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Photos from Head Jam 2014

For the second year running Head Mens Hairdressing, Strong Island and My Dog Sighs (this year with Lex Luthor) put on the Head Jam street art event on Albert Road in Southsea. The yard out the back of Head and the Strong Island HQ had last year’s artwork covered during last week and Saturday saw local artists My Dog Sighs, Los Dave, M-One, Lex Luthor, Mimic, Stu Linfield, I am Posy, freakSTATIC, Midge and Samo get involved with new artwork on all of the walls plus the new sculpture too. Extra artwork is also being added today by My Name is Leila. A huge thank you to all the artists and to everyone who popped by throughout the day.

Check some of the photos from the day below, you can see a load more on our Flickr (which is a growing archive of our photography over the last 6 years) or on our Facebook page and if you want to pop in and have a look visit Head at 53 Albert Road.


































Southsea Comedy Festival Competition | Win Two Tickets

The first ever Southsea Comedy Festival opens with Eddie Izzard performing his most recent show ‘Force Majeure’ on 31st July and 1st August. We have a pair of tickets to give away for the Thursday 31st July performance. All you have to do to win this prize is email stuart@strong-island.co.uk with your answer to the following three questions.

1) What is the name of the character voiced by Eddie in Cars 2?
2) In which American city did Eddie begin his 2014 tour Force Majeure?
3) For which charity did Eddie run an incredible 43 marathons in 51 days?!

The deadline for entries will be midnight Monday 21st July with the winner being announced Tuesday 22nd in the evening.

If you don’t want to risk missing out then Southsea Comedy Festival tickets are available by calling 0844 847 2362 and online at www.southseacomedyfestival.co.uk. You can follow the Southsea Comedy Festival on Twitter @SouthseaComedy.

Eddie Izzard Southsea Comedy Festival Logo

Southseacomedyfestival

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection

We’ve been exceptionally busy over at Strong Island HQ for the best part of 2014 so far and the latest Strong Island Clothing Co range has been in development for some time. We are now proud to announce the launch of our latest line of tee and crew designs for the Summer. This is the biggest run we have done to date and we wanted to ensure it was a really strong range so didn’t want to rush it.

We have a wide range of new colours and designs including our first 2 colour print on the popular Refuse to Sink and a return to our second tee style back in 2010 with a backprint (this time in navy) in the classic Strong Island logo. We also have a seriously strong collaboration with University of Portsmouth graduate and award winning letterform designer Andy Lethbridge AKA Hand Type. These are something truly special and we’re really stoked how they came out, the detail in the print really reflects the brush strokes of Andy’s work. We will have more on Hand Type and the development of these designs on Strong Island soon in a full interview. We also have pocket tees with the new Down the Hatch design which form part of something we are keeping under our hats for bit…some old favourites have been revisited too with new colourways and 2 new graphic tees as well. Our latest crew retains the same quality as before featuring ribbed side panels, a back neck loop, deep cuffs, a double v-insert on the neckline and raglan sleeves but with new striped cuffs. With a more contemporary and slimmer fit than most sweatshirts it’s certainly a more premium line. As always all our tees and crews are hand screenprinted in East London by the mighty Lovenskate, including the anchor signoff on the back and detail on the inside neck.

We have a few more mini launches coming up over the next few weeks including more tees, something for the cyclists out there, some very special hand produced items from Poland using original 1940′s techniques and also something to lounge on in summer and keep you warm in the winter. Not to mention another very special artist collaboration too.

All of the tees and crews from the main, initial drop will be available this weekend during Head Jam at Head Hairdressing, 53 Albert Road, Southsea (weather permitting). They will then go online in Shop Ahoy next week.

For now please enjoy our latest Lookbook shot by Strong Island Media over at Dell Quay, Chichester. The perfect day to go for a wander around the marina, fields and woodlands with a few cheeky beers at the Crown & Anchor.

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (1)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (2)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (3)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (4)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (5)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (6)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (7)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (8)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (9)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (10)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (11)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (12)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (13)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (14)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (15)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (16)

Strong Island, Lex Luthor & My Dog Sighs present Head Jam 2014 – Saturday 19th July

Last years Head Jam was such a resounding success with some of the nations best street artists that we eagerly began talking about the following year before the paint had even dried. We discussed how we could run the event again and where to do it, but the answer was simple and literally looking right at us. We hold it in the same place again. Make the courtyard at Head Hairdressing the centre of an annual event where the outcome is available to view for the year, then return, white wash the previous artwork away, and do it all again. After all, street art is an ever changing and developing media in it’s own right and in it’s usual environment where it gets ripped down, tagged, covered in fly posters, lost to demolition and built on, the artists have no fear of their art being lost. It’s part of the job so to speak…

Rick from Head Hairdressing at 53 Albert Road (just along from the Wine Vaults and next to Southsea Gallery) conceived the idea of having the courtyard to the rear of the local barbers transformed in to a permanent giant art piece. From precision multilayered stencils, through bubble gum cutsie to surreal illustrative mayhem, Lex Luthor and My Dog Sighs have hand picked some of their favourite artists to produce the ultimate street art dreamscape courtyard…again!

Head Jam will run all day so feel free to pop along, take a look, have a chat, hang out, meet the artists and enjoy the atmosphere. There will be music on all day, a BBQ turning over in the background if you want to stick a burger on (not supplied), and please feel free to bring along a beer too. Everyone is welcome, so bring the kids so they can see some of the finest street artists working together in this unique environment.

Attending artists include: MyDogSighs, Lex Luthor, Mimic, Fark, Nova, M-one Art, Los Dave, Stu Linfield, Morf, Freakstatic and Ooberla. Wow, this is going to be amazing! If you pop along please be sure to tag the event on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HeadJam and we will put up a series of your photos from the day.

Strong Island Clothing Co will also be launching their latest range of tees and crews before they go online the following week. So if you want to get in there for an exclusive purchase before anyone else head on down and check it all out. Everything will be out to view, and there is a sneak peak at the end of this post (the full look book will go up this week). Also all of our PFC tees and crews are on offer, bargain. We look forward to seeing you all.

Old paint on a wall

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (1)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (2)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (3)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (4)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (5)

Head Jam, photo by Paul Gonella

Photos: Matt Maber

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Strong Island Blissfields 2014 Review By Sophie Perryer and Grace Aquilina – Day Three

Despite the effects of the night before, those who have arisen from their partially soggy tents and dared to walk through alcohol and rain sodden hay look forward to listen to live music at The Wild Stage and in The Hustle Den at midday. In keeping with the wildlife theme the crowd was littered with all sorts of animal themed costumes, and what I can only expect was a stag party of monkey’s.

Burning Beaches took to the stage at 12:00pm in The Hustle Den, where sleepy eyes were literally opened in awe of the band’s soft rock sound. Heavy bass woke even the most sluggish and grungy vocals perfectly complimented a latte. The vocals echoed around the tent, emphasising the roughness and fervency.

Blissfields is without a doubt well-deserved of it’s reputation for finding and nurturing local artists and upcoming talent, and this year was no exception; Saturday brought with it the chance for discovering yet more new artists, one of which being Australian singer-songwriter Ry X. His hazy almost whispered vocals drew comparisons to The xx and Blissfields favourites London Grammar, and Ry X transfixed the audience throughout his set with his soft tenor tones. His track ‘Berlin’ is well worth a listen.

Later on in the afternoon, Floella Grace wowed her audience in The Larch to complete silence and a dream-like-state. Her dreamy, sobering vocals accompanied by fellow string player Gareth and two silvery-voiced backing singers made for an awesome and enlightening performance. The ukulele was played sweetly and harmoniously with the slightly more robust guitar; the entire performance being one of sincerity courtesy of her unvarnished, honest lyrics.

After Floella Grace’s soothing and lulling performance, the audience was re-awakened with the The Boy I Used To Be’s garage pop sound. With breathy, low vocals and slightly metallic guitar riffs, the band’s ‘sun-drenched’ sound ironically complimented the gloomy Great British Weather.

A personal highlight of Saturday was the chance to catch Laurel in the Hustle Den; she has truly developed her own distinctive style, although it is easy to see why over the last year she has been compared to Lana Del Ray, Lorde, and Laura Marling. On stage, she mesmerises the crowd with her sultry and coquettish presence, and switches effortlessly between softer and louder tracks, such as the lead song from her Blue Blood EP, which showcases the depth and richness of her voice.

By now sky was taken over with cloud but with temperatures still high anticipation grew for the headliner, 2ManyDJs, the semi-incognito side project of prolific 90s DJs Soulwax. The Dewaele brothers’ experience was evident throughout their set, with their ability to bring the crowd effortlessly through highs and lows, and build the sweat and alcohol fuelled festival-goers into a frenzy. However, while there were certainly some sore heads as Sunday morning dawned, there were plenty of wide grins too.

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Daniel O'Neill Blissfields 2014
Cosmo Sheldrake @ The Hustle Den
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Beans On Toast Presents… At The Larch Stage
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Chlöe Howl @ The Wild Stage
Daniel O'Neill Blissfields 2014
Laurel @ The Hustle Den
Daniel O'Neill Blissfields 2014 Laurel
Laurel @ The Hustle Den

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth – Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’

We continue with our co-published history articles with aspex Gallery, researched by Laura McLean-Ferris who has recently been crawling through the Aspex Gallery archives and has produced a series of articles for aspex about their 33 year history. We’re very happy to partner up and cross post their aspex history blog posts here on Strong Island, you can see the original aspex blog post HERE. This fourth article in the series today looks at how aspex worked with Cornelia Parker in the late 1980s, and how Art Space Portsmouth & aspex became separate organisations.

Now in the Tate collection, Cornelia Parker’s Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988-89) is an installation of over 1000 pieces of silverware that the artist had flattened by a steamroller. Each is suspended from the ceiling using copper wire, hanging a few inches above the gallery floor in clustered puddles, forming a kind of grid. The work transforms domestic items, such as cigarette cases, trophies, and tableware, into pure elemental material, and yet each flat silver disc contains within it the ghost of a former life. Silver is commemorative – and many of the items are suggestive of occasions such as birth, retirement, engagement, triumph or memorial. The work displays Parker’s interest, around this time, in acts of material violence that expand the viewer’s engagement with the objects and materials around them.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (1)

Les Buckingham, then director of aspex, recalls seeing 30 Pieces of Silver at Ikon Gallery and being particularly taken with it, and so approaching Parker to invite her to show the work at aspex. ‘I knew the director of Ikon, Antonia Payne’, Buckingham remembers, ‘and she agreed that I could approach Cornelia about a second showing. The piece was installed at Ikon in the basement and was smaller than intended. When I talked to Cornelia she jumped at the chance to show it in a large and high space. The installation was the most complex of my career, filling the entire gallery, (1600 sq feet), and involving three weeks work and miles of fuse wire. Six to ten people worked on the project with the artist and the results were spectacular.’ Amusingly, there’s a note in the aspex archives which details that the height for suspension was ‘One toilet roll plus a piece of hardboard’.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (2)

In contrast to the way the work is now shown, visitors were able to walk between the pools of sculptures. Following a visit to aspex by the Arts Council the work was selected for the British Art Show. The artist discussed the time-lag that it took for the work to make an impact in a recent interview with The Guardian. ‘I made Thirty Pieces of Silver for the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and it didn’t get a single review’, she says. ‘It wasn’t until it was shown at the British Art Show at the Hayward a year later that people noticed.’ The work was purchased for the Tate Collection in 1998.

aspex was also going through changes during this period. Following several years of working as an artist-run space, the threat of climbing rents compelled the organisation to transform to its status to a charity, which meant transforming the structure of aspex. In an effort to protect the gallery and studio artists from high rents, the decision was made to seek charitable status and Aspex Visual Arts Trust was formed. Buckingham remembers this as a complicated period of transformation for the organisation, which essentially split the studios from the gallery, but it was one that was necessary to secure aspex, as a resource that would continue to exist after its founders were no longer involved. Though the two are now separate entities, the Trust continues to work together with the artist founders at Art Space Portsmouth.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (3)

All images courtesy of the Aspex Visual Arts Trust Ltd. and the artist.

Strong Island Blissfields 2014 Review By Sophie Perryer – Day Two

As Friday morning dawned, four thousand Blissfieldians crawled bleary-eyed out of their tents and dragged themselves across the extended festival site for a good dose of caffeine and a pyjama-clad showing of The Jungle Book. The Electric Dreams tent proved popular for young and old alike over the course of the weekend, and there’s nothing like a rendition of Bear Necessities to bring everyone together!

Wolf Alice were first to take to the stage on Friday, as the awake half of Blissfields sprawled out on the grass before the Wild Stage and drank in their versatile sound, which combined hazy, folky vocals comparable to Daughter and First Aid Kit, with rocky riffs reminiscent of the Vaccines. Lead singer Ellie captured the mood, saying ‘this is the most chilled out and relaxed festival we’ve ever been to.’

During the afternoon, Strong Island-loved local artists didn’t let the ominous clouds steal their thunder, with Luke Ferre delivering a poignant set of new material to a ever-growing group of eager fans, and Bellyeyesmile treating the Hidden Hedge to a effortless blend of classic Krautrock, combined with other, more upbeat pop influences such as Neil Young and the Beach Boys.

As the evening drew in, Dan Croll brought his amped-up-acoustic sound to the Wild Stage, delivering crisp melodies and witty lyrics, not dissimilar to Blissfields veterans Spector. Croll’s track ‘Maway’ provided the perfect accompaniment to a my second butternut squash and halloumi burger in two days. Johnny Flynn also provided sunset pseudo-folk to his loyal Hustle Den crowd, which was packed with swaying bodies by sundown.

Finally, Sleigh Bells braved the downpour to shower fans with distorted vocals and dance beats. For those who were not quite as brave, inside the Hustle Den Gypsie Circus provided a carnival atmosphere with their bright and brazen contrasts of farcical pantomime style dancers with paper mache heads, and a beautifully embellished belly dancer, who warranted rather a different sort of cheer from the crowd…

Photos by Strong Island’s Stuart Barker and the awesome Daniel O’Neill

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Dan Croll @ The Wild Stage
Dan Croll
Dan Croll @ The Wild Stage, along with an awesome little drone camera.
Strong Island Blissfields 2014 Review By Sophie Perryer – Day One

Strong Island Blissfields 2014 Review By Sophie Perryer – Day One

Strong Island Blissfields 2014 Review By Sophie Perryer – Day One

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Strong Island Blissfields 2014 Review By Sophie Perryer – Day One

And so again to Blissfields, the place to be to witness some of the best burgeoning talent that the South Coast has to offer, as well as plenty of established and memorable artists besides. This year brought with it a ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ theme, five versatile stages, and the first rain at Blissfields for nine years! However, the Great British weather was no match for our Blissfields artists, who came from far and wide to deliver their burgeoning talent to an awe-struck festival goers.

The festival site had evolved since last year, this year the main arena was larger and a second camping area was created. Other welcome additions to festival were our friends from Pie & Vinyl who were there selling their trademark delicious pies, psychedelic tie dye tee’s and obviously vinyl records. Making their Blissfields debut were the Bathing Under The Sky team, with a number hot tubs, hot showers and a sauna.

After setting up camp, a tour of the site, dinner (courtesy of The Breakfast Club) it was time to check out some music. On Thursday evening The Hustle Den stage played host to the Road to Blissfields winners, including Portsmouth champions The B of the Bang; the bang delivered a powerful set, which built tension through melodic changes and contrasting harmonies. The most memorable track culminated in a crescendo, incorporating every voice, and the repetition of the words ‘We All Stand On Thin Ice’, which lent an almost prayer-like sense to the track and made for a very impressive performance, without a doubt the B of the Bang’s best to date.

Fellow Portsmouth singer/songwriter Matt Jarvis also took to The Larch Stage, once again silencing his captive audience with promising new material, a relaxed acoustic tone, and heartfelt lyrics. Matt said of his Blissfields experience: “Just as last year, it was a really nice show for me. I always find it hard to perform well in front of a raucous audience, but in the Larch everyone was sat quietly around the stage, which made for a really intimate setting. It was all very chilled. Seeing so many familiar faces in the crowd helped to quash the pre-gig nerves that set in beforehand as well, so I must thank everyone who came to see me. The rest of my weekend was just great music, meeting awesome people, little sleep, and lots of food and drink. Perfect.”

Finally, the Dub Pistols brought raucousness with them well into the night and teased Blissed-out festival goers with the promise of a (mostly) sun-drenched weekend, and the perfect soundtrack to accompany it.

Photos by Daniel O’Neill

Blissfields 2014 by Daniel O'Neill

Blissfields 2014 by Daniel O'Neill

Blissfields 2014 by Daniel O'Neill

Blissfields 2014 by Daniel O'Neill

Blissfields 2014 by Daniel O'Neill

Blissfields 2014 by Daniel O'Neill

Blissfields 2014 Preview #14 | Laurel

In our final Blissfields 2014 preview we are featuring the hottest emerging talent from the South Coast, Laurel. The 19 year old Folk/Alternative Pop singer has been a regular feature on Strong Island for a while now. She first came to our attention while I was judging the Road To Blissfields 2012 competition. The opening slot at any gig can always be tricky, but Laurel quickly captured the crowds attention, with her heart felt lyrics and acoustic guitar.

The winners on the night were ska band, Bigtopp. Laurel impressed that much that she managed to bag a slot in the Acoustic Tent anyway. She tells me that she has fond memories of her first Blissfields experience as it’s where she met her boyfriend. She’s gone from performing in the Acoustic Tent to the much larger Hustle Den along with the likes of the Dub Pistols and Johnny Flynn, who she credits as one of her biggest influences in music.

Laurel Blissfields
The Road To Blissfields 2012. Photo taken by Daniel O’Neill

Laurel is now plying her trade in London and is signed to Turnfirst Artists, her label mates include Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, Iggy Azalea and Dan Croll. Last November saw Laurel’s first major live show since signing a record deal. It just happened to be in one of London’s leading gig venues, the Shepherds Bush Empire, opening for MS MR. No pressure then!

I was lucky enough to be there to see the twenty five minute set which included her newest tracks Mankind, The Desert and Blue Blood. The songs sounded great in such a large venue, I had a great time and judging by the post show Tweets and reviews so did everyone else.

Laurel Shepherds Bush Empire
Laurel opening for MS MR at Shepherds Bush Empire

Laurel spend most of 2013 working hard writing many of the songs that you can hear over on her SoundCloud page. When writing Laurel prefers to write them alone, she describes “I’ve tried writing and producing with other people but figured out that I work best alone on my own material. Its good for me because I can hide away and figure out the song alone which means its 100percent how I am feeling and nobody else’s interpretation of me. I’ve written with many many other people in london in LA etc and though i have found some amazing people that really have aided my music and i still work with occasionally and I think i will collaborate with people again at some point right now writing on my own is how I feel best suits me and my first album”.

In keeping with the Wild Side theme to Blissfields this year, Laurel was asked ‘if you were an animal, which animal would you be and why?’ Her response: “I’d like to be a peacock. They are like the princesses of all the birds, they leisure round showing off their pretty feathers. I’d also love to live on a huge english estate, and this might be the only chance of this.”

If you are not lucky enough to be heading to Blissfields this weekend then you can still catch Laurel in Portsmouth this September when she plays Southsea Fest.

For more information on Laurel you can follow her on on Facebook, Twitter YouTube and SoundCloud.

Laurel
Taken during the Aesthetic Magazine photo shoot

When The Tour Came To Portsmouth – A Conversation With John Bagnall – Part 2/2

Welcome back to part two of our interview with John Bagnall, a key player in bringing one of the biggest dates in the sporting calendar to Portsmouth in 1994. You can revisit part one here.

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Hi John, in part one we discussed what it takes to begin paving the way for a Portsmouth stage. What else did you have to organise or overcome on your road to June 1994?

The next obstacle we had was the police, mainly due to the fact they had never dealt with anything quite so big before. At the time you had the Milk Race and the Kellogg’s Tour Of Britain as the biggest cycling events in the UK. And those were done by rolling road closures: a police car or motorcycle in front and behind which leapfrogged each other to stop the traffic. The Tour wouldn’t contemplate that, it had to be a completely sterile loop. The police have an organisation called ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers), that oversee combined or national large scale operations. We got assigned an inspector who was a bit full of himself and quite jack the laddish. You could see why he had gone far in the police force; a rather strong personality. He came to the first meetings saying, “well you know, I can’t see it working but we’ll go through the motions”, it was that sort of attitude. This was partly because, to start off with, they couldn’t get their mind round what the Tour was and how it felt to be part of it. So we took him and a couple of his deputies, including another guy assigned by Hampshire Constabulary, to France the next year to see the race. The Tour kindly decided to put them in their control car as guests, and for two days they were able to experience their operations first hand.

Unfortunately we thought we’d blown it on the first day. By then they were into the mountains, and this particular stage finished at Sestriere in the Alps, which is one of the very famous climbs if not one of the very legendary ones. Sestriere is now in all of the record books because Claudio Chiapuccino won it with the longest by distance and time break away in Tour history. Claudio came in forty five minutes ahead of the rest, it was quite an incredible ride, and probably drug assisted at the time if the truth be known… But Sestriere is a mountain top and it was just gridlocked. There was no way you could get anywhere for hours afterwards and yet we were supposed to collect these ACPO guys in order to look after them. We just couldn’t make the physical connections. Mobiles were very new technology and there was no coverage on the tops of the alps, so we had no means of getting in touch with them. We thought we had really blown it, they will be pretty hacked off at being left stranded with French men. As it turned out our French counterparts realised the situation and said “don’t worry, we will look after you”. They dished up a really nice dinner, got them suitably drunk and they had a really good time. When we met up with them the following day we fully expected them to pull the plug on the whole affair, however they expressed a different kind of concern; “After what we saw yesterday I’m not sure that we, the English police force, could manage something so awe inspiring. It was so well organised, it is going to give us real problems matching it”. Thankfully this soon became an ego thing and before we knew it, the challenge had been set to do it better than the French.

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I recall in the first half of this interview you briefly mentioned the issue of legislation having to be created specifically for the Tour, could you give us more details on what had to be put into place?

What the police soon realised was that road cycling at that time, took place under a minor clause-of-a-sub-statute-of-a-bit-of-legislation dating back to 1948. This simply didn’t give them the powers they would need to create a completely sterile road closure. The existing legislation meant that it was okay for a police car to stop and for a policeman to halt traffic with his hands for 15 minutes, but not for a full day. So we shaped and drafted an Act of Parliament that was taken through as a private member’s bill. It was very discreetly done because this was still subject to confidentiality, all very hush hush. The bill went through Parliament and was enacted; giving all the relevant authorities the power to do whatever necessary to close the road and such like. This is the same legislation under which the Tour can take place in Yorkshire on Saturday.

That then just left all the towns and villages. We had numerous meetings with the county councils: Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire because the Tour want money to come. To be a start of finish town back then was around £100,000.00, which is quite a lot of money. And that was just for the Tour to come, so not including your organisation costs. All of that had to be negotiated through all of the various councils, but I think we had the political network working for us, everyone at Portsmouth City Council was up for it. By then a momentum was gathering and rumours started to appear. Cycling Weekly would phone up every so often and ask “what is going on?” “well what do you think is going on? I haven’t heard anything?”, all this bluff and counter bluff. Cycling is a small world, so they recognised that if they blew it then it could lift the lid on the whole thing. They were bound into it as well. Gradually we ticked off all the councils putting up the money for physical improvements. After this operation had been put into place the roads on the planned the route had never better for cycling; whole stretches were re-tarmacked because none of the councils wanted to be known for having bought a rider down.

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The next part of the operation was to simply identify all the businesses that would be affected; banks, supermarkets, retail outlets, etc. Staff would have problems getting in due to the roads being closed at five in the morning. Deliveries would not be able to take place and cash points would not be refilled. Memorably I researched every crematorium, cemetery and undertakers on 25 miles either side of the route in order to write to them saying “please be aware that on this day restrictions will be in place and you might not have access for mourners, don’t book funerals for that day”. Similar to this, part of the route was going up Ditchling Beacon where a very rare orchid grows, so rare that its location is kept a secret. Naturally the Environmental Agency were worried about it, so the area was coned off and marshal placed there specifically to protect this plant from cycling fans and plant collectors alike.

Then it was just down to getting people along the route to buy into it; we persuaded villages councils and the Department for Education to allow schools to close for the day so that their pupils were able to watch the race. By the time we had the national launch, Cycling Weekly was planning events and their editor, Martin Ayres, came on board on a freelance basis to help with the writing of our newsletter. Through our newsletters we were having to inform people who had never heard of the Tour de France what it was about. We had to get out there and convince the people who, not only did not cycle, but disapproved of cycling in general. All whilst keeping the cycling clubs and the aficionados happy. It all came together amazingly well, but it was a lot of hard work. During the winter of 93 -94, for three to four nights a week I was in village halls somewhere along the route; showing a film and telling people what would be happening. Often you would get people sitting there with their arms crossed saying “why should I pay my rates so that French men can race bikes past my house?”, we were dealing with that sort of mentality.

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By all accounts this was a successful stage, but can you tell me if there were any incidents that you had to deal with? With that amount of people massed together surely some issues cropped up?

The only incident in the whole thing was during the Portsmouth leg, when a child stepped out onto the curb after the peloton came round. Unfortunately he was clipped by the wing of one of the official’s cars who were following the riders, and momentarily we were quite concerned. Thankfully the Tour stopped one of its medical cars and called up one of their helicopters. The helicopter landed just behind where it happened and took the child and his mother to the hospital for the check-up. He had a headache and was slightly bruised but nothing serious. In truth it was fantastic PR on the Tour’s part to of done that, it added hugely to the concept of goodwill.

Over the two days, the police estimated between two and three million people had watched at the roadside. It had huge television coverage relative to the time, I remember Mr Leblanc saying that we have already seen the biggest stage crowd for the whole Tour, and we were only on stage four and five. The goodwill that was generated was just amazing, it’s fantastic anywhere you go on the Tour anyway, but the friendship and fun that was being had was truly magic. It laid the groundwork for the Tour to come back to England.

What would you say the aim was in bringing the Tour here, and what legacy did it leave? What do you think it brought to the city?

The immediate aim was to inform as many people as possible across the world, that there is a city called Portsmouth on the south coast of England. A city with an important heritage and history. A city that is open for commercial business. We were the people that started this whole thing, we are a city with a “can do” spirit. We are international and friendly. This was general promotion of sorts, for all kinds of different reasons and messages, and we very much hoped to ignite greater interest in cycling. Not to mention greater investment in cycling on the part of the city. We are on an island, the highest point in Portsmouth is twelve meters above sea level, it’s difficult to think of somewhere better, perhaps Cambridge apart, in physical terms for cycling. And yet the provision within the city is not good. Unfortunately I think Portsmouth just didn’t managed to capitulate on the immediate legacy of the Tour to achieve a tipping point that could be built on. In a way that you could argue that London has done with the Boris Bikes. There is still more work to do and I don’t entirely see who is doing it and where it is coming from. Southsea Cycle Club and various community projects are doing a great job in making it visible, but I don’t think it’s really come together as a critical mass in Portsmouth.

What really makes me sorry is if you cycle up of down the back or Portsdown Hill, you can see where the cycling tracks have been laid and marked out, but the tarmac has almost worn off. There is just the faint trace of a bike as you come up from Waterlooville and I think that is ever so sad, it’s symbolic of the tokenism that prevailed in the end in Hampshire and Portsmouth. They were given an opportunity to make themselves famous permanently in England as the cycling city, but the momentum was never really achieved in the first place. It was a very successfully stage and I think the longer term legacy wasn’t in the immediate benefits to the people who ride bikes in Portsmouth. However, to the cycling community in Britain as a whole it has had enormous benefits; it worked by laying one of the first foundation stones in what you could describe as a cycling wall. In the next course of bricks above Portsmouth 1994 you have Dublin in 1998, and then a couple courses of bricks above that you have London in 2007. Next you have smaller bricks above that: Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. Riders who, as kids, might of watched Portsmouth on Channel 4. I would love to know if Mark Cavendish did and whether it fuelled his desire to be part of such a legendary event. You cannot quantify this part of the legacy. By this weekend, Yorkshire 2014 will be at the top of the wall. Yet when you look closely; Portsmouth is still right there at the bottom, as a foundation stone. This is where it all began.

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I would like to express a huge thank you to John & Jan for allowing me into their home and sharing this great story with me. The 101st edition of the Tour De France begins on Saturday the 5th July, with ITV and ITV4 covering live stages and providing nightly highlights.

Features

Photos from Head Jam 2014

For the second year running Head Mens Hairdressing, Strong Island and My Dog Sighs (this year with Lex Luthor) put on the Head Jam street art event on Albert Road in Southsea. The yard out the back of Head and the Strong Island HQ had last year’s artwork covered during last week and Saturday saw local artists My Dog Sighs, Los Dave, M-One, Lex Luthor, Mimic, Stu Linfield, I am Posy, freakSTATIC, Midge and Samo get involved with new artwork on all of the walls plus the new sculpture too. Extra artwork is also being added today by My Name is Leila. A huge thank you to all the artists and to everyone who popped by throughout the day.

Check some of the photos from the day below, you can see a load more on our Flickr (which is a growing archive of our photography over the last 6 years) or on our Facebook page and if you want to pop in and have a look visit Head at 53 Albert Road.


































Southsea Comedy Festival Competition | Win Two Tickets

The first ever Southsea Comedy Festival opens with Eddie Izzard performing his most recent show ‘Force Majeure’ on 31st July and 1st August. We have a pair of tickets to give away for the Thursday 31st July performance. All you have to do to win this prize is email stuart@strong-island.co.uk with your answer to the following three questions.

1) What is the name of the character voiced by Eddie in Cars 2?
2) In which American city did Eddie begin his 2014 tour Force Majeure?
3) For which charity did Eddie run an incredible 43 marathons in 51 days?!

The deadline for entries will be midnight Monday 21st July with the winner being announced Tuesday 22nd in the evening.

If you don’t want to risk missing out then Southsea Comedy Festival tickets are available by calling 0844 847 2362 and online at www.southseacomedyfestival.co.uk. You can follow the Southsea Comedy Festival on Twitter @SouthseaComedy.

Eddie Izzard Southsea Comedy Festival Logo

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Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection

We’ve been exceptionally busy over at Strong Island HQ for the best part of 2014 so far and the latest Strong Island Clothing Co range has been in development for some time. We are now proud to announce the launch of our latest line of tee and crew designs for the Summer. This is the biggest run we have done to date and we wanted to ensure it was a really strong range so didn’t want to rush it.

We have a wide range of new colours and designs including our first 2 colour print on the popular Refuse to Sink and a return to our second tee style back in 2010 with a backprint (this time in navy) in the classic Strong Island logo. We also have a seriously strong collaboration with University of Portsmouth graduate and award winning letterform designer Andy Lethbridge AKA Hand Type. These are something truly special and we’re really stoked how they came out, the detail in the print really reflects the brush strokes of Andy’s work. We will have more on Hand Type and the development of these designs on Strong Island soon in a full interview. We also have pocket tees with the new Down the Hatch design which form part of something we are keeping under our hats for bit…some old favourites have been revisited too with new colourways and 2 new graphic tees as well. Our latest crew retains the same quality as before featuring ribbed side panels, a back neck loop, deep cuffs, a double v-insert on the neckline and raglan sleeves but with new striped cuffs. With a more contemporary and slimmer fit than most sweatshirts it’s certainly a more premium line. As always all our tees and crews are hand screenprinted in East London by the mighty Lovenskate, including the anchor signoff on the back and detail on the inside neck.

We have a few more mini launches coming up over the next few weeks including more tees, something for the cyclists out there, some very special hand produced items from Poland using original 1940′s techniques and also something to lounge on in summer and keep you warm in the winter. Not to mention another very special artist collaboration too.

All of the tees and crews from the main, initial drop will be available this weekend during Head Jam at Head Hairdressing, 53 Albert Road, Southsea (weather permitting). They will then go online in Shop Ahoy next week.

For now please enjoy our latest Lookbook shot by Strong Island Media over at Dell Quay, Chichester. The perfect day to go for a wander around the marina, fields and woodlands with a few cheeky beers at the Crown & Anchor.

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Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (12)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (13)

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Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (16)

Strong Island, Lex Luthor & My Dog Sighs present Head Jam 2014 – Saturday 19th July

Last years Head Jam was such a resounding success with some of the nations best street artists that we eagerly began talking about the following year before the paint had even dried. We discussed how we could run the event again and where to do it, but the answer was simple and literally looking right at us. We hold it in the same place again. Make the courtyard at Head Hairdressing the centre of an annual event where the outcome is available to view for the year, then return, white wash the previous artwork away, and do it all again. After all, street art is an ever changing and developing media in it’s own right and in it’s usual environment where it gets ripped down, tagged, covered in fly posters, lost to demolition and built on, the artists have no fear of their art being lost. It’s part of the job so to speak…

Rick from Head Hairdressing at 53 Albert Road (just along from the Wine Vaults and next to Southsea Gallery) conceived the idea of having the courtyard to the rear of the local barbers transformed in to a permanent giant art piece. From precision multilayered stencils, through bubble gum cutsie to surreal illustrative mayhem, Lex Luthor and My Dog Sighs have hand picked some of their favourite artists to produce the ultimate street art dreamscape courtyard…again!

Head Jam will run all day so feel free to pop along, take a look, have a chat, hang out, meet the artists and enjoy the atmosphere. There will be music on all day, a BBQ turning over in the background if you want to stick a burger on (not supplied), and please feel free to bring along a beer too. Everyone is welcome, so bring the kids so they can see some of the finest street artists working together in this unique environment.

Attending artists include: MyDogSighs, Lex Luthor, Mimic, Fark, Nova, M-one Art, Los Dave, Stu Linfield, Morf, Freakstatic and Ooberla. Wow, this is going to be amazing! If you pop along please be sure to tag the event on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HeadJam and we will put up a series of your photos from the day.

Strong Island Clothing Co will also be launching their latest range of tees and crews before they go online the following week. So if you want to get in there for an exclusive purchase before anyone else head on down and check it all out. Everything will be out to view, and there is a sneak peak at the end of this post (the full look book will go up this week). Also all of our PFC tees and crews are on offer, bargain. We look forward to seeing you all.

Old paint on a wall

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (1)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (2)

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Head Jam, photo by Paul Gonella

Photos: Matt Maber

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Strong Island Blissfields 2014 Review By Sophie Perryer and Grace Aquilina – Day Three

Despite the effects of the night before, those who have arisen from their partially soggy tents and dared to walk through alcohol and rain sodden hay look forward to listen to live music at The Wild Stage and in The Hustle Den at midday. In keeping with the wildlife theme the crowd was littered with all sorts of animal themed costumes, and what I can only expect was a stag party of monkey’s.

Burning Beaches took to the stage at 12:00pm in The Hustle Den, where sleepy eyes were literally opened in awe of the band’s soft rock sound. Heavy bass woke even the most sluggish and grungy vocals perfectly complimented a latte. The vocals echoed around the tent, emphasising the roughness and fervency.

Blissfields is without a doubt well-deserved of it’s reputation for finding and nurturing local artists and upcoming talent, and this year was no exception; Saturday brought with it the chance for discovering yet more new artists, one of which being Australian singer-songwriter Ry X. His hazy almost whispered vocals drew comparisons to The xx and Blissfields favourites London Grammar, and Ry X transfixed the audience throughout his set with his soft tenor tones. His track ‘Berlin’ is well worth a listen.

Later on in the afternoon, Floella Grace wowed her audience in The Larch to complete silence and a dream-like-state. Her dreamy, sobering vocals accompanied by fellow string player Gareth and two silvery-voiced backing singers made for an awesome and enlightening performance. The ukulele was played sweetly and harmoniously with the slightly more robust guitar; the entire performance being one of sincerity courtesy of her unvarnished, honest lyrics.

After Floella Grace’s soothing and lulling performance, the audience was re-awakened with the The Boy I Used To Be’s garage pop sound. With breathy, low vocals and slightly metallic guitar riffs, the band’s ‘sun-drenched’ sound ironically complimented the gloomy Great British Weather.

A personal highlight of Saturday was the chance to catch Laurel in the Hustle Den; she has truly developed her own distinctive style, although it is easy to see why over the last year she has been compared to Lana Del Ray, Lorde, and Laura Marling. On stage, she mesmerises the crowd with her sultry and coquettish presence, and switches effortlessly between softer and louder tracks, such as the lead song from her Blue Blood EP, which showcases the depth and richness of her voice.

By now sky was taken over with cloud but with temperatures still high anticipation grew for the headliner, 2ManyDJs, the semi-incognito side project of prolific 90s DJs Soulwax. The Dewaele brothers’ experience was evident throughout their set, with their ability to bring the crowd effortlessly through highs and lows, and build the sweat and alcohol fuelled festival-goers into a frenzy. However, while there were certainly some sore heads as Sunday morning dawned, there were plenty of wide grins too.

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Daniel O'Neill Blissfields 2014
Cosmo Sheldrake @ The Hustle Den
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Beans On Toast Presents… At The Larch Stage
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Chlöe Howl @ The Wild Stage
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Laurel @ The Hustle Den

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth – Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’

We continue with our co-published history articles with aspex Gallery, researched by Laura McLean-Ferris who has recently been crawling through the Aspex Gallery archives and has produced a series of articles for aspex about their 33 year history. We’re very happy to partner up and cross post their aspex history blog posts here on Strong Island, you can see the original aspex blog post HERE. This fourth article in the series today looks at how aspex worked with Cornelia Parker in the late 1980s, and how Art Space Portsmouth & aspex became separate organisations.

Now in the Tate collection, Cornelia Parker’s Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988-89) is an installation of over 1000 pieces of silverware that the artist had flattened by a steamroller. Each is suspended from the ceiling using copper wire, hanging a few inches above the gallery floor in clustered puddles, forming a kind of grid. The work transforms domestic items, such as cigarette cases, trophies, and tableware, into pure elemental material, and yet each flat silver disc contains within it the ghost of a former life. Silver is commemorative – and many of the items are suggestive of occasions such as birth, retirement, engagement, triumph or memorial. The work displays Parker’s interest, around this time, in acts of material violence that expand the viewer’s engagement with the objects and materials around them.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (1)

Les Buckingham, then director of aspex, recalls seeing 30 Pieces of Silver at Ikon Gallery and being particularly taken with it, and so approaching Parker to invite her to show the work at aspex. ‘I knew the director of Ikon, Antonia Payne’, Buckingham remembers, ‘and she agreed that I could approach Cornelia about a second showing. The piece was installed at Ikon in the basement and was smaller than intended. When I talked to Cornelia she jumped at the chance to show it in a large and high space. The installation was the most complex of my career, filling the entire gallery, (1600 sq feet), and involving three weeks work and miles of fuse wire. Six to ten people worked on the project with the artist and the results were spectacular.’ Amusingly, there’s a note in the aspex archives which details that the height for suspension was ‘One toilet roll plus a piece of hardboard’.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (2)

In contrast to the way the work is now shown, visitors were able to walk between the pools of sculptures. Following a visit to aspex by the Arts Council the work was selected for the British Art Show. The artist discussed the time-lag that it took for the work to make an impact in a recent interview with The Guardian. ‘I made Thirty Pieces of Silver for the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and it didn’t get a single review’, she says. ‘It wasn’t until it was shown at the British Art Show at the Hayward a year later that people noticed.’ The work was purchased for the Tate Collection in 1998.

aspex was also going through changes during this period. Following several years of working as an artist-run space, the threat of climbing rents compelled the organisation to transform to its status to a charity, which meant transforming the structure of aspex. In an effort to protect the gallery and studio artists from high rents, the decision was made to seek charitable status and Aspex Visual Arts Trust was formed. Buckingham remembers this as a complicated period of transformation for the organisation, which essentially split the studios from the gallery, but it was one that was necessary to secure aspex, as a resource that would continue to exist after its founders were no longer involved. Though the two are now separate entities, the Trust continues to work together with the artist founders at Art Space Portsmouth.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (3)

All images courtesy of the Aspex Visual Arts Trust Ltd. and the artist.