This entry was supposed to be about Cecil Beaton following my perusal of The Strenuous Years, his diaries covering the years 1948-55 (Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1973). Having bought the book merely to check a quote, I thought I might as well read the whole thing. Unsurprisingly I loved it and was particularly struck by Beaton’s descriptions of his contemporaries. As a photographer, and maybe even more as a draughtsman and aspiring painter, Beaton had to have a good eye. However, capturing the essence of a person’s appearance in a photograph or a sketch is quite different from using words to […]
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The story of London Tweed
So this is how the story goes. In 1826 a London merchant decides to buy some cloth from a weaver in Hawick, a town in the Scottish borders famous for its cloth production. Very happy with his order, he decides to get some more but – crucially – misreads the weaver’s dashed handwriting. Instead of ‘twill’ this Londoner reads ‘tweed’, and assumes this new cloth must take after the River Tweed which runs fast and clear through the textile areas of lower Scotland. ‘Tweed’ and not ’twill’ has been the term used ever since.
The Great Dock Strike – 125 years on
“The St. Lawrence is mere water. The Missouri muddy water. The Thames is liquid history.” So declared John Burns – a great advocate of London’s history – when asked to compare the Thames against those other great rivers in 1929. Forty years earlier in 1889 Burns had been a towering figurehead of the Great Dock Strike, thus sealing his own place in those murky waters. As the 125th anniversary of the strike approaches (14 August – 16 September) it feels an opportune moment to reflect on what this particular passage of liquid history might mean today.
Christina Broom: A pioneering photographer
It is almost a year now since I first laid eyes on an extraordinary private collection of photographs by Christina Broom.