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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A Saturday in London

World Naked Cycle Ride 2013 reaches Waterloo Bridge
Get east, get out of this south-west airbubble, go and breathe some city air, head east.

Run into trouble if you can. But no , the only trouble was avoiding the publicity seekers - the good, honest demanders of justice, the shiny-eyed, pink-arse-cheeked, body-painted-blue-and-gold naked cyclists, the angry Turks, the oppressed Zimbabweans, the ones who protest on behalf of the hungry of the planet.

Reach Waterloo, wander to Thames, South Bank side, find kids on boards and bikes putting on shows, hear sounds of strong music, hear the great Big Youth chanting so loud and clear, like he's still alive, over the wandering crowds of tourists and culture-vulture folk, the London eye people, the festive hall people, the National Theatre people, the BFI people, the arty ones. But this music rings so clear, and it's another protest.

The kids under the Queen Elizabeth Hall are protesting, because the Arts Centre Folk are going to fill in their dangerous skating place.

The big South Bank plans do not have room for this only - this ONE and ONLY bit of real folk art, of real local art, or real art - in this absurd, now almost completely ersatz zone.

The tragedy is so clear, once you visit South Bank. All those dear old 1950s and 60s  buildings - Hayward, QE Hall, RFH - have been glossed over with a whole lot of 1990s public-funded arts initiative stuff. Words written on banners. Bright splashes of Central American colours, a vain attempt to do something about the death-dark grey of the stained concret casts, the cladding.

As though they needed to do anything to these buildings which have hosted so many of the greatest artists on this planet over the past five decades!

They try so hard to do this.  Why do they have to?

Will it ever work? No, not while it's basically just a ploy to sell overpriced fish and chips to tourists.

Oh yes, thing like Meltdown are marvellous for the 35-55-year-olds who can afford the tickets to listen to the radical artists of their collective younger selves. Themselves now worn down and only too happy to pick up a late cheque or two.

Art? It only worked it's magic in this strange undercroft that the skaters and BMX kids took for themselves, they  were uniquely qualified to make huge things out of those  hostile angles and geometries, which to most seemed like some sort of medieval fortifications, warning you of the depredations of the art within. Fuck off if you don't appreciate what we  appreciate.

So, I cycle away from this place for a thousandth time, I cross Westminster, where already large beer-bellied fellas on mountain bikes are striking out to score another hit for public nudity. I see hundreds of old men, naked on their bicycles, their tired genitalia bobbing and bouncing on the crossbars.

Why am I not joining them? I too should be inflicitng my ghastly nakedness on this Saturday afternoon audience of theatre goers, tourists, lost fans of the Royal family, people on the look out for a better demo, we are all here for some reason, or no reason.

Next year if I am here and they are here I will do the ride, although I doubt if the day will be as good as it was today.

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