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Rose Blake

Rose Blake


Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Catherine Hyland


“When I go to an exhibition I’m almost as interested in the people looking around as in the work itself. I keep a little sketchbook on me so I can remember day to day narratives that I see around me.”

Though I may not quite count myself as an artist, I would count myself an admirer of anybody courageous enough to pursue their creative endeavours deep into the trees. Rose Blake is such a person. Using her experience in editorial illustration, she leaps a giant step further into self-expression, freedom and fine art, bringing together a remarkable collection of new works in her first solo exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery.

As a youngster, Rose was born into and raised within a creative environment which progressively shaped her own desire for the arts and personal expression, namely illustration. “My mum and dad are both artists so I was really surrounded by it as a kid. Then I was lucky enough to have a few really inspiring art teachers at school (especially at sixth form), so it just went from there really” she says. The daughter of the renowned English pop artist Sir Peter Blake (creator of the infamous album sleeve art for the Beatles’Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Rose was soon to progress her interest in art and continue her family trend, studying Illustrator and Animation at Kingston University. During her time at Kingston Rose was awarded the D&AD Best New Blood Award. She followed this with an MA at the Royal College of Art. Soon after her studies, Rose began to complete commissions for papers such as The New York Times, The Telegraph & The BBC. “It was just the natural progression after I graduated. The more and more editorial stuff you do, the better your clients get!” she says, “When I first graduated I was mainly working on in-house business magazines illustrating boring articles about stocks and shares!”

In this debut, Rose has chosen to focus on the subject of vast museum-scapes. “I had made a few of these drawings previously, and when I showed them to Rebecca she was really into them, and we decided together that they would make a cool show” she says. In the series, Blake captures the busy hum of a gallery concourse and narrative of day-to-day lives. A couple exchanging flowers, children tottering along hand-in-hand with their parents, a droopy teddy is almost lost in the movement, and a yoga-loving bystander is entertained by a giddy cluster of school children with matching rucksacks; Blake’s series captivates the characteristics of the happenings in life that often go by unnoticed. “I’m really interested in observing people around me” she says, “when I go to an exhibition I’m almost as interested in the people looking around as in the work itself. I keep a little sketchbook on me so I can remember day-to-day narratives that I see around me.”

In her work, each digitally-designed character contributes to the rich narrative which the scene portrays, all with their own lives and personalities. And the art on the wall, which Blake hand-paints onto the image, breathes its own history. In a meta-artistic fashion her imagined museums become playful forums in which to redefine what is regarded as ‘exhibition-worthy’. “I decided to create these gallery scenes and make smaller scale work within them”she says, “its basically lots of shows within a show.” Illustration as art is affirmed, and truly celebrated.

A few years ago, Rose first came to meet gallerist Rebecca Hossack at an opening. Soon after the two first met, they arranged a meeting to discuss Rose’s work, following which Rebecca & Rose began to make preparations for an exhibition. “I’m not really used to exhibiting my work in galleries” explains Rose, “my work is normally for print/editorial so now it feels really exposed to me.” The exhibition, aptly entitled ‘Now I Am An Artist’, takes its title from the nature of Blake’s tentative debut show, being somewhat nervous in having her first solo exhibition.

In putting together the exhibition, Rose’s illustration commissions were on hold for a month, though now she is back to work. “I’ve got a few things lined up. I’m doing a little collaboration with Heals, and I’m working on two book proposals, a children’s book and a cook book!”says Rose. There is also talk of exhibiting her work at the Mott Street Rebecca Hossack Gallery in New York in the coming year, an exhibition that Rose expresses having many more ideas for. “I’d love to be able to keep a balance of doing illustration work and making work for shows. It’s nice to have the contrast of really quick paced editorials, while being able to work a lot more freely on my exhibition work. I’ve had so much fun making the work for this one!”

Hard Working House

Hard Working House


Words Kirk Truman

Designs Urban Projects Bureau


“Living in Fitzrovia is more like a community than living in the usual semi-detached commuter belt so many young families opt for”

From 1714 to 1830, the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover (George I, George II, George III, and George IV), reigned in continuous succession in the United Kingdom. With its centred panel front doors, large rectangular windows and distinctive chimney tops, Georgian architecture bares the name of the monarchs that reigned during this period. A notable example of such architecture locally in Fitzrovia is Robert Adam’s elegant Fitzroy Square, while nearby, a remarkable reinvention of the style can be found at 33 Grafton way.

London’s most hard working architectural typology, the Georgian townhouse itself is more-or-less public, or more-or-less private. In the project produced, designed an reimagined by the architectural practice, Urban Projects Bureau, an ordinary Georgian house has been pushed to the limits adapting the typology to provide a mixed-use socially sustainable development that provides commercial spaces and a three-storey family home.

The project itself was the vision of husband and wife duo, Eva & Paschalis Loucaides. Including a full-scale renovation, reorganisation and reinterpretation of the existing building and a light-weight roof-top pavilion and garden – the building was an opportunity and challenge for Urban Projects Bureau to use architecture to support a mixed-use urban environment and to experiment with central London’s essential urban tissue. Alex, founder of Urban Projects Bureau, had previously met Eva whilst studying in Cambridge and the two have remained friends ever since.

The conversion and extension of 33 Grafton Way was given the name Hard Working House by Urban Projects Bureau as the project was a chance to experiment with and bring new innovations to the Georgian town-house typology so as to make it ‘work harder’. Using the design principles of typological adaptation and addition, the derelict property which was in a severe state of disrepair was reconfigured to provide a compact high-density dwelling, with a range of residential and commercial spaces including a newsagent, 2 studio apartments and a three-storey private maisonette with a new roof-top pavilion and terrace.

With Fitzrovia closely monitored by both Camden and Westminster Council conservation teams, the project was subject to many stringent planning and conservation area regulations. Working closely with the local authority and planning consultants Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners, the property was re-imagined as a positive contributor to the historic fabric of the neighbourhood. Undertaking a detailed visual analysis of their proposals through complex 3D modelling of the property and its urban context, the design itself was influenced significantly by views from the streets and neighbourhood buildings in order to design the rooftop pavilion to be invisible from the street, while appearing to be a contemporary adaptation of the neighbourhood roof-scape. Through three rounds of pre-planning consultation, the planning officers and local conservation area groups were very supportive of the project and its potential to innovate the historic fabric, meet housing and workspace policy ambitions, and to set a precedent for future development.

Key to the project was the ambition, care and trust of the Loucaides family, who Alex and the Urban Projects Bureau team worked closely with throughout the project at all stages. Having been the family grocery store at the ground floor at one stage, the property has been in Paschalis Loucaides’ family for the last 40 years. Paschalis was determined to rectify 30 years of neglect inflicted on the house and to set a precedent for high-density inner city living and to create a compact dwelling for he & his family. On the project, Paschalis says “the hardest part was the pressure and cost of renovating a derelict building. As it was so far gone, banks would not mortgage against it as it needed such extensive work to be habitable.”

As well as the sensitive conservation and reconfiguration of the house, the key architectural addition to the property is the roof-top pavilion and garden. Conceived as an ‘urban room’, carefully positioned openings and site lines frame key views of surrounding urban landmarks, orchestrating a series of dynamic relationships between the domestic dwelling space of the house and its urban context. The property itself was gutted entirely from within, leaving only the existing masonry walls, which were repointed and cleaned. While the interior timber structure (which was rotting, leaning and bowing) was replaced, as much of the existing fabric was recycled as possible. This included re-using timber joints and trusses as structural elements where possible, or as internal features such as built in furniture and a new dining table. The thermal and environmental efficiency of the building was upgraded through lining all the walls and window reveals with Thermalcheck insulation, replacing all the windows with new high-performance double glazing, and replacing the flat roof with a new high-performance thermally insulated warm roof with roof garden above. The drainage, services and heating systems in the original building were not fit for purpose and were replaced with integrated energy-efficient systems.

For Paschalis and his family, the property has been renovated in such a fashion to adjust to his family’s needs, though there are still ready-plans to extend the rear of the house. At the base of the house, where his relatives once ran a grocer’s, he has sighted the possibility of reviving community spirit set by his relatives in the form of a café. He adds, “I know most of the people in our street and we can live on top of the shop without any trouble at all. Living in Fitzrovia is more like a community than living in the usual semi-detached commuter belt so many young families opt for.”

Orchidya

Orchidya


Words Vaneesha Ritchie

Photography Etienne Gilfillan


“I love phalaenopsis because it has a long flower period, I like vanda because it has a special pattern on the petal like a wild animal.”

Between the screaming neons of Soho, the lively bustle of Tottenham Court Road and the studious calm of Bloomsbury lies Orchidya. Perfectly situated and perfectly hidden on the leafy oasis that is Store street. Behind the door of Number 42, a kingdom of mystery awaits you, and more to the point, mysteriously beautiful Orchids. The shop is arranged in two halves ‘to reflect the history and modernity of orchids’.  One half, the front room of an eccentric, Victorian, orchid grower indulging in a grand excess of ornament. The walls hung with rows of framed botanical prints, dark wood cabinets artfully cluttered with trifles, curios, gewgaws and orchids, orchids and more orchids! The other half a quiet, white, modern space perfect for the composition of beautiful bouquets, Orchidya’s other specialty.

It was a 20 million year old prehistoric bee preserved in amber, along with the orchid pollen on its wing tip, which revealed that orchids were at least as old as the dinosaurs. Given the fact that orchids have survived all this time, their incredible diversity should come as no surprise with over 30,000 recognised species so far, distributed around the globe, surviving in obscure habitats –  vertiginous slopes of dense rainforests, craggy outcrops of all but impassable Himalayan cliff edges, but also in plain sight –  water lilies, magnolias, avocado, black pepper and vanilla plants all belong to the orchid family.

Human desire to possess beauty plays out too in the field of orchids and like many a Greek tragedy it lead, in Victorian times, to a kind of madness dubbed Orchidelerium. Explorers and orchid hunters were sent to all corners of the earth on long and sometimes perilous expeditions to bring back the rarest, most exquisite, most unique orchids. Unfortunately, back then, despite the exorbitant expense showered on bringing back these rarities, many orchids withered and died upon arrival, making them, of course, even more desirable – madness indeed! Standing in Orchidya, one can almost feel the intrigue and exotic adventures these intrepid globetrotters lived seeking out these flowers. But here at Orchidya, the plants prosper in the hands of such dedicated specialists.

Orchidya opened four years ago “inspired by a love of flowers in general and a passion for orchids in particular. We stand out from other orchid suppliers because of our attention to detail: when we pick the plants we look at the roots as well as the shape, colour and direction of the flowers to make sure our customers get the finest orchids.” Orchidya, who’s nursery won three Gold Medals and two Silver ones from the Chelsea flower show, also specialise in orchid arrangements, bringing together incredible bespoke combinations to suit even the most demanding clients.

A slightly disquieting thing about orchids, which becomes obvious once you know about it, is that the flowers are totally and completely symmetrical. Theories abound about the significance of facial symmetry in humans – the more symmetrical a face, the more attractive it will be to others. The mesmerising symmetry of orchids appears to illicit the  same response – no wonky petals, no little bumps just perfect, impenetrable, spellbinding symmetry – the Grace Kelly of the flower world!

As a plant that symbolises luxury there is no shortage of clientele in London. Orchidya boasts clients from Russia, the Middle East, America and of course right here in the UK. “As London diversifies so do the clients. Their requirements vary; more established clients and collectors pre-order particular varieties, sourced and grown bespoke to add to their own cherished collections”. Sophie adds “Older clients like to specialise and collect, unusual, interesting orchids.  Young professionals like to buy large arrangements of orchids as luxury gifts.”

So how on earth do you care for such exotic plants? I had visions of elaborate nurturing techniques… crushed pearls hand picked in the Tuamotu Archipelago, to be gently dusted on the uppermost leaves at first light… or maybe mixtures of artisanal nutrients exclusive to Amazon rainforests fed to the orchid root system every 3 hours through an eye dropper… But no, apparently not, and that sort of nonsense would probably kill them. As my mental image of vintage laboratory glassware shatters, Sophie the store manager assures me that “the best way to look after orchids is not to look after them”, as several million years of perfectly competent evolution attests, orchids “prefer to be left alone, only needing to be watered sparingly at the root by spraying filtered or rain water. (Though I’m sure using vintage glass eye dropper, if you are that way inclined, would be just as effective!).

As a supplier of luxury plants, Orchidya offer a lot more than an orchid in a pot. Sophie explains that more recently, the shop has seen a huge expansion in its cut flower and bespoke bouquet arrangements with a variety of clients from the Sanderson and St. Martin’s Hotels to Sotheby’s and Senate House to mention only a few. Using only the freshest and finest flowers, Orchidya create imaginative and memorable arrangements. And much like the rest of the beautiful shops on Store Street – from restaurants and art galleries to independent coffee shops – they go that extra mile by way of craft and a depth of knowledge of their respective subjects to satisfy their customers.

Flower arranging is an art in itself, an ancient Japanese art to be precise, called Ikebana. Established in the 15th century and originally taught by Buddhist priests, it became a disciplined art form for creative expression which, by employing a series of rules the intention of the artist could be conveyed via the particular colour combinations, shapes and natural lines used in the final exhibit, bringing nature and humanity together. Sophie herself has extensively studied flower arranging in Paris learning how to manipulate organic materials and develop concepts and designs by utilising a variety of their properties. She then spent a further 6 months at the Orchidya greenhouse in Lincolnshire learning to care for and nurture the growing plants. Her enjoyment and depth of knowledge of Orchidya’s wares is evident not only from the lush, almost tropical feel of the shop but from her answer to my question: what is your favourite orchid? Sophie just about manages to stop herself at 5. And that’s five orchid families, not five orchids!

“I love phalenopsis because it has a long flower period, I like vanda because it has a special pattern on the petal like a wild animal. Slipper orchids look so unique and wild. Dendrobidium orchids are so elegant. Cambria orchids have a special fragrance, some of them smell like orange blossoms, some smell like delicate jasmine, and some smell like chocolate.” I suspect she could go list many more and luckily for those that visit Orchidya, funds notwithstanding, you too can choose as many as you like.

Taylors Buttons

Taylors Buttons


Words Omri Rose

Photography Erin Barry


“I don’t know how many buttons we have. Thousands. Thousands and Thousands.”

“I don’t dream about them.” The words of Mrs. Maureen Rose, owner and proprietor of Taylors Buttons, a shop which could easily be in place along the streets of J.K.Rowling’s Diagon Alley or amidst a Dickensian tale. Fitting then, perhaps, that the buttons for the Harry Potter films were provided by Taylors Buttons and that Dickens himself twice lived as a young man in the narrow Victorian house, which for the past 17 years has been home to this a treasure of London’s artisan past.

Established for over a century, the shop came into the Rose family when Maureen’s late husband Leon, in his time known as ‘Mr. Buttons’took over from the previous owners around 50 years ago. Originally located on Brewer St. in the heart of Soho’s once thriving trade, Maureen has said she “couldn’t believe what they’d taken on –there was so much stock and it was all stacked up in a room which was smaller than the shop is now. It only had one light bulb above the desk.” As business flourished Maureen and Leon relocated to Silver Place, where they stayed for many years before finally moving and settling in their current home, at 22 Cleveland St, in Fitzrovia.

Taylors Buttons is filled with a combination of antique sewing machines, mysterious old tools for hand crafting, an impressive lead till from a bygone age, and of course the hundreds of dusty boxes – vintage collector pieces themselves – which contain the myriad of buttons, buckles, and more and more buttons that the shop has to offer. Too many types and styles to list, whether it be metal, glass, pearl, horn, wood, leather, dyeable, covered or whatever you may be after, Maureen possesses  the knowledge of their exact location. But pointing to the many shelves overflowing with buttons, charmingly arranged in what can only be described as organised chaos, she confides mischievously, “They move at night!”

With all the shop has to offer, it is perhaps Maureen herself – sometimes referred to simply and with reverence as ‘The Button Lady’ – who is the real pearl of Taylor’s Buttons. It is Maureen’s good humour, sharp wit and rapport with her many customers, from Savile Row tailors and Wedding Gown Makers to Theatre and Film designers, Walk Ins, and first-timers that makes Taylors Buttons such a unique and authentic experience. Despite her modesty and after much cajoling, Maureen shares, some of the famous names that have become customers: from Gary Oldman to Vivienne Westwood, from Elton John to the Royal Family themselves.

But no matter who the customer may be, Maureen adds jokingly “We don’t charge extra for the dust!” Perhaps she should though, as it is that dust, of authenticity, that is part of what makes Taylors Buttons the charming and utterly unique shop that it is. “I have one rule. If you drop it, you pick it up.” And no doubt, many a curious or clumsy shopper has found themselves on their hands and knees doing just that!

Maureen may not really hold you to that rule, but in reverence to this humble yet historical shop – a place from an imagined bygone era still alive and relevant today – you may want to! After all, chances are you dropped them in the first place and if you don’t retrieve them, they may very well be lost forever. You’d be helping Maureen out as well, who these days finds less and less time to save buttons from the dreaded floor. But it’s all ‘a day in the life’ of the button shop and in a corner a massive container filled with assorted buttons, lovingly referred to as ‘floor buttons’, is a constant reminder of what happens to the ones that get dropped and never find a way home to their original boxes. “I don’t know how many buttons we have. Thousands. Thousands and Thousands.” As for favourites, she says she has a few. “I like the cherries. They’re pearl. A gentlemen once put them on his jacket.” She smiles as she says this, relishing the fact that one of her favourites has found a good home. “The most important thing is that you have to like them.” Her emphasis on ‘you’ and the way she phrased those two thoughts together however gave me the impression that her beloved cherry buttons would not necessarily have been her own first choice for the gentleman’s jacket. “The right button can really make all the difference.” After all, the devil is in the detail.

Between dealing with customers and phone calls, Maureen’s days are often spent working with covered buttons, most often for bridal ware, and it is in the making of these that one gets a sense of a true artisan at work. Maureen expertly and seemingly without looking, works the various pieces required for covering a button into her machine, deftly turning the handle and pressing down as she creates from fabric, backs, and moulds the many varieties of covered buttons that are required. “The small ones are very finicky. Sometimes you have to cover them twice.” Along with buttons, Maureen also covers belts and buckles, a secondary aspect to the business. And hers is the one shop in London that provide a facsimiles of the cut steel buttons used by the prestigious office of ‘High Sheriff of London’, the only person allowed to take their sheep over London Bridge!

Charmingly eccentric and a gateway to the past, Taylors Buttons is not without its modern touches. They recently launched their first website, entering into the 21st century with the charm, modesty, and the grace associated with them. No trumpets, no bangs, just honest quality and good spirits. “We’ll never get all the stock online. We’ve only put a tiny portion of it up so far.” Whatever the next steps for Taylors Buttons, it remains a testament to London’s past and an inspirational for small businesses to aspire to. Long may it remain as a symbol and reminder of the spirit of London’s artisan legacy.

Brandy Row

Brandy Row


Words & Portraits Etienne Gilfillan


“I’m like the Artful Dodger meets Al Capone.”

I met Brandy Row about 4 years ago, but really our paths should have crossed much earlier. I’d been looking for a guitarist to help me record some songs with a talented blues singer, and the manager of Soho’s So High Soho recommended one of her employees. I wanted someone local just to make things easy. “Brandy Row. He’s a multi-instrumentalist” she suggested “and best of all, he lives nearby.” But never could I have imagined how nearby – Brandy’s flat and mine shared a wall! He was my next door neighbour, only I was two floors above him.

I discovered an animated, passionate character for whom, it soon became evident, life was both toxic and intoxicating. He looked a lot like a modern day Robert Mitchum from Night of the Hunter, carrying the same gravitas and intensity but with a caustic sense of humour. This guy was totally absorbed by the desire to write and perform his own music. And his sartorial style was a living embodiment of his dark, sometimes apocalyptic lyrics. Suited like he might be attending a funeral in a Flannery O’Connor Southern Gothic novel, his hands and face covered in a constellation of peculiar tattoos, Brandy Row was definitely not your average Fitzrovian.

And to think our paths had never crossed… How could I have missed him? So I started photographing Brandy to make up for lost time and delved into his music. I discovered his folky psychedelic solo material but also, a harder, 70s english punk side which he showed off with another  project, The Gaggers. But even his bluesier material had a punk edge to it so I was curious to know where that came from. “People like  Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Robert Johnson, Stiv Bators, The Stones, Etta James, Alan Watts, Karen Dalton, Iggy Pop, Lux Interior, Bill Hicks, Joe Strummer, Bruce Lee… they all influenced my songwriting and even life choices! I also love all that Delta Blues stuff and the 50’s 60’s Chicago movement, the list goes on and on!!”

One of the highlights of his life happened last summer, when he got an opening slot for some of the artists he had long admired. “I played a couple of shows in the UK opening for a supergroup formed of Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Earl Slick (who worked with Bowie) and Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats. More recently, I opened up for Adam Ant! What a great show! He’s someone I use to dress up like as a kid so him calling me asking me to support was a trip!”

Speaking of trips, Brandy toured America again earlier this year. “I’ve toured a lot in America: the Midwest, the East Coast, West Coast. I met some great people that have changed my life. The last time I was in the States was a few months ago now, I did a tour that started on new years eve in Brooklyn, New York City, at a place called The Beast of Bourbon, run by an english castaway that has been anchored in NYC for 20 years.” It was there that Brandy hosted and promoted a night and got a bunch of musicians that he’d known and shared a stage with many times before in the Big Apple. “It was a great night! My band flew out to do the show. We played into the New Year, then I flew back to LA with my good friends and family Tina de la Celle and Julian de la Celle.”

Touring. Working. Recording. Working. Every penny Brandy earns he throws back into his music, funding 7” single releases, photo shoots and even elaborate videos. And his most recent video might well be one of his most ambitious not to say craziest… “Julian de la Celle and I went to the Nevada desert to shoot a new music video. By the time we were done shooting, I was covered in blood, as part of the story had me being filmed with an array of replica weapons. Anyhow, we drove to Vegas after that, but I had to stop in a busy parking lot to use the toilet! We were all sleep deprived and a bit frazzled. I opened the trunk and all the guns and knifes from the shoot spilled out! To make matters worse, for some reason I had 100 dollars in one dollar bills in my pocket. They all flew out, blowing across the windy desert carpark. That day, the good people of Nevada saw the Artful Dodger dressed as Al Capone, wearing a black mac, splattered with blood, chasing dollar bills in a desert rest stop, waving a gun and cursing in British gibberish at the money flying above his head… the sort of thing that makes a good video in its own right! Needless to say, we got out of there pretty quick.”

The last few months of Brandy’s life have seen him return to studio, off the radar with social media, concentrating on new material, evolving musically yet again. “I’ve been recording a new EP since January with my very talented amigo Rex Whitehall and a great producer and sound engineer called Alastair Jamieson, who owns and operates from Park Studios in Birmingham. It’s full of great 60’s equipment, old reverbs, everything. A great vibe!” Based in a beautiful Victorian building in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, the studio has become Brandy’s second home. “Alastair brings out the best in me and the sessions we have are organic, we capture magic from the madness!”

But Brandy’s ideas for all this new material more often than not originate from his real home, back in Fitzrovia. “My whole writing routine consists of long walks around Fitzrovia and Soho at night. I get a vibe from an idea at home, record it, chop down a mix then put it my ears and take it out to streets. Out there, history seeps from every wall… you see what reality is really like, and that’s what I take from the area: triumph, failure, the truth, fraud, outcasts, junkies, artists, chancers, movers and shakers, its all out there in the dead of night!”

Greta Bellamacina

Greta Bellamacina


Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Sandra Vijandi


“I think all art forms are connected to statements – and educate in some way. I like to think that through fashion, music, art you can change the way people think.”

On the seam which separates Fitzrovia from east and west sits Maple Street. Cornered in by Banksy’s contribution to the neighbourhood and the post office tower, Maple Street is the bridge from Camden to Westminster. As my former home, I know Maple Street all too well. Though, recently I have come to discover a neighbour whose creative habits are not too dissimilar to my own. Poet, writer, artist and model, Greta Bellamacina tells of her relationship with the Fitzrovia neighbourhood and her works.

Greta grew up in Camden, which explains why the area always felt nostalgic to her. Having previously attended RADA, she studied at King’s College London where she graduated in 2012 with a BA in English. Her true passion, writing, came about as no coincidence for Greta… in fact it was almost intended. Her father, a musician, would endlessly play melodies on the piano to her in order to encourage her to write lyrics: “…they were always more like poems. I don’t think I really became interested in it properly until I was at school – I remember being really drawn to Lord Byron’s epic poem Don Juan,” she recalls.

Her first credited contribution came in 2007 when working for US Vogue as part of her artists/writers journey on the publication of ‘The World in Vogue: people, parties, places’. In 2011, Greta released a limited edition collection of poetry titled ‘Kaleidoscope’, which later aided her in being short-listed as the Young Poet Laureate of London in 2013. Though currently poetry editor of Champ Magazine, her writings and works have also graced the pages of a variety of publications, from The Telegraph to Wonderland, Vogue (UK, US & Italia), and Harper’s Bazaar UK.

Growing up Greta read a lot of poetry by writers such as Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin; all of whom Greta felt devoted to understand. She explains, “I felt close to their unleashed silences and noiseless despairs. But now I think I am more influenced by poets who have a way of looking at landscape as a continuous home; poets like Octavio Paz and Alice Oswald, looking at land as part of a greater system, something more cohesive with our dreams, part of the weather and the trees. I like to explore these themes a lot in my writing.”

Last year, Greta edited a collection of poetry, ‘Nature’s Jewels’, in collaboration with MACK publishers, where she was later assigned the role of poetry editor. Earlier this year, she was commissioned to write a series of poetic texts for the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy, while in February she launched a collection of British contemporary love poems with Faber & Faber. Greta is currently collaborating on a collection of verse with the poet, Robert Montgomery. “We started writing together a while ago and decided our styles seemed to complement each other. The poems all come back round to the idea of being British, the night buses going round the circus squares of London, the left-over mornings of the week, and the BT privatisation,” she explains.

But Greta has more than one string to her bow. She recently directed a documentary about the importance of saving our slowly vanishing public libraries (released last month) and is currently working on several short films which will premiere at the end of this year. In addition to filmmaking, Greta has also modelled for a number of years, and has starred in fashion campaigns for various brands including Burberry and All Saints. “I was spotted in a lift by a photographer in the Conde Nast building in New York, whilst I was working for Vogue in my gap year before I went to university. He sent some images to Models1 in London and I got signed,” she says. She sees these two creative pursuits – modelling and writing – as having developed alongside one another. “I think all art forms are connected to statements – and educate in some way. I like to think that through fashion, music, art you can change the way people think,” says Greta. Currently, she is represented by VIVA Model Management on their talent board which is based in London and Paris.

Greta first visited the Fitzrovia neighbourhood when visiting French’s Theatre Bookstore on Warren Street to look for plays and scripts during her studies at RADA. She felt strongly that Fitzrovia was in some ways a lost neighbourhood; in being so central, though equally quite forgotten from the rest of the West-End, despite its literary history and charm. “I like the rhythm of the place; everyone arrives into town and leaves so quickly that it feels like there is a lot of stillness and space,” she says, now a resident of Fitzrovia for two years.

With her literary agent based around the corner, Greta is well adjusted to Fitzrovia, a neighbourhood which has come to inspire her in recent years. With the signs of poetry and old magical history everywhere in her path – from Banksy’s art at the end of her street reading ‘if graffiti changed anything – it would be illegal’, to the rooftop graffiti on Maple Street reading; ‘the writer, the villain & the stone’ – to Greta Fitzrovia is a realm of independence and creativity.

Percy & Founders

Percy & Founders


Words Kirk Truman

Photography Laurie Fletcher & James Brown


“We want to be the natural social hub that people want to go to not once a week, but two or three times a week.”

Peer and landowner, Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland, is a name which is quietly synonymous with Fitzrovia. About the streets, subtle references to a man who developed and built on the name of our region from Percy Street to The Northumberland Arms are evenly spread. In 1755, Hugh Percy and a group of philanthropists came together and founded the Middlesex Hospital. Forward to today; for many, Percy and his founders would appear as but names in history. Now, on the site of the former Middlesex Hospital, a new reference to their legacy and the heritage of Fitzrovia has come to light. Sure to become as synonymous with the neighbourhood as Hugh Percy himself, Fitzrovia’s newest social destination Percy & Founders is a restaurant and bar which takes its name from Hugh Percy and the men who founded the Middlesex Hospital.

Having opened this spring, Percy & Founders is situated within the new Fitzroy Place development at a prominent corner where Berners Street and Mortimer Street meet, backing onto the soon to be unveiled Pearson Square. The restaurant is the first creation of Open House, the recently formed sister company to Cubitt House, renowned for its award-winning beautifully designed public houses in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Pimlico and Marylebone – The Orange, Pimlico, being a particular favourite of mine. The formation of Open House marks the group’s evolutionary jump from a traditional pub to a contemporary, all-day dining venue.

Percy & Founders’ modern all-day dining is complemented by the different areas of the restaurant being tailored to a variety of needs at different times of the day – with a notable focus on ease and accessibility. Welcoming both reservations and casual walk-ins, the restaurant itself offers residents and visitors alike everything from morning coffee and breakfast through to lunch, dinner and evening cocktails. Alfresco dining is offered for the warmer months. Each section of Percy & Founders is purposefully designed to flow effortlessly into the next, thus making for a reassuringly comfortable venue. “We want to be the natural social hub that people want to go to not once a week, but two or three times a week,” says Open House Director Stefan Turnbull.

Great emphasis has been put on the design and finish of Percy & Founders, with the interior of the restaurant sympathetic to the heritage of Fitzrovia and its surrounding architecture. The logo of the restaurant is inspired by elements of the Percy family coat of arms. The Middlesex Hospital, and adjoining Grade II listed Fitzrovia Chapel at the rear, are echoed throughout the restaurant and bar with subtle nods to their respective styles: from bold colours, to patterns, textures and unique marble detail. The design philosophy of the restaurant appropriately centres on traditional craftsmanship with bespoke, handcrafted joinery throughout. The perfect combination of glass, brass and wood panelling paired with oak and terrazzo flooring make for a custom designed feel with surfaces hand-finished by oiling, brushing and oxidising – bespoke furniture honours both the style and substance of high modernism without being mistaken for nostalgic or retrograde.

Walking about the restaurant from the centre bar to the view directly into the restored Fitzrovia Chapel, the array of art collections by notable artists and illustrators is striking. Hanging from the ceiling above the central circular bench is a tailored piece by Alex Randall titled ‘The Butterfly Domes’, acting as a crossroads where a tree rests. When entering through the main entrance, directly on the left is the well-lit and traditionally styled cocktail bar for which there is a capacity of 65, with a mix of high and low level seating with four large Chesterfield sofas at the centre, and a marble topped bar. For the summer months, the large concertina windows can be folded open with comfortable window seats below each. On the far wall of the bar is another nod to the heritage of The Middlesex Hospital; ‘Acts of Mercy’ (Frederick Cayley Robinson 1916-1920), a collection originally commissioned and hung in the hospital itself. In part, Robinson’s collection represents the traumatic effects of conflict on patients sent back from the First World War.

To the right of the main entrance, adjacent to the cocktail bar, capable of seating 25 is The Reading Room. The casual feeling here is complemented by low furniture and window seats from which to work and relax: sumptuous fabrics, eye-catching glass light wall fittings and bookshelves (even some neatly tucked away copies of Fitzrovia Journal). On into the restaurant where there sits a series of dining spaces, again each tailored to different needs – all tables are centred around the central division bar. Here the Fitzrovia Chapel’s arresting interior can be viewed through a glass door – rest assured, a table here by the chapel is a real view to a kill. These areas are designed to host a variety of flexible private functions; from canapé receptions to sit down dinners.

Laid out along the left wall of the restaurant toward the stairwell, hangs the original 16 piece ‘A Rake’s Progress’ by British painter David Hockney (a 1960 adaptation of William Hogarth’s 1733 ‘A Rake’s Progress’), drawing attention to the challenges of social mobility and of maintaining one’s personal identity. At the far end of the restaurant it is difficult to distract yourself from the endearing pose of ‘Sick Dog’ by German painter, Michael Sowa, hung above the staircase. Where dogs were once as in abundance as guests in public houses, it seems appropriate for this be placed within the restaurant; Percy & Founders is a dog-friendly establishment.

Toward the far end of the restaurant, quickly stealing your attention is the superb open kitchen. Standing within this arena of creativity and buzz is a 1.5 tonne Maestro Venetti oven, custom designed for/by wonderful Executive Chef, Diego Cardoso. Standing before the kitchen are two high level sharing tables which allow for guests to experience the atmosphere and excitement of the kitchen through the Pyrolave pass, which is a glazed volcanic lava stone; past the kitchen, to the left and down the bespoke terrazzo and brass staircase leading to the lower ground floor, is the private dining room. Capable of seating 20 guests, and complete with its own bar, the dining room launched just last month. The versatile design of the space will be able to tailor to a number of different private functions such as drinks receptions, presentations, board meetings and family celebrations.

Percy & Founders Executive Chef, Diego Cardoso, has brought his wealth of experience to Fitzrovia, having previously worked in an array of some of the world’s most creative and exciting kitchens; most recently having worked as Head Chef at Angela Hartnett’s Murano. The all-day menu he has created features a fusion of simple British and modern European delights. There is a concise list of six starters, six mains, salads, sides and a dry-aged beef section. Mains such as the Sea Trout and Middle White Pork are delicious. There is also an all-day bar menu, including bar snacks – note the courgette wafers, cream cheese and Iberico ham, which are mesmerising. The restaurant is also open for breakfast at 7:30 throughout the week and has a weekend brunch menu – not forgetting a traditional Sunday Roast. Hand-in-hand with the menu itself, staff in the restaurant and bar are polite and informal, adding to the overall relaxed and casual setting at the heart of the neighbourhood.

Starters straight from Cardoso’s menu, such as the Lobster & Prawn Scotch Egg or Crispy Short Rib, make for a refreshing start to dinner, however, I was won over by a daily special; asparagus with quail eggs. Main dishes include Rib of Dry-aged Beef with baked bone marrow to share, Hand-made Linguine and Lamb Burger (harissa spiced mayo and sweet potato fries).

The restaurant’s salads include Grilled Chicken with crispy skin and Hot Smoked Salmon, with the options of sides in the form of Truffle Fries, Charred Greens and Mac & Cheese. Puddings are all presented with paired wines if desired and include Percy’s Mistresses (maple syrup butter), Yorkshire Treacle Tart and Lemon & Yoghurt. In switching between the traditional Old Fashioned fare and Percy & Founders’ own New-Old Fashioned, the drink offerings are respectably affordable, pairing wines from small grower labels alongside established producers, all of which are served by the glass, carafe and bottle.

From its attachment to the heritage of the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, and its respectful nods both in design and interior toward the site of the former Middlesex Hospital, Percy & Founders becomes as synonymous with the area as Hugh Percy himself. With summer now well on the rise, Fitzrovia’s newest all-day social destination is set only to flourish.

Grant Museum of Zoology

Grant Museum of Zoology


Words & Photography Kirk Truman


“He was one of the earliest evolutionary biologists. He was a biologist 30 years before Charles Darwin ever published. He taught Darwin evolution, Grant was his mentor…”

I admit it! I’m guilty of unveiling my favourite secret hideaways in the journal. And as ever, it’s a pleasure to do. Have you ever heard of Fitzrovia’s Grant Museum of Zoology? Don’t worry neither had I! And I’ll confess, I find it somewhat worrying that, up until about a year ago, this wonderful cavern of intrigue and wonder had not registered on my radar.

Jack Ashby of the University College London’s Public & Cultural Engagement Department explains that the name Grant derives from Professor Robert Edmond Grant (1793-1874), who established The Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy to serve as a teaching collection at the then newly founded University of London (now known as University College London). Born in Edinburgh, where he studied medicine, Professor Grant remains a relative unknown to the public, though he is recognised within his field for his work on marine invertebrates, in particular sponges, sea pens and molluscs. “Nobody has ever heard of him. He’s not in any way famous, though he should be. He was one of the earliest evolutionary biologists. He was a biologist 30 years before Charles Darwin ever published. He taught Darwin evolution, Grant was his mentor,” says Jack. Grant was the first Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in England and upon arrival at the University found there to be no teaching materials with which to conduct his courses. Thus, he immediately began to amass specimens, material for dissection, diagrams and lecture notes. On his death bed, Grant was persuaded by a colleague, William Sharpey (1802-1880), to leave his considerable collection of books, academic papers and natural history specimens to the college. This ensured that successive generations of students would have access to his knowledge. Though his personal papers have never been found, his collection forms the basis of the museum today.

This collection has grown organically through time, until the early 1980s through to the early 2000s, when its size increased dramatically. It was during this period that other colleges and Universities throughout London had begun to donate their collections to the Grant museum. As Jack remembers, “They had decided they no longer required any sort of collection of zoology. Animal biology had begun to go out of fashion, with people just teaching molecular biology and genetics. Today many universities in London have realised that you can’t teach a student what a tiger looks like by looking at its genes – you actually need some whole animal bits too! We teach every day during term time.”

In absorbing a whole variety of collections, the museum has effectively become a museum of museums. Today it includes collections from the Gordon Museum, which consists of an assortment of animal brains from the comparative anatomy collections at King’s College London: The Imperial College London’s entire fossil, skeletal and spirit specimen collection was transferred to the UCL in the 1980s and soon after, in the ‘90s, primatology and fossil hominid materials were donated from the Napier Collection along with subsequent donations from a variety of collections throughout the city. A large majority of the specimens originate from the Victorian-era, with many having been on display for over 180 years. Among the specimens lies one of the rarest skeletons in the world: that of the extinct quagga – an unusual half-striped zebra from South Africa. As if that weren’t unique enough, it is also the only mounted quagga skeleton in the UK; no more than seven quagga skeletons survive globally. The museum also boasts a number of wax models which are used in teaching and around 20,000 microscope slides from scientific research material through to sets that students would borrow for a year – many of which are displayed on a giant vertical light box. And look out for my favourite, the jar of (many, many) moles!

Traditionally, the museum was only available for students to visit but in 1997, it was opened to the public for two afternoons a week. Today, however, it is open 6 days a week. In over 170 years, much has befallen the museum: in 1884, a ceiling collapse destroyed a number of specimens, with further collapses in the 1890s and, after flooding in the 1970s, the roof was completely destroyed. During the dark days of the Second World War, the entire collection was evacuated to Bangor while the museum on many occasions was threatened with closure. In recent years, however, the museum has gone from strength to strength, relocating several times to expand the space for its collections. When it was made open to the public in 1997, the collection moved to the UCL Darwin Building. In March 2011, the museum was relocated again, this time to the wonderful Rockefeller Building on University Street, formally the medical school library.

The museum continues to be used for teaching, as it was in Professor Grant’s day, as well as serving as a fully accessible resource to more people than ever before through outreach programmes and its different exhibitions. Jack Ashby and staff at the museum fully encourage visitors and remain keen to create awareness of this beguiling collection.

Celeste Wong

Celeste Wong


Words Kirk Truman

Photography Tom Brown


“I’ve said this before of my relationship with coffee, that it is bitter sweet. It’s hard work, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows.”

There are oh so many elements of my life that I have come to admire and conversely so many I find distasteful. However, there is one addiction I am proud of. My long-term love-affair with coffee has turned serious: these days I can drink nothing less than 5 cups per day. New Zealand born Celeste Wong has helped me sustain my addiction, and her relationship with coffee is equally bittersweet. The girl in the café speaks to us about Fitzrovia, coffee, and developing her own coffee web series.

Born in Dunedin of Chinese origin, Celeste began her accidental relationship with coffee while studying in New Zealand. She sought out a job in an edgy and progressive café, with seemingly huge odds stacked against its success. “It was a little shack of a building on a back street that you’d expect no one to know about, but it was roasting coffee on a little 10kg (Turkish) Toper and we had lines out the door. Once we were out of food and coffee, we were out. We always sold out.” Being the youngest of the team, she was proud to be part of such a successful café. She admired the quality of the coffee and the experience of working with passionate, knowledgeable people in the industry.

On a holiday to London, from her newfound home of Melbourne, Australia, Celeste quickly made the decision to live here, falling in love with the vibe and energy of the city. “I was wide-eyed with hope and ready for a new adventure and opportunity!” Having worked at Soho’s Flat White (one of London’s original artisan café’s) she then helped run its sister café, Milkbar. About 3 years ago, she started working at Australian owned Lantana, where she became head of coffee and manager, with the objective of continuing to raise the company’s focus and reputation for quality coffee. Fitzrovia felt like a slightly more upmarket version of Soho, though in balance a hub for business, creativity and hustle. “I guess working here, there’s a growing sense of community. But maybe that organically or naturally happens when you get to know people and the surrounding businesses better,” she says of the neighbourhood.

This relationship and passion for coffee that Celeste had forged back home in New Zealand was now becoming a career for her as she began delving ever-deeper into the coffee industry. She developed a particular fascination: is coffee a science or an art? “When I first started making coffee, I was obsessed with espresso and certain technicalities of milk texture and speed but as my instincts have become deeper rooted, I now trust and rely a lot more on my senses and experience over just technicalities and theory. I’ve said this before of my relationship with coffee, that it is bitter sweet. It’s hard work but the highs definitely outweigh the lows. Coffee is so complex yet delicate – it’s that and the process of making it and drinking it. That’s what I fell in love with. I love the taste of coffee and how it makes me feel!” she says.

With Celeste experiencing both the Melbourne and London ‘Third wave’ of coffee, she has been fortunate enough to have only worked with some of the top individuals in the industry such as Tania Vorrath, Jason Chan and Cameron McClure and other pioneers. “What I respect most about the people that have influenced my work and career is their attitude and support. They love what they do, and as a result, they are good at it. There is a defiance within them to do it ‘their way’ not giving in to outside opinion which is incredibly inspiring in this world were comparison and imitation is rife” says Celeste.

However, Celeste is by no means just the girl in the café. Her passion for coffee has led her to go one step further by launching her own brand, eponymously titled The Girl in the Café; an exploration of coffee, people, its culture, the science and its place in the world. “In short, I had an idea and I went with it. It is an interview series with inspiring, creative people who are living their dreams with authenticity. I go within and beyond the coffee industry, so it encompasses a range of topics, depending on who my guest is, with a couple of surprises thrown in too. I wanted to create a medium where people who aren’t exposed to this sort of conversation can have access to such ideas and inspiration. I have been fortunate to have met many inspiring and determined people within and outside the industry. It is through my personal experience and insight with these people that I share stories, lessons and thoughts with others through my web series, blogs and vlogs in a casual but entertaining and insightful way,” she says.

The primary focus of her brand at present is the online series itself, blogs and vlogs. In addition to this, Celeste will be setting up a two-day pop up café in Dalston in August with friends who are involved with the project and the coffee industry. “It’s like a hang out with friends and a good opportunity to try some new concepts and have some fun. I’ve also designed a range of #ThatsHowILikeMyCoffee t-shirts which have been really well received,” she says on the brand. The 1st season of Celeste’s online series will launch later this year with an eye to growing the series on an international level and working with larger companies in the industry, and getting on board with a digital distributor. “I have so many ideas as to how to expand from the series. The sky’s the limit! I have new ideas all the time about how to expand, but television is the obvious option, along with my podcasts and other related products”.

For Celeste, her personal relationship with coffee is undying. An accidental vocation has now become her career, passion and fascination. “I want to be consistent, do more of what I enjoy and somehow contribute to the world in a positive way. Being in the coffee industry challenges me in ways that keep me interested. So in that way, my relationship with coffee is like any other long-term relationship; it takes passion, patience, perseverance, and ultimately trust and love.” With her brand still in its infancy, The Girl in the Café seems ready to embrace the limitless prospects of this long term love affair.

The Disguisery

The Disguisery


Words Gordon Ritchie

Photography Kirk Truman


We’ve really strived to learn and perfect our techniques here, and we’ve got to such a standard now that we’ve reached the benchmark.”

The door is semi-concealed, the intercom sits slightly above the rest. Buzzed in I climb, half a flight of stairs, open the first door, follow the paper trail of signs, taped business cards. A small kitchen; another door outside again; over rooftops; a small unit, perched, a busy workshop, a hive of industry. The secret industry that Fitzrovia thought it had lost. It’s here on the roof, hidden from the eyes, in disguise. The Disguisery: the word, the plural noun for a collective, or group of tailors. A Disguisery. “We were looking for a name for the business. A customer suggested it and it just seemed to fit.”

Becky’s parents in Somerset had been in the business, designing and making clothes for Liberty of London Department store. After a spell in modern art, she fell onto The Row and into the art of tailoring trousers, particularly for men who were particular about their trousers. “I have been lucky enough to have many different teachers. We’ve really strived to learn and perfect our techniques here, and we’ve got to such a standard now that we’ve reached the benchmark. All the trousers and waistcoats are made on the premises, and the Jackets are made by other specialist Jacket makers nearby. As the business grows we would also like to bring the Jacket-making in-house. Our suits are all made completely in Fitzrovia. Essentially we are a bespoke tailoring house. We endeavour to create any style that our customer requires.”

Giles, the knowledgeable, sartorial, Man about Town, the front man with a background in Soho media makes the coffee, puts on the Jazz when the customers call at their house. A house which also acts for the moment as the showroom for their clientele. Small for now but growing, by the end of this year The Disguisery hope to have a ground level storefront in Fitzrovia, where they can host, and boast of, their skills, their style, their sharp cuts. “We live in Fitzrovia, work in Fitzrovia, and other people we work with are based in Fitzrovia. This is our neighbourhood. It’s an area with history and heritage. We feel very much part of the fabric of Fitzrovia (no pun intended).

You’d be surprised who we make clothes for in here. It’s quite quiet today but it can get quite frantic, quite hectic, especially when we have deadlines to meet. You see the names on the tickets: Royalty, famous people.” The Disguisery are discreet, they don’t give any names away. I don’t ask. They have concerns about talking too much about who else they cut and make bespoke pieces for. So I won’t say. It’s a mark of their pride, loyalty, agents of integrity. “I am proud of the fact that we support tailoring houses in the West End.”

The research is deep, a sneaky red and black classic soul Atlantic seven sits in front of Giles on the table unmentioned. Their taste in clothes and the mid-century items that furnish their home sit juxtaposed with the tailoring on their homepage, reflecting their aesthetic indulgences. “We are always on the lookout for unique vintage cloth.” We discuss enduring images, espionage and subterfuge in bespoke tailoring. Transatlantic sixties style, Steve McQueen in the Thomas Crown Affair, Sean Connery in Dr No, these are the most common references for men with a modern agenda who require a suit.

“It’s classic style. It’s the most natural style, the closest to the body’s proportions. I was reading a lot, cutting manuals and tailoring guides from the sixties. The elements we draw from this era are timeless and will endure well into the future.” Giles sports a jacket. Green/black checks with a red line running through. Single-breasted, three buttoned. Only the middle button fastened. Showing me some of their work, a navy blue double breasted pinstripe number looks sharp. The lapel peak in exactly the right place, the slant pockets make all the difference. Attention to detail.

The Disguisery deals only in true bespoke. Whatever details the customer requires, or desires, the luxury of choice. Style, pocket, cloth lapel, cuff, buttons, all to be picked, a pattern cut, created from scratch, personal, just for you. Paper proportions archived, your silhouette preserved in paper. This is how you really measure up in the sartorial stakes. The needle that sits under The Disguisery name points the way forward. “People talk about the bespoke trade and tailoring dying out, but we think the opposite. We’re very busy in here and we need more space. You can hardly move in here sometimes.” They are already growing and expanding. Another tailor, Becky worked here for a few years, Edita has joined the team. “Edita has recently become a partner in the business. Over the years we have discussed and analysed all the advantages and disadvantages of different construction methods and have hand-picked all the details that give the garments we make the high-quality level that we present to our customers. Every part of the cut and construction has been decided on for a reason – nothing left to chance. What we bring is the quality, the precision, the detail.”

The Disguisery offers modernist takes on bespoke tailoring: a lifestyle. “There is a growing clientele who have a love of style and quality clothing but prefer a more relaxed environment to discuss their sartorial requirements which is something we can offer. At present, most of our clients are local. Our customers are our best advert. Wearing a suit from us they get asked, and we get recommended. It’s all by recommendations just now.” Building a reputation on word-of-mouth, a word you may not be familiar with, The Disguisery is worth investigating. I spy the exit and leave, unseen but sharp, over the rooftops of Fitzrovia.