Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Innocent Unplugged Festival

This weekend, I found myself walking through a beautiful bluebell wood in Kent to the secret location of the first Innocent Unplugged festival!

The idea behind Innocent Unplugged is that everyone attending would spend a weekend 'off the grid,' away from our phones and our need for constant connection to the rest of the world. This (slightly scary) concept was aimed at forcing all attendees to live in the moment and purely enjoy what was in front of them.

Our weekend started with a twisty car journey around the Kent countryside, trying to find the secret location before pitching our tents in a field. Then, we followed a path laced with fairy lights through the woods before emerging into a beautiful garden where there were a number of tents set up.

We explored, following little paths through the bushes, coming across intriguing signs along the way...

...before discovering the stage where all the different bands would be playing that weekend. << Link to some of the music at the festival!

There was also a yurt where speakers gave inspiring talks, (such as the Esc the City who talked about their journey to founding their company) people took part in laughing yoga (a truly weird thing to watch) and the Gentleman Rhymer stormed the stage.

In the evening, we could gather around a campfire and listen to (utterly hilarious) storytellers, who animatedly spun tales to the waiting crowd.

One thing I really liked about the Unplugged festival was that all the power for the festival came from the site. There were solar panels dotted around the fields; bikes, a giant hamster wheel and a see-saw hooked up to generators, through which people peddled, ran and saw-ed their way to electricity!

I was lucky enough to win tickets to Innocent Unplugged through Stylist Magazine and so on the Sunday of the festival, we were treated to some rather lovely experiences.

First up was a trip to the woodland spa, where we relaxed in toasty hot tubs while being served glasses of Prosecco. It was bliss floating in the water while the sounds of the forest (and, okay, of the festival too) washed over us.

Next, a woodland banquet. We turned up in a tent to find long tables set out with beautiful vases of flowers distributed at intervals along them. We perched ourselves on a hay bale as the food was laid before us. The idea of a banquet was unique and, frankly, brilliant- it gave us time to unwind, eat good food and meet new people!

Three hours later, the night had drawn in and it was time for us to leave. The music at Innocent Unplugged had been a fantastic mix (with a surprising number of trumpets flying around), the atmosphere wonderfully relaxed and the festival not too busy (there were only a thousand people there over the two days, although it felt like even less!), which had all lead to a truly great festival experience. I really hope they do another again soon!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The London Symphony Orchestra in Trafalgar Square

One of the things I love most about London is the fact that there is always something free going on. Events pop up left, right and centre, whether it's a free exhibition at a gallery or a public celebration of some variety. Luckily for us, another such event appeared over the weekend- a classical music concert in Trafalgar Square, staring the London Symphony Orchestra!

Jessie and I met on Sunday evening at the foot of the National Gallery (also free to enter...) and, clutching our picnic, headed into the square. There, overlooked by Nelson on his column, we settled down on a picnic blanket and tucked into our food while we waited for the music to start.

Well, us being us, we managed to demolish all of our food before even the first note was played (I mean, who can say no to strawberries and chocolate?!) and so it was with happy tummies that we settled back and let the music wash over us.

The music (all Shostakovich) was magnificent and I felt very content sitting there in the dying light as the notes swelled around us - the historical setting only made the experience all the more magnificent!

Eventually, to roaring approval from the crowd, the musicians put their instruments down. It'd been a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a beautiful way to end the weekend.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Modern Pantry

On beautiful sunny days in the capital,  there is nothing better than sitting down for a spot of brunch. Luckily for me, I'm not the only person who thinks that and so, on Saturday, the troops rallied around and we headed to The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell for a catch up and some excellent food.

I'd never been before, but my two friends Frankie and Rebecca had recommended it and so I was rather excited to see what it was like.

After pouring over the pretty extensive menu, we eventually managed to settle on our orders. 

The moment our dishes arrived, I started getting food envy. Not because mine didn't look great (it really did!) but because everything else looked equally tasty... 

I'd gone for a passionfruit and turmeric smoothy (a brilliant combination as it turns out!) with coconut and cassava waffles, served with a pineapple and thyme salsa, salted peanut brittle and a coconut yoghurt. Cassava, as I later found out, is a root vegetable which if not prepared right, produces cyanide! Luckily however, I managed to survive long enough to enjoy my dish- the combination of flavours was unusual but definitely worked!  

Once we'd polished off our food, we moved on to drinks... Gin iced tea to be precise! 

The menu was full of interesting foods, some of which I hadn't even heard of before which just made me wish I could have had a chance to sample everything. I know sooner or later I will be returning to The Modern Pantry, even if it's just to find out what a tamarillo tastes like! 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Mr Punch's Birthday and VE Day Celebrations

On Sunday, a slightly crazy yet very British event took place in Covent Garden. Puppeteers from all over the country gathered in the small church gardens of St Paul's to put on one heck of a show in celebration of over 300 years of Punch and Judy. 

Stalls vied for space amongst the puppet theatres which lined the church’s garden, wall to striped wall, each a different design and promising a show throughout the day.

As the little garden filled with people, a marching band got ready to parade around the surrounding streets, while all the puppeteers (and a couple of Morris Men) flooded behind them, holding puppets aloft as they marched along.

 The fair kicked off once the 12 o’clock puppeteers church service (a rather jolly affair, complete with a sermon from a man on stilts dressed as Punch) came to a close. I settled down on a small patch of grass as the first puppet show started.

I don’t know if you remember from childhood, but the classic stories of bad Mr Punch tends to go pretty much the same way, no matter where you see a show. He’s either throwing the baby down the stairs while Judy isn’t looking, bonking policemen on the head or having his sausages stolen by a rather snappy crocodile, all while the audience cries ‘Oh yes you did!’ at regular intervals in response to Punch’s squeaky denials of any wrong doing. What hadn’t quite registered when I was little though was just how liberal all the puppets were with whacking each other with sticks, frying pans and the like. Despite this senseless violence however, the show had adults and children roaring with laughter!

Throughout the early afternoon, I happily watched show after show. It was fascinating to see the variety of puppets, theatres and story telling styles which brought this classic form of entertainment to life. What became very apparent rather quickly was just how passionate each and every puppeteer was about their show. Groups of them could be seen huddled together (they were easily spottable in their rather eccentric clothing) all around, swapping performance tips and trade secrets.

After a number of shows (and getting my face painted) I thought it was time to move on. I grabbed a quick Snog (of the frozen variety!) and pottered off towards Trafalgar Square.

Here, the 70th anniversary of VE day celebrations (the celebration of the end of WWII) were still in full swing. A Palace guard band in their bear fur hats and red jackets were playing on a stage in front of the National Gallery while members of the public lounged in stripped deck chairs in the sun. I stopped to listen before heading on down the Mall towards Queenie’s house, Buckingham Palace.

The Mall was lined with billowing British flags, and on the grass, a number of army vehicles were on display including an incredibly fragile looking hurricane plane! More band music could be heard drifting through the air. An official celebratory event had just finished in a marquee and veterans were walking out to claps and cheers from a waiting crowd. Green Park (the park surrounding the palace) was alive with people out celebrating (and also with some rather interesting wildlife).

I finished my day with a catch up with my friend Sarah in the little cafĂ© next to the boating lake in Hyde Park. We sat overlooking the lake as the sun started to lower in the sky and the ducks fought with pigeons over crusts of bread. There really is something just perfect about London when the weather warms up- the city and its inhabitants simply come alive in the sunshine. All in all, I’d had a fabulously British day. But hey, in the famous words of Mr Punch, ‘That’s the way to do it!’