diamond geezer

 Friday, December 03, 2010

Eel Pie Island. It has a great name. It's one of London's most off-beat locations. It's a proper island, in the middle of the Thames. It used to be called Twickenham Ait. About 120 people live on it. It has a quirky creative reputation. It was only connected to the mainland via a footbridge in 1957. During the following decade Pink Floyd, The Who and The Rolling Stones all played gigs at the Eel Pie Hotel. These days the jazz/rock thing has moved elsewhere and the island's gone a bit private. Hurrah, then, that they're welcoming visitors at the moment for the Eel Pie Island Open Studios event. You could have gone there last weekend. You can still go there tomorrow or Sunday. I went last Sunday so that I could tell you all what it's like. And good news, the place lived up to expectations.

I hit Twickenham, crossed the High Street, then wandered down to the river's edge [photo]. The footbridge to Eel Pie Island arched up from the quayside, past a well-wrapped couple feeding a flock of flapping waterfowl. I'd got this far before "No Vehicles" "Cyclists please dismount" "Persons crossing do so at their own risk" but always felt I wasn't welcome and turned back. This time I made it to the other side "Private Island" "No thoroughfare or access to the river" and stepped onto the island. Almost immediately I was attacked by Eel Pie's first line of defence - a hosepipe firing water at chest height across the footpath from the first house on the right. The owner apologised, he was merely attempting to feed his water supply through the fence, but it wasn't the most welcoming of starts.

At the centre of the island is a common or garden footpath which links together the front gates of various houses and cottages [photo]. Every domestic residence has a name, be it Palm Beach, Blinkwater, hurley cottage (lower case) or the Loveshack. The latter's typically leftfield, with an alligator's head on the corrugated front wall and an upsidedown mannequin with legs flailing in the front garden [photo]. Residents are only five minutes walk from a Waterstones and a Boots, but might as well be in a different world. Some of the locked paths lead off to rather splendid abodes with full Thames-side frontage, another links to the boathouse of the Twickenham Rowing Club. But usually, as a mere member of the invading public, you're welcome to go no further.

Not so this weekend. The Christmas Open Studios event sees the gates to the boatyard flung open, because you have to walk through their big shed to reach the arts collective beyond [photo]. It's a proper boatyard too, with a couple of large cruisers currently in dry dock [photo], and a slipway littered with maritime detritus. The first pair of open studios were down a trip-hazard passage to the right - one offering charming glass sculptures, the other home to a talented caricaturist/cartoonist. One of you reading this will be getting a foldout cartoon Christmas card from the latter, once I've signed it licked it and written your name on the front. Another two of you can expect one of Wendy Mckenzie's hand-painted greetings cards for your birthday, because they're lovely, although it might be a long wait.

There were several workshops to poke around inside, some of them bisected boats, others low chalets warmed by a fired-up kiln. I was brave and ventured up a wooden ladder to talk to Sarah in her attic, even though I had no intention of buying any of her sculpted objects because I don't know anyone cultured enough to appreciate one. Mosaics, ceramics, pottery - they all felt somehow more genuine being for sale round the back of a scrappy boatyard rather than in some bijou West End boutique. [photo]

I won't claim that the Open Studios event is the answer to all your festive gift-buying needs. There are only about twenty artists on site, and none of them are selling Xbox Kinects or whatever that gadget is your nephew wants. But the place even managed to get me in a buying mood, which is saying something, and I'd have shelled out more for a glass of mulled wine if only the tureen hadn't frozen solid in the cold. But you might find something here you'd like, or that someone else would, if you make it onto Eel Pie Island before the end of Sunday. And hell, any excuse to poke around up the obscure end of one of London's weirdest locations.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream