for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant

Inventive fun in the snow

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Alongside the snowboards and expensive looking sledges, makeshift toboggans seen in Primrose hill today included: pizza boxes, road signs, ironing boards, inflatable mattresses, paddling pools, lilos, and even a toilet seat! We were very kindly offered the use of some bin liners, which was a much better option than removing the very last marking on the surrounding roadworks!

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Filed under: stuff, ,


The guardian reports on a group of squatters who have taken up residence in one of London’s poshest postcodes. The group – an art collective who call themselves Da! moved into the property a month ago and so far have heard nothing from the owners, although that may change after tonight when the group turn the house into an art installation – with mandatory opening party!

Behind the white pillars and imposing wooden door of the grade II-listed residence, the 30-plus rooms are now scattered with sleeping bags, grubby mattresses, rucksacks spilling over with clothes and endless half-finished art installations. While their neighbours’ walls are lined with priceless paintings, No 18 now exhibits a room full of tree branches and another with a pink baby bath above which dangle test tubes filled with capers. Spooky foetuses line one fireplace.

The group are seasoned squatters. Over the past few years, they have enjoyed some impressive central London addresses – including two on Kensington High Street. But their latest home is “by far the most grandiose”, said Stephanie Smith, 21, one of the group, under a chandelier in the downstairs drawing room.

…tonight the squat is hosting a party. From 7pm to 11pm, the Da! gang will be projecting images on to each of the 19 windows at the front of the squat. “It’s going to look like a doll’s house,” said Smith, “and there is going to be a harpist and a cellist and performance artists.”

If you want to get involved, head on down to 18 Upper Grosvenor Street tonight!

£6m house, 30 rooms, one careful anarchist collective: inside Britain’s poshest squat

Filed under: creative ideas, worth seeing, , ,


blackcabsessionsI’ve written before about the growing love for intimate venues heralding ideas like theatre in your home and gigs in your living room, but the Observer this weekend highlights the most extreme version of these – a performance with an audience of one. The Black Cab Sessions are live gigs recorded in the back of a black cab where the invited artist is challenged to record one song in one take, with the resulting video uploaded for all to see.

The brilliantly simple idea, conceived and produced by Just So Films and Hidden Fruit is explained on the site: “the sessions are all about great music and the venue strips this to its essence. We aren’t picky about genre and will happily open the cab door to anyone who blows us away”.
The videos, also uploaded to YouTube, are gaining considerable interest- with the recent performance by Benjamin Zephaniah receiving over 200,000 hits. BBC Radio One Online has heaped praise on the sessions, saying “A challenge has been laid down. Forget chart positions, forget ticket sales, or brand-extending toiletries or MySpace friends or any other measure of success. From here on in, it’s all about how well you can rock the back of a cab.”

The Observer article reports from an exalted position inside the cab:

‘ last Tuesday, as I sat on a jump seat nervously clutching a boom mike for the 31st Black Cab Session, I began to realise what a splendid arena a Hackney carriage is. Opposite me, Britt Daniel, the lanky lead singer of US indie stars Spoon, was leaning forward on the banquette tuning his guitar. Although Daniel had an audience of three – Johnny the cameraman, Terry the cab driver and me – this was a one-take deal and, if he faltered, the gig would be scratched. So there was tension in the air as he began strumming and we began driving.’

‘ The Black Cab Sessions have emerged as the music industry is struggling to cope with its dramatic loss of power to the internet: EMI is responding by laying off 2,000 staff, while Radiohead recently released their album online and fans decided what they wanted to pay for it. The Black Cab Sessions provide a small answer. ‘The gig is the cost of a cab fare,’ said Will Evans of Just So. ‘We offer a lift to a touring band from their hotel to the venue, so they can always fit it into their schedule. But I think it’s the stripped-down situation and the challenge of a single take that tempt the bands’. ‘

‘Watching the final product online, the perfect marriage of medium and message hits home. Whereas a music video or venue gig can look and sound strange viewed on a computer screen, the Black Cab Sessions’ single audio track and intimate performances translate well. Without make-up, lights, amplification, post-production, packaging or a large audience, and with their evident joy at the challenge, the varied artists rise to the occasion.’

The Black Cab Sessions

Filed under: arts & culture, entertainment, ,


londonwordfestivalLaunched last night, the inaugural London Word Festival offers three weeks of evenings celebrating poetry, prose, music and comedy, with events devoted to lectures that are sung, the best in hip-hop poetry, “univocalism” (the art of writing poetry using only one vowel), comedian story-telling, and poetry and jazz mash-ups. With the recent success of spoken word events such as Book Slam, Fitzrovia Radio Hour and the B Club, Londoners are clearly enjoying a resurgence of live literary events- helped along by the addition of a healthy dose of alcohol. As testament to this, the 15 events during the festival are spread over eight East End clubs, bars and trendy venues including traditional Victorian music hall Hoxton Hall, über-trendy Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, and celeb hang-out the George Tavern.

According to the Times:

‘The venues suit the material. You won’t find superannuated politicians or puffed-up chefs here. Instead the festival celebrates “Generation Txt”: the twentysomething poets, novelists and playwrights who draw as much inspiration from the gritty realities and illicit joys of the modern city as Wordsworth did from daffodils or Herman Melville from whales. In one typical gathering, for instance, the 22-year-old Richard Milward will be reading from Apples, his brilliantly gross transposition of the Adam-and-Eve story to a Middlesbrough housing estate; while the young American author Joshua Ferris offers an extract from his savage satire of office life in Chicago, Then We Came to the End.

Two things appeal. The first is that this is a festival bold enough to place writers on the same bill as comedians, rappers and jazzers, and confident enough to expect those writers to be just as entertaining. And the second is that the very existence of a lit-fest run by and for people under 35 refutes the notion that the well-crafted written word is dead, or at least withering into terminal paralysis in a world dominated by blaring images and thudding rock beats.

What’s clear is that both fiction and poetry are undergoing a renaissance among the young. But it’s a renaissance rooted in clubs and the internet, rather than in staid publishing conglomerates. That’s great.’

London Word Festival

Filed under: arts & culture, creative ideas, worth seeing,


If you happen to be in Soho this Thursday, get yourself along to a Valentine’s Day Flash Hug and spread some love- and body warmth! The communal cuddle is organized by eco-conscious community Green Thing who inject a monthly dose of fun into being good by suggesting something to do and fun ways to do it. At only 135 days old, Green Thing already has a global community of over 5,000 people spanning 140 countries, all looking to share and enjoy their environmentally friendly ways. Past Green Things have included turning your lights off early, using body warmth instead of heating, and swapping something instead of buying it- and by purely being involved in these activities once a month the community have so far saved a total of 1073.05 tonnes of CO2.

The Flash Hug will be taking place at 1.30pm in Soho Square this Thursday, but if you can’t make it in person you can still share in the hugging action through the Live Hug. All this week members of the community have volunteered to turn off their heating and are being streamed live waiting for viewers to hit the hug button and give them a little extra warmth from someone near by.

Valentine’s Day Flash Hug

see more ways to do February’s Green Thing

Filed under: good, search this out, ,


luggageWith even meat suppliers getting in on the RFID action, the BAA have finally decided to trial the same technology for tracking luggage coming in and out of London’s Heathrow Airport. A six month trial will see Emirates airline partnering to track all bags on their five daily flights between Heathrow and Dubai, which apparently equates to 50,000 bags per month. With tracking being enabled at every step of the journey, passengers can give their mobile number to be alerted by text of the location of their bag when they land.

A distinctly unimpressive report from travel insurance company InsureandGo claims that on average its customers lost 12 bags per day during the first half of 2007 – the equivalent of one bag every two hours- a shocking statistic in an era of supposedly increased aviation safety. If the trial is successful it would surely be a system the insurance companies themselves should consider investing in alongside the aviation industry, or could maybe even offer their customers directly?

[via BBC]

Filed under: technology, ,

Time for One helps Londoners learn the Value of their Own Time

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Time for One is a brilliant new review guide that encourages making the most of individual free time in London. The concept began life as a restaurant guide for single travellers- previously a primary school teacher, self-confessed independent spirit Wendy Fisk often found herself with free holiday time when no-one else was around and so went off exploring on her own. She soon noticed however that there was a real need for people to know of places they felt welcome to eat and experience on their own, and this grew into a four-fold online guide that offers honest advice to likeminded individuals as a comprehensive resource to living life to the full.

The site encompasses Table for One, the only online restaurant guide with advice on where to go and eat by yourself, entertainment and activity guide Play for One, travel and exploration guide Away for One, and personal pampering guide Spa for One, together making the most of what London has to offer. With aims to expand with advice in cities across the globe, and research already underway for a New York guide to debut next year, Time for One hopes to start a global social movement that helps people understand the value of their free time. As the lovely Wendy explained to us “London is a place where there’s not enough time for anybody and anything, and I think people have to see the time in the life that maybe they’ve not been noticing, seeing free time in a whole new light and understanding that you are not by yourself you are with yourself. It’s something that Londoners are starting to pick up on”. And it’s not just for single folk, Wendy says that in fact many of her readers- and reviewers- are happily married but looking to enjoy “my time”, whether it’s on a free evening on business trip or just an hour away from the kids!

A labour of passion, the site carefully vets each venue and only adds places that the team feel understands their ethos that it’s absolutely fine to be there alone enjoying it, primarily through the attitude of the manager whom they always interview. Within Table for One the search options cover a variety of choices based on the attitude of the space rather than the cuisine: from seating (communal/ counter/ tables for one) to mood (vibrant and social/ chic and stylish / relaxed and casual), and the reviews always include the manager’s personal recommendations for their favourite places to eat solo. From this, Wendy has found not only a great deal of places that welcome individuals, but that a lot more people enjoy eating and experiencing things alone than even she had assumed. She described her most recent discovery: “One of our recent reviews was Kensington Square Kitchen, a great brunch and tea place which opened 5 weeks ago. When I was talking to Sarah the manager she said that on an average day she will discover that her entire restaurant is full of single tables. She has found that it is totally normal for people to come and treat themselves and indulge alone.”

The Play for One section offers not only the expected Music, Arts and Entertainment searches, but also options for Classes (including cooking, cheerleading and chocolate appreciation!), Sports, and even the fabulously titled Something Zen. In fact Wendy describes Play for One as “an indulgence of my own time and interests”, summing up exactly what this whole fantastic concept offers- the opportunity to openly indulge and revel in self-serving space and time that is on your own, not necessarily alone, but definitely all about ‘me’.

Time for One

Filed under: arts & culture, entertainment, food n drink,

Ecopods for the Cross River Tram in London

With the 100-year-old London Underground system struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of daily commuters and still not able to deal with the unpredictable British weather, Transport For London have been looking to introduce a new tram system that would connect North and South London and offer ‘a safe, green and reliable form of transport’. Planning to run between Euston and Waterloo, with branches to Camden Town and King’s Cross in the north and Peckham and Brixton in the south, the Cross River Tram will help connect multiple areas in 4 of London’s boroughs quickly and easily to central locations, in some cases halving journey time (though that’s probably just due to being programmed to run on time).


The system is not expected to reach construction phase until after the 2012 Olympics, with the aim of starting service by 2016, however local councils are already working on drumming up public support for the project. As a major part of this, TFL and UK initiative hired design agency Wire to develop an eco-friendly identity and campaign, the main focus of which is the ‘Ecopod’ that has appeared opposite the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. The prototype tram station is environmentally friendly (made from a recycled shipping container and powered by solar panels and wind turbines) and offers news and information about the tram and the regeneration programme to all passers-by, both inside the pod itself and through a video presentation projected onto the outside wall. An impressive campaign for a government initiative- plus you gotta love the t-shirts!

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via Inhabitat

Filed under: future cities, stuff on the streets, , ,


Westminster Council have launched a 6-month trial of a new pay by phone parking facility in large areas of the West End. Covent Garden and Soho will see all parking meters removed and replaced by ‘Pay by Phone Only’ bays, and Pay & Display areas will include pay by phone options.

A great idea- UK should have more options to use mobiles as payment methods, it makes life so much easier. Let’s hope this trial is successful and the scheme spreads throughout London

read more here

Filed under: Uncategorized, ,


Zoo art fair opened it’s doors for the third year running in the great setting of London Zoo on friday (or thursday for some of us lucky few) to a huge surge of people eager to snap up new emerging artists’ work, and invest in the Next Big Thing.
Of the talent on display here is my pick of the new names that I think are worth watching for the future-


‘White Underneath’ are a collection of vintage portrait photographs from the late 1800s which the artist has painted over to replace the white face of the original sitter with a black one of a member of his family. He explains it as “experimenting with transgressive interventions on paintings as a means of undermining hierarchical roles of the past and imposing them on contemporary narratives”.

Titus has just graduated from Yale and been awarded the prestigious artist-in-residency programme from the Studio Museum, Harlem.


A recent graduate of Camberwell College of Art, ‘So How was It?’ is one of Robert’s delicate pencil works combining soft atmosphere with quirky humour. All four of his pieces have already sold, but look out for more offerings in his first solo show next year


‘Fiat Coupe 2.0 Turbo’ is just one of Raffael’s amazing photographs of crashed luxury cars. His pictures are observations of everyday objects and locations that have lost their original function- in this case taken live at the crash scene (the police call to notify him whenever a sports car crashes), and the resulting images seem hyper-real. Due to have his first solo gallery show in Berlin in November


‘Mental Passages’ is an installation of 54 typographical images, each one representative of the artist’s emotion at the time of conception. The artist is a recent graduate from his native Mexico and has already been picked up by the MOMA Mexico, plus there are plans to produce the images as a book. An ironic title considering the extortionate price tag on this piece- £5000!

Filed under: talent worth watching, Uncategorized, ,