The summer smiled on me this weekend. As I walked across Waterloo bridge, drinking in the splurges of colour parading the south bank of the Thames by Festival Hall. 

Last time I crossed this bridge more than a decade ago in search of MOMI (Museum Of Moving Image), the surrounding area seemed rather drab and certainly lacking in the energy and creativity which is bursting it’s seams today. The Southbank Centre, this summer celebrates the 1951 Festival Of Britain with a magnificent beach-side party crammed with the delights of British design and art.


Highlights for me began with the Southend-on-Sea artist beach-huts with colourful exteriors, suprising interiors and even a fact or two to be absorbed about the history of the great British seaside. This row of candy striped and spotted huts, sits on the river bank below the worlds longest strip of bunting ( I thought my street party bunting was the longest but clearly I am mistaken, it felt like the longest when I was sewing it!). The icing on the cake is the strip of ‘urban’ beach where you can get out your bucket and spade and fire on with a few sandcastles. 

The Urban beach is overlooked by Dishoom’s Chowpatty Beach cafe which truly takes it’s inspiration and wonderful re-cycled decor from a favourite Mumbai recreation spot. The cafe has an authentic laid back feel where you can lounge around sipping rum from a green coconut whilst drinking in the vibrant contrasting colours and improvised designs of India. All without being hassled by chaotic groups of Indian blokes trying to sell you cut price head massages, giant balloons, lassis and rickshaw rides through the dodgy parts of town (this observation is based on first hand experience, no offense meant!) 

Taking a break from the colour and noise above ground, The Museum Of  1951 exhibition in the basemeant of The Royal Festival Hall is worth a visit, a beautiful showcase of memorabillia, design and  nostalgic memories. My favourite part being the re-created 1950’s living room where you can sit yourself down on the sofa and absorb the surroundings of another era, just a pity I wasn’t wearing a tea dress and some bright red lippy. 


Nearby a giant fox constructed from wood and hay bales looms above The Queen Elizabeth Hall, slyly surveying the party atmosphere below, I was lucky enough to be photographing himself at the moment the Red Arrows appeared, dutifully making their flyby in honour of the Queens birthday! Mr Foxy didn’t seem particularly impressed.

Funnily enough, there really is so much to see at the words largest Art centre: stunningly intimate portraits of the troops, a giant grass sofa, rooftop vegetable patch and a graffitied skate park but I really can’t complete this post without at least mentioning that The Southbank Centre also houses The Hayward Gallery, currently host to Tracey Emin’s  solo exhibition, ‘Love is what you want’. In some ways it is a shame that I didn’t bother to cough up the required £12 to see the work of one of Britains most famous contemporary artists but then again, was there anything new to be seen? has not Tracey Emin already splashed her entire life in all it’s intimate grottiness over every public space? 

I was happy enough just to peruse the riverside and let the summer sun smile on me!