When stockbroker Dale Gibson set up his first beehives on a Bermondsey Street rooftop in 2007, neither he or his partner Sarah Wyndham-Lewis could have predicted the experiences that lay ahead. Over a decade later, they reflect on the journey of their award-winning business and share thoughts on the crucial role of sustainable beekeeping in London. Do you still think of beekeeping as a hobby? It started out as a hobby and has progressed into a mild obsession and a disruptive business! We’ve got a concept here that we think is unusual, which makes it easy to be passionate about. Sarah and I have developed experience over 30/40 years in the city and marketing sector, so we’re stepping into the bee, honey and consulting business as well as applying basic bee husbandry skills. We’re having a great time doing a lot of things we never anticipated doing. We’re very lucky to be working with so many different people who care about bees as much as we do – its helped us to develop what started as a hobby into a professional bee enterprise. Do you and the bees have a daily routine? The bees are variable, as they tend to do very little during the winter. The rule is that you have to have a reason to open up a bee hive, rather than just doing it on a curiosity basis. We have schedules to inspect the bees, especially during the swarming season (when the first dandelion appears). The intensive period is between May/June where we’re on absolute peak duties, before things slow down after summer solstice when the queens egg laying rate starts to diminish. There are many things we can get on with in winter, processing the honey, bottling it, selling it, doing talks and making plans for new apiaries, but it’s different types of work at different times of the year. “The rich history of bees in London is a wonderful thing, but we’re looking to ensure a rich future too.” What are the differences in how you practice urban beekeeping, to rural beekeeping? Aside from the logistic/ environmental differences, the benefits of keeping bees in London is 3 or 4 fold, firstly the temperature is 2 or 3 degrees higher than the surrounding countryside which means the plants are able to give nectar and to flower for longer. Also, because of people’s personal ambitions and tastes, we have a vast variety of flowers in gardens. Plus, there’s the benefit of inspired municipal planting, for example in Potters Fields Park. Ian Mould, the gardener puts in sequential planting so that the bees have something to eat all year round, he’s very observant and thoughtful about it. A particular focus and passion of ours is the creation of forage and ensuring that when we introduce more bees into a city like London, there will be sufficient creation of forage to to ensure our bees and the existing city bees will have enough to eat. That’s the primary responsibility of any farmer, sustainability. The rich history of bees in London is a wonderful thing, but we’re looking to ensure a rich future too. In terms of being a responsible beekeeper, what advice would you give local residents with an interest in bee-friendly planting? Let’s start with some really broad brush strokes – anything blue or purple is good as the bee’s vision is acutely adjusted towards those sort of flowers. Think of your garden as if it’s something that’s going to bear fruit and have flavours – herbs, fruit trees. We have a lovely damson tree on our allotment and herb garden here up on the roof. We always feel like there’s something for us to have, taste and enjoy the flavour of as well as the bees – all things can fit together and consciously bridge the gap between people and bees. Team London Bridge has done a fantastic job of developing green spaces in the area, projects like the Greenwood Theatre, the Druid Street wildflower meadow, the hanging baskets – it all helps! We have planting guides on our Bermondsey Bees website, great for rooftop plantings which have high wind and are prone to being quite arid. Does Bermondsey Street Bees honey have a signature taste? Every honey has its own terroir like a fine wine or olive oil, they’re all in their own batches. No two vintages will be the same. The honey is affected by the weather and the plants that thrive in different conditions. Ours has a clarity and a slight tang with a lift of mint in the final taste. It has a little twist of citrus (lime tree rather than actual citrus fruit), and that multi-floral complexity that London honey often has. We don’t heat the honey above the hive temperature, which is the opposite of super-heated, filtered and entirely denatured squeezable supermarket bottles. Each jar will always have its own personality, body and soul, that captures the essence of the surroundings and the year itself, and and we’re proud of that. “Each jar will always have its own personality, body and soul, that captures the essence of the surroundings and the year itself, and and we’re proud of that.” What is your relationship with the local community? In cities, your door often opens straight onto the street: rather than a long row of trees leading up to a long drive, or a deep suburban garden with a hedge or wall around it. We just flow straight onto the street and straight into the community. For the last 10 years, we’ve been intimately associated with Bermondsey Street, whether that’s previously being secretary of BSAP (Bermondsey Street Area Partnership) or judging a dog show at Bermondsey Street Festival! We always use local suppliers for our products, like French Flint, the local glass guy by Leathermarket or collaborating with local brewery Hiver Beers who we’re collaborating with on selling honey beer at a retail space in Maltby Street market. We’ve also been quite successful in getting out into the community where we’ve been planting in St Mary Magdalen Church Yard with a large grant from Southwark’s ‘Cleaner Greener Safer’ fund. We planted an edible garden in Leathermarket gardens with the help of BOST (Bankside Open Spaces Trust) and we’re currently working with Team London Bridge and Southwark Council to put together a green roof with the aid of local artist Austin Emery and Leathermarket JMB. These joint ventures from very local enterprising focusing on a single outcome can be very powerful, the help we’ve had from the larger organisations as small individuals has been enormously encouraging. We feel fortunate to be in the middle of an environment where we had cooperation and collaboration across the board. You mentioned Sarah’s background in marketing, what is Sarah’s role in Bermondsey Street Bees? Dale: She’s my partner… Sarah: Whether I like it or not! It’s crept up on me somehow. I do branding, marketing, design, product development, and project management. I also manage the retail and wholesale sales. Dale: Sarah is also the loony project prevention officer. I’m very keen on embarking on mad projects, and Sarah is very keen on not allowing me to do that! Sarah: There’s a great saying from someone I used to work with, he said ‘there’s a very big difference between starting a business and being busy fools’. We try to keep the business progressive, moving forward, taking people with us on a journey. This is a big learning curve because of all the sustainability issues. My parents were farmers so I do have that background of using the land and being respectful to creatures, but you start applying that to urban beekeeping and you suddenly realise how fragile the urban economy is for a bee or for a small creature. At one point I questioned, why should we expect to have bees in London? Is it reasonable for Londoners to expect to have bees? Sarah: There are actually lots of answers. One is- why shouldn’t Londoners have local honey? Bees do a great job pollinating people’s allotments, parks and gardens, and by pollinating, they’re also feeding the birds. When the seeds and fruits are properly pollinated, the trees and bushes can be more productive, so there’s an entire eco-structure being supported by the act of keeping bees and feeding them. It’s all very delicate and sensitive, and one disruptive factor, like taking away some green space and building on it can make a tremendous difference. Dale: People have got the message that a dog isn’t for Christmas, but a beehive isn’t just for decorative purposes either! We want to raise the standard to this becomes the norm for how people take care of bees, and for it to become the next step in sustainable beekeeping. Eddie the pug. Sarah also founded Holly & Lil, the canine fashion boutique which previously shared the ground floor of Bermondsey Street Bees HQ What’s next? We’ve got some great projects coming up, we’ve recently opened a honey library and prep kitchen which is specifically designed for our commercial clients for chefs to come in, recognise an environment which they’re familiar with and come and taste and talk about honey as a key ingredient in cooking. We think that’s going to be our target market so we want that to the focus of for the particular venue. We’re also opening up in Hiver Beers arch in Maltby Street, where we’ll have a small retail concession, which will hopefully give us some sort of visibility. Sarah: We’re currently doing something special with the Shangri La at The Shard. We designed a unique honeycomb stand inspired by The Shard for hotel breakfast tables – and Shangri La bought the very first one. We’ve also organised a supply chain for them with one of our partner beekeepers. It’s very artisanal: He went into his fields in the depths of the country – and set up some hives to make honey exclusively for the Shangri La. It’s just fantastically natural and straightforward…. I love the idea that visitors from all over the world are getting to taste a fine, raw English honey, and it’s presented in such a glamorous way! This interview is from the 2016 AtLondonBridge archives You can sneak a glimpse into the world of Bermondsey Street Bees in this episode of BBC’s Inside Out London. Featured from 21 minutes. Find out more here.
Tracey Emin’s new exhibition ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ at White Cube Bermondsey brings together new painting, photography, large-scale sculpture, film and neon text. The collection stems from Emin’s deeply personal memories and emotions ranging from loss, grief, longing and spiritual love. Three monumental bronze sculptural figures – the largest Emin has produced to date -are shown alongside her lyrical and expressive paintings. Developed through a process of drawing, the paintings are then intensely reworked and added to, layer upon layer. White Cube also debuts a new photographic series by Emin titled ‘Insomnia’. Selected from thousands of self-portraits taken by the artist on her iPhone over the last couple of years, these images spontaneously capture prolonged periods of restlessness and inner turmoil.
‘There’s often a sort of quest for identity in my work – and that, I think, is the staggeringly beautiful thing about being an artist. You are afforded the luxury of creating a space for yourself as an individual in the world.’ White Cube presents ‘Concrete Pitch’ by Eddie Peake at Bermondsey. This exhibition, Peake’s fourth with the gallery, includes new sculpture, painting, sound work and performance presented in an immersive and constructed environment. The works in this exhibition weave autobiographical elements and an examination of self-identity with more general themes of desire, the body, architecture and urban landscape. Peake will be present in the gallery space throughout the exhibition, following a scheduled daily routine. Moving between various constructed spaces which include a private office and a triangular cell-like structure, accessible only by a tall ladder. The artist ‘plays’ himself, both offering up and dismantling the narrative of artistic ego, fictional protagonist and ‘real’ self. In another specially constructed room, visible behind a window, DJs from Kool London broadcast an online radio show during the exhibition. Broadcasting oldskool jungle and drum and bass from East London tower blocks since 1991, Kool FM is one of the longest running underground stations and provided the soundtrack to Peake’s adolescence.
White Cube presents an exhibition of He Xiangyu at Bermondsey. This exhibition, his second with the gallery, includes the feature length film titled The Swim, produced in 2017, as well as new installation, sculpture and video. His new works develop out of the themes and experience of making The Swim and foreground the poetics and sensorial energy of material and the role of the hand in our physical relationship to landscape, history and the objects that surround us. On entering the exhibition, viewers are presented with a video work which came out of the feature film and focuses on the swim itself. Projected in cinema scale directly on the wall it traces He’s struggle to reach North Korea, having initially been sent back by armed soldiers, successfully landing at Kurido Island on his second attempt. The themes of resistance and survival continue in a new series of delicate sculptures made from over 248 pieces of scrap copper wire, fragments of patinated tubing and pieces of ironmongery, all obtained on a black market he discovered during filming. He has said, ‘I’m seeking to adjust and influence people’s perception through material changes in the object.’
White Cube is pleased to present ‘Dreamers Awake’, a group show at White Cube Bermondsey which explores the enduring influence of Surrealism through the work of more than fifty women artists. The exhibition brings together sculpture, painting, collage, photography and drawing from the 1930s to the present day and includes work by well-known Surrealist figures as well as contemporary and emerging artists. The exhibition features works by women associated with the Surrealist movement – including Eileen Agar, Leonora Carrington, Lee Miller, Dorothea Tanning and Leonor Fini – who until recently, were often characterised simply as muses, models or mistresses. Works by Francesca Woodman, Hannah Wilke, Louise Bourgeois, Rosemarie Trockel, Kiki Smith, Paloma Varga Weisz, Mona Hatoum, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, among others, testify to the far-reaching influence of Surrealism through the intervening decades. Surrealism meets punk in the work of Linder, and infuses the separate cultural heritages of Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman and Japanese painter Tomoko Kashiki. Curated by Susanna Greeves.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’ve rounded up a host of leading ladies. Many of their achievements have shaped the climate of the area as it is today, however their influence transcends postcodes, cities, and even continents. They’ve motivated change in fields including nursing, fair-trade, fashion and LGBT rights: meet the Inspirational women of London Bridge… 1. Dame Zandra Rhodes DBE, RDI, Fashion Designer Zandra’s early textile designs were considered too outrageous by the traditional British manufacturers, subsequently she decided to make dresses from her own fabrics, pioneering the very special use of printed textiles as an intrinsic part of the garments she created. She has been Commander of the British Empire since 1997 (in recognition of her contribution to fashion and textiles) and has nine Honorary Doctorates from Universities in both the UK and USA Additionally, Zandra has set up the Fashion and Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street, here in London Bridge, which was officially opened May 2003 by HRH Princess Michael of Kent. Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta designed the museum in it’s trademark pink and orange – a stunning colour choice replicated in Zandra’s collaboration with Team London Bridge and the Greenwood Theatre in 2015. 2. Sophi Tranchell MBE, CEO of Divine Chocolate Sophi Tranchell, winner of Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year (the most prestigious international award for social innovation) is the CEO of London Bridge based fair-trade chocolate company, Divine Chocolate. Appointed in 1999, she has led this innovative company, from a team of four with a very bold proposition, to the international £12.6m company it is today. Her belief in, and dedication to, the company’s purpose and mission – to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers through a more sustainable and equitable trading relationship – has been fundamental to the company’s success. The company’s unique business model – which gives cocoa farmers the biggest share, and seats on the Board, in addition to the benefits from Fairtrade – has become a leading example of what is possible both in the Fairtrade movement and of a social enterprise reaching international scale in a highly competitive sector. Quote – BBC News 3. Florence Nightingale OM, RRC, Founder of Modern Nursing The Lady with the Lamp’s pioneering work during the Crimean war lead to revolutionary progression in the field of medical care for soldiers. Florence Nightingale became involved with St Thomas’s Hospital in London Bridge in 1859. This was the original site for her famous nursing school. The first trained Nightingale nurses began work on 16 May 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. Now called the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, the school is part of King’s College London. Florence helped establish numerous nursing organizations throughout the remainder of her life and received numerous awards for her work, including the German order of the Cross of Merit and the French gold medal of Secours aux Blessés Militaires. Queen Victoria awarded her the Royal Red Cross in 1883. She was appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John in 1904 and became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit in 1907. She was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London in 1908. On May 10, 1910 she was presented with the badge of honor of the Norwegian Red Cross Society. Information from British Heritage.com 4. Amy Lamé Night Czar at London City Hall Amy Lamé was appointed by The Mayor as London’s first Night Czar in 2016. The comedian and broadcaster has long and successful track record as a leader and collaborator in the cultural and creative industries. She is co-founder of the Olivier Award winning arts company and club night Duckie, having hosted the club every Saturday at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern for 21 years. Amy co-founded and chairs RVT Future, a voluntary LGBT+ community group campaigning to preserve the iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern. She is currently working to help tackle sexual assault against women on public transport, and boost the safety of women on nights out. These plans include hosting a City Hall summit with more than 100 women from different fields, including policing, councils and women’s rights groups. Quote – Evening Standard 5. Kerry Taylor Founder of Kerry Taylor Auctions Kerry Taylor joined Sotheby’s in 1979 and rapidly rose through the ranks to become the youngest auctioneer in the company’s history at just 21. ??In 2003 she left to set up her own auction business, specialising in fashion and textiles. Since leaving Sotheby’s she has repeatedly attracted headline grabbing collections and historically important garments belonging to some of the most beautiful and fashionable women of the 20th century – Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Daphne Guinness, the Duchess of Windsor (again) and many others. However, it is her unrivalled expertise and experience built up over more than three decades, her interest, knowledge and passion for the subject, and her care and research of the items she handles that makes her sales unique. Kerry Taylor Auctions, based locally on Long Lane is now regarded as the world’s leading auction house specialising in vintage fashion, fine antique costume and textiles. Quote – Modcloth Blog 6. Women of Southwark Council: Mayor of Southwark Councillor Kath Whittam and CEO Eleanor Kelly Mayor of Southwark Cllr Kath Whittam was appointed in May 2016, and has a long record as a community activist. She’s serving as Chair of her Safer Neighbourhood Ward Panel, private residents’ representative on the Canada Water Campaign Forum, and Chair of the Rotherhithe Under 5’s Group at Time and Talents. Her lifelong interest in the natural environment has seen her become a Friend of Lavender Pond and Russia Dock Woodland. She has also been a very active member of The Amicable Society working with other members on the conservation of the two historic statues standing proud above the old Free School in Rotherhithe to restore their paintwork and brighten their traditional ‘bluecoats’. Meanwhile her commitment to education has continued in her role as School Governor first at Redriff School, Bacons College as parent governor and now Albion Primary School. Southwark Council CEO Eleanor Kelly was appointed as the council’s CEO in 2012. Her department has responsibility for regeneration, planning, human resources and corporate strategy. Eleanor has senior executive level experience in both public and private sectors, including substantial experience as Finance Director, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Executive at Tower Hamlets Council. Recognised by her professional accountancy institute as an expert in organisational management, for a number of years Eleanor acted as the national specialist examiner in this subject for the final year professional exams. She has held a number of non-executive directorships, most notably as a trustee of a charitable trust, and as a non executive chairman of the board of directors for a private consultancy company. 7. Caryl Jenner – Founder of the Unicorn Theatre The Unicorn Theatre was founded by Caryl Jenner as a touring company in 1947 with a commitment to giving children a valuable and often first ever experience of quality theatre, and a philosophy that ‘the best of theatre for children should be judged on the same high standards of writing, directing, acting and design as the best of adult theatre‘. Today, the Unicorn is the UK’s leading professional theatre for young audiences, dedicated to inspiring and invigorating young people of all ages, perspectives and abilities, and empowering them to explore the world – on their own terms – through theatre.