Monday, March 09, 2015

A Trip to London Part 1: Poppies

Back in November I paid a visit to London, mainly to attend a concert in the Barbican celebrating the life of the musician Lindsay Cooper. I had time for a small number of other things.

After checking into my hotel, I paid a trip to Pudding Lane, where the famous Great Fire of London began. I then strolled on to Tower Hill to have a look at what was left of that poppy exhibit they had in the moat of the Tower of London. This was a First World War commemorative event by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper. The exhibit filled the Tower's moat filled with artificial poppies, one for every British soldier killed in the conflict (not sure if that was just soldiers from Britain or if it included also Irish soldiers and ones from the Empire). I am interested in the First World War (as anyone following my amazing First World War live blog will already know) and in monumental public art, so this touched all my bases.

By the time I got there they had mostly dismantled the exhibit. There were still poppies in one corner of the moat but the rest was bare. What was left looked a bit forlorn, but one could still imagine how the whole exhibit would have appeared. It must have been stunning, a theory supported by surviving photos of the poppy filled moat.

There is a lot of talk about how best to commemorate the First World War (or even if it should be commemorated at all) and many quite rightly decry the creepy enforced conformism of poppy-wearing in Britain. Regardless of that, seeing the huge moats of the Tower as a sea of red would have been incredibly striking and must have made anyone who saw it think about the losses suffered during the war. Whether they would then think that the dead soldiers were all brave lads doing their duty or the victims of a warmongering elite in a pointless conflict would be another question entirely.

After looking at the poppies I walked up to Rough Trade East off Brick Lane, a haunt I am always drawn to. This is one of those places that some Londoners I know are very dismissive of, but I think perhaps they would be less so if they did not have other record-selling emporiums. I am conscious of having too many CDs and was also trying to not spend loads of money on this trip (ha!) while also foreseeing that I would probably end up buying something at the concerts I was going to later, so I limited myself to just one CD here, a Sublime Frequencies release of proto-Rai music. One day the so-called powers that be will let you see my review of this record.

Come back tomorrow when I will describe the Barbican concert for Lindsay Cooper.

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