The Colours of Holi One: Throwing Powder

Holi is traditionally a Hindu religious festival celebrated in the Spring season, mainly in India and Nepal.

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On top of the coloured gulal powder throwing and dancing that Holi One in London featured, there’s also bonfires, squirt guns and buckets full of dyed water being thrown about.

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Not to mention a lot more people involved in this enormous street fest than you’d ever dream of cramming into the car park space next to Battersea Power Station.

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I’ve always been fascinated by the photos of Holi that come out of the events in India. They are truly stunning.

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So when Dimple invited me to join her and Kiran at the Holi celebration here in London last Saturday, I didn’t think twice.

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Holi One festivities in London (which also travel all over the world) are really nothing to do with this Holi other than that it’s inspired by the colour like The Colour Run.

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Their website says, “the festival is about promoting the ideas of togetherness and the colour of everyday life during a day of fun and exhilaration.”

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And it was a day of fun and exhilaration.

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There were about 10,000 people there, mostly wearing all white.

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At least in the beginning.

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Up front was a stage where DJs played bhangra and other dance music to a crowd packed in crowd.

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There were occasional countdowns to big powder throws.

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There was a less powdery zone behind the dance area which is where most of these photos were taken because I didn’t dare take my camera out in the middle of the chaos!

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The three of us bought 10 bags of powder each – yellow, orange, blue, green and purple.

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On one end, there was a water area so people were filling empty beer or wine bottles with powder and water or just putting water directly into the bags.

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This made a nice sticky paste and much more vibrant colour than the powder alone.

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A few people went the extra mile and dressed in costume.

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There were feather headdresses, butterfly wings and body stockings.

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People sprawled out on the car park concrete in circles, drinking and chatting and the general atmosphere all day was really chill.

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As time carried on, our white clothes slowly became tie-dye.

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The more colourful, the better.

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The powder was all non-toxic, which was great because I definitely swallowed quite a lot of it.

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It was pretty unavoidable.

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Not that we tried to avoid it.

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Everything was covered in it.

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Once the light started to fade, the water throwing was a bit chilly!

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Eventually it was time to call it a night, go home, shower and warm up!

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Walking home on my own since the others took train, I got a lot of amusing looks, as I’m sure you can imagine.

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It all came off surprisingly easily, though I didn’t attempt to wash the clothes or shoes – they went straight to the bin.

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It was a really fun day, but it was good to be clean again!

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Did anyone else go to Holi One? Or better yet, have you been to the real Holi celebrations? 

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Listen to a Londoner: Lisa Bolton

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

lisa
Lisa Bolton

Lisa is a northern lass from the French countryside who is integrating into London’s Colombian community. She’s trying to get used to overcrowding and living like battery hens whilst growing very fond of cultural diversity, chips and Primark!

LLO: How long have you been in London, where are you from originally and what brought you here?
LB: I’ve been in London for 2 and a half years. I was born in Salford, Manchester but have lived in nearly all my life in a forest in Normandy France which is where I call home. I came here for work and a new beginning. After finishing my studies and working in Spain for 2 and a half years there was little work in France so I made my decision one morning to come to London and find a new job!

LLO: Which area of London are you most familiar with and what’s the best thing about it?
LB: Having lived in various areas in London I really love Elephant and Castle and Brixton. As I said I grew up in a forest 2km outside a village of 467 people. I had a pretty sheltered life to say the least. I had heard so many horrible things about these 2 areas I was scared to death, but there is a really sense of community. Even though I have moved away from the area now I still enjoy going to Weight Watchers every week in Brixton and the Ritzy cinema is brill and there is a lot of different shops. And Elephant is the best place in London as there is so much going on, transport is excellent and you feel as if you are in another world. You can walk into central London in 30 minutes!!!

LLO:  Tell us about your favourite unique London discovery.
LB: Uhmm, quite hard. I think it depends on what you are into and unless you are in that scene you wouldn’t know about it. Thanks to my circle of friends which is made up of Colombians I suppose it would be the Vallenato sub-culture and the private parties, functions, festivals and carnivals.

I would also say that the Fitzrovia live radio performances are a great discovery and brilliant. They often perform at the Globe’s pub The Swan. I discovered this through my friend and ex-flatmate who is an actor.

But of course my most precious unique London discovery is my fiancé Carlos who I met here.

LLO:  Where are your top choices for a night of dancing?
LB: I LOVE dancing but mostly salsa. However, I REALLY like G-A-Y to let your hair down and for cheap drinks! People there are really friendly and will come up and dance with you.

I don’t really like the “Latin” places here. The music is not that great and the dancing is quite the same. I believe La Floridita is great and it has been recommended, but I’ve never been. There is one place in Brixton called “La Mazorca” which is a bit of a dive and there are a few dodgy characters BUT if you go in a group they play great music and have a great dance floor. Otherwise, I have always had the best dancing time at improvised parties in various little bars and open air festivals like “Carnival del Pueblo”.

LLO: Give us an unusual or quirky idea for a date in London.
LB: To be quite honest I have no idea, probably not been on enough dates to know. But I recently met up with a former flatmate who told me he had had a few dates since we had last seen each other and one guy took him to a taxidermist shop! Needless to say he didn’t go out with him again!

LLO: If I only had one night in London and wanted to head away from the tourist trail for food and drinks, where would you send me?
LB: Gosh, this is a hard question as it depends what type of food I fancied. I have my favourite Colombian restaurant, French restaurant and Indian restaurant! But I suppose if I weren’t here I would be living outside the country and therefore it would probably have to be a pub where I could have steak and ale pie and chips. It’s not off the beaten track but the Horneman over-looking the river on the south bank near London Bridge is easy access and the food is quite nice also, but most good pubs could probably do the same.

LLO: If you want to experience another culture in London, what’s your first choice and where do you head to find it?
LB: WOW, the choice is incredible as London in itself is a cultural mish-mash. The first time I went to Whitechapel, I thought I was in some Asian country. It was incredible. Elephant again springs to mind. Latin American and African cultures are predominant and you can get by just speaking Spanish!

LLO: Tell us about a London memory that could only have happened in London.
LB: I am an English teacher on Oxford Street and I have large, very culturally diverse groups of people who maybe have never left their country before. They have strong preconceptions about different nationalities, colours, cultures, sexual preferences and, of course, religion. As a Teacher it is very hard to approach such sensitive subjects especially concerning homophobia and the stigma which every Muslim/Arabic student is viewed with. Some Latin American students have never met a Muslim let alone a woman in traditional dress. But one day in a class in which I had Baptists, born again Christians, Catholics, Buddhists, Russian orthodox, Shintoists and Muslims (from Turkey, Russia and North African countries) the debate turned to religion which I allow as long as everybody respects each other’s beliefs. The students all found common ground within their different religions and traditions using English. They all got along so well and were respectful of each other. I know sounds corny, but I really warmed my heart that despite all the war and hatred in the world, people from  incredibly different walks of life found they were all the same.

LLO: Who is the most interesting Londoner you’ve met and why?
LB: Everyone in London has had an interesting life and a story to tell. But one of my students, Maria, had come from the slums of Lima, Peru, and had been to a school run by nuns and financed by fundraising from Europe. She had worked her way up to become an English teacher and came to England to better her skills.

Doing the job I do has been a real eye opener to see that intelligent, highly qualified people who are psychologists, engineers, lawyers, film directors etc… perform menial jobs due to their legal status and language skills in order to learn the language. It really angers me when you see office workers ignoring cleaners knowing that they are probably for more qualified than them. It cost nothing to smile or acknowledge someone.

LLO:  If you were to move away from London in the future, which five things would you miss the most?
LB:
1) Cultural diversity
2) The choice of different products and restaurants
3) The different events
4) Primark
5) Public transport especially the tube (despite all the strikes, hahhaha!)

Thanks Lisa!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

A Weekend of Caribbean Chaos

Expect elaborate, vivid, colourful costumes covering strategic bits of wriggling bodies in a long and impressive parade.

11: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

Expect whistles and party horns from a crowd of a million people that make up an incredibly vibrant atmosphere, 40 static sound systems pumping out Soca, Calypso, Reggae, Funk, R&B and House music that makes you want to dance along with stages featuring live acts that have included in the past the likes of Wyclef Jean and Jamiroquai.

10: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

Expect to be enticed by the mouth-watering aroma of jerk chicken and curried goat coming from 100 booths serving up delicious Caribbean food.

9: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

Yup, it is Notting Hill Carnival weekend this Sunday and Monday, and the only bank holiday I get off of work because my office is in the thick of it all. It’s also a brilliant weekend for photo opportunities if the weather holds cleans itself up – or even if it doesn’t.

8: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

The carnival was started in the ‘60s by the Afro-Caribbean community, drawing its roots from the carnivals of the 19th century in Trinidad which celebrated the abolition of slavery. The first carnival in Notting Hill was meant to showcase a steel band that used to play in Earl’s Court on weekends.

1: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

It ended up creating a community feel that has been built up to the world-famous festival it is today.

7: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

Head down on Sunday if you’ve got kiddies for family fun and costume prizes. Or, if you’re in it for the pure chaos, Monday is made for madness and music that starts in the morning and carries on late into the morning hours.

6: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

Take public transport, don’t expect an easy escape or clean toilets and keep your eyes on anything valuable you bring along, but also expect to be impressed by the effort that goes into the costumes, energised by the music and inspired by the culture. I’d say it’s a must to go at least once if you’ve never been before.

5: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

One more little tip – If you’re coming from outside of London and want to save a bit of money on accommodation, vouchercodes.co.uk is running a deal in connection with Travelodge offering £15 off “flexible rate room bookings”.

2: Notting Hill Carnival 2009

Photos are from my visit last year!

London Events: Vagina Monologues 2010

Ah, vagina season: a time for moaning, teary-eyed laughter, self-reflection, awareness and, of course, chanting “cunt” at the top of your lungs as one with an audience in a crowded theatre. Each time I see Vagina Monologues – whether in New York where I saw my first production or in London where I’ve seen my last few – I adore it even more.

It’s real, emotional, passionate, sometimes in-your-face. It cradles you, speaks gently to you, makes you burst into fits of helpless laughter and makes you sad enough to cry for women around the world who have been victims of abuse. It makes you angry, curious and filled with wonder. It builds a sense of companionship with other women rather than one of competition. Mainly, it leaves you feeling empowered.

was invited to press night on Friday by Emma Jane Richards and Annie Saunders, the director and producer of V-Day London. The actresses were dynamic and enthusiastic. The show was hilarious. Last year’s tickets sold out and I have no doubt this year’s will do the same.

If you’re not familiar, Vagina Monologues is part of activist Eve Ensler’s V-Day movement, a global cooperation to raise awareness of violence against women. The proceeds of these yearly productions staged around the world go to a certain cause chosen by Eve. This year, they will help to open the City of Joy, a safe house in the Congo.

While the plight of abused women worldwide is the focus of V-Day as a whole, Vagina Monologues is by no means dry or fact-ridden, nor does it preach about its cause. On the contrary, it is a celebration of women, lifting away taboos and stigmas, filling the theatre with amusing antics on pubic hair, gynaecological “duck lips”, triple orgasmic moaning, experimental lesbianism, a vagina connoisseur called Bob and an old woman’s “down there”. It is meant to make you slightly uncomfortable in the beginning but by the end, you walk away more comfortable than you could have thought possible with all things to do with vaginas.

This year’s production is part of a brand new and exciting festival called See You Next Tuesday, with all events taking place at the New Player’s Theatre nestled in the arches beneath Charing Cross Station. I haven’t missed the chance to see this at least once every year for the last five years, so I would, of course, highly recommend it.

FYI – The audience was at least 30% male and the guys were loving it, so don’t think it’s just for the women!

Last year, I wrote an article on V-Day London 2009 for Seven Magazine and interviewed Emma Jane and Annie which will explain the concept in greater detail.

Venue: New Players Theatre, WC2
Dates of show: March 9th, 12th, 13th, 16th, and 19th at 8pm & March 20th at 2:30pm

For more info, see yesterday’s post on the See You Next Tuesday festival.

London Events: See You Next Tuesday Festival

Today is International Women’s Day, recognising the fabulousness of females around the globe and raising awareness of the plight of some who live their lives in fear and without a voice to stand up for their rights.

Today is also the first day of the See You Next Tuesday Festival, giving women in London a platform for creativity, comedy, theatre, burlesque and cabaret. (Men are, of course, welcome to join in on the fun.)

Running until the 20th of March, there is plenty to see at the New Players Theatre where all of the events are taking place. You can find a calendar of events here.  

If you were looking for the ever-popular Vagina Monologues in February, you’ll be happy to know they are running as part of the festival this month, proceeds as always going to Eve Ensler’s V-Day movement.

The brilliant minds behind See You Next Tuesday are Emma Jane Richards and Annie Saunders, who have run V-Day London since 2008. They describe this new celebration as “cutting-edge theatre, thigh-slapping comedy, film screenings, a variety of workshops, and the best of circus, burlesque and cabaret. Showcasing fantastic feminine and feminist talent for an action-packed two weeks, raising discussion (and eyebrows) in a lavish and experimental playground of fancy, See You Next Tuesday is like nothing you’ve seen before.”

Book tickets for events here.  
Website is here.

(PS – “See You Next Tuesday” = CUNT, if you didn’t know…)