Lara Ruffle Coles

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The Secret Princess of Severndroog Castle at Greenwich and Docklands Festival

As well as 451, I also volunteered for The Secret Princess of Severndroog at the beginning of July – another show that was part of the Greenwich and Docklands Festival.

The show is for small children (and big hearted adults), and the volunteers were tasked with escorting the four groups of children through the woods around Severndroog Castle, just off Shooters Hill.

Fairies Bramble, Dandelion, Bluebell and Ivy led the groups and told the assembled audience about all the magical creatures in the woods who had been trapped by the evil wizard, and how to battle him to free the princess. πŸ™‚

In the photo below, Dandelion and Bramble tell the children about the wishing tree, and invite them to write a message to the princess to cheer her up.

Each group then takes a slightly different route round the castle to meet different forest creatures – on my second shift I was lucky enough to go on the alternate route where we meet the princess’ mother. Here the children are meeting the vain and selfish prince and have to encourage him to not rescue the princess.

Next stop is a grumpy but good magician who was turned in a frog by the evil wizard. He has managed to turn himself partly back but still “ribbits” a lot! He helps the children with a spell and a defence word to scare the wizard away.

This forest creature swung her way down to the group on a harness and then taught us all two defence techniques to fight the wizard. If my memory is correct, we learnt a laughing pointing heckle, and a bum wiggling mooning motion!

Here in the rose garden we met a dancer and a singer both trapped in the wood, but the singer can’t speak anymore and can only communicate with her accordion. We learnt a line from a song to frighten the wizard.

After meeting the four forest dwellers, the group circles back to the castle itself to meet up with the other groups, and all the woodland creatures to rescue the princess. We meet the evil wizard as shown below, and recite our defence word and actions to scare him away. We succeed and everyone is released from the wood! Hurrah!

But we then have to persuade the princess to leave the castle as she is scared of leaving after so many years of being trapped. She is a bit of a whiny thing but we eventually succeed with our cheerful song (I didn’t manage to get any photos of the princess as Instagram doesn’t work so well from a distance of 63 feet).

The princess then comes down to thank us and we all sing our song again to finish the show.

Thank you to Look Left Look Right for a lovely show!

P.S. You can get married at the castle πŸ™‚

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Ankle Deep in Creekside Mud

On the 21st of June I finally got muddy in Deptford Creek with the Creekside Education Trust. The trust regularly runs walks for the general public, and for schools in the local area.

Each walk is organised for low tide as at high tide you would be swimming! You are armed with waders and a trusty stick to keep you upright, and after a briefing in the beautiful surrounds of the flower garden, you are then led down to the creek.

It is a bit smelly, but the pure joy of tramping about in mud soon wafts the aroma of the creek away.



The trust’s base of operations is situated next to the London Bridge to Greenwich Railway Viaduct between Greenwich and Deptford, and the access path to the creek leads you to exact spot where the railway line crosses Deptford Creek.

The bridge itself was modified in 1954 to include a lifting mechanism that allowed boats with tall masts to pass up the creek. The mechanism is now defunct but luckily for us it is safe from removal, and can still be viewed at close proximity from the Ha’Penny Hatch footbridge.

We headed upstream away from the mouth of the Thames, towards the first DLR bridge over the creek. This bit of the DLR crosses the creek three times between Deptford Bridge and Greenwich.

View upstream towards The Art in Perpetuity Trust and Creekside Artists.

Third DLR bridge over the creek with a view towards the boats permanently moored and lived on in the creek.

My beautiful waders protecting me from the sludge and mud.

A little further upstream we cross the creek at a small weir, and we were carefully aided by the volunteers on the slippy bit!

Now renovated flats, the S. P. & C. Mumford Grain Silo was built in 1897 by architect Sir Aston Webb.



A dead crab shell found by our guide, a brief discussion on the creek’s biodiversity followed, plus a bad joke from me…

Guide: How do you check if a crab is male or female?
Me: Check if it has a willy

Cue many laughs and childish giggles. πŸ˜€

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Just after the dead crab, we reached the weir at the top of the creek, the weir pushes the water underground as it crosses the A2. Once it resurfaces on the other side it is known as River Ravensbourne, and at Lewisham it joins with another tributary – the River Quaggy.

We then made our way back to the start of the walk to catch some river creatures. You grind the river dirt under your feet to move it about, then see what appears in your net.

View towards the trust’s wild flower garden.

We also walked under the rail bridge and headed towards Trinity Laban‘s dance centre.

View south towards Deptford and Lewisham.

Thank you for an excellent Sunday in the bright sunshine!

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Formed in 1999, the trust’s mission is to “work with the local and wider community to sustain and promote the regeneration of Deptford Creek through education, conservation and the forging of partnerships. The trust also aims to act as a voice for nature conservation and biodiversity in the area.”

The centre itself mainly runs on a volunteer basis and more help is always welcomed, if you would like to get involved with this wonderful organisation please click here.

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451 at Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

Now over for 2015, this year’s Greenwich and Docklands International Festival featured a fully immersive interactive piece called 451.

Based on the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the Periplum created performance was performed in Bethnal Green Gardens on Saturday the 27th of June.

451 focuses a number of citizens who are rebelling against the state sponsored destruction of literature, and on the fireman Montag, a initially loyal citizen who is employed to burn books.

Citizens are hunted, captured, electrocuted, shot at and burned alive in their quest for the right to read. Montag begins to question the status quo and we follow him as he tries to break free from his regimented existence.

2b

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I applied to be a volunteer at this year’s festival, and when my role allocation came through I was on the list as a performance assistant for 451. I wasn’t really sure what I was letting myself in for but I was excited to be part of a performance that wasn’t singing related.

The ten strong team met on the Friday before the performance for a five hour rehearsal with the actors and performers. We blocked through the whole show a number of times before a dress rehearsal at 10pm. We did the same on Saturday prior to the show.

The performance assistants had a two-fold role, we needed to protect the audience from the fast moving segways that ran through the audience, but also had to play balaclava wearing fireman who blew whistles repeatedly and had to encourage the audience to burn books!

We also silently and slightly creepily gave out pages of banned booked to the audience as they arrived as part of the pre-show. Trying to stay stern faced whilst lots of polite English people said “thank you very much” was a fun experience.

It was quite a lot to learn over the two rehearsal periods, but the joint effort of ten seemed to pull everyone in the right direction at the right time. A nerve-wracking experience, but definitely one where it kept the group on our toes – ideal for a evening performance with frame throwers and bombs exploding all around!

The actual performance was quite intense and it was over far quicker than I expected. It was very exhilarating and it was really fun to work together on something so dramatic with a group of strangers I had only met the day before. I would definitely do it again, and thank you very much to Periplum for making us feel so welcome and fully part of the team.

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As usual I dragged the husband to the show, here are a few of his scary and enchanting videos of the evening:


A fiddle solo starts the main show


On the hunt for rebellious citizens


Don’t forget to tweet and betray your fellow humans!

A stunningly beautiful end: not an overthrow of the government, but a statement on keeping burnt books alive with oral tradition – a role reversal from the time before the printing press.

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Horsie, Horsie Don’t You Stop

I’ve been meaning to document the horses that clip clop up my road for a few months now.

I finally managed to dash from kitchen to spare room with a phone and hit record just in time to see the tail end (ha!) of The King’s Troop doing their exercises.


Every time I’ve seen them it has been at least fifty horses clopping two by two up the hill, an amazing sight, an amazing sound – plus some poo.

The King’s Troop moved to Woolwich in 2012 after the lease on the original St John’s Wood Barracks wasn’t renewed. Not a bad thing for a part of south-east London that spends most of its time defending itself from accusations of being a bit shit and poor.

Personally, I feel there are some absolutely lovely spots in Woolwich – I did get married there after all, and a casual meander across Woolwich Common towards the barracks is a beautiful way to explore SE7 and SE18.

On another note, who remembers Horsie, Horsie Don’t You Stop? My Dad used sang it to me while he bounced me on his knee, and we used to change the last line to “Homebase bound” as we lived near the Catford Homebase at the times. Happy days eh! πŸ˜€


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2014 Photography

At last you say! At last!

I’ve been waiting for these photos for aaaaaaages!

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Up On The Roof

“When this old world starts getting me down” I can climb up to my roof. πŸ™‚

It is an amazing sight, so much more amazing than these photos show… but at least it will give you a flavour, and you can listen to The Drifters at the same time.





















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The Huffington Post

I’ve been accepted as a Huffington Post blogger, oooooooh! This is a free gig and there are about 11,000 contributors on the site, so it isn’t exactly The Guardian front page, but it is a start so yay!

My first post isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, but it is the kind of writing I want to get published, and I want to explore a different writing style from this delightful blog.

So, have a read and give me some feedback if you like. πŸ™‚

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The Rochester Mass Project

This Easter weekend I took part in The Rochester Mass Project as part of the Southbank Centre’s Chorus 2015 festival. The event was organised by the excellent Voicelab and anyone on their mailing list had an invite to the workshops and performance a month or so before.

I had done very little research about the piece beforehand, so it was a bit of an exciting revelation to find out that not only were we performing with The James Taylor Quartet – who are quite famous within the acid funk jazz world, but that we were also premiering the piece with the band and Rochester Cathedral Choir. Awesome.

Rehearsals were for two days from 11am to 6pm, and we ended up learning five of the six pieces we had been given. The rehearsals were a little tough, and you would be in a bit of trouble if you couldn’t read music or weren’t an amazing aural learner. Lots and lots of accidentals and fast vocal rhythms, possibly easier to play than sing! πŸ˜€

We were led through the movements by the lovely Laka D, a musician whose communication skills were perfectly suited to the piece in question and to the singers in the room. It was a really great experience to be taught by her, and as my background is more classically based, it was a plus to be developing my aural skills whilst having the safety of the score.

After a day’s break we were back at 11am on Monday for two run throughs with the band and the Cathedral choir before the performance in the afternoon. We were also meeting their conductor Scott Farrell for the first time, so it was another day of figuring everything out.

But once all was together, we were able to get a real feel for the piece, and the rhythm section really helped with the timing of each vocal phrase and for the 7/8 section of the Sanctus.





The actual performance itself was a little nerve wracking, an audience were paying to see us perform after only a couple of days rehearsal… but, it was great! It was super fun and it was wonderful to perform with a full band and to feel the thud thud thud of the bass drum.

There were nine 1st Sopranos including me and we didn’t do too much wrong! It was an exhilarating performance – with encores, spontaneous clapping (not very classical!) and woops and cheers and stuff. Wonderful.

The Cathedral choir was also excellent, amazing high voices for young singers, and it was a great help to have them there as they had been rehearsing the piece for longer. As for the band themselves, just very cool, amazing sounds, and it would have been even better from the front.

Can I do it again please?

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Mike Jones Photography

Mike and I met at my old job back in 2007, and in his spare time he photographs everything and all. I’ve always loved his work, and so I asked him to be our wedding photographer.

We didn’t want traditional photos with lots of posing, just natural shots of people interacting. So that is what we did. πŸ™‚

Here are a few shots from our wedding that I love:
































If you would like to contact Mike for a shoot of some kind, please contact him through his Flickr page.

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Walking London

A few years ago my aunt Jeanette introduced me to Andrew Duncan’s Walking London, a guide book with thirty walks in the Greater London area. Originally published in 1991, the guide has been re-printed numerous times and the latest edition was released in 2010.

My 1997 edition was acquired from a pub in Limehouse after it was left there for a few weeks.

Each walk has a summary with length and duration specifics, a detailed map of the area to follow, a clear step by step description of the walk itself – including reference points and historical notes, and perhaps most importantly – information about the pubs en route!

To my shame, I’ve only done six of the walks, but I have plenty of time to complete the book before I fall apart in 40 years or so. So far I’ve completed the six listed below, and further down are some highlights from the two walks I have photos of.

β€’ Bankside and Southwark
β€’ Clerkenwell
β€’ Dulwich
β€’ Greenwich
β€’ Regent’s Park
β€’ Wapping to Limehouse

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Wapping to Limehouse

It was a freezing cold day in January 2009, and my poor newly acquired boyfriend was forced from his warm bed into the centre of London by heartless me.

This was one of the first things we did together as a couple and it was a fabulous walk, we even extended it to Greenwich with a short trip on the DLR to Island Gardens, before going through Greenwich foot tunnel, and then back on the DLR to my place in Lewisham.

The photos only show a small amount of what there is to see on this walk, I would really recommend it, such an amazing walk through so much history and architecture. It is also an area most tourists would never visit, so you will be in for a real treat if you have a nosy about. Plus, tons of pubs!

The walk starts at Tower Hill tube and the first point of interest is St Katherine’s Dock – where “we” looked for fish

Peace dove sculpture by Wendy Taylor, marking the lives lost in Wapping during the Blitz, Hermitage Wharf Riverside Memorial Garden

Up, close and personal with the river at one of the access points along Wapping High Street

Oodles of converted warehouse apartments around here, these ones are by Wapping Wall

Head down the Thames Path passageways on Narrow Street and you find wondrous views

After the end of the walk at Westferry, now in the Greenwich foot tunnel

The foot tunnel dome at night on the Greenwich side

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Dulwich

Last June, prior to an evening concert at All Saints Church, we finally did the Dulwich walk. One always puts off anything in London that requires you to travel across, instead of in or out, but we made it to West Dulwich station on a gloriously sunny day that screamed for a walk and a pub stop.

Dulwich is a curious spot in the middle of south London, it is a world of its own created by Elizabethan actor and charitable benefactor Edward Alleyn. Alleyn began acquiring land in Dulwich in 1605 and by 1619 was well underway with the building of the College of God’s Gift, now known as Dulwich College.

Alleyn’s goal was to educate orphaned boys and to provide almshouses for the poor, and due to the setting of his lands in mortmain, the charitable estate still exists today and has continued to give Dulwich its unique flavour for roughly 400 years.

First stop on the walk is the New College buildings of Dulwich College (1866–70), designed by Charles Barry Jr., “a building of red brick and white stone, designed in a hybrid of Palladian and Gothic styles”.

You don’t have to pay a toll now, but watch the width restriction!

Heading south on College Road towards Sydenham Hill station

Enjoying a Pimms in the garden at The Wood House

Fake ruins in Sydenham Hill Wood

The beautiful path that is Cox’s Walk, and just before this spot you pass over a disused railway line last used in 1954, the Nunhead to Crystal Palace (Higher Level) railway line

Dulwich Park, we were too late to go on the boating pond unfortunately

Looking towards Dulwich Village from the steps of Christ’s Chapel

One of the beautiful houses of Dulwich Village

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To summarise, buy this book! I’m only hinting at the contents in this blog post, the book is simply packed with information, it is a slice of historical heaven for any London lover.

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