Thursday 25 September 2014

3 Church Walk UK Premiere

3 Church Walk, a film by Emily Richardson 
with words by Jonathan P Watts and sound by Simon Limbrick 

We are very excited to announce that 3 Church Walk will receive its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on Saturday 18th October as part of the Experimenta ‘Haunted Space’ programme selected by William Fowler. 

3 Church Walk is a film about the modernist architect H.T. ‘Jim’ Cadbury Brown’s Suffolk house that he and his wife Betty Dale designed and built in 1962 on a site originally ear marked by the composer Benjamin Britten for the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts’ first opera stage.

Today, Cadbury-Brown is best known for his contribution to the design of the iconic Brutalist development of the Royal College of Art (which, in 1964, the critic Iain Nairn claimed would ‘inspire affection in fifty years time’), and earlier work on pavilions for the Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951. However, 3 Church Walk remains as the most developed articulation of Jim’s and Betty’s ideals as disciples of modernism, so-called ‘flat roof architects’ who spent their formative professional years in Ernö Goldfinger’s office. Indeed, they regarded 3 Church Walk as their equivalent to Goldfinger’s family home, Willow Road, in Hampstead.

The film is a journey through the house in its abandoned state as Jim left it when he died in 2009. In slow disintegration, the house is populated by character pieces he insisted must remain in place, producing a powerful evocation of the architects’ lives. Simon Limbrick’s soundtrack is composed from recordings of the objects, surfaces and materials of the house played as if an instrument, much in the same way Britten played car springs or tea-cups for compositions such as The Burning Fiery Furnace and Noye’s Fludde.

HD Video/ DCP
23 minutes
Dir/Prod: Emily Richardson
Camera/Editor: Emily Richardson
Writer: Jonathan P Watts
Sound composer: Simon Limbrick
Thanks to the Cadbury-Brown Estate
Made with the generous support of Arts Council England and the Arts & Humanities Research Council
To book tickets for the BFI London Film Festival click here
To find out more about the film click here.

Click on the links for more from Emily RichardsonJonathan P Watts and Simon Limbrick

Monday 31 March 2014

Ian Nairn on the Royal College of Art

91. Royal College of Art
Kensington Gore 

Plate 15
H.T. Cadbury-Brown, 1961-62
and Sir Hugh Casson 

As responsible architecturally as Imperial College is irresponsible, with a personality as strong as the Albert Hall, next door, yet without self-advertisement. The individuality is internal and shows without affectation in the smallest details, such as the space of the main corridor on the ground floor and the space inside the Gulbenkian Hall (this, especially, is worth comparing with the aseptic rooms in the Festival Hall).

A tall block of eight storeys on Kensington Gore, breaking out into a splendid roofline of coupled lights for studios; the lecture hall is sunk into the ground at right angles and appears as a single storey. This is the ‘angry’ style completely justified, yet still angry or rather whatever word is the exact opposite of complacent. The horizontal and vertical members of the concrete frame are separated as demonstrably as though the Anti-Uglies (who were R.C.A. students) were still demonstrating. Not many of London’s modern buildings — even those in this book — will inspire affection in fifty years, but this will. It has the greatness and stature that so many of the physically great new buildings in London to conspicuously lack. Underground to South Kensington; bus 9, 52, 73.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

BOOOOOKS: An unrealised project

Before Christmas I traveled to Liverpool to review an exhibition of the life and work of the British concrete poet Bob Cobbing. The exhibition, curated by William Cobbing, Bob Cobbing’s grandson, and Rosie Cooper, consisted largely of printed matter and objects from the Cobbing family archive; some of this material had never been publicly exhibited before. Guardian of Gaberbocchus Press, Jasia Reichardt, loaned several paintings and assemblages. Ruth and Marvin Sackner, of the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, also loaned films and printed matter. And on display for the first time was a newly commissioned film portrait of Cobbing’s spouse Jennifer Pike by the contemporary artist Holly Antrum. 

In the exhibition, head-height grid frames constructed of pine were configured to hold white panels printed with visual scores and poems. The design was a copy of structures used for the 1971 exhibition ‘konkrete poëzie’ at the Stedelijk in Amsterdam – to date the single most comprehensive exhibition of concrete poetry. Running along the entire length of one wall was a 1970s-style county council pinboard display showing a chronological timeline of Cobbing’s life. It was on this display that I was fascinated to find an architectural plan by H.T. Cadbury-Brown & Partners. 

The document, dated 18/01/68, shows a plan by the architects to convert an existing property at 80 Longacre, London WC2 into a bookshop, with a gallery, auditorium and filmmaking facilities. The clients? Bob Cobbing, his partner Jennifer Pike, and colleagues John Collins and Bill MacLellan. The group approached Cadbury-Brown and Partners when the now legendary Better Books in Charing Cross Road was closed by Collins the publishers in 1967. Cobbing managed Better Books, an important hub for London cultural life, but when it was closed poetry readings were cancelled, and the theatrical group ‘The People Show’ and the Film Makers’ Co-operative (later the London Film Makers’ Co-operative) were displaced. 

Six months after Better Books’ closure, Cobbing, Collins, MacLellan and Pike found their new venue at 80 Longacre, a converted basement in Covent Garden. Here they would absorb the activities previously hosted by Better Books and develop an international centre for avant-garde activities. Between them, the group raised £2000, securing the property, but made a further ‘a peal’ for £2000 for building ‘alterations and decorations’.

Quickly, unexpectedly, however, the project was cancelled. In recent scrawling handwritten notes, displayed alongside Cadbury-Brown’s plans in the exhibition, Jennifer Pike recalls how the lease had been fore-closed days before it was to be signed. After a poetry reading, Collins invited an audience back to 80 Longacre for a drink. Drinks turned into a noisy party. Residents above called the police. After this the group were denied any further negotiations on the property: ‘END OF BOOOOOKSEVENTURES,’ Pike’s notes conclude.  

It is fascinating to imagine the consequences had this unrealised project gone ahead. Beyond a mainstream cultural figure such as Benjamin Britten at Aldeburgh, this document connects Cadbury-Brown & Partners to a key group of British avant-gardist poets and artists, architecture to concrete.