Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Interview with Andrew Logan - sculptor, performance artist, jeweller and host of Alternative Miss World

STEPPING into Andrew Logan's Bermondsey home-come-studio almost takes your breath away.
The sculptor, performance artist, jeweller, portraitist and painter has lived in his amazing home, named The Glasshouse, in Melior Place for the past 25 years and over that time has filled it with knick-knacks, objet d'art, his own extraordinary and colourful creations, paintings and plants.
Light and space are in abundance and beautifully show off the 68-year-old's vibrant coloured glass-encrusted sculptures which are placed around the airy interior, some of which hang decoratively from the ceiling catching the sunlight that floods in.
Nestled in the shadow of the Shard, The Glasshouse - designed by Andrew's architect partner Michael Davis - is exactly as its name describes - with a pitched glass roof making it feel almost like an enormous greenhouse.
And although right in the heart of such a busy location next to London Bridge station, a more tranquil spot in the city you'd be hard pushed to find.
But all this is about to change as Andrew and Michael prepare to say goodbye to their home after 25 years.
The move has been driven in part by a desire to downsize but also to devote more time to Andrew's Museum of Sculpture in Wales.
Another reason is the green light which was given recently by Southwark council to a seven-storey development next door.
Once built it will change the outlook of their home by overshadowing the glorious glass pitched roof therefore knocking out some of their precious light.
"It's a real shame," says Andrew. "Michael designed it and we've had a fantastic life here but there will be so many flats looking in once they've built it so it's time to go.
"This whole part of London has developed enormously over the years," he adds.
"We've now got the Shard which I love - but to me it represents everything that is bad - the greed and all that goes with it.
"Its shadow has spread over us and has changed this area. And I don't want to be living in a building site for the next 20 years."
But before he packs his bags and amazing artwork and heads off to pastures new, there is the small matter of a show to organise.
Said event is Alternative Miss World (AMW), an extravaganza he's been hosting and running on and off since 1972 that has become something of an institution.
For those unfamiliar with it, AMW is exactly what it says on the tin. It's not a beauty contest - rather a transformation - and it's open to anyone and everyone to enter and over the years it has seen an array of famous and unknowns take part.
For those who do, it's a chance to show off their creative spirit in a series of extraordinary and inventive day, swim and evening wear.
And when it comes to the costumes, anything and everything goes - and each year they get more outrageous.
There is a parade of the contestants in their outfits and an interview with Andrew before the judges announce the winner after which there is the obligatory after show party to celebrate.
Since its inception it has achieved something of a cult status and has garnered a legendary following including luminaries such as Boy George, Grayson Perry and Zandra Rhodes, as well as members of Andrew's family.
"My brother Richard is entering this one," he chuckles. "He is a retired school teacher so it will be interesting!"
After a five year hiatus, it's now back for a 13th run and comes to the Globe theatre, a mere hop, skip and a jump away, on Saturday, October 18.
Given the show's popularity why has it been so long since the last one I ask?
"With AMW there is always a big gap," says Andrew with a wave of his hand.
"It's very much when I've got the energy to do it. But I also think that gives it its strength - it's a one off and you won't ever get the same show again.
"Every time we put it on we have to reinvent everything, which is part of its charm but it's a lot of work. But I felt this year the time was right.
"Also the shows have grown but not enough to make them unwieldy or to lose their magic or charm. They are like a surreal art event for all round family entertainment and I always get a warm feeling when I'm on the stage."
Over the years AMW has taken place in a variety of places, from London's Roundhouse to a massive circus tent on Clapham Common and always has a different theme - this one is Numbers.
The Globe he says is the perfect setting for this year's show although he admits the venue's proportions have necessitated a size limit on costumes - a mere seven feet wide by five feet high only - and only one backstage helper per contestant.
"It's perfect - a fantastic stage and amazing setting and I think Shakespeare would have approved," says Andrew with a twinkle in his eye. "In fact I think he would have entered.
"When the Globe was suggested Dominic Dromgoole (artistic director) loved the idea and the whole concept so it just happened and here we are!"
Andrew will once again be the "host and hostess" and will have friend Grayson Perry as co-host. Another friend, Jonny Woo will be minstrel, mingling with the audience.
There will be no rehearsals which Andrew says is "exactly how it should be" which means anything can and often does happen, and he admits he's excited about seeing what the costumes will be like.
"It's all part of the show," he smiles. "But the most important aspect is the contestants. Every year they really do go to town which is lovely.
"I am always joyful that people take such effort, do such wonderful things and are very inventive - they are always quite outrageous!
"Miss Fancy Chance is the current winner. Her last outfit was amazing - it brought the house down!"
With only six weeks to go before showtime, Andrew has much to do including ensuring his own costume - made by Zandra Rhodes - is complete and finishing making the all important crown which is currently glittering in his studio - a work in progress.
Despite the undoubted stress of putting on such a huge event, Andrew remains remarkably zen like - something he puts down to his passion for yoga which he practices daily.
"I've been doing yoga for years," he says. "It enables me to carry on working and being positive about everything.
"I teach it too - all over the world. It's so beneficial in terms of mind and body.
"In fact it would be so nice if it was taught in school as it would be great for children," he muses. "I'm sure the world would be a different and better place."
At the back of his mind though is what happens next.
His home, the very place that has inspired him and his work over the years is now contributing to his departure.
"I've had some wonderful memories here," he says referring to the legendary parties that have taken place over the years.
"It's wonderful this space has been shared by so many - as well as our parties we've had book launches, weddings and funerals - we've done everything here!
"But I am approaching 69 and this is a huge building to run.
"We will be sad to leave - it's magical but it's too much now and it's time to let someone else enjoy it," he adds philosophically.
"I would love to put more time into my museum so we plan to spend a third of our time in Wales, a third in London where we want to find a smaller place to live and then the final third travelling and working.
"I'm doing an installation in Mumbai airport next year which I'm looking forward to and I'm thinking of writing a book.
"The future is exciting and full of possibilities," he smiles.

Alternative Miss World takes place on Saturday, October 18. Tickets cost from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7401 9919.

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