Fashion At The Wednesbury Museum And Art Gallery

It’s always lovely when a fashion exhibition pops up virtually on your doorstep. The Hodson Shop collection was one such delight, and this summer I have found a small fashion exhibition in the town of my youth, Wednesbury, at the town’s beautiful museum and art gallery.

The exhibition is called ‘Clothes!’ and is taking place in the museums Nostalgia Rooms. It features a range of pieces from the 1959s, 1960s and 70s, along with memorabilia and old photographs of West Bromwich, Wednesbury and the surrounding areas from the same era.

I love the clothes that are featured, these pieces are not couture or designer pieces, but are instead the sort of clothes that your mother or grandmother might have owned and worn, really pieces of social history displayed within a context. I loved the purple maxi dress with long sleeves and high neck, my mom was a bridesmaid in 1973 and wore something very similar, and a dress of a similar colour that came from the 1950s, but would still look good today due to the classic style.

The 1960s explosion of fashion is well represented, with lots of printed and plain shift dresses in the style of Mary Quant and Pierre Cardin. And, just to prove that fashion is cyclical, and that styles do come around again and again, the exhibition has a maxi style dress and a tea dress that may be 1970s in origin, but certainly wouldn’t look out of place on today’s High Street.

The Clothes! exhibition is in the Nostalgia Rooms at the Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery until the end of 2017. Entrance is free, and you could also check out the permanent toy exhibition and the beautiful Ruskin pottery whilst you are there,

Click here for more information.

All or Nothing – The Small Faces Musical is a BIG Success

All or Nothing, the smash hit mod musical that tells the life and times of the wonderfully talented Steve Marriot and the Small Faces, arrived in Wolverhampton last night for a three night run. The story of The Small Faces, a bunch of Cockney teenagers who became one of the most biggest and most iconic bands of the 1960s, is a taundry tale of talented and youth exploited and ultimately wasted, but it also has laugh out loud moments, amazing music and a cast who are totally at the top of their game.

All or Nothing is written by Carol Harrison, perhaps best known for her role as Louise Raymond in Eastenders. She has produced an extraordinary piece of theatre, it probably is ‘the coolest musical ever’. Carol also plays the role of Kay Marriot, the mother of Steve Marriot, and a real heart of the story, a vibrant East End mother with a posh telephone voice and aspirations that her boy might one day work with Sir Laurence Olivier. Young Steve (Samuel Pope – all cheeky sass and attitude) has other ideas, his heart and soul lie in making music, and a chance meeting with Kenney Jones (Stefan Edwards) and Ronnie Lane (Stanton Wright) sets the wheels in motion for the band that will become the Small Faces. A change of personnel sees the tall Jimmy Winston(Joseph Peters) replaced by the pint sized Ian McLagan (Josh Maddison) and the classic Small Faces line up is complete and set for stardom. But fame does not bring fortune, as the band are exploited by a string of managers, and the charismatic but self destructive Marriot ruins their chances of world wide success with obnoxious behaviour that sees them banned from the likes of Top of the Pops. All or Nothing tells this story in blistering fashion, complete with a string of classic hits that are played live by a talented cast of actors who can also sing like a dream.

 

 

One of the things that makes All or Nothing such a spell binding, and ultimately tragic experience, is the narration from an older, and by now dead, Steve Marriot. Played by the brilliant Chris Simmons, it is like Marriot is looking back at his experiences, enjoying the good times, and wishing he could turn back time as he realises the mistakes he made (his band become the Faces with Rod Stewart after he left abrubtly in 1968.) Chris is exceptional in the role, he noticeably deteriorates as the play continues, mirroring what happened to Marriot, who was killed in a house fire in the early 1990s. It is heartbreaking to watch, and his final scene with mom Kay (Carol Harrison at her most poignant) is almost eerie in its sadness, particularly a final rendition of All or Nothing.

Another thing that I loved about ‘All or Nothing’ is that it superbly recreates the era of the 1960s, from a very funny episode of Top of the Pops with Daniel Beares just hilarious as Tony Blackburn, to scenes including Sonny and Cher and an incredible Dusty Springfield (Sophia Benn – just wow!). Juke Box Jury, Ready Steady Go, Andrew Loog Oldham and Rod Stewart, they are all there, and it gives the musical real resonance, not just looking at the band in splendid isolation, but placing them at the centre of Swinging London.

All or Nothing is one of the best musicals around, one with a real sad story to tell, and brilliant music that has stood the test of time.

 

RIP Anita Pallenberg

This week saw the death of the ultimate rock chick. Anita Pallenberg, famously the lover of both Brian Jones and Keith Richard (and possibly Mick Jagger) died at the relatively early age of 73. But boy, had she packed some life into those 73 years, both as a model, an actress and a fashion muse whose style we see every festival season.

Anita was a German born model who took Swinging London by storm in the mid 60s. Her relationship with Brian Jones was turbulent and violent, but she also introduced him to culture and the arts, but after a particularly bad night which saw Brian beat Anita, she fled with Keith Richard, starting a relationship which lasted 12 years.  She starred in the film Barberella with Jane Fonda, and also Performance, where she allegedly had sex with Jagger on Camera in front of both Richard and Marianne Faithful – her close friend and the girlfriend of Jagger.

Anita was considered wild and dangerous – did she really practice black magic arts? She certainly did enough drugs to kill a normal person, and eventually it was the drugs that killed her relationship with Keith, especially when a teenage boy died in her hotel room. The 1980s were not a good time for the one time rock goddess, but she emerged in later years to continue her role as a fashion and acting muse.

Anita was beautiful, stylish and exuded cool in her rock chick style. Acres of scarves, mannish waitcoats, drainpipe jeans, furry gillets, floppy, foppish hats, gold lame worn in a slightly decadent and dishevelled style, Anita carried it all off with aplomb. She inspired her friend Marianne to cast off her slightly twee look, and between them they become the cool face of London, not dolly birds, but true fashion inspirations that we still look too 50 years on. It was boho, it was luxe, it was rock and roll. It cemented her place as a icon of fashion and music.

RIP Anita, the World will be a duller place without your sparkle.

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