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Fitzrovia - The Place To Be

21 March 2012 Tom Butler

With a new Open Air Gallery space, London Calling's Tom Butler discovers Fitzrovia living up to it's artistic reputation.

Lady Gaga, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. What do they have in commmon? They all love Fitzrovia of course, and as London Calling found out, a whole new generation are discovering the eccentricity and beauty of this central London neighbourhood.

Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah. Roma, roma, ma. Gaga, ooh, la, la, want your Bad Romance. I’m not entirely certain Oscar Wilde would have approved of Lady Gaga’s choice of lyrics or her somewhat lackadaisical approach to the English language, but on her choice of residence in London, he would have heartily concurred.
 
Fitzrovia is Lady Gaga’s choice, as it has been for countless artists, writers, musicians and actors since the 18th century. Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde himself have all resided in this delightfully bohemian and artistic area of London.
 
And as such, it seems fitting that one of the capital’s largest open air street gallery exhibitions has been unveiled in the heart of Fitzrovia on Mortimer Street. The Fitzrovia Photography Prize is the current incumbent of this fantastic space and will be until May this year and is at the home of the new Fitzroy Place development on the site of the old Middlesex Hospital.
 
The prize, open to anyone who wished to enter, had just one rule. That each entrant could submit up to three images and all of them had to be taken within a one mile radius of the premises of the Diemar/Noble Photography Gallery. Anna Morley was one such entrant whose work is now being displayed as one of the finalists for the Prize.
 
“The competition was free to enter and judged solely on the photos merit so the Prize was a perfect starting point for my first competition. It was a great compliment to be selected as a finalist for the Prize and to have my image showcased on the Fitzroy Place outdoor exhibition, for everyone to see, makes me feel a bit like a celebrity.”
 
Since the days of celebrated artists and local residents, Walter Sickert, Dylan Thomas and Nina Hamnett, London has evolved hugely and yet Fitzrovia’s enduring tradition as a creative and eclectic hub persists. As such, the diverse nature of the entries and entrants from all over the world helped to represent the history of the area, a history to be proud of.
 
It’s artistic history reads like a who’s who in British art history with the area playing host to a plethora of prominent and revered names to this day. Constable, Whistler and Wyndham Lewis all sampled the delights of Fitzroy Square whilst Karl Marx was known to have attended Chartist events in the 1930’s.
 
Given its artistic and creative past, it seems apt that Fitzrovia be the neighbourhood to give amateur and aspiring photographers the chance to display their work in front of the eclectic audience an open air gallery provides. And this is something Laura Noble, the Curator and Co Founder of Diemar Noble Photography is keen to champion.
 
“This is a wonderful opportunity to see the remarkable images taken by the finalists and winners of the prize in the heart of Fitzrovia. Locals and visitors in the area will literally be able to engage with the variety of life in this dynamic neighbourhood which has been a hotbed of creativity for many years.”
 
There seems to be a genuine excitement from both Laura, the Diemar Noble Gallery and the local residents about both the reaction to the prize and the opportunities open to them in the future. “The response to the exhibition has been tremendous. The launch was wonderful. With the work lit up all night, it was great to see people stopping to look & read the information, have their picture taken near their favourite ones too.I feel that bringing it to a wider audience can only encourage more people to feel as enthusiastic about the area as we do.”
 
This year’s prize has already grown both in size and profile and is something Laura is justifiably proud of alongside the potential which accompanies it moving forward. “This year's prize will be a bigger display at the gallery and after such a huge response to the first one, we look forward to it gaining the recognition it deserves. There are very few competitions open to amateurs as well as professionals, so we are proud to be part of that encouraging new talent.”
 
Such enthusiasm from locals and visitors alike is sure to be one of the reasons for the area’s burgeoning reputation. Not just for the idyllic city lifestyle it provides but also for the artistic and creative ambiance it portrays as central to the district’s ethos. An ethos that welcomed Oscar Wilde with open arms in the past, and will surely do the same for Lady Gaga and her little monsters in the near future.

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