We started with a convivial lunch in the cosy atmosphere of the Lansdowne Club followed
by a visit of the Philip Mould and Company gallery exhibition in Pall Mall showcasing the
remarkable achievements of Sarah Biffin born in 1784 without arms and shortened legs.
The exhibition included 25 works : a series of self-portraits, commissioned portraits, still-
lives including the delicate and detailed 1812 Study of Feathers, posters from Duke’s
travelling show declaring her ‘the Greatest Wonder in the World’, samples of her writing,
small watercolours and several letters written by Biffin. We also watched a film retracing
her life and the research that went into the organisation of the exhibition.
What a remarkable woman she was and an inspiration to us all particularly the
contemporary British artist and presenter Alison Lapper born with the same condition as
Sarah Biffin 180 years later.
We also discovered two other levels in the gallery featuring Old Masters paintings, Modern
British Masters like John Nash, Cedric Morris, Portrait Miniatures and Bloomsbury Group
paintings from Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
We enjoyed the splendid three storey space of the gallery as well as the friendly and
knowledgeable staff. A hidden gem !
What a wonderful evening singing Christmas Carols led by Elena Kokka, a fantastic pianist and singer!
The Design Museum
Our knowledgeable guide, Claudia, led us though a fascinating journey into the world of surrealism. Starting as a post war movement aimed at challenging conventional thinking and the way we look at the world, they wanted us to make us think.
From fine art to furniture, fashion, photography and film, we explored how they revolutionised art and design. Early artists focused on bringing a sense of absurdity to every day objects, such as Dali's iconic Lobster Telephone or Man Ray's flat iron studded with nails.
Designers then began to look to Surrealist art for inspiration to create humorous or sensual objects such as the May West Lips sofa - the most important piece of Surrealist furniture in the UK, following a collaboration between Dali and the British poet Edward James. Similarly, fashion designers also looked to the Surrealism movement for inspiration to create stunning designs, such as Schiaparelli's bright pink muscular-shaped mini-dress. Contemporary artists are now even using 3D technology to continue to look for new ways to express themselves and create furniture and designs that push the boundaries and were never thought possible. All in all, a very interesting and thought provoking tour!
Following the tour, we had an equally lively and enjoyable lunch at The Abington nearby.
Nysa Wine and Spirits
We started our very enjoyable and instructive Italian wine tasting with a glass of Prosecco and two white aperitif wines: a Franciacorta from Lombardy combining character and softness and an Arneis from Piedmont with a lively acidity bringing out the aromas. Our expert Bernard explained to us the long history of Italian wines dating back to the 4th millennium BC as well as the different fermentation techniques (clay and ceramic amphoras, steel etc).
Tom took over with three red wines: an outstanding 2014 Nebbiolo from the Alto Piemonte region and a Chianti Classico from Tuscany fermented in oak barrels. Because of its unusual concentration we were told that it had the potential of a 10-year storage. We ended with a Brunello, another wine from Tuscany produced from Sangiovese grapes.
Bernard’s and Tom’s warm welcome, knowledge, enthusiasm and excellent selection of wines contributed greatly to a lively and friendly evening helping us to develop our appreciation of Italian wines.
The concert took place in the home of arts philanthropists Bob and Elisabeth Boas at 22 Mansfield Street in Marylebone. They founded their salon in November 2001 after the death of their youngest son and endowed a trust in his name, which gives grants to the developing career of young musicians. Many talented musicians are happy to have a dry run there before an important Wigmore Hall recital, a musical competition or before making a recording.
These private concerts are special in two ways. The house itself was designed by 18th century architect Robert Adam with an 18ft-high drawing room covered with a beautiful collection of paintings that, Mr Boas says, “has perfect acoustic for chamber music”. He also emphasises its privacy : there are about 75 friends and friends-of-friends at each concert with no public notices.
The American pianist George Fu and Friends (English cellist Ben Michaels, Welsh violinist Edgar Francis and Japanese violinist Naori Takahashi) delighted us with a variety of vary different pieces ranging from Mozart, Chopin and Rachmaninov to Ravel, Rzewski and Messiaen including George’s own compositions on the theme of birds based on Rameau “the Hen” and Respighi “the Birds”. We ended this beautiful concert with drinks and canapés mingling with the other guests.
George has appeared in numerous venues such as Carnegie Hall, St Martin in the Fields etc. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras like the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra etc. He is the founding member of a piano trio “Trio Zimbalist”. He made a solo album “Mirrors” in 2022. He currently teaches and has been selected as one of the ten semi-finalists to compete in the prestigious Honens International Piano Competition, the finals will take place end of October. He is an extremely talented musician and we wish him the best of luck !
Our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide led us on very interesting 45 minutes tour of almost 100 pieces from the French jewellery house patrimonial collection, archive documents and private collectors’ creations.
To display this extraordinary set of creations, the scenography echoes the theme of movement. Welcoming us at the entrance, a floating ribbon takes the shape of a flower- inspired by the 1930’s Silhouette Flower clip - to guide us on a journey throughout the four themes of the exhibition : Nature Alive, Dance, Elegance and Abstract Movements. In the background showcasing the jewels, the folds and curves of the fabric echo the structure of the pieces and reflect the art of movement that the house has investigated since its creation.
Ever since its foundation in 1906, the Paris’ Place de Vendôme Van Cleef and Arpels has constantly blended the excellence of its high jewellery savoir-faire with the vision to imbue the most precious materials with lightness and dynamism.
One of the specificities of these jewels is the ability to transform to match different outfits such as the Zip necklace, which can turn into a bracelet.
Attentive to artistic movements throughout the 20th century, the Maison interpreted them in an original way, playing with shapes and materials. From the geometrically-decorated boxes of the 1930’s to the pure rounded lines inspired by Modernism. Abstract yet fun some works from the 1960’s draw us into an interplay of illusions, while opulent jewels of the 1970’s display sinuous and curvy designs evoking the era’s spirit of freedom.
We ended our enjoyable tour and shared our views on the exhibition in a nearby Italian coffee shop and restaurant the “Melbury Marketplace” on Kensington High Street.
One of the highlights of the Frieze Art Fair, the Frieze sculpture exhibition is a major public art show curated by Yorkshire Sculpture Park Director of Programme, Clare Lilley, for the last ten years. 19 sculptures by different contemporary artists are on display in Regent's Park. Strikingly, many of the works presented are by female artists - a noteworthy fact, as historically larger installations have often been the remit of mostly male artists.
Sabine Casparie, our guide, talked us through those amazing pieces of art.
Some works, for example 'Imperial Love' by Robert Indiana, or John Giorno's 'Space Mirrors Mind', are structured as a text designed as poetry or a political statement - or both. Others find their inspiration in mythology and folklore, such as Matthew Darbyshire's 'Hercules Meets Galatea', or Jordy Kerwick's 'Vertical Plane Me'. Other themes represented are female and non-binary healing through nature, and the importance of spiritual in art, for example in Ugo Rondinone's 'Yellow Blue Monk'. One highlight which would be hard to miss is Shaikha Al Mazrou's 'Red Stack', a steel sculpture of what could look like large red pillows. Shaikha is the youngest artist present this year, and not only is her sculpture impressive by its size, but also through its engineering and imposing balancing act. But some other works also deserve to be mentioned too. We all enjoyed Emma Hart's 'Big Time' for its sense of humour, Peju Alatise's 'Sim and the Yellow Glass Birds' for its delicate appearance, and Alicja Kwade's 'Tunnel-Tell', which intrigued us - indeed we all came up with a different interpretation of the artist's message.
We finished our morning by visiting Claas Reiss's gallery nearby, where we had the opportunity to view Magnus Frederik Clausen's exhibition, 'Work, featuring a focus on depictions of the time, and 'Oxbow', curated by recent graduate Olivia.
We ended our cultural activities with a well-deserved light lunch at the Italian deli next door. It was a very inspiring morning and we were lucky to enjoy wonderful autumn weather.
Before our Summer break, we met one more time in the beautiful Nevern Square Gardens and were lucky that the rain stopped just in time for us to enjoy our canapés and drinks. The temperature could have been higher but this didn't stop our evening from being a success, and it was an opportunity to meet new potential members.
The Club will restart its programme mid-September, so do not forget to check our calendar of events:
Butting onto the now regenerated Olympic Park, Bow, the furthermost area of the original East End of London, still retains its rather down-at-heel East End atmosphere. It was one of the most deprived areas of London in the early 20th century and was where in 1906 Sylvia Pankhurst was sent by her mother Emmeline to continue the fight for votes for women. The working women of East London lead by the increasingly militant Sylvia formed the break-away ELFS (East London Federation of Suffragettes).
Thanks to our very knowledgeable guide Diana and the pictures she showed us, we traced the story of the East End Suffragettes and the truly appalling conditions of the women who sweated and slaved in the grim factories of London’s East End. We saw from a distance the Bryant and May match factory, site of the famous match-girls’ strike of 1888 (now redeveloped into luxury flats with landscaped grounds, gym and convenience store). Diana described to us in vivid details how the match factory girls developed phosphorus necrosis (abscesses in their mouths leading to facial disfigurements and sometimes fatal brain damage) and how the suffragettes themselves suffered appalling treatment from the police; between February 1913 and July 1914, Sylvia was imprisoned in Holloway in appalling conditions no less than eight times and subjected to forcible feeding when she staged hunger strikes. The forcible feeding was in part motivated by the government’s fears that a suffragette - especially a well-connected one - might fall ill and die. So in 1913 the government introduced the “Cat and Mouse Act” which permitted hunger-striking women to be released into the community only for them to be rearrested once they had regained their health !
We also walked through a truly traditional East End market on Roman road that has been running for over 150 years where they still serve, in an old school white-tiled cafeteria, East End classic dishes : pie and mash and jellied eels. We ended the tour with lunch in a very gentrified gastro-pub “The Morgan Arms” where they serve vegan cheeseburgers, monkfish cheek with salsa verde or asparagus with poached eggs. Whilst enjoying the lovely weather, the tour was a unique opportunity for our group to discover this less frequented area of the East End and to connect with Constance Smedley the founder of our club, a writer and journalist as well as a feminist and suffragist.
photograph: Colette Hewitt
The Whitechapel Gallery exhibition was a great opportunity to meet in an area which is a bit off the beaten track for most of us.
The exhibition brought together more than 100 works by over 80 artists from all over the world ranging from modern icons such as Bacon, Picasso, Schiele and Warhol to not so well known artists. The exhibition included paintings , sculptures, installations and films depicting the studio whether it be an abandoned factory, an attic or a kitchen table as work of art. A series of “studio corners” also recreated the actual environment where great art was produced like Matisse’s bedroom in the south of France hung with magnificent embroideries.
Studios may bring privacy and peace. A beautiful painting by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham showed the perfect easel in the perfect studio, rectilinear, formal, everything in its place – the ideal. But studios may also be the stage for performing, throwing parties or fighting with art. An amazing painting by Maria Lassnig showed the Austrian artist literally struggling to get into a newly primed canvas.
The visit was a magnificent way of entering the minds of artists through the places where they worked and what they made there.
After the visit we had a lovely dinner at the Townsend, the Whitechapel Gallery restaurant.
We enjoyed the presence of Marilyn Mackinder the Lyceum New Zealand Federation President and Southern Hemisphere Vice President as well as Julie Brownell from the club in Adelaide who were on a short visit in London.
Wilton's Music Hall is one of those little gems you can only find in cities like London where theatres have always been prominent in the social and cultural life of its inhabitants.
Located in a narrow alley in East London (tricky to find!), Wilton's Music Hall was founded in 1859 by John WIlton to offer to those living in the East End the glamour, comfort and first-rate entertainment which was normally the privilege of the West End.
Last Thursday night the theatre was packed with an enthusiastic audience: friends of Peter Groom, fans of Marlene Dietrich, or perhaps both. The performance was spellbinding, glittering and incredibly entertaining. With his producer and manager, Jimmy Jewel, at the piano, Peter was a very glamorous Dietrich inviting us to fall in love again. Peter interpreted some of Dietrich's most famous iconic songs, as well as others. The attention to detail, the stunning sequin dresses and the stylish tuxedo, the graceful and stylish movements of the hands and body, all combined with a fantastic voice, were the perfect ingredients for a successful show. Bravo!
To complete this magical and enjoyable evening, we shared a few bottles of Prosecco at the interval and after the show. In addition, whilst enjoying our post-show refreshments, we were lucky enough for Peter to take the time to sit with us and answer our questions, which is how we discovered that he had hand sewn the sequins into one his dazzling dresses!
All in all, it was an unique night to remember!
Simone Alessandro Tavoni and Jamal Aliyev offered us a very special treat on Wednesday evening, as part of the Kensington and Chelsea Music Society's 2022 season. It blew our mind what a talented cellist can do with his instrument and it was an exquisite moment to listen to Simone and Jamal together. They said that they enjoyed playing together, well one thing I know for sure is that we enjoyed listening to them. What a fine pair of musicians!
Jamal Aliyev is one of the most sought-after cellists of his generation. In 2017, after making his debut at the BBC Proms, he won the Arts Club – Sir Karl Jenkins Music Award and released his CD Russian master with pianist Anna Fedorova. He has performed widely internationally and it was a privilege to have him playing for us as he is hugely popular in his own country.
Simone Alessandro Tavoni is an accomplished musician who has performed internationally and his talent has been recognised by numerous prizes. After graduating from the Giacomo Puccini Conservatoire in La Spezia in Italy, Simone moved to London to study on the Master of Performance programme at the Royal College of Music with Professor Andrew Ball. In 2017 . and artist director of Paisajes Piano Festival. He is currently performing, closely assisted and supported by Prince Dr. Donatus Von Hohenzollern.
For our lunchtime concert we headed off to Saint James's Piccadilly, one of the very wellknown venues in London for good concerts. We were delighted to meet friends of Talent Unlimited, a charity set up by our friend Canan Maxton to support young talented musicians.
Internationally acclaimed bosnian pianist, Damir Durmanovic has performed in many venues in the Uk and abroad and won prestigious prizes in international competitions.
Damir started playing at the age of 8 in his country before pursuing his music education at the Yehudi Menuhin School with Professor Marcel Baudet. Today Damir is studying at the Royal College of Music in London with Professor Dmitri Alexeev.
For this lunchtime break, Damir enchanted us with his exquisite interpretation of Chopin's Cantabile in B flat major and Polonaise-Fantasie in A flat major, Op.61 and Fauré's Nocturne in E flat major No.4. His touch and sensitivity created a very special magical moment and serenity.
For the second half of this concert, Hong Kong born pianist Kwanyee Chan offered us a beautiful interpretation of Bach's Jesu, Joice of Man's desiring, Robert Schumann's Gesänge der Frühe and Schumann/Liszt's Widmung. Kwanyee plays with elegance and deep emotion.
After receiving her music education in her country and being awarded the CCA Artistic Excellence Award, Kwanyee was granted a scholarship to study Artist Masters programme at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with Professor Lucy Parham.
Kwanyee shares her time between London and Hong Kong. She is a great ambassador of Hong Kong composers, Elena Chiu and Leung Hin-yan. She has won several international prizes.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we met at Saint-Martin-in-the- Fields for a wonderful and emotional moment of music. Initially our plan was to attend a concert at a private venue but the musicians caught Covid and that event was cancelled but our disappointment did not last long. Dinara Klinton’s performance was sublime. She entertained us with some Etudes and Nocturne by Chopin, followed by Beethoven’s Sonata Op:13 in C minor ‘Pathétique’, Mozart’s Sonata n11 k331 ‘alla turca’ and Liszt’s Petrach’s Sonnet. Dinara brought one change to her programme by playing Elegie by Rachmaninov to reflect the sadness of what is happening in her country. Dinara Klinton was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine where she started her music education from the age of five. She went to Moscow where she graduated with highest honours from the Moscow Central Music School and then the Moscow State Conservatory Tchaikovsky. She pursued her studies by completing her Master’s degree at the Royal College of Music. For someone like Dinara who has spent 11 years in Moscow, it is even more heartbreaking to apprehend the current situation in Ukraine. For the occasion, the church was lit with candles and yellow and blue lights. We left, charmed by her smile and her performance and ready to enjoy a glass of wine at a nearby pub, The Harp.