London Ziferblat

Ziferblat Clocks

Having lived in East London for six years, I can’t think of a more vivid and evocative snapshot of millennial life than Ziferblat. In this utopian Shoreditch cafe everything is free apart from time. De-consuming is the future and there is no better place to start than a reclaimed flat in Old Street.

You can bring your own sandwiches or last night’s pasta, enter the kitchen and drink unlimited cups of tea or coffee. The Russian coffeehouse has a rickety old piano, chess set and bookshelves full of donated literature. It’s a place for sharing just like you do online.

Costing only 5p a minute, £3.00 an hour, you receive a miniature clock on arrival and fill your name and time on a card. Essentially it’s a local community centre where people come to chat, make friends and pass away a lazy Sunday IRL.

Ziferblat

With its flowery wallpaper and random assortment of 20th century chairs, Ziferblat is like a romantic cousin of the sixties. Did twentysomethings in the 1960s hanker for bygone eras too? Or did they live in the glorious present like the startup man wired into his Macbook Pro sitting next to me.  

Skinny with a meticulously trimmed beard and slim-fit cream jumper, the angry freelancer clearly means business. I do my best not to disturb him even though I needn’t worry. His headphones are proving so absorbing I barely register a wink of indignation.

The bearded entrepreneur is writing about music’s future on Google Drive. Everyone else around me is listening to the vinyl crackle of Neil Young. He looks incongruously focused, but he captures the essence of Shoreditch’s business drive.

For all its charm and utopian spirit don’t expect to find anything new at this co-working place. It’s the twenty-first century and everything has been done already. What you should be asking is whether Ziferblat is more rewarding than what has gone on before?

I can spend hours here and unlike in Starbucks, you end striking up conversations with people sitting next to you. It’s the living room I cannot afford to have.

Ziferblat Winter

Living in a glorified world of connectivity, the pay-for-your-time movement is an opportunity to join a new world order. We must stop buying things we don’t need. And remember you have a right to be here, but at some point you must leave.

Just make sure you stay long enough to have a good time.

Ziferblat London
388 Old Street,
London,
E1 6JE

Joy in People

Evoking memories of student bedrooms and NME inspired collages, Jeremy Deller’s pop-art exhibition at the Hayward Gallery throws open his cupboard for all to see. Almost like a counter-culture riposte to the hedonism of the New Labour years, Joy in People, offers a sweeping nineties retrospective.

Indeed his vision of the decade appears to pine inwards towards the 1980s – a hangover of union brass bands, strong armed marches, Margaret Thatcher, cups of tea and weekly music magazines. Every decade has to be historically collectivised in some way. In that respect this exhibition is a museum of old ideas. A collision of forces that formed and peaked during the passive consumerism of the Blair years.

One rock band in particular, the Manic Street Preachers, form the social heartbeat of the exhibition. With the 1997 fanzine project ‘The Uses of Literacy’ being reinstalled for new audiences, it pays tribute to the obsessive fan culture that surrounded the band in the mid-nineties.

Literary quotes, paintings, confessional stories and some fucking awful poetry, the exhibition never veers too far away from an alternative kid’s bedroom. Music is fleeting in that respect. Most people’s inspirational touchstones are formulated from the ages of 14 to 22 and slowly ebb away with each passing year. The pressures of earning a living and the cyclical nature of youth culture pay heed to that.

*Offering my own tribute, written as a 24 year old, I recall a diary piece I wrote as the lights of fan worship were dimming if not completely dying out. Below is my recollection of my last ever Manics gig at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange in April 2005. It’s my late, late offering to Jeremy Deller. If only to serve as a reminder of how quickly one’s memories can become an exhibit in a museum.

Monday, April 18th 2005 

Paradise City

After watching my girlfriend collapse in a bucket in tears on my bed I realised I had made a mistake. I felt incredibly guilty but I was scared of being disappointed and I didn’t want my ragged feelings ruining everybody else’s night. I changed my mind of course and later on that afternoon we were in Edinburgh rummaging for sailor suits and jumpers inside a 20th Century clothes shop. I knew then that I had made the right decision. There are some happy memories in the capital and walking through the historic Old Town in the rain was beautiful, it was almost like my footsteps were being drawn in ink.

The Manics were the major pulling factor and they were playing the Corn Exchange, which is deep in the suburbs and we arrived late that evening and the venue looked like an abandoned swimming pool. The rectangle white hall was much smaller than I expected and consequently there was very little room to manoeuvre. James Dean Bradfield looked muscular and extremely fit, while Nicky Wire was really tall and danced around on stage like a glittering Welsh salmon. The Manics reached their saturation point years ago and it felt strange seeing them live again. There was something serene and ghostly calm about them, previous landmark singles that were once powerful statements had now become cabaret and were played with a jukebox familiarity.

I did feel the Manics were slightly cabaret in places, the Holy Bible moments however were absolutely amazing, especially Of Walking Abortion and If White America, which were like vicious snarling scabs and for blurring white seconds I felt like I was obsessed and eighteen all over again. There was also Roses in the Hospital and they ended with a crashing version of Motown Junk, which started off with Paradise City by Guns and Roses and it was coolest send off ever! The thudding drums whipped the crowd to a chaotic frenzy and it was the perfect ending to a heavenly evening. It was the goodbye moment I had always wanted. 

Quarter of a Century

Glasgow is a city with a brooding gothic soul. A city I once wrote about regularly, even if it was just the banality of routine. With its violence menace, religious iconography and twee bourgeois sensibility, Glasgow captured my imagination at a particular period in time. Back when I described the insignificant truth of this solitary journey to the cinema on a cold weekday evening. A melancholy love letter so to speak. I had just turned twenty-five. 

Tuesday, 10th January 2006

Moth to a Flame

I go the cinema when I’m bored and lonely. It all begins with an over familiar route through the West End and after several twists and turns I will magically stride through Garnethill down towards the largest cinema building on Planet Earth.

The beginning of the journey is arguably the most comfortable upon the eye, it is invariably dark and rectangle shades of affluent light can be seen frozen behind coloured glass. I walk across the Byres Road up towards Great Gibson Street, where mercenary cranes hang over an underdeveloped patch of soil; it is a docile but rapidly changing stretch of road.

The sharp gradient tightens the muscles on both of my legs and I have reached the peak of the road, where in sudden twist of fate I feel compelled to go down the hill towards Gibson Street. I used to live around here, the car park is still a muddy disgrace, littered with crass aluminium shells and alien sized craters. The park dominates the area, it is a spooky place and lit only by a curved silver moon; its iron gates lie open but I dare not enter.

I stride past fancy Lebanese and Scottish restaurants, it is an ordinary night but they both appear full of people. I cross over the gentle river, there are no grebes or mallards to be seen and only now do I start to accelerate towards my destination. I twist past two Protestant churches and a cold young fox lying dead in the leaves. The road ahead is empty and without a soul, it appears darker now, the motorway is within walking distance.

I head towards Charing Cross, it is very quiet and all the cars have gone. It is not the right time but I prefer to take to the skies than walk alongside them. I adjust my legs and walk over an arched granite causeway; it elevates me above the carnage of the roads and provides access to the mysterious ways of Garnethill.

I am in the city now, there something sinister about this place, something threatening, although my mind is playing tricks on me. It is dark right now and no one is here. The street is awash with neat green lawns and vacancy signs, there are places to stay on my left, while to my right there are scattered bins and graffiti strewn fire exits.

I walk ominously closer and there is a Catholic Church approaching, which is separated by yew, rowan and a piercing iron fence. This secretive place of worship performs mass in Latin and the priest is kept hidden behind a secret silver veil. The church is small but intimidating and I don’t think it likes me at all. I walk on alone and without a God, the winter air is biting my cheeks, my hands are beginning to get cold now.

I walk towards the famous art school and admire its subtle and decorative style, there are no students in the nearby eighties lounge. I am almost there now and feel like a distant stranger, people are on the move down below me, there is a collection of buckfast and vodka sitting alongside a corrugated steel gate. The streets are colliding into one, there are cars passing by me, it is now sparkling with light and the silence has gone.