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 for all the details.


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 (, 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 Mellurüd 
Russian dolls
 wind-up birds that sing
 characterful felt glove puppets
 cuddly lions from Sri Lanka
 happy chopping boards
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.


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 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 to see some of their latest stock.


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 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. 


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, or in their two shops – 135 Curtain Road or 87 Westbourne Grove

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)


(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. )


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 ( but it's very easy: just go to 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'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.

Monday, 7 November 2011

BBC London 12th November

I'm thinking about Christmas, I really am. I'm thinking that this year, I won't embark upon elaborate stamped cards that I begin too late, which means I miss last post dates (ref: last year). I'm thinking that I won't start to enjoy the build up too late, so that I forget the actual event is happening really soon, and begin the shopping too late (ref: most years).

 Which is why, in November, mid-November (late for my organised friend Tracy, but early for me) I'm reading Sarah Raven's Complete Christmas, currently £16.42, instead of £25, on Amazon.

(I interviewed Sarah Raven once for The Independent on Sunday, in her beautiful cutting garden. It was around this time of year, I bought a Christmas wreath in her shop, and wanted to buy everything else. So I took an online browse again, and still want to buy just about everything she sells. Have a look at


The V&A have a fantastic Christmas catalogue this year. I usually go to them for cards, when I'm not attempting ill-fated personal designs, and this year, I'm predicting that I'll be getting more than cards from the shop.

'Rainbow Embroidery' pack of 10 cards, £4.75

 Here's a surprise in a cup - the hidden animal in this one is a bear, but the collection includes an owl and a fox. I like.

'Hidden Bear' teacup, £18

Giving a gift of a game at Christmas is a good idea I think - it's bound to be given a go on the day - and even better if the game looks beautiful sitting on a shelf for the rest of the year. This Deer Jar game is a sophisticated version of Jenga: pile as many antlers on the stag as you can...


I'm a sucker for little bird ornaments, especially for decoration at Christmas, and THESE are ONLY £2.50 each. Which, as a fake-bird lover, is a bargain.

On that note, every year (to the despair of my husband), I buy bejewelled birds from Paperchase. Here they are, just waiting to be added to my growing collection:

8 birds for £14

Back to the V&A, and illustrator and typographic expert James Brown has contributed to the Cherry on the Cake: Paper collection -  a screenprint of William Morris' wise words:


Some lovely books too, including this newly illustrated version of Hans Christian Anderson's fairytales:



Donna Wilson, the fabric and knitting impresario, has some great products. Not always a cheap option. But if you're buying for someone who you know you're going to end up spending a bit more on, then have a look. (And there are some bargains, if you keep reading). Some examples:

Fox scarf, 100% lambswool, £47 (also in orange)

Cushions are her big thing. As evidenced by:

Robin cushion. It's £70. So, just for looking. But very cute.


Leaf motif cushion, £72. Also covetable.

Good news is that there's also an 'under £25' section in her online shop, which includes some very cute stuff. She's known for her 'creatures', and has some make your own kits, chiming nicely with this year's DIY atmosphere:

Make your own magpie, for only £16

And here's one of a series of china plates that you'd surely be happy to be gifted:



It's also good to be able to post light things to overseas, and (along with the candle angel wings from Caravan ( which I'm always going on about) my favourite things in this category usually come from Candlestick Press. I mentioned them on the show when they set up a couple of years ago, and they're going strong. The idea is, instead of a card, which is (and I say this despite my love of the things)disposable, send a little pamphlet of poetry. 

There are special pamphlets for Christmas - this one, The Twelve Poems of Christmas, is selected and introduced by Carol Ann Duffy. Really ideal for a post-able present, AND at £4.95, not the most expensive present either. All the pamphlets come with envelope, and a blank bookmark so you can write your own message inside.

It doesn't have to be Christmas themed, either. They have a whole collection, including:

Ten poems about puddings, intro by Nigel Slater

Ten poems about bicycles

Ten poems about London

Also, ten poems about dogs, about cats, mothers, twelve about get the picture. Have a look on Candlestick Press for the whole bookshelf. (


Knoll, the iconic (you know what that means - not budget) design brand are having their annual sample sale on Saturday 19th November. Get there early, and it could very well be worth a visit. (As if the bargains aren't enough to propel us there, they also promise Prosecco, pastries and live music. You probably recognise one of their most famous designs, going strong since 1929 - the Barcelona chair:

Well, a black version of this is going to be the star buy of the day - usually retailing at £4572, it's £899. If you're planning to get a design classic, this is probably the time to bite the bullet. 

As well as that, they promise large reductions on ex-display and sample furniture, many of which are, they say, classic pieces of design history. They'll be selling Eero Saarinen's Tulip tables as well as more recent collections by designer Ross Lovegrove. Have  a look online ( for the products. 

Brilliantly, if you want to order new furniture on the day, you'll get a 15% discount, too. 

Like I say, worth a visit. That's 19th November, from 10am until 4pm (and it pays to be an early bird, in this case), at Knoll International which is 91 Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, EC1V 7EX.


Vintage Wonderland, the last one of the year, is happening this very weekend, on Sunday 13th. From 11am until 4.30pm, in Finsbury Town Hall (beloved of George Fornby), the event that Vogue Italia called 'the most exquisite vintage fashion fair' will be in full swing.

Don't miss it. For an entrance fee of £4, you'll get 50 traders from all across the UK selling the finest picks from their collections, spanning from the 1800s to the 1980s. Expect Christian Lacroix, Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood, and Biba, amongst others. There will be mens and womenswear, cards, baubles, jewellery, vintage film posters, perfume (hopefully not vintage), and shoes.

Have a look here ( for all the details. 


I like this independent toy shop (hard to find) which has a great collection of potential gifts. Hop Toy Shop (, from baby upwards, has a particularly good creative section, which I think is always fun for kiddiwinks around Christmas. Eg:

Containing everything you need to make three owls (and who wouldn't want to?), and at £9.95, the Owl House Family craft kit on my shopping list.


Stackable crayons (non-toxic) from Playon Crayon at £9.95 are another excellent gift, especially good for toddlers and chubster fingers (including mine).


I defy you to find someone who wouldn't want a toadstool nightlight. I'm not even thinking about children here. (£32.95)

Ditto with this marvellous little thing, the Hexbug:

It's a robotic bug (choice of five shapes and sizes)that whizzes its way around, avoiding objects in its way. If you clap your hands or make a loud noise, it will veer away from you - it can hear! Amazing. £10.95, and again, ideal for a post-able present.

I could go on and on, but if I had a scooter or a bike, I might well consider adorning it with this practical bell:

This is the Crazy Stuff cat bell - there's also a bunny and a crocodile, and they're all £10. 

I know I said it was a children's shop, but my over-enthusiasm probably means I never really progressed from the age of seven.   


To quickly re-establish that I am actually very hip and happening, I'd like to point you in the direction of quite a new website called Near to Hear ( Set up by Rich Martin who works in the industry, it's a brilliant guide to everything MUSIC that's happening in Brixton. If you want to go to a gig, or get someone a present of tickets to a gig (which I also like doing), have a look on this website first. 

Rich has weekly gig listings, but what makes this site really interesting is that he also has a fantastic timeline of Brixton's musical history, interviews with current bands, and listening suggestions. 

Rich genuinely lives in Brixton, so is LITERALLY near, and he LITERALLY hears. Definitely worth a perusal. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

BBC London radio 15th October


Grace Jones wearing a... maternity dress!


A late 20th-century style in the arts, architecture, and criticism that represents a departure from modernism.

(Just in case you were wondering)

The V&A shop always has lines reflecting its current exhibitions, and postmodernism is the name of the game until 15th January.

There's furniture, like this set of Carlton shelves designed by Ettore Sottsass for the Memphis design group in 1981. They were pretty rad in their time, pushing against the idea that conventional shapes and colours were the only options.


...and a lot of jewellery, like this ring from a hand carved collection from Helveta Vyotlag, normally based in Brooklyn.

She's a sculptor too, and she takes "the sculpture out of the gallery and shrinks it down to the body". Bright colours, oversized angular geometric forms, and the simplicity of modern Danish jewellery are all in evidence.

This ring, like any coloured pieces in the collection (which includes a crazy yellow wedge ring - literally a wedge, and a green rhombus ring, yes, a literal rhombus), has been sculpted from poplar, and dyed. 

Boulder ring, £50

...colourful headphones fit the bill too, it seems, which is good, since they're colourful and cool:

Spitfire Retro Headphones, £26

One of my favourites, due to love of using the postal service, are these 100 postcards:

...which at £14, is a bargain.

Have a look online ( at all the other products, but one last particular mention for music fans is an album, a collaboration with the V&A and EMI...a selection of post modern tunes. Really! From 1970 - 1990, artists featured include Blondie, David Bowie, Heaven 17, and Culture Club...  


Cabinet of Curiosities

Ben Pentreath Ltd ( is a shop in Bloomsbury (17 Rugby Street) who specialise in searching out beautiful particulars for the home. It's a small shop which sells linen, furniture, lights, vases, antoques, a menagerie of lovely things from all over the world. 

For instance:

orange juice glasses, £8.50

Boat of Life letterpress print (using traditional wood and metal type), £25

Aardvark manifesto, letterpress, £25

and these plates by The John Derian Company, New York, which are created by artist John Derian from collages of antique fruit, flower and animal prints, ledgers that are hundreds of years old, and letters. They're re-printed and pieced together in layers under glass. Quite beautiful:



currently out of stock, sob, my favourite, but ask. £38

Well, from 19th October to the 5th November, there will be a magical change, and the shop will suddenly be filled to the brim with 'curios' designed by Ben Pentreath and artist Bridie Hall. They tell me the Cabinet of Curiosities will be a marvel, and we should expect "handcrafted interior objects, which includes intaglio boxes, decorative decoupage, serious sets of geometric solids and country-house scented candles".

Good for - eek - Christmas presents. 
I'm informed by one very diary-conscious and organised friend that Christmas is only 10 weeks away, so now I feel justified in using the word. I have determined to start planning and doing things early this year, to avoid the scenario that happened last year - making lots of Christmas cards too late to send any. That's what's called big ambition, small sense of time.


I mentioned the Museum of Everything last time, when they were in Selfridges (they still are, until 25th October). But I failed to mention their own shop (, which was an oversight, to say the least.

It's a little shopping pond of pure quirk. Go there for things you don't necessarily need, but would like. Such as:

a card for any occasion, £3

a card for a specific general sort of sorry. Sad, but handy. £3

Tom Wagener print, £80

There are also clothes, homewares, more prints, crayons, notebooks. Almost everything.


Frieze Art Fair

I can hardly leave out Frieze ( - on until Sunday in Regent's Park, there are over 170 galleries, and thousands of pieces of art for sale (1,532 actually). If money isn't burning a hole in your pocket, it's just a good excuse to see a LOT of art. Don't miss the sculpture park outside either. For a virtual tour before you go, have a look here (

Caravan shop

...a favourite haunt of mine on Redchurch Street, has moved, but it's a secret where to for now (as soon as I know, I'll tell you). In the meantime, you can still buy some of the lovely stock online ( Like this pineapple candle holder that you can put on a plain wall to make it stupendous: 


or these, my all time staples for post-able presents (they come wrapped in a bijou little package that fits in an envelope) - and, many times, they've become personal gifts to myself...

              angel wings for candles. £5.50

Let us know when you have a new address, Caravan! 


Shoreditch Vintage Fair

             not as mean as it seems

For fans of clothes and accessories from bygone eras, today is your day. From 12-5pm at Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, there will be 50 stallholders selling all kinds of vintage goods from the 1940s to the 1980s. Enjoy!


Sample sale

Today! It's the London Designer Sale, happening in Hampstead Town Hall Centre, 213 Haverstock Hill. Until  6pm tonight you can get up to 80% off labels that include: Aquascutum, Belstaff, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Coccinelle, Carniani, Chloe, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, Moschino, Patrick Cox, Prada, Sergio Rossi, Thomas Pink, Tods, Vivienne Westwood & YSL…