Thursday, June 15, 2006

a wapping good time

Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 0.5
Hair day: Straighteners are hilariously brill, though fringe is so long now that I keep bumping into things (whilst looking very fashionable, of course)

Had an unexpectedly supercool time on what should have been an unassumingly quiet Wendesday night in. Andy and I took a post-dinner stroll past the satisfyingly pongy Stepping Stones City Farm and the villagey St. Dunstan's Green to Limehouse. Having previously viewed this area only as an out-of-the-way backwater for city lemmings, it's growing on me massively. The street names - Narrow Street, Ropemaker's Fields - seem to peel back the centuries, pubs creak invitingly, and joggers pass serenely down gleaming, non-Asbo-ed-up pavements n their way home to their converted docklands warehouses. It's sedate, sanitised even, but there's some history lurking in oily corners. We stopped at our favourite riverside pub, The Grapes (gloomy wood interior, proper smoke-riddled locals, posh fish restaurant, Dickens' old haunt), to gaze out onto an alien, steel-pink Thames, whilst birds were tiny black shards in the sunset.

We wandered to Wapping, with Canary Wharf a menacingly glittering Death Star to our left. Finding our target, the very ancient Prospect of Whitby, under refurbishment (probably into a gastro-tapas-tequila bar, but we can cross our fingers), we slipped down Pelican Stairs alley and onto the beach. We had the river and the night and the mud all to ourselves, with the football echoing over from a chav pub on the south side, and the odd booze cruise leaving a coda of waves. Most spookily, a hangman's noose is strung high on a mast at the back of the pub, and slapped a rather macabre silhouette on the night sky; maybe it's an alternative way to eject people after one too many Barcardi Breezers.

Leaving the beach, we stumbled on The Wapping Project, which I've been meaning to check out for a while. People, it is the most ludicrously edgy urban-swank hulk of cool I have ever entered. A converted hydraulic power station, the building is no glossy, clean-lined renovation a la Tate Modern. It's bravely kept its stark husk, with the industrial remnants right in your face: sitting on slim modernist chairs and glugging shiraz from almost square glasses, we were surrounded by rusting power generators, hulking old cubicles and thick trunks of pipes scaling the walls, all softened only slightly by dozens of fat candles dotting around the place. It was fall-about-on-the-floor hilarious hipness from concrete slabbed floor to crane-your-neck ceiling. Even better, the waiter covertly led us and our drinks to the artspace at the back of the building, and opened foot-thick metal doors into a dank, dark cavernous room, where we watched Angus Boulton's video-sound installations on run-down Russian Olympic gymnasiums before I got spooked when our shadow puppetry on the screen seemed to turn everything off with an echoey bang and we ran away back to the safety of the light and post-classical music. But what a space! Am desperate to stage my 1 and half year-old music-theatre piece sedna stories in there. Would be triple-cool.

That said, I'll already be double-cool next year if a proposed project in which I write for (gasp!) Antony from Antony and the Johnsons next year....

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