Around London: A new pleasure garden for London; music hall star Dame Gracie Fields honored; mystery portraits at the NPG; and, celebrating the Olympics (from a Peruvian perspective)…

A new pleasure garden will be built in the city’s east as part of celebrations for next year’s Diamond Jubilee. London Pleasure Gardens, announced back in March, will be built upon a 60,000 square metre site at Pontoon Dock, opposite the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, and consist of an “ever-evolving creative playground for both resident Londoners and tourists alike”. The gardens, which will feature landscaped walkways, a floating cinema, an ‘adult’s playground’ and a range of facilities such as a ‘glass cafe’ – are expected to be open for the Queen’s Jubilee Weekend on 1st June. It’s expected that more than 40,000 people a day will pass through the site during the Olympics. London has had a long association with the concept of pleasure gardens – places where people gathered to listen to music, see art, eat and drink and talk, the most famous of which was the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. But the Royal Docks also had its own pleasure gardens in the past – these existed between 1851 and 1884 and were named the Royal Victoria Gardens.  For more, see www.londonpleasuregardens.com.

• Music hall star Dame Gracie Fields has been honored by English Heritage with a blue plaque on the Islington house where she lived for three years in the 1920s. It was while living at 72a Upper Street with her parents and first husband Archie Pitt, that she consolidated her reputation as one of Britain’s most popular performers and it was also during this time that she recorded for the first time (she was to become a regular on the BBC and by 1933 had cut a massive four million discs) and appeared before King George V and Queen Mary at a Royal Variety Performance. Following her success, Fields and Pitt built a mansion in The Bishop’s Avenue, Hampstead, called ‘The Tower’ in honor of the show which had made her a star – Mr Tower of London. She later separated from Pitt and married an Italian born director Monty Banks. They moved to the US in 1940 amid fears her husband would be interned and, after the war, she settled on the Italian island of Capri where, following Banks’ death in 1950, she married again. She made her final appearance on the London stage in 1978 – closing a Royal Variety Performance – and died back in Capri the following year.

• And, briefly…..A new species of dinosaur – Spinops sternbergorum – has reportedly been discovered at the Natural History Museum, identified from bones previously gathering dust on a shelf at the museum.

On Now: Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People. This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery centres on a group of 14 portraits from the 16th and 17th centuries which depict unknown people. Originally thought to represent famous figures like Queen Elizabeth I, the identity of the sitters is now considered unknown. In response to the pictures, eight internationally renowned authors – from Alexander McCall Smith and Joanna Trollope to Julian Fellowes and Terry Pratchett – have written imaginative short stories about the portraits, bringing them to life. The exhibition was originally shown in Somerset but is now running at the NPG until 22nd July. Admission is free. For more information, see www.npg.org.uk.

On Now: London and the Olympics. The Museum of London is hosting a new display which looks at the 1908 and 1948 Olympic Games held in London but, in twist, looks at not only the experiences of Londoners but those of the 41 man team Peru sent to the 1948 games. Pictures included in the display come from an album made by one of the athletes, Enrique Mendizabal Raig, recording the team’s visit (you can find the images on Flickr here). Entry is free. Runs until September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.