Uncategorized

The British Ceramics Biennial Stoke-On-Trent Travel Blog Post

The Fifth British Ceramics Biennial (BCB)

Stoke On Trent 2017
Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a huge pottery and ceramics fan, in fact so much so I have run out of space to house what I already have never mind adding more, which I continue to do!. Well for pottery and ceramic lovers like myself this is the must visit/see event of the year every two years, if you know what I mean, and not to be missed, given that it’s only on every second year, biennial right! Myself and Oliver had visited the event for the first time in 2015 and liked it so much had planned a full weekend around this year’s visit. Sadly Oliver’s Dad passed away requiring Oliver’s return to Malaysia so this visit was solo and this post is dedicated to the memory of Oliver’s Dad, may he rest in peace.

The event is staged across nine venues in and around Stoke-On-Trent including the fabulous Wedgwood museum which offers free entry to the museum during the biennial. In fact the event offers free entry to all venues making it an attractive draw for all. There is also lots of interactive events aimed at families with kids. A great way to introduce the next and coming generations to the wonderful world of ceramics and pottery. The main exhibition hub is located in the China Spode Factory dating from 1770 a fabulous location, if a little on the chilly side, or at least at this time of the year (October).

Eusebio Sanchez won this biennials Fresh award with his quirky colorful and molten figures, and although they may not be to everyone’s taste I loved them.

Spode China Hall

 

 

What I particularly love about the Festival Hall (Spode China Factory) is the sheer amount of space on offer to the artists allowing their work to breath and display effortlessly, reminds me a bit of the Turbine hall at Tate modern in London. The organisers are to be credited in not trying to cram too much in, but instead allowing a very comfortable amount of space to each exhibit, a boon for both artist and viewer.

 

 

Best fun and one of the pieces I most covet would have to be “My Inner Beasts” by Malene Hartman Rasmussen fabulously quirky and colourful it explores the nature of the inner bests within each of us and is described by the artist as follows;

“Everyone has their own inner beasts.
Most people are good at keeping them locked inside.. but not me.
Often they come out when I least expect them to and getting them back inside again to the safety of the darkness can be a difficult task.
I have confronted these anguish beings, removed them from their natural habitat to study and examine how they react in the light.
Trapped inside they grow ragingly huge, but outside their sadness and melancholia shows and they become small enough to put on a shelf.
Maybe if I am lucky, they will stay there for good.”

 

 

 

 

 

Probably my absolute favorite of the exhibition would have to be Place and Practices and instillation in two parts by Juree Kim with one housed at the main festival hall Spode China Hall and the other at the Wedgwood museum. Title Evanescent Landscape: Terraced Houses it is astonishing in both originality of form within its social context along with the intricacy of its detail.  Cannot help but think of 2 Jags Prescott’s and the number of perfectly good Victorian tenements he was responsible for destroying with his misguided regeneration policies.

 

The British ceramics biennial brings together potters and ceramicist from across the globe with over 100 artists contributing to this year’s event and this time involves a collaboration with ceramic artist from Korea, Juree Kim.

 

Top Tip

When visiting the China Hall be sure to head to the back of the building and visit the Spode museum. We missed this place last time and I only stumbled upon it by chance this time. It does have its own car park but it’s very small. I will post a link to its address at the bottom of the post. It’s well worth a visit and is currently trying to get funding to revamp the space in order to display the full historical Spode collection which I am told is full and complete and on the same scale as the Wedgwood collection. They also have a very interesting exhibition on at the moment of contemporary local ceramic artists. You may even get to see the Beatles. There is also a worthwhile instillation titled Salon De Refuses comprising of works by local ceramicists displayed in gallery One One Six located inside the Spode museum. With works by Andy Edwards (Beatles Statue) , Nick Marsh and Philip Hardaker.  My personal favourite would have to be the work of Nick Marsh. I love the very earthy rustic rusty but refined tones and shapes of his vases in particular, in fact I want one!!

 

Piece by Nick Marsh

Even the Beatles make an appearance here! Work by Andy Edwards

The Wedgwood Museum

 

I’ve heard of pimping your ride but imagine having your pram pimped by Wedgwood, how cool is that!!

 

 

The second part of the instillation by Korean artist Juree Kim

The Wedgwood tearooms inside the museum are very grand indeed.

Airspace Gallery

Fount exhibition at Airspace Gallery comprises two proposals for public space water features that are currently being discussed by Stoke Council and offer a radically different approach than the usual identikit public realm features one tends to find both all over the UK & Europe and increasingly the world. This offers a vision with o more unique quality and localised take on what is possible. It remains to be seen whether the council will have the vision and foresight to both engage with them and take them up on their ideas, there’s always hope! I particularly like the Dog drinking font water feature.

 

Part of the Mark Malerko instillation.

 

I also liked the Katharine Morling displayed at the Potteries Museum and art gallery inspired by the Hoard find in Staffordshire, wonderful mythical creation that would not look out of place in any number of Sci Fi movies

Another of my likes is the  works of Emma Bailey spotted in the Spode Museum shop she was the last free hand painter to work at the Wedgwood factory before it sadly went bust. In fact I liked her work so much a bought a piece.

An interview with Emma along with her work feature in the you tube clip which you can find by clicking this link  This is a fascinating short film on the history of pottery in Longton, Stoke on Trent, well worth a watch.

A few links to featured artists and further information of the British Ceramics Biennial.

Stoke Sculpture trail click this link for info

For more info on Malene Hartmann Rasmussen click this link

For more info on Juree Kim click this link

For more info on Andy Edwards click this link

For more info on Katharine Morling click this link

For more info on Nicholas Marsh click this link

For more info on Philip Hardaker click this link

For more info on Mark Malerko click this link

For more info on Elena Gileva click this link

To find out more about the Airspace gallery click this link

For more info on the British Ceramic’s Biennial click this link

This list is by no means definitive or complete but is merely a set of links to artists whose work I particularly liked and feature in my picture gallery.

If you are planning on visiting the next time round I would recommend at the very least an e overnight stay and possibly two as there really is so much to see. I opted for an apartment in Leek booked through Air B&B. I can highly recommend Leek particularly if driving as its a short drive from Stoke and is a charming historic English market town. There is also a very good antiques market on every Sunday in the town square and well worth a browse.

For info on the Air B&B apartment click this link. This is a great apartment centrally located in the old town and a very nice host. Can highly recommend it.

I’m already looking forward to the next one in 2019.

Europe Germany

Berlin Holiday Weekender Travel Blog

The Berlin Blockade lasted 318 days during which time, 275,000 planes transported 1.5 million tons of supplies with a plane landing every three minutes at Berlin’s Templehof airport. The old airport runway and surrounding fields have now been transformed into a large open park.

Berlin…………city of myth, city of history, city of division, city of rebirth. Whenever a mention of Berlin I can immediately hear in my head the soundtrack to the movie Cabaret, und cabaret, und cabaret, und cabaret, made famous by Liza Minnelli in the movie of the same name. That and Christopher Isherwood who wrote the wonderful novels, Goodbye to Berlin and Mr Norris Changes Trains, all topped off in the background to the smoky husky tones of Marlene Dietrich’s very special brand of drawl English.

Hauptbahnhof Berlin central railway station

I had first planned to visit Berlin as a teenager at the invitation of some Viennese visitors I met one summer in Dublin. They had invited me to join them on a trip to the city to spend Christmas in a Berlin squat. That was in the early 1980’s if memory serves me correctly. In the end they decided to stay in Vienna for the Christmas, so I went there instead. My only other connection with the city, unfortunately, had a more sinister outcome. On a subsequent visit to what was still known as Czechoslovakia, and still at the time part of the USSR, I happened to meet and form a friendship with a guy from East Berlin who was on his annual holiday in the Czech capital, Prague. For people living in the USSR and including East Germany it was basically one of a very limited number of places that citizens of what was then known as  GDR were allowed to visit, as well as being virtually all they could afford anyway. On my return to Ireland we exchanged a number of letters and I, in my naivety at the time, was quite open about how repressive I thought the communist system and the USSR. He, for his part, was quite open about how difficult, depressing and limiting life was in East Berlin, until one day about a year later one of my letters was returned, stamped person and address unknown. That was the last time I heard from him and to this day I still do not know what fate befell him, but I held him in my thoughts as I visited the remains of the Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery.

Reichstag

Only now, August 2017, have I finally managed to make it to Berlin and these are my impressions of the city and its people.

Continue Reading

Europe UK

Sheffield in 24 A Travel bloggers guide to the City

 

Sheffield in 24

An action packed city adventure

 

Guide book to Sheffield

Despite having visited Sheffield twice before in the past it took an invitation from the Mercure “St Pauls Hotel and Spa” for me to truly discover what this oft overlooked UK city has to offer.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of travel and lifestyle bloggers to be invited for an action packed 24 hour city visit.

St Pauls Hotel and Spa, being Sheffield’s only 4 * Hotel, is the perfect spot to stay, being centrally located, and as if that wasn’t enough, it also boasts doors leading directly onto the fabulous Tropical Winter Gardens. Having stayed at the Mercure in the past I arrived early, check in is 2pm, in order to take full advantage of the hotels Spa and Pool, free to use for hotel guests, it also offers a range of therapies and massages at an additional cost. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the spa area has had a makeover, with both the steam sauna and dry sauna benefiting from a complete overhaul, this is the perfect way to unwind before heading out for the evening.

Continue Reading

Asia Cambodia

Leaving Phnom Penh, Travel bloggers tips and tales

Leaving Phnom Penh For Sihanoukville

Having left it too late to buy a ticket for the Giant Ibis bus to Sihanoukville the hotel we stayed at recommended another bus company which they claimed is just as good, and, as it costs the same I take the bait, buy the tickets, how wrong can you be. We ended up with tickets on Vet bus run by Virak-Buntham Express Travel & Tour. Like most bus companies in Cambodia they collect you from your hotel about an hour before scheduled departure time. The pickup van, a dilapidated and rusting wreck, from the hotel told me this was going to be an interesting experience come what may. Whilst the actual minivan bus turned out not to be too bad what no one could prepare you for was the insane driver to match the general level of insane driving that is Cambodian road travel. And yes, I have lived to tell the tale, but I reckon the stress of the journey may well knock a couple of years off my life expectancy.  To give you some idea of the speed we went at we managed to pass the Giant Ibis bus plying the same route, but which had left Phnom Pen and hour before our departure time. In reality we had little choice as we had a hotel reservation in Sihanoukville and a well-planned itinerary. The next bus journey to Kampot turned out to be equally as hair raising, although mercifully half the distance. In a word never again!!

Sihanoukville

Otres Beach Sihanoukville

Continue Reading

Asia Cambodia

The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

Both of these places are the main draws for travelers to Phnom Penh and visited on the same day by most as a combined package. It makes for a somber, sober and saddening day, planting memories of images and scenes that are likely to stay with you and last a lifetime. No bad thing, although we did witness some disrespectful idiots taking selfies in an around the Stupa that houses the skulls of the dead. Whilst another group of young adult Australians I witnessed were loud and behaved as if they were visiting a theme park. At the risk of sounding, or being, preachy visitors should show their respect for all who died in these dreadful places by observing an air of solemn calm and quiet reflection.

The Entrance to Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

The Killing Fields, once the site of an orchard, memorialises and symbolises the final expressions of barbarity of the Khmer Rouge,  the final resting place for the murdered, located about 17 Kilometres outside Phnom Penh most arrive here by Tuk Tuk.

The Memorial Stupa. This Stupa houses the skulls of many of the victims found buried around the site now known as the Killing Fields. Depressions in the ground are the sites of excavated mass graves.

It is estimated that from a population of some 8 million people about a quarter were either murdered or starved to death during the reign of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. For me, although witness of the remains of the mass graves is an awful reality, the most harrowing and difficult to comprehend aspect of the place is the Killing Tree that was used to kill babies and children in the most horrific fashion by bashing their skulls against it. I cried a lot this day and in the end despaired for us as a race when my thoughts turned to current day events taking place in Syria at the behest of another couple of murderous dictators, Assad and Putin. For the sad truth is, humanity it seems will never learn.

Continue Reading

Europe UK

North Wales Off The Beaten Track

Day Tripping North Wales, Walking in Sunshine, Almost!

With the first weekend of proper blue sky sunshine upon us and a bit of heat in the air to accompany, thoughts turn to getting out of the city, even if just for a day and heading into the countryside.

Living in Manchester we are lucky enough to have a host of easy to reach destinations whether traveling north, south, east or west. That said, it is never a difficult one you make in choosing Wales, one of my favorite places on the planet. It doesn’t matter how far or wide I travel this globe of ours I never tire of trips to Wales, where even a familiar landscape causes me to smile as the light shows it in a subtle different and ever changing fresh perspective.

Continue Reading

Asia Cambodia

A Travel Bloggers Impressions of Phnom Penh

A Travel Bloggers Impressions of Phnom Penh Cambodia in Words & Pictures

Monument to the late King Norodom Sihanouk with independence monument in background

I first visited Phnom Penh about 4 years ago and was struck this visit by the rate of change and the speed of development taking place in this city on the move.  This is fast turning in to and exciting vibrant and great city to visit in South East Asia. No longer just a stopping post for visiting the Killing Fields and S21 but is fast becoming a destination city in itself.

 

Memorial statue and monument to the Vietnamese army for their part in driving the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh

Continue Reading

Asia Cambodia

Kompung Khleang, Angkor Province, Cambodia

A Travel Bloggers Guide to Off the Beaten Track in Angkor, Cambodia.

This blog post focuses on my return visit to the community of Kompung Khleang, Angkor province, Cambodia. This is a village largely centered on and living off the Tonle Sap Lake and river that feeds into it. It is not a pretty, or sanitised tourist place, but rather, offers a glimpse into the reality of life for most of Cambodia’s population i.e. poor. This was my second visit and I am once again struck by the warmth and open generosity of the people who live and work along its shores. It is also a place that few who marvel at the many sights or Angkor and Angkor Wat will see, as it lies off the beaten track and has not suffered a tourist makeover. But for those who have a genuine interest in how the majority of Cambodians live and survive in this part of the country it is a good starting point. From a personal perspective I cannot imagine visiting any country, and particularly one steeped in such a profoundly  creative and important history, and not be interested in the inhabitants, who are after all the ancestors of it creator’s. Behind the laughter smiles and warm welcome lies the cruel truth of a life expectancy of 40 to 45 years due to Dengue fever and Malarial mosquitos. Still the children will rush forth at the mere sight of a stranger using it as an opportunity to share their few words of English “Hello mister, where you from?” They are quick to smile and delighted when asked to gather for a picture. It is also a place full of strong colour form the vibrant blues of the clear sky mirrored in the shades of blue in the house and building and set dramatically by the rusty burnt orange colours of the mud roads. The road eventually terminates in the village square beside a monastery school and boat jetty where we take our river and lake trip out to the vast expanse that is Tonle Sap Lake and the floating villagers who call it home. I cannot imaging visiting Siem Reap or Angkor again in the future and not paying yet another visit to this fascinating place.

 

Stilt House on Tonle Sap River

All houses are built high on stilts as the water level raise dramatically in the rainy season.

Continue Reading

Asia Cambodia

A Travelbloggers Guide to Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Travelbloggers guide  and top tips for Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor

This was to be my second visit to Siem Reap and the temples and ruins of Angkor. Spread out over an area of some 600 acres amidst the tropical humidity of Cambodia it is at once beguiling and mysterious in its state of semi ruin, a state accentuated by the creeping gripping roots of giant fig trees that have embedded themselves into the stonework and structure of so many of these part ruins. Indeed it is this very otherworldly quality that led Hollywood to use it as the location for large parts of the film Tomb Raider.

To sum up my experience of the return to Angkor In a word magical!!

 

Angkor Wat itself is surrounded by a 650-foot wide moat encompassing a perimeter of more than 3 miles, it is approximately 13 feet deep. This water way adds further to the enchantment of the area as a whole. The trees and roots that add so much drama and structural damage to the remaining temples are those of the Ficus strangulosa tree, a member of the fig family of trees. Although they caused a lot damage to the structure of a  lot of the temples, in some they have become so embedded as to become part of the supporting structure. In  many it is hard to see how they could be removed at this point, without causing further major damage to the remaining element. They also add to the drama and mystery of the area, having become synonymous with the temples and aesthetic of this region throughout the world.

Continue Reading

Asia Thailand

A Travel Bloggers Guide to Chiang Mai Thailand, Top Travel Tips

Chiang Mai, Thailand

A travel bloggers insight guide and recommendations.

There are 6 main reasons that tourists to travel north of Bangkok to the much more relaxed and chilled out city of  Chiang Mai. One: To see the exquisite Buddhist temples, Two:  Because it is a much more relaxed and safer place than Bangkok, Three: As the gateway to jungle trekking into the surrounding mountains, Four: Probably most popular of all, to visit and experience a close up encounter with elephants. Five: For Thai massage and Six: Last but not least, the food!!

I had first visited Chiang Mai in 2014 as the meeting point with a tour guide for a 3 day trek up into the rain-forests of Northern Thailand, a trip that had turned out to be one of the best experiences of my travel adventures. For the few days spent in Chiang Mai on either side of the trekking adventure I had grown to like the laid back and friendly atmosphere of Chiang Mai itself. Based on this the aim of my return was simply to relax and enjoy that laid back atmosphere. Having gone trekking in the past I also wanted to have a close up encounter with elephants, but at a place that have a No ride policy. It is an unfortunate truth that many tourists visiting this part of Thailand do so with the aim of taking part in an Elephant encounter which has led to the rise of many unscrupulous and unethical Elephant farms. I use the term Elephant farm deliberately as they are little more than exploitative and cruel places run by people with little care for elephants, other than how to exploit them.

Continue Reading