- Meet some of the people behind the society and find out what it is about Art Deco that inspires them.
- Name: Lucy Jane Santos
Occupation: Writer and Historical Association Manager
Why do you like Art Deco? I originally trained as an Egyptian Archaeologist but became really interested in how ancient Egypt was portrayed in the twentieth century. From there it was a quick jump to obsession with Egyptomania and now I concentrate on twentieth century history in general.
Do you collect anything? Ok, this always makes me sound weird but I actually collect quack medicine objects. I have just finished writing a book on the use of radium in consumer products and have amassed a huge collection including Nutex Radium Condoms, Ra-Ba-Sa (Radium Bath Salts), and Frederick Godfrey’s Renair Radioactive Hair Tonic.
Who are your favourite stage and film Stars? Has to be Carole Lombard – and not just because she starred in a film that has a plot line about radium poisoning (Nothing Sacred)
Favourite Artists: Right now am reading a lot about Lee Miller and very interested in 1930s photography.
Favourite books: For work I read a lot of historical books and now am hoovering up anything to do with prohibition and the cocktail scene in London of the 1920s and 30s.
Favourite Art Deco building: When I first went to University I lived across the street from Senate House and wandering around that part of London is still a favourite. Senate House always takes my breath away.
Are you working on any projects now: I am working on combination recipe/history about cocktails. The original plan was to visit the places that I am writing about but obviously that is not possible at the moment. I did manage to get a fascinating tour of the Savoy earlier in the year so that will have to sustain me for now.
Role in Art Deco Society UK: Secretary
Why do you love Art Deco? I don’t have a job to do with Art Deco, nor do I have any qualifications or affiliations, I am simply a common admirer of its refinement, beauty and individuality. This has been deepened along the way through personal experiences, particularly a trip to Miami.
What is your favourite Art Deco place? This is a difficult one but I’ll whittle it down to three that I’ve seen firsthand: Burgh Island, the Lalique carriage on the Orient Express and Miami – specifically the repurposed buildings of Lincoln Road Mall and the Venetian Pool.
Who is your favourite 1920s/30s performer? I love a bit of jazz whilst I’m pottering about; I’m currently educating my daughter with a bit of Sidney Bechet. On a more modern front, but with echoes of deco, I love Scott Bradley’s Postmodern Jukebox which gives modern songs the vintage twist.
What is your favourite book? I’m a huge fan of Agatha Christie due to her plots, settings and characters, although, dare I say, sometimes I find her actual storytelling quite plain (don’t shoot me!) A popular one, but I love ‘And Then There Were None’ but perhaps my favourite is ‘Death Comes As The End’ which has none of her famous sleuths and is set in Ancient Egypt. I will also read anything by J. Jefferson Farjeon, Josephine Tey, Elizabeth Gaskell, Geoffrey Household’s ‘Rogue Male’, any of the British Library’s crime classics, Philip Pullman and from a child’s point of view, any of Marcia Williams’ illustrated tales which are a great way for kids to access and become interested in history.
Do you collect anything? Clichéd, but memories, photos of great UK Art Deco buildings on my Instagram account, Agatha Christie’s works and the odd teacup & saucer here and there.
What are your hobbies? Err, I’m a bookworm 👆🏼I’m also a member of my local amdram group but this is now mainly offstage or as a dancer. But, by far my favourite thing to do is a long dog walk with my two dogs (Darcy and Agatha) with either a pub lunch or a cream tea thrown in for good measure. (I’m really missing this at the moment 😢)
If you could visit any Art Deco site in the world, where would it be? There are many places I’d like to see, but nothing thrills me more than rounding a corner and seeing an Art Deco building in an unusual/ unexpected place, then discovering and reading everything I can about it.
- Name: Angharad Hart
Occupation: Senior Conservation Officer at Greater Cambridge Shared Planning and Editorial Assistant for the Construction History Society journal.
Role in Art Deco Society UK: Chair of ADSUK Preservation Group
Why do you love Art Deco?: Art Deco is beautiful, engaging and accessible. It appeals to so many and can be found across the world; a symbol of our shared global social, architectural and economic history. It shines out to me as a time where production, building and construction were not just about cost and deadlines. It was also about pride, optimism, quality craftsmanship and producing something beautiful that would enrich people’s lives; from a tea set or a superbly crafted chair to the hundreds of Art Deco theatres and cinemas or high-reaching commercial skyscrapers of New York. Art Deco just makes life better!
What is your favourite Art Deco place?: Without doubt, it is the Chrysler Building in New York. The stunningly beautiful exterior is just part of its splendour. Inside, the lobby is a rich and evoking cavern of marble, which almost seems to be aflame, and transports you to another world far away from the hustle and bustle of New York. It is quiet and serene; an oasis of calm in the heart of the City.
Who is your favourite 1920s/30s performer?: I would have to say Bix Beiderbecke or Lee Morse
What is your favourite film? Like music, my film tastes are varied. I am a glutton for chick-lit, comedy and Christmas films. Pretty much anything set in New York or in the snow, or better still involving both, gets my vote. That said, I do enjoy an old classic and Genevieve and The Great Race are a brilliant Sunday afternoon watch. I also love a bit of fantasy and the Harry Potter films, Twilight Saga and Mortal Instruments are my guilty pleasures.
What is your favourite book? “New York: The Wonder City, 1932” by W Parker Chase is my most prized literary possession.
Do you collect anything? I’m not really an avid collector as such, but my collection of books on Art Deco architecture just seems to keep growing. Whenever I see one, I have to have it.
What are your hobbies? Travelling, visiting art galleries (especially early 20th century art), reading, a good film, cooking, watching live bands, dancing, riding my bike and pub quizzes.
If you could visit any Art Deco site in the world, where would it be? South Beach, Miami – I am gradually working my way around the US and this is most definitely next on my list: although many of the iconic hotels are more modernist and streamline modern than strictly Art Deco.
- Name: Rama Muraleetharan
Role: London Representative
Why do you love Art Deco?: It’s just one of those styles that has always made me stop and stare; there’s nothing quite like it. Sumptuous lines with elegant finishes; an aesthetic that can make even the most ordinary of structures stand out with stunning opulence.
Favourite Art Deco place?: Radio City Music Hall and “Highbury”, the old Arsenal Stadium. The former for its ability to astound and captivate audiences, the latter for my brilliant childhood memories.
Who are your favourite 1920s/30s performers?: Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Fred Astaire. In recent times, Alex Mendham and His Orchestra have done a fantastic job of evoking the spirit and charm of that wonderful era.
What are your hobbies?: I co-founded and chair my hometown’s Residents’ Association. From creating a community garden to hosting movie nights and a town bake-off, it has been thoroughly enjoyable bringing my neighbours together these past few years. I also collect vintage American comics (DC and Marvel). Finding rare Golden Age issues is always difficult, but over the years I have ticked off a few grails from my list. I liken it to holding a piece of history in your hands.
Are you working on any projects now?: I am leading my local community in a major restoration project; the acquisition and restoration of the former Embassy Cinema. Built in the mid-30s, it is one of the last remaining Art Deco cinemas left in East London/West Essex. Our intention is to faithfully restore the building back into a cultural venue; an independent arthouse cinema with the capacity to present new release and repertory films, alongside performing and live arts, with café bar facilities and a reinstated Compton cinema organ. The Embassy Cinema would once again be the epicentre of Chadwell Heath’s district centre; a highly regarded landmark that is stewarded by the local community, for the local community.
East London itself has a surprising amount of unprotected Art Deco and Modernist structures that have been left neglected; I intend to do all I can to raise their profile and let them be celebrated, whilst working with local authorities to find ways to grant them new leases of life.
Name: Lorna McCulloch
Occupation: I’ve had a range of occupations, but the most recent is Business Management Consultant. I’ve previously been an Adult Literacy Community Worker and owned by own retro cycling clothes business
Role in Art Deco Society UK: One of the Scottish Reps and Regional Rep Coordinator
Why do you love Art Deco?: It just makes me happy – I love that it looks simple, but has lots of intricate detail if you look more closely. I particularly love moderne style.
What is your favourite Art Deco place?: I’m not sure I have a favourite. My favourite thing is coming unexpectedly across an art deco building while wandering.
Who is your favourite 1920s/30s performer?: In terms of aesthetics, Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo, and Katharine Hepburn is just magnificent.
What is your favourite film? I love a b movie and I’m really into comedy horror movies, as well as hollywood classics.
What is your favourite book? As a book lover, I find that impossible to answer! I think my top 3 are Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. My favourite genre is golden age detective fiction and my favourite authors are Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett and Margaret Attwood.
Do you collect anything? – no, I’m not a collector
What are your hobbies? Reading, sewing, dancing, vintage fashion, travel
If you could visit any Art Deco site in the world, where would it be? Ocean Drive, Miami South Beach
Name: Barry Cordon
Society Role: South West representative.
Why do you love Art Deco?: I am especially enamoured of the Streamline Moderne aspect of Art Deco, particularly the skyscrapers of America and their fabulous embellishments. I also love the set designs of early films. Art Deco seems to me to be the joy of beauty, elegance and decoration for it’s own sake. Art Deco has a talent to amuse!
What Art Deco site would you visit?: I want to visit New York to see the Chrysler Building, Chanin and Rockefeller Center etc. Indeed I was booked to go in March then all this happened!
What is your favourite Art Deco place?: The Carreras Cigarette Factory is one of my favourite buildings as well as Devon’s own Burgh Island.
What is your favourite book? I have no particular Deco authors but I would recommend “The Rules Of Civility” by Amor Towles.
Favourite Art Deco actress? It has got to be the fabulous Joan Crawford.
Do you collect anything? I have a large collection of books on Art Deco and a few statuettes etc.
When all this over I hope to organise a get-together on Burgh Island for South West members but in the meantime any members can contact me via Facebook.
Name: Lucy Inskip
Role in Art Deco Society UK: East Anglia Regional Representative
Why do you love Art Deco?: I fear my love of Art Deco is a somewhat romanticised association with the period, but I just adore the clean aesthetic and sophistication of it all. For my Year 11 prom, I was lucky enough to travel in a classic 1936 Buick Model 40, which appeared in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ (2011). Like so many, I have a brilliantly visceral reaction to Art Deco and recall walking around the corner at the Museum of London in 2019, only to be greeted by a glamorous 1928 lift from Selfridges Department Store; almost 100 years later and no less impressive.
What is your favourite Art Deco place?: I remember the moment I spotted the dazzling Chrysler Building for the first time during a trip to New York City in 2016. The view from the Rockefeller Center was even better, as though one Art Deco skyscraper in dialogue with another.
From the dizzying heights of New York to Wansford (a village near Peterborough), you can find the former A1 Northbound Little Chef. Peering out of the car window as a child, I was saddened each time I passed this abandoned structure. Unbeknown to me until recently, renovation work was completed in 2015 to restore this building’s iconic 1930s architectural aesthetic.
Finally, in celebration of my Grandparent’s Diamond Anniversary, we travelled back to the golden age of luxury rail travel and experienced High Tea in a lovingly restored Pullman style carriage beside a 1920s station house.
Who is your favourite 1920s/30s performer?: I enjoy the way I move through the world whilst listening to Jazz, especially Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole who remind me of my Grandad. A magical fusion of modern and vintage, the striking Electro Swing sounds of Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace are equally addictive and often played on repeat.
Who is your favourite artist?: There are too many to name, but Robert Delaunay’s bold colours spring to mind. At primary school, my class was tasked with reproducing a version of Delaunay’s ‘Homage to Blériot’ (1914), and each pupil was given an enlarged A4 section to focus on. I fondly remember accidentally rediscovering this painting some years later whilst flicking through a book in the Tate Modern gift shop!
Do you collect anything?: Despite my best efforts, I cannot resist rummaging around a vintage fair, and a few finds hang proudly in my wardrobe! Antique shop postcards are another favourite of mine, and a vintage fashion magazine print adorns my wall.
What are your hobbies?: You can usually find me visiting heritage sites, acrylic painting or writing.
If you could visit any Art Deco site in the world, where would it be? :For many years, the top of my bucket list has been India, particularly Mumbai, with its large collection of stunning Art Deco buildings, second only to Miami. I am keen to learn more about the unique and more localised ‘Bombay Deco’ style.
Name: Kevin Trickett MBE
After a 40-year career in the Civil Service, Kevin now devotes much of his time to charity work. He is president of Wakefield Civic Society and chairs the Yorkshire and Humber Association of Civic Societies (YHACS). In addition, he writes and speaks about some of his favourite subjects including architecture, heritage, travel and, of course, Art Deco. He also writes restaurant reviews and other articles for Yorkshire business-to-business magazine TopicUK.
Kevin points out that, growing up in the 1950s and 60s, he was surrounded by art deco, not just architecture but also furniture and everyday household objects such as glassware and china. Some of my relatives lived in houses that were built in the 1930s and had art deco touches throughout. And the movies he watched on TV still had a strong association with the period and the style. “Perhaps this explains why I like the style so much?” he says “It reminds me of my childhood! Of course, it was only later that my appreciation of the style began to crystallise and I now seek it out wherever I go. But I’m not a purist – modern interpretations of the style can still hold an allure for me!”