Last Days: Festival of Love on the Southbank


Exhibitions at the Southbank Centre are generally something I avoid, purely because it sometimes feels a bit too…well, corporate, I guess. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I suppose I assume I’m not going to have that much fun at them, because everything’s going to be very serious, and I won’t be allowed to touch things and engage with them. And there’s a part of me that tends to feel like I should try and find something elsewhere, like it’s some kind of huge cop out to go to one of the busiest tourist destinations in town.

That said, I found myself with too much time on my hands one Sunday after working in the morning, and was at a bit of a loss for what to do. I always like strolling down the Southbank, whatever the weather, so I found myself having a quick cloudy lemonade at the Hayward, and looking through the literature for what was on. Something caught my eye: the Museum of Broken Relationships had set up an outpost, pulling in contributions from London’s broken-hearted residents. I’d read about the museum before, and it really grabbed my interest. People submit artifacts from relationships they’ve been in that have fallen apart. It’s incredibly voyeuristic, but ultimately a fairly uplifting experience. Pain is universal, broken hearts are commonplace, and many of the stories accompanying objects are about how the person concerned has moved on with their life.

I spent a good couple of hours in The Heartbreak Hotel, where not only can you forensically dissect past romances, but you can also examine letters to Cathy & Claire, the agony aunts at ‘Jackie’ magazine in the 70s. You step into an interpretation of the Jackie offices, complete with blocky wooden desks, typewriters and extendable desk lamps. The letters themselves are fascinating, with advice written from most members of the Jackie staff (Cathy & Claire never actually existed). While you’re in there, you can also grab a cocktail from the Department of Good Cheer, and get dressed up as famous pop heartthrobs.

I liked it so much that I revisited the weekend after with a friend, this time going into the Tunnel of Love, which I was a bit too freaked out by to go alone. We wandered in down a corridor of pin ups, both likely (Jennifer Lawrence) and unlikely (David Mitchell). Everything was pink neon hued, saturated in saccharine. At the end of the tunnel we reached a large space with a big Twister board, some viewing booths and a DJ space. Obviously we made our way straight to the DJ booth and started scratching up Donna Summer before viewing a wall of lovelorn confessions written by visitors to the exhibit.

All in all, the Southbank is an excellent place to while away a few hours, and I recommend you giving the Festival of Love a final send off before it vanishes after this weekend.







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You can come back home, back on your own

I had one last fling with London Fashion Week. Yesterday morning, I popped up to Vauxhall Fashion Scout (which was not in Vauxhall, but rather, sponsored by the car company). Now, at this point, I have to take some issue with the maps on my iPhone. I’ve never had an issue with it before, but either I’d put the postcode in wrong (hugely unlikely), or the Maps app had changed where the location was overnight (this is almost definitely what happened.) Anyway, I ended up heading off in completely the wrong direction, considering mounting one of Boris’s bikes, but ultimately totally stressing about. I was only in town for the two shows at VFS, and quite frankly, when you’ve paid THAT much for a train fare, you want to actually achieve what you set out to.

It was easy to work out when I was getting closer. In a world full of suits, just follow the girl with the green hair, or the chick with the turban, and you can be fairly sure they’ll be off to a fashion event. Picking up the pace to cover the last bit of ground – it was now 10.15, and the first show was due to start at 10. Thank god for dodgy Fashion Week scheduling, as I raced up, only to spot a giant queue snaking out of the building. I jumped in, and didn’t get in till around 10.35ish.

Vauxhall Fashion Scout is one of the up and coming showcases taking place during LFW, and has received lots of coverage, including Elle and Vogue. It was held in the Freemasons’ Hall in the City, and certainly the second show I saw, Elisa Palomino, made amazing use of that. We sat in a chapel (if Freemasons’ have ‘chapels’), opera rising up in the background, with models appearing outside the iron gates of the chapel and strolling in. It was an incredible show, and I’m still getting chills just thinking about it.

I had some time to spare before meeting Nanna for frozen yogurt, and decided to go and buy some flat shoes. I thought I’d pop up to Primark on Oxford Street, and decided that I wouldn’t get the tube, but would walk up. I went kind of a strange way, through Covent Garden and Leicester Square, and it took me about an hour. I was most definitely in need of those flat shoes by then, so nabbed a pair of teal flats with a crazy kind of bejewelled, feather detail. I also spotted the Holy Grail, the thing I’d been searching for – a black floppy 70s hat. I hardly ever let myself go shopping anymore, due to massive financial constraints, but to treat myself to two very cheap things instead of just grabbing armfuls actually felt more exciting. But that’s a story for another day.

Flats slipped on and bowler switched for the new floppy hat, I walked off again to Covent Garden. Now, frozen yogurt is something I’ve only fairly recently got into, but my god – if you haven’t tried it, you need to, NOW. We ate at Snog on Garrick Street. Pink guava and chocolate with brownie pieces, blueberries and raspberries. Seriously yum. After that, Nanna and I took a walk down to Somerset House to people watch. Having recently streaked her hair with pink (which has given me such serious hair envy I can’t even think about it that much), Nanna fitted right in. It was a lot quieter down there, but we did see a man in a geisha costume.

After a quick coffee pit stop, we wandered down onto the Embankment. This is one of my favourite things to do at this time of year. I love looking across at those great chunks of grey on the Southbank, glowering over the murky Thames. It’s so bleakly beautiful. We crossed the rive and perched ourselves in one of the few exceptions to the ‘grey’ rule: The Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar. I’d heard about this pop-up bar ages ago, and it lived up to expectations. Sadly, they were out of coconuts for us to drink from, but we settled for some kind of delicious strawberry cocktail. I was very taken with a clock showing English and Bombay times, illustrated by two men whose moustaches formed the clock hands.

Then it was home time. I was exhausted. I’d walked for about three hours in total. I read The Stylist. Some chavvy girls laughed at my hat on the train. Thank God I wasn’t a 6” something man dressed as a geisha.