The Rise of Mindfulness

Workplaces are doing it, students are studying it, even Marines are using it. The practise of Mindfulness is enjoying a huge surge in popularity. TIME magazine declared 2014 to be the year of mindfulness.

Old friends Alexa Frey and Autumn Totton founded the Mindfulness Project on Fitzroy Square, Fitzrovia last year as a space for Londoners to to find peace in contrast with the hectic pace of many people’s lives. They met 11 years ago at university and bonded over their exam anxiety. Autumn reached out to Alexa recently for some mindfulness training over Skype in return for business advice.

But it quickly became apparent that they shared a vision and started working towards launching the Mindfulness Project. “We wanted to create space in London for people who want to practise Mindfulness but don’t subscribe to a religion,” Alexa said. “Mindfulness brings attention to the present moment, trains you to notice your thoughts as thoughts. Many people identify thoughts as facts. You learn to observe your thoughts and by doing so create more distance between you and your thoughts.”

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West End theatres are upstaged by the Almeida as Angel venue scoops eight Olivier awards

West End theatres were upstaged by Islington’s 325-seat Almeida theatre at the glitzy Olivier Awards on Sunday. 

In a classic David and Goliath story, the subsidised, theatre in Almeida street scooped eight awards at the star-studded 38th Olivier Awards ceremony at the Royal Opera House on Sunday. 

The Almeida swept the board Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica, part of former artistic director Michael Attenborough’s final season, which won five awards: Best New Play, Best Director for Lyndsey Turner, Best Lighting, Best Sound and Best Set Design. Richard Eyre’s revival of Ibsen’s Ghosts won Best Revival, Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Lesley Manville bagged the Best Actress gong for her role as widowed mother Helene.

Rupert Goold, Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre said it was a “remarkable evening”.

“The whole Almeida team, including my predecessor as Artistic Director, Michael Attenborough, is proud of our success at this year’s Olivier awards,” he said. “These eight awards and the more recent success of American Psycho, 1984 and King Charles III have confirmed the essential part that our local theatre plays in the capital’s cultural life and cemented our international reputation.”

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Pangolin London: Sculpture in the Home

FOR  a moment it feels like stepping into the pages of an Ian Fleming Bond novel. The latest show at Pangolin London recreates ideal 50s interiors in a heavy nod to the postwar touring exhibitions, Sculpture in the Home.

The original shows were part of a flurry of exhibitions that toured the UK in the 40s and 50s with the intention to entertain, educate but also inform the British public’s taste.

Like the original postwar touring exhibitions, the show at the Pangolin aims to

The focus was on progress and optimism. Where these aims overlapped so did artistic disciplines, many postwar visual artists worked closely with architects, furniture designers, typographers and exhibition designers.

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Curious Duke Gallery: Roy’s People

FORMER sales rep Roy Tyson, 27, may not be a household name but his art project Roy’s People will be recognisable to many.

Left: The Grate Tower; right: Roy Tyson’s Anything’s Possible

Left: The Grate Tower; right: Roy Tyson’s Anything’s Possible. Photo: Roy’s People

He creates miniature installations that imagine the world seen and lived through the eyes of tiny modelling figures.

A family walk their pet beetle along a pebble beach, the toy insect is gargantuan next to the little girl holding his lead.

A forensic team investigate what appear to be giant cigarette butts.

In Anything’s Possible a golfer is caught mid-swing about to drive a golf ball over double her height.

The target? Tower Bridge. That one piece took Roy eight months after the initial idea. He orders the figures from China, customises them and then tries out different poses until it feels right.

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William Benington Gallery: Amy Stephens

WHEN Amy Stephens was asked to put on a solo show at the William Benington Gallery last December she instantly began to consider the space for a site-specific installation.

The architectural sculptor has visited the gallery many times since, sometimes walking past at night to trigger her thoughts.

Minke (whale bone), 2013  photo Amy Stephens; right: The Controller, 2014

Above images: Minke (whale bone), 2013 Photo Amy Stephens; right: The Controller, 2014. Photo Will Marsh

William Benington is no white cube. “The diagonal ceiling beams and uneven walls appeal to me as they offer a sense of charm to the gallery,” she said.

“Overall, the gallery has character and it is always more interesting for me to work with a space and find ways in which to create an architectural dialogue.”

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Art you sitting comfortably?

CHAIRS can be hugely symbolic, whether it’s a ceremonial throne or a favourite cosy armchair.

When performance artist Marina Abramovic was preparing for her 700-hour stint at the Museum of Modern Art in New York last year she paid special attention to her chair. Sitting and interacting wordlessly with the public for days, she arranged an emergency toilet to be secreted within a simple wooden chair so she could relieve herself without interrupting the public performance. I feel it is the standard wooden chair that adds another level of poignancy to the throwaway hosiery limbs of Sarah Lucas’s Bunny series.

Dorothy Cross’s Udder Chair, 2005 – antique sugán chair and cow’s udder

Image above: Dorothy Cross’s Udder Chair, 2005 – antique sugán chair and cow’s udder

A new group show Edge of the Seat: The Artist’s Chair at Large Glass Gallery in Caledonian Road will bring together a coterie of artists who explore the rituals and form of the chair in their work. The exhibition will include newly made pieces by Susan Collis, Jimmie Durham, Martino Gamper and Richard Wentworth.

A written piece on the show from Ali Smith explores, via exhibiting artist Jimmie Durham, the etymology of the word cathedral, the Greek root being kata (down) and hedra (seat) but also the word’s plasticity – the lofty position of chair on a board and the ignominy of the electric chair.

Yet it is the uncanny familiarity of its most simple form that hinges many pieces in the exhibition.

Antony Gormley posits two alabaster eggs on the seat of a corroding lead structure in his early piece Chair. Dorothy Cross will present one of her “udder pieces” in which she drapes a cowhide, replete with teets, over the seat of a wooden chair, encouraging the viewer to question their own definitions of repulsion and decency.

Readers may be familiar with Susan Collis’s work, in particular her 2004 piece The Oyster’s our World, a run-of-the-mill stepladder that appears splattered with paint but is in fact encrusted with pearls, coral and opal.

While I look forward to seeing what she has contributed to this show, I am most keen to observe Jana Sterbak’s Dissolution in person. Her conflation of metal chairs includes seats and backrests made of ice, as these melt over the course of the day the frames bend and fold conjuring a catastrophic scenario and an affecting symbol of time.

Life Drawing Renaissance

LIFE drawing is enjoying a renaissance at the moment and there are plenty of opportunities to join the trend in Islington. Anyone who has been to a life drawing session knows that the thrill and embarrassment of a naked model disappears the moment you start to concentrate and draw.

I have never been to a life drawing class where everyone attending is at the same level or competency. The delight comes from too wide a forehead, too short an arm and the occasional miss-count of fingers.

The life drawing classes at Candid Arts

The following list describes regular, ongoing classes available across Islington. Please get in touch with details of any sessions that have been missed.


35-37 Blackstock Road, 020 7502 7759. £6 per class.

Freelance illustrator Nick Jobbings, 33, started leading life drawing sessions earlier this month at the Blighty coffee shop in Blackstock Road. The café worker swaps coffee beans for charcoal and chalk on Thursday evenings from 7pm. These sessions alternate between portrait drawing and life drawing.

Candid Arts

3 Torrens Street (behind Angel tube station), 020 7837 4237. £7 per drop-in class

The gallery and studio celebrates its 25th birthday this year and is responding with a bumper number of life drawing classes and courses. They run regular sessions from Monday to Thursday from 7-9pm or on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 11am and 1pm. Candid Arts also run monthly weekend groups and week-long summer schools. They have also broadened into private booked sessions and seen their hen party life drawing classes gaining popularity.

Islington Arts Factory

2 Parkhurst Road, 020 7607 0561. £10 (£5 concs)

The Wednesday life drawing drop-in at the Islington Arts Factory appears to be the only class in the borough led by the model. Eamon Kennedy can give pointers while posing but also presents other models. The session runs from 6.30-9pm.


260 Hornsey Road, 020 75274468. Free

These drop-in sessions are aimed at 13- to 19-year-olds and the tutor will direct each session to explore a different material or technique on Tuesdays from 4-5.30pm and 5.30-7pm.

Vagabond Art School at Vagabond Café

105 Holloway Road, £95 per course

Finsbury Park resident Kate Hopkins has enjoyed a long relationship with life drawing. She attended classes for six years throughout her studies at the Slade School of Fine Art and went on to teach for 10 years. She will be leading month-long life drawing courses in the back room of Vagabond coffee shop in Holloway Road. The first course begins on April 3.

Women’s group brings together worshippers from mosque and church

AT one end of the street is one of London’s most high profile mosques. At the other end is one of the area’s oldest Christian churches.

After sharing the same street since the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park opened in 1994 links between the two centres of worship are being forged by a unique women’s group.

Naima Benazouaou, Gill Newman, Pauline Nashashibi and other group members at Wes

Worshippers from the mosque and St Thomas the Apostle Church, built in 1899, known as The Sisters, have been meet­ing for just over a year.

There has been a longstanding relationship be­tween the two worshipping communities but discussions have often centred on male voices. This friendship was one of the attractions to St Thomas’s for Pauline Nashashibi when she was ordained as a Deacon.

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Obituary: Selfless Eleni looked after ‘her ladies’

ELENI Joannou may have hated the spotlight but daughter Christie wants to “shout from the rooftop” about her strength in facing cancer.

Eleni was known to many as the first port of call at the Old Fire Station in Mayton Street, where she had worked as centre coordinator for nine years. She was already a well-known face on the street having worked at a nearby nursery, taking the bus in daily from Enfield, often armed with a well-thumbed book in her handbag.

She not only helped organise events within the community centre but also took special care of “her ladies” in the Wednesday lunch club. 

“She was very loved and highly valued,” said Barbara Scotland. 

“She was our friend not just a coordinator. We miss her dearly. She was kindhearted and caring, there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do.” 

Eleni arranged day trips to the West End, Kew Gardens, Kenwood and the seaside. She also organised facials, manicures and makeup sessions from the City and Islington College students. 

“She was such a wonderful person and always made you feel welcome,” said Marlene Rackal. “I would stay back until she finished at 5pm just for her company. She felt like my sister. As soon as I walk into this building I can see her about, feel her presence.”

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Crowd of well-wishers gathers outside Town Hall as Islington hosts one of the country’s first same-sex weddings

THE world’s media was focused on Islington Town Hall on Friday night as Tufnell park residents Peter McGraith, 49, and David Cabreza, 42, became one of the first same-sex couples to be married in England and Wales. 

“I’m feeling very happy and in love,” said Peter. “Right now we have a long way to go with LGBT agenda and we want to show solidarity with people around the world. If every country offered equal marriage then this would be a much happier, progressive world.”

The couple were one of the first five couples to marry in the early hours of March 29 as new legislation came into force. 

“We’ve been together for 17 years and it’s a lovely day,” said Peter. “But it’s not the start of something new for us. It’s the chance to say to the world, we support them.”

The two grooms wore matching black suits with red carnations and their two young sons were both ringbearers. During the ceremony friends read from poems and spoke of the couple’s love. Guests wiped away tears as Peter serenaded David with a heartfelt rendition of romantic classic That’s All. 

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