Last night, I did something I haven’t done since I was perhaps nine- or 10-years-old. And I did it in a bar with hip-hop music on shuffle in the increasingly trendy King’s Cross area of London. I coloured in. Yes that’s right, with some sharpened coloured pencils, I brought a black and white drawing of a hip hop gangster to vibrant full-colour life … while sipping on a rose and lychee martini served with a piece of Turkish delight.
I was at the unique little shop-cum-cafe-cum-bar-cum-crafty hangout Drink Shop Do (9 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX), which for the past five years has been curating crazy craft events for Londoners who need something to do with their hands when out for a drink (I blame the smoking ban). Other regular events include Lionel Rich Tea, where you get to paint a portrait of Lionel Richie on a Rich Tea biscuit in skin- and hair-coloured icing, and I Make Knots Say Whaaat! which involves the more traditional crafts of crochet and knitting albeit with a contemporary soundtrack and divine cocktails.
Drink Shop Do isn’t the only London bar with an emphasis on inebriated creativity. It seems creative, craft-based socialising is all the rage in London now, with many venues around the capital introducing artsy events to put a twist on the standard pub or bar experience.
Apparently we are all naturally creative until the age of 12, and then our inhibitions get in the way. By combining creative activities with social fun, The Book Club in Shoreditch has been running chaotic craft and draw events for several years now. It’s the current venue for Art Macabre’s theatrical drawing events. The next one, on May 16 is themed around Arabian Nights and will involve models in sumptuous costume telling the folk stories of 1001 Nights through tableaux vivant, while you sketch what you see and enjoy the music (and a glass of your usual).
“We have diverse nude models posing in character, theatrical props, set and elements of costume, dramatic make up, and themed playlists,” explains salon hostess Nikki Shaill. “I try to take the participants on a little imaginary journey, allowing them to escape reality and enjoy the atmosphere, as they draw. I host in character and share stories and myths, illustrated in the scenes and poses the models portray.”
It seems that making life drawing a little less ‘still’ is a current trend among drawing schools. London Drawing, who run traditional drop-in life drawing classes, also host ‘Drawing theatre workshops’, which they run in collaboration with either a theatre company or arts organisation or performance artist.
“Each Drawing Theatre event is different and completely unique,” says Anne Noble Partridge, one of the founders of London Drawing. “We work with a different artist/ theatre company/ space/ arts organisation for each – so participants never quite know what to expect from the day, apart from the fact that it will be exciting and unforgettable.”
The next Drawing Theatre event is on May 16 and is in collaboration with graduates from the London College of Fashion’s MA in costume design for performance and will see the Library Space in Battersea transformed into a visual celebration of the body and its embellishments. The one after that, on July 26, is a collaboration with Alchemist Theatre Company and their show Liberation, so will involve physical theatre and the throwing of powder paint.
Mixing drawing with theatre may seem an unlikely combination, but it seems London can’t get enough of it.
At the Spiegeltent on London’s Southbank as part of the London Wonderground festival of cabaret, comedy and circus (May 7 – September 27), Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School are hosting five drawing and cabaret events throughout the summer. Calling themselves the ‘world’s premier alternative drawing movement’, Dr Sketchy’s unique blend of theatricality and sketching has seen it grow from a little event in Brooklyn, New York, to something that takes place in over 100 cities around the world. I went down to the first of the London Wonderground events earlier this week and it was glorious celebration of creativity from both performers and audience.
Hosted by the king of London cabaret, Dusty Limits, performers strike poses for you to sketch and then you have a break, get a drink from the bar and watch some of the capital’s finest cabaret acts. The audience was a motley crew of Londoners in search of something different, art enthusiasts and tourists, and the audience creations ranged from my out-of-proportion burlesque dancer to some pretty fabulous drawings that captured the atmosphere of the evening. If you fancy having a go, they have future events on June 1, June 22, July 20 and August 21.