February 9, 2017
• A Tudor-era bowling ball, Roman iron horse shoes and late 19th century ginger jars are among hundreds of historic objects unearthed during the Crossrail construction project to go on show at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail presents highlights from among the more than 10,000 objects which have been discovered during the project, the largest infrastructure project currently underway in Europe, since it kicked off in 2009. The finds, which span 8,000 years of human history, also include prehistoric flints found at North Woolwich, medieval animal bone skates and human remains found in the former 17th century Bedlam cemetery. The objects, which can be seen until 3rd September, are displayed in accordance to where along the new Elizabeth line they were found. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• This year is centenary of the Russian Revolution and to mark the occasion, the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly is hosting a landmark exhibition on Russian art which takes in the period between 1917 – the year of the October Revolution – and 1932 when Josef Stalin began his violent suppression of the avant-garde. Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 features the works of the likes of avant-garde artists Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, and Kazimir Malevich and social realists like Isaac Brodsky and Alexander Deineka. More than 200 works are on show including loans from the State Russian Museum of St Petersburg and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, many of which have never been seen in the UK before. Highlights include Chagall’s Promenade (1917-18), Kandinsky’s Blue Crest (1917) and Malevich’s Peasants (c. 1930). Alongside the paintings, the display features photography, sculpture, film, posters and porcelain. Admission charge applies. Runs until 17th April. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Boris Mikailovich Kustodiev, ‘Bolshevik’ (1920) © State Tretyakov Gallery.
• More than 100 robots are on display at the Science Museum in South Kensington as part of a new exhibition spanning 500 years of robotic history. Robots, which explores how robots have been shaped by religious belief, the industrial revolution, 20th century popular culture and dreams of the future, features everything from a 16th century mechanical monk to a 2.4 metre tall robot named Cygan dating from the 1950s, and one of the first walking bipedal robots. Visitors will be able to interact with 12 working robots and go behind the scenes to see recent developments in robotic research as well as speculate on what robots of the future might be like. Admission charge applies. Runs until 3rd September. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/robots.
• A major exhibition celebrating the work of early 20th century UK modern artist Vanessa Bell – a central figure in the so-called ‘Bloomsbury Group’ – has opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London’s south this week. About 100 oil paintings as well as ceramics, fabrics, works on paper, photographs and related archival material are featured in the exhibition with the works arranged thematically so as to reveal Bell’s “fluid movement” between the fine and applied arts and focusing particular attention on her most distinctive period of experimentation from 1910 onwards. Vanessa Bell, which runs until 4th June, is presented alongside a photography display which brings together Bell’s photographic work with that of American musician, writer and artist Patti Smith. Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith features 17 photographs by Smith – who has long found inspiration in the work and lives of the Bloomsbury Group – and a selection of Bell’s photo albums. Both can be seen until 4th June. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
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December 5, 2016
The Museum of London Docklands is currently running an exhibition exploring the history of the Royal African Company through the story of William Ansah Sessarakoo. But just who was this African ‘prince’ who came to London (albeit only briefly) and caused such a stir through Georgian society?
Born around 1736, William Ansah Sessarakoo was the son of John Correntee, head of Annamaboe, the largest slave-trading port on Africa’s Gold Coast (now Ghana). Correntee had earlier sent one of his sons to France to be educated and the English traders, apparently worried at the close relationship Correntee had with the French, offered Correntee the chance for another of his sons to receive an English education.
Correntee agreed and his son Ansah subsequently spent much of his time at Fort William, the English base in the region, learning English and their customs and culture. When offered the chance to send Ansah to England, Correntee again agreed and it was decided he would take ship aboard the Lady Carolina with Captain David Bruce Crichton.
Crichton, however, soon betrayed his trust and instead of taking Ansah to England, sold him into slavery in Bridgetown, Barbados. Back in Africa, his family were led to believe he was dead.
But, well known as he was among the Fante people, Ansah was “discovered” four years later by a Fante trader in Barbados. When news reached Correntee he petitioned the English to free him and honour the original deal to send him to England. Anxious to protect their trade, the English agreed and the Royal African Company, which traded along Africa’s west coast, liberated him and transported him to England.
Upon his arrival in early 1749, he was presented as Prince William Ansah Sessarakoo or ‘The Royal African’. Staying as a guest in the Grosvenor Square home of George Montagu Dunk, the 2nd Earl of Halifax, he made numerous appearances in London society. Most notably, on 1st February, 1749, when he attended a showing of Thomas Southerne’s play Oroonoko which tells the story of an African prince sold into slavery by Europeans who then rebels and, after being forced to kill his wife, is himself executed. Sessarakoo was apparently so disturbed by the similarities between that story and his own, that he left the performance early.
In 1750, Ansah returned home. Within a year of his return he had gained work as a writer at Cape Coast Castle, the seat of English power on the Gold Coast and, using his connections there and abroad, he helped his father in his trading with both the English and French. His relationship with the English soured, however, after a physical altercation with William Mutter, the governor of Cape Coast Castle, over a pay dispute involving watered-down whiskey.
Ansah lived the rest of his life in relative obscurity back in Annamaboe and while there are records he did work as a slave trader during this period, little else is known. While no records exist, it is generally believed he probably died around 1770.
Despite his ignoble end, one of the legacies of Ansah’s visit to London was to show the nobility of the African people – a line of thought which did contribute to the rise of the abolitionist movement in Britain.
The Royal African display, featuring the story of William Ansah Sessarakoo, can be seen at the Museum of London Docklands until 4th June, 2017. Admission is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/whats-on/exhibitions/royal-african.
PICTURE: William Ansah Sessarakoo by John Faber, Jr. c. 1749 © National Portrait Gallery, London
This Week in London – London and the slave trade; a rare VC; and, Sir Elton John’s photo collection…
November 24, 2016
• London’s role in the slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries is the subject of a new display opening at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. Called The Royal African, it tells the story of the Royal African Company, founded as a joint venture between the Duke of York (the future King James II) and leading London merchants in 1672 (the coat-of-arms of which is pictured), through looking in-depth at the life of William Sessarakoo. An African prince, Sessarakoo grew up in a Royal African Company fort at Annamaboe in modern Ghana but when his father sent him to London to be educated, he was tricked and instead sold into slavery in Barbados. He spent four years as a slave until he was freed by members of the Royal African Company who wanted to retain good relations with his father and subsequently brought him to London. The display is being housed in the museum’s London, Sugar & Slavery Gallery and can be seen until 4th June next year. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands. PICTURE: © Museum of London.
• A rare Victoria Cross found on the foreshore of the River Thames has gone on show at the Museum of London in the City. Mystery surrounds the medal which was given for actions at the Battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War. While a number of medals were awarded for actions in the battle, only two have a location recorded as unknown. The first is that awarded to Scottish Private John McDermond from the 47th (the Lancashire) Regiment for saving the life of Lt Col O’Grady Hall who had been injured and surrounded by the enemy which leading a charge against a Russian column while the second is that awarded to Irish Private John Byrne of the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry who rescued a wounded comrade under fire. On show alongside the medal is a record book which details the engraving on each VC issued between 18554 and 1927, the original medal design from the jewellers Hancocks and a modern copy of a VC. The medal, which was found and then reported by Tobias Neto, is on show until 15th December. For more, see http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london.
• Sir Elton John’s collection of modernist photography is the subject of an exhibition which opened at the Tate Modern in South Bank earlier this month. The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection features more than 150 works from more than 60 artists including Man Ray, André Kertész, Berenice Abbot, Alexandr Rodchenko and Edward Steichen. Among the subjects show in the images are Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. The exhibition runs until 7th May. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern.
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This Week in London – Festival of Archaeology; exploring colour and vision at the NHM; and the City’s Summer Community Fair…
July 14, 2016
• The 25th annual Festival of Archaeology has kicked off across the UK this week and, of course, there’s events taking place across London. They include a walk exploring the moat at Fulham Palace this Sunday, the opportunity to join Inspector of Ancient Monuments Jane Siddell on a walk along the route of the former London wall in the City of London next Thursday, a tour of the remains of London’s Roman amphitheatre beneath Guildhall Yard on 28th July, and the chance to investigate ancient poo at the Museum of London Docklands over the week from 25th to 29th July. Some of the events are free to attend and require no booking; others charge an admission price and require advance booking. For all details, head to www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk.
Some of 16 hybrid images showing London’s bridges old and new which have been released by the Museum of London Docklands to mark the recent opening of the museum’s new free art exhibition Bridges. The images have been created using historic photographs showcased in the exhibition which opened last Friday and runs until 2nd November. The photographs were taken by renowned late 19th and 20th century photographers, including Henry Grant, Henry Turner, Sandra Flett, Christina Broom, Roger Mayne and George Davison Reid. Above is Tower Bridge, taken by Christina Broom (c. 1903–10) from Shad Thames Jetty. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/. PICTURE © Christina Broom/Museum of London.
Albert Bridge (unknown photographer), Chelsea. Glass lantern slide, c. late 19th century. © Museum of London.
Vauxhall Bridge from Cambridge Wharf (taken by Albert Gravely Linney), 1928. Taken from the north bank of the Thames. © Albert Gravely Linney/Museum of London
Looking north across London Bridge (taken by George Davison Reid), c. 1920s. Taken from inside on the 5th floor of No1 London Bridge. © George Davison Reid/Museum of London
Richmond Bridge, glass lantern slide, c. late 19th century. Taken from the south side of the river. © Museum of London.
This Week in London – Bridges in focus; cheap entry to Tower Bridge; WW1 nurse honoured; and, Dennis Hopper’s photographs…
June 26, 2014
• A new exhibition on London’s bridges commemorating the 120th anniversary of the opening of Tower Bridge opens at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. The largest art exhibition ever staged at the museum, Bridge features rarely seen contemporary and historical works, photography, films and maquettes of London’s bridges and explores the role they play in the city. Highlights include Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s 1766 etching A view of the intended bridge at Blackfriars, London, Charles Ginner’s 1913 work London Bridge, and Ewan Gibbs’ 2007 linocut London. The exhibition will also feature a rare photograph taken by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1845, Old Hungerford Bridge. The oldest photograph in the museum’s collection, it will only be on display for one month from tomorrow. The exhibition, entry to which is free, runs until 2nd November. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/. (PICTURE: © Museum of London Docklands).
• Don’t forget there is a special admission entry offer of just £1.20 to the Tower Bridge Exhibition this Monday, 30th June – 120 years to the day since the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) opened the iconic structure. Tickets must be bought at the door. There will be some Victorian re-enactors at the bridge on the day including police, tourists and engineers and each visitor will receive a special ticket which replicates the design of the invite to the 1894 ceremony (a limited edition commemorative badge will also be available to buy). For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk.
• The Australian-born nurse responsible for the entire nursing operation on the Western Front during World War I has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque unveiled at her former home in Chelsea. Maud McCarthy, one-time Army Matron-in-Chief, was in charge of more than 6,000 British, Imperial and American nurses in 1918. Her accolades included the Florence Nightingale Medal – the highest international distinction a nurse can receive. McCarthy lived at 47 Markham Square for almost 30 years after the war, from 1919 until shortly before her death in 1949. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.
• An exhibition featuring more than 400 photographs taken by the late US actor, film director and artist Dennis Hopper opened at the Royal Academy of Arts off Piccadilly today. Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album is the first time the body of work – first shown in Texas in 1970 – has been displayed in the UK. The photographs document the social and cultural life of the American Sixties and cover a range of themes and subjects. They include portraits of the likes of Paul Newman, Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda, and images depicting members of counter-cultural movements as well as events such as the 1965 march civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Admission charge applies. Runs until 19th October. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
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Held during particularly cold winters when the River Thames froze over, ‘frost fairs’ had been part of London’s history, from the Middle Ages up until the last one was held in February 1814, two hundred years ago last month.
The five day revelry started on 1st February and took place on a stretch of the river between Blackfriars and London Bridge (it was the medieval London Bridge in particular – with its 19 arches and wide piers – which helped to slow the river enough to freeze, something unlikely to happen again with the current bridge).
People began to venture out onto the ice and an impromptu fair started taking shape as tents and booths were established selling all manner of food including roast ox, drinks including alcohol like gin as well as hot chocolate, tea and coffee, and souvenirs to take advantage of the passing traffic (a piece of gingerbread from the fair is a star attraction at the Museum of London’s current exhibition on the fair – pictured right). Some of the tents were known by names (similar to a pub sign), such as the Moscow and the Wellington.
Other attractions recorded include children’s play equipment, a gambling den, and printing presses which produced keepsakes to mark the occasion. There were even reports of sightings of an elephant crossing the river.
Several people apparently died at the fair having sunk beneath the ice by the time the snow turned to rain and the ice began to break up. An engraving of the frost fairs by Richard Kindersley can be found on a pedestrian walkway underneath the Southwark end of Southwark Bridge.
The dates for Frozen Thames: Frost Fair 1814 at the Museum of London have been extended until 21st April (there is an accompanying exhibition, Frozen Thames: Frost Fair 1684 running concurrently at the Museum of London Docklands). Admission is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
MAIN PICTURE: A view of the river Thames, 1814, George Thompson © Museum of London. This print shows the 1814 Frost Fair from the south bank of the Thames, with St Paul’s in the background.
This Week in London – Data visualisation at the BL; Kenneth Williams honoured; and, celebrating ‘frost fairs’…
February 27, 2014
• An examination of the historical use of visual data has opened at the British Library. Beautiful Science, which is running in The Folio Society Gallery, features the work of scientists and statisticians down the ages and focuses on the key themes of public health, weather and evolution. Among items on display are Robert Fludd’s Great Chain of Being (1617), Florence Nightingale’s seminal ‘rose diagram’ (1858) which illustrated that more Crimean War deaths were being caused by poor hospital conditions that battlefield wounds, and a contemporary moving infographic from NASA showing ocean currents (pictured). A programme of events is running with the exhibition which closes on 26th May. Entry is free. For more, see www.bl.uk/beautiful-science. PICTURE: NASA’s Perpetual Ocean © NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
• Comic Kenneth Williams (1926-1988) has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at the London apartment he lived in during the hey day of the ‘Carry On’ series of films during the 1960s. Williams lived in flat 62 on the top floor of Farley Court, located between Madame Tussauds and Baker Street station, between 1963 and 1970 during which he starred in such films as Carry on Cleo and Carry on up the Khyber and also appeared in radio comedy programmes such as Round the Horne and Just a Minute. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.
• Two exhibitions celebrating London’s Frost Fairs are underway at the Museum of London and its Docklands sister. Frozen Thames: Frost Fair 1814 at the Museum of London in the City and Frozen Thames: Frost Fair 1684 at the Museum of London Docklands both feature objects, paintings, keepsakes, engravings and etchings from the museum’s collection. Highlights at the Museum of London exhibition include the only surviving piece of gingerbread from the 1814 fair, the last fair of its kind, as well as etchings by satirical artist George Cruikshank and a print by George Thompson while among the items on display at the Docklands museum are two paintings by a Dutch artist Abraham Hondius (c. 1625-91). Both exhibitions are free and both run until 30th March. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
October 22, 2013
A map of the Romney plantation is among a selection of unseen documents from a West Indian sugar plantation on show as part of a new display, A Material Connection, which opened at the Museum of London Docklands in August. The documents are just some of the 1,000 letters, invoices and deeds dating from between the 1740s and 1860s which make up the Romney family plantation archive. It is the first time the public have a chance to see documents from the archive which was purchased by the museum in 2011 using an £85,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The display explores the role London played as a nexus between Britain and its slave colonies and in particular the relationship between a specific slave plantation and its owner. Opened on the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition (23rd August), the display forms part of the London, Sugar & Slavery exhibition at the museum. For more, check out the Museum of London Docklands.
PICTURE: Museum of London Docklands.
Around London – Museums at night; Propaganda at the BL; MoL Docklands celebrates 10 years; and, Steadman at the Cartoon Museum…
May 16, 2013
• Expect people to be out and about around London at all hours this weekend with the kick-off tonight of Museums At Night, Culture24’s annual festival of after hours visits. This year’s packed program features everything from ‘Arts on Ice’ – a look at the Victorian ice trade – at the London Canal Museum to art nights at the Government Art Collection building, nocturnal tours of Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College, and, for the first time, the chance for adults to sleep over at Hampton Court Palace and kids at Kensington Palace. Other London organisations taking part include the Handel House Museum, the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Benjamin Franklin House, the National Gallery and Somerset House (and that’s just a few off the list!). For more information on the night – including a full program of events – check out the Culture24 Museums at Night website.
• Government spin comes under the spotlight in a major new exhibition which opens tomorrow at the British Library in King’s Cross. Propaganda: Power and Persuasion examines how state have used propaganda in the 20th and 21st centuries and features more than 200 exhibits including Nazi propaganda and everyday objects such as banknotes and badges. Admission charge applies. There’s a series of events running to coincide with the exhibition which runs until 17th September. For more, see www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/propaganda/index.html.
• It’s 10 years since the Museum of London Docklands opened in a converted Georgian warehouse on West India Quay and to celebrate they’re holding an exhibition celebrating the Thames estuary. Titled (appropriately enough), Estuary, the exhibition features the work of 12 artists in a variety of mediums – from film and photography to painting. Entry is free. The exhibition, which opens tomorrow, runs until 27 October. The museum is also holding a special day of family activities to celebrate its creation this Saturday. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.
• On Now: STEADman@77. This exhibition at The Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury looks at the work of graphic artist Ralph Steadman (who is celebrating his 77th birthday) and features more than 100 original works published in magazines ranging from Private Eye to Rolling Stone, Punch and the New Statesmen as well as his illustrated books (these include Sigmund Freud, Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking-Glass, I, Leonardo, The Bid I Am, and Animal Farm). Runs until 8th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.
Around London – Royal Court treasures at V&A; Sir Michael Caine celebrated; a tunic with a past; and, George Catlin’s American Indian portraits…
March 7, 2013
• A new exhibition opens at the V&A in South Kensington this Saturday which charts the development of cultural trade and diplomacy between Britain and Russia from the founding of the Muscovy Company in 1555 until the end of King Charles II’s reign in 1685. Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars reveals the “majesty and pageantry” of the royal courts of both countries – from that of King Henry VIII to King Charles II in Britain and from that of Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV) to the early Romanovs in Russia. The display features more than 150 objects including heraldry and processional armour, furnishings, clothing, jewellery and portraiture including paintings and miniatures painted by court artists. Highlights include a rarely viewed portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, the Barbor Jewel – a pendant set with an onyx cameo of the queen; a hand-colored map of ‘Muscovy’ dating from 1570, and literature including Shakespeare’s First Folio as well as a showcase of British and French silver given to the Tsars by British merchants and kept in the Kremlin. The 20 pieces include the Dolphin Basin, made by Christiaen van Vianen – said to be a favoured silversmith of King Charles I and II – in 1635. The exhibition marks the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. Admission charge applies. Runs from Saturday, 9th March, until 14th July. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: Water pot (1604-05), Historic collectino of the Armoury, © The Moscow Kremlin Museums.
• The life and work of Sir Michael Caine – who turns 80 this month – is the focus of a new free exhibition at the Museum of London. Michael Caine, which opens tomorrow, features photographs including some never exhibited before as well as iconic portraits by the likes of David Bailey and Terry O’Neill as well as a selection of audio and film clips from movies such as Alfie, The Italian Job, Get Carter, Hannah and Her Sisters and Educating Rita. The exhibition follows Sir Michael’s life from “Cockney rebel, through to Hollywood legend and inspirational Londoner” and looks at how the city influenced his life and career. Runs until 14th July. To coincide with the exhibition, the Museum of London Docklands is running Caine on Screen, a selection of free films which can been voted for by the public (see our earlier post here). The schedule of films will be announced after 14th March. For voting details and more information, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• A bullet-pierced military tunic worn during the Indian Mutiny in the mid 19th century has been donated to the National Army Museum in Chelsea. The tunic, worn by Lieutenant Campbell Clark, of the 2nd Bengal European Fusiliers, at Cawnpore in 1857. The lieutenant was ambushed by rebels Indian infantry and shot at point-blank range. Despite being grievously wounded (the musket ball had passed through his stomach and remained in the wound), he survived the injury and the military hospital he was taken to and went on to have a long career, rising to the rank of colonel. He died in 1896 in Sussex. The tunic was donated to the museum by Clark’s great-great-nephew, John Gordon Clark. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.
• On Now: George Catlin: American Indian Portraits. Opening today, this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is the first major exhibition of the American artist’s works to be held in Europe since the 1840s and has been designed to demonstrate to the viewer how Catlin constructed a particular view of Native Americans in the minds of his audiences. Catlin made five trips into the western United States in the 1830s before the Native American peoples had been subsumed into the United States and, inspired by those trips, went on to create an Indian Gallery which featured 500 portraits, pictures and indigenous artefacts. He subsequently toured with the gallery in both the US and Europe. The exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. Runs until 23rd June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
Around London – Christmas at the Tower and Kew Gardens; Old Flo on display; African Diaspora on show at MoL Docklands; and, Mariko Mori at the Royal Academy…
December 20, 2012
• The Tower of London is going Victorian this Christmas with visitors able to experience some of what the Yuletide celebrations in the foreboding, much storied buildings were like in the mid-to-late 1800s. Visitors will be shown how many of the Christmas customs we now participate in each year – like writing cards, pulling crackers and the setting up of family Christmas trees – owe their origins to the Victorian era. The Yeoman Warders will be receiving a Victorian makeover and writer of the age – Charles Dickens – will be reciting some of his works before joining in a “raucous” lunch party with some of his fellow writers, artists and benefactors. It’s even rumoured that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert themselves may make an appearance (take that as a given). Bah! Humbug! A Very Merry Victorian Christmas runs from 27th until 31st December. The festivities will all be included in the usual admission price. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk. PICTURE: Nick Wilkinson/NewsTeam.
• Kew Gardens are celebrating Christmas with a host of events including a “Twelve trees of Christmas” family trail. The trail, a map of which can be picked up as you enter, includes facts about trees along the route. Volunteer guides are also leading free tours of seasonal highlights and the Kew Christmas tree can be seen at Victoria Gate. Other festive treats at Kew include the chance to see Father Christmas in his grotto (until Sunday only) and a vintage carousel on the Kew Palace Lawn. Many of the Christmas-related events end on 6th January. See www.kew.org for more.
• A display focusing on the history of Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman (better known as Old Flo), has opened at the Museum of London Docklands. Henry Moore and the East End provides a glimpse into 1950s East London and looks at why public art was considered important at the time. It features some of the maquettes (scale models) Moore used in creating the piece. The exhibition was opened following a decision by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, to sell Old Flo (now at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park) rather than display the artwork in a public space. The move is being contested by the Museum of London Docklands who have offered to put the work on public display. An online exhibition can be seen at www.museumoflondon.org.uk/oldflo and a ‘pop-up exhibition’ on Old Flo will be launched in January. The museum is also encouraging people to tweet their views about the selling of the sculpture under the hashtag #saveoldflo.
• On Now: Take Another Look. Still at the Museum of London Docklands, this exhibition focuses on the visual representation of people from the African Diaspora who were living and working in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century. The display of 17 exhibits in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery features prints by artists including Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank as well as newspaper cuttings, mostly dating from 1780-1833, which show black Britons in perhaps what were unexpected roles – soldiers, musicians and sportsmen – during what was the period in which the abolition of slavery occurred. There are a series of events planned around the exhibition which runs until 4th August. Entry is free. For more see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.
• On Now: Mariko Mori: Rebirth. The first major museum exhibition of the New York-based Japanese artist Mariko Mori in London since 1998 has opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. The exhibition features some of the artist’s most acclaimed works from the last 11 years, many of which have never before been seen in the UK, as well as works created just for the exhibition. Highlights include Tom Na H-iu, a five metre high glass monolith lit by hundreds of LED lights and connected back to the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo; Transcircle, described as a “modern day Stonehenge”; and, Flatstone, an installation of “22 ceramic stones assembled to recreate an ancient shrine”. Runs until 17th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
Around London – Open House London; 16th century tankard at MoL Docklands; and, Spanish artists shine at the British Museum…
September 20, 2012
• It’s Open House London weekend and that means your chance to enter scores of buildings not normally open to the public. More than 750 buildings are taking part in this, the 20th year the weekend has been held and there’s also an extensive program of free talks, walks and specialist tours. Among the buildings open this year are the iconic Gherkin building in the City (formally known as 30 St Mary Axe, pictured), Heron Tower in Bishopsgate, numerous livery company halls including that of the Apothecaries, Fishmongers and Carpenters, government buildings including Marlborough House, Westminster Hall, and the Foreign Office and numerous historic residences from the Mansion House, home of the Lord Mayor of London to Osterley Park House in west London. Among the events on offer is a moonlit hike through London tomorrow night to raise money for Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and rides on the new Emirates Airline cable car as well as boat tours to the Thames Barriers. If you didn’t order a guide, you can see the program online at the Open House London website – www.londonopenhouse.org. PICTURE: (c) Grant Smith/VIEW Pictures
• A 16th century wooden tankard, found by a mudlark on the Thames foreshore near Ratcliff in London’s east, has briefly gone on display at the Museum of London Docklands. The large vessel, capable of holding three pints, has the initials RH inscribed on the base. It’s unknown for what purpose it was used, perhaps serving as a decanter rather than for individual use and may have been used on a ship. The vessel will be on display at the museum only until 27th September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• On Now: Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain. Opening at the British Museum today is this new exhibition featuring important prints and drawings by Spanish and other European artists working in Spain and spanning a period from the mid 16th century through to the 19th century. While all the works are drawn from the museum’s collection, many have never been on display before. The artists represented include Diego Velazquez, Alonso Cano, Bartolome Murillo, Francisco Zubaran and Jusepe de Ribera as well as Francisco de Goya. Held in room 90. Admission is free. Runs until 6th January. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
March 22, 2012
• The Museum of London is calling on Londoners to submit images showing “Roman influences in London today” as part of its forthcoming Our Londinium 2012 exhibition, a revamping of the museum’s Roman gallery. In what is the largest update made to the museum’s Roman gallery since it opened in 1994, the reworked gallery looks at parallels between Roman London and the city today and features important Roman artifacts such as a bust of the Emperor Hadrian found on the Thames foreshore (part of the British Museum’s collection, this will be displayed for six months before being replaced by a replica) alongside modern objects such as the V for Vendetta masks worn by protestors in the Occupy movement. The exhibition is being co-curated by young people from Junction, the Museum of London’s youth panel, and they’re calling on people to submit their images showing how the city’s Roman past still resonates even today (see example pictured). For details on how to submit images via email of Flickr, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/ol2012map.
• Secrets will be revealed, we’re promised, as part of the City of London’s Celebrate the City: four days in the Square Mile event to be held from 21st to 24th June. Events held in the City our the four days, many of which will be free, include a musical extravaganza to launch the event in Guildhall Yard as well as exhibitions, walks and talks, a chance to explore buildings like Livery Company Halls, the Bank of England and the Mansion House, family entertainment at the Cheapside Fayre and music and activities at sites across the Square Mile including the Barbican Centre, Museum of London and churches. We’ll have more to come on this. For now, head to www.visitthecity.co.uk/culture2012 for more information.
• Architectural historian and former director of the Sir John Soane Museum, Sir John Summerson, has been honored with an English Heritage blue plaque at his former home London’s north-west. Sir John (1904-1992) lived at the property at 1 Eton Villas in Chalk Farm for more than 40 years. He was the director of the Sir John Soane Museum from 1945 to 1984. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.
• Architecture students are being invited to submit designs for a new stone seating area on the City thoroughfare of Cheapside. The winning student will work with trainee masons from the Cathedral Works Organisation and The Mason’s Company with the new seating area unveiled in October. For an application pack and full brief, see For an application pack and full brief, please contact Melanie Charalambous, Department of the Built Environment, City of London Corporation, PO Box 270, Guildhall, London, EC2P 2EJ or call 020 7332 3155 or email email@example.com.
• Now On: Journeys and kinship. This display at the Museum of London Docklands showcases the creative output of a community collaboration project which involved a group of young Londoners working with visual artist Jean Joseph, Caribbean Calypso musician Alexander D Great and Yvonne Wilson from training organisation Equi-Vision. The centrepiece of the exhibition – which explores themes highlighted in the museum’s permanent gallery, London, Sugar and Slavery, on the city’s involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade – is an artwork by Joseph entitled Sales Over Centuries, 2010, which features plaster face casts of 42 people from the African diaspora who were born in or currently live in London. In response to it, the young Londoners have created their own works including face casts, music, film and photography. Runs until 4th November. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.
Around London – Tens of thousands expected for weekend’s Sky Ride; IWM marks 10th anniversary of September 11; Liberty festival hits South Bank; British Library launches new 19th century app; and, a new slavery exhibition at Museum of London…
September 1, 2011
• Tens of thousands of people are expected to join London Mayor Boris Johnson for the annual Sky Ride this Sunday. The event, organised by the Mayor of London, Sky and British Cycling in partnership with Transport for London, allows people to cycle a 11.6 kilometre route through the city centre minus the usual car traffic. The circular route, which takes in Westminster Bridge, the Mall and Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, will be vehicle-free between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Last year more than 85,000 took part. For more information, seewww.goskyride.com/london.
• The Imperial War Museum is marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US with a new photographic exhibition showing artefacts recovered after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York. Memory Remains, which opened on 26th August and runs until 26th February, is a photographic exploration of Hangar 17 – a previously empty hanger at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York where debris and material retrieved from the 16 acre World Trade Center site were stored. It features images taken by Spanish-American artist Francesc Torres, who was commissioned by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to capture what was happening inside the hangar and granted special access to do so. The exhibition is being accompanied by another at Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. In the Spotlight: Remembering 9/11, which runs from 10th September until September next year, features artefacts from the World Trade Center including a British flag which was laid on the altar in St Paul’s Cathedral on the first anniversary of the attacks. Admission to both exhibitions is free. For more information, see www.iwm.org.uk.
• South Bank hosts the Liberty festival, an annual showcase by deaf and disabled artists, this Saturday. The festival, which will take place at two sites – the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre, will feature a mix of music, dance, street theatre, comedy, circus performances and aerial displays. Highlights include Mark Smith’s Deaf Men Dancing, performance artist Bobby Baker, Jean-Marie Akkerman’s Cirque Nova featuring four disabled aerial artists, and Kazzum, who produce theatrical work for children up to 16-years-old. The event is free. For more information, see www.london.gov.uk/liberty.
• The British Library and BiblioLabs have launched a new 19th century historical collection app for iPad users. The app (which costs £1.99 a month or $US2.99 for those outside the UK and is available through Apple’s App Store) allows users to explore historical and antiquarian books including classic novels, original accounts by Victorian travellers, books on science and poetry, memoirs and military histories. Around 45,000 titles are initially available with a further 15,000 to be added by the end of the year.
• On Now: Freedom from: modern slavery in the capital. A new exhibition looking at the reality of trafficking and forced labour has opened at the Museum of London and the Museum of London Docklands – the museum first cross-site exhibition. Created in partnership with Anti-Slavery International and coinciding with the launch of its Slavery-Free London campaign, the exhibition looks at the personal impact of human trafficking and slavery in 21st century London and includes personal testimonies such as that of ‘Gheeta’ who was trafficked from India and forced into work. It also features a series of large scale photographs by Chris Steele-Perkins of Magnum Photos. Runs until 20th November. Admission is free. For more information, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
Around London – Story of London Festival; a new filmlovers’ walk; ‘pocket histories’ of London; and, Your 2012…
August 18, 2011
• The third Story of London Festival kicked off at the start of the month with a programme of events aimed at celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Festival of Britain. This year’s festival is being coordinated by the Museum of London in partnership with the Southbank Centre. It also involves five London borough museums – that of Brent, Dagenham, Haringey, Redbridge and Wandsworth – which are hosting free displays and events around the theme of how they celebrated in 1951. The festival runs until the end of the month, so there’s still plenty of time to get involved. Among the highlights still to come is the Floral Bicycle Parade around the Southbank Centre on 28th August (‘decorating stations’ will be set up at the centre prior to the parade). For a full listing of what’s happening, see www.london.gov.uk/priorities/art-culture/storyoflondon.
• The City of London has released a new filmlovers’ walking tour of London which takes in locations featured in films and TV shows. Lights, camera, action starts on Millennium Bridge (destroyed in the opening sequence of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) and takes in 23 other locations including St Paul’s Cathedral (The Madness of King George and Great Expectations), Bank Junction (28 Days Later, National Treasure II), St Bart’s Hospital (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), Moorgate (Ocean’s 13 and The Bourne Ultimatum) and Tower Bridge (Brannigan, The Mummy Returns, Thunderbirds, Tomb Raider, Sherlock Holmes) before finishing at Postman’s Park (Closer). The walk has been mapped out by the City’s film team which works with location managers and film directors when they’re working in the Square Mile. The leaflet can be picked up free-of-charge from the City of London Information Centre (opposite St Paul’s) or downloaded here.
• Interested in a snapshot of what London was like during a particular historical era? The Museum of London has launched a series of 16 “pocket histories”, each of which, in up to 1,000 words, tackles a particular aspect of the city’s history based around five objects or images. The subjects covered range from a look at the River Thames in prehistory to life in medieval London, from an examination of the history of Jack the Ripper and the East End, to a detailed look at the London’s plagues. While designed for a general audience, the histories are expected to be particularly useful to school students. They can be looked at online or downloaded as a PDF. Further subjects are expected to be added in the future. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk/pockethistories. The museum has also launched Picturebank, a collection of images which can be accessed online and viewed, printed or copied for educational use.
• On Now: Your 2012. The Museum of London Docklands is hosting a free exhibition featuring images capturing the construction work at the Olympic site in East London and the impact on the surrounding boroughs and the environment as well as archival images which show the history of the site. The free exhibition runs until 5th February. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/.
Around London – Captain Kidd at Docklands; London’s Olympic Torch Relay path; St Giles’ seedy past; speech therapist Lionel Logue honored; and, The Seven Seas at Selfridges…
May 19, 2011
• The true story of Captain Kidd and an exploration of London’s links with piracy is the focus of a new major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. Pirates: The Captain Kidd Story features original artefacts dating from 300 years ago when London was a site of pirate executions and tells the story of the infamous Captain Kidd’s life until his execution at Wapping’s Execution Dock. Among the artefacts is the original costume worn by actor Johnny Depp as he played Captain Jack Sparrow in the film Pirates of the Caribbean. The exhibition, which opens tomorrow and runs until 30th October, is being held in conjunction with a series of pirate related events including an adults-only pirate night on 27th May where you have the chance to sample some genuine “pirate drink” and take part in pirate speech lessons. Admission charges apply. For more information, visit the Museum of London Docklands website www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/Whats-on/Exhibitions-Displays/Pirates.htm.
• The path of London’s Olympic Torch Relay has been announced and will finish with a week long jaunt through London. The torch will arrive in Waltham Forest on 21st July next year and then pass through Bexley, Wandsworth, Ealing, Haringey and Westminster before its arrival at the Olympic Stadium on 27th July. To find out how to nominate someone to carry the torch or for more information on the relay, visit www.london2012.com/olympic-torch-relay.
• On Now: London’s Underworld Unearthed: the Secret Life of the Rookery. The seedy side of the St Giles Rookery, a once infamous quarter of the capital, is laid bare in this new exhibition at the Coningsby Gallery. Back in 1751, the area was known as “a pit of degradation, poverty and crime” known for its free-flowing gin. Artist Jane Palm-Gold has displayed 18th and 19th century artifacts found during the Museum of London Archaeology’s recent excavation of old St Giles (conducted prior to the construction of the recent Central St Giles development which now covers the site) alongside her paintings, building what has been described as a “multi-layered psycho-geography that both mesmerises and disturbs”. Runs until 3rd June at the Coninsby Gallery at 30 Tottenham Street (nearest tube station is Goodge Street). Admission is free. For more information, see www.coningsbygallery.com
• Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue – known for having helped cure King George VI of his stammer, the story of which is told in the recent Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech – has been honored with a green plaque by Westminster Council. The plaque was expected to be unveiled today at 146 Harley Street, where Logue, who is known to have used fees from wealthier client to subsidise free treatments for those who could not afford them, lived from 1926 until 1952. The plaque is one of 94 which Westminster Council has placed to mark buildings of particular significance for their association with people who have made lasting contributions to society.
• On Now: The Seven Seas at Selfridges in Oxford Street. Conceptual artist Beth Derbyshire’s seven minute video installation features seven films of seven different seas around the globe. On show as part of Project Ocean – an initiative by Selfridges and 20 environmental and conservation groups aimed at celebrating the ocean’s beauty and highlighting the issue of overfishing. Runs until 8th June. For more information, see www.selfridges.com.
December 16, 2010
The murders took place on 16th December, 1910, when a group of Latvian revolutionaries attempted to break into a jeweller’s shop in Houndsditch. Three City of London policemen were killed and two more disabled for life in the gunfight which broke out.
Two weeks later, on 3rd January, 1911, the Siege of Sidney Street began when more than 200 armed police and a detachment of Scots Guards besieged a home at 100 Sidney Street in Stepney where two of the Houndsditch gang were believed to be hiding.
The exhibition, which has been put together in partnership with the Jewish East End Celebration Society, features objects from the trial of suspected gang members as well as never-before-seen objects including guns taken from the crime scene and safe-breaking equipment. The overcoat Winston Churchill wore on the day of the siege – he attended in his capacity as Home Secretary – will also be on display.
London Under Siege: Churchill and the Anarchists, 1911, runs from 18th December to April 2011. Entry is free. For more information, see www.museumindocklands.org.uk.
• Meanwhile a plaque was unveiled today on the site in Cutler Street where three policemen – Sergeant Robert Bentley, 36, Sergeant Charles Tucker, 46, and PC Walter Choat, 34 – were killed during the gunfight with the gang. Two other policemen were disabled for life and a fireman, Superintendent Charles Pearson, later died after he entered the Sidney Street property which had been gutted by fire. A plaque will be unveiled in his honor on 6th January.
September 9, 2010
• It’s only a week to go until the annual Open House London event. Held on the 18th and 19th September, Open House London is your chance to get inside all manner of buildings – from private homes through to grand edifices – which are often normally closed to the public. Be warned, however, that some buildings, such as the BT Tower (open for the first time) require bookings to be made. These close 15th September, so you’ll have to be quick. The free event, which has run for 18 years, also includes neighbourhood walks, cycle tours and talks. For more information on the event, to purchase the guide (an electronic copy can be downloaded for £3.50) or to find out how to book, head to www.openhouselondon.org.uk.
• Looking for a weekend out of the city? English Heritage’s Heritage Open Days program – which doesn’t cover London – runs from today until Sunday and grants free access to properties around the country which are either normally closed to the public or usually charge admission fees. The program includes buildings ranging from medieval castles and Georgian townhouses through to World War II cemeteries and 21st century eco-homes. Among the properties within easy reach of daytrippers from London are Waverley Abbey in Fareham, Surrey – founded in 1128, it was the first in England housing Cistercian monks; an historic ‘net shop’ in Hastings, East Sussex; the Battle of Britain command centre at Bentley Priory in Stanmore, Hertfordshire (see picture of the entrance hall above); and, the new Aardman Animation headquarters in Bristol, home to the creators of Wallace and Gromit. Some places require prebooking so check before heading off. For more information, see www.heritageopendays.org.uk.
• The headless skeleton of a rare North Atlantic right whale recently found in the Thames has gone on display at the Museum of London Docklands. The seven metre long, half tonne skeleton was unearthed at Bay Wharf Greenwich by archaeologists and is believed to be the largest single object ever found at an archaeological dig in the city. The skeleton is only on display in the museum’s foyer until 14th September when it goes to the Natural History Museum. Entry is free. For more information, see www.museumindocklands.org.uk.