2014 was a vintage year for me for sure.
I had a child. She is asleep next to me, snoring gently as I type. I am not sure I can yet fully comprehend how much this has changed me and my world for the better. Let’s just say that the time before my little Kewpie doll came along doesn’t seem to be the same life.
I got to make and publish a book with Liz Tregenza. I have been in awe of her talents since first meeting her back in 2011. Let me tell you this: I have never come across such a hard worker and her brain processes the history of fashion in an academic manner that frankly elevates the subject on to a whole new platform. I don’t know know how she put up with working with someone who was either pregnant or in the throws of new parenthood.
I was nominated and short listed for a Portsmouth News Woman of the Year award and had a brilliant night with my date (my dad) and many ladies that I have a huge amount of respect for.
My website was listed in the top 50 blogs of the year by Homes and Antiques magazine.
On a personal level I recognised that there is a neutral place between happy and unhappy. A point of equilibrium, a time in which you can grow. Sometimes doing nothing is ok. I also refuse to glorify ‘being busy’. If you fill your life with distraction, how can you ever appreciate the moment?
I feel good. Tired, but good.
For me happiness took on whole new meaning. It is the feeling that derives from the fact that everything in life feels balanced and manageable. It’s a frame of mind rather than a flush of euphoria. It is the peace that comes with knowing I have done right by my daughter, that I have my priorities in order. On that note, parenthood gives you super powers. Instincts become razor sharp and are always followed not ignored. Decision making becomes supersonic and the bullshit radar is honed. This has served me well in all other areas of my life and I feel for the first ever that I can fully trust my own judgement.
It’s also the year that I wondered if I was really an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. I love the sound of, well…silence and am happiest when left uninterrupted and with my own thoughts. Despite this I have made it a resolution of 2015 to see more of the friends I left behind in London.
I 110% came to the conclusion that a quiet drink at home or to celebrate a big occasion such as a wedding or a milestone birthday is nice, but drinking for me no longer represents ‘fun’. In fact I’m not sure it ever did. I simply don’t need it and I hope I can teach my daughter that drinking to calm nerves or enhance an already perfectly good moment is not needed. I have long felt uneasy with the cultural norm that weekly, even daily drinking to cure the ails of life is just ‘what we do’. In a similar vein I am no longer afraid to tell people that I loathe going out at night and that parties are not my idea of fun.
Funnily enough it was also the year that I pretty much stopped wearing vintage clothing. I still love and collect them. I wear fairly non-descript comfy clothes often in block colours yet I still feel just as confident as when I was all dressed up, if not more. Then last week my brother was told me how much he likes my new ‘Normcore’ look (I pretended I knew what he was talking about but really had to look it up). I have to confess, reading up on it, that it pretty much sums up my attitude to getting dressed and it is deliciously liberating. Is it too late to rename it ‘Nomcore’?
I have lots to look forward to in 2015. The-shelf-of-books-by-friends will expand. First up two more Style Me Vintage books by Liz and Keeley Harris on Interiors and the 1940s respectively. Amber Butchart is releasing her magnum opus: Nautical Fashion.
Most of all I am looking forward to year with nothing planned. For the first time ever I don’t have the next six months mapped out, and for me, that is beyond exciting
It is of course a given that I like old things. I also believe we should preserve our heritage. I often wander down Old Portsmouth High Street and wonder what it would have looked like had half of the 17th century houses not been blitzed. Many people in Portsmouth feel the same. There are preservation groups for Portsmouth Football Club, for the Mary Rose and for the Kings Theatre – a Frank Matcham creation and a little slice of our capital (he also designed Hackney Empire and the London Palladium and Coliseum). Another group, the Portsmouth Society, has been awarding plaques and campaigning for conservation issues for decades. My formidable Grandma Jean was their treasurer for over 30 years and at 86 she still attends every meeting. A bit like Florence we probably have more heritage than we know what to do with and as a result our beloved South Parade Pier has been overlooked in favour of our more prominent tourist attractions such as the Dockyard and Southsea Castle.
Over the last few years the sea has attempted to reclaim our Edwardian masterpiece. South Parade Pier has seen some incredible action and most people here have a saucy memory or two of shenanigans and fumblings both above and below the pier. I won’t bore you with my own cherished memories – they are irrelevant. Nor do I need to list its historical importance as many other articles have done justice to its links to World War II. Proper repairs are needed and the previous owners decided not to dig deep into their pockets a long time ago and, quite frankly, when the bills start to run into the millions, can you blame them? Herein lies part of the problem. To fix the pier correctly would cost private investors more than they could expect to make back.
Pier saving has become a bit trendy. Once the poster girls for jaded seaside towns up and down Britain, their sea legs are being strengthened ensuring they are ship-shape and Bristol fashion for many generations to come. Their cultural relevance has been remembered; like horizontal totem poles of Edwardiana. The National Lottery has got behind this and provides weighty donations to help with crippling costs. Not to private entities though but to organisations who pledge to save them with no financial benefit to themselves. The outstanding example of this has been Hastings Pier which has been in community ownership for over 16 months. Another restored pier of note is Penarth Pier Pavilion, a stunning Art Deco restoration which is now a multi-functional community space with the motto ‘involve, educate, inspire’. Looking around the websites of many recently saved piers one thing is clear from the numerous logos that line the bottom: lottery funding and other charitable aid has been crucial to their resurrection. Hastings Pier Charity was awarded a whooping £11.4 million. Why should our pier miss out on the same chances?
As nice and community focused as this sounds, this is not to say it’s not a serious business. For every group trying to save a pier there is often a counterweight trying to pull it back down to their level. In 2002 I stood in the glass-fronted dining room of the Hilton West Pier Hotel in Brighton and watched the pier collapse into the sea after what was widely assumed to have been an arson attack earlier on in the year. The entire metal frame simply melted into the waves. For years there had been talks of renovation. The rumour at the time was this did not feature in the business plan of another highly successful local pier. The point is, there are always people who will seek to further their own interests above and beyond all else.
Luckily here, we have the South Parade Trust. This super group of financiers, historians, architects, engineers and media professionals also include an IT consultant, a travel and tourism lecturer, a doctor, a retail manager, and a design lecturer. They are some of the most experienced people we have in this city. They dedicate their own time and resources to ensuring that, whoever owns it, they will do the pier justice and not just patch it up around the edges. If no private owner can do this they are looking into community-based ownership – I refer you again to the successful case of Hastings Pier, which launched a community share scheme in October 2013. Our Trust is the embodiment of the affection many people have for the pier and they firmly believe that community ownership is the only way that the pier can both be saved for future generations and deliver the enormous sums needed to restore South Parade Pier to its former glories.
I should probably add, with pride, that my father is part of this group. I am not. I cannot be – too hot-headed to do their professionalism justice. He watched the Pier burn down in 1974 during the filming of Ken Russell’s Tommy and now wants to make sure, 41 years on, that it remains standing. His involvement has made me chuckle quietly to myself on a number of occasions. Growing up, my dad was Mr. Capitalism. We earned our pocket money and he spent over three decades working as an international financial director for companies such as Boston Scientific and General Electric. Here he is now, putting his vast experience in billion pound deals to exactly the opposite: a self-sustaining, non-profit, community owned pier that will secure its future for years to come. For me personally this sums up the work of the trust, people using their expertise for community benefit. None of the trust has any vested interests in the Pier.
Unfortunately the Trust has suffered a prolonged and sustained attack. Not by any prospective owners but by one individual who is on a complex and bizarre personal crusade. The barrage of accusations and finger pointing has at times reached hysterical levels. Even more baffling, this opponent claims to represent both the views of the community and the views of a consortium of prospective buyers. Any opposition or even questioning of these views has been quickly silenced in a gross breach of the ethics of internet forum moderation. These character assassinations have proved time and time again to have little or no foundation. Thankfully this messiah complex has not yet yielded anything more tangible than a couple of Facebook pages filled with ‘followers’ who are being systematically spoon fed inaccurate information. Trying to be a big fish in a small pond is not uncommon on an island but the trust has dealt with this herring with dignity.
South Parade Pier has now arrived at a stage where it may be under new ownership and this will hopefully see the beginning of real action and discourse. We might now get the chance to hear from the new owners directly without third party interference. I personally wish them good luck. They may want to look to Southwold Pier for 21st century pier management inspiration, yet it is a huge task to undertake and private ownership has consistently failed our pier. Thus, the Pier Trust needs your support now more than ever. Until South Parade Pier is fully repaired along its entire length and opened, the Trust will continue its work. If you want to read their FAQ, have a look around their Facebook page and if you agree with them please lend them your support. They stand for transparency and clarity and even just simple ‘Like’ will help them achieve that. 2015 looks set to be a pivotal year for the pier and if the chance for community ownership arises they will have to move quickly. According to the National Pier Society we have already lost 41 Piers in the UK including seven on the Isle of Wight alone. Lets not add to that number. South Parade Pier is still a long way from being saved.
We had the most opulent location for one of our days shooting Style Me Vintage Accessories. I asked Hanson Leatherby to come and record the day. He sent me over 160 beautiful images that showcase his ability to capture a moment without intruding. More to come.
MUA: Gemma Court Nails: Sharon Trickett Models: Simone Hadfield, Susanna Mollah, Sharon Trickett
Also featured: Brent Darby, Emily Morrison, Natalie Leon (plus Liz and I).
There is something about Winchester that just suits vintage. To call it ‘twee’ would be doing it a disservice. Winchester also suits Christmas.
The small meandering streets, imposing cathedral and niche boutiques such as the Hambledon make it a lovely place for some old fashioned Christmas shopping. Personally I love going there for a good gander around the charity shops.
On the 16th November Liz and I will be at the Winchester Guildhall attending the Vintage Parade’s Vintage and Makers’ Fair, the perfect combination of all of the above.
We will be selling our book at less than the Amazon retail price. Take that Amazon and your bullying tactics. We are also judging the ‘Best Dressed’ Competition, so please please come and show us your outfits. We don’t really come to events like these to sell books. We just want to check out the vintage.
Date/Time: 11:00am – 4:00 pm
Venue: The Broadway, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9GH
£1 Concessions ( Students & OAPs)
Children under 12 Free
I don’t often miss London but when I do its because I can’t see my friends do the kind of amazing things that you ONLY get to see in London. Like this. Many moons in my stylist incarnation ago I met Bishi, a performance artist and style icon like no other. I had a girl crush on her. I still do. She was a dream to dress. She dropped me an email today to invite me to her latest performance. With Lydia imposing a 7pm curfew on me, the next best thing was to put it here and URGE you to go. Its’s free. Yes F-R-E-E.
The skinny: Bishi will performing her new composition with Neil Kaczor, ‘In Sleep,‘ on Monday 20th October 2014 at 7pm, St Guy’s Chapel.Commissioned by The Science Gallery, London; listen to the preview comprising of the sound of Bishi’s brainwaves interweaving in between a Shakespeare Sonnet. Because that is the kind of interesting shit only she can pull out of the bag.Bishi will also be premiering a new piece for Sitar, Organ & Voice set to a short story by Hanif Kureishi, in collaboration with Organ player James McVinnie.