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May 27, 2012 By Andy Ross

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A trip away...

This week I took a trip down to London to visit family, and saw some amazing shows. Sadly, I was a day too late to see and hear Jessye Norman, the amazing soprano. Ms Norman was at the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre, and was singing songs from America, including Gershwin and Copeland. There is always so much to see in London that you will never see it all.

The Royal Festival Hall is celebrating the fifties still with the Festival of Britain display and the Jubilee taking centre stage. All over town the evidence of the fifties on design is there, and we saw lots of beautiful summer dresses inspired by the decade. Summer has definitely arrived!

I was only down for a few days but managed to pack in the Natural History Museum's Darwin Centre, where I saw the beautiful collections of beetles and bugs which have inspired colour and design for centuries, from the Ancient Egyptians to the jewellery of Renee Lalique. No visit to South Kensington is complete without a visit to the Victoria and Albert, where my favourite waistcoat in the world is in the collection. If you are heading that way, go into the ceramics gallery simply to be astounded by the incredible sight of thousands of pieces on display.

The second day I went down to the Cutty Sark in Greenwich which has been newly restored and partly rehoused in a glass building. It is a beautiful ship full of colour and history, and the restoration has been very successful. On the way, I stopped into the Southbank Centre again and saw this summer's art piece, a giant baobab made out of fabric and textiles artefacts. We got chatting to the artists that were working on installing the piece and found out that they are called Pirate Technics, and they made the giant fox last year at the Southbank. The giant baobab is fantastic! Steel tubes covered with fabrics from all over the world, webs of yarns in the branches, and old wooden spindles from a disused weave mill in Spain. We got chatting to the artists and were given three of the beautiful spindles for our collection at ASF Shetland.

As if a giant African baobab was not enough, there was a moment of serendipity when I managed to get into a lecture by Sokari Douglas Camp, the Nigerian/ British artist who works with welded sculpture. I first saw Sokari's pieces in the Museum of Mankind and the British Museum, and was amazed by how she made costumes that really drape and flow, out of steel. Her figures are larger than life size and are costumed intricately with long flowing skirts or shorts that seem to move in an invisible breeze. Very powerful art and beautifully explained by Sokari.

Of course, I had to visit the Tate and Tate Modern, and I saw the butterfly room at the Damien Hirst show, and the very informative and interesting Picasso show at Tate Britain. If you are in town, try to see it; a real eye-opener with a clear story running through the show and I understood a lot more about British art after I had seen it. I thought the show was beautifully and thoughtfully curated and would thoroughly recommend it.

The moment of madness in this trip was going to see "The Lion King" which was really fun. Brilliant costumes full of colour and flair made it a great feel-good end to the week. I went not expecting to like the show much because I prefer opera to musicals, but it was great fun and the kids in the audience really enjoyed it very much.

And now it is back to summer in Shetland!