Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Dora Marr Retrospective at the Tate Modern

Dora Marr. Untitled  (Hand-Shell) 1934.
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper 401x 289 mm

Centre Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne, Paris. Photo © Centre Pompidou, 
RMN-Grand Palais/image Centre Pompidou,
MNAM-CCI. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019.

So many exciting and enthralling exhibitions on for autumn and winter in the UK. DORA MARR runs from 20 November 2019 to 15 March 2020 at the Tate Modern, London. Dora Marr's works became 'celebrated icons of surrealism' and the 200 works on show will span six decades and include social documentary photographs, commissions and paintings. Growing up between Argentina and Paris, she studied art before switching to photography. (Source: Tate Modern.)

Other exhibitions include Tim Walker: Wonderful Things at the V&A, London, Gaugin portraits at the National Gallery, London, and Vivian Suter at the Tate Liverpool, Liverpool. October is Charles Renee Mackintosh month in Glasgow, celebrating the architecture, design and arts and crafts of the great man.

See Visit Britain's list of major exhibitions around the UK for autumn and winter,  here.

Autumn in London and Paris

Oak tree in London's Richmond Park. Photo ©Alison Plummer
Autumn in the UK is a beautiful time of year for travelling, especially if you have the chance to appreciate the woodlands, which you can even do in London. Richmond Park is the largest London park, created by King Charles I as a deer park. There are still plenty of deer about today and it's a special conservation area. The oak trees are really beautiful. According to the Woodland Trust, oak forests support more life than any other types of native forest – hosting insects, birds and bats and supplying acorns for deer, squirrels and badgers. In autumn the leaf mould is home to bells and fungi.

I also have a hankering for Paris at this time of year – today inspired by news from the five star luxury Hotel Esprit Saint Germain on the Left Bank. Tempting offers include five-night packages to enjoy for autumn, the festive season and beyond!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Church that would not Die, St Michael the Archangel, Wollombi

Book cover image photographed by Ken Martin.
Launched in Sydney last Tuesday and in Wollombi, NSW on Saturday, The Church that would not Die, St Michael the Archangel, Wollombi is a book about a tiny church with a turbulent past. Flooded many times with the water going over the top of the church in 1893, the church was moved stone by stone by the people of the village and re-built on higher ground. It was damaged in the Newcastle earthquake and then put up for auction on the same day as St Patrick's, Nulkaba. The village went into full defence mode – and the outcome was that the church became the property of a group with Trustees and a committee to oversee day-to-day matters, the Friends of St Michaels.

The church was still a church but it required huge efforts with fundraising for upkeep and restoration ... at one point a dynamited wall led to the discovery of stencilling on the interior walls, which then required restoration. I'm still investigating the provenance of the intriguing stained glass window of St Michael – the likely makers have been narrowed down to a few. I'm on the case. The idea for the beautiful modern leadlight windows by glass artist Margaret Ella was the brainchild of St Michael's treasurer, Mrs Mary Fortey.

Like the church itself, the book is the sum of the involvement of many people. Based on ten years of research by Wollombi and Friends of St Michaels' identity, Gael Winnick, it tells stories of those involved with the addition of early chapters regarding the arrival in Sydney of the first Catholics and Bishop Polding who laid St Michael's first foundation stone in 1840. The 'mapping' of emerging Wollombi and the incredible engineering feat of the convict-built Great North Road are also included.

RRP $39.95 (+p&p), published by the ACU, Sydney, the book will be available to buy in Wollombi from Myrtle House Cafe and Books and Noyce Brothers Cellar Door, also from the ACU Arts & Culture website or contact me. for sales enquiries (proceeds to St Michael's).

Book launch, Grays Inn Garden at Noyce Bothers Wine, Wollombi.

Grays Inna nd Noyce Brothers' cellar door, Panino Caffe, Wollombi Village, NSW.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Blues Point walk, Sydney

There's nowhere like Sydney Harbour on a sparkling blue sunny day! The foreshore holds many secrets, walks and vantage points and it was a special experience today to walk along a path beside the water at Blues Point, admiring the city from afar and then rounding a bend to a spectacular view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Photos©Alison Plummer

Find more Harbour secrets at

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Best Asparagus, Vale of Evesham

Asparagus with mushroom and garlic filled pasta, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Photo Alison Plummer.©
Just the best asparagus ever from Revills Farm Shop. I enjoyed it with delicious filled pasta and parmesan. Why the best? It was just so tender! It was also a happy surprise as I really only called in to ask for directions to the wonderful, semi-ancient Tiddesley Wood*, but naturally bought a selection of fresh produce from the shop while I was there. The asparagus certainly looked inviting but I was seriously delighted later when I tasted it.

The British asparagus season is from March to June and Vale of Evesham Asparagus has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status under the EU protected food name scheme covering regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed. The PGI mark is awarded if produce 'has a reputation, characteristics or qualities that are a result of the area it’s associated with'.

Find farm shops, delis, greengrocers selling asparagus around the Vale of Evesham area including:

Revills Farm Shop at Defford near Pershore, sells only PGI status Vale of Evesham Asparagus and is close to Croome Court and on the way to the fabulous Malvern Hills, home of the Morgan Motor Company (you'll see many Morgans on the roads). There's a Farmhouse Cafe for light lunches and afternoon teas with a selection of yummy cakes daily. All-day breakfast at weekends.

Ellenden Farm Shop, Harvington near Evesham. 2019 Midlands Regional Winners for the Countryside Alliance local food and drink award, offering a wide range of fresh vegetables, fruit and other delicious local produce, home-farmed meats. Merguez sausages! The inviting cafe serves breakfast, coffee, freshly-prepared dishes, afternoon tea, cakes. Close to The Valley shopping and garden centre, Golls Garden Centre and not far from Coughton Court. The Ellenden newsletter is a lovely connection to the seasons and produce news in the Vale of Evesham.

Hillers Farm Shop, cafe, gift shop and garden centre with beautiful show gardens to wander through. Near 'Roman' Alcester and not far from Ragley Hall and Coughton Court.

Castle Nurseries Farm Shop on Broadway Road off the A46.

Fruit Salad 48 High Street, Pershore, an attractive town for shopping, bakeries, foodie haunts and cafes plus the wonderful Pershore Abbey, now a parish church.

Wayside Farm Shop on the Broadway Road between Evesham and Broadway, with a teashop.

Broadway Deli in beautiful Broadway village –  the great choice as a base for exploring the Vale of Evesham and the Cotswolds.

The historic Fleece Inn at Bretforton is the home of the National Asparagus Festival, asparagus auctions and many events during the season. (Great range of beers and ciders.)

The Round of Gras pub is named after the traditional rounds (bunches) of asparagus in the Vale of Evesham market gardening region. April-June asparagus menu as well as fish and chips and other pub grub and carvery days – traditional roast with all the trimmings.

Asparagus is on seasonal restaurant menus and find specialist produce in the shops. Abbey Butchers, High Street, Pershore, makes an asparagus pork pie and Vale Porker sausages with black pepper and asparagus.

*Tiddesley Wood near Pershore was once a deer park owned by the Abbots of Pershore, now managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. In spring the new leaves are bursting into life on the trees and there are carpets of bluebells, cowslips, violets and wood anemones. Shady areas are home to greater butterfly orchids, herb Paris, dog's mercury, violet helleborines.
Tiddesley Wood, above and below. Photos Alison Plummer.©

Big shout out and thanks to fabulous friends Fiona and Neil whose FB post inspired me to go hunting for Tiddesley Wood in the first place. I am so envious of your orchid finds – native orchids in NSW, Australia, are a passion of mine but  I haven't looked at the British ones, until now. Thanks also to John and Mardy for John's birthday celebrations at the Round of Gras, so much enjoyed. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Farmstead at Royal Malewane opens in the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

Photo © The Royal Portfolio

This looks inviting! The Farmstead at Royal Malewane safari lodge is the latest addition to The Royal Portfolio with three Luxury Farm Suites and The Farmhouse – a three and a half bedroom villa offering private services. The interiors by Liz Biden, owner and Founder of The Royal Portfolio, are described as combining the contemporary style of The Silo Hotel and the capricious opulence of La Residence. Light oak, tin rooves, wrought iron and gentle hues of blue and white define the style with lively splashes of emerald and ruby. 

Photo © The Royal Portfolio


The Royal Portfolio collection of hotels in South Africa is owned and run by the Biden family and includes Royal Malewane in the Greater Kruger National Park, Birkenhead House in Hermanus, La Residence in Franschhoek and The Silo Hotel in Cape Town.

Source: Press release.


AGNSW Packing Room Prize Winner

Through the looking glass, by Tessa MacKay©. Photo: AGNSW

The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) has announced the finalists for this year's Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes, the finalists for the Young Archie competition and the Packing Room Prize winner, Perth artist Tessa MacKay.  

The winning portrait of actor David Wenham, Through the looking glass, won the approval of AGNSW head packer Brett Cuthbertson (who controls 52% of the vote) who said he ‘loved the work’ from the moment his packing room colleague Stu, brought it to his attention. “I love the reflection of the glass and that David’s in a reflective mood too. We blokes have a lot to think about these days!” Cuthbertson said.

Newcomer finalist Tessa MacKay said she was ‘thrilled’. “David's thoughtful gaze in the middle of the work is a kind of anchor. The portrait is about stepping into David's world. I like to think that his somewhat pensive eyes, lost in thought, are another kind of ‘looking glass’ that we're peering into,” MacKay said.

David Wenham said he felt privileged to sit for MacKay who he met through her husband, a writer/director. "Aware of my fondness for sitting, people watching and general day dreaming, Tess had a very clear vision of what the look, feel and purpose of the portrait should be."

Now in its 10th year, the 2019 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes exhibition is proudly presented by ANZ. 

Source: AGNSW press release.