All the Hotel Is A Stage: The Townhouse, Stratford-upon-Avon

churchstreet__OH_003 [TIF 18942190804]In an archived statement from Shakespeare and Company, the scribe states: ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.’ And so we’re greeted as angels at The Townhouse in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.

It ticks all the right notes from the off: it’s accessible by both train and car (with easy and discounted parking); the lighting is not electrifyingly bright; and the receptionist is friendly.

Located in the town centre, it’s a two minutes’ walk from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, five minutes’ walk to Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley Street and five minutes in the other direction to the Holy Trinity Church. Shakespeare’s school, which is still open to young students today, rests beneath the hotel’s typically white façade.

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My partner and I recently stay over in one of twelve bedrooms, each offering super king sized beds, en-suite bathrooms, Nespresso machines, and complementary WiFi.

We’re not newbies to Stratford-upon-Avon – we’ve both visited as children with our schools. We know where to go and head to Shakespeare’s birthplace on nearby Henley Street maintained by the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust (shakespeare.org.uk).

Here, on a beautiful spring afternoon we watch short outtakes from Hamlet played out by local actors (a man and a woman) in Shakespeare’s verdant garden. It’s camp. And fun, and witty too.

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That evening we take dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. We’re told that all food is freshly prepared in the kitchen and the chefs work closely with local suppliers to source the best produce where possible.

Lunch is also available 12pm – 3pm in the restaurant, and dinner starts early for the pre-theatre crowd. There’s a pre-theatre set menu every day 12pm – 3pm & 5pm – 7pm with 2 courses for £12.50 and 3 courses for £14.50, too.

We take dinner at 8pm. I go with the Cotswold Mozzarella with Honey, Balsamic Figs & Prosciutto (£7) and the Cotswold Lamb Rump, Cream & Garlic Cannellini Beans, Red Wine & Anchovy Crumb (£17.50). The Cannellini beans are a highlight. My partner’s Todenham 10oz steak (£28) is very succulent, too.

There’s a great terrace out the back for a cigarette afterwards and a thin slice of coutyard with enough room for several tables and chairs.

Bed beckons, and we both sleep well.

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The following morning I am smoking in the terrace and see the fresh produce waiting outside for the kitchen.

After we have breakfast at 8am – my partner has homemade bread with butter and I take a full-English.

From arrival to departure, The Townhouse is delightful in that it brings to life some of the wit, charm and romance of Shakespeare. The view from the third floor where we stayed overlooks other Tudor cottages in their white with black striped get-ups. It’s hard not to feel some of the magic of a great writer of times gone by here.

The Townhouse is located at 16 Church Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HB. For more information or to book visit www.stratfordtownhouse.co.uk

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It’s time to get creative and make a film about mental health on Positively Scottish

 

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If you want to change how mental illness is seen and talked about – get into film.

Now’s your chance to steal the limelight in the International Film Competition for the 2017 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. Entries, which are open to global applicants, close on March 31.

One tip for this year’s entries, says producer and film festival curator, Richard Warden, is to capture hearts and minds.

“We’re particularly keen to see films addressing mental health with personality and verve – work that is brave, open, and takes chances. ‘Challenging but accessible’ is one way I put it. But we consider all engaging approaches.”

Now in its 11th year, the competition provides its award winners (and selected other entrants) with the opportunity to showcase their films to festival audiences.

With winning films screened during the Scottish festival in October 2017, and honoured at the International Film Competition awards ceremony, it’s the perfect way to get your work out there and seen by the right people.

Competition is fierce. Last year, the festival received 1600 entries from over 100 countries. Speaking about the mass of global entries, Richard says it’s one of many highlights of his work on the competition. “It’s a privilege to view compelling stories from around the world. We had to start programming beyond just the winners, as there was so much more we wanted people to see. ”

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But just by entering your film, you can also be part of the emerging, global discussion about mental health. Claire Lamond’s film All That Glisters won Best Animation in the 2012 International Film Competition, and Sea Front picked up the same award in 2014.

“It’s a fantastic forum to help film-makers and service users addressing important, sensitive issues and I can’t praise enough the political awareness-raising side of it,” says Edinburgh-based Claire (below).

“I know it’s said a lot but we need to talk about mental health: again and again and again and always. The stories that I am drawn to are about people striving to exist and making sense of the world around them. Wee stories about wider society. And this means that mental health often plays a part in the telling of them.”

Claire says film-making and studying creatively has helped her beat her own anxiety and depression; for a time she had to stop work. When she eventually began to recover, she attended Stepping Stones (now replaced by the Alma Project), an arts-based mental health project.

They had a film-maker in residence, Robbie McKillop, and with his support Claire made a feature that won Best Drama in the 2007 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. “As I recovered more,” says Claire, “the project supported me to go study and I found myself at Edinburgh College of Art.”

For Claire, to have her films recognised in the competition was personally very empowering. “For me it was a testament to the power of art in healing and a personal lesson in the incredible work that arts projects are doing in the area of mental health.

“The actual awards ceremony is an amazing night. It’s such a treat to get to meet a whole pile of film-makers, all with something important to say. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for escapist dramas but that’s not my place,” adds the winning film-maker.

SEA FRONT stillLast year’s winners were shown at the CCA in Glasgow, Edinburgh Filmhouse and other venues, and accompanied by post-show discussions which Richard says is another highlight of his work.

“These conversations can involve film-makers, film subjects, those with lived experience, mental health experts – the audiences are wide-ranging, and the forum is an open one. They’re an opportunity to witness the immediate impact that cinema can have.”

So, what are you waiting for? Go on, enter. Perhaps you too can be an award winning film-maker and start up important conversations about mental health that win hearts and minds across the globe.

For more details on the competition, go here

Sale at Sotheby’s helps restore sight in Ophthalmology Times Europe (cover story!)

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A Gerhard Richter painting donated to CBM by an anonymous donor has raised 44,500 Euros at a Sotheby’s auction.

The artwork exhibits German painter Richter’s familiar layered and squeegee technique – a cool, colour photographic landscape with a spell of speedy, but splendid brush strokes spanning the surface and distorting the vision.

The sale of the piece last month will go toward cataract surgeries in developing countries, the secret art admirer donating the artwork to the German charity Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) for a good cause. The proceeds will finance sight-saving surgeries for 1,483 people who were blind due to cataract.

The inspiration behind the auction of Richter’s artwork is German ophthalmologist Dr. Omid Kermani. He and his colleagues from the eye-clinic Augenklinik am Neumarkt in Cologne already support the work of CBM. The ophthalmologists started a project called “eyes for eyes” to fund cataract surgeries in Nepal. For every cataract operation he and his colleagues perform they donate the money for an operation in Nepal. In the CBM – supported hospitals in Lahan and Biratnagar (Nepal), a staggering 97,000 people received cataract operations in 2014 and regained their sight.

Named “Untitled (23 ‘Jan. 2015)” the artwork is an oil on colour photograph, sized 11.1 cm by 16.4 cm and was auctioned in the “Contemporary Art Day Auction” in London on the 11th of February. “This artwork helps us to save eyesight! A cataract surgery improves lives sustainably,” said CBM-Director Dr Rainer Brockhaus. “We thank the donor and the acquirer of the painting very much”. Sotheby’s also contributed to the good cause, by arranging all the logistics, including transportation, free of charge and waiving their commission, enabling all profits to go directly to the charity.

Worldwide, there are approximately 20 million people who are blind due to cataract. It costs just 30 Euro to perform a cataract surgery at CBM-projects in developing countries. Ophthalmologist Dr. Kermani adds: “Eyesight is so precious. It costs so little to give it back.”

See the full article here

Art’otel Amsterdam – blending culture, food and comfort

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Part of a small chain of boutique-style hotels, art’otel Amsterdam has 107 guest rooms and an innovative mix of design, art and upscale hospitality.

The iconic and historic art’otel seamlessly fuses art and life in the very heart of cosmopolitan Amsterdam. Within the hotel, guests are exposed to a myriad of artistic experiences.

The work of Atelier Van Lieshout permeates every corner, a spectacular 12-metre art curtain displays emotive footage and the 300-square-metre 5&33 art gallery hosts a varied programme of exhibitions from emerging and established artists.

Add to that a comprehensive library featuring lectures and publications and a dynamic cultural agenda of events and workshops, and the atmosphere is one of creativity and inspiration.

A dedicated art curator is on hand to stimulate, advise and engage guests in their artistic adventure. Offering tours of the most impressive displays, the art concierge also shares Amsterdam’s cultural agenda, recommends galleries and exhibitions and, above all, conveys an infectious enthusiasm for all things cultural.

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Each of the 107 guest rooms feature an unique piece of art by signature artist by Atelier Van Lieshout, ultra-comfortable beds with a choice of pillows, mood lighting and a generous selection of Elemis guest amenities offering a sleek, modern escape during your stay in the city centre..

art room – art rooms offer at least 25 square-metres of luxury, with a work desk, lounge chair, a plug and play device, an in-room entertainment system and a 42-inch flatscreen TV

art room – iconic view – the art room – iconic view option is slightly larger, with all the facilities of an art room. The art room – iconic view provides uninterrupted views of Amsterdam’s iconic Central Station, the city attraction first encountered by most visitors.

art room xl – the art room xl option includes 43 square metres of space and offers all the facilities of an art room with an additional seating area.

art room xl – iconic view – the art room xl – iconic view option features at least 37 square-metres of luxury with all the facilities of an art room, plus uninterrupted views of Amsterdam Central Station.

masterpiece suite – Measuring at least 69 square metres, our four masterpiece suites offer the ultimate in contemporary luxury with a separate living room, extra sofa and two 42-inch flatscreen TVs.
All rooms have rain showers, bathrobes and slippers, while an illy espresso machine, a stocked mini bar, a bottle of water and the breakfast on us add to the welcome, as well as:

 5&33 – 5&33 is an exciting restaurant within art’otel amsterdam combining an all-day and late-night kitchen, bar, library, lounge and multi-functional public gallery. The innovative concept 5&33 fuses food, people, art and design to present a uniquely creative environment across two floors for art lovers and foodies alike.

For further information, please visit http://www.artotelamsterdam.com/

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Artist Beefs Up Against Pig-Like Trump

TrumpAfter smearing his subjects with sugary coloured cream cheese and icing to explore the darker side of the fetishisation of sweets and junk food, artist James Ostrer’s latest portraits are an amalgamation of celebrity icons, who seduce their onlookers through traditional and social media with their promises of success, beauty and glamour. Ostrer describes these works as ‘honesty portraits’, an externalistion of the media data that he has consumed day-to-day.

Donald Trump may not be the presidential favourite to win the election, but he’s far and away the most-searched candidate on Google. Ostrer’s states, “The eyes of the world are on Trump which marked him out as my number one subject.” Ostrer’s effigy of Donald Trump comprises a honey blonde bouffant hairpiece, a real pig’s snout, actual sheep eyes, raw fish, crude oil, and rubble that has been gold leafed. Ostrer explains, “I am responding  to the vast divide between what  we are being sold and what we are actually getting.

I’ve labelled them ‘Emotional Downloads’, which stand as a reaction against corporately contrived icons, the myth bearers that we are increasingly forced to worship.” Among his subjects are those who Ostrer feels embodies John Updike’s dictum that celebrity is  a mask that eats its own face, including Donald Trump, Tiger Woods, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. A number of celebrities feature in this series, including Harry Styles, Damian Hirst  and Miley Cyrus.

Simultaneously celebrated and criticised, Ostrer feels that many stars today represent the embodiment of success and the ultimate construction of false value. Ostrer says, he created the artworks because he wanted to underpin his own and our collective obsessions with the glorification of celebrity and its dark and seedy underside. Each work is titled Emotional Download followed by the number of searches that the subject has reached (at the time that the exhibition will take place) according to Google Trends data.

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Tiger Woods also features in Ostrer’s rogues’ gallery of myth bearers and false prophets. His portrait is a face of stitched together, raw animal flesh, his features a series of emblems borrowed from his various contracted endorsements. One  of Wood’s eyes is a Nike golf ball set within a latex vagina, the other,  a Rolex watch.

Prior to his infidelity scandal, Woods made around 90 million dollars a year in endorsements. Ostrer explains his reason for including him was prompted by a billboard featuring Woods smiling down on him wearing a Rolex watch. He says, “I was irritated with myself for  being seduced, even momentarily, into believing that buying a watch I can’t afford would make me feel happier. Especially by a smiling celebrity golfer who was pretending to be happy when in fact had only recently wrecked his family and work life through a pharmaceutical and sex addiction.”

For more information about James Ostrer click here. The Ego System is on at the Art Central in Hong Kong.

Hip Trip Edinburgh Published in Fused Magazine

Edinburgh. It’s a culture vulture’s paradise with a festival for every fandom. Bookworm? Check (Edinburgh International Book Festival is on 15th – 31st of August). Comedy fan? Check times gazillion (The Edinburgh Fringe Festival falls on 7th – 31st August) Ghost hunter? They got the ghosts busted all year round (The Edinburgh Dungeons). Punctuate your trip with great food and drinks, and decorate with some of the world class art on display at one of the galleries or museums – the blue and white cross flag doesn’t seem to do this bright and colourful city justice, but the Fused Hip Trip guide should highlight some of the best it has to offer…

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WHERE TO STAY…


Wallace Art House Surround yourself with art at this reasonable priced, unique B&B and enjoy the company of Wallace Shaw, the charismatic owner. 41-4 Constitution St, Edinburgh EH6 7BG 07941 343714
The Royal Britannia Less than 2 miles from Edinburgh Castle, this west End hotel is nestled on a riverside and just across the road from the National Museum Scotland. It’s also one of the few hotels in the UK where you can still enjoy smoking rooms. Behold and inhale! 69 Belford Terrace, Edinburgh 0871 221 0243

WHERE TO EAT…


Nonna’s Kitchen Established by Gino Stornaiuolo and family, Nonna’s Kitchen offer great food with a highlight being the pumpkin ravioli in gorgonzola and hazelnuts (drool at the thought). It’s modern and airy yet homely and intimate space plus the waiting staff have an uncanny knack for reciting long specials lists off the top of their heads! 45 Morningside Road, Edinburgh EH10 4AZ 0131 466 6767.

WHERE TO DRINK…


Treacle Head here for the best Edinburgh cocktails and a drinks menu that features an eclectic list of ingredients such as egg whites, sherbet with dipping lollipops and Hibiscus. 41 Broughton St, Edinburgh EH1 3JU 0131 557 0627

THINGS TO DO…


The Edinburgh Dungeon Shiver through an 80 minute journey of 1000 years of Scotland’s haunted history with actors, storytelling, exciting rides and thrilling special effects. Features the tale of murderous twosome Burke and Hare as well as gruesome details of the plague in the city’s “Streets of Sorrow”.  31 Market St, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 1DF 0871 423 2250
The Fruitmarket Art Gallery Be sure to check the current Phyllida Barlow show (on until 18 October 2015) – it’s a dreamy, pink-tinged installation that brings the artists memories of the space to life and it gives you the feeling of entering the private parts of a woman’s brain (men take note!) 45 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DF 0131 225 2383
The Scottish National Museum of Modern Art Don’t miss the important paintings of modern art history on display here. Of note is Expressionistic artist Oskar Kokoschka’s Self-Portrait as a Degenerate Artist (1937), a long-term loan from a private collection. It was painted in response to the Nazi’s attack on modern art, which had deemed Kokoschka and others as “degenerates”. 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3DR 0131 624 6200

TIPS


The kindness of strangers Allow the friendly locals to show you around: ditch the guidebooks and official tours and let one or two kind strangers be your tour guides – they’ll have insider tips, doused in humour, to impart.
A Scottish tipple Get into the Edinburgh spirit with, errr….. a spirit! Try a highland dram of whisky such as The Ardmore Legacy, the perfect introduction to peated single malt whisky with notes of creamy vanilla, followed by smoky charcoal and savoury spices. Available in multiple retailers including Tesco and Morrisons (RRP £29.99).

Sure of you: book review in the Lancet

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If home is where the heart is, it makes sense that Pretend Friends is set in a home with a verdant garden, furnished with a picket fence, where conversations take place. It’s a book born of love by author Alice Hoyle and illustrator Lauren Reis. Collaborators include Katy Gray, who has schizophrenia and has consulted on the book. Sale proceeds go to the Rethink Mental Illness campaign to help with their work in reducing stigma and raising awareness of disorders such as schizophrenia among people of all ages. The power of metaphor is used to describe the schizophrenia experienced by Big Jay, an adult, and the imaginary friends of Little Bea, a child. Little Bea wants to make her pretend friends big so Big Jay’s pretend friends—that is to say, distressing hallucinations and delusions—can’t hurt or scare him anymore.

As someone with schizophrenia, who is an auntie to two-year-old Archie, I wonder if he’s old enough to understand the story when he reaches four. Yet a children’s book using metaphor to introduce them to the different experiences people have is a worthwhile concept. It’s been observed that Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh has symptoms of depression, yet his friends still love him irrespective. That’s a very important message to drive home for children. Pretend Friends projects AA Milne’s philosophy further, and says that Big Jay needs “special medication” for his pretend friends. But in my own childhood, the very notion of this as a reality for a loved one would have been terrifying. However, there’s a section for adults at the back of the book that address any fears a child might have. It gives example questions about Big Jay with thoughtful responses that foster greater understanding and compassion. Causation and cure (or lack of it) are all covered, and the message is conveyed that, with the right help and support, Big Jay is going to be okay. It’s also stated that psychosis is no-one’s fault and not the child’s responsibility.

Conversations such as this one are very important. Once over dinner with two adults and their 15-year-old son, I brought up my schizophrenia and the 15-year-old laughed in my face. It illustrates how we must tackle misconceptions early and bring such a stigmatised illness in the open, rather than pretending that it doesn’t exist. Regarding my relationship with Archie, I’m keeping the book to give him when he’s just about tall enough to have a conversation over the beautifully illustrated brown picket fence.

Published source: Lancet Psychiatry online

Supercity Aparthotel’s suite dreams

Blowfish by Mauro Corda (low res)

Long gone are the days where one could rent out a luxury apartment in central London for less than £2000 a week. Peanuts get you nothing (or a shared dorm in Earl’s Court).

Indeed, the average 5 star hotel will set you back around £400 a night. Or add an extra digit and try the Ritz, for a cool £1600 a night.

Enter luxury living in swish serviced apartments, or ‘aparthotels’ as one group with three different locations call themselves.

Supercity Aparthotels offers, they say: “luxurious and affordable stays for those visiting the capital, providing guests with a home away from home in the heart of London.” Budget wise, think cashews rather than peanuts though.

You can chose between central locations including Templeton Place or Nevern Place in Earl’s Court, or The Rosebery in Clerkenwell.

On a recent trip to London I stayed in the latter, The Rosebury. As a former hipster it made sense. I booked out a one-bedroom apartment and had a friend stay with me. You see, the new breed of serviced apartments are all self-catering, so I needed to bring a friend to cook me breakfast in the morning (he rustled up a mouth-watering sausage and bacon fry-up in case you’re asking!)

My stay at Supercity was about as close to real-London luxury living as I might get on my measly budget. At £140 per night, with two of us paying £70 each, it worked not much more expensive than your standard Ibis or Travelodge – but here is cooler (the Rosebury is in Clerkenwell after all and you don’t need to be a former hiptser to know what that postcode means!)

The place was small, but perfectly formed. It sort of made sense that the coffee table was strewn with Taschen books and this was reflected in the minimal Ikea-style décor with an art student twist adorning the walls.

We entertained friends on the night, bringing back a few bottles of Rioja and had the room and facilities to entertain. We drank until the small hours, lazing around on the sofa and enjoying the open-plan kitchen. Several bottles later I crashed. And I’m pretty sure I slept on a Waitrose cashew.

For more information, or to book, visit http://www.supercityuk.com