diamond geezer

 Monday, September 18, 2023

Yesterday's Open House tally was eight.
Here's a quick summary.

• The pricey building where I carried on climbing past the last public room and accidentally ended up in an attic space where a private group were celebrating something, so retreated rapidly.
• The terraced house transformed by its architect owners into a colour-supplement-friendly void, even down to the Ottolenghi cookbook, although apparently it took them five years most of which they spent lodging with the mother-in-law, and while I was putting my shoes back on their nextdoor neighbour arrived home and unlocked his door revealing bog-standard plasterboard which is the ungentrified house-share reality hereabouts.
• The landmark building where I was convinced there might be a queue so arrived early, unnecessarily because at that stage I was the entire queue, and in the end we set off late waiting for sufficient people to turn up.
• The much-loved building where everyone else was arriving for a tour and dashed through to hear a volunteer read a prepared speech, while I stayed in reception and enjoyed a one-on-one chat with the managing director.
• The bombed building where the first sign that a deluge was approaching was that a Health and Safety poster started flapping, and by the time I got outside summer had precipitously ended.
• The cosy building where one of the other people on the tour asked a question about external access, so the volunteer said "well why don't I show you?" and opened a small door and led us down a narrow staircase lit only by our smartphones, and eventually we stepped out into what used to be the car park and that answered her question, and only on the way back in did we discover that the stairs had a light switch after all.
• The boozy building where Open House signage was non-existent, but it was in fact fine to walk past the beers and Sunday roasts to a dingy space screening a powerpoint presentation where the slide changed five times slower than my reading speed, watched over by a cliquey in-crowd gossiping behind me, and I decided I might not come back to watch them perform.
• The historic building where the volunteer dragged out the tour for so long that by the time we reached the final plaque the kettle had been unplugged and the refreshment-making paraphernalia locked away in the cupboard and I'm still not sure if there were biscuits or not.

Let's do five of those in more detail (not necessarily in the above order).
(I'm saving one, and the other two I'll spare you)

Open House: The Mildmay Club (Stoke Newington) The Authentic One

London's not well-blessed with working men's clubs but sometimes a pub just won't do, what you want is a social safe space where activities and friends are more important than overpriced beer. Here on the north side of Newington Green the Mildmay Radical Club has been delivering since 1900, although it officially dropped the radical tag a while back and opposition to the Boer War is no longer committee policy. Open House is essentially an opportunity to recruit new members, yes we have four bars here let me show you. Out back is a cavernous room with nine snooker tables watched over by a four-faced clock from Woolworths, up top a large hall and their pride and joy is a sprung dancefloor in front of a glittery stage where you could still imagine Double Diamond being brought to the table in dimpled glasses. Film crews, unsurprisingly, drop in a lot when making gritty period dramas. Around 1400 men and women are currently members and they're actively looking for more, young and old alike, so if you're approximately local this might be the social breakaway your life is missing.

Open House: Hackney Empire (Hackney) The Plush One

This independent jewel has been bringing joy to East London since 1901, initially as a music hall, later a bingo hall and since the 1980s as a proper theatre. It's particularly well known for its panto but comedians, opera companies and beardymen recording podcasts can also fill the seats. Some idea of the sumptuous space within comes from the fussily over-decorated lobby, where a plaque remembers the wad of dosh Lord Sugar gave to help fund a much needed millennial upgrade. But only when you step through to the stalls or dress circle does glitzy gold and red decor really hit, not to mention the swooping scale of the auditorium. Several so-called West End theatres can't hold a candle to Hackney. For Open House we got to wander freely into unlocked boxes, scrutinise the lager selection at the bar and even walk through the private door into the wings and out onto the stage. You don't normally get the chance to stand where Charlie Chaplin, Julie Andrews, Lenny Henry and (just a couple of weeks ago) the Rolling Stones have wowed the crowds, but that's the joy of Open House for you.

Open House: Little Angel Theatre (Islington) The Puppety One

In 1961 a disused temperance hall off Upper Street was transformed into a mini theatre for mini people, specifically a marionette theatre targeted at children. The Little Angel's branched out into other types of puppetry since but is still thriving 60 years later and they still put on eight different shows a year, some here and some at the satellite space just up the road. For Open House there was a chance to walk between the raked seats and up onto the stage, past the friendly wolf on Red Ridinghood's bed and into the backstage area. The Little Angel is one of only three UK theatres equipped for dangle-stringed puppets and the only one with a double marionette bridge ("here, come up the steps and take a look"), although most puppetry these days tends to be rod-controlled. Along the side of the building is a workshop where the puppets are made, and it was a real treat at the far end to meet Lyndie who's been here bringing wood to life here since the theatre opened. She showed us her latest mid-carved figure and then whipped out a past character who suddenly sprung to life on the floor, a few deft tugs creating a personality full of grace and charm. I imagine every middle class Islington family with young children knows this theatre exists and treasures it, and the rest of us could so easily overlook it entirely.

Open House: The Hospital Chapel of St Mary & St Thomas (Ilford) The Not Actually A Hospital One

Near the top of Ilford Hill, just across the road from the station, is Redbridge's oldest surviving building. Only one of its walls actually dates back to 1145, after the Victorians got a bit too gung-ho upgrading it, but you don't find many religious buildings in outer London which were founded by Norman nuns. In this case that's nuns from Barking Abbey, a mile down the Roding, who established almhouses for 13 penniless men and threw in a chapel for good measure. One original window also survives, unceremoniously filled-in. These days a tour of the interior includes a lot of features of mysterious provenance ("we're not sure where these stained glass windows came from") ("we're not sure what these tablets are") ("we're not sure if the two stone fish are contemporary") but the two glowing saints at the west end are definitely by Edward Burne-Jones. Ian visited in 2019 and has a much fuller report, but you really want to hear the story from one of the Friends of the Hospital Chapel who can recount all of the ecclesiastical detail in situ. As well as Open House the chapel's supposedly open to visitors on the second Saturday of the month and also for communion on Thursdays, although you risk doubling the congregation if you turn up for that.

Open House: The Estorick Collection (Canonbury) The Italian One

The American writer Erik Estorick became interested in Italian modern art while on honeymoon, as you do. He bought a lot of it quite cheaply, because paintings with fascist associations weren't much in demand in the 1950s, and started hiring out his artworks to public galleries. After his death in 1993 his collection ended up at Northumberland Lodge in Canonbury with a selection spread across galleries on three floors. Normally it's £7.50 to get in but for Open House they waived it, and I'm a firm believer that every paid-for attraction will eventually let you in for free so off I went. The upper floors feature drawings, paintings and sculptures, many by Eric's favourite artists, who if you read further might now be considered to be of dubious political persuasion. I confess to walking past the drawings faster than the colourful stuff. And yes it's interesting, and yes the background detail is fascinating, and yes normally the two ground floor galleries aren't between exhibitions, and yes there's a classy little cafe, but unless you're a connoisseur I doubt you'd think you got your £7.50-worth.

Sorry it was a long day and meteorologically sometimes quite taxing, and after I got home I did what I could but I haven't managed to completely finish writing this, I need some sleep, but I will come back and add the last building honest, quite possibly in a day or two's time when nobody's reading it any more, and sorry there aren't many additions to my album on Flickr this time because I'm saving the Photoshop-heavy venues for further posts because I'm not done yet.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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 

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

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards