On March 15th 1927, 91 years ago, the first women’s boat race between Oxford and Cambridge took place on the Isis at Oxford. It was Boats for Women as well as Votes for Women. Margaret Teify Rhys, my aunt, known as Tiffy, coxed the Cambridge eight and in a forthright interview in March 1989 recalled the controversies and the highs and the lows of that time. On this first occasion Cambridge was represented by the the Newnham College boat, before other women’s colleges had begun rowing. The interview by Alana Martin was broadcast on BBC Woman’s Hour to mark the first time that both men’s boats were coxed by a woman.
You won’t be surprised eyebrows were raised at the idea of women taking part at all. You may have heard about the mismanagement and mix up over the rules. They tried to keep it quiet, racing at 1.15 hoping that everyone would be at lunch. I hope you will be entertained.
Richard Rhys O’Brien
You can’t sit out the dance
For this little homily song on our journey through life, I have chosen a few pictures from my own travels. This song niggles at me whenever I’d rather hide away from the world, trying to “sit out the dance”. Perhaps subconsciously we write about the challenges we know from experience are hard to meet. Having spent much of my working life helping people deal with the future, it’s always been worth remembering that whatever the future, or present, you have to work with it. That way you also have a chance of shaping it! It’s not the first song I’ve written that has made me think I should practice what I preach!
So we start with an obvious train-track image setting out clearly the long journey ahead: but I just love the chap standing bang in the middle of the tracks as if he is wondering what to do next – well, he is on the phone to someone trying to find out perhaps. Of course the alternative could be to take the road on the left….
Some like to know where they’re heading
Some rather just leave it to chance
But however you tackle the future
You know you can’t sit out the dance
Rich or poor, you still have to play the game
Whoever you are, you still have to play the game you are in.
It may be a ball, with champagne on ice
It may be a barn dance, with the straw and the mice
Whatever your fancy, whatever your home
You can’t sit out the dance
Life keeps you jumping
I love this photo of the boys playing cricket on the endless beach of Chennai, India. Wherever the ball goes or is coming from you have to play the game. Though sometimes when you are young you are directed where to go, like these Japanese schoolchildren.
Life keeps you jumping, rest when you can
Between boredom and surprises, between dry toast and jam
Keep smiling and look forward, celebrate and applaud
All those who keep dancing, sweet lady, sweet lord
The dance of life follows many rhythms
You can be on your toes, you can wallow in the mud, but you are still in the dance.
You may like the polka and wear little red shoes
Or something much slower, dance to the blues
Whatever you do, dance!
Move with your partner, sway with the band
Take your place for the dance
Thank you for reading and listening! Enjoy the dance!
This fifth and final blog on selected iconic buildings of London modelled by Timothy Richards is of the now departed Wembley Twin Towers. The model in its larger size shown here was presented to various dignitaries at the ceremonial events at the time of their demolition in 2003 – a noble souvenir of what had once been noble. Smaller bookend versions are still available.
Unlike the buildings in my previous blogs, the Twin Towers are very unlikely to be resurrected, not least because very little remains of them. Nor did they find a new use which might have prevented demolition. However you could say that as with Temple Bar and Euston Arch, the idea of a highly visible construction lives on in the new Wembley Stadium Arch. I suspect more Londoners have seen the arch, albeit at a distance, than the towers – unless you were a football fan.
A new icon?
Of course the Arch may not become such an iconic building as the old Twin Towers, but usually that is for history to tell us. The world changes and certainly the Wembley area, like elsewhere, has seen its fair share of change over the years.
Twin Towers built 1923
In the right light……
It looks good in the sunshine and with great lighting!
Arch at night
The tower that never was
In one sense the new Stadium Arch brings to Wembley what the Towers’ predecessor, Watkin’s Tower or Folly, tried to do. This was the partly-built tower on the style of the Eiffel Tower, never finished and demolished in 1907, almost a century ago. If completed like in Paris this would have been a landmark for miles. We might note that Eiffel’s masterpiece was not only completed (in 1889) but withstood plans for early demolition and still stands 127 years later. The Eiffel Tower was of course a pioneering construction, which is not something you could claim for Watkin’s Tower nor the Wembley Arch.
Compared to Temple Bar (200 years in Fleet Street, 125 years in a rural park, restored at the age of 330) and Euston Arch (125 years in place, 34 years underwater, another two decades so far in storage), the Twin Towers were mere 75 year old youngsters. Interestingly, like the Eiffel Tower, the 1923 Wembley Stadium, built specifically for the Empire Games, was slated for demolition in 1925, but was saved from this early demise. The stadium made it into the second Millennium, but though the plan to demolish the towers was first met with considerable opposition, they finally succumbed to progress. The concrete icons eventually became mere rubble, just as the Euston Arch was used to plug a hole in an East London river. Plans to preserve some parts of the Towers for display have apparently been ground into dust.
A video set to music records the demolition, and much was made of the fact that it was a German digger that began the demolition. 1966 anyone?
A pile of rubble becomes a playground
What I do know, from researching this blog, is that every time I leave London on the A40 Western Avenue, not long after I have passed the Hoover Building of the previous Building Blog No 4 , I pass the main graveyard of the old Stadium, the rubble helping to build the Northala Fields mounds. Bet you didn’t know that either. The Twin Towers moniker hasn’t died totally, labelling some of the new tall buildings steadily surrounding the stadium.
So thanks for the memory
The Twin Towers moniker hasn’t died totally, labelling some of the new tall buildings steadily surrounding the stadium. Likewise there is now a bar and restaurant, with a strong Irish and sporting theme, called Watkin’s Folly, and a Watkin Road. Perhaps the strongest memories will live on in the minds of the many thousands who enjoyed their football, watched the Empire and Olympics Games or listened to their favourite rock group under the watch of the twin towers of Wembley. And the models hold up my old books nicely.
That’s all folks, for now
That’s it for now for my five part series of blogs on a few models of iconic past and present London buildings, or more fully, buildings, towers and arches. Buildings that have been demolished, moved, relocated, resurrected, changed to survive or just plain disappeared off the face of the Earth … or have the Twin Towers just gone underground? There’s more to our buildings than meets the eye. And do take a look at all the other wonderful models that Timothy Richards has on offer!
In my first two building blogs I featured iconic London buildings that have been demolished: in the case of Temple Bar, dismantled and relocated twice, in the case of Euston Arch demolished, drowned and a candidate for restoration.
In this third blog we look at the Floral Hall at London’s Royal Opera House, the first of two examples of how buildings learn to survive. As always these buildings live on in the wonderful models made by Timothy Richards. In the next blog we will look at the Hoover Building on Western Avenue, London.
Orchids to Opera
In central London the exodus of the Fruit and Veg market from London left an almost vacant space and buildings needing a new life. Unlike Les Halles in Paris, we have retained most of the buildings, which I prefer to the way Paris has struggled with the space. Despite the crowds, sometimes Covent Garden seems rather soulless, a tourist attraction with restaurants of all kinds and some street entertainers. One building that could easily have been demolished was the Flower Market building next to the Royal Opera House.
Oysters and Opera
The Floral Hall retains a sense of history though it was completely rebuilt when being made part of the Royal Opera House. In the words of Historic England it is designated a Grade 2 building “As a fine example of Victorian technological innovation despite its dismantling and re-erection in the 1990s; For the high quality of its design and decorative elements; As an example of the work of the eminent Victorian architect EM Barry; For group value with the same architect’s Grade I listed Royal Opera House, which it was originally designed to complement”. In truth from the outset the Floral Hall was part of the Royal Opera experience, in that not only was it designed by the same architect, E.M.Barry, the third son of Charles Barry of Houses of Parliament fame etc, when redesigned the Opera House itself, but also the occasional ball was held in the Hall.
The Floral Hall now provides entertaining space for the Opera House, with its oyster bar and other dining areas, and a roof terrace overlooking the Covent Garden piazza when you need a breath of fresh air in the interval.
Tim’s model focuses well on the Hall’s Victorian 1870s ironwork and glass facade, the light shining through. It pairs up well with his second model of the Opera House itself.
Echo-chamber and informal performance space
One downside, inside, is that despite the high ceiling it is a really noisy space. I’ve never actually stopped for oysters but have watched the crowd briefly as I glide upwards on the escalator to the bar upstairs. In this first video the echo-chamber effect makes it sound more like a railway station than a genteel watering hole for opera.
In the second video a flashmob seems to quieten it down.
Vilar to Hamlyn
What I also rather like is the name on my particular model, the Vilar Floral Hall. Many of our buildings are now advertising boards for their sponsors. The rescued Floral Hall was originally named after the arts sponsor Alberto Vilar who pledged funds to many musical ventures around the world – but this was not the only one where he fell short of delivering on his full pledge. Convicted of fraud, money laundering amongst other things I believe he is still serving his sentence in the US. I like to think my out-of-date model is a bit of a collector’s item, like stamps that have been wrongly printed. It is now the Paul Hamlyn Hall, following a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (founded by the late publisher) for education and community activities at the Royal Opera House.
Windows maketh a building
The glory of the building is not only in the sweeping ironwork curves in their windows – and doubtless were key features is preventing destruction. There is value in windows- no wonder they were once taxed. It’s probably irrelevant, but I note the window tax was finally abolished in 1851, less than a decade before the Floral Hall was built in 1858/9.
How buildings learn
All this leads to the question of how buildings adapt, or, in the phrase of Stewart Brand, how they “learn”. For a longer discourse on how buildings learn to survive I do recommend looking at Stewart’s 1997 BBC programme “How buildings learn” with music by Brian Eno. The programme, based on Stewart’s book of the same name, was also innovative by being filmed entirely, I believe, with handheld cameras, doubtless cutting filming costs!
Also changing to survive……
Next week, from Hoover to Tesco, a look at the one of the classic industrial buildings built alongside the arterial roads running out of London, the Hoover Building.
This is the first of five blogs on five iconic buildings of London, one which has been relocated and then returned to London, one which has been demolished but may be rebuilt (Euston Arch) one which has been demolished for ever, and two which have changed their role in order to survive. They are all still alive in my own little collection of Timothy Richards models.
First, Temple Bar. This Timothy Richards model celebrates the return of the old Temple Bar to London. For me it has a little story attached. In my little book published 25 years ago, Global Financial Integration: the End of Geography I was trying to draw attention to the ways in which geography was often being eroded by revolutions in technology and the whole globalisation process. The title alone spurred many in the world of geography to champion the cause of geography, so I like to think it at least gingered up a profession that was a little dusty.
What is very clear is that so many of our rules and regulations are governed by geography. But so many rules now cross borders – though that isn’t stopping some to work against the flow and “get their country back”.
A symbol of who’s in charge
Temple Bar was a great historical symbol of the role of place in regulation. It was at Temple Bar where our monarchs had to stop and acknowledge that they were now entering the realm in part governed by the City of London. The monarch still has to pause on entering the City of London on official occasions – albeit for the Lord Mayor to present a sword in acknowledgement of royal authority.
When Temple Bar was restored to London after its long walk in the park – more than a century in Theobalds Park, near Chesham in Hertfordshire – it couldn’t return to Fleet Street. It had been removed from there in 1878 because it got in the way of the traffic. Instead it became a grand archway to the new Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Return to guard the private space
Not long after this phoenix-like return, Temple Bar, curiously and inadvertently, resumed its role as guardian of the financial realm of the City when the Occupy protesters planned their sit-in outside the London Stock Exchange after the 2007 crash.
Whilst the new offices of the London Stock Exchange are indeed now in Paternoster Square, the stock exchange as you would think of it isn’t really there. The trading floors of the exchange now exist in the banks across the City: there is no physical floor at the Exchange itself. Indeed when the Stock Exchange wishes to make a ceremonial announcement now it rings a bell at the top of the stairs in the lobby, a rather low key exercise. You won’t find many financiers there.
Ha, I thought, see how the end of geography is happening! There is no “there there”. However the dance between geography and regulation revealed another more recent twist: the camp did not end up outside the Stock Exchange because by now Paternoster Square was no longer a public space: another public space had gone into private ownership. As a result protesters in the Square were more easily removed by the police. So they had to decamp to protest at the foot of the steps of St Paul’s. The blame for the crash was not being placed at the feet of St Paul and his team, but they felt the shock waves. There were no resignations at the Stock Exchange but the Dean and the canon chancellor of St Paul’s resigned in the wake of the occupation, after having closed the Cathedral to try to keep control of unfolding events. Collateral damage you might say.
Gates and walls, the last bastions of geography
So Temple Bar is back, no longer a gateway to the City but a gateway within the City to a private part of the City. In our era of globalisation we have been tearing down walls and barriers – in Berlin, across Europe, in South Africa. Yet in an era of rising inequality we have also been erecting new gates – such as around gated residential areas. And there are leaders who want to start putting up new walls. You know who.
Believe it or not, my grandmother was there.....
There is a final personal footnote: in 1878 my grandmother, at 16, may well have witnessed the removal of the gateway, her own birthplace already demolished to make way for the Royal Courts of Justice, as the Victorians steadily cleared the slums of inner London.
As they used to say in my boyhood comics, More Next Week…… on a model of another gateway that is hoping to return from ignominious exile – the Euston Arch.
As we run into the festive season let me present my three love songs through life, two of them duets with my wife. Sugar and spice and all things nice.
We begin on Soundcloud with our first duet about young love, She said yes, a short (less than a minute!) and sweet song from my first album I know a little place. He’s so overwhelmed with getting the answer Yes! he can’t remember the question….. but who cares…..
Off to the future, here we go Always say yes, never say no It’s great, whatever the question
Then it gets a little more serious in a Musical marriage, the opener from my second album, Anguneau sunset. Lovers meet at the taxi rank, as they crash out from their respective classical and heavy metal concerts in the rain. This was first written for the Valentine’s Day Love Eclectic concert in Highbury, North London.
Do they listen to music in bed?
And then the reminiscences
…. and our final duet the schmaltzy heart beating Overtime, the accordion stepping up the pulse as we reminiscence on the very first kiss, the holding of hands, and you’ll love the animals and birds in this video – also from Anguneau sunset.