Many weeks ago my mother asked if I would write something about Brexit. “No, I don’t write about things like that,” I responded. Oh dearie, dear. I have done little but write about Brexit in the last week. Perhaps not Brexit exactly, but the aftermath of. The madness that has descended on my beloved city of London and indeed on the entire UK. It is as though everyone has been given permission to release their inner demon. As if, for all you Seinfeld fans, there was a collective decision in favour of the Festivus tradition of Airing of Grievances. Publically. The sudden spike in racist behaviour, against, but certainly not limited to, the Poles. The Poles? Seriously? They have been an integral part of British society, London society since the 1940s. But the ugliness has not been limited to one side only. This is a proper free for all. The vitriol aimed at the elderly in my lovely local post office earlier in the week was shocking, not least because there were several pensioners in the queue. The ferocity of the anger expressed made me very glad I have no beloved granny living alone in this country, at the moment. And then there are the calls to limit voting rights to those with acceptable GCSE results. I love the clip of Eddie calling for a Stupid People Tax. But Ab Fab is comedy television. It isn’t real. My friend Mark, who appears to have taken a leave of absence from life to promote Remain on social media, was verbally attacked in the Tube 2 days ago by a stranger, accusing him of looking like someone who would have voted Out. Mark fights with longswords in his free time. Not necessarily the man I would choose to randomly attack on public transport, but then all sense is gone. A close friend voted Leave, having thoughtfully weighed the options. Her own mother is no longer speaking with her. There was an altercation between neighbours on my street, not over parking or noise, but the vote. And then there is the government. Which is falling apart. In every way. It is Madness out here.
I can do nothing but hold onto the words of the Culture minister Ed Vaizey who called for the arts to help heal the post-Brexit wounds. “In times of uncertainty and division it’s the arts that bring us together,” said Mr Vaizey. “London 2012 united the nation and the world looked on in awe of our creativity, courage and character. Now is the time to come together once more.”
Oh, I do hope this is true! And so it was with delight I realized I had been invited to Linklater’s RA Summer Show evening, on Monday night. “This will be the perfect cure for troubled souls,” so I thought. The evening was gorgeous. Lawyers certainly can manage details! The semi-circles of beautiful young men holding trays of drinks as you entered the Central Hall. The exquisite food served with such abundance there was no suggestion of having to wait between nibbles. And the art. Oh the Art. The famous and the unknown and the awe-inspiring and the bewildering and the covetousness I don’t even try to hide. “I will immerse myself in art and temporarily forget about the world,” I told myself. But alas, the event was popular. The rooms were crowded. And everywhere I went all I could hear was talk of Brexit. How the world is ending. Might have already ended. There was no escape. I admit a good part of me thought, “well if it all coming to an end, I might as well go out with a bang and buy that Boyle Family piece….”. Fortunately for the family finances I am still an optimist.
And I am optimistic that art can, if not save us all from ourselves, at least distract us enough to allow tempers to cool. Little could the organizers have known, when they started putting Art Night with ICA together, the idea taken from a similar event held in Paris, of the importance, for me anyway, of the night. A one night summer festival in the West End with opportunities to stop into both iconic and never-before-noticed buildings and spaces and see art. In all its many forms. Yes please, a short break from Chicken Little and mob rule. And on that front it delivered. Bland, pastel coloured copies of L’Origine de Monde on enormous scale hung in an about-to-be renovated building on The Strand. Further along The Strand we waited for quite a while to be let into what turned out to be a suite of rooms that looked like every Sofitel I have even stayed in. Some girls were doing yoga in the bedroom. My family would have been impressed by how the towels were folded on the toilet in the bathroom. A real dog was on the rug in the living room. Most bizarrely, we were all speaking in hushed tones, as if in a sacred space, instead of some homage to 3 star living.
Tai Chi in the courtyard of Somerset House. I have done Yoga in several beautiful places, including Tower Bridge. Not sure it could be considered performance art, however. At St. Mary le Strand I was much more interested in what the young art students were working on than the film they were tending, which was little more than a list of films someone called Jennifer West likes. Rather like those Facebook round robins. We couldn’t find the abandoned Jubilee Station, though we walked round and round in the rain. Two Temple Place is such a beautiful building that none of the exhibitions I have seen there can compete with the venue itself. That staircase!
Couples were dancing on the steps of Duke of York. But this is London. People are always dancing everywhere. The queue for the installation in the Admiralty Arch was very very long. And given what we had seen already we decided not to join. But went, briefly, to the pub across the way. Which was filled with similarly minded people. All talking about how hilariously Emperor’s New Clothes piss take this evening was. And in that, the night was a roaring success. Not a whisper of Brexit anywhere. As for creativity, courage and character, well those were on display absolutely everywhere. The sky hasn’t fallen quite yet.