Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The Folly of Poundbury…

Friday, October 28th, 2016

 

 

Yesterday, I was delighted to learn that Prince Charles and family – surely Britian’s most celebrated benefit claimants – were visiting his very own bejewelled architectural confusion, Poundbury. Three years ago, I visited the same town – a kind of Daily Mail wet dream of Middle England, to write about it for a special edition of the German magazine, Brand Eins. I found the place mostly deserted with a chill wind whipping through a stage set of architectural pastiche and folly. Charles, a fan of the work of Albert Speer, has overseen the creation of a fantasy land: a reimagining (from a lonely castle window) of a ‘former’ but entirely fictional Britain well suited to the Brexit generation (British homes for British people…) – an airbrushed past of classical architectural tropes masquerading uncomfortably as an (upmarket) housing estate.

You can read the piece called ‘The strange Death of the British Utopia – or how Britain live in her own past’ here (warning: it’s long…).

but I leave you with an image of a deserted street and a Neo Classical … errr bus shelter.

A traditionally styled shelter in Poundbury. Poundbury on Duchy of Cornwall land is Prince Charles' attempt to create an urban extension to Dorchester famed for Its pastiche of traditional architecture. Dorset, UK

A traditionally styled shelter in Poundbury. Poundbury on Duchy of Cornwall land is Prince Charles’ attempt to create an urban extension to Dorchester famed for its pastiche of traditional architecture. Dorset, UK

 

 

A traditionally styled building in Poundbury. Poundbury on Duchy of Cornwall land is Prince Charles' attempt to create an urban extension to Dorchester famed for Its pastiche of traditional architecture. Dorset, UK

An empty street in Poundbury. Dorset, UK

Tearsheet – Digital Camera Magazine – The Photo Essay

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

 

Here’s a rather lovely tear sheet from this month’s Digital Camera Magazine. They asked me to write a piece about how to put together a photo essay so I deconstructed (and greatly simplified) the classic Life Magazine formula using several of my old stories to illustrate the idea.

As I say in the piece, the Life formula is much derided these days but I teach it (and use it myself) because it’s so useful.

Just as there are rules in grammar which enable us to convey meaning, this ‘formula’ allows you to use a narrative structure that ‘reads’ in a similar way. There’s a logic and a simplicity to it. In any case, if you know the rules, you can break them – but it’s good to know them first…

 

 

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Tearsheet – UnCommon London

Monday, June 1st, 2015

 

I’m delighted that my writing about London’s eel and pie tradition is included in the new UnCommon London book.

UnCommon is a compendium of guide and travel writing “and is more of a ‘companion’ for the traveller before, during and after the journey.” UnCommon London joins editions on Malta, Stockholm and Dubai.

Commissioned by my old friend Mike Fordham, my words are illustrated by May Van Millingen.

Here are a couple of pages to give you an idea…

 

 

 

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Chandannagar and the mystery of Private J N Sen

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

 

In 2013, I made a story about the now sleepy town of Chandannagar on the banks of the Hooghly River near Kolkata.

Chandannagar (or Chandernagore) was first established as a French colony in 1673 when the Nawab of Bengal gave permission to establish a trading mission. By 1730 when Joseph Francois Dupleix was appointed governor, Chandannagar had more than two thousand brick built houses and was the main European entry to the subcontinent. The British East India Company inconveniently flattened a good deal of it during its capture in 1756 but returned it to French rule in 1816. It was governed as part of France until 1950 when the inhabitants voted to join with the newly independent India.

As part of my story, I wandered into the Institut de Chandernagar, now a museum that was the original governor’s palace. Inside, amongst Colonial French artifacts, I found a mystery – and one that I found very moving and upsetting.

Here is what I wrote:

“In another dusty room a harpsichord gently decays, its keys like broken teeth, watched over by a small bust of a stern Napoleon. In a case, the last French flag, dirty and a little tattered. Dupleix’s own bed is enormous but deeply uncomfortable looking. Time has stopped here and moulders in the sticky, wet heat. Perhaps saddest of all, the shattered spectacles of Dr J N Sen MB MRCS Private West Yorkshire Regiment and a son of Chandannagar, killed in action on the night of 22/23rd of May 1916 in France. His, the dubious honour of being the first Bengali to do so. Why he was fighting for a British regiment is a mystery but how sad to die so far from the verdant splendour of the steamy jungle and the smell of jasmine oil in a woman’s hair.”

I had quite forgotten about this until this morning when I heard a short piece on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Today (if you listen it’s at 02:53:51) where Santanu Das (a reader in English at King’s College London) explains why Dr Sen was there. There is also a piece here from BBC Leeds published a few days ago that reports the story.

I remember standing there in the heat of the room feeling so utterly moved by the spectacles that I didn’t take a photograph but just jotted some words down and had to leave.

Here are some images from the story. The last frame shows the talented musician Umesh Mishra, playing his sarangi during a practice session for a concert he was giving that night in the town.

Perhaps that might be a fitting visual requiem for Sen.

 

 

India - Chandernaggar - Traffic passes the gates to the town of Chandannagar bearing the French inscription, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. Chandannagar, India

India – Chandernaggar – Traffic passes the gates to the town of Chandannagar bearing the French inscription, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.

 

India - Chandannagar - A flag and a bust in the museum at Chandannagar, originally the home of Joseph François Dupleix who was appointed governor of the city in 1730.

India – Chandannagar – A flag and a bust in the museum at Chandannagar, originally the home of Joseph François Dupleix who was appointed governor of the city in 1730.

 

India - Chandannagar - A statue of Liberty outside the museum in Chandannagar, originally the home of Joseph François Dupleix who was appointed governor of the city in 1730.

India – Chandannagar – A statue of Liberty outside the museum in Chandannagar, originally the home of Joseph François Dupleix who was appointed governor of the city in 1730.

 

India - Chandannagar - Umesh Mishra, 26 a sarangi virtuoso tunes his instrument before a concert later that night at the Nrityagopal Smriti Mandir

India – Chandannagar – Umesh Mishra, 26 a sarangi virtuoso tunes his instrument before a concert later that night at the Nrityagopal Smriti Mandir

Tearsheet – Brand Eins (Neuland)

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Here’s a recent tearsheet from the German Magazine Brand Eins Neuland. They commissioned me to interview three former alumni of Jacobs University for a special edition on the city of Bremen. I travelled to Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) and Bangladesh (Dhaka) to write the story and made a brief city reportage as well as the portraits.

 

 

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Greece and the art of getting by – tearsheet

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

 

Here is a spread of my work – text and images – for the German magazine Efillee about the current situation in Athens.

I will post the full 6000 word text to my website shortly.

 

 

The Englishman and the eel text

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

As promised, I’ve published the piece about eels and London’s peculiar love of them in the Writing section of my website.

The direct link is here.

 

UK - London - Eels in a barrel in the yard at Cooke's Eel and Pie shop in Hoxton

 

 

Shivers up my spine…

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

A few weeks ago, Priya Thomas who runs the rather excellent Shivers up the Spine blog got in touch because she was running a piece about the pioneering choreographer Richard Tremblay and his training in Kathakali. In the 1970’s he attended the Kerala Kalamandalam which I photographed (and wrote about) for a magazine a few years ago.

In a fascinating piece, she profiles Tremblay and explores his cross-cultural approach. I was happy to give Priya permission to run some images and publish my piece Into the Dreams of Heroes in its entirety. You can see the main article here and my piece here.

My edit of the story can be found on my site here

 

 

A good collaboration.