Plush back-propping pillows, the weekend paper supplements strewn across my lap, a sip of Bloody Mary and a cool 500 other people sharing the moment. This was Sunday Papers Live.
Held in the 1920s red brick splendour of Cecil Sharp House, fresh from the minds behind Wilderness and Somersault (a festival we’re currently working with), this was touted as the ultimate Sunday. And it was easy to see why.
Part Poirot-esque garden party, part school fête, Secret Forum had distilled all of the best elements of the week’s most laid-back day and bought them to life throughout the building.
From 40-seater banquet tables serving up a rustic scene worthy of the pages of Kinfolk, to scrabble tournaments played out to a soundtrack of Irish fiddle music, there was something for every Sunday palate. Stripy deck chairs lined courtyards, anti-frogmatic cocktail bars served up reviving tonics and a sweeping staircase led to a colossal room kitted out with all the comforts of home. This ceiling soaring space was where the Sunday Paper concept really came to life, with a different voice from each section of the broadsheets speaking throughout the day. Covering everything from science to style, culture to business and more in between.
Reclining with my socked feet on a sofa, we sat back as a spectrum of speakers helped wile away the afternoon. Kicking off the day, we heard from guerrilla pothole gardener, Steve Wheen whose miniature road gardens brought a touch of green to tarmacked neighbourhoods and has earned him a following that weirdly includes Oprah and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Next, we listened in awe to the surreal sounds of beatboxers Reeps One and Shlomo, who managed to bring everyone in the building to a stand still with incredible stories of Grandparents’ parties, using their Guiness World Record-holding beatboxing techniques. Here’s just a taste of what we witnessed:
Then it was on to characters such as Sam Bompass, one half of gastronomic duo Bompass and Parr – whose flavoured fireworks bought a tastier Bonfire night to Londoners this year, and Anna Reynolds, curator of the Royal Collection, whose talk from the ‘Style’ section taught us all how the colour indigo is the world’s most democratic – thanks to the blue jean.
Leaving behind the comfort of the sofas for a while, we stepping aboard a Vestal Voyage, where we ambled slowly up the Regent’s Canal, passing Sunday joggers and benched onlookers. I realised as the engine reverberated – making my eye lids heavier – that barge travel was made for Sundays.
Back on dry land the Sunday experience continued with my highlight of the day, a Bullshit Tour of Primrose Hill.
Our guide Reuben essentially lied to us for a whole hour in such an outlandish, articulate and assured way that his porkies began to sound more real than some of the other speakers I’d been listening to.
Among the lies was a tale about a block of flats that he claimed now housed a collection of retired and injured bakers. He told us they all suffered from scorched fingers and heavy yeast ingestion, which had left them to see out the rest of their days with rotund bellies. According to Reuben, they also liked it if you left flours on their steps as a mark of respect – wholemeal, self-raising, you get the gist.
Standing on the bridge over looking the Regent’s Canal, he also told us that the waterway’s namesake is more than, well a name; it’s symbolic of the Queen owning all of the water that flows within its banks. Apparently the real reason we think swans are a royal bird, isn’t because they look regal, but because they drink the canal water. And being the property of the Queen, once it’s inside them, they – by default – belong to her. The same could be said for us if we were to drink the water. And as such in the debauched days of gin palaces – a time when clean water was far from hand – Londoners would drink from the canal, so they too became property of the monarchy. It was only when you peed out the water that you were released from royal ownership, hence the liberating connotation of the saying ‘I’m pissed’.
It was of course utter rubbish. But then sometimes, when skillfully delivered, bullshit cuts through… well the bullshit.
I came away with a bustling mind, that full-up feeling of Sunday contentment and bag of pilfered supplements – they’re the best part of the weekend papers anyway, right?
So thanks Sunday Papers Live, for laying on the busiest laid-back day I’ve ever experienced.