Saturday, 17 February 2018


Today was my first busking session in Bath.  I've busked many times in Honfleur - but in my home town it's a different thing - this was a big day!

I arrived at 10 for the daily meeting outside the Abbey.  It's really important: Bath's buskers organise what goes on in the City, ensuring that noise from music never interrupts the Abbey's business, and that the performers themselves don't engage in unseemly competition for spots.  I was introduced to Dave, the co-ordinator - who offered each of us a stick to pull from his hand with a hidden number on it.  Imagine me - standing next to the legendary Bath busker Jerri Hart - waiting to see what number I would pull, and clueless what it would mean.  I pulled number 1.  This meant I had first choice of which spot - any spot - even the prestigious Pump Room.  So, without thinking strategically at all, I put my name down for the first spot at the Pump Room, and then the Abbey square next to it.  I was oblivious to the fact that the crowds don't pick up until lunchtime.

I put my concertina case, marked with my name 'Professor Thom' down in the middle of the space and started playing.  Queues started forming to get into the Pump Room.  This is exciting.  Coins came in, and when I finished a good tune with a flourish, applause was heard.

Dave took over from me after the allotted 45 minutes, and I moved round the corner for my second spot.  Only really talented people play here ... and here was me, with just my concertina, only just learned the tunes - and I'm up with them.  Great day!

Thursday, 25 January 2018


... a very happy Burns' Night ...

The Deities that I adore

Are social Peace and Plenty;
I'm better pleas'd to make one more, 
Than be the death of twenty

Thursday, 12 January 2017


I have spent the day painting in the studio.  What better place to be, when it's been wet and windy, with even a flurry of snow in Bath.
I've been working on two new canvasses - Nos. 104 and 105 in my catalogue, as they don't have names yet.  As I returned to the house to cook the evening meal, I looked back at the studio, and felt very pleased that No. 104 stands out so well:

Its partner - No. 105 is in Cadmium Red.  

I have learned that if my paintings stand out at a distance, they are more likely to appeal. 

As far as my output goes, this might be more of the same - but it's what I do, and I'm very pleased with the result!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


Here are three close friends from the architecture course of the 1970s at Kingston Polytechnic, who formed the core of 'Team Olympico', that travelled all round Europe in their vacations looking at architecture:
From left to right:  Steve Powell, Thom Gorst, Simon Pooley

Now, nearly 40 years later, they meet in Bath to support Simon at the opening of his art show at the Adam Gallery.  Although they became architects, they are now practising artists, and they are all firmly agreed about one thing in particular:  that the Kingston course was the best possible education in architecture - because it is in an art school, where architectural education should always be.

... and, as we all know, an architectural education is for enjoying; not for enduring - and these boys knew how to enjoy themselves.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


Well, here is my pyramid of concertinas.  I've just taken delivery of the new Marcus Traveller (at the top), and I thought I'd take the shot before starting to thin the collection down - my friends are beginning to mock me!
The boxes are:

Bottom row L to R:  

  • Jeffries 31B G/D (1880s): my best concertina, and the one I use for Morris dances and noisy sessions.  This one was found in a junk shop and retuned some years ago by Colin Dipper
  • Lachenal 30B G/D (c1910): one of the 'superior' rosewood models.  I bought it from Chris Algar.  I'll probably sell this one, as it is upstaged by the Jeffries
  • Marcus 30B G/D (2013):  my practice box, which doesn't blast my ears off.  The one I use most of all, it is based aesthetically on the Jeffries

Middle row L to R:

  • Lachenal 20B C/G (c1925):  my first box, and the one I worked through the tutorials on.  Nice and bright, but I'll sell this one too
  • Lachenal 26B G/D (c1925):  a hybrid I made from 2 separate Lachenals, and waiting new ends being made for me by Matt Hynam


  • Marcus 'Traveller' 21B C/G (2016): now that this has arrived, I can start to pare down the collection.  It's a wonderfully bright instrument, and at 5 inches 'across the flats', it's nice and portable, and I'll be taking it to the Lorient Celtic music festival in the summer

Here you can see me playing the Jeffries at a recent Morris outing at Great Elm.  Picture by Anne Eamer.

Notes on sales:
I'll offer the 20B and 30B Lachenals on Ebay as soon as I get round to it.  I have a sale price in mind for both of them.  Contact me at if you're interested.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016


I have just completed my two biggest canvasses.  They will hopefully be included in Art 16 - London's Global Art Fair from 20 - 22 May at Olympia, where the Anise Gallery will be exhibiting.
They are both 4' x 2'6" (sorry about the outdated imperial measurements, but that's how the canvas came) and are called Red Line and Blue Line.
Here I am in the studio varnishing Blue Line:
I love these final stages of making a painting:  putting my stamp and signature on the back, and using my zinc stencils to title it along the bottom edge, and finally the varnishing.  I use two coats of acrylic gloss varnish, which brings the painting to life, and - in my mind - emphasises the fact that this is an art work on canvas, rather than a piece of distressed industrial metal.  Varnishing has traditionally been a public event ('vernissage') at which the public would be admitted to the studio to watch the artist at work.
These two pieces, which will hopefully stay together, depict a panel of metal, with clearly inscribed orthogonal weld lines.  Across both panels is a line of distress, tracing some unknown damage across the canvas in a graph-like meander.  This line is heavily modelled, as you can see from the detail below:
... and then, in a quick operation (alarmingly quick when compared with the many hours I spent building up the background colour), I pulled a palette knife loaded with contrasting colour across this line, so it caught the high points.
The two canvasses reverse the colour scheme - well, almost:  I had to adjust them slightly, and I'm afraid these photos, taken in natural light, don't do justice to the blue - especially the blue/turquoise tone of Red Line, as you can see here:
I hate to sound over-ambitious, but wouldn't some work like this, maybe 4m wide by 2m high, look great on a blank wall in a gallery?  That would need a new studio.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


On 29th February, I visited Birmingham for the first time since I left my job there 12 years ago as Head of the School of Architecture.  That was a dreadful job, in what I thought at the time was a dreadful place, and I believed that this opportunity to accompany the Bristol school of architecture's second year students would allow me to get a feel for how things have been going.

What a disappointment.

Down-at-heel cities, wherever they are, love 'iconic' architecture by so-called 'starchitects' to make them feel good, so I thought a visit to the new library, followed by a walk to the refurbished New Street Station would help me to reappraise my opinions of the place.

Quite the opposite - it reinforced them.

We started with that new library.  Escalators and whizzy travelators; soaring views upwards; a fully glazed lift that didn't work - and a facade that is more about catching the eye for a moment or two, rather than engaged contemplation: this is what I remember of it.  
We arrived armed with architectural plans - and these revealed the simplicity of the concept.  It's a box with a straightforward grid of concrete columns, in the centre of which is a void made of circles in the floor slabs, each set in a slightly different position, to give, I suppose, a sense of 'drama' or 'interest'.  Further up the building, a circle of steel columns supports an array of book racks on a number of levels.  I agree, it gives a sense of gravitas: this is a real library, rather like Labrouste's Bibliotheque Nationale of the 1860s - but why all those cantilevers and clumsy clashes of circular and orthogonal geometry?

There are two highlights in this building:  one is the 'Shakespeare Memorial Room' of 1882, which has been faithfully reconstructed on an upper floor:
The Shakespeare Memorial Room

... the other is the high-level roof terrace, which commands a fine view over the City - which excludes the building we are currently on.
Nearby we saw John Madin's Brutalist Library of 1973 being pecked away by the demolition team.
That the new library is an architectural improvement on the one of 40 years ago is not an easy argument to make - not when you actually start to think about it.
Get a piece of Brutalist architecture; fail to look after it properly, and it replace it with a fashionably expensive new building that has yet to stand the test of time.  Madin's masterpiece bites the dust, as viewed from its replacement

We set off by foot across the city to New Street Station.  We went down to Gas Street Basin, with some of its pitifully worn early PostModern stuff, and entered the Mail Box - the conversion of the old sorting office into a commercial and retail centre.  It's easy enough to get in - you'd almost think it was public.  But as soon as the students started taking photos, the uniformed 'Security Services' were down on us:.  "You need to have permission to take pictures" we were told.  Messages were sent to 'Control' - We had forgotten that Birmingham is the Privatised Space Capital of Britain.

And so, beneath the underpass, to New Street Station.  We were alerted to something being very architecturally wrong when we saw the vulgar, cheap, and utterly sub-Gherian (if that is possible) reflective tin cladding on the outside of what has been ludicrously renamed 'Grand Central' (presumably, I imagine, after the 1871 Grand Central Terminal of New York - are they being serious?).  
We made our way in to find the grand central space, in which a hole has been carved out of the old roof to let some much needed natural light in.
We saw some very sub-Calatravan arches, fashionably leaning against each other, trying hard to look like they were concrete, but actually covered in some sort of white fabric.  This was value engineering carried to new lows.
We read the description of the building from a website called ArchDaily ("the world's most visited architecture website") - God help us that students think this is good writing - for this is the complete twaddle that we read:

The geometries of motion and the distortion of perception produced by movement have been the inspiration for the architectural expression of the project.  The bifurcating, undulating, smooth forms of the track field [whaat?] have been transferred and embedded into the geometry of the building to ornate the city and convey its historical character as a transportation hub, where various traffic systems - such as the famous canals, the roman roads etc. converge and overlay ... [and so on]

This guff is really out there for people to read and believe.

This is what the 'architectural expression' of the project is really about:
Those 'arches' are actually draped in fabric

The transparent pneumatic roof, which is really what keeps the rain out, was what interested us, but its workings were hidden behind the sinuous white nonsense.  The lack of attention to detail was breathtaking: stay-wires pierced the fabric seemingly at random; columns when knocked proved to be made of board.

We left 'Grand Central' in serious need of lunch and a drink.  We were trying to find a small, independent caff, but there were none to be found.  Corporate Private-Space Grand-Central Birmingham doesn't seem to accommodate such things.

We thankfully found our coach to return to Bristol.  

Thank goodness I left Birmingham when I did.