May 2019 Favourites

A line of 5 mannequins wearing different varieties of miniskirts designed by Mary Quant.

Hello again, and welcome to my latest monthly recap. I’ve been a bit quiet here this past month, and that’s because I had to take a step back while working on a couple of important things – neither of which I can give you a lot of detail about in this post, although I will briefly tease you about them.

A lot of my time was spent preparing for this year’s Aniridia Network Conference. Not only was I going to be capturing photos and video, but I also had to prepare and rehearse a talk of my own, about how I’ve grown in confidence with aniridia. So that was naturally on my mind a lot. The successful event took place on 1 June, and all of the talks were filmed, which I’ll be editing and uploading to the charity’s Youtube channel in the weeks to come. So I’ll share my talk with you at a later date. In the meantime, do also keep an eye out for Aniridia Day on 21 June, which will raise awareness of the condition worldwide, and show your support if you can.

I was also on camera during May itself though, for another exciting reason, because a mini documentary was made about me by a wonderful group of film students. I really enjoyed the experience, and I’m very pleased with how the film’s come out. I’ll tell you all about it in a separate post later, after the video has been published (although there is a sneaky preview in the video relating to this post). It was made for a major disability charity, so I’m waiting to see if they’ll post it first. But I have permission to publish it on my own channel as well, so it’ll end up there in due course. In any case, I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you!

Those events aside, there are still some other bits and pieces I can tell you about in this month’s post and video. As always, I’m not sponsored by anybody mentioned here, nothing has been gifted, and all opinions are my own. So let’s crack on with it, and I hope you enjoy as per usual!

Podcast Interview

Although I can’t show you any video of myself from the month, I did record an audio interview for a podcast during May, and the episode has just come out today. This week has been London Tech Week, so the disability charity Leonard Cheshire very kindly invited a group of people, including myself, to discuss assistive technology. So I was able to talk about how I use technology to help me in various aspects of my life, and how I hope things will develop in the future for all disabled people.

So please do listen to the podcast, and I hope you enjoy it. Thank you to Leonard Cheshire for including me!

Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels

The characters of Wallace & Gromit standing next to each other. Wallace is smiling widely, while Gromit holding a violin. They are standing in front of a circle made of piano keys. Text reads Wallace & Gromit's Musical Marvels, with the character names above the circle, and the show title at the bottom.

You’re never too old for Wallace & Gromit. They are wonderful, quintessentially British characters who transcend all age barriers among their fans, with wonderful stop motion clay animation, humour and music that bring them to life. And so my favourite outing this month was a trip to the Barbican to see Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels with my girlfriend Claire. It was a really lovely feel-good event for the Bank Holiday weekend.

The show featured music performed by the Picture House Orchestra, conducted by Steve Magee from the BBC Symphony Orchestra. And the host was Matthew Sharp, who was lively and funny, and had the opportunity to demonstrate his talents as a baritone and a cellist during the show.

The stage for Wallace & Gromit's Musical Marvels, after the orchestra have left. Wallace & Gromit appear on the large screen at the back, in among the text giving the title of the show. The conductor's podium has a red and white striped lever, rather like a railway signal, that can be lowered behind the conductor.

Wallace & Gromit themselves also appeared throughout the show, thanks to special animation produced by Nick Park and the amazing team at Aardman. The duo were shown backstage on a big screen, as Wallace prepared to deliver his own masterpiece for the orchestra to perform. Cleverly, this was all timed and scripted so that Matthew could appear to be interacting with them, including talking to Wallace on the phone, and receiving items via Wallace’s very unique delivery system that he’d invented. We also got to see Wallace & Gromit preparing their own instruments backstage, with things not always going to plan, as is typical of their style.

The music itself was beautifully performed, and had a few surprises here and there. For instance, after the obligatory rendition of the delightfully catchy Wallace & Gromit theme (one of the best theme tunes ever), we were treated to a fabulous orchestral version of Bohemian Rhapsody. Being a Queen fan, I greatly appreciated that, and I assume the recent film inspired its inclusion. There were also other pieces of music that I recognised, plus a couple of video montages that the orchestra played along with, showing chase sequences and failed romances from the various Wallace & Gromit films. There was even a section entitled ‘Double Concerto for Cellist & Dog’, on which Matthew Sharp duetted with Gromit!

The second half of the show consisted of a screening of The Wrong Trousers, with a live score provided by the orchestra. As if that classic short film isn’t impressive enough, seeing it in this way was amazing. Scenes like the train chase were made all the more exciting, for example. And it must take some skill to get the timing spot on, especially by the conductor, who has to keep everybody in sync for a full 30 minutes. But it was perfectly done, and very enjoyable, just like the rest of the concert. Or as Wallace would say – “it’s cracking, Gromit!” If you ever see the show touring again, I recommend going.

Victoria & Albert Museum

I went to the V&A Museum twice this month, looking at three different exhibitions. And the best of those was all about fashion designer Mary Quant. While fashion isn’t generally my thing, Quant is one of the most iconic and famous designers of all time, and her outfits do look beautiful. So I was happy to make an exception in her case.

The exhibition explores her entire career, showcasing a huge variety of clothing and other items which she designed. It’s fascinating to look through and to learn about her journey. And there is a large print guide as well, which is very useful. So I was absorbed in this for a good couple of hours, and it would be very easy to spend longer in there if you were to read and examine absolutely everything. I’ve posted a selection of photos on Instagram of course, but I highly recommend going in person.

IMG_3830

Afterwards, on the same day, I visited the exhibition entitled Food: Bigger Than The Plate. While this wasn’t as visually appealing or exciting, it was still an interesting and topical exploration of how we produce food and deal with waste, thinking about sustainability and the future of our planet. There were some very innovative and unusual ideas in there, and it is quite thought-provoking. I’ve posted some Instagram photos for this too.

5 small plants under ultraviolet light in a large glass box, with a monitoring screen next to them showing measurements on line graphs.

And finally, on a different day, I visited rooms 1 & 2 of the Europe 1600-1815 exhibition. I used the large print guides to read the labels, and listened to the extra material in their online audio guide. The online guide isn’t an audio description guide, but it does give more context for selected objects, and is very interesting to listen to.

Importantly, this actually means I’ve finally completed that whole gallery, having explored it a bit at a time over the past year and a half. It’s designed to be viewed with the rooms in reverse order, so on previous visits I’ve been to rooms 7 (for an accessibility study)5 & 6 and 3 & 4. They’ve all been really interesting, as there are so many stunning objects in every room, including paintings, furniture, statues, fashions, musical instruments, household objects and much more. I’ve taken plenty of photos in each case, so again you can see my latest selection on Instagram.

Unlike the previous 2 exhibitions I’ve mentioned above, which are temporary installations, the Europe Gallery is a permanent fixture of the V&A, situated just inside the main entrance, down some stairs to the left. And I can highly recommend taking the time to check it out. It’s a real feast for the eyes wherever you look.

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At the @vamuseum this weekend, I finally finished exploring the #Europe #exhibition, by exploring rooms 1 & 2 (having done 3 to 7 in previous visits). As before, they had lots of beautiful #furniture, #sculptures, #paintings, #ornaments, etc to admire, and I was able to use the large print books and the website's audio guide to find out more about the #exhibits. So I'm really glad I took the time to explore the #gallery in depth over a few trips, as it's stunning in there. Well worth a visit. ⠀ #VictoriaAndAlbert #VictoriaAndAlbertMuseum #Art #Artworks #Artists #ArtGallery #ArtGalleries #Galleries #Museum #Museums #Exhibitions #Collection #Collections #History #Historical #European #France #French #Luxury

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Beasts Of London

I also went to see Beasts Of London at the Museum Of London with Claire. This is an experience rather than an exhibition, and has been produced by the Guildhall School Of Music & Drama.

You’re taken through 9 different rooms, covering the history of London in chronological order. And in each room, the animals talk to you to explain what things were like at that particular time, accompanied by animations and other imagery. There are also a few objects and models to look at along the way too.

The audio and visuals in each room are scheduled so that when you finish in one room, you have a couple of minutes to read nearby information signs on the way to the next room. It can be a little tricky to read things or figure out where to go if you’re visually impaired, but we were able to navigate without any major issues, especially as we could follow other people too. It’s also worth noting that the second room (the Amphitheatre) is a circular space, with the animation moving all around you on the walls, so that could make some people feel a bit dizzy if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.

Map of the Beasts Of London exhibition, showing a path through 9 rooms called Intro, Amphitheatre, Menagerie, Apothecary, Pub, Circus, Carousel, Trafalgar Square and Street.

Overall, the whole experience is very slickly produced, visually impressive and entertaining. And there are celebrity voices in there as well. I recognised Brian Blessed, Joe Pasquale and Nish Kumar easily, as they’re very distinctive, but there are others too including Kate Moss and Pam Ferris. So that was a nice touch.

We didn’t learn a lot from it though to be honest. There were one or two things we didn’t know, and it was nice to be reminded about some of the history we’d heard about before. But overall we didn’t come away with anything substantial. To be fair, however, it’s really designed for families, and in that sense it works very well, being a fun way for children to learn about the history of animals in the city. So it’s certainly worth a visit with that approach in mind, and I can recommend Culture Whisper’s review for more detail in that vein. But even as an adult it is still nice to take a look, so I’m glad we went.

Television

The big thing on TV this month was the big finale of The Big Bang Theory. With 279 episodes over 12 seasons, it comfortably holds the record for America’s longest running multi-camera sitcom. And while I’m not a big fan of American sitcoms in general, I’ve loved Big Bang from the start. So I was hoping it would get the send-off it deserved, and it did. The finale tied up various loose ends, threw in a few surprises, and was quite emotional in parts, as well as being very funny overall. It’s difficult to end popular shows in a way that satisfies most of the fans, but they did a fantastic job in this case. Read my full review to find out what I thought in detail.

As for discs, I finally watched the Doctor Who Blu-rays for Series 11 and the New Year Special entitled Resolution this month, as well as downloading the soundtrack. I first saw the series when it was broadcast last year, along with Resolution at the start of 2019, and I bought these Blu-rays as soon as they were released earlier this year. But as it’s going to be a little while before we get the next series, I wanted to save them for a little while before watching them. So now felt like a good time to do it, and I really enjoyed watching the episodes back. Check out my full review for my thoughts.

I also finished binge-watching the QI DVD box sets at last, having gone through series A to M over the last few months. It’s been great going through them all, and there are nice bonus features on each set, including deleted scenes, interviews, and other goodies. And the final extra on the last disc of series M is footage from Sandi Toksvig’s first day as host, taking over from Stephen Fry for Series N, which is a very cool way to bookend the set. Here’s hoping we get box sets for Sandi’s shows too in the future.

Lastly, back to TV, and I enjoyed the finale of The Flash – Season 5, which as always had one or two surprises and twists to finish with, including the death of Barry’s daughter Nora, who had travelled from the future to help him. I’m looking forward to season 6, which is apparently coming in the autumn. Series 10 of sitcom Not Going Out also finished during May, and that was another enjoyable run of episodes. That’s always very funny, and I’m glad that we’re getting a series 11 next year. It would be great if they released some of the more recent series on DVD though.

But while various shows have finished, some have also returned for new series. Taskmaster continues to be brilliant. Even though I haven’t heard of most people in this current run, the great thing about this show is that it doesn’t matter. It’s always hilarious. I’m also very happy to see topical comedy shows The Last Leg, Have I Got News For  You and Mock The Week back on our screens, plus I’ve continued to watch the latest series of Family Guy on ITV2.

Conclusion

So that’s my roundup for May, with a podcast interview, a lovely concert, interesting museum visits, and a variety of TV shows. I’ll tell you all about my documentary at a later date, but look out for it!

As for June, as well as the Aniridia Network Conference, I’ve also had a special getaway to a city I’ve never visited before, in the company of my girlfriend, plus there’s another bit of documentary filming I’m getting involved with, and I have museum and gallery visits planned. So there will be plenty to tell you about next month as usual. But in the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest Favourites post. See you again soon!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger & Youtuber with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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