2012 top ten, 3: Todd MacDonald

26th December 2012

Boxing Day sees the continuation of our lists of 2012 top ten cultural experiences. Today’s contribution is from our colleague Todd MacDonald.

Todd: I started trying to rank these in order but it started to strike me as being a bit unnecessary. These are my top ten things in no particular order, just ten equally great things at ten different times during my 2012.

1. Bugsy Malone by Secret Cinema, The Troxy, London E1

An interactive cinema experience that involved dressing up in ’20s gear and travelling to a ‘secret’ location. In this case Fat Sam’s speakeasy was located at the Troxy in Limehouse. Outside the rear door, the queue was sceptically watched over by a policeman in period costume walking up and down the line and casually swinging his baton. The librarian gave us a book each and we all walked through an actual pivoted bookcase. We finally came out into the Grand Slam with Fat Sam himself on stage. We took our table and enjoyed Leroy Smith boxing for the first time, playing Blackjack with a corrupt dealer and Tallulah chatting up one of my mates. The film itself was then screened and we ate and drank until the finale. The answer is yes. Yes, we did have a foam pie fight and, yes, it was total carnage.

2. Heatherwick Studios, V&A

Every now and again I find myself cursing how on earth an individual can be so infinitely clever that all of their ingenious ideas seem totally effortless. This year’s award for that annoying individual is Thomas Heatherwick. The work of his studio was given its first major retrospective at the V&A. My viewing of the exhibition left me completely in awe and quite overwhelmed by not only the fact that almost everything there appealed to me aesthetically as utilitarian genius but also the sheer volume of this kind of quality. Maybe I’d like to be an architect in another life but only if Tom was nowhere to be seen.

3. Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge

What I’ve really enjoyed this year is being able to go to several art graduate shows, and seeing the work at the Slade, RCA and LCC was fantastic. In a different league, however, Kettle’s Yard really stood out as my favourite collection this year. Jim Ede’s former home and the collection inside was originally intended for art students to come and visit and he would often personally guide people around. The sheer variety of work in a setting that felt somehow more appropriate for how you should be looking at such pieces was very warming to encounter. I was particularly drawn to some Barbara Hepworth studies and was told that because of the current Winifred Nicholson exhibition in the main gallery, these original drawings had been brought out of storage to be put on display! Needless to stay, I offered to give them a permanent home – without any success.

4. Thrice farewell gig, Kentish Town Forum

Thrice Farewell Gig

I said goodbye to one of my favourite bands ever ever ever this year. I have listened to Thrice since I was 16, and ok, you would be entitled to think that its probably just teen angst punk rock. I won’t deny that there is an element of truth in that assumption. However, their very last UK gig after fourteen years playing together and eight studio albums makes it into my top ten partly because of nostalgia but mainly because of something much more meaningful. Seeing as I was only 16 when I first saw them live, my growing up in tandem with the development of their musical direction has meant that my own personal taste has matured alongside their evolution as artists. As a result, Thrice are probably the only band from my teenage years that has maintained a serious place in my listening habits and for that they will be sorely missed.

5. London: The Modern Babylon, Dalston Roof Park, London E8

Screening of London The Modern Babylon

Julien Temple’s London: The Modern Babylon was screened at a venue that would almost definitely make it into my top ten places discovered in 2012. Dalston Roof Park is situated above The Print Room and offers great views, booze and artificial grass. A re-appropriated space such as this one felt like the perfect place to be watching this film about the regeneration of the capital over the last century. Oh, and our John wrote the essay accompanying the DVD release. (Go on J, give ’em a link!)

6. My old school’s London dinner reunion, HMS Belfast

On the HMS BelfastEvery year my old school’s alumni association does a London dinner for those interested in going. The last time I went to one was five years ago but this year it was on the HMS Belfast! A bunch of mates and I decided that purely based on this, it would be rude not to attend. 140 alumni members, old and young, on an after hours opening, access all areas, visit to a battleship. How was the food? Who cares? I said BATTLESHIP!

7. The Coming Storm by Forced Entertainment, Battersea Arts Centre

Forced Entertainment’s current show The Coming Storm is just too funny. I went to Battersea Arts Centre three weeks ago to see it and I just laughed from start to finish. Their stagecraft feels so natural and spontaneous even in its moments of total chaos. I loved how you felt as if you didn’t know where you should be looking, and even when you were told to look and listen at someone in particular, your instinct was to look elsewhere for fear of missing something more interesting. My godmother is one of the performers and when she introduced me to one of her colleagues after the show, he recognised me from the middle a few rows up and described me as the ‘satellite of laughter’.

8. From The Sea To The Land Beyond, The Crucible, Sheffield

Screening of From The Sea To The Land Beyond

I went to the Sheffield DocFest for the first time ever as a punter rather than a member of staff. During my university years I worked for the festival so experiencing it from the other side was very interesting. This year’s festival was particularly important for The Space with one of its headline acts being officially unveiled as the opening night film. Penny Woolcock’s From The Sea To The Land Beyond was created entirely from archive footage of the British coast from the early 1900s right up until Blackpool pier in the noughties. As if this wasn’t impressive enough (like London: The Modern Babylon this is an archive film through the ages) the film’s soundtrack was made in collaboration with and performed live by British Sea Power, the acclaimed Brighton-based rock band. This was a hot ticket to have and a great pleasure to watch. I think of it as being a particularly special performance seeing as how the release of the film commercially and online has been put together so well. Its innovation in its distribution is something to look up to.

9. Meat Liquor, 74 Welbeck Street, London W1

This is the winner of ‘Todd’s Best Burger of 2012’ prize. ‘But Todd,’ you say, ‘this is a list of THE top ten things you did this year, not a junk food ratings survey!’  Trust me, it’s in the top ten and very deservedly so. Remember NO MEAT, NO LIQUOR.

10. Peace Camp, Dunstanburgh

Peace Camp

OK, so this was the most wet, windy, cold, arduous and tiring piece of work I think I’ve done all year. John and I filmed from 8pm until midnight in these conditions on the north east coast in Dunstanburgh before I then worked through the night editing what we had shot for an EPK delivery the next day. Sounds like hell but actually, when you consider the beauty and power of this installation created by Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw, it all balanced out rather nicely!

Previous 2012 top tens:

1: Keith Griffiths, from the Tour de France to The Real Housewives of New York City.

2: Linda Zuck, with much that came out of Africa but also Rust and Bone, Argo and Breaking Bad.

Thanks to Todd for the photographs as well as for the list.

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