Friday, 9 December 2011

BBC London 10th December

Come to the Circus! 

Don't worry, I haven't been as organised as I led you (and myself) to believe the last time I was on air. But I'm not worried (well, I am, but I'm sure I have better things to be worried about), mostly because this week, from 14th-18th of December, 10am-8pm, there's a free Christmas shopping festival happening, and it's right up my street. It's in Redchurch Street, actually, where the beloved Caravan used to reside, and the east London area that's always being touted as The Place To Go.

There's a building there called the Tramshed, which used to be 
the electricity generating station for the Shoreditch Tram system. The architecture in the main hall dates back to 1905, and this is where the fair is taking place. Expect new and emerging British labels selling homewares, taxidermy (shriek!), ceramics, fashion, jewellery, art and accessories. 

There will be a Christmas bakery and cafe hosted by Lily Vanilli to stop you fainting, a Bloody Mary bar by Little Devil Spices to whet your whistle, floristry by a company called Rebel Rebel, a cider and mulled wine bar in case your whistle isn't quite whet enough, and food by Blanch and Shock - who sound exciting if a bit scary.

There's going to be something called The Fashion Trunk Show, too, where independent designers (including Susie Bubble, Katie Eary, Fred Butler and Atalanta Weller) will be selling their clothes and bric-a-brac. And a chance for charity - voluntary donations that will all go to Crisis's Christmas Dinner Campaign.

And there's roasted chestnuts and gift-wrapping. What more can I offer?

Have a look on www.circus11.com for all the details.


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Our old friends at Shelf closed down their shop on Columbia Road last year, which was quite sad, but still have an online presence, and I'm happy to say are becoming tangible again for the few short (again, shriek) weekends we have before Christmas Day.

Jane and Katy tell me this:

"Shelf-wise, we have thoroughly enjoyed getting our weekends back because it was this lack of family time that was our main reason for stopping, so you could say we have re-energised ourselves, got back in touch with the creative areas we know best and are finding Shelf to be a much more exciting prospect as a project-based endeavour..." which sounds like a brilliant balance, and to prove it, they'll be showing off a host of eclectic products in 13a Boundary Street, in the studio of Bold Collective, opposite Albion restaurant. 


I just found out about their blog (theothersideoftheshelf.blogspot.com), which is as treatsville as their shop used to be, and discovered the sort of things they'll be selling this weekend, as well as featuring products from the guest artist Jo Gordon, who makes luxury knits (direct quotes):

traditional Swedish mittens handknitted by their friend Bodil who lives in a tin hut by a lake in Mellur├╝d 
Russian dolls
 wind-up birds that sing
 characterful felt glove puppets
 cuddly lions from Sri Lanka
 happy chopping boards
 kaleidoscopes
wooden molecule building sets
unusual games and prints
 children’s books
zany old stationery – jotters and labels and ribbons and printed tags and bags and tin badges and scraps and all manner of ephemera including hundred-year-old-butter-papers and fifty-year-old Italian lemonade labels and vintage orange wrappers and ladybird books and interesting packets of seeds

 The last items on the list came from all over the world, and used to be secreted away in the basement of the Columbia Road shop, but they've decided to divide them all up into crazy little packs. Hooray! 

They also asked me to say that last weekend was the first of the pop-up dates and it was amazing to be so well supported by so many familiar faces; customers who have been coming to the shop for over ten years now, and who have expressed their pleasure at being able to come to the temporary pop-up shop.

 No surprise for us other customers at all.


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Looking back over some of the independent shops / designers that we've talked about this year, it's nice to mention a couple of success stories. Elliot & Tate, the restorers of Danish furniture, who only set up business in September, are already being stocked in Liberty (4th floor), which gives you an idea of their quality. I'll keep an eye on them, and let you know what else they're up to, but have a look on www.elliottandtate.com for all the recent details.

They alerted me to the fact that they're stocked in London's first vintage department store, too.

It's called Blitz, and is to be found at 55-59 Hanbury Street, E1.

It used to be a Victorian warehouse, and is a huge space now packed with clothes, furniture, books, bikes, luggage, records... Have a look at blitzlondon.co.uk to see some of their latest stock.


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Do you remember Toots a MacGinty, the unisex clothing line for children? We spoke to Kate, the designer who set it all up from her living room in south London, when it was just launching in July - and she's been doing fantastically since.

 The clothes are flying off the shelves in the boutiques she's in (have a look at tootsamacginty.com for stockists, but she's all across London, from Carry Me Home in Kingly Court, to Izzy Jones boutique in Queens Park, and Semmalina Starbags in Ebury Street, SW1), and they'll be flying off the virtual rails online too - because leading up to (the last postage date for) Christmas, she's got a 30% sale on selected items. 


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Quick reminder not to forget the creative shop SCP, too, which is stocking a host of crafty products for children, or makey adults. Online at www.scp.co.uk, or in their two shops – 135 Curtain Road or 87 Westbourne Grove

Nanoblocks
Nanoblocks are the smallest building blocks in the world – like lego but tiny. There are nine models at £8.50 each… like a French Bulldog complete with tiny bowl. £8.50.

Enamel bake set
In blue or red. £55

Fashion designer kit, with a mini wooden mannequin, or an outdoor explorers kit – a NZ company called Seedling has come up with entertainment in a box (ages 4-10)
 £36.



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(On this note, have just discovered last posting dates by airmail to US was yesterday - oops - and to Europe is Monday. I think I'll send my US cards anyway, with a prayer. Last postal dates for parcels within the UK is Wednesday 14th, although you can get express delivery / special delivery from 21st to 23rd, if you're really last minute. )


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Finally, but actually, most importantly, if you'd like one of your gifts this year to go to a vulnerable child who otherwise won't be having a very happy Christmas, you could buy something for Kids Company. 

We've talked about them on the show before - a really vibrant helpful charity that has helped hundreds of vulnerable and deprived children in London. This year they have a wish list at John Lewis, which is a fantastic idea. 

The details are on the Kids Company website (kidsco.org.uk) but it's very easy: just go to www.johnlewisgiftlist.com. Click on ‘buy a gift’ and enter the gift list number 484121. There's a whole range of things you can buy - t-shirts at £8, make up sets for £5, baby dolls for around £25, story books, tea sets...it's a very simple and devastatingly profound gesture. It's not the fault of the children that they're in the position they are in, and it's hard to know how to help sometimes - this isn't one of those times.

There's also a texting £5 donation option, or their Make a Christmas to Remember campaign on Facebook, which you can join and then choose which bit of the Christmas party you donate to.


This Christmas day they will have over 3500 children who wouldn't have had a Christmas, and over 200 volunteers who'll be changing that. Over Christmas as a whole, a further 3500 will be supported in the community with food and gift parcels and through their outreach programme. Children will enjoy hot food, individually wrapped presents, Santa’s Grotto, storytelling, fun and games. They'll be making hats and puppets, ca Christmas mural, playing football, enjoying the bouncy castle. or join in fun activities such as football and a bouncy castle! Kids Co have an Arts Team who, along with volunteers, will have created a winter wonderland.

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