A birthday in Hyde Park amongst other things

Fawzia turned 30 yesterday.
Fawzia turned 30 yesterday

We are in the middle of a heat wave in England at the moment. Temperatures are over 30C and it is very humid. Yesterday we were in Hyde Park for an afternoon picnic celebrating Fawzia’s 30th birthday and I’m fairly sure that a good proportion of London turned out as well for there were lots of people either laying about or engaging in sporting activities such as football, baseball or kite flying. We had arrived early at the designated meeting spot and found a clear area underneath a stand of large trees and we spent the afternoon relaxing in their shade with Fawzia, Neil and more of their friends. Copious food was eaten and a few of us spent time hitting a ball with a bat (we probably should have been a bit more careful, a baseball can hurt coming down from the heights we were getting) and Fawzia and Neil had an unsuccessful attempt to fly their kite.

Football in Hyde Park.
Football in Hyde Park

The afternoon disappeared quickly and before we knew it we were having to leave to make our way to the south bank and a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. I had booked tickets for the 2005 Meltdown Festival, this year curated by Patti Smith. We were booked to see a night of “Songs of Innocence – Protest Songs and Lullabies” inspired by the work of William Blake.

We travelled by what seemed like an oven heated tube (I hate tube travel in the summer) and found our way to the surface from Charing Cross. It was then a short walk over the west side of the Hungerford Bridge, taking a few stops to capture the Thames in the summer sun

Looking west from the Hungerford Bridge.
Looking west from the Hungerford Bridge

While I was taking a photo of Keryn a friendly American man asked if I would prefer a photo of us both together. I agreed and he named his price, I had to take a photo of him in return. The photos were taken and we had a small talk about the benefits of digital cameras before we headed off.

A portrait of us on Hungerford Bridge.
A portrait of us on Hungerford Bridge

The Royal Festival Hall is a nice venue but it really does need a facelift. Funds have been raised and the work on the building starts in the coming weeks. One thing I hope is improved is the air conditioning, inside the building the air was hot and sticky which made our wait for the doors to open was a tad uncomfortable. The performance hall itself was a little better and I could feel a cool breeze every now and again but the overall atmosphere was a little too warm and not conductive to a contemplative and quite night of performance art.

Tori Amos.
Tori Amos

There were performances from a whole range of artists including thespians such as Tilda Swinton (soon to be seem as the White Witch in the movie of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe‘) who read some of William Blake’s poems from the ‘Songs of Innocence‘ collection. Patti Smith read more poems set to music, Miranda Richardson (there are better references but I will always remember her as ‘Queenie‘ from the second series of Blackadder) same a lilting folk melody and a number of musicians, including Tori Amos, Marianne Faithful, Yoko Ono (truely a unique performer), Beth Orton and Sinead O’Connor performed there own music or other interpreted works. I thought Eliza Carthy was a standout, singing acapella folk tunes. Kristin Hersh was also quite funny and moving while explaining why she wasn’t going to sing any of her own tunes as she considered them too dark and unhappy in tone. Instead she sang Appalachian folk songs that her Father had sung to her as a child (no mind they all consisted of tales of murder and other evils).

Tim Booth.
Tim Booth

There were some male artists in attendance as well. Billy Bragg sang a song about bedwetting and the Headliners sang some songs set around their hometown. Tim Booth from the band James was another highlight, especially the song ‘Sit Down’ which Tim said he hadn’t played live for a number of years.

In the end the nights performance lasted for a little over 3 hours and it was a bit long really. The last performance was Patti reading another Blake poem with accompaniment on piano from her daughter. It was then time for everyone to come onstage and sing/chant the song ‘Inchworm’ which apparently is most commonly know from the biographical film ‘Hans Christian Anderson‘ (not by me it isn’t). With the performance complete the performers all hugged and talked while filing off the stage and we got up with the masses and slowly made our way outside.

The performers arm in arm at the end of 'Songs of Innocence', part of Patti Smith's Meltdown 2005.
The performers arm in arm at the end of ‘Songs of Innocence’, part of Patti Smith’s Meltdown 2005

And that was that. We proceeded back over the Hungerford Bridge to Embankment tube and made our way via the Circle Line and Liverpool Street to home. At least the long day (I’d got up early to listen to the Lions vs. Otago match online) meant that we slept soundly even in the hot and muggy night air.

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