This Week in London – London Design Biennale; canal wildlife; a suffragette princess honoured; and, the ‘Polar Silk Road’ explored…

The Indian Pavilion at the London Design Biennale. PICTURE: Courtesy of London Design Biennale.

• The almost month-long London Design Biennale kicks off at Somerset House today under the theme of ‘The Global Game: Remapping Collaborations’. The fourth edition of the biennale is artistically directed by the Nieuwe Instituut – the Dutch national museum and institute for architecture, design and digital culture – and takes over the entirety of Somerset House. Among the exhibits is the India pavilion (pictured above) featuring a multi-sensory evocation of the essence of a contemporary Indian city chowk – an open market at the junction of streets – through the visual metaphor of a charpai – a traditional woven daybed, Malta’s large-scale ‘village-square’ installation that merges traditional city planning with the Phoenician-Maltese tradition of fabric production and dyeing of the multiple colours of Phoenician purple, the Ukrainian Pavilion which features am interior construction symbolising the country’s industrial, natural resource, and creative richness and a series of external projects which tell stories about new design collaborations in times of crisis for Ukraine and the vital role of design in creating new progressive connections. There’s also the chance to see the Ai-Da Robot, the world’s first humanoid robot artist, which will make history by showing her unique ability to design objects. Running alongside is the EUREKA exhibition which will share design-led innovation from leading research centres. Runs until 25th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/london-design-biennale-eureka-2023.

London canal wildlife. PICTURES: Courtesy of the London Canal Museum

A new exhibition highlighting the flora and fauna of London’s canals has opened at the London Canal Museum in King’s Cross. Many of the canals were derelict by the end of the 20th century but have received a new lease of life in recent times as leisure destinations. These days, they provide a “highway” for fauna including birds, fish and mammals to move in and out of the capital, some of which is showcased in this new display. Entry with general admission and for an extra fee, guided narrowboat trips along The Regent’s Canal are available on selected days. For more, see www.canalmuseum.org.uk.

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, a suffragette, daughter of the last Maharajah of the Punjab, and god-daughter to Queen Victoria, has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque marks Faraday House in Hampton Court, granted to the princess and her sisters as a grace and favour apartment by Queen Victoria. Also known as ‘Apartment 41’, the property – which was named after scientist Michael Faraday – was home to Princess Sophia for more than 40 years and her base when she was campaigning for women’s suffrage. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

North Warning System III, Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada, 2020. PICTURE: © Gregor Sailer

• The ‘Polar Silk Road’ – a channel opened up thanks to melting Arctic Sea ice – is the subject of a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Gregor Sailer: The Polar Silk Road features 67 photographs taken by acclaimed Austrian artist and photographer Gregor Sailer showcasing manmade structures – from isolated research centres to Icelandic geothermal power stations – captured across four countries in the Arctic circle. There’s also a short film discussing the impacts of the climate crisis. The exhibition is free to visit. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/the-polar-silk-road.html.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – ‘Indo + Caribbean’; 19th century China explored; and, animals, art, science and sound at the British Library…

Postcard – Shipping on the River Hughly Calcutta, cira 1900. PICTURE: Courtesy of JF Manicom

A new exhibition examining the history of Indian indenture in the British Caribbean and Indo-Caribbean culture in London today opens at the Museum of London Docklands from tomorrow. Indo + Caribbean: The creation of a culture puts a spotlight on the 450,000 Indians who left India between 1838 and 1917 to work for periods of three to five years on Caribbean plantations in return for transport, a minimal wage and some basic provisions. Among the objects on show are letters from Caribbean planter Sir John Gladstone petitioning the government to provide workers from India as well as contracts, shipping company records, postcards, and papers from the Parliamentary Archives that give insights into the realities of life under indenture. Also on display are photos, jewellery, film and artwork which uncover personal stories and family memories from London’s Indo-Caribbean community. Admission to the exhibition in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

Empress Dowager Cixi’s robe, China, about 1880–1908. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The resilience and creativity of people in 19th century China is explored in a new exhibition at the British Museum which opens today. The Citi exhibition China’s hidden century examines the age of the Qing Dynasty, which ruled from 1796 to 1912, and focuses on a spectrum of different groups in society – from members of the court and military to artists and writers, farmers and city-dwellers as well as the globalised communities of merchants, scientists and diplomats, reformers and revolutionaries. Among the more than 300 objects on display are a water-proof straw cape made for a street worker, farmer or fisherman which is being publicly displayed for the first time, cloisonné vases given by the Last Emperor’s court to King George and Queen Mary for their coronation in 1911, and, a silk robe which belonged to the Empress Dowager Cixi, de facto ruler of China from 1861 to 1908 and a contemporary of Queen Victoria. Admission charge applies. Runs in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery until 8th October. For more, see britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/chinas-hidden-century.

Animals: Art, Science, and Sound at the British Library

The intersection between science, art and sound and how that impacts our understanding of the natural world is explored in an exhibition at the British Library. Animals: Art, Science and Sound features 120 artworks, manuscripts, sound recordings and books, many of which are on display for the first time. They include the earliest known illustrated Arabic scientific work documenting the characteristics of animals alongside their medical uses (c1225), the earliest use of the word ‘shark’ in printed English (1569), Leonardo da Vinci’s notes (1500-08) on the impact of wind on a bird in flight, and one of the rarest ichthyology publications ever produced, The Fresh-Water Fishes of Great Britain (1828-38), which features hand-painted illustrations by Sarah Bowdich. Also present is the first commercially published recording of an animal from 1910 titled Actual Bird Record Made by a Captive Nightingale (No. I) by The Gramophone Company Limited and one of the earliest portable bat detectors – the Holgate Mk VI – used by amateur naturalist John Hooper during the 1960s-70s to capture some of the first sound recordings of British bats. The exhibition, which runs until 28th August and which carries an admission charge, is accompanied by two free displays at the library – Animal Rights: From the Margins to the Mainstream (runs to 9th July) and Microsculpture (runs to 20th November). For more, see www.bl.uk/events/animals.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Coronations at Westminster Abbey; tulips at Hampton Court; St Bartholomew at The National Gallery; and, Food Season at the British Library…

A new exhibition exploring the 1,000-year history of coronations at Westminster Abbey has opened in the abbey’s medieval chapter house. The exhibition, which has opened ahead of the coronation of King Charles III on 6th May, draws on historic illustrations and archive photography to explore the elements of the coronation service including the oath-taking, anointing, investing and crowning and takes a closer look any some of key artefacts present in the ceremony including the Coronation Chair. The exhibition, which is free with admission to the abbey and which runs until the end of September, is part of a season of events celebrating the coronation including themed late evenings, family activities and special afternoon teas at the Cellarium Café. Meanwhile, the abbey has also announced that visitors will be able to view the ‘Coronation Theatre’ – the special area which will be built for the historic occasion, from the Abbey’s North and South Transepts – following the coronation. Tickets for the special viewing – which will include the chance to see key elements from the coronation service including the Coronation Chair still in position on the Cosmati Pavement – can be purchased for timed slots between 8th and 13th May. For more on the abbey’s events surrounding the coronation, see www.westminster-abbey.org/events.

Tulips at Hampton Court Palace in 2021. PICTURE: Derek Winterburn (licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)

Hampton Court Palace bursts into colour from Friday with its annual Tulip Festival. More than 110,000 bulbs have been planted to creat dramatic displays in the formal gardens and cobbled courtyards, among them a selection of heirloom bulbs on display in the Lower Orangery Garden which presents visitors with the chance to see tulips as they would have looked during the time of King William III and Queen Mary II, soon after the flowers were first introduced to Britain. Thanks to a special relationship with Netherlands-based Hortus Bulborum, the bulbs on display include Sylvestris (1595) and Rubella Broken (1700) as well as the Orange King (1903) and Queen of the Night (1940). Other highlights of the festival include 3,000 wine-toned tulips, including the merlot variety, flowing down from the steps and parapet of the Wine Fountain, as well as a floral fantasy in the palace’s courtyards in which tulips such as Raspberry Ripple, Apricot Emperor and Purple Prince flow out of wheelbarrows, barrels and a horse cart, and a free-style tulip planting in the Kitchen Garden inspired by Van Gogh’s 1883 painting, Bulb Fields. Runs until 1st May. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/whats-on/tulip-festival/.

Bernardo Cavallino (1616 ‑ 1656?), Saint Bartholomew (about 1640-1645), oil on canvas H x W: 176 x 125.5 cm; The National Gallery, London. Bought with the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, 2023
PICTURE: © The National Gallery, London

The recently acquired Bernardo Cavallino work, Saint Bartholomew has gone on show at The National Gallery. The painting, which dates from 1640-45 and which was last exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1993, is being displayed alongside other 17th century works by artists such as Caravaggio, Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi, Guercino, Reni and Ribera in the Hans and Julia Rausing Room (Room 32). The National Gallery has one other work by Cavallino – Christ driving the Traders from the Temple – but his depiction of Saint Bartholomew is considered one of his most splendid works. Admission is free. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.

Featuring everything from a celebration of African Caribbean takeaways to a “deep-dive” into the issues surrounding food production and access, Food Season kicks off at the British Library Monday. Highlights include a discussion of the sandwich by food writers Nigella Lawson, Jonathan Nunn and Rebecca May Johnson, a day-long celebration of African Caribbean cuisine featuring chefs and broadcasters Jimi Famurewa, Fatmata Binta and Andi Oliver, and, an exploration of the big challenges in food, land use and food production featuring author Henry Dimbleby alongside Dr Tara Garnett, Nick Saltmarsh, Abby Allen and Dimitri Houtart. Runs until 7th June. Admission charges apply. For the full programme, see www.bl.uk/events/food-season.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com

This Week in London – 10 years of Christmas at Kew; British and Chinese at the British Library; and, The Horror Show! at Somerset House…

Christmas returned to Kew this week with the launch of its 10th festive light trail. This year’s display features some past favourites as well as new light installations including Feathers by Pyrite Creative which features 16 floating UV feathers which sway in the breeze, LuminARTi’s Willow Hives which illuminate natural forms, and Illusion Hole by UxU Studio, a geometrically arranged pattern situated on the lake which presents visitors with an optical illusion in which water formed by light appears to flow into an unknown abyss. The popular Fire Garden has returned along with the Christmas Cathedral and a series of breath-taking projections dance across the surface of the Palm House and adjacent lake, set to a memorable soundtrack of much-loved Christmas classics. The display can be seen until 8th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org/christmas.

Frank Soo at the Victoria Ground, Stoke, 1933. PICTURE: The Sentinel & StokeonTrentLive

A free exhibition exploring British Chinese communities and culture opens at the British Library tomorrow. Chinese and British celebrates the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK and presents personal stories and artefacts. Highlights include a hand-drawn map of China by Shen Fuzong – the first recorded Chinese person to visit the UK in 1687, a detailed doll’s house model of a Chinese takeaway, Ling Shuhua’s 1953 autobiography, Ancient Melodies, which was dedicated to Virginia Woolf who offered advice on drafts of her memoir, a fan made of bamboo slats and paper from mulberry bark in Hangzhou and pair of hand-embroidered shoes belonging to Kathy Hall, a London-based practitioner of traditional Chinese opera. There’s also trench art produced by Chinese Labour Corps workers during World War I, cigarette cards featuring Frank Soo, the first player of Chinese origin to play in the English Football League, and Rosanna Lee’s 2022 film Parallel which follows a family during their weekly ritual of going out for dim sum at the Pearl Dragon restaurant in Southend-on-Sea. The exhibition can be seen until 23rd April. For more, see www.bl.uk.

On Now: The Horror Show!: A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain. This display at Somersert House, divided into three acts – ‘Monster’, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Witch’, explores how exploring how ideas rooted in horror have informed the last 50 years of creative rebellion, looking beyond horror as a genre and instead “taking it as a reaction and provocation to our most troubling times”. The display features more than 200 artworks and culturally significant objects including Chila Burman’s If There is No Struggle, There is no Progress – Uprising (1981), Derek Jarman’s last feature and magnum opus, Blue (1993), and a striking presentation of Turner Prize winning-artist Tai Shani’s The Neon Hieroglyph (2021). Admission charges apply. Runs until 19th February. For more, see somersethouse.org.uk. ​

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com

This Week in London – London’s history of executions; myth-making around Alexander the Great; and, Édouard Manet’s ‘Eva Gonzalès’ examined…

Charles I vest, Executions 2022 © Museum of London

• The history of public executions in London – spanning a period of some 700 years – is the subject of a landmark new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands in West India Quay. Executions explores how capital punishment became embedded in the city’s landscape – from the first recorded public execution in 1196 to the last in 1868 – and looks at the rarely told and often tragic human stories behind them. Items on display include an intricately woven silk vest said to have been worn by King Charles I at his execution outside the Banqueting House (pictured), a 300-year-old bedsheet embroidered with a love note in human hair and personal items which once belonged to prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. Visitors can also stand in front of the Newgate Prison door, marking the last steps for prisoners heading to the scaffold, and see a dramatic recreation of the Tyburn “Triple Tree” gallows. Visitors will also learn about the 200 offences that became punishable by death and the spectacle and rituals of execution days as well as what led celebrity criminals to the gallows. Admission charge applies. Runs until 16th April next year. For more, see https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/executions.

Marble head of Alexander © Museum of Classical Archaelogy

The first exhibition exploring the rich history of story-telling around one of the most famous figures of the ancient world – Alexander the Great – opens at the British Library tomorrow. Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth features almost 140 exhibits from 25 countries including astrological clay tablets, ancient papyri and medieval manuscripts as well as comics, films and video games. It reveals how Alexander’s character has been adapted and appropriated by different cultures and religions, with conflicting interpretations. Runs until 19th February. Admission charge applies. A season of in-person and online events accompanies the exhibition. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/alexander-the-great-the-making-of-a-myth.

• Portraits of the Euro 2020 England men’s football squad and its manager, Gareth Southgate, will be shown at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery from today. The free exhibition, This is England, features the most successful men’s national team – finalists in Euro 2020 – since the winners of the World Cup in 1966, from Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham to Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling. The paintings are the work of artist Matt Small and were commissioned by the FA and exhibited at the St George training ground during the Euro 2020 finals. The paintings can be seen until 19th February. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/this-is-england.

Edouard Manet, ‘Eva Gonzalès’, 1870

Édouard Manet’s 1870 portrait of Eva Gonzalès is the subject of a new exhibition at The National Gallery opening on Friday. The painting was considered by the early 20th century to be the most famous modern French painting in the UK and Ireland. The exhibition, the first in a new series of ‘Discover’ exhibitions to be staged in the Sunley Room with the aim of exploring well-known paintings in the collection through a contemporary lens, examines the lifelong artistic dialogue and the complexities of the friendship and mentorship between Manet and Gonzalès, his only formal pupil. It also looks at the broader context of female self portraits from the 18th to early 20th centuries, alongside portraits of women artists by male friends, husbands, and teachers The free exhibition includes works by Eva Gonzalès, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Alfred Stevens and Laura Knight. Runs until 15th January. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/discover-manet-eva-gonzalès.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Marble Hill revived; Harry Kane at the Museum of London; and, golden books at the British Library…

Marble Hill in London’s west reopens on Saturday following a restoration and the reinstatement of a lost pleasure garden. Once home to King George II’s mistress Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, Marble Hill is a rare example of a home built by and for a woman in Georgian England and is one of the last survivors of the many 18th century villas that once fronted the Thames in the area. Marble Hill was built as a country retreat from London’s crowds and among those entertained here were poet Alexander Pope, Horace Walpole, John Gay and Jonathan Swift. English Heritage has invested £3 million into a major transformation of the house and 66 acres of riverside parkland which also used a £5 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Community Lottery Fund. This has included the reinstatement of a pleasure garden – an “Arcadian landscape” which was inspired by sketches made by Pope – with the opening up of previously inaccessible woodland areas, the reinstallation of paths and the replanting of avenues of trees that led from the house to the river. Howard’s ninepin bowling alley has been restored and an 18th-century garden grotto has been excavated and returned to its 18th-century appearance. Inside the house, English Heritage has re-instated the paint scheme that existed during Howard’s lifetime in several interior spaces, including the Great Room, conserved the fine collection of early Georgian paintings which includes portraits of Howard’s circle and re-created furniture including an intricate carved peacock motif table and luxurious crimson silk wall hangings in her dressing room. The new display has reframed Howar’s beyond being simply the King’s mistress by also exploring her abusive first marriage and the role deafness played in her life as well as her rise in Georgian society and the social circles she captivated. Entry to the house is free. For more, head to www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/marble-hill-house/.

Harry Kane of England celebrates after scoring their side’s second goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on 29th June, 2021 in London, England. PICTURE: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images.

England football captain Harry Kane is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Museum of London on Saturday. Harry Kane: I want to play football features sporting memorabilia including the shirt Kane, who grew up in Chingford, East London, wore on his debut for England where he scored against Lithuania just 79 seconds after coming on the pitch, Kane’s MBE which was awarded to him in March 2019 for ‘services to sport’ and the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot (Kane being one of only two British players to receive a Golden Boot at a World Cup competition, where he was named Man of the Match three times) as well as family photos. The display also includes a changing room space where visitors can listen to Kane’s pre-match playlist and an interactive area where visitors can learn more about who has inspired Harry and share their own hopes and dreams. A programme of activities for families and children will run alongside the free display. Runs until December. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

The use of gold in embellishing and enhancing the written word across cultures, faiths and through time is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the British Library. Gold, which opens Friday, showcases some of the most luxurious illuminated manuscripts, gold-tooled books, sacred texts and scrolls from the British Library’s collection with objects on display including the Harley Golden Gospels, the Lotus Sutra and a treaty in Malayalam, beautifully inscribed on a long strip of gold itself. Admission charge applies. Runs until 2nd October. For more, see www.bl.uk.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Ukraine’s culture on show; spotlight on the news; St George’s Day; and, London Transport’s posters at the Depot…

Easter egg, a dove of peace, Ukraine, 1970-1980. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

• A free display on the cultural heritage of Ukraine has opened at the British Museum. Located in the museum’s ‘Collecting the world’ gallery, Ukraine: Culture in crisis features objects drawn from the museum’s collection including a 5,500-year-old painted storage jar, hand-coloured lithographs of a man and a woman in Ukrainian dress dating from about 1813, and, an Easter egg decorated with the dove of peace (pictured) dating from between 1970 and 1980. There are also objects from the Greek colony of Olbia established on the Black Sea between 600 and 300 BC including a black glazed, fluted amphora from southern Italy dating from between 300 and 250BC. For more, head to www.britishmuseum.org. To learn more about the protection of cultural heritage in Ukraine visit icom-poland.mini.icom.museum/icom-poland-appeal-help-us-help-ukraine.

The earliest surviving printed news report in Britain of the 1513 Battle of Flodden and an original BBC radio script of the D-Day landings are among exhibits at the British Library’s first major exhibition putting a spotlight on the role news plays in our society. Other exhibits on show at Breaking the News, which opens on Friday, include smashed hard drives used by The Guardian to store Edward Snowden’s hard files. The display explores what makes an event news and the meaning of a free press as well as the ethics involved in making the news, news objectivity and how the way we encounter news has evolved over five centuries of news publication in Britain. Runs until 21st August. Admission charge applies. For more, head to www.bl.uk/events/breaking-the-news.

St George’s Day celebrations return to Trafalgar Square this Saturday. The free family event, which runs from noon until 6pm, will feature live music by the likes of string quartet Bowjangles, hoedown collective Cut A Shine, brass band Das Brass and folk headliner James Riley & the Rooftop Assembly. There will also be appearances from St George with his Dragon, Divine stilt walkers and the Pearly Kings and Queens as well as a range of food stalls. Other family-oriented activities including The Knights Training School, the Storytorium, a dragon Selfie station, face painting, upcycled arts and crafts, and a games area.

The art and poster stores at the London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton Town will be open to the public this weekend. The Art of the Poster Open Days, which run from today until Sunday, will give the public the chance to view some of the more than 30,000 posters in the depot’s collection and hear from expert guides about how posters have characterised London and its transport over the past century. There will also be talks from artists, curators and historians and visitors have the chance to design their own posters in creative workshops as well as, on Saturday and Sunday, riding the London Transport Miniature Railway. Timed tickets must be booked in advance. Admission charges apply. For bookings, head to www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/depot/art-poster.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Japanese works at the Queen’s Gallery; Raphael at The National Gallery; Food Season at the British Library; and, Enid Marx’s Blue Plaque…

Itaya Hiroharu, folding screen paintings, 1860. Sent to Queen Victoria by Shōgun Tokugawa Iemochi, 1860.

A first-of-its-kind exhibition featuring the Royal Collection’s Japanese works of art opens at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, tomorrow. Japan: Courts and Culture, features more than 150 works including rare porcelain, samurai armour, woodcut prints, embroidered screens and a range of diplomatic gifts sent during the reigns of monarchs ranging from King James I to Queen Elizabeth II. Among the highlights are a pair of folding screens sent to Queen Victoria in 1860 from the Japanese Shōgun Tokugawa Iemochi which will go on public display for the first time since they arrived at the British court 162 years ago. The screen paintings, which depict the changing seasons, were not thought to have survived but in recent years research has revealed the two screens were the work of Itaya Hiroharu, one of the artists likely to have worked on Queen Victoria’s gifts. Also included in gift was a set of lacquer furniture, spears inlaid with glittering mother of pearl, and swords made by leading court swordsmiths – all of which will also be on display. Admission charge applies. Runs until 26 February, 2023. For more, see www.rct.uk.

Raphael, The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas of Bari (‘The Ansidei Madonna’) (1505), © The National Gallery, London

• Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Raphael, one of the first-ever exhibitions to explore the complete career of this giant of the Italian Renaissance opens at The National Gallery on Saturday. The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael, which was supposed to be held in 2020 and was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, features more than 90 exhibits. They include a rare gathering of Raphael’s paintings of the Virgin and Child including Ansidei Madonna (The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas of Bari) (1505), two bronze roundels – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas and The Descent into Limbo – from Santa Maria della Pace which have never previously exhibited outside Italy and which are attributed to Cesarino Rossetti after designs by Raphael, and a room devoted to Raphael’s frescoes for Pope Julius II’s private apartments. There are also several of his original print designs, an survey of ancient Rome he undertook for Pope Leo X, tapestry designs including Saint Paul Preaching at Athens (workshop of, or on behalf of, Pieter van Aelst, active about 1490–1533, after design by Raphael, about 1517–19), and portraiture from his final years including Portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1518) and Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1519). Admission charge applies. Runs until 31st July. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/the-credit-suisse-exhibition-raphael.

• The British Library’s Food Season kicks off today with almost two months of online and in-person events inspired by the cookbooks, recipes and culinary stories in the collection. Highlights include chef Ainsley Harriott talking about his life and career with food-writer Melissa Thompson, food-writer Maunika Gowardan celebrating India’s breadth of food cultures with chefs and food-writers including Ravinder Bhogal, Romy Gill, Kavi Thakrar and Farokh Talati, chef and broadcaster Andi Oliver discussing Jessica B Harris’ 50- year career examining the history and meaning of food for the African diaspora, and psychologist Kimberley Wilson chairing a discussion about the food prisoners are fed inside British correctional institutions and if it impacts rehabilitation. Now in its fifth year, the 2022 Food Season is supported by KitchenAid. For the full programme of events, head to www.bl.uk/events/food-season.

Textile designer Enid Marx – famous for her seat fabric designs on the London Underground – has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque was unveiled this week at her former home at 39 Thornhill Road where she lived and worked for more than 30 years. Marx, who shared the house with her partner, Margaret Lambert, and friends Eleanor Breuning and Grace Lambert (Breuning continues to live at the house today), had a purpose-built studio in the back garden which remains in similar condition to when she left it almost 25 years ago. Alongside her work for the London Underground, Marx also is known for her design of postage stamps marking the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign in 1953. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

This Week in London – Beryl Gilroy at the British Library; Milligan statue acquired; and, ‘Play in the Pandemic’…

Beryl Gilroy © The Estate of Beryl Gilroy

The archive of writer, teacher and ethno-psychotherapist Beryl Gilroy has been acquired by the British Library. Highlights from the archive, which includes working drafts for published and unpublished novels, letters with publishers and literary agents and ‘born-digital’ material, is at the centre of the free Celebrating Beryl Gilroy display which opened in the Treasures Gallery earlier this month. Gilroy, who was born in Guyana (then British Guiana) and who immigrated to Britain in 1952, became the first black head teacher in London in 1969 and wrote a number of acclaimed children’s books to better reflect the lives of her pupils. Her works – which explore the lives of families, particularly of women and children, the impact of 20th century migration and societal change that came as a result – also included number of novels, a collection of poems, non-fiction writing and a 1976 memoir, Black Teacher. The free display can be seen until 26th June. For more, see www.bl.uk.

A controversial bronze statue of merchant and slave trader Robert Milligan which formerly stood on West India Quay outside the Museum of London Docklands is joining the museum’s collection. The statue was removed in June, 2020, following a petition signed by over 4,000 people called for it to be removed from public view. Its acquisition by the museum follows a public consultation conducted in partnership with the Tower Hamlets Council and landowners Canal & River Trust, which concluded that the statue should be housed in a museum where it can be fully contextualised. “Over the last 15 years, the museum has been working with academics, community leaders and activists to tell the story of London’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, and give voice to its legacy,” said a museum spokesman. “The West India Docks, championed by Milligan using wealth from the slave trade, are a visible reminder of how this history has shaped our city. It is right and important that we acknowledge this in the statue’s story. We will now take time to consult with the local community to decide how best to take this forward as part of our collection.” The statue will be held in storage whilst the museum consults further with local communities about how best to present it.

TY® Toy Collection with IV drips, masks and in hospital This eight-year-old child’s toy collection reflected many real-life pandemic experiences, such as wearing masks, getting vaccinated and hospital treatments.Submitted by Fei Victor Lim 2020-21, Singapore © The Play Observatory. PICTURE: Play In The Pandemic, curated by Young V&A, from 23 March 2022, playinthepandemic.play-observatory.com

• The impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on children’s play is the subject of an online exhibition launched by Young V&A and its partners UCL and the University of Sheffield this week. Play In The Pandemic features some of the 100 submissions sent in from around the globe in answer to a call-out from The Play Observatory research project for people to submit their experiences of play – everything from music videos to children’s artworks and films made by parents showing their children splashing in puddles – alongside objects from the Young V&A’s collection. The exhibition, which takes the form of an unfolding origami house, also features a series of activities – ranging from how to make your own origami house to creating dens and window boxes for people to get involved. Head to the Play Observatory website.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – William Hogarth and the Europeans; Christmas in the post; and, Paul McCartney’s lyrics…

William Hogarth, ‘Marriage A-la-Mode: 2, The Tête à Tête’ (1743) 45 © The National Gallery, London.

• See the works of 18th century English artist William Hogarth alongside those of his European contemporaries in a new exhibition which opened at Tate Britain this week. Hogarth and Europe features more than 60 of Hogarth’s works and has some of his best-known paintings and prints – such as Marriage A-la-Mode (1743), The Gate of Calais (1748), Gin Lane (1751) and his celebrated series, A Rake’s Progress (1734) – shown alongside works by famed European artists including Jean-Siméon Chardin, Pietro Longhi, and Cornelis Troost. The display also includes Hogarth’s work, Miss Mary Edwards (1742) – it depicts the eccentric, wealthy patron who commissioned many of Hogarth’s best-known works and has not been seen in the UK for more than century. Admission charge applies. See www.tate.org.uk.

The first commercial Christmas card, created after civil servant Henry Cole commissioned artist​ John​ Callcott​ Horsley to design one for him in 1843, can once again been seen at The Postal Museum’s permanent display. That’s just one of the drawcards (pardon the pun), at the Postal Museum in the lead-up to Christmas with others including a new display, Letters to Santa, featuring Royal Mail cards sent by Father Christmas to children between 1963 and 2010 (from a recently donated collection), and the chance to ride on the Mail Rail which has undergone a Christmas makeover. The museum is also holding a series of ‘Festive Family Fun Days’ on selected dates in December. Admission charges apply. For more, head to www.postalmuseum.org.

Handwritten lyrics and photographs spanning the career of Paul McCartney feature in a new free Entrance Hall display at the British Library from tomorrow. Paul McCartney: The Lyrics features previously unseen materials from his personal archives as it reveals the process and people behind some of the most famous songs of all time, from some of his earliest compositions to his time with The Beatles, Wings and through to today. The display accompanies his new book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. Can be seen until 13th March next year. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/paul-mccartney-the-lyrics.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Free family festival kicks off this weekend; Beano the subject of Somerset House exhibition; and, lawyer Helena Normanton honoured…

Pop-Up London, a free festival for families, kicks off in central London on Saturday and runs throughout the half-term break until 31st October. The festival features more than 300 artists – including musicians, dancers, comedy acts and circus performers – who can be seen in more than 100 performances at locations including Trafalgar Square, King’s Cross, Spitalfields, and Canary Wharf. The diverse range of acts will include Brazilian drumming, Cantonese story-telling and Caribbean steelpans. For the full list of events. head to www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/lets-do-london/pop-up-london.

The Bash Street Kids cut outs in ‘Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules’ PICTURE: Stephen Chung for Somerset House

The world’s longest-running weekly comic, Beano, is celebrated in a new exhibition opening at Somerset House today. Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules features 100 comic artworks from the Beano archive exhibited, including original drawings never previously seen in public, and, works by contemporary artists including artist duo Gilbert & George, sculptor Phyllida Barlow and Oscar-winning animator Nick Park as well as larger-than-life recreations of Beano’s most iconic settings and interactive installations including Peter Liversidge’s patchwork of protest signs and a jukebox filled with music influenced by Beano’s rebellious streak. Beano was first released in 1938 and is still created weekly at its home in Dundee. This year marks the 70th since Dennis, Beano‘s top mischief-maker, made his debut. Runs until 6th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.somersethouse.org.uk/beano.

Barrister and women’s rights advocate Helena Normanton (1882-1957) has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her former home. The plaque at 22 Mecklenburgh Square – where Normanton lived from 1919 to 1931 – was unveiled almost 100 years since she passed her Bar finals on 26th October, 1921. Normanton played an instrumental tole in paving the way for women to practice law, being the first female students one of London’s Inns of Court, one of the first women to be called to the Bar, the first female counsel to lead a case in the High Court, the first woman to run a trial at the Old Bailey and the first women to lead murder trials in England as well as one of the first two women to take silk as King’s Counsel. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots; Ellen and William Craft honoured; and, Kehinde Wiley’s ‘Portrait of Melissa Thompson’…

Ink and pencil drawing of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay Castle, 8th February, 1587 © British Library (Additional MS 48027, f. 650r)

• The complex relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the British Library in King’s Cross tomorrow. Highlights of Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens, the first major exhibition to consider both women together, include Queen Elizabeth I’s 1545 handwritten translation of her stepmother Katherine Parr’s Prayers and Meditations – a gift for her father King Henry VIII, a sonnet by Mary, Queen of Scots, which was handwritten the night before she was executed in 1587 (possibly the last thing she ever wrote), the ‘Penicuik Jewels’ which she is thought to have given away on the day of her death and Robert Beale’s eye-witness drawing depicting her entering the hall, disrobing, and placing her head on the block (pictured right). Other items on show include King Henry VIII’s Great Bible (dating from 1540, it was later inherited by Elizabeth I), Elizabeth I’s mother-of-pearl locket ring (c1575) containing miniature portraits of herself and her mother Anne Boleyn, and the warrant confining Mary, Queen of Scots, in Lochleven Castle in 1567. The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events. Runs until 20th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/elizabeth-and-mary.

Nineteenth century African-American abolitionists Ellen and William Craft have been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at their former Hammersmith home. The Crafts escaped from enslavement in Georgia in the US in December, 1848, and fled to Britain, settling in a mid-Victorian house at 26 Cambridge Grove where they raised a family and campaigned for an end to slavery. The Crafts returned to the US following the end of the American Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved people and settled in Boston with three of their children. In 1873, they established the Woodville Cooperative Farm School in Bryan County, Georgia, for the children of those who had been emancipated. Ellen died in Georgia in 1891 and William in Charleston in 1900.

Melissa Thompson standing beside Kehinde Wiley’s Portrait of Melissa Thompson, 2020, now on display at the V&A © Victoria and Albert Museum

American artist Kehinde Wiley’s monumental Portrait of Melissa Thompson has gone on display in the V&A’s British Galleries, alongside William Morris’s Wild Tulip designs that inspired it. The massive oil painting, which was created as part of Wiley’s series The Yellow Wallpaper and was first exhibited at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow in 2020, was acquired earlier this year and is being displayed as part of a series of initiatives marking the 125th anniversary of William Morris’s death this October. The painting will be displayed in the William Morris Room (room 125) until 2024, after which it will move to its permanent home at V&A East Museum in 2025. Admission is free. For more, head to vam.ac.uk.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Paddington’s story; pioneering neurologist JS Risien Russell honoured; and, Sir Quentin Blake’s gift…

Michael Bond with plush Paddington. PICTURE: © P & Co. Ltd 2021

A new family friendly exhibition celebrating Paddington Bear opens at the British Library tomorrow. The Story of a Bear features more than 50 books, documents, film clips and original artworks as it explores Michael Bond’s creation of the much loved children’s book character. Highlights include a first edition of Bond’s A Bear Called Paddington published in 1958, Barbara Ker Wilson’s original review of the book, photographs and memorabilia of Michael Bond on loan from his family as well as original illustrations of Paddington stories by artists including Peggy Fortnum, David McKee and RW Alley. There are also clips from the Paddington movies and sound recordings featuring Bond speaking about his creation. The exhibition is ticketed (booking in advance recommended). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/paddington-the-story-of-a-bear.

Pioneering neurologist James Samuel Risien Russell has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home and practice in Marylebone. Russell, born in 1863 in what was then British Guiana (now Guyana), was one of the UK’s first Black consultants and played a critical role in establishing the British school of neurology in the 1890s. His contribution in furthering our understanding of many conditions of the nervous system and mental health issues has only recently come to light thanks to new research by the Windrush Foundation. Dr Risien Russell lived and worked at 44 Wimpole Street from 1902 until his death in March, 1939. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XACNk26xulk" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

• A display of images from Sir Quentin Blake have gone on show at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury to mark his gift of 24 drawings to the museum. Curated by children’s author and illustrator Lauren Child, Quentin Blake: Gifted features pictures form two series –  Children and Dogs and Children with Birds & Dogs – as well as a range of responses from writers including poetry collective 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE, children’s author and poet Michael Rosen and Scottish playwright, poet and novelist Jackie Kay. Admission charge applies. Runs until 26 September. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/events/quentin-blake-gifted/.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Buckingham Palace masterpieces; the Museum of London wants your dreams; theoretical physicist honoured; and, Khadija Saye’s self-portraits…

Gerrit Dou The Grocer’s Shop (1672) Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

World renowned artworks from Buckingham Palace’s Picture Gallery go on show at the Queen’s Gallery from tomorrow. Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace features 65 works by the likes of Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Dyck and Canaletto and, unlike in the tours of the State Rooms, visitors to the Queen’s Gallery will face the chance to enjoy the works close-up. The paintings on show include Johannes Vermeer’s The Music Lesson (early 1660s), Sir Peter Paul Rubens Milkmaids with Cattle in a Landscape, (c1617–18), Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633), Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day (c1733–4), Titian’s Madonna and Child in a Landscape with Tobias and the Angel (c1537) and Gerrit Dou’s The Grocer’s Shop (1672). The exhibition runs until January 2022. Advance booking is essential and admission charge applies. For more, see www.rct.uk.

The Museum of London is seeking to record the dreams of Londoners during the coronavirus pandemic in a new project with the Museum of Dreams at Western University in Canada. Guardians of Sleep represents the first time dreams as raw encounters and personal testimonies will be collected by a museum. Londoners are being asked to register their interest to take part by 15th January with conversations with members of the Dreams network – an international team of trained scholars from the psychosocial community, slated to be held over Zoom in February. Contributions will be considered for acquisition by the Museum of London as part of its ‘Collecting COVID’ project. To volunteer to participate in the study, or to find out more details, members of the public should contact info@museumofdreams.org.

Abdus Salam, a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, has been honoured with a Blue Plaque at his former property in Putney. The red brick Edwardian house was the Pakistani scientist’s London base from 1957 until his death in 1996. It features a study where Salam would write while listening to long-playing records of Quranic verses and music by composers ranging from Strauss to Gilbert and Sullivan. Salam’s work on electroweak theory contributed to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle – the ‘God particle’ which gives everything mass, and he was also involved in improving the status of science in developing countries.The unveiling comes as English Heritage issues a call for the public to nominate more notable scientists from history for its Blue Plaque scheme in London with only around 15 per cent of the 950 plus blue plaques across the capital dedicated to scientists. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

A self-portrait series by late Gambian-British artist Khadija Saye can be seen at the British Library’s entrance hall from today.  Khadija Saye: in this space we breathe features nine silk-screen prints and demonstrates Saye’s deep concern with “how trauma is embodied in the black experience” as well as her Gambian heritage and mixed-faith background. Saye, who died in 2017, photographed herself with cultural, religious and spiritual objects of significance both to her Christian mother and Muslim father and in African traditions of spirituality. The free display is on show until 2nd May. For more, see www.bl.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – The ‘Fight for Women’s Rights’ at the British Library; ghosts at Hampton Court Palace; and, Arctic culture at the British Museum…

Banners loaned from Southall Black Sisters, Bishopsgate Institute, People’s History Museum, Sisters Uncut, Feminist Archive South (Courtesy of the British Library)

The history of the women’s rights movement and the work of contemporary feminist activists is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the British Library tomorrow. Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, the opening of which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, features everything from personal diaries and banners to subversive literature, film, music and art. Highlights include protest poems written by Sylvia Pankhurst on toilet paper in Holloway Prison following her imprisonment for seditious activity in January 1921, a first edition of Jane Austen’s debut novel, Sense and Sensibility, published anonymously ‘By a Lady’ in 1811, and, football boots belonging to Hope Powell, a veteran player who became the first woman to manage England Women in 1998. There’s also records of surveillance carried out on Sophia Duleep Singh, one of Queen Victoria’s god-daughters and a supporter of campaigns for women’s suffrage, and a piece of fence wire cut by writer Angela Carter’s friends and sent to her as a present from RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire where they were protesting against nuclear missiles. Runs until 21st February next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk.

Like a good ghost story? Hampton Court Palace is launched a new self-guided ‘Creepy Stories and Ghostly Encounters’ trail on Saturday. The trail takes in sites including those where the ‘Grey Lady’ – said to be the ghost of Tudor nursemaid – has appeared since Victorian times, the locations said to be haunted by two of King Henry VIII’s queens – Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard, and the site where a spectral figure was captured on film slamming shut a door in 2003. The palace is also unveiling a new display of carved pumpkins in the Royal Kitchen Garden. Entry charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

The first major exhibition on the history of the Arctic and its Indigenous people, through the lens of climate change and weather, has opened at the British Museum. The Citi exhibition, Arctic: culture and climate, reveals how Arctic people have adapted to climate variability in the past and are facing today’s weather challenges. It features everything from rare archaeological finds, unique tools and clothing as well as artworks and contemporary photography with highlights including an eight-piece Igloolik winter costume made of caribou fur and an Inughuit (Greenlandic) sled made from narwhal and caribou bone and pieces of driftwood which was traded to Sir John Ross on his 1818 expedition as well as artworks commissioned specifically for the exhibition. These include an Arctic monument of stacked stones, known as an Inuksuk – used to mark productive harvesting locations or to assist in navigation – which was built by Piita Irniq, from the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut, Canada. Can be seen in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery until 21st February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – King’s maps go online; life at Tower Bridge; Wildlife Photographer of the Year; and, the Gruffalo at Kew…

• Treasures including a hand-drawn map of New York City presented to the future King James II in 1664, Nicholas Hawksmoor’s architectural drawings for Castle Howard and some London churches, and Italian Jesuit Matteo Ripa’s massive 1719 Kangxi Map of China are among thousands of maps and views The British Library have placed online. The library is now nearing the end of the project to put 40,000 early maps and views online and most can now be accessed via the library’s Flickr Commons collection website. The documents are all part of the Topographical Collection of King George III, itself a distinct segment of the King’s Library which was donated to the Nation by King George IV in 1823. Other highlights to go online include Italian artist Bernardo Bellotto’s drawings of the town of Lucca, dating from about 1742, James Cook’s 1763 large manuscript map of the islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, and watercolours by noted 18th century artists including Paul Sandby and Samuel Hieronymus Grimm. PICTURED: Nicholas Hawksmoor, [An elevation and plan for St George, Bloomsbury]. London, between 1712 and 1730. Maps K.Top 23.16.2.a.

• A new exhibition celebrating the lives of those who work behind the scenes at Tower Bridge and the visitors who walk its floors opens in the iconic bridge’s Engine Rooms on Friday. Lives of a Landmark features images commissioned in 2019 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the bridge. Photographer Lucy Hunter spent several months at the bridge, recording daily life there and this display is the result. Admission charge applies. For more, head here.

Winning images from The Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year – including Sergey Gorshkov’s Grand Title winner, a rare glimpse of Siberian tigress – go on show at the South Kensington-based museum from Friday. The exhibition features the 100 images, selected from more than 49,000 entries, that were short-listed for the 56th annual competition, the results of which were announced in a virtual ceremony earlier this week. Runs until 6th June. Admission charge applies. For more, head to www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year.html.

The Gruffalo is the subject of a new “curated journey” taking place over the half-term break in Kew Gardens’ Arboretum. Visitors are encouraged to play the role of the “little brown mouse” and follow a trail to track down the Gruffalo, along the way encountering some of the other characters from Julia Donaldson’s famous book including Fox, Owl and Snake. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Rare Hebrew manuscripts at British Library; British Museum to reopen; and art at the Old Royal Naval College…

The launch of a new exhibition looking at Hebrew manuscripts marks the next phase of the British Library reopening. Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word explores the history, culture and traditions of the Jewish people around the world and features rarely seen treasures including a letter to King Henry VIII written by an Italian rabbi in 1530 regarding Biblical laws that could support Henry VIII’s claim to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon as well as the earliest dated copy – 1380 – of Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, a rare uncensored copy of the Babylonian Talmud dating from the 13th century, and a 15th century illustrated copy of Abraham bar Hiyya’s Shape of the Earth, one of the first Jewish scientific works written in the Hebrew language. Also reopening is the library’s free permanent gallery – the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library – with a new one-way route taking in treasures including Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks and handwritten manuscripts by the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. For more on the exhibition and the library’s reopening, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: David Jensen.

The British Museum reopens to visitors from today after the longest closure in its 261 year history. Tickets must be pre-booked online or over the phone and visitors will be able to access the ground floor galleries through a new one-way route. The museum has also announced that Grayson Perry’s work, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman – an elaborate, cast-iron coffin-ship originally created for his British Museum exhibition of the same name in 2011 – is returning to the museum. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

A “celestial choir of spinning sound machines” can be seen at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich this weekend. Positioned in Lower Grand Square, Chorus is the monumental work of award-winning artist and British Composer of the Year Ray Lee. It features a series of giant metal tripods supporting rotating arms, at the end of which are loudspeakers which emit finely turned musical pitches. It can be viewed from Friday through to Monday. Meanwhile, the Painted Hall is hosting Luke Jerram’s artwork Gaia which features NASA imagery in creating a virtual, 3D small scale Earth. Gaia can be seen from tomorrow until 6th September (admission charge applies).  For more, see www.ornc.org.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This (Year) in London – Five exhibitions you won’t want to miss in 2020…

It’s our first ‘This Week in London’ for 2020 so instead of our usual programming, we thought we’d briefly look at five key exhibitions that you won’t want to miss this year…

1. Thomas Becket at the British Museum. Marking the 850th anniversary of the murder of the medieval Archbishop of Canterbury on 29th December, 1170, the museum will host the first ever major exhibition on the life, death and legacy of the archbishop as part of a year-long programme of events which also includes performances, pageants, talks, film screenings and religious services. The exhibition will run from 15th October to 14th February, 2021. PICTURE: Alabaster sculpture, c 1450–1550, England. Here, Becket is shown kneeling at an altar, his eyes closed and his hands clasped in prayer, all the while four knights draw their swords behind him. To Becket’s right is the monk Edward Grim, whose arm was injured by one of the knight’s swords. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

2. Elizabeth and Mary at the British Library. This exhibition draws on original historic documents to  take a fresh look at what’s described as the “extraordinary and fascinating story of two powerful queens, both with a right to the English throne: Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots”. Letters and other 16th century documents will show how their struggle for supremacy in the isles played out. Runs from 23rd October to 21st February, 2021.

3. Tudors to Windsors at the National Maritime Museum. This major exhibition promises to give visitors “the opportunity to come face-to-face with the kings, queens and their heirs who have shaped British history and were so central to Greenwich”.  Including more than 150 works covering five royal dynasties, it will consider the development of royal portraiture over a period spanning 500 years and how they were impacted by the personalities of individual monarchs as well as wider historical changes. Will be held from April.

4. Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King at Hampton Court Palace. Marking the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold – King Henry VIII’s landmark meeting with his great rival, the French King François I, the exhibition will feature a treasure trove of precious objects from the English and French courts as well as a never-before-seen tapestry, manufactured in the 1520s, which depicts a bout of wrestling at the meeting presided over by François and which also shows a black trumpeter among the many musicians depicted. Opens on 10th April. The palace will also play host this year to Henry VIII vs François I: The Rematch, a nine day festival of jousting, wrestling and foot combat complete with feasting, drinking and courtly entertainment. Runs from 23rd to 31st May.

5. Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. This display brings together, for the first time, the three surviving versions of the iconic ‘Armada Portrait’ of Elizabeth I. The portrait commemorates the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to invade England and the display will include the Royal Museums Greenwich’s own version of the painting along with that from the National Portrait Gallery and that which normally hangs in Woburn Abbey. Runs from 13th February to 31st August.

We’ll feature more details in stories throughout the coming year. But, of course, this is just a sample of what’s coming up this year – keep an eye on Exploring London for more…

This Week in London – Children’s literary rebels; immerse yourself in Leonardo; and, a rare Jubilee Line journey…

Pippi Longstocking, Matilda and the Zog are among a pantheon of beloved children’s literary characters at the heart of a new exhibition opening at the British Library tomorrow. Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels features about 40 books, manuscripts and original artworks spanning a period of 300 years and puts a spotlight on the “rebels, outsiders and spirited survivors” within the library’s collection of children’s literature. Highlights include a UK first edition of Anne of Green Gables, the first version of Cruikshank’s coloured illustrations of Oliver Twist as well as original artworks for books including Tracy Beaker, What Planet Are You From, Clarice Bean?, Zog (pictured above), When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Azzi in Between. The free exhibition, which can be seen until 1st March, is accompanied by a programme of events. For more, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: © Zog by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler 2010 (Alison Green Books).

A new immersive exploration of the work of Leonardo da Vinci, centred on The Virgin of the Rocks, opens at the National Gallery on Saturday. Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece encompasses a range of multi-sensory experiences presented across four rooms, allowing visitors to step into the painting’s setting, explore Leonardo’s own research and how he employed science in his effects of light and shadow in the painting and even visit a modern conservation studio and see how recent search revealed the previously hidden drawings behind the masterpiece. The experience, which is the work of 59 Productions, can be enjoyed until 12th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Virgin of the Rocks (about 1491/2-9 and 1506-8) – tracing of the lines relating to underdrawing for the first composition, incorporating information from all technical images. © The National Gallery, London

The Jubilee Line has turned 40 and to mark the occasion, the Jubilee Line in conjunction with London Transport Museum’s Hidden London programme are offering the chance to travel on the original route of the train. The trip includes a section of the track now not open to the public. The 96 stock train leaves from Stanmore station at 9am Sunday, terminating at Charing Cross, or from Charing Cross at 1pm, terminating at Stanmore. When Exploring London looked this week, only tickets for the 9am trip were still available. To buy tickets (which must be purchased in advance), head to www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/heritage-vehicles-outings.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – St Paul’s Watch remembered in digital projections; Buddhism at the British Library; and, Elizabeth Peyton at the National Portrait Gallery…

The story of the St Paul’s Watch, the volunteers who worked to protect St Paul’s Cathedral during the Blitz, will be told in a digital display projected onto the cathedral’s facade this weekend. Where The Light Falls is being held in partnership with Historic England and is part of Fantastic Feats: the building of London – the City of London’s six-month cultural events season. It will see a display of poetry, visuals and photography, created by Poetry Society and Double Take Projections, projected onto the cathedral’s south side, north side and main facade in honour of those men and women who, armed with sandbags and water pumps, risked their lives to save the cathedral. The free show lasts for about 20 minutes and can be seen between 6.30pm and 10pm from tonight until Saturday night and then from 8pm to 10pm on Sunday. Meanwhile, St Paul’s is also open for a special late opening on Friday night during which poets from the Poetry Society will be bringing to life accounts of loss, bravery and sacrifice. Admission charge applies. For more on both events, head here.

The history, teachings and contemporary relevance of Buddhism are being explored in a major new exhibition opening at the British Library on Friday. Buddhism features rare and colourful scrolls, painted wall hangings and folding books and will highlight the theory, practice and art of Buddhism, examine the enduring iconography of Buddha and consider what it means to be Buddhist today. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a program of events, runs until 23rd February. For more, see www.bl.uk.

On Now: Elizabeth Peyton: Aire and Angels. This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is the first to situate the work of contemporary artist Elizabeth Peyton within the historical tradition of portraiture. In additional to the more than 40 works on display in the exhibition, Peyton has been honoured by being first artist to be given the run of the entire gallery with a series of displays within the permanent collection which juxtapose Peyton’s art with historic portraits from the Tudor period onwards. Among her portraits on show are those of Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth II, Yuzuru Hanyu, Frida Kahlo, Tyler the Creator, Isa Genzken, David Bowie, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, David Fray, and Louis XIV. Runs until 5th January. Entry is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk/elizabethpeyton.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.