This Week in London – Christmas at Hampton Court Palace; the V&A’s couture Christmas Tree; and, the stories of Asian and African foundlings…

Festive Fayre returns to Hampton Court Palace this weekend with visitors having the chance to do some Christmas shopping, sample some festive treats and enjoy live music. The festival, which runs from Friday to Sunday, takes place ahead of the launch of the palace’s Christmas light trail – Palace of Light – next Wednesday (7th December). Inspired by Henry VIII’s heraldic beasts, it features an array of installations, ranging from a sea-monster lurking in the Great Fountain Garden to polka-dot panther lanterns in the Wilderness. Created by the award-winning outdoor event producers Wild Rumpus, the light trail can be visited until 2nd January. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

Christmas tree installation, designed by Miss Sohee PICTURE: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A has unveiled its couture Christmas Tree installation for this year – a work by London-based Korean fashion designer Miss Sohee. On display in the Cromwell Road Grand Entrance, the installation reimagines the traditional Christmas tree as a three metre long couture gown, which combines Sohee’s signature style of vibrant silhouettes and intricate embroidery with religious statuary found around the museum. The installation can be seen until 5th January. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

On Now – Tiny Traces: African & Asian Children at London’s Foundling Hospital. This exhibition at The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury explores the newly discovered stories of African and Asian children in the care of the hospital in the 18th century, following the stories of more than a dozen children through personal items, physical artefacts, works of art and archival documents. In a parallel thread, works of art by artists including Zarina Bhimji, Hew Locke, Kehinde Wiley, Alexis Peskine, Deborah Roberts and Shanti Panchal form a dialogue with the historic narratives. Admission charge applies. Runs until 19th February. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com

This Week in London – Bonfire Night; Treason at The National Archives; two Turner’s return after 100+ years; and, science fiction at the Science Museum…

A previous Bonfire Night in London. PICTURE: teo73/iStockphoto

“Remember, remember, the 5th of November…” It’s Bonfire Night this Saturday night and fireworks displays will be held across London with key displays at Alexandra Palace, Battersea Park and Wimbledon Park. Rather than list them all here, Visit London has put together a handy guide which you’ll find here.

A section of the Treason Act. PICTURE: Courtesy of The National Archives (Open Government Licence)

What did the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, the establishment of the Church of England, the creation of the United States of America and the extension of UK voting rights have to do with acts of treason? Treason: People, Power & Plot, a new exhibition at The National Archives in Kew, examines the role treason has played across the span of 700 years of history. On display will be the original Treason Act, passed in 1352 during the reign of King Edward III (pictured), and the Monteagle Letter – which suggested the recipient should not attend parliament on 5th November, 1605 (effectively tipping them off about the Gunpowder Plot) as well as Guy Fawkes’ confession, a document containing the charges levelled against King Henry VIII’s ill fated wife, Anne Boleyn, and the United States’ Declaration of Independence. Accompanying the display will be a range of online and on-site events. The free exhibition opens on Saturday and runs until 6th April. For more, see www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/treason/.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851) The Harbor of Dieppe, 1826 oil on canvas 68 3/8 in. x 88 3/4 in. (173.67 cm x 225.43 cm) Henry Clay Frick Bequest. Accession number: 1914.1.122

Two ground-breaking JMW Turner paintings – Harbour of Dieppe: Changement de Domicile and Cologne, the Arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening – have returned to the UK for the first time in more than 100 years as part of a new exhibition at The National Gallery. The Turner on Tour exhibition looks at the artist’s life-long fascination with ports and harbours and highlights the regular sketching tours he took within Europe that were central to his fame as an artist-traveller, as well as his “radical approach to colour, light and brushwork”. The two paintings, which have not been since in the UK since 1911, were exhibited in New York in 1914 at the Knoedler Gallery. They were subsequently acquired by the American industrialist Henry Clay Frick and have remained in the United States ever since but are now being generously lent by The Frick Collection. Can be seen until 19th February in Room 46. Admission is free. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.

On Now: Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination. This exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington features more than 70 objects and uncovers connections between significant scientific innovations and celebrated science fiction works. On display is classic literature that has inspired new understandings of the world as well as set-pieces and props from iconic films and TV – everything from a Lieutenant Uhura costume from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to the Dalek from Doctor Who and a Darth Vader helmet created for Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. There are also contemporary artworks from across the globe that explore alternative futures for humanity. The exhibition is accompanied by an events programme. Runs until 4th May. Admission charges apply. For more, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/science-fiction.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com

This Week in London – Musical theatre at the V&A; getting spooky at Hampton Court and the Tower; and, Bill Brandt at Tate Britain…

Costume for Eliza Doolittle in Lerner and Lowe’s musical My Fair Lady, designed by Cecil Beaton, worn by Julie Andrews, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1958. Given bythe Friends of the Victoria and Albert Museum.© Cecil BeatonImage courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The glittering world of musical theatre is at the centre of a new exhibition which opened at the V&A in South Kensington recently. Re:Imagining Musicals showcases some 100 objects, most being displayed for the first time, with highlights including Paul O’Grady’s Miss Hannigan costume from Annie, new costume acquisitions from SIX the MusicalEverybody’s Talking About JamieMoulin Rouge! The MusicalCompany, and A Chorus Line, the rarely displayed beaded gown designed by Cecil Beaton which was worn by Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady in 1958; the toy Olaf puppet from Frozen the Musical, and an original poster from the off-Broadway premiere of Hamilton signed by the cast and creatives. There’s also a 1965 original cast recording of Hello Dolly! signed by Carol Channing, Bunny Christie’s Olivier and Critics’ Circle award winning costume design, model and costume for Rosalie Craig as Bobbie in the 2019 West End revival of Company and Shakespeare’s first folio, which celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2023. The free display can be seen in the Theatre and Performance Galleries until 27th November, 2023. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/reimagining-musicals.

Base Court and cloisters dressed for the Halloween ghost trail at Hampton Court Palace. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces.

Visitors to Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London are being invited to explore some of the properties’ spookiest stories in the lead-up to Halloween. Until 30th October, visitors to Hampton Court are able to explore the stories of everyone from King James I to tormented wives to Tudor trumpeters with special effects including mystical projections and eerie sound effects. Meanwhile, until 31st October, visitors can follow in the footsteps of infamous prisoners at the Tower of London with “spooky decorations, spine-tingling sound effects, and rooms transformed to tell terrifying tales about past inhabitants” while ghostly figures such as the Welsh Prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn and King Henry VIII’s ill-fatded wife Anne Boleyn wander the grounds. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.

Bill Brandt – Woman Swimming
Tate. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the Estate of Barbara Lloyd and allocated to Tate 2009 © The Estate of Bill Brandt.

The work of British photographer Bill Brandt (1904-83) is the subject of a new exhibition at Tate Britain on Millbank. Bill Brandt: Inside the Mirror features 44 original photographs from across his career are displayed alongside the magazines and photobooks in which these images were most often seen. Brandt was first known as a photojournalist, renowned in the 1930s for his observations of British life, and later for his landscapes, portraits and nudes. Highlights include Woman Swimming (pictured), Hail, Hell & Halifax and his handmade photobook ‘A Dream’ – which is being exhibited for the first time. Runs until 15th January. Admission is free. For more, see tate.org.uk.

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

LondonLife – Celebrating wildlife at the Natural History Museum…

‘The Big Buzz’ by Karine Aigner, USA, winner of Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

An up-close image of a buzzing ball of cactus bees over the hot sand at a Texas ranch has won American photographer Karine Aigner the honour of Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The image depicts male bees as they compete for the attention of the single female bee at the centre of the ball. Aigner is the fifth woman to win the Grand Title award in the 58 year history of the competition, which is run by the Natural History Museum. Her image is being shown along with that of 16-year-old Thai Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn – who won Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for an up-close image of a whale’s baleen – as well as those of category winners in this year’s contest in a redesigned exhibition at the museum in South Kensington.  Alongside the photographs, the display features short videos, quotes from jury members and photographers and insights from museum scientists on how human actions continue to shape the natural world. The exhibition can be seen until 2nd July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year . The 59th annual competition is now open for entries. For more on how to enter, see www.nhm.ac.uk/wpy/competition.

‘The Beauty of Baleen’ by Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn, Thailand, winner of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

This Week in London – Korean pop culture at the V&A; of video games and conflict; and, William Kentridge at the RA…

Installation image featuring re-creation of Parasite bathroom scene, at Hallyu! The Korean Wave at the V&A Ⓒ Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From K-Pop to Parasite, the popular culture of South Korea is being celebrated in a new exhibition which opened at the V&A last weekend. Hallyu! The Korean Wave features around 200 objects across four thematic sections focused on the phenomenon known as ‘hallyu’ (meaning ‘Korean Wave’) which rose to prominence in the late 1990s and rippled across Asia before reaching across the world. Highlights including outfits worn by K-Pope idols PSY, Vespa and ATEEZ, an immersive recreation of Parasite’s bathroom set and monumental artworks by the likes of Nam June Paik, Ham Kyungah and Gwon Osang. There’s also fashion designs by Tchai Kim, Miss Sohee and Minju Kim, and early examples of advertising and branding, including an original poster from the Seoul Olympics, and the first Korean branded cosmetic from the 1910s. The display can be seen until 25th June next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/hallyu-the-korean-wave.

An exhibition which seeks to challenge perceptions about how video games interpret stories about war and conflict opens at the Imperial War Museum London on Friday. War Games: Real Conflicts | Virtual Worlds | Extreme Entertainment explores the relationship between video games and conflict through a series of 11 unique titles, including everything from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to 2D artillery game Worms and a military training simulator, which, over the last 40 years, have reflected events from the First World War to the present. The display features immersive installations, never-before-displayed objects and perspectives from industry experts. There’s also a retro gaming zone and a programme of supporting events. Admission is free. Runs until 28th May next year. For more, see iwm.org.uk/events/war-games.

William Kentridge, ‘Colleoni’, 2021. Hand-woven mohair tapestry, 350 x 300 cm. Courtesy the artist © William Kentridge
 

The work of celebrated South African artist and Honorary Royal Academician William Kentridge has gone on show the Royal Academy. Spanning the artist’s 41 year career, William Kentridge brings together important works spanning from the 1980s through to the present day, including charcoal drawings, animated films, a mechanical theatre, sculptures, tapestries and performance pieces. Highlights include a selection of Kentridge’s early, rarely-seen drawings from the 1980s and 1990s including three triptychs displayed together for the first time and the most significant work from the period, The Conservationist’s Ball, (1985) as well as around 25 large charcoal drawings, made for the creative process of the eleven animated Drawings for Projection, and the installation Black Box / Chambre Noire, (2005), a mechanical theatre piece including puppets and projections, which interrogates the harrowing story of the massacre of the Herero people in Namibia, now considered the first genocide of the 20th century. The display in the Main Galleries can be seen until 11th December. Admission charge applies. For more, see roy.ac/kentridge.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com

10 unusual parks or gardens in London…7. Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden…

A scene from the Wildlife Garden. PICTURE: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Opened in July, 1995, this garden in the grounds of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington has been found to be home to more than 3,300 species.

A scene from the Wildlife Garden. PICTURE: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

The garden, located on the corner of Cromwell Road and Queen’s Gate, and covering a single acre, was envisaged as a “place to put habitat creation and wildlife conservation into practice”, according to the museum’s website, where visitors can learn about wildlife in the UK and where naturalists, students and museum scientists carry out research.

It features a variety of habitats –  everything from woodland, grassland, scrub, heath, fen, aquatic, reedbed, and hedgerow as well as urban environments – and among the species living there have been hedgehogs, common frogs, ladybirds (Rhyzobius forestieri) and Greyface Dartmoor sheep which are brought in to graze in the autumn.

‘Bioblitzes’ are held during the year by experts and amateurs which involve recording as many species of plants, animals and fungi as possible within a day.

Under the museum’s Urban Nature Project, all five acres of the grounds are being transformed into a fully accessible green space that promotes urban wildlife research, conservation and awareness and according to the museum, the Wildlife Garden will have an integral role to play in that with its overall size doubled (check before visiting to ensure it’s not closed for the renovation work). The new gardens will open next summer.

WHERE: Wildlife Garden, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington (nearest Tube stations are South Kensington and Gloucester Road); WHEN: 11am to 5pm daily until 31st October (closed during wet weather); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/galleries-and-museum-map/wildlife-garden.html

This Week in London – Natural History Museum unveils a new ‘Urban Nature Project’; BBC at 100; and, UK sculpture goes online…

The Natural History Museum’s five acre site in South Kensington will be transformed into a free-to-visit green space under a new project. The Urban Nature Project will feature new outdoor galleries telling the story of life on Earth from 540 million years ago to the present day as it follows an immersive timeline of plants, trees, reptiles, birds and mammals. Children will come face-to-face with a giant bronze diplodocus surrounded by plants from the Jurassic period. The garden will also be home to scientific sensors gathering environmental DNA and acoustic data, to monitor, understand and protect urban nature. You can find out more and donate at www.nhm.ac.uk/support-us/urban-nature-project/donate.html.

Cyberman costume as used in the T.V. series ‘Dr Who’ made by the BBC, London, c1988

• A new display exploring how the BBC developed and popularised new media has opened at the Science Museum in South Kensington. BBC at 100 features five iconic items from broadcast history that have influenced how we interact wth modern media platforms. They include a six foot tall 1988 Cyberman costume from Doctor Who, a World War II “Midget” Portable Disc Recorder developed to bring listeners close to the reality of conflict, and the BBC microcomputer developed during the Computer Literacy Project in the 1980s. The display, which is part of the Science Museum Group’s  Broadcast 100  activities marking the 100th anniversary of the BBC and the 40th anniversary of Channel 4, to free to visit. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/bbc-100.

More than 36,000 sculptures on public display across the UK can be seen online. Art UK has photographed and digitised more than 13,500 outdoor sculptures as well as almost every sculpture inside public collections from the last 1,000 years. The project, which was funded with a £2.8million Heritage Fund grant and involved more than 500 photography and data volunteers, can be accessed at Art UK website

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

This Week in London – African fashion on show; green transport; and, the Upminster Tithe Barn…

Designed by Kofi Ansah, Ensembles for the wedding of Ashley Shaw-Scott Adjaye and David Adjaye. Ghana, 2014. Photographed in London in 2014 by Robert Fairer

• The work of some 45 designers from more than 20 countries can be seen in a landmark Africa Fashion exhibition opening at the V&A on Saturday. More than 250 objects are on display – half drawn from the museum’s collection and including 70 new acquisitions. Many of the garments come from the personal archives of iconic mid-20th century African designers including Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah and Alphadi and the exhibition also features the work of contemporary African fashion creatives such as Imane Ayissi, IAMISIGO, Moshions, Thebe Magugu and Sindiso Khumalo. The display includes personal insights from the designers, together with sketches, editorial spreads, photographs, film and catwalk footage. Runs until 16th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/africa-fashion.

Discover the role public transport is playing in keeping London green at London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton Town this weekend. The ‘Act-on It!’ Open Days, being held as part of London Climate Action Week, are part of London Transport Museum’s 18-month programme, Climate Crossroads, which shines a light on sustainable cities, travel, transport and greener skills for the future. Along with the artworks, maps and signage housed at depot, visitors will be able to explore the museum’s extensive collection of historic vehicles including Tube trains, buses, trolleybuses and trams including, for the first time, the iconic RM1 Routemaster, built in 1954, displayed alongside the ADL/BYD Enviro 400 Electric, the best-in class bus from route 63. There’s also family activities – including storey-telling sessions, miniature transport displays made entirely of LEGO, and rides on the London Transport Miniature Railway. Tickets must be booked in advance. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/depot/summer.

The Upminster Tithe Barn has an open day on Saturday. The more than 500-year-old barn, these days houses the Museum of Nostalgia which holds more than 14,500 artifacts of domestic and agricultural use, ranging from Roman times to the present day. For more, see http://upminstertithebarn.co.uk.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – The Queen in wartime; Dippy returns; and, ‘Cancer Revolution’ at the Science Museum…

A new exhibition exploring the Queen’s role during wartime opens at IWM London in Lambeth tomorrow. Part of a suite of events at IWM venues celebrating the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime features 18 images drawn from the museum’s image archive which chart the Queen’s experience of war – from growing up during World War II when she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service to her role in carrying out important public duties involving the armed forces, including at the annual Service of Remembrance. Among newly digitised photographs included in the display are an image of the Queen dressed in overalls and cap while working on a vehicle during her time in the ATS, and another showing her with her father, King George VI, and mother, Queen Elizabeth, during a visit to airborne forces in 1944. IWM London is also launching a dedicated trail of historic objects spread across five gallery spaces which explores the Royal Family’s long-standing association with the British armed forces. Objects include a Princess Mary Gift Fund box which was sent to those serving at Christmas in 1914. Runs until 8th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/events/queens-platinum-jubilee-iwm-london.

Dippy at the Natural History Museum. © Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

• Dippy the dinosaur is back for a limited time at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington from tomorrow. A free, temporary exhibition – Dippy Returns: the nation’s favourite dinosaur – gives visitors the chance to get up close and personal with the 26 metre-long dinosaur which first went on display at the museum in 1905. The display comes at the end of a record-breaking tour of the UK in which Dippy was seen by more than two million people. Can be seen until 2nd January. To book tickets, head to www.nhm.ac.uk.

The first major exhibition to explore the history and future of cancer treatment and research opened at the Science Museum in South Kensington this week. Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope features more than 100 objects including some never-before seen as well as information on cutting edge treatment and research, new artist commissions and installations, interactive exhibits and a breadth of personal stories. Runs until January, 2023. Admission is free but bookings required. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/cancer-revolution-science-innovation-and-hope.

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

This Week in London – Greek architecture and the British Museum; and, ‘The Art of Menswear’ at the V&A…

East front of the Parthenon; narrow walled street on r, with garden on l with three figures, beyond front of Parthenon with mosque behind’. 1765 Pen and grey ink and watercolour, with bodycolour, over graphite © The Trustees of the British Museum

A new display celebrating the influence of the ancient Greek architectural influence on the British Museum building is open at the museum. The Asahi Shimbun Displays Greek Revival: simplicity and splendour centres on a 200-year-old drawing of the west side of the Parthenon in Athens by British architect Robert Smirke. Smirke drew the Parthenon – still surrounded by medieval and later structures – when he was just 23-years-old and would go on, in the 1820s, to design the British Museum, one of the largest and most famous Greek Revival buildings in the world. Alongside the display is a online visitor trail which features 11 stops around the museum including the south facade and its colonnade and portico of 44 Ionic columns and the opulent Enlightenment Gallery. The free exhibition can be seen until 8th May in Room 3. For more, see britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/greek-revival-simplicity-and-splendour; for more on the trail head to britishmuseum.org/visit/object-trails/greek-revival-architecture-simplicity-and- splendour.

• The first major exhibition to celebrate “the power, artistry and diversity” of masculine attire and appearance opens at the V&A’s Sainsbury Gallery on Saturday. Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear features around 100 looks and 100 artworks displayed across three galleries – Undressed, Overdressed, and Redressed – and includes both contemporary looks and historic treasures. Fashion designers Harris Reed, Gucci, Grace Wales Bonner and Raf Simons will be represented along with paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola and Joshua Reynolds, contemporary artworks by Robert Longo and Omar Victor Diop, and an extract from an all-male dance performance by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. Interspersed will be outfits worn by such famous faces as Harry Styles, Billy Porter, Sam Smith, David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich. Runs until 6th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see vam.ac.uk/masculinities.

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

This Week in London – Beatrix Potter and nature; a tribute to Stephen Hawking; and, illuminated trails and free performances in central London…

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, Peter with handkerchief by Beatrix Potter, 1904. Watercolour and pencil on paper. © National Trust Images/ From Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 12 February 2022 – 8 January 2023.

• Artworks from some of Beatrix Potter’s most famous storybooks and sketches of the real-life animals, places, art and literature that inspired them are at the heart of a new exhibition opening at the V&A in South Kensington on Saturday. Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, which is being run in partnership with the National Trust, features more than 240 personal objects which also include rarely seen personal letters, family photographs, early sketchbooks, manuscripts and scientific drawings in a family friendly display exploring Potter’s passion for animals and the natural world. The display is spread across four sections: ‘Town and Country’ which provides the backdrop to her childhood in South Kensington in London; ‘Under the Microscope’ which highlights Potter’s interest in natural science; ‘A Natural Storyteller’ which reveals her “almost accidental journey to becoming a best-selling author”; and, ‘Living Nature’ which follows Potter to the Lake District and celebrates her profound impact on the natural landscape. The exhibition can be seen until 8th January next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/beatrix-potter-drawn-to-nature.

A rare copy of renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis (one of only five known copies), his Permobil F3 model wheelchair and a blackboard which hung on his office wall have gone on show at the Science Museum as part of a new exhibition on his working life. Stephen Hawking at Work also features his spectacles which were adapted to aid communication, a photograph from the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Hawking made a guest appearance, the insignia given to him on becoming a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1986, and an invitation to a time travellers’ party Hawking hosted. The blackboard, one of Hawking’s most treasured possessions, came from a 1980 conference – Superspace and Supergravity – at which delegates covered it in equations, cartoons and jokes about each other. Hawking’s subsequently had the blackboard framed and hung in his office. The free display can be seen until 12th June. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/stephen-hawking.

• Free immersive outdoor light installations and pop-up performances can be seen in the city’s centre over this half-term as part of the Mayor of London’s ongoing ‘Let’s Do London’ campaign. The events include ‘City Lights’ – an illuminated light trail in the City of London by internationally renowned artists including Colour by Light which invites people to use their smartphones to turn the city into a colourful canvas (11th to 20th February), free pop-up performances in the streets of central London including storytelling, puppetry, dance, and music (17th to 20th February) as well as discounts to West End shows and dining out. For other events and more information, head to www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/lets-do-london.

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

This Week in London – Borealis at Guildhall Yard; princess panto costumes; and ancient Greeks at the Science Museum…

Borealis. PICTURE: Doug Southall

A dazzling light show inspired by the Northern Lights – one of the seven natural wonders of the world – can be seen in the Guildhall Yard this December. Borealis – which can be seen between 11th and 22nd December – is the work of artist Dan Acher and is one of a number of light displays which is illuminating London this winter as part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ‘Winter Lights’ campaign. Others include an animal-themed display bringing to life the beasts that once lived at the Tower of London, an outdoor programme of installations and video art projections illuminating the Southbank Centre’s site, the ‘Illuminated River’ display lighting up nine of London’s bridges in what is be the longest public art project in the world, and a free Canary Wharf ‘Winter Lights Spectacular’ in January which will feature 20 new light commissions by some of the most innovative artists across the globe. In Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, thousands of illuminated white roses will form an ‘Ever After Garden’ designed by fashion designer Anya Hindmarch while traditional favourites like the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland as well as winter markets and ice rinks at locations like the Natural History Museum and Somerset House are also once again returning to the city. London’s red buses are an easy way to see the Christmas lights this year with routes 12, 94, 98, 139 and 390 all travelling through Oxford Circus. Free tickets to Borealis can be booked at www.visitlondon.com/Borealis while, for more on the best bus routes, see https://londonblog.tfl.gov.uk/festive-bus-routes/. For more information on all the light shows and events (some of which are already underway), see visitlondon.com    .

Costumes worn by then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret in wartime-era pantomimes are at the heart of a new display at Windsor Castle this Christmas. The princesses spent much of their time at Windsor during World War II – away from the Blitz in London – and, between 1941 and 1944, they performed in and helped to stage a series of pantomimes to raise money for the Royal Household Wool Fund which supplied knitting wool to make comforters for soldiers fighting at the front. Six of the costumes they wore have been brought together for the first time and are being displayed in the castle’s Waterloo Chamber where the pantos were originally performed. The costumes on show were worn in the last two pantos – Aladdin, which was performed in 1943, and Old Mother Red Riding Boots which was performed in 1944. Also on show are 16 large scale pictures of fairy-tale characters that were pasted around the walls to create the space for the performances. Visitors to Windsor this Christmas will also see State Apartments decorated for the festive season and a 20 foot high Christmas tree in St George’s Hall. The Semi-State Rooms, created for King George IV and now used for official entertaining, are also now open to visitors. The costumes can be seen until 31st January. Admission charges apply. For more on the Christmas activities at Windsor, including a ‘Mary, Queen of Scots at Christmas Family Activity Day’ on 18th December, see www.rct.uk/whatson/. Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace is offering guided tours of the State Rooms over winter with special family guided tours available for the first time. The tours run until 30th January. Admission charge applies. For more on the guided tours, head here and for more on the family tours, head here.

• The ancient Greeks’ pursuit of knowledge is the subject of a new exhibition which has opened at the Science Museum in South Kensington. Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom takes visitors on a journey in which they will sail the perilous seas with a statue of Hermes that was discovered on a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera, experience the lost music of the aulos instrument through interactive displays and an exclusive video that reimagines its ancient sounds, and gaze at the starry cosmos through ancient Greek eyes via a beautiful and rare silver globe depicting the known constellations and a Byzantine sundial-calendar – the second oldest known geared mechanism in the world. The free display can be seen until 5th June. Tickets are required – to book head to sciencemuseum.org.uk/ancient-greeks.

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

This Week in London – Faberge eggs; Royal jeweller Garrard; and, Christmas at Kew…

The Alexander Palace Egg, Fabergé. Chief Workmaster Henrik Wigström (1862-1923), gold, silver, enamel, diamonds, rubies, nephrite, rock crystal, glass, wood, velvet, bone, 1908 © The Moscow Kremlin Museums

• The largest collection of Faberge’s Imperial Easter eggs to be displayed together in a generation go on show at the V&A from Saturday. Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution is the first major exhibition devoted to the international prominence of Russian goldsmith, Carl Fabergé, and his little-known London branch. Divided into three sections which cover everything from the techniques and detailing synonymous with the Faberge name to his time in London, the royal patronage he received, and the impact of the Great War and Russian Revolution on the business. The display features more than 200 objects with highlights including a prayer book gifted by Emperor Nicholas II to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on his Coronation Day, the only known example of solid gold tea service crafted by Fabergé, a rare figurine of a veteran English soldier commissioned by King Edward VII, and a “kaleidoscopic display” of 15 of the Imperial Easter Eggs. The latter include several that have never before been shown in the UK including the largest Imperial Egg – the Moscow Kremlin Egg – which was inspired by the architecture of the Dormition Cathedral, the Alexander Palace Egg – which features watercolour portraits of the children of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra and contains a model of the palace inside (pictured), the recently rediscovered Third Imperial Egg of 1887 (found by a scrap dealer in 2011) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Basket of Flowers Egg. Runs until 8th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

The Royal Family’s relationship with the jeweller Garrard is the subject of a new exhibition which has opened in Kensington Palace’s ‘Jewel Room’. Going on display for the first time are examples of the firm’s ledgers which document royal commissions dating back to 1735 while other highlights include Queen Mary’s fringe tiara which was made in 1919 using diamonds taken from Queen Victoria’s wedding gift to Queen Mary and which was subsequently worn by Queen Elizabeth II on her wedding day. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace.

Botanical illustrations from the archives at Kew Gardens are brought to life on a canvas consisting of a selection of spectacular trees from the arboretum as part of this year’s Christmas display. Christmas at Kew also includes Spheric – a 15-metre-wide dome of light covered in more than 2,000 individually controlled LED pixels which sits on a reflective water pool and allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in a unique mirrored illusion as they cross the lake, a new installation for Holly Walk which will illuminate the night sky for over 200 metres overhead as it replicates the enchanting visual phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, a vibrant rainbow tree illumination which brings to life the 12 Days of Christmas, and the ever-popular Fire Garden. The display can be seen until 9th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

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

10 sites of (historic) musical significance in London – 6. Royal Albert Hall… 

PICTURE: Raphael Tomi-Tricot/Unsplash

Arguably the grandest music venue in London, the Royal Albert Hall, named in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, has been hosting musical events since it first hosted a concert in 1871.

The Grade I-listed hall, which has a seating capacity of more than 5,000 and which did suffer from acoustic problems for many years (until mushroom-shaped fibreglass acoustic diffusers were hung from the ceiling following tests in the late 1960s), has been the setting for some of the most important – and, in some cases, poignant – music events of the past 150 years, not just in London but the world at large.

Among some of the most memorable are the Titanic Band Memorial Concert – held on 24th May, 1912, just six weeks after the sinking of the iconic ship to remember the 1514 people who died with a particular focus on the eight musicians who played on as the stricken vessal sank, the ‘Great Pop Prom’ of 15th September, 1963 – only one of a handful of occasions when The Beatles and Rolling Stones played on the same stage, and Pink Floyd’s gig of 26th June, 1969 – coming at the end of a UK tour, the on-stage antics saw the band banned (it was short-lived, however, they returned just a few years later in 1973).

Other musical figures to have taken to the stage here include everyone from composers Richard Wagner, John Philip Sousa, and Benjamin Britten to the Von Trapp family, jazz greats Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, and the likes of Shirley Bassey, Bob Dylan and Elton John – a veritable musical who’s who of the past 150 years. The venue also hosted the 13th Eurovision Song Contest in 1968.

Of course, Royal Albert Hall is famous for The Proms, an annual festival of classical music which was first performed here in 1941 after the venue where it had been held since 1895 – the Queen’s Hall on Langham Place – was lost to an incendiary bomb during World War II.

Prom stands for ‘Promenade Concert’,  a phrase which originally referred to the outdoor concerts in London’s pleasure gardens during which the audience was free to walk around while the orchestra was playing (there are still standing areas during performances). The most famous night of the season is the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ which, broadcast by the BBC, features popular classics and ends with a series of patriotic tunes to stir the blood.

This Week in London – The ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’ at Greenwich; the Amazon explored at the Science Museum; and, Christmas at The National Gallery…

The RRS Sir David Attenborough in Liverpool. PICTURE: By Phil Nash from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 & GFDL.

Find out what it’s like to live and work in the Earth’s polar extremes at Greenwich from today. The three day ‘Ice World Festival’ centres on the British Antarctic Survey’s vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, which is visiting Greenwich before beginning its first mission to the Antarctic. Visitors will also be able to meet real polar scientists and explorers and see the Boaty McBoatface submersible as well as treasures from the National Maritime Museum’s polar collection including relics from HMS Erebus and Terror and items belonging to Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton. While the ship can be seen from the dockside, a limited number of tickets are available for walk-up visitors to the festival (advanced booking tickets have sold out). Runs from today until 30th October. Admission is free. For more information, head here.

More than 200 images – captured by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado over seven years – explore the rich diversity of the Amazon in an exhibition at the Science Museum. Amazônia provides a close-up look at one of the most unique environments on the planet through Salgado’s eyes, including panoramic scenery and the Indigenous peoples of the region (Salgado spent time with 12 different Indigenous groups over his period in the Amazon). Runs until March next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/amazonia.

Father Christmas with return to The National Gallery for selected dates in November and December. The gallery’s Christmas experience will provide children with the chance to have their photo taken with Santa in his grotto, listen to an elven story in the winter forest set and receive a special token which they can exchange for a gift at the Elven Sorting Office. Meanwhile, Hendrick Avercamp’s painting A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle (about 1608–9) will be enlarged and reproduced on a canvas to provide a scenic backdrop for the activities. Admission charge applies. Bookings are now open. For more, head to www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/meet-father-christmas.

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

This Week in London – The extraordinary story of George King; Guildhall statues survive (with explanations); and, Wildlife Photographer of the Year…

The extraordinary story of 18th century foundling and sailor George King, who fought in the Battle of Trafalgar, is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow. Fighting Talk: One Boy’s Journey from Abandonment to Trafalgar features King’s hand-written account of his life, a fragment of the flag from Nelson’s coffin, letters between the Foundling Hospital’s matron and Lady Emma Hamilton (annotated by Nelson himself) and two rare Naval General Service Medals, of which only 221 were awarded retrospectively when the medal was first issued in 1849, belonging to King and the foundling William South, who served aboard HMS Victory. There is also a display of works by contemporary artist and photographer Ingrid Pollard – Ship’s Tack – which reflects on the Foundling Hospital’s connections with Empire, trade and the Navy and which includes newly commissioned work responding directly to George’s autobiography. Runs until 27th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

Two Guildhall statues portraying figures with links to the slave trade will be retained but have information added detailing those links. The City of London Corporation’s Court of Common Council voted last week to keep the statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass which will have plaques or notices placed alongside them containing contextual information about the two men’s links to slavery. William Beckford was an 18th century slave owner and two-time Lord Mayor of London, while Cass – an MP and philanthropist – was a key figure in the Royal African Company, which traded in slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School in the City and the nearby Cass Business School have already changed their names to remove the association with their founder and his links to slavery.

•  French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta has won the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year for an image showing camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia. The image was selected out of 50,000 entries from 95 countries and is being displayed with 100 images in an exhibition opening at the museum on Friday. Meanwhile 10-year old Vidyun R Hebbar, who lives in Bengaluru, India, was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his colourful image, Dome home, showing a tent spider as a tuk-tuk passes by. The exhibition can be seen until 5th June next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year.

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 – Prince Albert’s papers online; behind the scenes at the London Transport Museum; and, the Marble Arch Mound’s light installation…

Statue of Prince Albert on the Albert Memorial, South Kensington. PICTURE: Amy-Leigh Barnard/Unsplash

• Some 5,000 papers and photographs relating to the life and legacy of Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, have been published online. The move, which marks the completion of the Prince Albert Digitisation Project, means some 22,000 archival documents, prints and photographs from the Royal Archives, the Royal Collection and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 are now publicly available, many for the first time, through the website Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy which was launched in mid-2019 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Prince’s death. The new items predominantly consist of the Prince’s private and official papers and correspondence as well as excerpts from Albert’s now lost diaries, spanning the years from 1841 to 1852. Highlights include a note he wrote to Victoria on October, 1858, which reads: “I declare that I have every confidence in you. A”; a letter from 10-year-old Princess Louise to her father from Swiss Cottage, the life-sized playhouse he had installed for his children at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, in which she reports cooking and making “some wafers and schneemilch” (a type of Austrian pudding); and, an annotated list of candidates for the role of Master of the Household in which Albert lists why they are unsuitable with reasons including ‘too old’ and ‘too useful to the Navy’ and ‘bad temper’ and ‘French mistress’.

London Transport Museum are offering people the chance to go behind the scenes at its depot in Acton, West London, this weekend. The depot, which houses more than 320,000 objects from London’s transport history, will play host to a programme of events – ‘Underground Uncovered’ – which includes talks, vintage vehicle displays and family activities. Highlights include a talk by Siddy Holloway, a disused station history expert and co-presenter of the new Secrets of the London Underground TV series, the chance to try your hand at being a train operator in the Victoria Line driving cab, and the opportunity to watch a demonstration of restored London Underground signalling frames. The open days are being held from today until Sunday, 11am to 5pm. Admission charge applies. To book and see the full programme of events, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/visit/depot/events.

W1 Curates and artist Anthony James’ light exhibition inside the Marble Arch Mound has opened to the public with free entry to what has been a somewhat controversial attraction to continue. James’ Lightfield installation involves a series of 12 cubed light sculptures in three rooms inside the mound through which visitors will make their way after first visiting the viewing platform on top. James, who has described the cubes as alluding to the “mycorrhizal nature of birch tree forests”, says it’s the first time his works have been displayed and viewed in such a “fully immersive way”. Visitors are asked to book an entry time at www.themarblearchmound.com.

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

This Week in London – NHM’s Our Broken Planet’s finale; West End LIVE at Trafalgar Square; and, Helen Frankenthaler at Dulwich…

Juvenile European bison © The Trustees of The Natural History Museum, London

The third and final part of the free exhibition, Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It, has opened at the Natural History Museum. Following on from sections exploring the food we eat and the products we use, the third phase of the display explores the energy humans consume and how we can we create a greener, cleaner future. Specimens in the display include a juvenile European bison, illustrating an experimental rewilding project in Kent which is investigating if bison feeding habits will improve the forest’s biodiversity and store more carbon in the soil, blue-green algae collected during Captain Scott’s famed RRS Discovery expedition which is being used in the study of climate change, and the recently extinct Chinese paddlefish, a casualty of the global boom in hydroelectric dams. Entry to the South Kensington museum is free but visitors are encouraged to book a time ticket in advance to ensure entry. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/our-broken-planet.html.

The West End comes to Trafalgar Square this weekend with a line-up of free performances from top shows taking to the stage. Forming part of Westminster City Council’s Inside Out Festival and the Society of London Theatre’s #BackOnStage campaign, the West End LIVE event will feature the first ever West End LIVE appearances from award-winning musicals Hamilton and The Book Of Mormon, as well as an exciting roster of new shows including The Prince Of Egypt, Dear Evan Hansen, Cinderella, Back To The Future: The Musical and Pretty Woman. More than 30 acts will be involved in the free and unticketed event. For the full programme, see www.westendlive.co.uk.

The first major UK exhibition of woodcuts by the leading abstract expressionist, Helen Frankenthaler, opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery this week. Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty brings together more than 30 works on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation which span the artist’s career from her first ever woodcut in 1973 to her last work published in 2009. Works include including Madame Butterfly (2000), East and Beyond (1973), Cameo (1980) and Freefall (1993). The display can be seen until 18th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

LondonLife – Beauty in stone…

Detail from the Natural History Museum interior, South Kensington. PICTURE: Diane Picchiottino/Unsplash