Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Crisis. Christmas.

Faery (with wings) bingo-calling, helped by Diego
'What are you doing for Christmas?'
'Going to Crisis.'

She thought I meant a nightclub. But it is a club of sorts. It has people who are guests year after year. Mostly single and homeless.

Volunteering for Crisis gives you a rare example - not found in corporate life - of people working together with a default position of kindness, because that's all we have. The centres are teeming with volunteers wresting happiness for themselves and others from the nation's distress/disgrace.

For years I heard the siren song of Crisis but thought no, I can't cope with all those scary people. But in 2011 I started to draw the scary people attracted to the Occupy protest camps. It was a doddle. This is my second year at Crisis.

Barbara, volunteer hairdresser
(in mirror, left)
The scariest person I meet is a Green Badge (Crisis High Command).

'Who are you and what are you doing here?' she barks, existentially.

A drawing is an experiment, a what-if. Most drawings should be thrown away. But when you're drawing the face of a guest at Crisis you have to do the best you can, every time, and you sweat on the result, because it matters to someone who has never been drawn, who is faceless, who sees the drawing which you will give them as validation.

Cate (top) and Faery
There are extraordinary volunteers. Inspirational Faery, aka Charlotte, makes up her own agenda - pop-up salsa, anyone?

Cate (of teaches yoga. A couple of men challenge her strength. She idly supports herself on her arms for a while, levering herself up and down.

Men gaze and sigh at women, with courtesy. I sketch a shaggy ex-punk/glam-rocker in a buttercup yellow suit.

'Do you believe in free speech?' he asks.
'Give me your phone. Why do moths fly with their legs open?'

Two beautiful young couples in love ask me to draw their double portraits. I can't show you these, or any other pictures of guests, as their identities are shielded.

Boxing Day: Transport for London tweets that traffic is sluggish or stationary around shopping centres in east and west London.
At the Crisis day centre, the idea of using a holiday to drive to a traffic jam to buy stuff is...
Volunteer barber

I go home via Sainsbury's for a small bottle of wine and a large bar of chocolate. Serving at the tills are young men, strong and handsome like many of the guests at Crisis. Lucky bastards to have jobs, I think.

Cate teaching yoga


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Graham Fitkin Band and a sugar rush

I'm drawing the composer/pianist Graham Fitkin rehearsing his band at Kings Place in London. I try not to trip over anything and end up being the thing that can be tripped over.

There are musical fragments, moments of dynamism, longueurs during sound checks.

Last time Graham gave a concert here he finished his piano solo with apparent poise then left the stage to succumb to norovirus. There is no such problem today.

Graham never wrote anything for harp until he met his partner Ruth Wall, the harpist. Now there are two amplified harps centre-stage.

I don't know how to describe his music, which includes a string of prestigious commissions. Phase-minimal-troubadour-jazz-electric-acoustic-bouncy-mellow gives you completely the wrong impression.

New, that's what. New.

It's a last-minute concert with a full house. Graham has made meringues with Cornish cream which band members distribute to the audience after the interval.

Then Graham hands out party poppers which we're allowed to let off ad lib and on the beat. It's celebratory and we're sent home happy. Scroll down for more pictures.
Meringue in the hand of another gifted pianist,
Justin Snyder

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Supreme Court and a dream setting

Lord Neuberger, reading
Trying to view distant justices across the high-backed chairs is like being a child straining to see over the dashboard. I'm focusing on Lord Neuberger but he's an all-action judge who doesn't lapse into long poses.

Lord Neuberger's definitive image
continues to elude me
The case is Zakrzewski v The Regional Court in Lodz, Poland. Lukasz Zakrzewski's sentence was reduced before his extradition hearing; did that invalidate a European arrest warrant? Five law lords sit in the calm abstraction of Court 2, a white space relieved with flowery national emblems and the hint of a proscenium arch. 

I think of the sparse white box used by Peter Brook as the set for his legendary 1970 RSC production of A Midsummer Night's Dream - no photograph does justice to its stark magic. Court 2's plushy curtains, with their Pre-Raphaelite enchanted forest look, would have been dismissed by Brook as too obvious.

I am struck by the beauty of the judges' voices. Worthy of Alan Howard, Brook's Oberon/Theseus.

Counsel and judges benefit from discreet amplification. Their individual desk microphones have red lights at the tips when they are live. And after the judges go off stage, the legal teams really should check the red lights are off before going into a post-match huddle.

It's panto season, so I look behind me. And see Brendan Cotter, a pin-striped regular on the public benches. Now retired, he was the Principal Solicitor for Surrey County Council. He gives me an authoritative spectator's guide to the Royal Courts of Justice, the Old Bailey, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, and more.
Supreme Court tree
decorations for sale

I'm back a few days later for The Financial Services Authority v Sinaloa Gold plc and others and Barclays Bank plc. 'What is a freezing injunction?' asks a judge, rhetorically. 'White goods,' mutters another.

Lord Neuberger is all movement again, so I abandon a portrait and look at the judicial assistants who sit behind him, like putti.

Héloïse, Charles Coypel,

The bench are discussing the concept of recklessness as I start to draw a jug of water recklessly (glass, air, light, reflection, shadow). One of my teachers speaks inside my head: 'Don't look at your drawing. That won't help you.'

Coats are slung on the backs of chairs. The man second from
left is drawn as if transparent.
Counsel's hands are sometimes behind his back when he's on his feet. He sits down and has a glass of water.

Other counsel

At lunchtime the Treasury Singers come in to the foyer. They sing carols, accompanied by the bleep of the body scanner, and raise money for Centrepoint.

(Scroll down for pictures.)

Monday, 3 December 2012

Air, floating and Graham Fitkin

The model is Gorgone,
draped in gauze
Some composers serve up meringues. Airy confections that disappear. Delibes. Walton on occasion. Anyone involved in the score of La Fille Mal Gardée. A musicologist just said Saint-Saens. Hmn.

By contrast, the composer and performer Graham Fitkin is making real meringues, ones you can eat, to share with his audience after his next concert with the Graham Fitkin Band (Kings Place, 11 December 2012). I am not aware of any other composer who does this.

Graham has composed the music for Not Until We are Lost, a show by aerial theatre company Ockham's Razor which is touring England until spring 2013. And I'm already thinking about airy things and suspension because I drew Japanese rope bondage for ten hours over the weekend; it involves people floating in ropes.
Ockham's Razor members

Un Re in Ascolto, an opera by Luciano Berio, was worth the admission price for the harness suspension of the chorus alone.

Sentences can also be suspended, both in court and thus...