This Week in London – Open House Festival; Winslow Homer at The National Gallery; and, a celebration of wood engravings…

An image from the Open House Festival 2020 PICTURE: Phineas Harper/Courtesy Open House Festival
An image from the Open House Festival 2020 PICTURE: Sophie Cunningham/Courtesy Open House Festival

The Open House Festival, a two week-long celebration of buildings and neighbourhoods in London, kicks off today. Now in its 30th year, highlights from this year’s programme include the introduction of nine “headline neighbourhoods” – among them Aldgate, Somers Town, Battersea, and the Greenwich Peninsula, each of which will feature a specially-curated programme of free events. Buildings open for tour include the Bank of England, the recently refurbished Leathersellers’ Hall, and ROOM, an inhabitable sculpture by Anthony Gormley forming part of Mayfair’s Beaumont Hotel as well as pioneering homes such as the David Adjaye-designed ‘Fog House’ in Clerkenwell, the Khan Bonshek-designed ‘Two-up Two-down House’ in Stratford, and Richard and Su Rogers’ high-tech house in Wimbledon. There are also tours of housing estates including Dawson’s Heights designed by Kate Macintosh for Lambeth and infrastructure demonstrations including the new Rolling Bridge designed by Tom Randall-Page at Cody Dock in Canning Town as well as walks, talks and other event. The festival runs until 21st September. For the full programme, see https://open-city.org.uk/open-house-festival.

Winslow Homer ‘The Gulf Stream’, 1899 (reworked by 1906)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1906 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

• The first in-depth exhibition in the UK of the work of late 19th and early 20th century American painter Winslow Homer has opened at The National Gallery. Winslow Homer: Force of Nature features more than 50 paintings and watercolours from public and private collections spanning over 40 years of the artist’s career. Highlights include his paintings from the front lines of the American Civil War such as Prisoners from the Front (1866), those depicting the lives of African Americans during the period known as Reconstruction such as A Visit from the Old Mistress and The Cotton Pickers (both 1876), paintings from his travels to England and the Caribbean such as Inside the Bar (1883), A Garden in Nassau (1885), and The Gulf Stream (1899, reworked by 1906), and works created in the final years of his life such as Driftwood (1909). The exhibition can be seen in the Ground Floor Galleries until 8th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/winslow-homer-force-of-nature

• A celebration of some of finest wood engravings of the past 100 years and those who made them opens at the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner on Saturday. Scene Through Wood, which comes from the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, celebrates the founding centenary of the British Society of Wood Engravers. It traces wood engraving from its origins – objects on show include an early woodcut by Albert Dürer (1471-1528), its subsequent development by 18th and 19th century naturalist Thomas Bewick and the establishment of the SWE in 1920. Included is the work of notable 20th century artists such as Robert Gibbings, Eric Ravilious and Gertrude Hermes as well as more recent figures such as Monica Poole, Edwina Ellis, Simon Brett and Anne Desmet. Admission charge applies. Runs until 11th December. For more, see www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org/whats-on/scene-through-wood/.

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This Week in London – Month-long Thames celebration kicks off; glass vessels saved after Beirut’s port explosion; and, Chiswick House…in LEGO…

• Totally Thames – London’s month-long celebration of its river – kicks off Friday with a programme featuring more than 100 events across a range of locations. Highlights this year include Reflections, an illuminated flotilla of more than 150 boats that will process down the Thames to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on 24th September; River of Hope, an installation of 200 silk flags created by young people across the UK and Commonwealth at the National Maritime Museum; and, of course, the Great River Race, London’s great river marathon on 10th September involving some 330 boats and crews from across the world. There’s also talks, walks, exhibitions and art and, of course, the chance to meet some mudlarks. For more, including the full programme of events, see https://thamesfestivaltrust.org.

Roman beaker, 1st century AD, The Archaeological Museum at the 
American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Eight ancient glass vessels, newly conserved after being damaged in the 2020 Beirut port explosion, have gone on show at the British Museum. Painstakingly pieced back together and conserved at the conservation laboratories at the British Museum, the vessels were among 72 from the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods which were damaged when a case fell over in Beirut’s AUB Museum. Six of the vessels at the British Museum date from the 1st century BC, a period which saw glass production revolutionised in Lebanon, while two others date to the late Byzantine – early Islamic periods, and may have been imported to Lebanon from neighbouring glass manufacturing centres in Syria or Egypt. The vessels can be seen in Room 3 as part of the Asahi Shimbun Display Shattered glass of Beirut until 23rd October before their return to Lebanon in late Autumn. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

• Chiswick House LEGO model. A brick model of Chiswick House is on show at the property in London’s west. The model, which uses 50,000 bricks and took two years to build, illustrates the dramatic architectural changes that Chiswick House has undergone in its 300-year history including the addition of two wings which were demolished in the late 18th century. On show until 31st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://chiswickhouseandgardens.org.uk/event/chiswick-house-lego-brick-model/.

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This Week in London – Celebrations as Museum of London marks final 100 days at London Wall; Ustad Alla Rakha’s tabla at British Museum; and, Lucian Freud in his grandfather’s home…

• The Museum of London is celebrating its final 100 days at London Wall on Friday with free ice creams and “goody bags” for visitors. The museum will be giving away 500 Lewis of London ice creams from 11:30am, while visitors will also enjoy a performance by Grand Union Orchestra at midday. The first 100 visitors through the doors will also receive a gift bag featuring Museum of London memorabilia, including a Museum of London guidebook, a pack of playing cards displaying iconic images from the museum’s collections, a greeting card featuring a print by artist Willkay, and a special gift of either a tea towel, a Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens mug, a sketch notebook, an A3 print of London or a soft toy. Meanwhile, from Friday, digital screens will display a countdown clock to mark the days left before the London Wall site closes to the public on 4th December, in preparation for the museum’s move to a new home at West Smithfield. Friday’s event is part of a six-month long programme of activities leading up to the closure of the site. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

PICTURE: Courtesy of the British Museum

The tabla – twin hand drums – used by legendary Indian musician Ustad Alla Rakha during his European tours of the early 1980s is going on display at the British Museum in a world first. Ustad Alla Rakha was one of the most important and respected tabla players of his generation, working with the All India Radio in the 1930s, composing music for the film industry in the 40s, and regularly playing with world-renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar. The tabla will be on display in the Hotung Gallery until early 2023 after which they will go on loan to the Manchester Museum South Asia Gallery. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Now on: Lucian Freud: The Painter and His Family. The first exhibition of Lucian Freud’s work at the Freud Museum, the home of his grandfather, Sigmund Freud, and aunt, Anna Freud, this display explores Lucian Freud’s childhood, family and friends and celebrates some lesser known aspects of his life including his love of reading and lifelong fascination with horses as well as his relationships with the former occupants of the building. Alongside paintings and drawings, the exhibition includes illustrated childhood letters, books Freud owned and book covers he designed. His sole surviving sculpture, Three-legged Horse (1937) and early painting, Palm Tree (1944), is also being displayed. The display is being accompanied by a programme of events. For more, see www.freud.org.uk.

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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

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Treasures of London – The ‘Line of Kings’…

PICTURE: HRP/Newsteam

A star sight at the Tower of London for some 350 years, the ‘Line of Kings’ dates back to the mid-17th century and was originally installed in the Royal Armouries at the Tower to promote the restored monarchy of King Charles II and the Stuart dynasty.

Often described as the “world’s longest running tourist attraction” (the first visitor was recorded in 1652), it features the historic armour of monarchs on wooden figures and accompanied by fully decked-out carved horses – the work of Grinling Gibbons and others among Britain’s best woodcarvers.

The line has been added to and redisplayed numerous times over its history, partly to accommodate successive monarchs (17 in all were included with King George II being the last).

Only those monarchs deemed worthy were included – this deemed “bad” kings like King Richard III were omitted while “good” kings like King William the Conqueror, King Edward III and King Henry V were included. Queens were not included – when Queen Mary II and King William III were created joint monarchs, only King William was included.

The display began to be mentioned in guidebooks from the 1750s onwards. In 1825, amid growing scholarship and criticism, the line underwent a major change.

It was dismantled and then redisplayed in a purpose-built gallery adjoining the south side of the White Tower. The new line-up included prominent noblemen as well as kings while the kings themselves were reshuffled with some, like King Edward III, dropped, and King James II added.

It was further enhanced in 1869 but the display closed in 1882. The equestrian figures then appeared on the upper floor of the White Tower.

The Line of Kings, which is now located on the entrance floor of the Tower, last underwent a significant revamp between 2011 and 2013.

Highlights include the earlier surviving armour of King Henry VIII – a silvered and engraved armour which was made in the years following his coronation in 1509 – as well as the gilded armours of King Charles I and King James II.

WHERE: White Tower, Tower of London (nearest Tube station Tower Hill); WHEN: 9am to 5.30pm daily; COST: £29.90 adults; £14.90 children under 15; £24 concession; family tickets from £52.20; WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/.  

This Week in London – New COVID memorial entrance portico at St Paul’s; observation wheel a centrepiece of new Somerset House festival; and newly acquired 16th century works at The National Gallery…

A new entrance to a memorial dedicated to those who died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has opened at St Paul’s Cathedral. The Remember Me memorial entrance portico, which is accessed through the cathedral North Transept door, has been designed by Caroe Architecture with Connolly Wellingham and is an elliptical structure made from British Oak into which the words ‘Remember Me’ have been etched in gold. It leads through to the Middlesex Chapel where a digital book of remembrance can be accessed. The inner portico is the first project of its kind to be built inside St Paul’s for nearly 150 years and this is the first time the North Transept of the cathedral has been used as a permanent entrance since this part of the cathedral was bombed during World War II. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk/remember-me-memorial.

A temporary 35 metre high observation wheel providing new views of London is being placed in Somerset House’s central open-air courtyard as part of a new cultural festival which kicks off Monday. This Bright Land features art installations and a programme of events featuring everything from music and dance performances through to workshops and talks. As well as the wheel, the courtyard will host a ‘Wonder Garden’, a soundscape installation telling Londoners’ stories, a futuristic custom-built ‘Clubhouses’ where complimentary make-up services will be provided, and a pop-up experimental zone which will feature immersive installations and complimentary light treatments. The month-long festival, which runs until 29th August, will also include a series of open air balls and parties at night as well as weekly family-friendly activities. There is free daytime entry on weekdays and pay-what-you-can entry on Monday to Thursday evenings and Saturday daytimes. Charges apply for special events and observation wheel rides. For more, see www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/this-bright-land.

Two 16th century works have gone on display in The National Gallery for the first time following their acquisition.  Paolo Veronese’s ful-length Portrait of a Gentleman of the Soranzo Family (about 1585) can be seen in Room 12 while Lo Spagna’s Christ Carrying the Cross (perhaps 1500–5) can be seen in Room 61. Admission to the gallery is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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This Week in London – The Queen’s jewellery; ‘The Future of Ageing’; and painting the view from Tower Bridge…

Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, Diamond Diadem, 1820–1. PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust / © All Rights Reserved
Dorothy Wilding, ‘HM Queen Elizabeth II’, 1952. PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust / © All Rights Reserved

Key items of Queen Elizabeth II’s jewellery including the Diamond Diadem and the Delhi Durbar necklace go on display in Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms from tomorrow as part of the palace’s Summer Opening. Created for the coronation of King George IV in 1821, the Diamond Diadem is set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, some of which are set in the form of a rose, a thistle and two shamrocks, the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland. The diadem, which was inherited by Queen Victoria in 1837 and passed down to the current Queen, will be displayed alongside the official portraits of the Queen taken by photographer Dorothy Wilding just weeks after the Accession (the portraits were later were used as the basis of the Queen’s image on postage stamps from 1953 until 1971, as well as providing the official portrait of Her Majesty sent to every British embassy throughout the world). The Delhi Durbar necklace, meanwhile, incorporates nine emeralds originally owned by Queen Mary’s grandmother, the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as an 8.8 carat diamond pendant cut from the Cullinan diamond – the largest diamond ever found. It was made for Queen Mary as part of a suite of jewellery created for the Delhi Durbar in 1911. The Queen inherited the necklace in 1953 and wore it in a portrait sitting for Dorothy Wilding in 1956 – thought to have been their last sitting together before Wilding’s retirement in 1958. The jewellery, a special display to mark the Platinum Jubilee, can be seen at the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, the first time the palace has been open to the public in three years, until 2nd October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rct.uk.

An exhibition exploring how design can enhance our experience of ageing has opened at the Design Museum. The Future of Aging includes a selection of prototypes, sketches and research from projects that are being developed by Design Age Institute and its partners. They include a self-balancing, two-wheeled personal electric vehicle known as ‘The Centaur’, a hands-free cargo-carrying robot called Gita, and a digital ‘audioscape’ app that uses the sound of birdsong to engage visitors with their hearing health. The free display also includes a long-term participatory project that explores opportunities for an intergenerational garden at the museum and two new film commissions which showcase stories and experiences of later life. Runs until 25th September. For more, see https://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/the-future-of-ageing.

On Now: Painting ‘A Bridge with a View’. Until the end of August, English artist Melissa Scott-Miller is painting the views she spies from Tower Bridge’s West Walkway. Visitors are able to observe her at work and take part in related public workshops and family activities. Admission charge applies. For more including the dates for activities, see www.towerbridge.org.uk/see-bridge-view.

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This Week in London – Museum of London prepares to move; London’s open spaces celebrated; Kenley Airfield restored; and Milton Avery at the RA…

The Museum of London has launched a six-month programme of events celebrating its 45 year history ahead of its doors closing on 4th December in preparation for its move to West Smithfield. The programme includes a range of family activities – from Roman picnics to large LEGO builds – as well as behind the scenes access at the museum during Open House London and two festivals on the closing weekend celebrating the past 50 years of London’s history. For the full programme of events, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk. Following its closure at the London Wall site, the new site at West Smithfield, to be named The London Museum, will open in 2026.

A group of children paddling in Whitestone Pond on the edge of Hampstead Heath in 1920. PICTURE: © London Metropolitan Archives

An outdoor exhibition on the essential role of London’s parks and open spaces – which have served as everything from playgrounds and picnics to concerts and Sunday football kickabouts – opens in Guildhall Yard on Monday. Green City: A Visual History of London’s Parks and Open Spaces, which is curated by the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives, celebrates the role open places have played in the capital since the 16th century and brings together 100 photographs and prints from the archives’ collections. The exhibition can be seen in Guildhall Yard until 1st August when it moves to Aldgate Square. On 15th August it will open at Hampstead Heath and then, from 1st September, spend two weeks at The View in Epping Forest’s Visitor Centre.

Kenley Airfield – an integral part of London’s defence during World War II – has reopened following a £1.2 million restoration. The airfield, which sits in the Borough of Croydon, was a station for the Royal Flying Corps during World War I and the Royal Air Force during World War II. The restoration work has brought back to life eight deteriorating fighter blast pens, which protected RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes from attack. The site also includes The Kenley Tribute, a memorial to all who served there between 1917 and 1959, both on the ground and in the air. For more, including information on visiting the airfield and self-guided walks, see www.kenleyrevival.org.

The work of 20th century American artist Milton Avery is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Royal Academy of Arts on Friday. Milton Avery: American Colourist – which can be seen in The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries in Piccadilly – features some 70 works including portraits and landscapes dating from 1910 until the 1960s. The exhibition is divided into four sections – ‘Early Work’, ‘Portraits’, ‘Innovation in Colour and Form’ and ‘Late Work’ – and highlights include Blossoming (1918), a portrait of Avery’s friends known as The Dessert (1939), two portraits of his daughter March – Seated Girl with Dog (1944) and March in Brown (1954), and, Black Sea (1959). Runs until 16th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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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.

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A Moment in London’s History – The opening of the Bethnal Green Museum…

This month marks 150 years since the opening of the Bethnal Green Museum, the first public museum located in London’s east.

The museum had at its core a pre-fabricated building which had earlier been erected as part of the first phase of the South Kensington Museum. It was brought to the Bethnal Green site and encased in a red brick exterior designed by James Wild.

Black and white print of the Prince and Princess of Wales arriving at the official opening of the Bethnal Green Museum (now Young V&A) on 24th June, 1872. Originally printed in the London Illustrated News. PICTURE: Courtesy of Young V&A

Formally known as the East London Museum of Science and Art, it was opened on 24th June, 1872, by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, amid considerable pomp and great crowds.

The museum, a branch of what became the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, was built to house and display many of the collections which had been exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Among the art collections on show was that of Sir Richard Wallace (now housed in the Wallace Museum).

An interior view of the Bethnal Green Museum (now Young V&A). PICTURE: Courtesy of Young V&A.

After World War II, the museum was remodelled as an art museum and included a children’s section. Then, in 1974, the museum became the Museum of Childhood with displays focusing on everything from toys and dolls houses to children’s dress and books.

It underwent an extensive renovation in the mid 2000s and reopened in December, 2006, as the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood.

The now Grade II*-listed museum, located on Cambridge Heath Road, is currently undergoing a £13 million redevelopment and will reopen in mid-2023 as Young V&A, a new museum dedicated to 0 to 14-year-olds, their families and carers.

The V&A marked a year to the opening of the new museum with the launch of a year-long Reinvent Festival, “celebrating 150 years with 150 waysto be creative”. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/blog/museum-life/young-va-reinvent-festival-reinventing-a-museum-for-the-young.

This Week in London – Young V&A marks 150 years; West End LIVE; and, Hackney’s Ayah’s Home commemorated…

Young V&A creative Story Telling session. PICTURE: Courtesy of Young V&A

The V&A is celebrating 150 years since the opening of the Bethnal Green Museum (now known as the Young V&A) with the launch of a year long celebration on Friday. The museum, which opened in 1872 as the first ever museum in east London, is currently undergoing a major redevelopment and is scheduled to reopen in summer, 2023, as a new national museum dedicated to children to the age of 14. To mark the 150th – and a year until Young V&A’s opening – the museum has launched a year-long ‘Reinvent Festival’ with the first event – an online summit called Sparking Creative Futures headlined by children’s author, Ed Vere, and live-illustrated by Beano’s youngest ever artist, Zoom Rockman – on Friday. On Sunday, Young V&A will celebrate its birthday with families at Rich Mix’s ‘Everyone a Maker’ event with free, fun activities. Further events will be held over the year including pop ups at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Great Get Together on 23rd July featuring large-scale, creative construction and making sessions for children and families using playful building materials by Hackney-based architect Emilie Quene. For more (including the full programme of events), see www.vam.ac.uk/blog/museum-life/reinvent-festival-young-va-summer-family-events.

Europe’s biggest free musical theatre festival – West End LIVE – will transform Trafalgar Square into an open-air theatre this weekend. A joint production by Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre, the event will feature hundreds of performers, creatives and production staff, showcasing the best the West End has to offer. No tickets are required for the free event. For more, head to www.westendlive.co.uk.

An English Heritage Blue Plaque has been unveiled on a house in Hackney, commemorating the hundreds of stranded and sometimes abandoned South and East Asian nannies, known as ayahs, who sheltered there in the early 20th century. The Ayah’s Home at 26 King Edward’s Road housed around 100 women a year between 1900 and 1921 after which the home moved to another address nearby. The ayahs were women who served the British in India and other colonies as children’s nannies, nursemaids and ladies’ maids and who were sometimes required to care for babies, children and their sea-sick mothers on the long sea voyage from the colonies to England but who were generally not expected to serve the families once they arrived, instead either contracted to wait until needed for the return journey or take a passage home. The Hackney shelter, which also welcomed ‘amahs’ – nursemaids of East Asian origin, appears to have been the only one of its kind in Britain for almost the whole of its existence. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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This Week in London – Free birdwatching sessions at The Royal Parks; London’s “grime scene” explored; and, repair, care and healing at Somerset House…

PICTURE: Courtesy of The Royal Parks.

The Royal Parks are running a series of free sessions for bird-watching novices in all eight of its London parks during June and July. The sessions, for which binoculars will be provided, last up to two hours. Pete Lawrence, The Royal Parks’ biodiversity manager, says many people growing up in a city may not have had the “opportunity, the equipment or the know-how to take up this activity” before. “These free sessions aim to make bird watching more accessible, and, if they prove popular, we hope to repeat them in future years.” Author and TV naturalist David Lindo, aka ‘The Urban Birder’, will be leading some of the free bird watching sessions along with The Royal Parks’ conservation officer, Tony Duckett – a six decade veteran birdwatcher, and local bird enthusiast Julia Holland. To book a place, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/birdingtours. The Royal Parks is also hosting a bird watching photography competition with a top prize, binoculars worth £400. Entrants need to take a photo of one of the birds included on the parks’ bird spotter sheets and send it to competition@royalparks.org.uk or submit via The Royal Parks’ social media channels. Find out more here.

The “music, people and places” central to the grime scene which first emerged in London in the early 2000s are the subject of a new exhibition at the Museum of London. Grime Stories: from the corner to the mainstream, which opens on Friday, is co-curated by Roony ‘Risky’ Keefe, one of grime’s early documentarians, and features a series of newly commissioned films that explore the community at the heart of grime’s success as well as a large-scale illustration from artist Willkay and personal artefacts from the MCs and producers who developed grime’s unique sound. Admission is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/grime-stories.

The ideas of repair, care and healing are explored in a new exhibition which opened at Somerset House this week. Eternally Yours, which is being staged across three Terrace Rooms, showcases some diverse examples of creative reuse including transformed items salved in the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 earthquake, shoes worn by Syrian migrants which have stories of survival sewn into the soles and a jumper from Annemor Sundbø’s ragpile collection which has been transformed by Celia Pym. At the heart of the exhibition is ‘The Beasley Brothers’ Repair Shop’, a pop-up created by designer Carl Clerkin and modelled on traditional East End repair shops of old, which is hosting live workshops and demonstrations from artists and designers. The free exhibition and accompanying events runs until 18th September. For more, see www.somersethouse.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Coining the Queen’s portrait; the UK’s first Stolperstein; pioneering female landscape gardener honoured; and Picasso and Ingres…

Plaster model for the obverse of a coin.  Mary Gillick, 1952.  Bust of Queen Elizabeth II r., wearing laurel wreath. © The Trustees of the British Mu

A free display featuring the first coin bearing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has opened at the British Museum. Part of the celebrations marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, The Asahi Shimbun Display Mary Gillick: modelling The Queen’s portrait showcases the production and reception of the coin which was designed in 1952 and released the following year. Gillick’s portrait – which remained in circulation on coins in the UK until the 1990s and was also adapted for use on commemorative stamps – combined modern design with Italian Renaissance influences. Can be seen until 31st July. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The UK’s first Stolperstein or “stumbling stone” has been installed in Soho as part of an initiative to remember the victims of the Nazis. The small brass plaque commemorates former resident Ada van Dantzig, a Dutch-Jewish paintings conservator for the National Gallery who came to London in the 1930s and worked and resided in Golden Square in Soho (where the plaque has been installed). She later re-joined her family in the Netherlands and was arrested in France in early 1943 along with her mother, father, sister and brother. Deported to Auschwitz, Ada, along with her parents, was murdered there on 14th February, 1943. Artist Gunter Demnig created the project almost 25 years ago to commemorate victims of Nazi Persecution during the Holocaust. More than 100,000 of stones have now been laid in 26 countries throughout Europe with the location of the stones the last address of those being remembered.

A pioneering female landscape gardener has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her former flat in Shaftesbury Avenue. Fanny Wilkinson, who is believed to be Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener, was also a campaigner for the protection of open space in London. She lived and worked at the flat, which overlooks an open space she laid out herself, between 1885 and 1896. Wilkinson began her career as an honorary landscape gardener to the Metropolitan Public Boulevards, Gardens and Playgrounds Association – an organisation whose mission was the formation of gardens and public parks that would create playgrounds and green ‘lungs’, especially in poor districts of the capital. In June, 1885, it was agreed that she could charge five per cent on all her MPGA payments, leading her to drop the ‘honorary’ title and become Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

A painting by Pablo Picasso – Woman with a Book (1932) from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California – and a painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres – Madame Moitessier (1856) – are being shown together for the first time at The National Gallery. Picasso admired Ingres and referred to him throughout his career and this connection can be seen not only in his paintings but in drawings and studies he made during his ‘neoclassical’ phase in the 1920s. He encountered Madame Moitessie at an exhibition in Paris in 1921 and 11 years later painted Woman with a Book. The paintings, which are being show under a collaborative initiative between the two institutions, can be seen in Room 1 until 9th October. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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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.

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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.

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This Week in London – Charles Jennens at the Foundling Museum; Dr John Conolly’s Blue Plaque; and, Kyōsai at the Royal Academy…

The Foundling Museum. PICTURE: dvdbramhall (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Charles Jennens, who is best-known as the librettist of Handel’s Messiah but was also a patron of the arts, scholar and educator, is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury on Friday. Charles Jennens: Patron & Polymath features portraits, correspondence and printed documents reflecting the varied interests and achievements of this Georgian character. Jennens was a non-juror – meaning he supported the legitimacy of the deposed Catholic Stuarts – but was also a Protestant. His art collection was one of the best in Britain and his Palladian mansion, Gopsall Hall in Leicestershire, featured a music room with an organ built to Handel’s specifications. Admission charge applies. Runs until 16th October. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/event/charles-jennens-polymath/.

• Dr John Conolly, an early advocate of human treatments for people living with mental illness and the former Hanwell Asylum have been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. The plaque has been placed on what was the left wing of the asylum and is now part of St Bernard’s Hospital. It was here that Conolly, who was appointed Resident Physician at the Middlesex County Pauper Lunatic Asylum in 1839 – then one of the biggest asylums in London, advocated a system of ‘non-restraint’ which, though initially seen as controversial, drew support from reformers and which by 1846 had been embraced as ruling orthodoxy by the then-new national Lunacy Commission. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

On Now: The works of Kawanabe Kyōsai, the most popular Japanese painter of the late 19th century, are on show in the Royal Academy’s Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries. Kyōsai: The Israel Goldman Collection focuses largely on the art of sekiga or ‘spontaneous paintings’ which were produced at ‘calligraphy and painting parties’ (shogakai), often fuelled by prodigious amounts of saké. The display – the first monographic exhibition of Kyōsai’s work in the UK since 1993 – includes around 80 words, many of which have never been exhibited. Admission charge applies. Runs until 19th June. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Disney’s French influence; Eid in the Square; and, Sir Isaiah Berlin’s Blue Plaque…

Beauty and the Beast, 1991, Peter J Hall, Concept art, gouache, marker and ink on paper © Disney

• The connection between Disney’s animated films and French 18th-century art is explored in an exhibition at the Wallace Collection. Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, which is being held in collaboration with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, features more than 120 examples of production artwork and works on paper from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library and the Walt Disney Archives alongside approximately 30 18th-century artworks. The latter include Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s much-loved painting, The Swing (c1767), which provided inspiration for Disney films including Beauty and the Beast (1991), Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013) and which is being showcased for the first time since its recent conservation. The exhibition, which was previously at the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, can be seen until 16th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.wallacecollection.org.

• Eid in the Square returns to Trafalgar Square this Saturday for the first time since 2019. The day, held from noon to 6pm to mark the celebration that follows the end of Ramadan, features Islamic inspired art, culture and comedy on the main stage alongside a feast of food stalls from across the world. Performers include Baha Yetkin Sufi Ensemble, Nafees Ifran & Qalandar Qawwali Band, Dur Dur Band, Star Children’s Choir, spoken word poet Hussain Manawer, comedy sketch show favourites, ‘The Halalians’, Alif New Beginnings, and award-winning music producer Naughty Boy who will present his Naughty Boy Kitchen pop-up serving signature dishes fusing his British upbringing and Pakistani heritage. Other family-friendly activities being held on the day including calligraphy, storytelling, mehndi, face painting, and drama and poetry workshops, as well as a variety of sports activities including Muslim Girls Fencing and Sisterhood FC.

World renowned philosopher and historian of ideas, Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), was commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former Holland Park home. Berlin lived at 33 Upper Addison Gardens for nearly six-and-a-half years while attending St Paul’s School, then located in Hammersmith – a period he later referred to as “my golden childhood”. The house, which was purchased by his timber merchant father, was the family’s first permanent home in the UK following their arrival from Latvia. Berlin was also commemorated this week with a plaque on another of his former homes, this one in Hampstead. The Heath and Hampstead Society plaque was placed on the property at number 49 Hollycroft Avenue which was where Berlin’s family moved in October, 1928. While he left for Oxford University that same month, he spent much time there during his university vacations. Oxford was Berlin’s main base for the rest of his life. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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This Week in London – Walter Sickert at the Tate; Philips Wouwerman revisited; and, Victorian physicist commemorated…

Walter Sickert, ‘Little Dot Hetherington at the Bedford Music Hall’ (1888) Private collection. Photo: James Mann

Britain’s biggest retrospective on the work of artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942) in almost 30 years opens at the Tate Britain in Millbank today. The exhibition features more than 150 of his works spanning the six decades of his career. They include paintings and drawings of music halls in London and Paris such as The Old Bedford (1894-5) and Théâtre de Montmartre (c1906) and an examination of key influencers upon his work such as American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler whose A Shop (1884-90) is being shown with Sickert’s A Shop in Dieppe (1886-8) as well as Whistler’s 1895 portrait of Sickert. Other works on show include The Camden Town Murder (1908), Ennui (1914) and Off To the Pub (1911). Admission charge applies. Runs until 18th September. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/walter-sickert.

A new exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery explores the truth behind 18th century gossip suggesting 17th century Dutch artist Philips Wouwerman was a plagiarist. True Crime: The Case of Philips Wouwerman looks at claims the painter, who created more than 600 paintings over his career, stole the drawings of the dead artist Pieter van Laer and subsequently used them for his own works. The display features works by Wouwerman and Van Laer as well as expert testimony from the past and present. It’s the first in a series of displays – Unlocking Paintings – which have been devised by the recently appointed curator Helen Hillyard to present new perspectives on the Gallery’s collection. Can be seen until 21st August. For more, follow this link.

A self-taught Victorian physicist, Oliver Heaviside, has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former home in Camden Street. The property is where the young Victorian scientist, who had been left almost entirely deaf after suffering scarlet fever in childhood, continued with his self-education after leaving school at 16 and where he later worked on his ground-breaking interpretation of James Clerk Maxwell’s Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. Heaviside played a key role in the development and advancement of electrical communications and was even name-checked in Cats where a line referring to “the Heaviside layer” is a reference to his discovery of a reflective layer in the upper atmosphere which allowed radio waves to be ‘bent’ around the earth. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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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.

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