David Franchi – Wednesday, 24th June 2015.

London Burlesque Festival 2015 exhibitionThe British Exhibition was a great event, at the London Burlesque Festival 2015, last 29th May.

Talking about Burlesque, it means to deal with a very typical British art and the London Festival 2015 had a great to organise the first ever exhibition in the UK.Therefore, it was surprising to hear that in the UK there is nothing about burlesque in terms of museum or exhibition. The cheeky child of the British culture has been neglected for years.

The organisers of the London Burlesque Festival realised that nothing in the UK documents burlesque, despite it is already almost 200 years old.

The word ‘burlesque’, in fact, was firstly used by Francesco Berni in the title of ‘Opere Burlesche’, of the early 16th century, that had circulated widely in manuscript before it was printed. For a time burlesque verses were known as poesie bernesca in his honour. ‘Burlesque’ as a literary term became widespread in 17th century Italy and France, and subsequently England, where it referred to a grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic.

It has been thanks to the London Burlesque Festival 2015 and its organizers, Chaz Royal and Bettie D’Light, together with Yak Droubie, that it was possible to see a retrospective of burlesque and how it has been born and then evolved in the UK.

They had all these materials, with which developed since 2012 The British BurlesqueMuseum, an idea curated by Chaz Royal. It narrates the history of Burlesque in Britain, with insightful knowledge and images seamlessly outlined, with collected artefacts.

For the British Exhibition a collection of memorabilia was on display. Any sort of items was showed, including magazines, posters, books, menu, and drawing, together with a video installation. There was also a much applauded act by renowned performer Ms. Whisky Falls, who is always present at the London Burlesque Festival.

The most interesting part was a series of panels about the history of British burlesque. The first ascertained proofs in the UK are to be found in the comic operas at the Gaiety Theatre in 1860s London.

Then the British Blondes troupes of Lydia Thompson (1868) arrived in New York, and they are credited to shift the focus of burlesque from comic sketches to deliberate female nudity. In England the office of Lord Chamberlain was responsible for censorship, and nudity was allowed on stage only if it was motionless and expressionless.

Also to be mentioned are the Parisian cancan at the Moulin Rouge (1889) and the World Columbian Exposition ofLondon Burlesque Festival 2015 exhibition Chicago (1893) with the hoochie-coochie. In the late 1800s the Tableaux Vivants were famous, they represented a group of suitably costumed actors or artist’s models, carefully and often theatrically in posed, providing a form of erotic entertainment.

In the beginning of the20th century, Manhattan cradled the Ziegfeld Follies (1907) and the Minsky Brothers (1912), while Paris saw Josephine Baker and Anita Berber took place in Berlin.

In 1930, Laura Henderson opened The Windmill Theatre in Soho and when she hired Vivian Van Damme as manager, they developed the successfully Revuduville. The Windmill hosted many famous artists, including Freddie Eldrett, Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine, George Martin, Bruce Forsyth, Tommy Cooper, and Barry Cryer.

Phyllis Dixey put on the first strip tease show in London in 1942. Another famed burlesque character was Jane, a famous comic strip created by Norman Pett, who had the habit to involuntarily lose her clothes and was inspired by burlesque performer Chrystabel Leighton – Porter (1913 – 2000).

The Latin Quarter was a lavish revue presented by Robert Nesbitt in Soho from 1949 to 1952 at the London Casino. Pamela Green was a famous British pin up in the 1950s and 60s and appeared in Peeping Tom film. In 1949, Le Folies Berger arrived to the UK in Birmingham, then moved to London and ended with a total of 2,000 acts. During the 1950s and 60s Murray’s Cabaret Club smashed the London arena, while Irving Strip Club (1956) was the only place where nude can move. Arthur Fox opened his revue bar in 1959 in Manchester and was celebrated for its talented stars performances.

However, the most eminent personality has been Paul Raymond, who dwarfed all others. He opened his Raymond Revue Bar in Walker’s Court, Soho that lasted until 1970s and was even used to film a sequence of Magical Mystery Tour movie of The Beatles. It was closed in 2004.

Today, this particular corner of Soho has been object of several attacks from the local council that wanted to close down all what remained of Paul Raymond history and wiped off the bohemian area. It is a moment of big changes, leading to a total and complete gentrification of Soho. Against this negative situation, there is also an ongoing campaign called Save Soho, supported by famous artists and personas, and even by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

In 1968, finally The Theatre Act abolished the censorship on stage in the UK.

In the 1990s, the New Burlesque emerged, at the height of culture-bound vintage and is related to the dark cabaret. The new form encompasses a wider range of performance styles; neo-burlesque acts can range from anything from classic striptease to modern dance to theatrical mini-dramas to comedic mayhem. It has the common trait of pay tribute to one or more of burlesque’s previous manifestation.

The acts tend to put emphasis on style and are sexy rather than sexual. Usually, performers still strip down to pasties and g-string or merkin, the purpose is no longer solely sexual gratification for men but self-expression of the performer and, vicariously, the women in the audience. Another predominant aspect is the DIY and furthermore the striptease may be used to challenge sexual objectification, orientation, and other social taboos.

After the rediscovery in the US showbiz, burlesque has come back in Australia and in several European countries, inspiring many artists and musical contemporaries, including Madonna, Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani.

Real deus ex-machina of the London Burlesque Festival, Chaz Royal explains: “We’ve been collecting items and were involved in a book project in 2008 that helped bring attention to the history of British Burlesque, and thought the public and modern day Burlesque enthusiasts should be aware of the rich and diverse past of the art form, from its humble beginnings.”

London Burlesque Festival 2015 exhibitionMeant to be a one stand exhibition, the British Exhibition it might be organised also for the London Burlesque Festival 2016, but it is not confirmed yet.

However, at the moment there are no plans to organise a museum or to find a gallery, where to display all the materials.

Located in various venues, the London Burlesque Festival 2015 was a successful series of sold out evenings. With almost 7,000 visitors sold and with around 188 performances, it is the world’s largest burlesque festival. The best artists in the genre have been chosen from more than 500 submissions coming worldwide.

At its 9th Annual Edition, London Burlesque Festival 2015 was running from 15th until 31st May and in its programme it was the first ever British Exhibition.


Jack Newhouse – Sunday, 17th May 2015.

*Amended on 4th june 2015.

Culture Key free app iTunesCulture Key is an emerging free app for the art lovers of London. It is well known that London offers art and culture in abundance and this free app is the key to find out the best information.

Released in June last year, Culture Key is already a successful app with thousands of downloads from iTunes, where it has a very high rating.

“This is one of the things I love most about living here. The number of high quality museums and private galleries putting on hundreds of exhibitions each year is unique” Thomas Anselmino, Founder at Culture Key, said.

In the art and culture environment of London, it can be difficult to wade through the overwhelming information available. Therefore, it can be time consuming to discover what currently is on display. Usually, there is the need to check the numerous newsletters received from the many museums and galleries, or to look through their websites.

The Culture Key app makes it easy and fun to quickly discover the art opportunities available in London. This app is very easy to use and it has a captivating design and graphic aspect.

For exhibitions, Culture Key is especially helpful, as it allows the user to browse through images, so to have more accurate information. Filters can be set by popularity and to locate nearby art events, concerts, theatre plays, festivals, and even walks.

Featured by Apple as ‘Best New App’, Culture Key can be downloaded in the App Store only. Thomas Anselmino explains: “Right now it’s on iPhone only. We have plans to release an Android version and a website later this year.”

To find out the best art events in London, Culture Key is an unmissable free app.


Friday, 5th December 2014.

Front cover of The Abbey Road album by The Beatles, copyright Ian MacMillan

Front cover of The Abbey Road album by The Beatles, copyright Ian MacMillan

The image of Abbey Road in London from The Beatles homonymous album went into auction. It is one of the most famous and well known images of London and it goes under auction together with other five photos taken for the eleventh studio album of The Beatles.

On the last 21th November, the full set of six photographs was sold Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, London, owned by Stanley Gibbons. The price reached $180,000 (approximately £115k). Several telephone bidders and one room bidder competed to win the famous photo with its unused version. The winning bid was followed by a round of applause from the room.

As well as the six, Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions will be selling the back cover photograph, which Macmillan initially did not like; he was annoyed that a girl in a blue dress walked through his shot.

The subjects of these six rare images are the Beatles – George, John, Paul and Ringo – walking along the road, one of these photographs became one of the most famous album covers of all time.


A friend of Lennon and Yoko, Ian MacMillan, was the photographer who took the shots, on 8th August 1969, using a Hasselblad camera, a stepladder and employing 10 minutes only. Paul McCartney picked the fifth of the six shots to be used as the album cover – the rest were discarded.

Also sold was the photo that became the back cover of the album – a road sign with a blurred person in the foreground. Macmillan was just about to take his shot when a girl in a blue dress walked into the frame, but the band liked it and chose it for the back cover.

The full set of photographs is a rarity. It will be the first time they have ever been sold as a complete set. According

Back cover of The Abbey Road album by The Beatles, copyright Ian MacMillan

Back cover of The Abbey Road album by The Beatles, copyright Ian MacMillan

to music dealers, no one has been able to find a complete set on the market for at least 10 years. Macmillan made a signed edition of 25 but most were sold individually. Having them all together as one set 46 years later is a rare opportunity.

Almost everything about the Abbey Road images is a celebrity, including the three decorators in the background and the white VW Beetle, which has ended up in the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburg (Germany).

The album cover has inspired innumerable reproduction and also helped to stimulate a debate about an odd plot theory that Paul McCartney was in fact dead and had been replaced by a doppelganger.

The Abbey Road photographs set depicting The Beatles went under auction on 21th November 2014, at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, London.


Monday, 18th August 2014.

Last Elephant by John Gledhill © John Gledhill

Last Elephant by John Gledhill © John Gledhill

John Gledhill made an auction to help environmentalist charity trust. Gledhill is a London based artist. He has created a series of extinction based paintings. He organized an auction of his “Last Elephant” painting (oil on canvas, 127 x 157 cms) and will donate 50% of the proceeds to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT).

The auction took place just in time for World Elephant Day (August 12th). It was possible to bid on the beautiful artwork on eBay.

The Last Elephant is one of a series of images on the subject of the extinction of animals Gledhill started to produce in the early 1990s. This series also includes the large scale painting The Last Tiger (1993) and the forthcoming Last Rhino to complete the triptych. These are the largest land animals on earth and are in the greatest danger of extinction due to poaching and loss of habitat.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.

The Last Elephant print recently featured in The Independent and Independent on Sunday, when it was donated as part of their Elephant Appeal campaign.

John Gledhill explains that the scene for these works is an imagined one, set in the near future when the last surviving example of the animal is being paraded from town to town, to give people one last chance to see it. At first, the animal was caged but the bars obscured the view of the creature, so Gledhill removed them. Most of the people in the image are on the whole indifferent to the fact that the elephant portrayed is the last of its kind. In a sort of carnival atmosphere, only one or two people try to draw the crowd’s attention to the headline in the paper the man is holding.

John Gledhill said: “Although the paintings carry a hard message they are intended to be primarily hopeful and optimistic. For me these animals are themselves magnificent works of art, and by including them in my own art works I wanted to help create a desire in people to hold on to them. By celebrating their beauty in paint I wanted to add my voice to the call to halt their decline before it is too late and help motivate and incentivize people to action no matter how small to save these wonderful creatures.”

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was one of the first organizations to deal with the rescue, hand-rearing and rehabilitation of orphaned baby elephants and rhinos, so they can ultimately enjoy a life back in the wild when grown. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) protects and preserves all wildlife and habitats in Kenya. So far, DSWT has successfully hand-reared over 160 orphaned baby elephants. The Mobile Veterinary Teams make sure wild elephants remain protected amid increased poaching threats within Kenya. Supporting these operations are eight fully trained Anti- Poaching Teams assigned to patrol Tsavo National Park, arrest offenders and remove illegal snares and weaponry. DSWT has over 50 years’ wildlife conservation experience and a deeply rooted family history.

Another activity of DSWT is to fund educational trips and campaigns, inspiring locals to learn more about the importance of wildlife protection.