Monthly Archives: September 2009

From the upper deck

253_Euston_IMG_1006_01

My occasional series Pole poll is back with a bang. Well, with a flash – as today’s ‘subject’ is a Pole, but also a very fine photographer. He’s also very private, so I’ve abandoned the usual format of five questions and five answers to concentrate more on his superb project called ‘From The Upper Deck‘.

Przemek Wajerowicz came to London some four years ago and turned his passion for street photography into a very London hobby – he started going around the city on double-decker buses, taking pictures of people and situations from a slightly different perspective.

141_to_Palmers_GreenIMG_0227_04

He told me that the view from the upper deck of a double-decker bus had always fascinated him and he started taking pictures from the moment he arrived in London. However he lost the initial batch of photographs after his hard drive crashed.

But he picked himself up and carried on. Soon the hobby became a project. And an ambitious one too – Przemek wants to travel every single bus line in London – from the very first to the very last stop.

15 to Paddington

In 2008 he started publishing his daily bus pictures on his blog and once he’s tackled everything Transport for London has to offer, he wants to publish a book with the best pictures taken from the upper deck. And I’m looking forward to getting a copy. As a photographer myself I think this is a great project and Przemek executes it with passion.

I’m planning to write a bit on his project soon elsewhere, for now here’s more From The Upper Deck.

You can also follow Przemek on Twitter.

All images © Przemek Wajerowicz used with author’s permission

Katowice vs Birmingham

katowice

It’s a strange thing. My first ever visit to the UK years ago brought me to Birmingham, as my family lived in Worcestershire and I had to change there. My first impression? “God, this place is as ugly as Katowice!” Katowice is a big city in the south of Poland and it’s the capital of the most industrialised part of Poland, the Upper Silesia. It also happens to be close to my birth place.

Katowice as a city is old, but not ancient. Its Art Deco quarter is quite atmospheric, although you need to know it’s there as mostly you’re likely to see a mixture of pre-WWII buildings and ugly 1960s architecture. The city seemed a bit purposeless and at times grim. Quite like Birmingham. Although both have made some improvements in recent years.

A few weeks ago I bumped into Pete, also known as The Londoneer at a bloggers’ meet-up in London. He told me he was going to Katowice soon, so I got very excited and wanted to bore him to death with tips. But then I thought – let him discover the city in his own way. And he has.

He has just posted his impressions from Katowice. And guess what? There’s a little reference to Birmingham. Glad I’m not the only one:

I have to start by saying that this is not a pretty place by any means – it has none of the grandeur of Krakow, Wroclaw or Gdansk, although it is more attractive than its northern neighbour, Lodz, which really isn’t saying much!  It also has a really ugly 1960s railway station which is an even more depressing sight than Birmingham New Street (if you’ve been there you know what I mean!)

Ouch. The station IS really ugly, and they’ve been wanting to rebuild it for ages now. Some people say it should be razed to the ground and rebuilt, some claim – and if you’re an architect you may understand their sentiment – that it is a fine example of Brutalist Architecture and as such should be preserved. Perhaps, but do all Brutalist buildings smell of wee?

Anyway, not all about Katowice is so bad:

So why have I returned to London with a smile on my face if that’s all there is? Well, it does have a remarkable concert hall, the Spodek, designed to look like a huge flying saucer, and a towering 100 feet high monument to the involvement of the Polish Army in battles throughout the last 200 years that resembles three gently folded angel wings. Although they’re spread out across the city centre, it also boasts some really lovely restaurants where we enjoyed some perfectly executed Polish dishes which, given that this is by no means a tourist destination, were ridiculously cheap.

Awww, how nice. Pete didn’t have a chance to explore the rest of Upper Silesia, but trust me, there’s so much more to see there – from the 19th century architecture of Bytom to post-industrial landscapes of every major city in the area. One day I’ll write more about Bytom. You can read more about Pete’s trip here.

For now I feel like a perfectly executed Polish dish.

Image © The Londoneer – used with author’s permission

MORE:

Visit Poland with The Londoneer

the POLSKI blog on your mobile

mobile masts

From today you can also browse the POLSKI blog on your mobile. No matter whether you’re using the iPhone or another mobile device, you should be able to read the blog in its mobile version.

You can still switch to the full version if you want to, but the optimised mobile version is easier and quicker to navigate.

Go on, try it. You know you want to….

Image © monkeyc.net via Flickr used under Creative Commons licence

Robert Kusmirowski’s Bunker @ The Barbican

The cultural autumn in London will have a distinctly Polish flavour. And you don’t even need to look far.

A new Polish movie called ‘Tricks’ is on general release now and it’s getting good reviews.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is having an exhibition called The Polish Connection. This from their website:

In 1790 the last King of Poland commissioned two art dealers, who later became the Founders of Dulwich Picture Gallery, to buy a collection of paintings as Poland’s national collection. His idea to start a Polish national collection is now the inspiration for a major new work by Antoni Malinowski, the distinguished London-based Polish artist, linking Dulwich Picture Gallery and Warsaw’s Royal Castle.

There are also some videos on the Gallery’s website introducing the exhibition and explaining more about the Polish king.

And at the end of September as part of POLSKA! YEAR Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski will transform The Curve at the Barbican into a replica of a World War II era bunker.

Robert Kuśmirowski - The Collector's Massif. From the Collections of Robert Kuśmirowski and the Sosenko Family, 2009  Installation view at Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow 2009  Courtesy The Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow Photo: Rafał Sosin

What’s interesting about this project is the fact that for two weeks at the beginning of the exhibition – from 30th September – you will be able to view Kusmirowski working alongside three assistants on the final touches of this installation. If you can’t make it to London, you can still follow the progress via a webcam on The Barbican website. The entire exhibition will open to the public on 16 October.

Robert Kuśmirowski  Die Ornamente der Anatomie / The Ornaments of Anatomy, 2006  Installation view at Kunstverein Hamburg, 2006  © Robert Kusmirowski 2009, courtesy the artist and Johnen + Schöttle, Cologne/Berlin

The project sounds intriguing as Kusmirowski will “draw on the Barbican’s concrete architecture and its location on a site devastated by bombing during World War II”.  So what to expect?

Derelict industrial machinery, discarded paraphernalia and the fragments of signage in the space suggest German and Soviet influence, alluding to their political and military presence in wartime Poland.

If that sounds a bit too heavy, you can always escape to the cinema as Barbican will dedicate its October Directorspective to the multi-award winning Polish filmmaker Wojciech Has. His films will be accompanied by a new installation by contemporary artists The Brothers Quay, commissioned by the Polish Cultural Institute and inspired by the films of Has.

If I had my pick, I’d go to see all of them. Particularly curious about the new film, ‘Tricks’ (have you seen it? as good as the reviews?) and really want to watch again Has’s “The Hour-Glass Sanatorium”. And so should you.

Images courtesy of Barbican Centre. Mouse over images for full credits

Ah, blueberries…

blueberries

So, it’s getting colder again. The summer is almost over. Yet my supermarket is still selling some lovely blueberries. Over the past couple of months I’ve been religiously buying them fresh. I just thought my daily cereal routine – dominated by bananas, apples and sometimes raisins – needed an injection of fresh, seasonal fruit.

And obviously, every time I picked up a punnet, I was torn between two extreme feelings. On the one hand, the fact that the fruit was flown into Britain from Poland made my eco-conscious mind acutely aware of the environmental cost of having my cereal sprinkled with a bit of summer yumminness.

On the other hand though, every time I see the blueberries they remind me of my innocent youth, when no-one cared about how much carbs they ate and how purple their teeth were as long as the blueberry Danish pastries were fresh.

But here’s where my other problem begins. The blueberries I’m buying are of the non-staining variety. The ones I remember from my Polish days were juicy, sweet, yet tangy and they made your tongue and teeth dark purple for, well, for days. I remember them from our outings to the Polish seaside and from the school canteen. The jagodzianki – blueberry pastries – were most teenagers’ staple diet. The wild blueberries picked in the forests of the Beskidy Mountains were the best rewards for day-long walks with dad.

So when I eat the supermarket variety I feel slightly disappointed, a bit cheated. They are sweet, yet they’re almost tasteless. They don’t burst with colour, they don’t stain, they are safe. They actually make me miss the real ones.

So the big project for next year is to go to Beskidy, go for a walk, find some blueberries, eat as much of them as possible and then grin at everyone with purple teeth and tongue.

For now though, I’ll cling on to the supermarket ones. By doing that I’m also clinging to the last vestiges of summer…

Image © lepiaf.geo via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

How many Poles in (the other) London?

It would seem London – any London – is quite popular with Poles.

To be honest, I had no idea that the Canadian city of London, Ontario was also a popular destination for Poles. But an article I’ve just seen on a Canadian site, the London Free Press claims that:

An estimated 20,000 Polish people call London home. Many came to Canada after the Second World War and more still during the Cold War in the 1980s.

A different country, the same reasons for migrating. And quite a big Polish community, it would seem.

Read how they celebrate the Polish culture in Ontario here.