India Festival at the V@A

Paris Fashion Week October 2007 Manish Arora_ Ready to wear Spring Summer 2008

PARIS Fashion Week October 2007
Manish Arora
Ready to wear Spring Summer 2008

The Fabric of India, part of the V&A’s India Festival is currently on at the Victoria & Albert Museum in Kensington.

Over 200 objects are on display at The Fabric of India at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the first exhibition to explore the rich world of handmade Indian textiles. The history of fabric in India is one of the most ancient in the world with the oldest surviving cotton threads dating from around 4000 BC.

On display are examples of everyday fabrics as well as previously unseen treasures from ancient banners to contemporary saris. The exhibition offers an introduction to the raw materials and processes of making cloth by hand with displays of basic fibres of silk, cotton and wool. It shows how fabrics were used in courtly and spiritual life covering the range, opulence, scale, and splendour of objects handmade for the rich and powerful courts of the 17th to 19th centuries.

The changing world is examined too as European industrialisation threatened to eradicate Indian handmaking skills in the 19th century. A range of pieces designed for foreign export showcase the ability of Indian artisans to adapt designs and techniques for a wide variety of markets. Different regions developed specialities based on local resources such as natural dyes, and printing patterns with wooden blocks. A film shows how it is done. Each part of India has its own weaving tradition, and embroidery with regional styles. The exhibition examines how fabrics were used in courtly and spiritual life with an area where haunting music is played showcases articles, including a sultan’s tent, that was saved from the Indian royal courts.

Textiles are also shown when modernisation became a priority after Indian gained its independence in 1947. A range of pieces for foreign export showcases the ability of Indian artisans to adapt designs and techniques for a wide variety of different markets, and highlights how their designers rework traditional techniques into extravagant clothes.

20th century wall hanging, cotton appliqué, Gujarat,

20th century wall hanging, cotton appliqué, Gujarat

The India Festival includes
Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection which opens on 21 November and runs until 28 March 2016 while Musical Wonders of India in the Nehru Gallery runs until 3 July 2016.
On 8 December, Michael Palin is giving a talk on his visits to India.

The exhibition runs until 10 January, 2016.
Tickets £14. Open daily from 10.00 – 17.45 (Friday 22.00)

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The Great British Bake Off looking for Contestants


The Great British Bake Off is back and they are looking for Britain’s best home bakers to take part in their seventh series…
Do you fancy taking part in the Great British Bake Off or do you know someone who might? Can you can bake a technically perfect tart, an exceptional cake or plaited bread?
You must be an amateur and not have acquired any formal training over the past 10 years.

Recipe from 2015 Bake-Off Winner Nadiya

Chocolate, Raspberry and Mint Tart
For sweet pastry
250g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
2 medium eggs

For the tart
250g fresh raspberries
25g mint leaves finely sliced
250ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (70%)
25g liquid glucose
50g unsalted butter

-For the sweet pastry shell, add the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt to a bowl. Using your fingertips, crumble the butter into the flour. Give the eggs a quick mix in a separate bowl and add to the flour mix. Bring the dough together by hand. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

-Take the dough out and roll out onto a floured surface. Line a 20cm tin and chill for 20 minutes in the fridge.
-Preheat the oven to 190. Prick the base using a fork and blind bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven to 180, remove the beads and bake for a further 5 minutes.

-Leave the case in the tin for 10 minutes, then lift out and leave to cool on a wire rack.

-Divide the raspberries into two. Crush one half with the back of a fork and add the sliced mint to it. The other raspberries need to be halved and set aside.

-Spread the crushed raspberries and mint on the base of the tart and then add the halved ones on top.

-In a bowl, break up the chocolate. Bring the cream to a boil in a pan and add to the chocolate. Mix thoroughly until it is all incorporated well. To this add the glucose and the butter and mix. Leave to cool for a 15 minutes and then add to the tart shell on top of the raspberry mix.

-Leave to chill for a few hours in the fridge.

For more information contact: or download an application form on:

Contestants must be 16 by 1 February, 2016. Applications close midnight Sunday 10th January 2016.

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Top names at Music & Performing Arts Festival in Ravenna

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty Photo Simon Annand

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty
Photo Simon Annand

Ravenna Festival

The music and performing arts festival in Ravenna, Italy takes place annually from mid-May until mid-July. The programme which includes some of the world’s leading artists embraces all performing arts and languages. This covers symphonic and chamber music, opera and theatre through to dance, world music and performances. The events are held in a wide range of venues that showcase Ravenna’s architectural and historical heritage.
I was among the guests at an evening held in conjunction with World Travel Market to promote the Festival. Leading light and one of the Artistic Directors is Christina Mazzavillani Muti, wife of the renowned conductor Riccardo Muti. Among the speakers was choreographer and Director Matthew Bourne whose company performs periodically at the Festival. We were able to enjoy a film clip of his company dancing Sleeping Beauty, which coincidentally opens at London’s Sadler’s Wells at the beginning of December, 2015.
Totally unexpected was an amazing performance on the cello by Giovanni Sollima and eight of his students playing music described as full of Mediterranean rhythms. It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to hear someone so very talented, and who is one of the star attractions of the 2016 Festival. Among the other highlights of the Festival are stars from the Bolshoi Ballet; Mandela Trilogy from the Cape Town Opera, and Riccardo Muti conducting the Giovanile Luigi Cherubini Orchestra.

Giovanni Sollima

Giovanni Sollima

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Free must-see Chanel Exhibition

Natasha at Chanel!

Natasha at Chanel!

Went to an amazing exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery on the King’s Road, and it was free. To really enjoy the experience, it’s important to have a phone or iPad so that you can download their app as it provides a greater dimension.
“Mademoiselle Privé” is described as a journey through the origins of Chanel’s creations, capturing the charismatic personality and irreverent spirit of Mademoiselle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.
On entering the exhibition, Geraldine Chaplin’s voice is heard as Coco Chanel. A mirrored room shows off the famous staircase at 31 Rue de Chambón Paris where she lived, and had her workshop. Only visible with the app, I was able to see pictures of her elegant apartment above.
The exhibition is much bigger than I envisaged, and is displayed over two floors. Displays go back to the start of her career as a milliner. Voice-overs tell us that Gabrielle, later known as Coco, always wore pearls.
A room is devoted to the laboratory of her perfume Chanel No 5 while another the sensory has black and white muslin drapes with sounds of voices to give the impression of the workshop where she, and later Karl Lagerfeld’s creations were made.
On the first floor a room has been turned into a maze-like 18th century French garden. The design was inspired by the intertwined C motif that Chanel first saw in stained glass windows at the orphanage where she lived as a child. In another room, photographs taken by Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel’s 1932 jewellery collection are displayed on the walls. In the middle, dummy models wear clothes designed by him and Chanel which show off the jewellery.
A film made by Karl Lagerfeld has Geraldine Chaplin playing the ghost of Chanel who comes alive in her flat, subsequently going upstairs to her workshop to meet Karl Lagerfeld. The film reflects on how Lagerfeld feels she would think about what he has done since she passed away, portraying her as being critical of how he has modernised the House of Chanel. Haute couture designs of his 2014 collection are shown on dummies cleverly displayed against beams of light, presumably to stop anyone reproducing his designs.
The exhibition runs until 1 November. There were huge queues so you may have to wait. We had an hour’s wait but it was well worth it. An added bonus on leaving, we were even given a free cotton shopping bag and poster.

Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, London.

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Giacometti exhibition opens October 15

Woman of Venice VIII

Woman of Venice VIII

Giacometti: Pure Presence opens at the National Portrait Gallery tomorrow 15th October.

Giacometti, one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century, is known primarily for his stick like sculpture but he was a portrait painter too. Nine rooms are devoted to his work. The exhibition depicts the artist’s on-going attempt to capture a fleeting impression. “Sometimes I think I can catch an appearance, then I lose it and so I have to start all over again” he is quoted as saying.

The exhibition starts with photographs of his Swiss childhood, and follows his career to Paris, where sets up his studio. A film shows him in his Paris studio. His portraiture is unconventional, an interrogation of his own visual seeing. From the outset he experienced difficulties of copying exactly … appearance, concerned with the problems of structure and form he experimented with various styles, gravitating to the Surrealist group. His work is his attempt to be faithful to his visual experiences.

The exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on Giacometti’s engagement with the human figure and the creation of an individual human prsence based on particular models. Rooms are defined by their subject with one devoted to Annette his wife who eventually becomes his main model; another to his mother while another to his brother Diego who came to live with them and assisted in the organisation of the sculptures as well as making bronze furniture for which he later became famous. The last two rooms, one mimicking the daylight in his studio and the other his studio at night are where there are paintings of Caroline the prostitute that he met in his later years.

Giacometti was constantly pursuing and capturing the sensation of the moment, the constantly changing experience of seeing people, as well as the flux of visual experience. In 1948 following his first one-man show in New York in 1948 his reputation expanded internationally. In 1954 he was described as the artist of existentialism.



The exhibition runs until 10 January 2016.
Throughout the exhibition there are events are taking place relating to the exhibition
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2 OHE.
Mon. Tues. Wed. Sat. Sun 10.00 – 18.00 late opening 10.00 – 21.00 thurs. Fri.
T. 020 7306 0055

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Brillant performance by Kenneth Cranham in The Father

Kenneth Cranham & Claire Skinner  Photo credit Simon Annand

Kenneth Cranham & Claire Skinner
Photo Simon Annand

A standing ovation was given to Kenneth Cranham last night for his performance as André, the father in the theatre production The Father which opened recently at London’s Wyndham Theatre.
The thought provoking play keeps you spell bound throughout its length of one hour and a half hours without a break. A sequence of short scenes is done by blacking out the stage, which is outlined in lights that crackle. What might have been an electrical fault is in fact intentional, and relates to the subject matter.
The play is initially set in an apartment in Paris. In the beginning I found it rather confusing as one scene after another told different stories. Sadly it soon became apparent. Andre has Alzheimer’s, and the scenes bounce from reality to what is in his imagination.
Florian Zeller, the author, describes his play as an attempt to understand the situation of an old man who has lost all his bearings and arrived at that moment where his kingdom dissolves. A sad subject brilliantly portrayed by an excellent cast – a must see. Booking until November 21, 2015.

Wyndham’s Theatre,
Charing cross Road, London WC2H ODA.
T. 0844 482 5120

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Trendy Ghent Restaurant

Prominently positioned on the bank of the River Leie in the historic centre of Ghent, The Belga Queen Restaurant doesn’t look anything special from the outside apart from lots of tables and chairs with, on closer inspection, a stand filled with ice on which sits mountains of oysters.
However, once inside the glass doors it is a trendy, stylish venue. Multi-talented designer, chef and owner Antoine Pinto has converted a grain storehouse dating back to the thirteenth century, putting his stamp on everything from the lighting and furniture to the black and white uniforms. The ground floor is primarily a bar although food is also served including such delicacies as Siberian Oscietra caviar.
Belgium and beer go hand in hand with several hundred variations. Tony my partner is hooked on Trappistes Rochefort Beer, which comes in different strengths, and he says is smooth and velvety. I like fizzy wine, and have discovered crémant. The Belga Queen served a delicate light rosé version which I found was actually champagne mixed with fruits of the forest. There is also an extensive gin list with sixteen varieties. Gin, with different flavoured tonics, is apparently a very trendy drink in Belgium. There is an extensive wine list but what is so interesting is that all the wines are either produced in Belgium or made by Belgium producers with the majority of winemaking countries represented.
The main restaurant on the first floor can be accessed by a glass lift or stairs, which have chrome banisters, all very much part of the décor. The seating is in comfortable leather chairs, and something I have never seen before but a good idea is that the tables are easily moved around. While we were there the two tables adjacent to us were moved next to a table behind us to accommodate a party of six.
The menu is predominately shellfish although there are also meat and vegetarian options. Typical Flemish dishes are included although they have been adapted to modern tastes and cooking. Tony started with rare thinly sliced Belgium Charolais beef served in the vein of carpaccio with a delicate sauce flavoured with mushrooms and truffles, and covered with shavings of Old Roeselare cheese. He followed with a local speciality Ghent Waterzooi, a cream based stew made with cuckoo. It tasted, he said, and looked like corn fed chicken, cooked with boiled potatoes, and thin vegetable shavings. I choose the Belga Queen platter a tray of crushed ice filled with shell fish which included different types of oysters, lobster, langoustine, prawns and shrimps, sadly too much food for me to eat it all. €70.
Desserts included melting chocolate cake with icecream and vanilla bourbon, crème brulée, and a selection of Belgium cheeses.
The open plan kitchen is easily accessible on the next floor. The top floor however is a party area with a lounge and restaurant, and there is a D.J. open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
A bonus for me was that Poppy, my well-behaved dog, was welcome in the restaurant. I also understood from Wahim, their charming manager that plans are afoot to give the front area a face-lift.

DSCF2381 T. +32 9280 0100 Ghent, Belgium

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