London Open House. The Lloyds Building

24 September 12

Posted at 11:50

It was London Open House weekend on 22nd and 23rd September. London Open House is held annually, it's a weekend when around 750 buildings in London are open to the public, for free! Last year I visited Simon  Robert's exhibition in Portcullis House over the Open House weekend, prior to that I had never heard of it. Many people have though and the Open House weekend is really popular. many of the buildings have very long queues. But don't be put off, the queues do move quicker than it's looks as though they will at first sight. The queue I joined last Saturday was for the Lloyds Building in Lime Street, and the queue was long, surrounding the building and stretching into the middle of Leadenhall Market. I guess, like many others, I was hoping to get some cityscape shots from the top of this 14 storey building. To be honest it was that opportunity, as opposed to seeing what he building was like on the inside that attracted me. I photographed the building from the outside back in 2011 on a cold January evening.

Lloyds Building

Lloyds Towers

If you have never seen it before you will see it's unusual and must have been somewhat futuristic when it opened in 1986 (building commenced in 1978). The building was designed by Richard Rogers. People either love or hate the building - perhaps it should have been named the Marmite! For many years it stood out in that area of the city but today there is competition. The Gherkin is just opposite at St Mary Axe and right opposite at 122 Leadenhall Street a new skyscraper known as the Cheesgrater will dwarf the Lloyds buiding in 2014.

So, after 40 minutes or so I arrived at the front of the queue and entered the building. The first thing that hit me, with some surprise, is that the inside is like a giant atrium.

Lloyds 1

I began to understand why some people refer to it as the inside out building. It was breathtaking to look up. I took a few photos, then made my way across the main underwriting room to the lifts. The lifts are glass and on the exterior of the building. We went up to the eleventh floor, the lift too packed to attempt photography. On leaving the lift we walked along a glass sided gangway back into the main building. There were some interesting views but on a sunlit day with a lot of people wearing white reflections in the glass were a problem.

Lloyds 2

Back inside the central area the atrium area rises up in the centre with underwriting floors around the edge on every level. From eleven floors up there is an amazing view looking down onto the main underwriting room.

Underwriting room Lloyds

In the centre of the floor is the rsotrum. It contains the ships bell from HMS Lutine. Originally a French frigate, La Lutine, it was part of Napoleon's fleet until captured by the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Lutine. Lutine, insured by Lloyds, was sunk in 1799 and never salvaged. In 1859 the bell was brought up from the seabed and installed on Lloyds underwriting floor. It was rung whenever a ship was late returning. Today it is in the rostrum and is still rung on ceremonial occasions. After a few more photos and a chat with one of the many really helpful Lloyds staff who were on duty to answer questions on the building and Lloyds in general I made my way on to another set of lifts hoping to ascend to the roof. Now came my first and only disappointment of the day, the lifts were only going down, now access to the top floors and the views I was hoping for. I resigned myself to the only city skyline shots I was going to be taking would be from a descending lift complete with dirty glass and reflections. Anyway I had a go...

View from Lloyds

Although I had failed in my main objective I am really pleased I visited the buidling. There were lots of photo oportunities and it was really interesting to see the building inside and learn a bit about it, and Lloyds history.

Lloyds 3


Lloyds 4

Lloyds was the only buidling I visited on Saturday. Next year I will get my act together and visit a few. London Open House is a great idea and it is free.


Lodestar Festival 2012

12 September 12

Posted at 8:14

At the beginning of the month I shot two days of Lodestar Festival 2012, unfortuantely I was double booked on the third day. Lodestar Festival  is held in Lode, just north west of Cambridge. It's a wonderful festival of music. Doug Durrant runs it on his farm. I went there last year for the first time primarily to shoot The Travelling Band so I only spent one day there. I was bowled over by the quality of artists at what is a small and I guess local to Cambridge festival. Lodestar is extraordinary in many ways. First of all it takes place on what is described as a 200 acre lawn. To my amazement that description is accurate - a perfectly flat area of grass extending virtually as far as you can see in every direction. The other extraordinary thing is the quality of the artists who come from far and wide. An eclectic mix with a common theme of talent.

This year the first day was headlined by 

The Go Team

The Go Team

and what a headline act they were! Check them out here.

Ninja - The Go Team

Ninja - The Go! Team

I heard Lodestar was to be their last perfomance - I certainly hope that is not the case.

At the other end of the day the first band up was

Violet Bones

Violet Bones

Violet Bones

Violet Bones

Often the first band on is perhaps somewhat lacking, maybe inexperienced etc. but Lodestar kicks off with real talent and that flows through the whole event. There is only one negative about Lodetsar and that is the fact that the campers, who are on a part of the 'lawn' outside of the main arena and festival gates, appear to spend most of the day chillin and drinking around their tents as opposed to in the stage area. They then arrive en masse for the final two or three sets. I'm unclear why but it's frustrating for talented artists playing to often very small crowds when festival goers are only a few hundred yards away. But don't let that small negative give a wrong impression, if you like live music you'll love Lodestar.

Last year my 'find' of the festival was Kill It Kid who I have followed ever since. This year it was..



Luminites played on the Saturday and were about halfway through the day. They had been mingling with the festival crowd for a few hours before they went on stage and I soon got the impression they were lovely people.

Corey and Steph - Luminites

Then when they were on stage - what a joy. They are a mix of hip hop, beatbox and bouncy rap. They absolutely wowed the younger members of the audience and as their set went on everyone else began to take notice. These kids are really talented. They are also NICE - it may not always be cool to be nice but Luminites really pull it off. Their interaction with the crowd was a joy to behold.

Luminites from the Stage

Corey from Luminites

Corey - Luminites

Ben - Luminites

Ben - Luminites

Luminites - click here



Now a few pics of other artists at Lodsetar this year

Big Kids

Big Kids

Ryan Keen - who really impressed me

Ryan Keen 2

Ryan was brilliant and after a long set he actually went into the crowd and did an accoustic set while the next band was set up. Nice one Ryan!

Ryan Keen

Ryan Keen


The Rocket Dolls also strutted their stuff early on the first day..

Nikki Smash - Rocket Dolls

Nikki Smash - The Rocket Dolls

and then the penultimate set on the Saturday night was Katzenjammer. This, can I call them a girlband?, from Oslo were something else. they were different that's for sure and I'm sure they will be a massive success


Katzenjammer - Lodestar 2012

They took it in turns on this weird bass guitar. The girls are versatile, talented and break some boundaries. Get to see them. click here

Solveig Heilo - Katzenjammer

Well that just leaves the headline - Sir Bob Geldof. I'll be honest, I wasn't fussed and nearly shot off to process what I'd shot that day. OK I quite liked the Rats many years ago, I definately still don't like Mondays and I have great respect for what the 'gobby one' has done for the suffereing, world peace and single parent males but come on - Sir Bob Geldolf on stage - I really wasn't sure. Anyway I decided to hang a round for 'first three no flash'. Wow! what a surprise.

Geldof and band


Here he was with his aging cronies and they could play. Bob had a presence I guess I should have expected but he was brilliant..

Sir Bob Geldof 

I take it back Sir Bob, I enjoyed your set just as much as your (surprisingly young) females fans. Apologies for doubting you. 

Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof at Lodestsar 2012


Bob Geldof

Oh yeah and you make a great subject to photograph

Geldof portrait


Well I hope that's given you a taste for Lodestar. A testament to the festival is that it took place at all this year - a year when so many festivals have failed financially or been cancelled altogether. I can only believe that Doug loves music and puts a real effort into his line up and that his supporters, you who went again this year, are happy to buy a ticket and spend most of the day chillin in the sunshine before having a boogie in front of stage. (try and leave your tent parties a bit earlier next year e? Oh that's another thing, Doug provides brilliant weather alongside his awesome artists. It would be worth your while to head for Lode next September.




Hang, a beautiful girl.

09 September 12

Posted at 8:07

I intended to take a break from my South East Asia blogs to cover Lodestar Festival next, however I need to get this one off my chest. I spoke earler of how embarrassed I was to learn the extent of Pol Pot's atrocities when I visited S-21 in Cambodia. My embarrassment being I was alive throughout the Pol Pot period but oblivious to what actually happened. Well on arriving in Vietnam I had a further rude awakening. I visited the war museum in Saigon and realised the extent of the American atrocities in what they call the Vietnam war. I was particularly interested in the exhibition of photography from war photographers (137 in total many American) who documented the atrocities.

So for the first time in my life I realised the extent of what happened when Agent Orange was sprayed over much of Vietnam. I understood for the first time the horrific acts carried out by, of all people , American servicemen (the peacekeepers of the world???), and also for the first time the lack of any meaninful rationale for the war. (OK I'm sure I should have taken an interest at the time but fact is I didn't, I was just getting on with my own life and John and Yoko said it was bad so I believed them. I really should have looked into why, as should most of us I guess. And should we not now do the same about Syria/Somalia etc.?) Well I'm not going to bang on about it beacuse this is my photoblog and not a political platform. Although today maybe I have  a message or at least some food for thought.

At the other end of my tour up the coast of Vietnam was Hanoi and it was there, some ten days after our visit to the war museum that Marilyn and I were sitting on the edge of a lake in the centre of Hanoi having a couple of beers in the setting sun when we met Hang. Hang is the subject of my only photo today....


Hang, a beautiful thirteen year old posing, shyly, in the setting sunlight (at my request). Hang and her older brother joined us while we sat and had a beer. You may ask why? Well Hang sells chewing gum from a tray in front of her on her wheelchair. Her brother pushes her along the streets of Hanoi which are not easily navigated in a wheelchair. What my photo doesn't show, and you wouldn't guess, is Hang was born severely deformed. Her fingers protrude from where her elbows should be and her toes are at the end of bloated stumpy thighs. Five in every hundred children born in Vietnam today (2012) are born with birth defects caused by the Agent Orange that the Americans sprayed by the millions of gallons onto to Vietnam in the late sixties in an effort to deforest the coutry and flush out their enemy. The toxins in agent orange were obviously also sprayed onto the population, Hangs grandparents. The effect of those toxins, an experiment by the US military, live on in the population still today. US servicemen who used or came into contact with Agent Orange also had birth defects in their families after the war - they have been well compensated but the US governement and agent orange manufacturers still deny blame and any reason to compensate or help the Vietnamese. (End of lecture, Google it if you wish to know more).

For my part, I don't like chewing gum so did not buy any but suggested to Hang we could shoot a few photos and I would pay her a fee. (not easy when my Vietnamese is zero and Hang and her brother have enough English to survive but not to answer my questions). Anyway we had half an hour of fun and laughs and I took photos that Hang will be proud of - she will never see herself as I have depicted her here, all thanks to the acts of some misguided people from thousands of miles away over half a century ago!

We said goodbye to Hang and her brother and I felt shame for the acts of the Americans all those years ago. A few minutes later Hang's brother appeared again and gave us most of the contents of the chewing gum tray ( I guess it equated to whatever monies I had given them). It seems after all what has happened he felt it necessary to 'pay what was due'. How about it USA???????