The Vanity of Small Differences

perry1 (The Adoration of the Cage Fighters)

When I first came across Grayson Perry I have to say I was distinctly underwhelmed, I think because it all seemed to be about him and not about the art.  As I result I ignored him for a while but slowly as I started to come across him more, listen to what he was saying and look at his art my mind was totally changed.  In fact I now think that he is not only one of Britain’s best contemporary artists but he is also one of the best commentators on art, he has an engaging quizzical style that enables him to get across concepts and ideas in a very accessible style.  This perhaps culminated in his Bafta award winning documentary series All in the Best Possible Taste in which Grayson visited Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and the Cotsworlds and created tapestries depicting a story inspired by art history and the different social groups, classes and tastes that he came across during the visit to the very different regions of England.

Since seeing the documentary I’ve always wanted to see the tapestries so was very excited when I heard that they were coming to Leeds and would be installed for a period in Temple Newsam House.  It’s worth mentioning the curation of the exhibition as I think it was a very clever idea to place the tapestries within a stately home as opposed to an art gallery.  The tapestries themselves primarily deal with issues of taste and class and are full of artefacts that reflect this.  Seeing them hanging on the walls (each one in a different room) of the South Wing surrounded by the changing styles and taste of previous centuries gave them a suitable backdrop that could not be recreated in any art gallery.

perry2(The Agony in the Car Park)

The tapestries tell the story of Tim Rakewell and his rise from impoverished working class Sunderland to nouveau riche stately home owner after Tim’s success as an app developer and his sale of his company to Richard Branson and finally his death after crashing his Ferrari showing off to his new trophy wife.  The Story is “The Geek’s Progress” – a headline that appears on the ipad on tapestry 4 and is a nod to William Hogarth’s “A Rakes Progess” which tells the story of Tom Rakewell and his descent from inherited riches to madness, destitution and death.  Grayson’s modern take on Hogarth’s work is brought into focus in the exhibition which enables you to compare the two bodies of work as all 8 of Hogarth’s pictures are reproduced in the room that houses Grayson’s final tapestry.

perry3(Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close)

Whilst I’d seen pictures of the tapestries and seen the documentary on the inspiration behind them nothing can prepare you for the stunning colours, vividness and detail of seeing them in them up close.  There is so much detail that personally I could look at each one for a considerable period of time, they hold your eye as you take in all that is going on and in looking at them for a prolonged period my brain was totally engaged in thinking about Tim’s progress and what this tells us about Britain today and who we are.

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(The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal)

Artefacts play out strongly across the tapestries, and this again links through to where they exhibited as you pass through rooms full of artefacts of the period before you get to the tapestries.  From the miners lamp, to the cafetiere, the football shirt to the Cath Kidston bag so many assumptions are made on the clothes and artefacts we wear and surround ourselves with.  Technology and how it has changed is also strongly reflected throughout the journey, from the very first tapestry where the baby Tim reaches out his mother’s mobile phone screen, the huge cranes of the declining shipyards to be replaced by call centres, the tablet computers and app development that brought Tim his fortune.

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(The Upper Class at Bay, Or An Endangered Species Brought Down)

In comparison to A Rake’s Progress which dealt with someone’s descent from riches to rags, The Geek’s Progress charts the successful rise from impoverished background to stately home.  As Britain becomes more and more unequal and social mobility less and less achievable Perry is I think asking important questions on what sort of society we want.  On one of the tapestries Jamie Oliver is depicted as the god of social mobility looking down as Tim moves across to the middle classes, however Tim as Grayson did attended a Grammar School and I wonder if Grayson is making comment here that this is now one of the only ways to achieve social mobility.  In the end though both Tim and Tom lie naked and dead each destroyed by their wealth.

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(#Lamentation)

Across these six tapestries Grayson Perry weaves an extraordinary exploration of British social history over the last thirty years encompassing politics, class, taste, social observation, art history, celebrity culture, changing industry, technology and social media.

It does all of this is a very accessible format, my kids came with me and both said how much they’d enjoyed it partly because they could follow and understand it.  The accompanying booklet is really excellent, there is an app that you can also download and this is available on tablets in the exhibition so that you can explore the tapestries in more detail and look up many of the other historical pieces of art from the 15th century that inspired the work.

The exhibition is on till December 7, I’ll definitely be going again.

What’s in a (Trail) Name ?

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How do you know where you are?  An obvious question perhaps but sometimes finding an answer is not as easy.  Can you remember what it was like when you first started venturing out of the house on your own, you slowly got to know your local area both by the buildings and the places where you would play.  It was easy to say going to the park or the field (the field for me was where we played football, rugby and cricket next to the school) and then on the way to the river there was the old barn field (it had an old barn in it).  We had places like Jenkins field, even though it might have been a long time since anyone called Jenkins had lived in the farm that owned the field.  As you start to venture further afield which for me was on a road bike (or a racer as they were known back then) farms became quite key landmarks to navigate with using the good old OS map.

I still like riding bikes and using maps but when it comes to mountain biking, especially riding locally then there are other ways to navigate and that is Trail Names.  Anyone who rides regularly with others will have local names for where they ride, names that you won’t find on any map with stories behind them.  Often when you are out you will know where you are (in a particular wood for example) but you won’t really know where you are as in where is this wood geographically and it’s here that trail names come into there own.  You need to find a way to describe where you are going, let’s head to ….. or where you are meeting up or where you have been and how brilliant / rubbish you rode a particular section which is what trail names give you, they are the framework to provide the narrative for your ride.  The names will cover all different parts of your ride off road, could be a long flowy bit of single track, a particular feature or just a corner.

The names grow up organically, often due to some incident or other and they are tribal in nature, so what we might call something another crew will call in something completely different.  I’m not a strava user (and am fiercely anti it really) but what it is doing is codifying sections so that slowly everyone will know sections by one name which I personally feel is a shame as I like the hyper localism of trail names.  Stava might also prevent the changing of trail names as well, currently names evolve as either riders change, different things happen, superstition takes over etc all of which creates a language of features that only we know.  As you start to ride with a crew slowly you will learn the routes, features and names and it becomes a right of passage until you never know something might get named after you.

Here’s a few of our local ones but I’d be interested in your favourites as well and how they came about.

  • Last Drag – we often end our rides here.  It’s just an incline across a field but it is a drag
  • Travelator – classic starting point to many of our rides.  It’s just ribbon of mud leading to a steep bank into the woods but like the travelator from the Gladiator TV show, when it’s wet and muddy you can feel like you are going backwards pretty quickly
  • Puddle Duck – Possibly one of the best sections of trail in the area, multiple lines snake off the puddle duck through the woods.  A place where all will be tested no matter what their ability.  Tiz a bit of a beast to ride up though and named after a particular person from Garage Bikes who doesn’t like it.  This trail name is a classic in that lots of people ride it but most will know it as something completely different.
  • Leon’s Leap – A corner on the puddle duck, Leon overshot it and took to the sky
  • The Spa – When you are leaving the woods with the puddle duck in it there is The Spa.  Just the muddiest, squelchiest little section.  It never drains and is muddy in summer, in winter it requires fatbike like tyres to get through it.  You will put your foot down and the mud will ooze into your shoes / boots.  Some would pay good money to be covered in mud – hence The Spa
  • Better Climb Than Descent – Narrow and a little bit technical but not too technical so all can ride it, however it’s better to go up it.  Going down it’s got thorns, barb wire fence, dog walkers etc making it a potential problem
  • 5D – (Daz & Deano’s Death Defying Descent) – Bones and bikes broken but they did defy death
  • Pinball Run – For me a local route that terrifies me. Very fast (if you want it to be) descent, steep at the top and bits of rock all over the place, get your line wrong and you will be pinged about like a ball in a pinball machine
  • Jesus Ain’t Got Shit on Me – One of the best names, the reality is just a mud bank across a reservoir but hit it when the water level is just so and you will appear to riding on water never mind walking
  • Collarbone Corner – yep you can all guess what happened to someone here
  • Lynne’s Drop – very steep section off one of the local trails discovered by Lynne
  • The Death Star Run – another great name, we’ve all seen Star Wars with Luke using the force to storm his way down the trench to destroy the death star.  This is our mountain bike equivalent, hit this at warp speed and you will need the force to guide you through
  • Dog Shit Flavoured Treacle – just a drag up a field, however the field is surround by houses so dog owners use the field, it also gets very muddy in winter and pedalling is like riding through treacle
  • Wiggly Wiggly – classic wiggly ride through trees in another wood
  • Knife Edge – a parallel route to wiggly wiggle but is raised with a gulley on one side and a long drop on the other so you ride exposed
  • Blood Lane – or Warren’s Lane (which is what most know it as) or The Destroyer.  On Strava this will be Warren’s Lane but it used to be known as the Destroyer as it did exactly that to bikes and bodies, superstition took hold and it changed to The Delight as it is anything but.  I know it as Blood lane or Bloody lane as it is where the blood drained away from a civil war battlefield that is at the top.

So none of those names will mean much apart from to us, the locals who ride them but new names crop up all the time.  Last night we were out riding and after going through a fence gap had to ride up a very steep lane, no run up just a standing start in the lowest gear you have (the granny ring) so that lane is now Grab a Granny

See you all at the top of Blood lane before we attack Wiggly Wiggly then head over to play on the Puddle Duck before taking a dip in the Spa

 

 

 

Summer Photo Fun – 2014 – Memory

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So the summer holidays draws to a close and with it our final theme set by the kids of Memory, a lovely theme on which to close as we look back over the last few weeks and hopefully remember the good times we’ve had, days out, laughs, perhaps foreign climates, adventures, family, fun, good food etc.  This has definitely been my experience of the summer holidays and I hope it has been for you as well.  When the final theme was announced someone said how do you photograph a memory, which is of course a good point but at the same time we use photographs to capture our memories all the time and there are many things that remind us of them, whether that memory is one freshly made or from a lifetime ago.  Smells, colours, clothes, jewellery, places, food, everyday objects, things around the house, stuff stuck on the fridge door etc there are constant reminders all around us of our memories and these have been beautifully captured in the collection of images that came in this week.  Of course whilst many memories are shared they are all personal to us individually and this I think was captured beautifully both by the war memorials and the photographs of children, some who have now grown into adults while others are newly born.  I thought this was a lovely way to end this summers series.

I’ve actually put one of my photos at the top this week, I’ve never done that before so I hope you’ll forgive me indulgence.  For me music is an important part of my life and acts as a trigger to so many memories some momentous and important others mundane.  For example whenever I hear The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys I am transported back to a wet and cold evening standing waiting for a train on London Bridge station !  I’ve been a fervent gig goer for many years even if now it’s only on occasion that I go to see a band as opposed to the several times a week when I was younger.  Ticket stubbs get stuffed in pockets and left on the side somewhere but I ended up sticking lots of them in an envelope, where many still are, but a few years ago I got a picture frame and put a collage of some of them up on my wall.  It might not be to everyone’s taste but each ticket contains a powerful memory.

As always huge thanks to those of you who play along interpreting the kids themes, sending in your photos and making it all so much fun, we really enjoy and appreciate it.  As ever click on the gallery to open it and you can see the photos in full.  Do let us know which ones you liked.  So that’s it for another year, we have done three years of this now and it’s always been great fun.  We will I expect continue to do the other holidays – half term photo fun; christmas photo fun etc and will occasionally just throw in a random weekend photo fun so if you like the idea and want to join in just follow me on twitter (@ianstreet67) which is where the themes get announced.  I’ve also toyed with the idea of doing some sort of exhibition of themes and the whole photofun idea, not sure if I’ll ever get round to that but it could be good fun I think.

Summer Photo Fun – 2014 – Texture

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The kids chose Texture as the penultimate theme of this weeks SummerPhotoFun which was a great theme I thought.  I like it when the themes they choose can be interpreted in so many different ways depending upon how you see the world and texture is a classic sample of that, everything you see or touch has an element of texture to it be it part of the built environment or something natural.  What could me more natural than an animal and the photo of the octopus is surely an amazing example of the variety of textures contained with the animal kingdom.  Texture can also bring out the absolute beauty in the simplest things that we take for granted, brick, slate, wood, plastic, sand, wool, stone and plastic all look amazing when looked at as they are and then of course they change again when constructed into something, the incredible shape and texture of the bullring in Birmingham or the sand sculpture of Einstein for example.  I really enjoyed this weeks theme and as always huge thanks to everyone who contributed.

Click on the gallery to open it and you can see all of the photos individually in full size, there really are some crackers this week.  Apologies if I’ve missed anyone out, if I have just let me know.

 

Summer Photo Fun – 2014 – Curl

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I always enjoy the themes that the kids choose and over the last few years we have been playing around with this they have got progressively better at choosing themes as they think about what might come in. They like to come up with a theme that is both definitive in nature but gives lots of scope for interpretation.  I often think that some of the best themes they have chosen are colours or geometric shapes but this weeks theme of Curl was definitely one of the best they’ve chosen and there have been some brilliant interpretations that have come in from you all week.

We’ve just sat down to go through them and there were so many we enjoyed and it gave a real insight into how individuals can take a simple word and interpret it but also how photographs can make you think of the world around you, whether that be nature, art, jobs etc.  I loved the photo that a cardiac nurse sent in of her stethoscope entitled ‘tool of the trade’ and the curl of the blade runner is also a very powerful image.  As always our photofun would not work without all of you who take part and we’d really like to pass on our thanks that you take the time to do so and make it so much fun.  When the pictures are all put together in the gallery they create a vibrant tableau of the world around us.  As always click on the gallery to open it and you can see the photos as they came in, do let us know which ones you like.  Lots of crackers this week we thought.

 

Summer Photo Fun – 2014 – Balance

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We kicked off this summers photo fun a week late this year due to holidays etc but while we were away in Ithaca the kids got planning on some themes for the remainder of the summer.  They are getting dab hands at this now and come up with lots of ideas to form a long list and then whittle it down to give a good mix.  As always I was unsure if people would play along with us but sure enough the Balance photos started arriving during the week and there have been some lovely photos and interpretations.  The wedding ring photo for example was sent in by someone on their 10th anniversary who said that to succeed in marriage you need to strike the right balance which I liked very much.  There were a few of you who enjoy Yoga and of course bikes feature which brings to mind Einstein’s great quote “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving”.  I particularly liked the cheeky photo of cricketer Gary Ballance scoring his 100 the other day which was certainly not a photo I’d have anticipated which is why we love doing this so much, you might think you know what will come in but we are always surprised.  I didn’t imagine a car stuck up a tree either.

As always this idea only works if you take part so a huge thanks to all of you who have submitted photos, I think the gallery looks great.  If you just click on the gallery you can scroll through each photo in the correct size.  Some of the Balance is obvious but some you’ll have to think about.  Do let us know which ones you like.  I’ve been having a few technical issues so I do apologise if I’ve missed any of your photos out, if I have let me know and I’ll update the gallery.

 

 

My Grand Depart

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A bit like Alice in Wonderland, I emerged blinking back into the world wondering if the surrealness and madcap antics of the Grand Depart had been real and reflecting back on one of the most incredible experiences.  When Yorkshire won the right to host the depart I was of course hugely excited but after going to the launch event I was worried that we would mess it up as that was a truly dreadful event.  Fortunately everyone involved clearly bucked their ideas up after that and put on a truly stunning Grand Depart.

Running the Yorkshire Festival in the build up was I think key to creating such a great atmosphere as it got all sorts of creative people and enterprises doing stuff linked to the tour who may otherwise never have got involved. The result was a huge range of art and cultural activities across the region, big and small, high art to utter madcap which helped the region raise a collective eyebrow and take an interest in what was coming over the horizon.  The Festival also, in my view, acted as a catalyst to all sorts of other events as communities got well and truly into the spirit of it all.  The result was that countless individual acts, which on their own would have been meaningless, became part of a huge patchwork quilt of yellow, green and polka dot covering the whole of the county.  A perfect example of this was the knitted yellow jersey put on the Black Prince statue in Leeds that had been knitted by 70, 80 and 90 year olds that you can read the lovely story of here.

Thursday night saw the team presentation.  I did not buy a ticket for this in the arena and was pretty miffed that the organisers had taken this approach instead of the normal free show so I decided to use the money that I would have spent on a ticket for a train fare to London on the Monday.  However there was no real need to go to the presentation as the teams did a presentation ride through the city centre, the huge crowds that lined the route giving a flavour of what to expect of the the next few days.  Some of the riders looked a bit bemused by it all but most were smiling, acknowledging the crowds and interacting, with Ion Izagirre high fiving my daughter as he road past.

I took the Friday and Monday off work, determined to soak up the atmosphere and take in as much as I could and of course to see each of the three stages taking place in the UK.  The sun had been shinning all week prior to the start but there were numerous glances at the forecasts as rain was expected on the weekend (which if it had materialised would have certainly changed the whole vibe of the event).  I mooched about on the Friday, took in the Yorkshire bike show and marvelling at the vast media empire that was swinging into action and loving all the different accents I was starting to hear around town.  It was fun catching up on tweets and glimpses of the teams riding around the area, included the lovely touch by Giant-Shimano who organised a tweet up ride in North Leeds.  It’s amazing how the nature of social media has changed the game enabling me to catch up on all that was going on while supping on a pint of Magic Spanner at a pop up bar in the old police cells.

Saturday I wanted to see the start in Leeds, but even though I knew a lot of people would be coming into town I was still taken aback by the sheer volume of people, the whole city centre was heaving and people were standing 5 deep from about 8.30 in the morning.  I was lucky in that an organisation that I know were based right on the bottom of the Headrow in a perfect spot and so I found myself hanging out of the second floor window ready for the start (see photo at the top).  The crackle of noise that swept down with the riders will live with me for a long time, the riders looked pretty startled I thought by the sheer volume of people and noise that greeted the roll out.

Sunday I’d decided to head out as early as possible on the first train to Mytholmroyd and walk up Cragg Vale (the longest continuous climb in England).  There was again a huge sea of people and another fantastic atmosphere as thousands of people walked and cycled up the hill chatting and smiling with the local residents who were getting set up outside their houses, parties getting started and kids selling drinks, home made buns and loom bands on the roadside.  This time I managed to see the breakaway and of course the peloton sweep through treating the long drag as if it was a flat road.

London beckoned on Monday and it was strange really as after the huge party across Yorkshire I arrived in the capital to no visible sign that the tour was going to be in town.  This time I headed out a little bit and was fortunate to see the two strong breakaway on their last legs before the peloton steam through at full tilt, the sprint trains getting organised.  Quite incredible to see the speed at which they were riding.

After each day I watched the stage on the tele and marvelled at how brilliant it all looked.  There is of course a reason that Yorkshire looked so amazingly green as we get a good chunk of rain up here but the rain held off until London, if fact the sun shone brilliantly across the weekend and Yorkshire came out to party.  My abiding memory was that I’ve never seen so many people with a smile on their face and enjoying themselves.  A truly memorable and magic weekend.