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BOOK YOUR PLACE

On Sunday I went to the Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival 2011. In the London Jewish Culture Centre in Hampstead, I watched four panels (one on the anniversary of 9-11 with the BBC’s Gavin Esler and three very smart panellists; one on Guilty Pleasures for Reading with The Guardian‘s John Crace, Olivia Lichtenstein, John Sutherland and Joanna Briscoe; one that was just TV personality Nicholas Parsons promoting his autobiography and the last was a talk on book The Stones of London by its author Leo Hollis). It was in very civilised surroundings and the talks were each interesting for different reasons: the 9-11 talk featured author Frank Ledwidge (who served in Iraq), BBC journalist Jil McGivering and Granta‘s editor John Freeman and it was obvious that they had only just scratched the surface of the topic; while the Guilty Pleasures panel was a nice light counterpoint to the 9-11 one. It was fairly impressive to watch Parsons speak on his own for around an hour about his life and career although it did feel a little bit like this was territory he had trod before. The Stones of London talk was very fascinating indeed and I regret missing half of it because it was scheduled against the Parsons talk. So, for what was my first book event as a photographer, the first day of the Ham & High Literary Festival 2011 was a very satisfying one for me. It’s on Monday and Tuesday this week so I’d recommend trying to get down to it…

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WINDY MILLAR?
So after months of hype and bluster, Kapow Comic Con 2011 came to London at the weekend. Promising San Diego in London (overpriced hotels, restaurants you can’t get into and panels you can’t get near;), at last there was the chance to see what all of the fuss was about.
Kapow took place at the Business Design Centre, a venue for trade shows located in middle-class North London. The weather in London, and in fact England, during April is normally very changeable with rain likely. But they were lucky with this as it felt like July (in any other country, as July over here is also very unpredictable).
Kapow Comic Con 2011 had a decent lineup of guests (like Brian Bolland, Frank Quitely, Dave Gibbons, Duncan Fegredo, Chris Weston, Sean Phillips, Bryan Hitch and John Romita Jr), a selection of panels featuring things like a preview of Thor the movie with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston and a lot of Millarworld announcements. The celebrity bullshit with which they partially promoted the show mostly evaporated at the show itself. One of the ‘celebrity’ guests, Jonathan Ross, was only at Kapow for about half of Saturday and many of the other celebs cancelled at the last minute.
The range of comic dealers was decent but big name publishers DC and Marvel were not set up at the show, leaving only Titan (the main bankroller of the show) and magazines Comic Heroes and ImagineFX and a number of independent British outfits like SelfMadeHero and Cinebook to fill the slots.
The Stan Lee Awards were rather amateurish and embarrassing with over half of the winners being absent. The presentation by Guinness World Records for a number of comic-related records was nicely put together though.
The overall vibe was positive however and, removing all of the bluster and hype, Kapow was a very decent London comic show in a nice venue. There’s already talk of another show in 2012 and I am glad. If they learn from the experiences of this year’s event and build on what worked here, then Kapow will be a worthy addition to the British comic show going calendar…

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A PICTURE OF MODERN PHOTOGRAPHY
2011 sees the World Photography Organisation hosting their photography festival in London for the first time. Located at Somerset House on The Strand, this week-long celebration of the best in world photography runs from 26th April to 1st May and features many of the world’s finest photographic practitioners. Thanks to the generosity of the organisers, who have kindly donated a promotional code that gives visitors here 15% off entry.
This special offer ends on April 4th – don’t miss out: buy your Festival pass today before it’s too late!
To benefit from the 15% discount, enter now the following promotional code PROMO15 in the gift voucher box using this link: http://bit.ly/h7IHC4
I’ll be visiting the festival myself and it’s a stunning venue located right on the river Thames.
To see the festival’s schedule, just visit this link: http://bit.ly/eFsd45

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KEEPING AN OPEN MIND 2010
The past few weeks have just flown by so there’s a bit of a backlog here. With me going to New York and then (rather less glamorously) to Birmingham, I’ve not updated as regularly as I normally do. I shall enddeavour to catch up this week so here’s the first post in a little while. Open House, as regular readers of this blog know, is a weekend, usually the third one in September, where hundreds of buildings, structures and places are opened up across the whole of Greater London. These are usually places that are not usually accessible to the public so for someone like myself, it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to see places I’ve never been to. I’ve been going for over a decade now so it’s getting harder and harder to find new gems. This year, we decided to pick Southwest London, so on the Saturday we went for The White Lodge in Richmond Park plus the Kilmorey Mausoleum in St Margaret’s and Garrick’s Temple of Shakespeare in Hampton. The White Lodge is a Georgian building which was built as a Royal residence and since the 1950s it has housed the Royal Ballet School. The exterior is wonderful but the interior is like any other wealthy school you would visit. It did give us an excuse to walk a little around Richmond Park, which is stunning, and recommended. So after visiting there, we got in the car and after lunch, drove to the Kilmorey Mausoleum located in St Margaret’s near Teddington. This is an Egyptian-style mausoleum, built by the Earl of Kilmorey in the 1850s. It is unusual because most funerary objects these days are located in the grounds of cemeteries so this was somewhere a bit different. Not a huge place but worth visiting if you happen to be nearby anyway. Lastly on the Saturday we went down to Hampton to see Garrick’s Temple of Shakespeare, which is also not big but it’s perched right on the river so really beautiful. We walked down to Hampton Court and back which is always enjoyable. On the Sunday, consulting the book, I decided to visit the Apothecaries Hall in Blackfriars in the City of London. I was pleasantly surprised to find somewhere in the City of London, a part of the city I thought I was very familiar with, that I had never visited before. This is the hall for the City Guild that includes pharmacists as its members and dates from 1670, just after the Great Fire of London. Behind an unassuming façade on the street is a wonderful wood-panelled building, so this really was a hidden gem. So even though I’ve done Open House for over a decade now, I still managed to find new places to engage my interest. This weekend continues to be a wonderful event…

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AN EYE FOR LONDON
I’ve just finished my second book at Blurb, London Eye. It’s a hardcover with a dustjacket that just focuses on photos I’ve taken of London and I’m really chuffed with it. It’s packed full of photos I’ve taken of London over the years and I hope it reflects the character of the city as much as a single book can…
It’s available to order from Blurb here: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1177930. So here’s my cover design for you too…

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TOWN & COUNTRY REVISITED
I’ve just made the softcover version of my photo book Town & Country available to order from Blurb.com, for those people who can’t stretch to the hardback. Priced at £19.45 for UK/ $34.57 US, it’s the perfect post-Christmas/ New Year book:), packed with unique photos of London and England.

So why not visit http://www.blurb.com/my/book/detail/1129466 and order one?
I’ll also be offering prints of my work, so watch this space…

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BOXING CLEVER
Now that the weather has gotten temporarily better, I decided to go out with the camera. The winter light is pretty good to take shots and I got some of my favourite recent photos today. Boxing Day is a strange day too: the West End wasn’t particularly busy although I’m sure, if I’d gone down to Oxford Street and Regent Street, I’d have seen a different picture. So I walked from Queen Square in Bloomsbury all the way down to Parliament Square and back, recapturing some of the images I’ve taken before but now I’m shooting everything I want to publish or sell in RAW and I have to say that sometimes photos look spectacular, with it picking out amazing detail in architecture and statuary. It felt a little bit odd as the walk took me along Victoria Embankment and near Waterloo Bridge, where I used to wander when Time had their offices on Savoy Street. So here are my photos…

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DETECTIVE FRICTION
Guy Ritchie’s films have not exactly been the most consistent of any modern director so I admit when his Sherlock Holmes was announced with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, I was more than a little skeptical. While his debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was accomplished but unconvincing, the followup Snatch was very entertaining. But with Revolver and Rock ‘n’ Rolla, he seemed to be nothing more than a middle class bloke obsessed with London gangsters. Sherlock Holmes is his best film to date, directed with an assured hand and with a very likable cast including Downey Jr in the title role, continuing his resurrection as one of the most charismatic male actors in modern Hollywood and even Jude Law looks comfortable and at ease here as Dr Watson. Ritchie has remade Doyle’s Holmes as a man of action, who works out adversaries’ weak points in fights and then acts on them while Watson is a veteran of the Afghanistan War at the end of the Victorian era. The film doesn’t waste any time, setting the scene with the capture of upper class loony Lord Blackwood (played with vulpine grace by Mark Strong), who has an appointment with the scaffold but informs anyone who’ll listen that he’ll rise from the grave and turn the world upside-down. Holmes is skeptical but when Blackwood’s body disappears from its home in Brompton Cemetery, the detective and his partner are thrown into a mystery that seems to have metaphysical connections at its core. Ritchie introduces a thinly veined Masonic analogue at the centre of this conundrum. Blackwood and his compatriots intend to replace the government with a ruling council of their own choosing and so Holmes and Watson are in a race to prevent this from happening. While the script and characterisation bear no resemblance to any of the film’s forebears, Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes barrels along at a very nice pace with some decent interplay between Downey Jr and Law and some very impressive visual flourishes from the director and his production designer. The scene where we see Holmes fight a significantly larger man in a bareknuckle boxing match makes it feel like a steampunk Victorian James Bond. There are flaws here: why you would have to ride along the river when making your way from Baker Street to Pentonville Prison, just so you can foreshadow the film’s conclusion, is clumsy and lazy and sometimes Downey Jr’s eccentric Holmes can be a little irritating but for the most part, this movie is an entertaining and engaging modern action adventure. It sets things up for a sequel, rumoured to feature Holmes’s classic adversary Moriarty played by Brad Pitt. It feels like they’re trying to set up a franchise here and this would not be a bad thing for cinema at the minute. Perhaps the fact that it was only directed rather than written by Ritchie has steered it away from the problems of some of his worst films. Sherlock Holmes is grand adventure for the Christmas period…