Sunday, 2 March 2014

Ballad of the Burning Star at Battersea

Okay, so what's happened this week?   Most of it has been about the children's book (see pic above). that is Lazy Linda, fast asleep with her four flea-arms wrapped around her.   Met up with some of T's long lost relatives who are in the country, and I'm further on with planning the Greece trip. I was also offered an interesting trip to Tunisia, which hasn't been too easy to place because there's a state of emergency in the country, even though it doesn't apply to the bit around Tunis.  I think I've done it, though, and hope to be off there soon.  

The good vibes about my shoulder helped, and it's now on the mend!  And I've gone back on the statins, because going to the gym helped much more than cutting out the pills. Awww, what a shame, but it's true. So twice a week to the gym now. 

The sweet babies continue to play a huge part in my life. 

I love staring into their eyes. They never mind staring right back, and it's such a touching experience somehow.  There are little human beings inside there, working as hard as they can to learn about the big wide world.

We have been getting out and about, the latest trip to Battersea. Battersea was always the downtrodden little brother of posh Chelsea, just across the river. But now Chelsea's choking to death on its own poshness, turning into a sterile ghost town owned by absentee billlionaires, and Battersea is really quite cool. Part of that's due to the quirky, lively Battersea Arts Centre, (BAC). 

BAC has been in the redundant Old Town Hall for years, and I believe helped save it from demolition when the Borough of Battersea was swallowed up into Wandsworth.  They started small and raised the money to create performance spaces, a cafe, a bar, workshops, studios.... all kinds of things.  They now aim to restore the  unusual organ installed in 1901, designed by the man whose ideas led to the Mighty Wurlitzer.  (You'll see it in the background of McFly's "Love is Easy")

It's a great place to hang out and play board games, chat, drink, eat.  The main entrance hall's a triumph of marble and mosaic with a grand staircase leading to the upper floors decorated by a great big frieze.

It's definitely quirky.  There is a blanket box from which you can borrow a fashionable looking blanket in case you are cold.  Saves on the heating bills, anyway!  There's a little parlour with a coal fire like an old fashioned railway station.

And bees (B for Battersea) everywhere - these were built into the original Victorian mosaic floors, so the idea originally came from Battersea Council.

I spotted that someone had made a chess set out of  a cardboard box. 

 Halfway up the stairs a long carpet are benches and little tables. The pictures on the walls are 3-D collages telling of the history of the centre, and the "books" you see there actually tell the story of the centre's progress and development.  

Here's a close up of BAC's early days when the town hall was being rescued from redevelopment.  The pictures are beautifully constructed using card and photos. 

And what did we see?  It was a performance called "Ballad of the Burning Star" and here is the author and chief performer, Nir Paldi, who is Israeli.

"Balllad of the Burning Star" is a production by Theatre Ad Infinitum, looking at the psychological state of Israel.. It's a full on cacophony of energy and noise and emotion.  For me it highlighted the basic psychological truth that if you victimise anyone - a person, a whole race - you thereby teach them to frame the world in terms of that abuse, and their own torture does not suddenly stop when life improves.  Deeply compassionate, tragic, angry, sympathetic, funny at times, too, actually. Humour and spectacle are cleverly used to defuse the violence, horror and pain that makes up so much of Jewish history. The performance was in a small auditorium (and packed out), but might still work even better as cabaret, but perhaps it would have been overwhelming as cabaret because I felt shattered by the end of the evening!

The show has won lots of awards and is currently halfway through a UK tour - click the website link to see if it will be coming near you.      Here are a snap review and audience reaction for it, and here's the trailer, below,  but it doesn't really (in my opinion) give you any idea of the passion, style and life of the show.  Even if you turn the sound up to maximum.

It was great going to Battersea Arts Centre. Even though Battersea is a total nightmare to reach from where we live (public transport, car, bike, none of them are an easy journey) I'll be going again. 


  1. Ah yes. Let the posh have what they will and let the Arts flourish! Beautiful!

  2. I loved your description of Chelsea as "choking to death on its own poshness" (that's also an apt description for some other places I can think of ). I like that mosaic floor, which looks like something that might have been unearthed in Pompeii. And the cardboard chess set is really unique!

    "The Battle of the Burning Star" definitely looks like it's a "theatrical hand grenade". I've never heard of it before, but it's a fascinating concept.

  3. I will have to check it. I haven't been to Battersea for ages. I love London's hidden gems -there are so many of them. I recently discovered Leighton House museum and loved it. There is always something new to see in London!

  4. I have a series of photos of my father's old lined hand lying open, with the tiny new hand of a recent grandchild lying on top.

  5. This does look like an interesting part of London and I'd love to visit it one day.

  6. Fascinating and enjoyable place, in BatterSea. So glad to see it through your eyes. My daughter visited Tunisia about nine years ago. She very much enjoyed her time there but sadly, would not consider a return trip these days. We wish you well on your visit to Tunis.

  7. I remember going to meeting when it was still a Town Hall...looks a bit twee, but if it works, that's fine.
    Good luck for the Tunisia trip! Don't miss the museum in Tunis with the wonderful Roman mosaics!

  8. I so agree, Ms Moon!
    I would say it is extremely twee compared with when it was a town hall Helen, although there is something rather nice about those bees which were devised by the good Burghers of Battersea!
    Yes, Anne, there is always a certain anxiety about going to places that are not entirely calm.
    Muriel, I love Leighton House, we took a japanese friend there recently. He's a collector of Lewis Carroll items and I knew that LC had been a friend of Lord Leighton, so there was a connection.
    That sounds like a photo to treasure, indeed, Joanne.
    Jon, I DID consider listing a few other places that are choking to death on their own poshness... might be fun to start compiling a comprensive list. The strange thing is that the people who buy in these places don't seem to care how awful they are and it doesn't affect the prices. Seems to me like an Emperors New Clothes scenario. :)

  9. An interesting post that I enjoyed reading. Some nice shots.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

  10. Thank you for a wonderful tour of the BAC. Several years ago we briefly lived close by and fell in love with the area. I especially like your photos of the mosaic floors with bees. I have been there many times as an exhibitor at vintage fashion fairs but never ventured much beyond the glorious main hall. Though I did once get lost in the back corridors and come upon a door labelled," Door to nowhere in particular". I didn't push it open. Could it have led to Narnia?

    And of course the baby's foot is such a heart aching photo for all mothers, and grandmothers like me who miss those early moments with their darlings now all grown.

  11. A wonderful old building...beautiful, and how terrific it is that it has been restored and given a new life. There is a lot of love within those walls.

    I've never heard of "The Battle of the Burning Star" before, either...but it sounds like it is a very emotive and worthwhile production to see.

    A very enjoyable, informative post as usual, Jenny...thank you.

    And, is a fascinating pastime that is difficult to escape...watching the beauty and wonder of life...babies. They can take up so much of your time...and it's not time wasted.

  12. Jenny, this was better than any articles I have seen in a while! Thanks for sharing (especially about the show!) and loved the photos!
    All the best,

  13. So often the big touristy places are just that, and not much more, while the places off the beaten path have a character all their own. That performance sounds amazing, and any place that can book great performances like that will continue to do well, i hope.

  14. I love it when old, unused buildings are repurposed for a new use and bloom into life once again!

    And aren't baby feet the most precious sight?

  15. Wow! Looks like an intense show!
    Love the cardboard chess set...and the baby foot. ;)

  16. Sounds and looks like a very interesting place. I found a great deal of London too posh nowadays.

    The performance sounds excellent!

  17. What an unusual building!

    And ah, tiny baby feet. I could hold a baby forever.

  18. Isn't it great to see how a redundant building is turned into a place like the BAC? Can't get much better than that, where you can look at art, learn about local history, meet people, talk to them, play board games with them, sit on cosy benches and walk about in the beautiful building.

    Love what you wrote about babies and staring into their eyes.

  19. Glad that your shoulder is feeling better! Lovely photos of the BAC. It looks like there's something for everyone there.


  20. Such a quirky place! I love how they provide blankets etc., and all the other little nooks and crannies, that gorgeous fireplace. Definitely a spot to re-visit - worth the effort to get there obviously.
    Thanks for sharing your visit with us Jenny.
    Oh yes, and I simply adored that gorgeous baby foot photo too :D)

  21. Aw those babies - I remember telling a friend, when she went to help a daughter with her first baby and wondered what she'd do all day - you'll be amazed how long you can spend just looking at them!

  22. I lived in London for 10 years ( and worked in posh old Chelsea! ) but I never ventured into Battersea. Your description and photographs of the arts centre has awakened a 'homesickness' for London and a great desire to take David to the arts centre soon! Jane xx

  23. You will love Tunisia - I was bowled over by the fabulous Roman remains and mosaics. I am sure you will be fine, there was unrest during our visit but saw nothing of it.
    Babies toes are so appealing, and looking into their eyes fills one with wonder.

  24. It is too many years since I went to Battersea... sob. Loved your descriptions of everything and how ingenious about the cardboard box/chess set. I must have missed the news about the babies... how wonderful for you.

  25. What a fabulous place ... my kind of place ... I shall definitely visit next time I am in London.
    Thank you for visiting my blog - I couldn't reply to your comments as you appeared as a 'no-reply' blogger?

  26. You live a wonderful adventure!!!
    I'm glad you are on the mend! And staring into the eyes of babies is one of the most precious gifts of all times. I would spend hours just looking at my children. You are so blessed.

  27. I have been twice in London but never heard about this place I've just discovered thanks to you Jenny! It looks wonderful and I'm so happy about your babies, we also have twins in family...
    Have a happy week ahead!

  28. I remember Battersea when it was working class, then a Tory council came in and threw them out and sold the houses. Estate agents referred to the area as 'South Chelsea' as it sounded better during Thatchers day!
    I loved the chess set! Super stuff!

  29. Battersea Arts Centre looks wonderful, such a clever restoration of the town hall. Somebody with good imagination has been at work here - love the carpeted nooks on the stair, the 3D collages and the chess set. Little baby toes - so very special, and we can look at the grandchildren's faces indefinitely. Even when they are sleeping, as we were doing with the 4 year old over the weekend :)

  30. This quite touched me; from the tiny dear feet to the lovely theatre!

    We echo each other I think: Do visit me tomorrow to see a shot of the Hawaii Theater that I'm pleased with.

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

  31. I had to stop at the baby foot. Sweet. Battersea looks like so interesting. Liked the bee in the tile floor, you are great at pointing out the details.


  32. Hi there, thanks for visiting my blog. This place looks great and I don't know anything about Battersea so now I feel armed with more possibilities.

  33. so interesting to read about BAC and see the photos, what a great place for residents. :)

  34. Hi Jenny, so pleased you visited me so that I could then find this lovely blog! So much to see and read, and I've also enjoyed reading all the comments that are great stories in themselves. I will certainly be back for more wonderful travels.

  35. Thank you for the comments. I am sorry to say that my finger slipped and deleted one of the comments on the moderation page. What a crazy thing, it's never happened before. So if you are wondering why your comment didn't appear, perhaps that was the one. I didn't even get the chance to see who it was!
    Patricia, I think ESPECIALLY when they are sleeping :)
    "South Chelsea" - that is so pathetic, Adullamite. Chelsea is really horrid now, not that I ever liked it much, but it's become really sterile, sad.
    Thank you for the encouraging words about Tunisia Rosemary.I am slightly concerned of course but I would rather concentrate on the stuff there that is interesting.
    I am glad that the blog entry seems to have been new to so many people, it looks to me as if the centre does a fantastic job with local people, I wish we had something like that locally. It really is a devil to reach it from our part of London!

  36. Looks like another one to add to my growing list of places to visit. I do like quirky buildings like this. Love the bees everywhere, especially the mosaics.

  37. You’re right, Battersea is a hundred times more interesting than Chelsea. (Not that I could afford Chelsea) The show sounds very interesting, I’ll have a look to see if I can get to it.

  38. You make me long for London again, Jenny. Reading such vivid, interesting things about my own home city is truly inspiring. It's lovely to see that so much is still 'happening' there! I love the south of London, even though I grew up in the northern burbs. Thank you for this, Battersea Arts Centre is on my 'must visit' list now.

  39. That photo of baby's little feet made my day today. What a fantastic picture. It brings back so many memories. Lovely post. Good that your shoulder is on the mend. I confess never to have gone to Battersea. I've driven through en route to somewhere else but never been to the actual place. Same with so many places in London. It's such a huge city.

    Have a nice weekend

  40. Bac looks a great place to visit and I love the parlour!

  41. It's a long time since I visited Battersea Arts Centre. I'd forgotten how beautiful the interior is. I love that wonderful ceiling and I love the little bees. The cardboard chess game is ingenious but I imagine it must be a bit tricky manoeuvring the pieces!

  42. What a GREAT post! I loved the illustration from the children's book. And Tunisia and Greece sound like you'll be on your toes. I just wrote down the Battersea Arts Center in my "someday" book. Those benches with the tapestry covers are gorgeous -- and the tiled floors. Sigh.

    My favorite photo though -- baby feet! Oh, I'm so glad you are close to be able to enjoy them! And good for you on the gym. I'm doing the same. Don't like it, wish I could do something else. But it is now what I must do. So I do! Nice to catch up after being gone!

  43. Greetings human, Jenny,

    My alleged human, Gary, has had a good read and looked at the photos with me. Both of us always immensely enjoy your most thoughtful and enlightening posts. Gary says how this post brought back memories. Gary was born just of the King's Road in Chelsea. He used to go over to Battersea park when he was a little boy.

    Thank you for this, dear human Jenny.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar! :)

  44. Must get to the Battersea arts centre. Looks great


Blog Archive