Plans are afoot for the reopening of London’s iconic historic and cultural institutions with The National Gallery becoming the first national museum in the UK the first to do so when it reopens its doors on 8th July. Special exhibitions include Titian: Love, Desire, Death which had to close after just three days and has now been extended to 17th January, 2021, and Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age which has been extended until 20 September. Meanwhile, Room 32 – one of the gallery’s largest rooms displaying 17th-century Italian paintings by artists including Caravaggio, Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi, Guido Reni and Guercino – will reopen as the Julia and Hans Rausing Room after a 21 month refurbishment project while the Equestrian Portrait of Charles I by Van Dyck (about 1637/8) will be back on show in Room 21 after a more than two year restoration. There are also number of newly-acquired paintings on show including Liotard’s The Lavergne Family Breakfast (1754), Gainsborough’s Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough holding a Theorbo (about 1777) and Sorolla’s The Drunkard, Zaraúz, (1910). All visits must be booked online in advance and, of course, social distancing measures will be in place. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Tower Bridge is among landmarks reopening its doors in London. PICTURE: Javier Martinez/Unsplash 

Other landmarks opening include Tower Bridge (with a new one way route from 4th July), Eltham Palace (from 4th July) and the Tower of London (from 10th July). Openings later this month include interiors at Hampton Court Palace (from 17th July) the British Library Reading Rooms (from 22nd July), and Kensington Palace (30th July). We’ll keep you informed as more sites open.

And amid the openings, comes a closure with the National Portrait Gallery shutting its doors until spring 2023 to allow for a massive redevelopment project known as ‘Inspiring People’. The redevelopment project – the gallery’s biggest since the building in St Martin’s Place opened in 1896 – includes a comprehensive re-presentation of the gallery’s collection, spanning a period stretching from the Tudors to now, across 40 refurbished galleries along with a complete refurbishment of the building including the restoration of historic features, a new and more welcoming visitor entrance and public forecourt on the building’s north facade. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

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Located at White Hart Dock on Albert Embankment in Lambeth is a plaque with a rather lengthy inscription commemorating residents who died in the cholera epidemic of 1848-49.

More than 1,500 inhabitants of this waterfront district died in the outbreak first reported in September, 1848. The River Thames was believed the cause – with people drinking the river water due to lack of alternatives – and the absence of sanitation in the area and close living conditions were seen as exacerbating factors.

The plaque records that the first victim was recorded as John Murphy, a 22-year-old unemployed labourer who lived at of 26 Lower Fore Street. He fell ill on 30 September, 1848, and died the following morning.

The inscription also states that at least 1,618 Lambeth waterfront residents perished in the outbreak and and were buried in unmarked graves in the burial ground in Lambeth High Street, now the Lambeth Recreation Ground. However, the plaque adds that “it is likely many victims were unrecorded and the death toll was much higher.”

The plaque also features the text of a letter to the editor written concerning the cholera outbreak which had waned by autumn 1849.

The plaque, the text of which was written by Amanda J Thomas – author of two books on the subject of cholera in the Victorian era, was erected on a public artwork commemorating the former White Hart Dock in 2010.

PICTURE: White Hart Dock with the plaque on the right-hand side (via Google Maps).

PICTURE: Guillermo Bresciano/Unsplash

Hitherto unheard oral histories documenting the lived experience of the Windrush generation and the generations that followed have been released by the Museum of London. The oral histories, which were recorded in 2018 as part of the Conversation Booth project in City Hall, are part of the museum’s new online collection of Windrush-related content. Drawn from the collections of both the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, it includes objects, photos, videos and articles. To explore the collection, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/windrush-stories.

A hybrid sculpture depicting the body of a woman with the head of a hare has gone on show in Berkeley Square. The work of Sophie Ryder, Crawling was hand-made in 1999 from wet plaster, old machine parts and scavenged toys then cast in bronze. The work is part of City of Westminster’s City of Sculpture programme which brings sculpture to iconic outdoor locations.

The Museum of the Home is asking people for their opinion on the future of the statue of Sir Robert Geffrye which stands out the front of the almshouses housing the museum in Shoreditch. The almshouses were built by Geffrye, who was involved with the slave trade having made made his fortune with the East India Company and the Royal African Company, in 1714. The consultation is being held in partnership with Hackney Council which is conducting a wider review of landmarks and the naming of public spaces in the borough. The consultation remains open until the 2nd July. To have your say, head to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/geffrye-statue.

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While there are plague columns and crosses commemorating those who died in plagues during the Middle Ages in other parts of the UK and Europe, London oddly doesn’t have a grand monument. But there are some smaller monuments to be found for those who really look.

A poignant one to just a few of the thousands who died in London of the “Black Death” (a particularly severe form of bubonic plague) between 1348 and early 1350s can be found in Westminster Abbey’s cloisters.

A large black marble stone set in the floor, it is inscribed with a statement recording that, according to the Victorian-era Dean, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, the remains of 26 monks of Westminster who died in the Black Death of 1348 lie beneath it.

But the story isn’t so simple. The original stone – which had indeed been put in place by Dean Stanley with the inscription “Beneath this stone are supposed to be interred twenty six monks of Westminster who died of the Black Death in 1348” – was lifted to be recut in 1972 and it was found that there were, in fact, no bones beneath it – just one coffin which belonged to a Henrietta Pulteney who died in 1808.

It has been suggested that the bones may have been moved when new pipework was laid in the cloister in the 1750s and that the bones may have been reburied in the cloister garth (the grassed area at the centre of the cloister ‘courtyard’) due to the fact that a number of skeletons had been found here in the 19th century.

The current inscription – “Dean Stanley records that beneath this stone are interred twenty-six monks of Westminster who died in the Black Death in 1348” – was added in the 1970s.

Interestingly, there is another plague victim buried nearby – Abbot Simon de Bircheston, who only held the post for five years before he died during the Black Death in 1349, was buried in the east cloister. His name and dates were cut on a white stone in 1922 but the original epitaph was apparently more elaborate, reading: “Simon de Bircheston, venerable abbot, deservedly stands pre-eminent, with an everlasting name. Now, fortified by the prayers of the brethren, may he, with the kindly fathers, flourish in felicity before God”.

PICTURE: Kevan (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

 

 

PICTURE: Magda V/Unsplash

The next two entries in our countdown…

72. 10 sites of significance in Jane Austen’s London – Redux…

71. What’s in a name?…St Mary Axe

With 2020 to be sadly remembered as the year of COVID-19 (and St Paul’s plans to commemorate those who have died in a permanent memorial in the cathedral), we thought we’d take a look memorials and monuments related to disease outbreaks of the past.

First up is a pump in Soho, a replica of the original Broad Street hand pump which lay at the centre of a cholera outbreak in 1854. Its commemorates the efforts of Dr John Snow, whose work in mapping the course of the outbreak lead to him identifying the pump as the source of the outbreak with the well beneath contaminated by human waste from an old cesspit.

The Yorkshire-born doctor’s work, which subsequently led him to have the pump handle removed and thus prevent further spread of the disease, was a breakthrough in preventing the spread of cholera by showing the source was contaminated water (many people had previously thought was spread through the air, the so-called “miasma theory”).

The replica pump was installed in what is now Broadwick Street, just outside The John Snow pub, in 1992 at the behest of the John Snow Society and Westminster Council. It was removed in 2015  as the area was redeveloped and was then re-installed – along with an explanatory plaque – in 2018.

It stands alongside a red granite block in the pavement which is said to mark the exact spot where the original pump was located (there’s another plaque mentioning that on the pub).

There’s also a blue plaque on the pub commemorating Snow’s work to determine cholera was a water-born disease which was erected by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2008.

PICTURE: The memorial pump with the John Snow pub behind and the Royal Society of Chemistry blue plaque (Matt Brown/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan has been removed from its position outside of the Museum of London Docklands. The Canal and River Trust removed the statue this week in recognition of the “wishes of the community”. The move had the support of the museum which is one of only three museums in the UK to address the history of the transatlantic slave trade. “The Museum of London recognises that the monument is part of the ongoing problematic regime of white-washing history, which disregards the pain of those who are still wrestling with the remnants of the crimes Milligan committed against humanity…” the museum said in a statement issued earlier in the week. “Now more than ever at a time when Black Lives Matter is calling for an end to public monuments honouring slave owners, we advocate for the statue of Robert Milligan to be removed on the grounds of its historical links to colonial violence and exploitation.” Milligan was a prominent British slave owner who, by the time of his death in 1809, owned 526 slaves and two sugar plantations in Jamaica. The statue, the work of Sir Richard Westmacott, was moved to a position outside the museum in West India Quay in 1997. Earlier this week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm which will review landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – across the city of London with a view to improving diversity in the public realm.

The City of London Corporation has launched a competition to redesign the Grade II-listed gardens at Finsbury Circus. The two-stage competition aims to identity creative and sustainable design ideas in a bid to return Finsbury Circus Gardens to being a multifunctional public space with a pavilion as well as a “sanctuary” within the Square Mile. The corporation is seeking a joint bid from an architect and a landscape architect to deliver a new design for the reinstatement of Finsbury Circus Gardens and Pavilion. Some two-thirds of the Finsbury Circus Gardens, one of the oldest parks in the City, have been used by Crossrail for the past 10 years to provide access to a section of tunnel between Farringdon and Liverpool Street. The works required the removal of historic features like the bowling green and historic Grade II drinking fountain and these will now be reinstated into the new design. PICTURE: Looking across Finsbury Circus Gardens in 2006 (David Williams /licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tickets for ZSL London Zoo have gone on sale ahead of its planned reopening next week. The zoo will reopen on Monday, 15th June, for the first time since its closure on Saturday, 21st March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The zoo, which is offering pre-allocated, timed entry slots, limited to just 2,000 visitors a day, says its taken numerous measures to ensure the safety of visitors. For more, head to www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.

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Once located on the north side of Cannon Street, St Swithin London Stone was first recorded in the 13th century, rebuilt after the Great Fire of London and finally demolished after being damaged in World War II.

The church’s curious name comes its dedication to St Swithin, a ninth century bishop of Winchester, and the London Stone, a stone of curious origins which was originally located across the road and then moved across to eventually be placed inside an alcove in the south wall of the church in the 1820s (you can read more about it here).

The medieval church was rebuilt in 1405 thanks to the largesse of Sir John Hind, twice Lord Mayor of London, and had one of the first towers built specifically for the hanging of bells.

The church was famously also the final resting place of Catrin Glyndwr, daughter of Welsh leader Owain Glyndwr, who was taken hostage in 1409 and imprisoned in the Tower of London before dying in mysterious circumstances four years later. Other notable connections include one with John Dryden who married Lady Elizabeth Howard in the church in 1663.

The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Now united with St Mary Bothaw, the church was rebuilt apparently using some of the original stones, to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. Rectangular in shape, it featured a tower in the north-west corner and an octagonal dome.

The church, which also had an association with the Worshipful Company of Salters, was heavily damaged by bombing during the Blitz. United with St Stephen Walbrook in 1954, the ruined church was eventually demolished in 1962 (the pulpit is now at All Hallows by the Tower). There’s now a garden on the site which features a memorial to Catrin Glyndwr.

PICTURE: The Church of St Swithin, London Stone, as depicted in the 1839 book ‘The Churches of London’ by George Godwin. (public domain)

The National Gallery has unveiled a new project which sees some of its most famous works represented as 360 degree light and sound “experiences”. KIMA: Colour in 360, the work of the Analema Group, uses colour data to transforms the works which include Van Gogh’s A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, Monet’s Water-Lilies, Setting Sun. While the first two works can be viewed online, a third – based on van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait – will come later. The work was commissioned by new digital studio National Gallery X (or NGX) and is part of a digital events programme which, on 16th June, will also see the first of a series of one-night immersive events being held in collaboration with London’s media art platform Art in Flux. ‘ART IN FLUX @ NGX’ will present cutting-edge artwork exploring the boundaries between art and technology and feature the work pf pioneering media artists, researchers and academics. To see the first two works and for more about the programme head to www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/analema-at-ngx. PICTURE: KIMA: Colour Van Gogh © Analema Group. 2020. 

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The Museum of London is offering the chance to explore its previous exhibition, Disease X: London’s next epidemic?, online. The exhibition, which was first shown at the museum in between November, 2018, and March, 2019 to make the 100th anniversary of the second wave of the Spanish flu, draws on the museum’s collections as well as historical research and expert views to explore if the city was at risk from an unknown ‘Disease X’. Among the objects in the display are the mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria to mark the shock passing of her grandson Prince Albert Victor due to ‘Russian Flu’, a 17th century pomander used to waft away the foul vapors thought to cause diseases like the plague and a poster advertising ‘Flu-Mal’, a supposed cure for both influenza and malaria. To see the exhibition, head to https://virtualexhibitions.museumoflondon.org.uk/disease-x/. The online exhibition is part of the museum’s mission to bring online content to people at home while its doors are closed under the banner of the ‘Museum for London’. PICTURE: Influenza conquered by Flu-Mal. Advertising Poster © Museum of London.

The V&A has launched a series of five films that take viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of its exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. Curator Anna Jackson guides viewers through the exhibition spaces and provides personal insights into the making of the show, some of the star exhibits and the history of the kimono. The exhibition tracks the “sartorial and social significance” of the kimono from the 1660s to the present day in both Japan and elsewhere around the world and features international designer fashions and iconic costumes from films and performances. Highlights include a kimono created by Living National Treasure Kunihiko Moriguchi, the Alexander McQueen dress Björk wore on the cover of her album Homogenic, and original Star Wars costumes modelled on kimono by John Mollo. To watch, head here.

The National Gallery has announced it has extended its landmark exhibition Titian: Love, Desire, Death which had been due to close on 14th June, having been open for just three days before lockdown measures were put in place. The gallery has also announced the exhibition Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age will also be extended while dates for upcoming exhibitions including Sin, Conversations with God: Copernicus by Jan Matejko, and The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael have been pushed back. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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St Paul’s Cathedral has opened an online book of remembrance for people living in the UK who have died as a result of COVID-19. The Remember Me website is open to family, friends and carers of those who have died to submit, free-of-charge, the name, photograph and a short message in honour of the deceased. The book, which will remain open for as long as is required, will eventually be accompanied by a physical memorial which is planned for the cathedral’s north transept. The Very Revd David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s, said that for centuries, St Paul’s has been a place to remember the “personal and national impact of great tragedies”. “Remember Me is an opportunity to mourn every person we have lost to the effects of this terrible disease, an encouragement to offer compassion and support to those left behind, and an ongoing recognition of the impact of the pandemic on the UK.”  The launch of the website last week – which has the support of Prince Charles – was accompanied by the release of a specially recorded piece of music featuring the choristers of St Paul’s, the Remember Me Anthem – Lift Thine Eyes (see below). PICTURE: Screenshot of the memorial website.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is on this week but, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year it’s a virtual affair. That’s good news for those who might not have been able to attend in person thanks to the stream of video content that’s being posted on the RHS website including garden design tips and planting ideas, virtual garden tours, ‘how to’ demonstrations and meet the growers sessions. Among highlights are a video featuring Sarah Eberle, the most decorated female designer in Chelsea history showing you around her woodland garden, a “lockdown tour” of some of London’s public parks, BBC presenter and multi-gold medal winning designer Adam Frost showing you around his Lincolnshire garden, florist Nikki Tibbles showing you how to create a seasonal bouquet and an update on what the Chelsea Pensioners have been up to on their allotment. The show runs until 23rd May. To see what’s on offer, head to www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/virtual-chelsea. PICTURE: The Florence Nightingale Garden – A Celebration of Modern Day Nursing/© Robert Myers.

The National Gallery has taken some of its most famous works out onto the streets thanks to a partnership with digital outdoor screen provider, Ocean Outdoor. Seven of the gallery’s most well-known images – Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) and A Wheatfield, with Cypresses (1889), Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond (1899), van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait (1434), Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières (1884), Vigée Le Brun’s Self Portrait in a Straw Hat (1782) and Rousseau’s Surprised! (1891) – are being shown on Ocean Outdoor’s giant screens for two weeks in cities around the UK including London. Head to www.nationalgallery.org.uk for more free art, films, stories and activities.

The Royal Collection Trust has announced it will not open the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace to the public this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the collection and palaces can be explored online at www.rct.uk.

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The next two entries in our countdown are:

78. Lost London – The King’s Mews at Charing Cross…

77. LondonLife – A look back at Queen Elizabeth II’s reign…

This stunning hollow bronze figure from ancient Egypt depicts the goddess Bastet in the form of a seated (domestic-sized) cat and dates from around 600 BC.

Its name comes from Irish-born military man Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, who was a keen collector of Egyptian sculpture, jewellery and pottery which he showcased as his Cairo home, now known as the Gayer-Anderson Museum. Gayer-Anderson donated the cat to the British Museum in 1939 (there’s a copy in the Gayer-Anderson Museum).

The 14 centimetre tall figure, which wears a silver protective pectoral and golden earrings and nose ring, was probably housed in a temple. The scarab beetle on the cat’s head and chest symbolises rebirth and the silver wedjat-eye on the pectoral was supposed to invoke protection and healing.

The cat, which a particularly fine example of a cat sculpture from the period, can usually be seen in the Egyptian sculpture gallery in Room 4 of the British Museum but given its closure because of the coronavirus pandemic, you may like to take a look at a 3D model of the cat which is on the museum’s website here.

PICTURE:  © the Trustees of the British Museum

Somerset House is releasing a new virtual tour of its exhibition Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi so people can explore the world of the mushroom and its role in the world’s survival from home. The exhibition, which will go live online on Monday to mark International Museum Day, features highlights including Beatrix Potter’s watercolours of mushrooms, conceptual artist Carsten Höller’s spinning, solar-powered mushrooms, a psychedelic film by Adham Faramawy, Seana Gavin’s hand-cut collages of mushroom-human hybrids and, shoes and shades made from mycelium, the fungal mass which lies beneath the earth under mushrooms. The exhibition will be released online on 18th May at www.somersethouse.org.uk. PICTURED: Kristen Peters, Mycoshoen, courtesy of the artist.

The V&A are seeking homemade signs created during the coronavirus lockdown – everything from children’s rainbow signs to handwritten notes placed in public spaces – to add to its permanent collection. Noting the commonplace nature of such signs during the emergency, the V&A have said that “[w]hether they state temporary closure of a business, express messages of hope or critique, or raise awareness for a good cause, these signs have become a prominent way for us to communicate with the outside world during lockdown”. Through collecting the signs, the museum is aiming to “create and preserve a rich portrait of life under lockdown expressed through visual imagery.” Selected signs will be chosen to join the museum’s collections. Signs can be submitted to homemadesigns@vam.ac.uk while people are also encouraged to share signs they’ve come across on social media using #homemadesigns.

The National Trust is asking people to write letters to its Director General Hilary McGrady, about their lockdown experiences in order to add a selection of them to its collection of historic letters. People are asked to write about what they have most missed since lockdown began and about what solace they may have drawn from nature, art, creativity and any forms of social contact. The National Trust is asking writers to scan or photograph their letter and email it to lettersfromlockdown@nationaltrust.org.uk or share it via the National Trust’s social media channels using @nationaltrust to ease pressure on the postal service. The Trust says it will request postal hard copies from selected authors at a later date.

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Seen in Brockley, south London. PICTURE: Loco Steve (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Museum of London Docklands has released a number of images from its ‘Docklands at War’ collection – including some rarely on display – to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe. These images of the East End show the scale of the damage and destruction caused to London’s docks during World War II when more than 25,000 German bombs were dropped on it in an attempt to impact the national economy and war production, making tens of thousands of home uninhabitable, damaging businesses and destroying docks with the West India Docks and St Katherine Docks suffering the most damage. The pictures also reveal the remarkable contribution to the war effort by the people who lived and worked in the densely populated area. For more on how the museum is marking the day online, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/ve-day.

St Katharine Dock after an air raid on 7th September, 1940, the first attack on Docklands.  PICTURE: John H Avery & Co (© PLA Collection / Museum of London)

Bomb damage to a shed, formerly Guiness’s on west side of eastern dock, looking north from the southend taken on 19th December, 1940, following an air raid on 8th December that year. PICTURE: John H Avery & Co (© PLA Collection / Museum of London)


Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Clementine Churchill, with the Flag Officer, London, and J Douglas Ritchie (on left), touring London’s dock in September, 1940, seen with a group of auxiliary firemen. PICTURE: © PLA Collection / Museum of London

Damage caused by a V1 rocket which hit Royal Victoria Dock in 1944. PICTURE: © PLA Collection / Museum of London

The Docklands ablaze during the Blitz on 7th September, 1940. The rising palls of smoke mark out the London Docks beyond the Tower of London, the Surrey Docks to the right of the bridge and the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in the distance. PICTURE: © PLA Collection / Museum of London


Tanks arriving in the London Docks prior to embarkation for the D Day beaches in 1944. PICTURE: © PLA Collection / Museum of London

It’s 169 years since the Crystal Palace served as the centrepiece of the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ in Hyde Park but for the first time you now have a chance to tour the building virtually. The Royal Parks, working in partnership with educational virtual reality company, Seymour & Lerhn, have recreated the grand glass and iron structure which hosted thousands of exhibits from across the globe at the 1851 exhibition which was spear-headed by Prince Albert. The building has been regenerated digitally using The Royal Commission for the Exhibition’s archive of plans and images, as well as The Royal Parks’ historical documents including old maps. The tour overlays this historic footage over the site as it is now and visitors can switch between the two as well as learn about some of the fascinating stories connected to the Great Exhibition including that of the construction of the first ever public toilets and that of the lady who walked from Cornwall to attend the display. The virtual tour is free to access at www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park/things-to-see-and-do/the-great-exhibition-virtual-tour.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy, National Army Museum and Royal Air Force Museum are hosting their first tri-service celebration with a ‘Virtual VE Day 75 Festival’ to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. The festival runs from today until 9th May and kicks off with ‘Vying for Victory: Britain’s Navy, Army and Air Force in Myth and Memory’ featuring representatives from the museums discussing the service’s respective roles during the closing stages of World War II. Other events include a live webinar featuring historian and broadcaster James Holland speaking to the National Army Museum’s Dr Peter Johnston about ‘Why the Allies Won’, re-enactors sharing stories from real service personnel during the World War II, and an immersive walk-through of HMS Alliance which will provide insights into the isolation experience of submariners on VE Day.  For the full programme of events, head to Virtual VE Day 75 Festival.

The National Portrait Gallery is launching a new community photography project to capture a snapshot of the nation during the coronavirus lockdown. People are being encouraged to submit pictures responding to three themes – ‘Helpers and Heroes’, ‘Your New Normal’ and ‘Acts of Kindness’ – to the project which is called Hold Still. Launched by the Duchess of Cambridge, patron of the gallery, this week, the project is open to Britons of all ages and will see 100 short-listed pictures featured in a digital exhibition. The closing date for submissions is 18th June. Head to www.npg.org.uk/hold-still/ for more.

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