Some of the first photographic images of London and Londoners – depicting everything from Victorian families living in slums and the construction of the capital’s first underground railway to well-known icons like Tower Bridge and the Crystal Palace – have gone on show in Aldgate Square. Presented by the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives, Victorian London in Photographs also features a daguerreotype (the earliest form of photograph) dating from the 1840s which depicts a view of The Monument (pictured) and is the earliest photograph of the City of London in LMA’s collections. The free exhibition can be seen until 12th August at Aldgate Square after which it moves to Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral, where it can be seen from 14th to 23rd August. For more on the London Metropolitan Archives, follow this linkPICTURE: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London Corporation

A selection of works documenting CRW Nevinson’s experiences during World War I feature in a free exhibition at the British Museum. CRW Nevinson: Prints of War and Peace commemorates the centenary of the artist’s gift of 25 of his prints to the British Museum in 1918 and a number of the works featured on show for the first time. They include a self-portrait while Nevinson was a student at the Slade School of Art, A Dawn and Column on the March, both of which show massed ranks of French soldiers marching to their doom, The Doctor and Twilight which show the conditions wounded soldiers had to endure, and dynamic cityscapes such as Looking down into Wall Street, Looking through Brooklyn Bridge, Wet Evening (depicting Oxford Street in London) and Paris Window and Place Blanche (both dating from 1922 and depicting Paris). The display can be seen in Room 90a, Prints and Drawings Gallery, until 13th September. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

On Now – Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers. This exhibition at the Guildhall Library marks the 450th anniversary of the granting of the Tylers and Bricklayers’ Company’s charter by Elizabeth I in 1568. As well as tracing the company’s history from its first master in 1416 through to the company today, it also looks at the life of the company’s most famous son, playwright Ben Jonson, and how the company was instrumental in the rebuilding of the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666. Runs until 31st August. Admission is free. For more, follow this link.

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Forty-three letters written by Queen Elizabeth I and her senior advisors concerning the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots, have been donated to the British Library. Many of the 43 letters were written to Sir Ralph Sadler, who held the Scottish Queen in custody at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire between 1584-85 prior to her execution in 1587. Four of the letters are signed by Queen Elizabeth I and others are written in the hand of Chief Minister Lord Burghley and Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham. The collection has been on loan to the library for a number of years but has now been gifted by the industrialist and philanthropist Mark Pigott to the American Trust for the British Library. The library plans to digitise the letters and make them available on its Digitised Manuscripts website.

The alteration of books through customisation, decoration or disguise is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Guildhall Library on Monday. Books: Used and Abused shows how some books have been used as notepads or expanding files while others have become containers. A free ‘book surgery’ advice session will be held at the library on 22nd February for people to learn about their own ‘used and abused’ books and how to repair them. Runs until 9th March. Entry is free (booking required for the free advice session). For more, head here.

•  Sir Mark Rylance will bring the words of Shakespeare to life in six special performances at Westminster Abbey this April. All Places that the Eye of Heaven Visits will feature a cast of 23 actors from Shakespeare’s Globe performing extracts from some of the Bard’s most famous plays and poetry. The performances will occur over 26th to 28th April. Tickets go on sale on 29th January via the  Shakespeare’s Globe box office.

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We pause for a moment before our regular coverage to remember all those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in north Kensington.

• Giovanni da Rimini’s 700-year-old work, Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and Other Saints, has gone open show at The National Gallery. Acquired by the gallery in 2015 on the understanding that the panel will largely remain with New York collector and philanthropist Ronald S Lauder during his lifetime but for limited exceptions such as this, the panel forms the centrepiece of the exhibition Giovanni da Rimini: A 14th Century Masterpiece Unveiled. It brings together Giovanni da Rimini’s three easel works – also including Scenes from the Life of Christ (on loan from the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini in Rome) and The Virgin and Child with Five Saints (on loan from the Pinacoteca Communal, Faenza, Italy) – for the first time in the UK. There are seven panel paintings in the display in total as well as two ivory panels and a fragment of an illuminated leaf. Alongside works by Giovanni da Rimini are those by Neri da Rimini, Francesco da Rimini/Master of Verruchio, Giovanni Baronzio and the great Florentine painter Giotto. The display can be seen in Room 1 until 8th October. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints (c 1300-1305), Giovanni da Rimini 1300-1305. © The National Gallery, London.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its public opening with a series of free late openings on Friday nights. Running until the end of July, the themed evenings feature performance, talks, and music with food and drink in the pavilion bar supplied by The Camberwell Arms. The nights include one of exploring how the memory of people, buildings, places and experiences influences and impacts architecture (16th June), tours of the gallery in which dancers are the guides (23rd June and 14th July), and a botanical themed evening with flower workshops, infused cocktails and other “green-fingered creativity” (28th July). For the full programme, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/whats-on/.

An exhibition focusing on the 600 year history of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers has opened at the Guildhall Library in the City of London. The free exhibition joins the existing photographic display, Books and Publishing in the City, which features the work of artist-in-residence Simon Gregor and includes images of streets, buildings and documents with a particular focus on Stationers’ Hall. Both run until 31st August. For more, follow this link.

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The life and work of 19th century London actress, cartoonist and illustrator Marie Duval is the subject of a new exhibition which opens at the Guildhall Library in the City tomorrow. Marie Duval: Laughter in the First Age of Leisure is the first one solely dedicated to Duval’s work (her real name was Isabelle Émilie de Tessier) as a 19th century pioneer of the art of comics. Her work first appeared in a range of cheap British ‘penny papers’ and comics of the 1860s to 1880s aimed at working class people. The exhibition has been produced by the University of Chester in partnership with the library and with the support of the British Library.

Carol singing has kicked off in Trafalgar Square to mark the Christmas season. More than 40 groups are taking part in the sessions – free to watch – which take place between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays and from 2pm on weekends until 23rd December. The square is also home to a traditional Norwegian spruce Christmas Tree which has, as has been the case every year since 1947, been brought from forest near Oslo in thanks for Britain’s support of Norway during World War II. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/events.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Christmas festival – featuring the ‘Winterlights’ lights trail, artisan Christmas market, pop-up carollers and other entertainments – has opened at the south London gallery. This year’s festivities also include two contemporary baroque-inspired Christmas trees by 3D art specialists, Nagual Creations, and visitors also have the chance to create their own festive family photo using a specially commissioned giant gold frame in the grounds as well as listen to Christmas story-telling in the gallery’s Keeper’s Cottage. The Winterlights display runs from 6pm to 10pm until 18th December (excluding Mondays; admission charges apply) with the market, featuring 50 stalls, held over the next two weekends – 10th-11th December and 17th-18th December (entry is free). For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

The first UK exhibition to focus on Australian impressionist paintings has opened at The National Gallery. Australia’s Impressionists features 41 paintings including some never shown before in the UK and explores the impact of European Impressionism on Australian painting of the 1880s and 1890s with a particular focus on four artists: Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder and John Russell. The exhibition is organised into three sections: the first looking at the landmark 1889 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition held in Melbourne, the second looking at the role of Australian Impressionism in the forging of a national identity, and the third looking at the work and influence of John Russell. The exhibition can be seen in the Sunley Room until 26th March. Entry is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

catherineeddowes2Stories including that of Catherine Eddowes, one of the victims of the notorious Jack the Ripper whose tale is brought to life through a virtual hologram (pictured), that of the Houndsditch Murders which claimed the lives of three police officers, and those of the more than 70 horses which have served in the City of London Police are among those told in the new purpose-built City of London Police Museum. A collaboration between the City of London Police and the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library, the new facility covers the 177 year history of the men and women charged with policing the Square Mile. Other stories highlighted in the museum include that of the recruitment of women into the force, the impact of the two World Wars on policing in the capital (featuring photographs taken by City of London police officers Arthur Cross and Fred Tibbs), the force’s tackling of terrorism and the progress of its communications, uniforms and kit and the victory of the City of London Police as the winner of the Olympic gold medal for the tug of war in 1920 (which, given the event was dropped, leaves them as the current champions). Entry to the museum, which opened this week at Guildhall, is free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.police.uk/about-us/history/museum/Pages/default.aspx. PICTURE: Courtesy City of London Police Museum.

The Lord Mayor’s Show takes place this Saturday, kicking off with a river pageant followed by the grand procession through City streets and fireworks over the Thames. The 801st Lord Mayor’s Show celebrates the election of Andrew Parmley as the 689th Lord Mayor of the City of London. This year’s procession, which kicks off at 11am and runs from Mansion House down Cheapside to the Royal Courts of Justice – where the Lord Mayor swears allegiance to the Crown – and back again at 1pm via Victoria Embankment, features 6,500 participants, 180 horses and 164 vehicles including steam engines, fire engines and a tank. The Show’s Pageantmaster, Dominic Reid, is celebrating his 25th consecutive show this year (his father organised 20 shows before him). The river pageant, featuring the QRB Gloriana, sets off from Westminster at 8.30am with Tower Bridge opening in salute at 9.25am. The fireworks display, which takes place over the Thames between Blackfriars and Waterloo, starts at 5.15pm. The tradition dates back to 1215. For more, see https://lordmayorsshow.london.

A major new exhibition looking at the history of the 20th century through maps has opened at the British Library in King’s Cross. Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line features maps ranging from the first sketch of the London Underground dating from 1931, to declassified Ministry of Defence maps from the Cold War era, John Betjeman’s personal set of Ordinance Survey maps from the 1920s, a Russian moon globe from 1961 and EH Shepard’s first map of the Hundred Acre Wood (home of Winnie the Pooh). Other highlights include 3D relief models of the Western Front from 1917, a dress made of World War II escape maps printed on silk, an aerial photograph of Liverpool with targets marked used by the Luftwaffe, a map of the Atlantic Ocean floor from 1968. The exhibition, which runs to 1st March, is running in conjunction with a series of events exploring how maps continue to shape and influence our world. Admission charge applies. For more, follow this link.

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museums-at-night From tonight (and across this weekend), museums all over Greater London will be opening their doors after usual closing time as part of the annual Museums at Night event. Among those institutions taking part in the event, produced by Culture24, are such well-known icons as the British Museum, Tower Bridge and The National Gallery as well as lesser known establishments like Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Chingford, Southside House on Wimbledon Common and the Grant Museum of Zoology in central London. The October event follows an earlier Museums at Night in May. For the full programme of events, see www.museumsatnight.org.uk.

Roman London is the subject of a new exhibition at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library. Londinium AD43 features the work of photographer Eugenio Grosso who takes the visitors on a photographic journey through time from London’s foundations to its present. The display shows how much of London’s Roman settlement has been preserved and features photographs of locations once home to significant London sites. Runs until 31st March. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/Pages/default.aspx

More than 75 portraits in all media by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso can be seen at the recently opened Picasso Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Including well-known masterpieces and some works never seen in Britain before, the works include a group of self-portraits as well as caricatures of Picasso’s friends, lovers, wives and children and images he created inspired by artists of the past. Runs until 5th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

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Some of painter JMW Turner’s greatest works have returned to the Tate Britain – home of the largest collection of the artist’s works – where they have been put into a new free display. The works, which include Norham castle – Sunrise (c1845), Peace – Burial at Sea (exhibit 1842) and The Dogani, San Giorgio (exhibit 1842), have travelled more than 12,000 miles and been seen by more than 750,000 people in the UK, US and Canada as part of The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free. They now form part of a new display of more than 100 works spread over eight rooms of the Tate Britain’s Clore Gallery. The three central spaces of the gallery present an overview of the major paintings Turner exhibited during his lifetime – his Self-Portrait (c1799), which will feature on the Bank of England’s new £20 note, is among works shown here – while four smaller galleries located to the sides will show themed groups of work. One brings together scenes from the artist’s British travels and another those from his European jaunts while the final two show the artist’s works on paper and a group of “radical late works” found in his studio after his death. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain

A new exhibition exploring the Great Fire of London to mark its 350th anniversary opens at the Guildhall Library in the City of London on Monday. That Dreadful Fire: The Hand of God, a Great Wind and a Very Dry Season explores the story through the collections of the Guildhall Library, including English and foreign accounts, sermons and public records. Runs until 30th November. For more and walks and talks, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/events-exhibitions/Pages/the-dreadful-fire.aspx.

On Now: Heroes and Villains. This exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury features art “depicting real life, the cartoon and comic world that highlights those we love and those we love to hate”. Featuring political cartoons, cartoon and comic strips, and caricatures, including some selected by celebrities and members of the public, it runs until 30th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

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Escher_Hand-with-a-Reflecting-Sphere-1935The first major UK retrospective of the work of 20th century Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis (MC) Escher opened at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London’s south yesterday following its run at the Scottish National Gallery of Art. The Amazing World of MC Escher showcases more than 100 works – including original drawings, prints, lithographs, and woodcuts – as well as previously unseen archive material from the collection of Gemeentenmuseum Den Haag in The Netherlands. Arranged chronologically, highlights include 1934’s Still Life with Mirror – perhaps the first time the artist used surreal illusion, well-known 1948 lithograph Drawing Hands, the almost four metre long 1939-40 woodcut Metamorphosis II, the 1943 lithograph Reptiles and two of his most celebrated works, Ascending and Descending (1960) and Waterfall (1961). Runs until 17th January and is accompanied by a series of special events. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. PICTURE: M.C. Escher, Hand with Reflecting Sphere (Self-Portait in Spherical Mirror), January 1935, Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands/All M.C. Escher works © 2015 The M.C. Escher Company-The Netherlands. All rights reserved. http://www.mcescher.com.

West Africa’s literary history comes under examination in a new exhibition opening at the British Library at St Pancras on Friday. West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song features more than 200 manuscripts, books, sound and film recordings, artworks, masks and textiles taken from the library’s African collections and elsewhere. It explores how key figures – from Nobel Prize winning Nigerian author Professor Wole Soyinka through to human rights activist Fela Kuti, the creator of Afrobeat, and a generation of enslaved 18th century West Africans who agitated for the abolition of the slave trade – used words to both build society and fight injustice. Key items on show include a 1989 letter Kuti wrote to the president of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, in which he agitated for political change, a pair of atumpan ‘talking drums’ similar to those still used in Ghana, a carnival costume newly designed by Brixton-based artist Ray Mahabir, and letters, texts and life accounts written by the most famous 18th century British writer of African heritage, Olaudah Equiano, enslaved and freed scholar Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, and Phillis Wheatley, who, enslaved as a child, went on to write Romantic poetry. The exhibition, which will be accompanied by a major series of talks, events and performances, runs until 16th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see  www.bl.uk/west-africa-exhibition.

Two new war related exhibitions opened in London this week. Opened on Monday at the City of London’s Guildhall Library, Talbot House – An Oasis in a World Gone Crazy, recounts the story of army chaplains Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton and Neville Talbot and their creation of an Everyman’s Club – where countless soldiers spent time away from the fighting – in a house in the Belgian town of Poperinge, a few miles from the frontline at Ypres. The exhibition, created to celebrate the centenary of the house’s creation in 1915, features items from Talbot House, the memoirs of ‘Tubby’ and part of the hut where he wrote them after fleeing the Germans. Runs until 8th January and the exhibition also features two ticketed events. Entry to the exhibition is free. For more, follow this link. Meanwhile, Lee Miller: A Woman’s War opens at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth today, displaying 150 photographs depicting women’ experiences during World War II. The four part exhibition looks at women before the war, in wartime Britain, in wartime Europe and after the war. Runs until 24th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

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Churchill-with-a-Spitfire-from-Castle-Bromwich,-credit-Philip-Insley,-CBAF-Archive-Vickers-ArchiveSyndics Marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, a new exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington looks at his passion for science and the influence that had on bringing World War II to an end. Churchill’s Scientists celebrates the individuals who flourished under Churchill’s patronage (and , as well as helping to bring about the end of World War II, also launched a post-war “science renaissance”) – from Robert Watson-Watt (inventor of radar) through to Bernard Lovell (creator of the world’s largest telescope) – and also delves into more personal stories of Churchill’s own fascination with science and tech. The display include objects from the museum’s collection as well as original archive film footage, letters and photographs. Highlights include the high speed camera built at Aldermaston to film the first microseconds of the detonation of the UK’s first home grown atomic bomb, the cigar Churchill was smoking when he heard news of his re-election as PM in 1951, and a one-piece green velvet “siren suit” designed by Churchill to wear during air raids (only one of three originals known to exist, it’s never been on public display outside of the tailors who created it). The free exhibition runs until 1st March and is part of the Churchill 2015 programme of events. Visit www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/churchill for more. PICTURE: Churchill with a Spitfire from Castle Bromwich (Philip Insley, CBAF Archive Vickers ArchiveSyndics).

The National Army Museum and Waterloo2oo have launched an online gallery which will eventually comprise images and information on more than 200 artefacts associated with the Battle of Waterloo ahead of the 200th anniversary in June. Among the objects featured on Waterloo200.org are the Duke of Wellington’s boots, a French eagle standard captured in battle and the saw used to amputate the Earl of Uxbridge’s leg. One hundred items – drawn from the Army Museum’s collection as well as from European museums and private collections – can already be seen on the site with a further 100 to be added before the bicentenary on 18th June.

The Talk: Death in Disguise: The Amazing True Story of the Chelsea Murders. On 12th February, the Guildhall Library in the City of London will host Gary Powell as he examines the facts of this double murder which took place in Chelsea in May, 1870, and left Victorian society reeling. For more events at the library, follow this link.

On Now: Breakthrough: Crossrail’s tunnelling story. This exhibition at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden brings a new perspective on the massive Crossrail project currently underway in the city. Visitors will experience the tunnel environment through a five metre high walk-through installation featuring a computer simulation of a giant boring machine as well as learn about how the project is shaping up, play interactive tunnelling games and hear firsthand from those who work underground. Admission charge for adults applies. Runs until August. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.

Extended: Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition. This exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich features the winning images from last year’s competition. They include the Briton James Woodend’s image of a vivid green aurora in the Icelandic night sky; American Patrick Cullis’ view of earth taken from 87,000 feet above ground; and, New Zealander Chris Murphy’s image of dusty clouds dancing across the Milky Way. The exhibition can be seen for free in the Observatory’s Astronomy Centre until 19th July. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/astrophoto.

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A former car breaker’s yard in Hackney has reopened as a “pocket park” of “installations and hidden spaces” following an extensive transformation project. Located next to the National Trust’s Tudor manor house, Sutton House, Breaker’s Yard incorporates elements from the site’s history including car tyres, a bus greenhouse, bespoke metal gates made out of more than 1,000 toy cars donated by celebrities, locals and artists, and a multi-storey caravan sculpture, The Grange, created by landscape designer Daniel Lobb who also designed the park in collaboration with arts-based educational charity, The House of Fairy Tales. The flower-filled park also features an ice-cream van, decorated by Rose Blake – daughter of Sir Peter Blake, which will act as a “playful shop”. The park is one of a 100 ‘pocket parks’ created under a $2 programme by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in this case in collaboration with the National Trust and a host of volunteers. Entry to the park is free but admission charge applies to the house. For more on the park and Sutton House, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-house/.

A photographic exhibition, Exploring London’s First World War Memorials, is running at City Hall near Tower Bridge in Southwark. Organised by the Mayor of London with aid from the War Memorials Trust, English Heritage and others, the exhibition is centred on new images of war memorials by London-based photographer James O Jenkins. As well as more traditional monuments, the memorials take the form of everything from fountains to paintings, buildings and landscape features. Entry is free. Runs until 12th September. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/events. Meanwhile, the Guildhall Library is showcasing images taken by photographer Simon Gregor for the Remembrance Image Project. Runs until 12th November and is part of a series of World War I commemorative events the library is running. Others include an installation by artist Rebecca Louise Law called Poppy made up of 8,000 paper poppies from the Royal British Legion. For more on World War I commemorative events at the Guildhall LIbrary follow this link.

Open House London’s programme is available for download from tomorrow (Friday, 15th August). The event, which will be held over the weekend of 20th and 21st September, will this year be conducted under the theme of ‘revealing’ and will feature more than 800 buildings, from Open House “favourites” like The Gherkin (aka 30 St Mary Axe) and the Foreign and India Office through to lesser known properties like Wandsworth’s Quaker Meeting House or the Butcher’s Hall in the City (some of which have to be booked before the weekend). There will also be a free programme of neighbourhood walks, engineering and landscape tours, cycle rides and talks by experts. To see the programme, head to www.openhouselondon.org.uk.

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Historic Royal Palaces are offering you the chance to meet King George I and explore the world in which he lived at his former real-life home of  Hampton Court Palace this Easter weekend. A re-enactment marking the 300th anniversary of his accession will have the new Hanoverian king arrive by royal barge on the River Thames and will also include courtiers taking part in a “stately dance”, the King’s troupe of Hanoverian horses performing a “horse ballet” and a Georgian Army encampment with soldiers involved in firing displays. Visitors to the palace will also be able to see a new re-presentation of the Queen’s State Apartments which explores who the Hanoverians were, how they came to rule and their many and bitter family feuds. Runs from tomorrow (18th April) to 21st April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/.

The 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth is being celebrated with a week of events at the Guildhall Library next week. Kicking off on Tuesday, 22nd April, and running until Friday, 25th April, events include talks – with subjects including ‘Shakespeare’s London Theatreland’ and ‘Imaging Shakespeare’s Indoor Theatre’, and a six hour complete reading of Shakespeare’s sonnets with readers including actor Damian Lewis, author Alan Hollinghurst and Lord Mayor of City of London Fiona Woolf as well as Shakespeare-themed walks around the City and Southwark, and the free Shakespeare in Print exhibition at the Library. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/guildhall-library/Pages/default.aspx. Meanwhile, the V&A is also holding a Shakespeare Festival, kicking off next Monday and running until 4th May. Highlights of the festival include screenings of some of the best theatre productions of Shakespeare in the last 20 years, live performances by actors and musicians and a series of debates and talks including the “interactive lecture” Marchpane to Mutton – A Taste of Shakespeare’s Time by food historian and artists Tasha Marks. There’s also a competition – Cakespeare – in which the public are invited to design, bake and decorate a Shakespeare-themed cake and share an image of it on social media (#Cakespeare) by 4th May with the winner to receive a weekend for two to Stratford-upon-Avon and tickets to the Royal Shakespeare Company. The festival is being complemented by a display in the Theatre and Performance Galleries, Shakespeare: Greatest Living Playwright which features the First Folio as its centrepiece. Admission is free. See www.vam.ac.uk for more.

It might be two days ahead of the official saint’s day, but the Feast of St George will be celebrated in Trafalgar Square this Bank Holiday Monday with a banquet and guests including a five metre high interactive dragon. The festivities, hosted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, will also include an English Farmers’ Market featuring 20 stalls, a kid’s marquee and traditional wooden garden games, harlequins on stilts, swing boats and circus lessons for children, a bandstand located in front of Nelson’s Column and a 12 foot tall Maypole. Runs from noon to 6pm. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/feast.

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QEOP• The UK’s tallest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, will be open to the public in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – described as the “biggest new park to open in Europe in 150 years” – in London’s east from this weekend. While the northern part of the 560 acre park, the Copper Box Arena, Lee Valley VeloPark and Aquatics Centre have been open to the public since July last year, from Saturday visitors will be able to visit the southern part of the park featuring the 114.5 metre high sculpture. Features in the southern part of the park include a new tree-lined promenade with giant globes, interactive water fountains, an adventure playground and four themed walking trails focusing on the 2012 Games, nature and biodiversity, education, and art and culture. Visitors who head to the top of ArcelorMittal Orbit will be able to view across 20 miles of London from a 76 or 80 metre high platform (admission charges apply – £15 adults/£7 children/£40 for a family of four – and, be warned, you may need to book) while at the base of the sculpture is a cafe and event space. The opening weekend will see a host of special events including a parade of children, an aerial acrobatic performance, choirs, bands, dancers, poets, circus performers and story tellers and ‘try out’ sports and fitness sessions. There’s more yet to come with the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre opening to the public in June and the Olympic Stadium reopening for the 2015 Rugby World Cup next year. For more on the park, see www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk and for tickets to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, see http://arcelormittalorbit.com.

The printed works of William Shakespeare are the focus of a new exhibition which opened at the Guildhall Library in the city this week. Shakespeare in Print explores the library’s Shakespearean works and looks at how they were produced. Among the treasures on display will be a First Folio, the first collected edition of his plays, contemporary writers quartos and later editions of the Bard’s plays and poetry. This free exhibition is running until 29th May. The library will be hosting a series of Shakespeare-related events in the week of 22nd to 25th April to mark the 450th anniversary of his birth. For more, head here.

Italian fashion from 1945 until today is the subject of the V&A’s spring exhibition opening on Saturday. The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 will feature 100 ensembles and accessories by leading Italian fashion houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada, Valentino and Versace as well as creations from the “next generation of talent” including Giambattista Valli and Fausto Puglisi and will also showcase the creativity of less well remembered figures such as Sorelle Fontana and Walter Albini. As well as charting the shifting international perception of Italian style, the display will also highlight techniques and materials used in the creation of Italian fashion with a digital map visualising the industry. Runs until 27th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

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

ThomasCromwellA new display exploring the demand for copies and remakes of portraits originally created by Tudor court painter Hans Holbein the Younger has opened at the National Portrait Gallery. Hans Holbein Re-made features a selection of copies of Holbein’s works from the gallery’s collection including portraits of William Warham, John Fisher, Sir Thomas More and Sir Richard Southwell, all of which have undergone new technical analysis as part of the gallery’s Making Art in Tudor Britain project. The research reveals new details about how and when the paintings were made and the techniques used. The display also includes a portrait of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex – thought to be one of the first miniatures Holbein painted alongside a digital screen which enables this work of Holbein’s to be compared with that of another artist working in his studio. In Room 3. Runs until 31st August. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, after Hans Holbein the Younger, early 17th century (1533-1534). © National Portrait Gallery, London.

This year marks the 350th anniversary of King Charles II’s granting of a Royal Charter to The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers and to commemorate the occasion, the Guildhall Library is hosting an exhibition of some of the company’s treasures and history. Among the displays are tools used in 19th and 20th centuries, 18th century silverware, and the Company Arms (gifted to it in 1995) as well as examples of their craft from both early and recent periods. The exhibition closes on 29th March, so you’ll have to be quick. Admission is free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/guildhall-library/exhibitions/Pages/The-Worshipful-Company-of-Needlemakers.aspx

A new display of revolutionary sixteenth century woodcuts opens at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday. Renaissance  Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna, looks at the development of the printing technique of the chiaroscuro woodcut and presents more than 100 rare prints by artists from Germany, Italy and The Netherlands which have come from the collection of the Albertina Museum in Vienna and the personal collection of Honorary Royal Academician Georg Baselitz. The new technique – the first known example of which is widely believed to have been created by Hans Burgkmair the Elder with his 1508 depiction of Emperor Maximilian on Horseback – involved supplementing the key ‘black line block’ with one or several ‘tone blocks’ with chiaroscuro woodcuts the first colour woodcuts to make dramatic use of light and shadow to suggest form, volume and depth. Runs until 8th June in the Sackler Wing of Galleries. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

While the designation of London’s oldest public library depends on your definition, for the purposes of this article we’re awarding the title to the Guildhall Library.

Its origins go back to about 1425 when town clerk John Carpenter and John Coventry founded a library – believed to initially consist of theological books for students, according to the terms of the will of former Lord Mayor, Richard (Dick) Whittington (for more on him, see our previous post here).

Guildhall2Housed in Guildhall (pictured above), this library apparently came to an end in the mid-1500s when Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector for the young King Edward VI, apparently had the entire collection loaded onto carts and taken to Somerset House. They were not returned and only one of the library’s original texts, a 13th century metrical Latin version of the Bible, is in the library today.

Some 300 years passed until the library was re-established by the City of London Corporation. Reopened in  1828, it was initially reserved for members of the Corporation but the membership was soon expanded to include”literary men”.

By the 1870s, when the collection included some 60,000 books related to London, the library moved into a new purpose-built building, located to the east of Guildhall. Designed by City architect Horace Jones, it opened to the public in 1873.

The library lost some 25,000 books during World War II when some of the library’s storerooms were destroyed and after the war, it was decided to build a new library. It opened in 1974 in the west wing of the Guildhall where it remains (entered via Aldermanbury).

Today, the 200,000 item collection includes books, pamphlets, periodicals including the complete London Gazette from 1665 to the present, trade directories and poll books as well as the archive collections such as those of the livery companies, the Stock Exchange and St Paul’s Cathedral and special collections related to the likes of Samuel Pepys, Sir Thomas More, and the Charles Lamb Society.

The library also holds an ongoing series of exhibitions.

Where: Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury; WHEN: 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday; COST: Entry is free and no membership of registration is required but ID may be required to access rarer books; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/guildhall-library/Pages/default.aspx.