Sunday, July 15, 2012

Up on the roof

Don't forget - you can click all photos to "embiggen"
The train takes you to a dreary looking suburb in Southeast London, and when you descend to the street, what you see makes you wonder what's next. Your guide leads you past the Jamaican produce stand, crosses in front of a zooming double decker bus, and walks toward a tatty looking multiplex cinema -  but just before the entrance, he veers right and goes round to follow signs to the car park.

We were led here, on a cold and stormy Saturday afternoon, approaching dusk. Up a long dark concrete stairwell, then emerging into the ramps of a car park, mostly empty of cars.

It was all very mysterious, so we were ready for anything. As we circled ever upward, we began to hear odd sounds, echoing musically through the dank space.

Strange objects appeared as though on display. It sounded like musicians tuning up, and as we turned a corner, there it was - a full symphony orchestra, seated in the traditional half-circle around the conductor, beneath the concrete beams.

Ah! We thought, this is what we were brought here for - but our guide was perplexed. He hadn't expected this at all! No, our destination is beyond, we must press on! He turned us away from the strange orchestra and circled upward to the very roof.

I'm not sure how long Frank's Cafe has been operating on the roof of the Peckham Rye Multi-story Car Park, but by the looks of it, not long.

A makeshift trestle of wooden beams holds up a red canvas tarp that shelters a cluster of picnic tables. To one side, a long bar dispenses drinks and food.

It's cold and rainy this evening, so people are bundled in jackets and carry umbrellas. The rain spangles the concrete of the vast paved area formerly used to park cars, and pings on the canvas above.

Families with kids and dogs are among the crowd, and the kids wear rain boots and splash in the puddles, or play with the water dripping from the tarp above.

Frank's Cafe is part of the Bold Tendencies Sculpture Project, founded in 2007, that transforms an unused car park into a venue for large scale sculpture, art, a performance space, and a rooftop cafe.

The views are astonishing - from the roof you can see the skyline of London. Even on a rainy day like this, it's stunning - perhaps even more fascinating as the storm clouds roll past.

Settle in, order a drink from the bar, and take in the scene.  You can order a full meal at Franks, or just have cocktails. Don't expect elegance, and dress for the weather - the website advises you bring jackets and blankets. Though adequate and moderately clean, the restroom situation, as it's a temporary building, is not for the squeamish.

A cold and rainy July isn't the best day for a trip to an open-air venue, . I can only imagine how wonderful it would be on a bright sunny day.

Londoners seem to have become resigned to the gloom of 2012. Something about the rain and threatening clouds added a special feeling - a temporary place, in a re-purposed building, a hideaway with a view to give you a whole new perspective on one of the world's greatest cities. If you're visiting London and feel adventurous, check it out.

We learned later that the orchestra we encountered was a performance of composer John Adams' "Harmonielehre" by the TROSP Orchestra.    You can see and hear their July 2011 performance of Stravinksy's "The Rite of Spring" in the same space at THIS LINK.


Gary's third pottery blog said...

Oh golly, and so hot and sunny and parched in the US! London sure has been building big things like crazy these last few years, hmm? I got lost somehow...are you there for the olympics or just passing through?

Glennis said...

Hi, Gary! We're just here for a few days, we'll be outa here before the Olympics.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I like the Bring Your Own Dog aspect.

Susan B said...

What a cool space! I love having refreshments while just-out-of-the-rain.

cactus petunia said...

I've just read your post on a cold and rainy July morning in Oregon...I think I'd feel right at home in London! I love the idea of the unexpected symphony and bar in a car park, and how you always seem to ferret out these interesting places wherever you go. Thanks for sharing them!

Sue said...

So that is where all our rain has gone! This is really interesting and as you said, more fun on a not cold or rainy day but the views look amazing. I love hidden spots!

Deborah J said...

My older daughter is living in London. You probably could have waved to her from that interesting rooftop:)

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Ah! We thought, this is what we were brought here for - but our guide was perplexed. He hadn't expected this at all!

Don't you love all the weird, random awesomeness that you find in large cities?

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

orchestra and a bar in the same place. genius!

Unknown said...

Cool! There was a surprise waiting on the roof. There are indeed various ways to make most out of a building or home’s rooftop. A rooftop could serve as a garden, where crops and greenery could be planted. With it, we could help in reducing the effects of global warming. While parties and events could also be held on roof gardens cutting costs on having to rent a space for the event.

Penelope Dingee

J.Rylie.C said...

i love it.
Come and join my party Color Connection, it is also my PINK entry. I hope you join the fun.

Adam Waterford said...

If Frank's cafe is an area for art, performance space, and rooftop café, then it should be covered with a roof, Aunt Snow. So that the paintings won't get wet (just in case, there are), the performers would have a successful performance, and the customers would have a great time. :)

Emma Phillips said...

What a beautiful view of the city from the rooftop of Frank's cafe. I bet it's much more beautiful at night with the lights on. I agree with Adam. Or maybe, a shed would do for the visitors and performers.

Sierra said...

Operating a café on a roof is such a brilliant idea! The concept is fresh, and I suppose it has attracted a lot of customers, especially those who love to relax and have a good time. The view is, indeed, astonishing and I bet people are going to enjoy their cup of coffee from up there.

Sierra Nordgren

Mariam Freame said...

I'll be paying my friend a visit this December. He lives just a mile away from Southeast London. I'm thinking of visiting this cafe on the roof. I hope they offer barbecues, fresh salads (straight from the market garden, haha!), artisan sandwiches, boards and platters, selection of cakes and tarts. Oh my, I'm starting to get hungry. :P

Lenore Lung said...

@Mariam: They have a really huge roof top there, and I guess it would also be great to add other establishments out there, not just a coffee shop. Why not a food bazaar? I am sure many people would love it. People are very much into food, so a food fiesta might really be an awesome idea. What you think? :)

Joanne Barragan said...

Imagine how cool it is to dine and drink and have meaningful conversations while gazing at the city skyline! It sounds pretty awesome to me. Everyone seems to be having a good time, especially the kids! It was a little cloudy, but that is actually the perfect weather, especially if you are that high.