Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Chelsea Fringe and beyond at Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station

One of my abiding memories of childhood holidays in France is that of 'cadeaux'.  Every year PaSock would pack us in the car and set off from Swansea to drive around Europe for a month.  My main memory of Provence, apart from the smell of lavender, is that petrol stations would give away a 'cadeaux' with each tank full - a paper cone containing maybe a couple of sweets, a small plastic toy, or some other bit of nonsense. Rubbish it may have been, but BroSock and I craved the excitement of discovering what goodies were hidden in the cone and would sit in the sweaty, sticky heat of the back of the car chanting "cadeaux! cadeaux! cadeaux!" every time the petrol gauge showed it was nearing fill-up time.  "Little things, please little minds" as MaSock used to say.  This practice came to an abrupt end when PaSock, whilst searching for a station that gave out cadeaux,  held out a little too long on the petrol front and had to coast for miles down the Provencal mountains until we finally found a sleepy hamlet with one petrol pump.  Several hours later the attendant finished his siesta and turned up to serve us.  As this was clearly BroSock and my fault we never got "cadeaux" again.

Perhaps this is why I get filled with glee by a "goodie bag" and those handed out at the Chelsea Fringe Press Launch did contain some good goodies from various sponsors. A box of Carbon Gold BioChar soil improver which will do nicely for my veg bed, thank you very much, some Crabtree and Evelyn gardener's hand cream (If I had realised this was cream and not soap I would have scooped another couple of boxes off the freebie table.)  A Lush bath ball (which pervasively perfumed the car with a strong scent of roses for our journey home) seeds, a mug, bumph about Flower Workshops at Ally Cappelino (I love her bags!), wild flower seeds and other stuff.

We were very pleased to be invited to the Chelsea Fringe Press Launch - I missed most of the Fringe events last year and felt left out. Also Brighton, our home town  is one of the this year's Fringe satellites (along with Bristol, Kent and even Vienna), and I hope that supporting them will encourage future Brighton events.

After some rather nice pastries and coffee, Tim Richardson the Fringe founder, informed us that the Chelsea Fringe projects had doubled in number this year with more than 200 ready to swing into action.  The vast majority of the events are free and often community inspired, from guerilla gardening to performance art.  Take a look at the Fringe Site or better still the Chelsea Fringe app.  Both of these will help you plan a visit taking in, for instance, a project that exists to brighten up your tube journey - The Meadow Line WC2N displaying native grown wildflowers in containers at tube stations across the city; spend some time at the Gin Garden at Chelsea Physic Garden with its  'botanical bar' serving drinks with herbs, flowers, local honey and unsurprisingly, gin; or lounge around with a floral themed cocktail at the Athenaeum Hotel which has a very attractive exterior living wall.

Model of the planned redevelopment

If there is only one thing you have time to do make it a visit to installations at the impressive Battersea Power Station site.  This was not least of our reasons for wanting to attend the Press Launch which was held there.  For as long as I can remember the Power station building has pretty much represented London to me - its proximity to Victoria station placing it as a familiar landmark, I've watched its gradual decline into decay and ruin over the years from passing train and car journeys, wondering what fate would befall this imposing icon.  Now the entire surrounding site is to be covered in a huge new development of 'a genuine mix of residential, retail and recreational opportunities alongside riverside landscaping and space for the arts.. blah blah."

I viewed the models with fascination - and hated it! All those narrow spaces between high glass buildings which will never see the full light of day, the smart soulessness of it.  But worst of all for me, the iconic, ageing, brickwork of the Station itself will be hidden, no longer viewable from the train - just the tops of the chimneys peeping over the glass walls of endless apartments.  Nevertheless the heavy, imposing frontage will still make an interesting vista from the river and is where you will be able to view the Pop-up Park weekends from now until September. But I can't help feeling that the Battersea Power Station has been sequestered, an icon that somehow belonged to us all will now be part of an elite development site for the rich - and the rest of us will be poorer for it.

Ironically, as venue for a Garden Fringe, the envisaged planting on the new development looked somewhat sparse amongst the great swathes of glass and hard landscaping.  I fear for those trees planted in the dark wells between the high rises to the sides of the Power Station.

Enough of my mealy-mouthedness! We were happy to be guests there and I wouldn't say no to an apartment there with a nice river view!

We were escorted over to the front of the Power Station which will form the principal hub of the Fringe Festival.

Filming of a flower festooned boat

There were various installations already in situ but what caught my eye most was the  fabulous old rusty cranes on the river directly in front which I suspect by coincidence, not design, had blown in shrubs growing happily out of some of the integral containers.

Is it just me getting a bit nostalgic in my old age or is there just something infinitely more attractive about the ageing rusty, intricate metallwork of the cranes or the solid brick monstrosity of the Power Station itself,  than a modern glassscape?


Anonymous said...

Private eye is very skeptical that the chimney's will remain. There's a clause in the planning permission that they can pull the next one down till they repair the first etc. So that they don't pull them down and then not replace them. The developer is apparently challenging this clause to help speed things up.....

Walking round Chelsea area today and nosing into posh houses from the street (whilst wellywoman checked out the showground) I didn't spot any the shops making any floral efforts :(

Anonymous said...

I love those cranes too. We see them from the other side of the river if OH has to go into the City for work. What a hideous looking site they're going to build. I generally agree with Prince Charles on much of the modern architecture built in this country. Much of it seems a lot to do with big egos rather than creating great communities and spaces for people to live and work in. Sounds like the fringe do was good. I do love a goody bag.