Chez l'abeille

Culture. Travel. Writing. My world in words and pictures

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Mirror, Mirror

Sometimes things just happen. That, I guess is what constitutes a happening. The arrival of a mirror maze in Peckham for one weekend only is always going to be a happening. Add that it’s in the Copeland Park/Bussey Building’s achingly hip enclave and it is always going to be up there in the zeitgeist.

I’m not going to write a lot about the background to the work – there’s a really decent article by Creative Review, which tells you everything you need to know. Briefly, the work is by Es Devlin who has a background in stage design. It’s exploring scent, memory and identity. It’s created in partnership with i-D and Chanel to celebrate creativity from women in arts and culture aross the world.

What it actually is: a really fabulous, immersive, mesmerising artwork!

I’m glad I went down early on the opening day as I think visitors would be queuing round the block by the end of the weekend as word spread. By the time this post goes out it will all be over, but that I suppose is what makes it the best kind of memory – a transient moment of total magic.

©Chez l’abeille  2016





Seeing in black and white #1

36 years ago as a rather penniless student, I made one of the most expensive purchases I had ever made til then – my much loved Pentax ME SLR camera (special edition, brown body, not black). This little camera travelled the world with me and took thousands of photos over the years, until more modern digital cameras pushed it off pole position.

“Black and white are the colors of photography.” Robert Frank

Recently, on a whim I had it re-conditioned and have been testing it out. I have realised how used to instant pictures I have become. The art of slow photography; not wasting a shot, filling up a full roll of film and then patiently waiting for the results, good or bad, has become rather passé. These days we carry cameras on us permanently, taking pictures on our devices in a moment and instantly deciding to delete or keep. With a 35mm camera you set out to look for pictures. So camera in hand I have been taking odd shots over the past few weeks to see how it still works.

First up: Nunhead Cemetery again. My favourite gothic gloom and headless angels. The light was very low as it was damp and dusky when I went there, so they are a bit grainy, but I think this suits the subject matter.


Cornishman Charles Simmons’ grave Nunhead

Angel, Nunhead cemetery

Angel, Nunhead cemetery

Nunhead cemetery

Nunhead cemetery

The second foray was to Broadgate Circus in London for lunch. Here I was looking at the tones, structures and shapes of the buildings. Continue reading

Walking the line

Peckham coal line walk routeThere’s been a lot of talk about lines recently. Mainly red ones, drawn metaphorically by politicians, marking the extent of their policies in the recent General election. There is however a newer line being discussed down in SE15: The Peckham Coal Line Walk.

Historically, the space between the twin railway lines which connect at Peckham Rye Station formed a coal yard – run by a company called Rickett Cockerell & Co Ltd. The railwayline sidings were used as a coal drop, where coal would be stored before being sold on. A rather grandiose royal warrant and a sign over the doorway to their office in a photo held by the Museum of London indicate their status as “Coal Merchants to the King” (enlarge the image to see the detail). It would also appear that they were involved in an interesting lawsuit involving the sale of goods act. From this I learn, as consumers, we are not expected to test the entire contents of a sack of coalite, just in case of rogue detonators.

On then to the big idea of the Coal Line Walk : There are so many little pockets of green space around the railway lines which hold the centre of Peckham in an interlocking embrace. Why not link two Peckham stations and the communities around them, by creating a walkway which would use Victorian high level sidings and existing green spaces to create a greenway within our urban sprawl? Continue reading


Ghost signs #1: Milk, bread and tea

I love a bit of current street art, but sometimes you glimpse signs of businesses past, etched into the walls and gable ends around us. I’ve been “collecting” these ghost signs for a while, there are many lurking amongst the older buildings of SE London. In the late 1800’s, as food items became more standardised the use of advertising was important to ensure the public knew about the products.

Daren bread has intrigued me, I have discovered it was a branded whole wheat flour, but is clearly a brand which has disappeared from our lives. Hovis and Liptons tea, on the other hand, are still very much available!

©Chez l’abeille 2015

Christmas comes to Peckham!

It was a busy weekend for festive activity in SE15. Not only was there the Nunhead £3 Bazaar, but we also had the annual Pexmas market in the appropriately named Holly Grove and the Bellenden Road Christmas bonanza. It all added up to a great atmosphere and lot of lovely things to see, hear and buy!

The holly trees in Holly Grove provided a splendidly seasonal backdrop to the stalls and the smell of mulled wine was pretty intoxicating. It was the perfect sunny day for a walk around all three events and it would seem a lot of residents also thought the same. Time to start decking the halls and letting the festivities begin!

©Chez l’abeille 2014

Camberwell Beauty ceramic butterfly


The history of the Old Kent Road.

I found myself walking down the Old Kent Road today, in search of builders’ rubble sacks (but that’s another story for another day). Heading home I walked past the old North Peckham civic centre, which currently houses a church. Now I’ve gone past this building hundreds of times on the bus but I don’t think I’ve ever actually stopped to look closely at the large polychrome frieze that decorates the exterior of the building. What a surprise it is.

It is called “The history of the Old Kent Road” and does what it sets out to do, depicting the history of the area from the Romans arriving in Kent to the Canterbury pilgrims on through to modern (60’s) times. The piece is constructed from irregular shaped tiles, with well defined and boldly drawn figures and designs. I particularly liked how each figure had a completely unique face and expression! I also liked the use of the locally named Camberwell Beauty butterfly to form the surround to the entire frieze.

I discovered that, at 1000 feet square, it is the largest secular work by the Polish sculptor, Adam Kossowski (1905 – 1986). Kossowski arrived as a refugee from the Soviet labour camps in England in 1943. This work was designed in 1964 and completed in 1965. It now appears to be under the protection of the Twentieth Century Society.

From the bus it looks rather grimy and unloved. Up close you can see the hand of a skilful ceramicist at work and how beautiful it actually is!

I also liked this blog I found which describes the frieze too .

©Chez l’abeille 2014



Wooden carved bench peckham

“My heART is in Peckham”

There’s an awful lot of art in Peckham. Just taking a circular walk will show you art by the famous to the unknown, the carefully planned and the instant pop up. Here’s a sample of the things you could see on 31st May 2014.

First of all the newest work on the block: a huge mural painted by Walter Kershaw. Apparently he is dubbed the “original Banksy”. That’ll push the house prices up a notch more then. This end of terrace masterpiece was painted over several weeks during the annual Dulwich Festival.  I’m not entirely certain what the inspiration is – clearly wind and flight play a part! During the festival last year a piece of street art by ROA was added to the side wall of the Victoria Inn. It was based on a small dog in an otherwise unappealing painting. I’m now getting to like this after a rather indifferent start.

Around Bellenden Road there are several art works which were installed during the first wave of gentrification.  These include the famous Anthony Gormley bollards and some mosaic murals which spell out phrases such as “I love Peckham”. A little further down the road is the Petitou Cafe, where the patio terrace is a ceramic tiled map of the area by Loraine Rutt. I have a fabulous A5 sized ceramic map of the area made by Loraine, who has her studio in the Bleinhem Grove studios.

Continue reading