01 December 2016
zoonation

Ooh my ears and whiskers!! Zoonation hiphop dance company are having a Mad Hatter's Tea Party in the Roundhouse! This unusual Camden Town venue, once an old railway turntable shed mouldering away in NW London, is always fun to visit. And Zoonation's crazy show is definitely bringing Alice up to date. It's suitable for all ages, they say, so get yourself over to this link and take a look at what they say - there is a trailer on the site, too. Tickets are 15 and the first performance is on 30 December. It runs till 22 January.
29 November 2016


So who is this lady with the umbrella, and what is she doing?

You'd be forgiven for not knowing. But she is supervising the door into one of the most unusual shops in Tokyo. It is called "Alice on Wednesday."

When I first visited Tokyo, in 2014, I didn't manage to get into "Alice on Wednesday." It had only opened two days before my visit, and the initial demand from customers was so high that anyone who wanted to go had to reserve tickets on the internet before turning up.

I have just returned from a second trip to Japan, and this time I did get into "Alice on Wednesday." Obviously, the internet tickets aren't necessary now that the novelty has worn off, but, two years on, the shop has done very well and now seems to have become one of the fixtures of Tokyo life. It's in the attractive Harajuku area of the city, down a side street, and when we arrived there were only about ten people waiting, so we joined the queue...



It's a very tall, thin shop, and you have to enter through that rather tiny door you can see on the right, and begin by climbing all the stairs to the top floor. It's not unlike going up the rabbit hole, in fact, for there are all kinds of curious things on the way. I didn't notice cupboards with jars of marmalade in, but there were toadstools towering above your head...



and strange illuminated pictures on the walls...



When you reach the top floor, it has quite an "attic" feeling. It's very small and Victorian in style, and most of the daylight filters through a stained glass window...



whereas the lampshade, as you see, is a large top hat.



There really seems everything that an "Alice" collector might want. I don't collect myself but even I bought myself a cool little Mad Hatter handbag mirror.

Most of the mechandise is specially designed for the shop, and is not just a collection of things you can get elsewhere. The website, here, is only in Japanese, but this gives an idea of the kind of items they normally sell.

If I hadn't been watching the weight of my luggage, I would probably have bought a mug - I like the one to the left, with the door and a handle like a key.



And I always fall for fancily packed eatables or drinkables. These are mostly to be found on the bottom floor, where you pay.



These rather luridly coloured bottles look as if they really might alter your perceptions a bit.



And the biscuits are most beautifully lettered.



I haven't seen a rabbit-hole cake before, but the ones here seemed to be selling well.



"Alice" is popular and well known in Japan, but it's interesting that here in England nobody has had the idea of producing a shop as creative and original as this. I wonder if the Japanese company will set up a branch in Oxford?

....maybe, one Wednesday, they will.

18 November 2016
It's so sad to hear of the death of David Delamare. I have remembered his wonderful video "Beware the Jabberwock" ever since I first saw it. Here it is below.



If you want to read a tribute to David, go here.

15 November 2016
It's interesting to see how popular Alice is in Japan, and how everyone knows her. Perhaps there is something about Alice and her world that strikes a special chord with Japanese people. It would take a social psychologist to figure out why, though, so I won't offer any opinions myself!

My good friend Yoshi in Tokyo has just sent me a very interesting book, which was issued by Takarazuka University on the theme of Illustrating "Through the Looking Glass."

It's a well produced book with full colour and metallic printing. Taking a tip from Tenniel, perhaps, the front shows Alice going through the Looking Glass, and the back shows her coming out of it.





There are far too many illustrations to show, and I'm sorry that they're not very well photographed - it's one of those books that doesn't easily lie flat. But I hope these give you a flavour of how much variety there is.

The photographs below each image show the artist. Again, sorry they're blurred, I really tried, but short of holding the book flat with a large sheet of glass (which I don't have), I just can't get everything in focus at once!



Izumi Kyoko's Humpty Dumpty has echoes of 18th century English caricatures.



This has a formal graphic quality



And this is more the kind of Alice I'm used to seeing in Japan



Fujishiro Misaki's illustration, below, has something of the film poster about it - not sure who the hero is, or the solemn lady on the left - but quite a few manga and graphic series do cast Alice as a romantic heroine.



If I had to choose a favourite, I would perhaps go for the three dimensional work below, mostly sewn and knitted



Here is a close up of some of the 3-D work - creepy, isn't it?



I did like Ikeda Momoka's work, which focuses on animals - specially the cat looking at the chessmen. Her other illustrations are also cheerful and intriguing.



Here's a closer look at another of her takes on cats and chessmen



I really liked looking through this book and seeing all the different interpretations of the same story.
07 November 2016
saki

Hector Hugh Munro, or "Saki" as he was known, was a famous short story writer who satirised society and politicians in the early 20th century. One of his successes was "The Westminster Alice," published in instalments in "The Westminster Gazette"and attacking politicians of the day in the style of "Alice." Now Penrith-based Withnail Books has rediscovered a follow-up instalment which was published in 1902, some months after "The Westminster Alice" parody appeared. Entitled "Alice Wants to Know" it has never been reprinted till now.

Withnail Books has now reissued it in an edition of only 45 copies - so it is quite a collector's item (and quite reasonable, too, at only 7.50). More information on their website, here - take a look at the excellent illustration on the right.
24 September 2016


A few new things have come my way lately. The picture above shows a recording I can definitely recommend. There are so few recordings of some of Carroll's comic poems, particularly the juvenile works which date from as early as 1845, when he was thirteen. These include "Brother and Sister" and "My Fairy" which satirize his home and family. I was pleased to that Naxos has released a CD of some really excellent performances, including these gems as well as better known works like "Hunting of the Snark". They're very well read by Roger May, who has done at least eighty radio plays, so it is not surprising that his tone and timing are so good. You can buy or download the CD on Amazon and read more about it here.

To be honest, I'd have liked to have seen the option on Amazon to hear tracks before downloading or buying the CD, but in fact there's an "Audible" sampler so you can hear how well May reads. And if you like his work, I see from his biog page that he's also read "Frankenstein" - unabridged!

Next, how about this amazing video? Artist Gene Kogan has run clips from the Disney "Alice" through software which shows it in the style of various well known artists. It was made using computer code developed by Justin Johnson,which was based on work last year by computing researchers at the University of Tuebingen, in Baden-Wuerttenberg, in Germany. I don't think I can say anything about it that beats watching it, and I think you'll agree it's well freaky.


Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk? from Gene Kogan on Vimeo.



Finally, a London graphic designer, Anthony Pike, created this for his daughter's birthday party. The basis of the cakes is vanilla and lemon sponge with buttercream icing, and he took 8 days to make and assemble the whole thing. Mr. P describes baking as his "paid hobby" and says he is an amateur (though this looks pretty professional to me) and when I asked what he would charge to make one for anyone interested, he said, 450, and it would keep for a week after delivery. Here's a link to his Facebook page, in case you are an affluent person who feels like having an Alice teaparty. All his cakes are bespoke, so it doesn't have to be Disney's cartoon Alice, I suppose - he might even be able to do Johnny Depp - though I can't promise.....


05 September 2016


I'll be going to Tokyo again quite soon. Alice is very popular in Tokyo, and my friend Yoshi has sent some pictures of five different fantasy Alice in Wonderland restaurants in Japan. We went to one of them in 2014 (click here to see)

The food is really ingenious. Here's a Cheshire cat....



I like the little cakes...



And these canapes are made of salad in the shape of playing cards



I took this picture of heart shaped biscuits and dips




And here's a link to an Alice Coffee Shop
in Tokyo. Not all of it is "Alice" but it looks quirky and interesting all the same. I'm looking forward to being in Japan again.

24 August 2016


You might say that James Bond doesn't have much to do with Alice, but the repertoire of theup-and-coming cello octet "Cellophony" covers all sorts, including special commissions. And no, I don't know much music written for 8 cellos either, but it does seem to work surprisingly well. On September 11th, you can hear for yourself if you head for the Cellophony Alice in Wonderland Family Concert, which will take place in Kings Place. London. Narrated by James Thorpe-Woods, it is written by one of the ensemble, Richard Birchall, who used to be a boy chorister but has now moved on to more modern music. Among other things, the performance offers parents and kids the chance to learn a new song and perform it with the ensemble.

Kings Place is at 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG - nearest station, St. Pancras. The box office number is 020 7520 1490.

And if you want to hear Cellophony playing something more classical, listen to this Dvorak... they really are very good, I think!



(By the way, I tried to find an image of Alice to illustrate the music. I'm not sure I've been very successful, but I'd say it is one of these two. Down the rabbit hole, like it or not -



Or..... you'll recognise this one.



If you get to the concert and can think of a different image to reflect the music, let me know!)

10 August 2016
null

Kay, from Georgia, who reads my other blog just wrote to me and told me about an exhibition in The Redoubt, at Eastbourne. Eastbourne is where Carroll went on his holidays in the latter part of his life. Just to fit in with the holiday mood,it seems he had a "bed desk" made to fit over his bed, so he didn't have to get up in the mornings to do his correspondence. (I suspect he also enjoyed feeling he didn't have to get up regularly to attend early morning chapel, as he did in Christ Church, for he was not a "daytime" person.)

The desk was specially made for him and might have been another of Carroll's inventions; he loved to adapt everyday items to suit himself. Even though it is possible these days to buy bed tables for invalids, I don't think I've seen anything similar from Carroll's day. He was not very interested in food but no doubt he did use the table for the occasional breakfast in bed.

Take a look at this Eastbourne museum blog post, which has some more information about Carroll and Eastbourne here.

The picture at the top of the post shows the plaque on the house in Lushington Road, Eastbourne, where Carroll used to stay. And here is the house itself, photographed at around the time when he used to stay there.

Lushington Rd. Eastbourne

12 July 2016
The other day I called over to see my friend Mark, who has a varied and fascinating Carroll collection, biased, I'd say, towards the fine arts. When I arrived, he already had two visitors, Seiko Kusuda and Atsuko Sudo. Seiko is a well known artist in Japan, and I've mentioned her work before, (a couple of examples here) but this was her first visit to the UK. She'd come with Atsuko, her friend and editor, and they'd been on a whistlestop tour of the country, looking for Carrollian inspiration. They'd gone to Christ Church, Oxford, where they had attended a course run by Edward Wakeling (I've also mentioned him a few times - like here - when he commented on an unpublished Carroll poem). They had also travelled up to Daresbury, where Lewis Carroll was born.

And finally, here they were in London, with their flight departing that evening, still with the V & A museum to see. They were looking over Mark's vintage postcard albums featuring Lewis Carroll's many theatrical friends, and vintage Alice productions of long ago.



There were any number of "Alice" character costumes to be seen in the postcards, and it did also seem that Carroll knew lots of rather successful and good looking young women who smiled winningly out of their postcards. I'm always sorry I never saw his own album of postcards - I have no doubt some of these cards appeared in that too - but his album is one of the many possessions which have now disappeared without trace.

Seiko and Atsuko were very charming and friendly. Seiko doesn't speak fluent English, but she gave me some presents of her work, including some pretty postcards and what I thought was something very original - several exhibition flyers which had been printed in different versions to include small pop ups of different Alice characters.









I've never seen anything like this before, Seiko is a collector, and so I think she knows the kind of things collectors like.

Among her photos was one of a carving she'd spotted in Oxford Cathedral, which really did bear a resemblance to the Jabberwock - the monster in the famous poem. This carving is not something I have seen mentioned before, but Carroll would certainly have noticed it. In my opinion, it's more likely to have inspired him with the Jabberwock than the gnarled "Jabberwocky Tree" which the Christ Church porters are always so keen to point out to visitors!

There are, of course, other possibilities - many people in the Northeast think that Carroll was inspired by the Lambton Worm

Lambton Worm I think that's a bit less likely because we don't know if he even saw any pictures of the Lambton Worm, whereas he'd have had the chance to see the Oxford Cathedral carving innumerable times.

Anyhow, the image from Oxford could turn up in one of Seiko's next postcards... and if it does, I'll be sure to write about it here.

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