Murray, Ben Nelson, Alex Reeve, Shapla Salique, Saied Silbak, Aart Strootman, Heloise Werner and Apollo 47.
Among the highlights include:
- 3 December : East End Speed Histories: Tales Less Told
An unpredictable adventure through history including tales from actors, historians and authors in a mystery location not usually open to the public. 2pm and 4pm. Tickets: £10. At secret location, meet at steps of Christ Church.
Classic Album Sundays presents an evening with composer Max Richter and conductor André de Ridder to discuss Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons. 7pm. Tickets: £15. Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s).
- 4 and 6 December : Musical Rumpus: Fogonogo
From the award-winning Musical Rumpus series, explore the multi-sensory world of Fogonogo – an opera specially created for babies and toddlers. 11am and 1.30pm. Tickets: Child £8, Accompanying Adult £2. Rich Mix.
- 6 December : Renegade New Classical: Daniel Brandt, Nik Colk Void
Presented by André de Ridder’s orchestral collective s t a r g a z e, listen to the realms of classical collide with minimal techno, experimental and electronic music. 8.30pm. Tickets: £10-£28. Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s).
- 7 December : Late Night Bach
Festival-featured artist James McVinnie performs a stunning 40-minute set of solo keyboard music by JS Bach. 9pm. Pay what you decide. Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s).
- 9 and 10 December : Schumann Street
An ambitious staging and (re)interpretation of Schumann’s iconic song cycle: Dichterliebe. Set across the stunning Huguenot Houses of Spitalfields, each of the 16 songs in Schumann’s cycle will be performed by a different artist drawn from a wide range of stylistic backgrounds including Bengali folk, rap, classical, soul and jazz. 5pm and 7.30pm. Tickets: £35. Huguenot Homes of Spitalfields.
- The Spitalfields Music Festival takes place from 2-10 December 2017. At various venues around Spitalfields. Nearest stations: Shoreditch High Street or Liverpool Street.
For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.
When developers buy old buildings, there is often fear of what will become of them. Depending on what protections have been put in place by local councils, some can be changed beyond all recognition or even demolished. However, some buildings can be mostly destroyed with only the façade remaining. Sometimes this can be done with great sensitivity and the modern building can complement the older. However, there are some pretty horrendous examples of ‘façadism’, one of which I’m going to look at in this post.
Spitalfields is one of my favourite areas of London – I love the architecture, the history and the atmosphere. Admittedly there has been a lot of development in the past 10 years especially, both good and bad. However, when wandering around the back streets of the area, I often sigh when passing by this shocking example of façadism.
On the corner of Gun Street and Artillery Lane stands what remains of the Cock A Hoop tavern. Today, only the 19th century façade remains, with the modern Lilian Knowles House student housing behind. What is so bizarre, is the windows of Lilian Knowles House don’t even line up with the façade’s windows so residents would have limited lighting and views of brick walls… a very strange design decision.
The Cock A Hoop tavern was established by 1805 at No.1 Gun Street and was first run by publican Thomas Lloyd, with Joseph Hammond following five years later. I’m presuming (although please comment if I’m wrong!), that name referred to an earlier building on the site and the current façade we see today is the second building. The pub belonged to Meux’s Brewery, owned by brewer Henry Meux (1770-1841) and subsequently his son, MP Sir Henry Meux (1817-1883). Although the brewery no longer exists, its name became infamous due to the London Beer Flood of 1814. At the time, the company was named Meux And Company and its brewery was based on Tottenham Court Road – around the current site of the Dominion Theatre. Surrounding the brewery was the incredibly impoverished slums of St Giles. On 17 October, one of huge vats ruptured, spilling 323,000 imperial gallons of beer onto the surrounding streets. The beer flooded basement homes and destroyed several buildings, resulting in the deaths of eight people, half of which were children. Meux and Co were taken to court, but amazingly managed to escape prosecution, with the judge and jury claiming the spill was an ‘Act of God’. The brewery was later demolished in 1922, with the Dominion Theatre going up on the site in 1928-29. Read the rest of this entry
Kicking off the new season is the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival. Over three weeks, a range of music will be performed in unique venues across E1. Now in its 40th year, the Summer Festival will entertain audiences with opera, folk, jazz, early and contemporary music. Interesting and unexpected venues will host concerts and gigs, such as museums, cafés and churches to markets, gardens and, even, cemeteries.
Here’s some highlights of this year’s festival:
Jazz saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings and spoken word artist Anthony Joseph will be combining their talents to tell the folk stories of the Caribbean. £5-£15.
- Sister @ Rich Mix (3 June)
A cross-arts show, featuring an outpouring of memories – some tender, some comic, and others painfully raw. Created through interviews with sisters around the world. £12.
If you fancy having a go at singing, sign up to a workshop based on the idea of play: you’ll get a chance to make music from a cartoon score, create a human loop station and make a body percussion piece. Free.
Step into a dark Oval Space and immerse yourself in the passing of a year. Listen to an exciting première by Anna Meredith, based on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, while watching visual projections of the seasons passing by. The music intertwines Vivaldi’s original with Anna Meredith’s own writing, using cadenzas and electronics to transform the distinct four concerti into one continuous musical experience. £15.
- Schubert Ensemble @ The Octagon (13 June)
Romantic chamber music presented beneath an elegant high-domed ceiling. The Schubert Ensemble premieres a piano quintet by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, winner of the BBC Young Composer competition at the age of just 15, along a quintet by Louise Farrenc, the only woman to hold a permanent post at the Paris Conservatoire in the 19th century. £15.
Explore the museum after dark in this atmospheric late-night performance by the Multi-Story Orchestra. £15.
- Depart @ Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park (16-26 June)
Haunting sights and sounds will seduce you down a path punctuated by unexpected encounters as you weave through the space between life and death in this East End cemetery. Led by Yaron Lifschitz and his internationally acclaimed company, Circa and with a creative team including the electronic musician Lapalux, this ethereal collaboration brings circus artists, choral singers, designers and musicians together for a summer night full of surprises. £15/£20.
- The Spitalfields Music Summer Festival 2016 takes place from 2-26 June. For more information and tickets, visit the Spitalfields Music website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in June, click here.
Taking place at the climax of London Beer Week, CBR London 2016 is a new and improved version of the Craft Beer Rising festival. A two-day extravaganza at the Old Truman Brewery will feature 150 brewers showcasing over 600 different beer and ciders to sample. As well as plenty of drinking, there will be street food, live music and DJs.
This year’s festival will be CBR’s largest ever and include a diverse mix of breweries from the UK and abroad. Featuring UK brands such as Beavertown, Thornbridge, and Harviestoun, to international talent from Little Bichos, Lagunitas, Mikkheller, and Bronx Brewery. They’ll be ample opportunity to try your favourite craft beers as well as new product launches and recipes.
New at this year’s festival will be ‘Lost in Cyder Space’, a dedicated cider zone from Sheppy’s cider, who will be launching a new drink. Also taking part are Caple Road, Hogan’s And Italian producer Angioletti with their new blueberry rose infused cider. For those who want to mix things up, Auchentoshan and Don Papa will be serving their special whisky and rum-infused beers respectively. And for friends who prefer alternative tipples, there’ll be a wine bar, Hawkes ginger beer and Harry Brompton’s Ice Tea.
Bringing the sounds to CBR London will be headliners James Lavelle and Rob Da Bank on Friday and Saturday night respectively. Other acts performing over the weekend include Coldcut’s Jon Moore, Portishead sample digger Andy Smith, Boca 45, DJ Ross Allen, BBC6 Music’s Don Letts, music journo Pete Paphides and the Showhawk Duo. Meanwhile, The Vintage Mobile Disco, aka Donna Somerset, will be providing the grooves in the ‘Lost In Cyder Space’ zone.
At this year’s CBR London, the token system has been abolished so you can pay with cash and enjoy beers to take away. The Old Truman Brewery will also be the epicentre of London Beer Week (22-28 February 2016) so will play host to pop-up beer bars and immersive beer experiences for guests with a LBW wristband.
- CBR London takes place on 26-27 February 2016. Tickets: £15 (includes branded glass and programme). Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, Spitalfields, E1 6QL. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For more information and booking, visit the Craft Beer Rising website.
Returning to London this month is the Spitalfields Music Winter Festival 2015, bringing together local and international musicians. Straddling the border of the City of London and the East End, a host of concerts and special events for adults and families will taking be place across E1 over the 12 day festival. While there’ll be plenty of music on offer, there will also be a pop-up dining club, a walking tour, a film screening and interesting talks.
Among the highlights of this year’s festival are The Riot Ensemble – who mix the classics of Bach with world premieres of new music. Led by Serbian-Swedish composer Djuro Zivkovic, the ensemble will also performing a composition by the festival’s youngest composer 10-year-old Marie-Louise Ptohos. 7 December.
Take a lively journey across the Baltics with instrumental group She’Koyokh, bringing together winter music, traditional Eastern European melodies, stomping klezmer music and a puppeteer. 10 December.
For those who like something a bit different, why not visit the House Of Love. Inspired by Angela Carter’s short story The Lady of the House of Love is a special collaboration between choreographer and dancer Ella Robson Guilfoyle and composer and installation artist Mira Calix. 7 December.
If you fancy some fine food with your music, pop-up supper club Disappearing Dining Club is appearing at the festival for one night only. Diners will be treated to a cocktail apéritif and three-course meal in the historic surrounds of Shoreditch Church of St Leonard’s while listening to contemporary singer/songwriter Mara Carlyle and viola player Liam Byrne. 5 December.
For those feeling festive and prefer more traditional music, the Marian Consort is a traditional choir performing Renaissance music inspired by the visitation of shepherds at the nativity. 14 December.
Throughout the festival, keep your eyes peeled for the Rocking Chairs, an installation by Dutch sound artists Strijbos & Van Rijswijk. A modern rocking chair will pop up at various locations around Spitalfields, bringing the listener through a kaleidoscope of sounds, while creating a good selfie opportunity.
- Spitalfields Music Winter Festival runs from 4 – 15 December 2015. Tickets start from £5. Discounts include 25% off for 16-25 year olds, £5 students for best seats available and Tower Hamlet residents can attend for free. For more information and tickets, visit the Spitalfields Music website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Like millions around the world, I was a huge fan of Friends back in the 90s and early 00s. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since the show finished, but thanks to the joy of re-runs, there’s always an episode on somewhere. Last month, I heard there was a five-day Friends festival coming to London and knew I had to get tickets somehow. The tickets sold out in less than 20 minutes, but I was fortunate enough to check it out at the press launch last night.
Comedy Central’s FriendsFest has set up camp at the Boiler House on Brick Lane, transforming a huge space into a slice of ’90s Manhattan. The shining glory is a meticulous reconstruction of Monica and Rachel’s apartment, which we were able to walk in to and interact with the props. There was the TV where the gang watched the Prom Video, the notepad where Monica used to insist everyone write down phone messages and the clock face biscuit tin on the kitchen counter. The iconic yellow door frame – which fans will remember was the last shot in the series finale in 2004 – was in situ, prompting many a selfie in front of it. One of the highlights of the evening was meeting the very friendly James Michael Tyler, who played Central Perk manager Gunther, in Monica’s kitchen!
After walking around Monica and Rachel’s apartment, we visited the photobooth, complete with costumes from iconic episodes, such as Father Christmas, Dr Drake Ramoray’s scrubs, Rachel’s cheerleading outfit and wedding dresses. For those wanting a ’90s style makeover, there was a pop-up hair salon for ladies after a ‘The Rachel’ blow-dry. Around the corner, a small section of Joey and Chandler’s living room had been recreated with black barcaloungers, an entertainment unit and foosball table – which I admittedly lost playing against my friends.
Amidst all the emotional revisits of favourite episodes and photo moments, there was also somewhere to eat and drink in the Central Perk-inspired café, with Monica’s Mac N Cheese and Joey’s favourite pizza on the menu. Taking centre stage was a familiar orange sofa – which featured in Central Perk and the opening credits. While chowing down on the snacks, we checked out the mini museum, featuring actual props from the show, including The Geller Cup and the VHS of ‘Buffay The Vampire Layer’.
What was notable about FriendsFest was how excited everyone was. People from different backgrounds and varying interests shared a common love of Friends with different props or pieces of furniture prompting people to quote lines from their favourite episode – ‘Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!’ Even the celebrities in attendance, such as Alesha Dixon, Michelle Keegan and McBusted’s Tom Fletcher, were free to let their public personas drop and enjoy a ‘fan girl or boy’ moment over a beloved show. For those lucky enough to get tickets, you’re in for a treat.
- FriendsFest is on at the Boiler House in Brick Lane, Shoreditch from 16 – 20 September 2015. All tickets have sold out in advance and will not be available on the door.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.
DF/Mexico is the newest venture from the people behind Wahaca. I’ve long been a fan of the Wahaca chain and Mexican food in general and am thrilled there’s finally decent Mexican food in London after years of nothingness. A close friend, who like me has also travelled around Mexico and is quite discerning when it comes to its cuisine, recommend I try it… before the name completely slipped my mind. Then on a Friday afternoon in Shoreditch, I accidentally stumbled upon DF/Mexico and instantly remembered it as my friend’s recommendation. The DF in the name is what Mexicans refer to Mexico City as, aka Distrito Federal. The premise is a modern Mexican diner serving street food. There’s no reservations and an unusual self-service system, so if you’re looking to be treated, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. However, if you’re looking for filling and tasty food and don’t have much time on your hands, this is a good place to stop.
My sister and I visited for a late lunch and were pretty ravenous by the time we arrived. We claimed a table before studying the menus – featuring a mix of burritos, tacos, salad and grilled chicken or meat. Once we were ready to order, we headed to one of the self-service touch screens, where you put your order in. I found it pretty simple and straight-forward, despite the lack of interaction with a human. We both ordered some of the bottomless soft drinks at just £2.30, which was very appealing if you’re particularly thirsty. I’m a fan of Hibiscus – a flavour I don’t find very often – so enjoyed a few glasses of it and it was pretty gorgeous I must admit. In addition to the usual soda, the venue is also licensed and serves Mexican classics such as Frozen Margaritas or Sol and Pacifico Clara beers.
Upon returning to our table, we didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive. I ordered the MSC Fish Tacos, served helpfully upright in a taco tray. Cooked in Panko crumbs, the cod was filling and tasty – not too oily – and served with red coleslaw and Chipotle mayonnaise, which gave it a bit of a kick. Admittedly, I could have ordered more, but the lateness of the day being caught between lunch and dinner meant I was forced to reel in my appetite. Overall, the venue was light and contemporary and we felt quite comfortable stopping by for our quick eat. The food and drink were really good and the prices were very good value. Definitely a pit stop to refuel at next time I’m in Brick Lane.
- DF/Mexico, Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, E1 6QR. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street. for more information, visit the DF/Mexico website.
For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.