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

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

PICTURE: Courtesy of the British Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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London Explained – Mudlarks…

Modern mudlarks at Queenhithe on the River Thames. PICTURE: Geoff Henson (licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)

Spotted along the Thames foreshore when the tide is low, the term ‘mudlark’ is used to describe someone who scavenges for lost or discarded objects in the mud along the Thames river banks.

In the 18th and 19th century, mudlarks were among London’s poorest who eked out a living by selling items – lumps of coal, pieces of rope, precious metals – found on the river’s banks. They were often the young or the elderly and the working conditions, which included navigating through the raw sewage and other noxious waste which ended up on the foreshore, were horrendous.

Victorian journalist Henry Mayhew, who writes in his seminal and expansive series of reports – London Labour and the London Poor – described how mudlarks were so-named because of their need at times to wade up to their waists in mud to retrieve items.

By the 20th century, the practice appears to have somewhat died out. But in more recent years, the term mudlark has been applied to hobbyists, including those using metal detectors, to search along the Thames foreshore during the hours when the tides allow. Since the mid-1970s, The Society of Thames Mudlarks has provided some organisational structure for those involved but membership in this body is limited.

A permit from the Port of London Authority is required for modern mudlarking. As the authority’s website states: “Anyone searching the tidal Thames foreshore from Teddington to the Thames Barrier – in any way for any reason – must hold a current and relevant foreshore permit from the Port of London Authority. This includes all searching, metal detecting, ‘beachcombing’, scraping and digging”.

Finds of potential archaeological interest must be reported to the Museum of London (and human remains, of course, to police). Mudlarks are also encourage to report finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Mudlark finds. PICTURE: Neil Cummings (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Objects found include everything from clay pipes, bits of pottery, buttons, bones and pins through to more precious items such as coins, rings and even daggers and swords.

Lara Maiklem, author of the 2019 book Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames, is among the most well-known of the modern mudlarks. As detailed in his book, her finds have included everything from a Roman amphora stopper to medieval roof tiles, a bearded man from a late 16th century Bellarmine jug and an 18th century shoe pattern.

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

PICTURE: Courtesy of The Royal Parks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beryl Gilroy © The Estate of Beryl Gilroy

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

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

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

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

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LondonLife – Museum of London marks Windrush Day…

Tihara Smith outfit PICTURE: © Tihara Smith

Marking this year’s Windrush Day, the Museum of London has made two new acquisitions – an ensemble from London fashion designer Tihara Smith’s ‘Windrush collection’ and a suit owned by her grandfather – available to explore on the Museum of London website. Tihara’s outfit, which was designed as part of Smith’s UCA Epsom graduate collection in 2018 and selected for display at Graduate Fashion Week, references the story of her grandfather, Lazare Sylvestre, who arrived in the UK from St Lucia in 1958 as part of the Windrush generation. Details including a raffia vest hand embroidered with the words ‘Black and British’ which is accompanied by a Black Power fist and the red lion symbol of England as well as a shirt made from a tablecloth purchased in Peckham Market and flared 1970s style denim culottes – all of which are representative of her grandfather’s experience and that of so many other Black British Londoners at that time. Her grandfather’s suit, meanwhile, was designed and made for him by a close friend, Winceslas ‘Winston’ Giscombe, a tailor who originally from Kingston, Jamaica, who came to the UK in 1947 on a ship called the Ormonde, a year before the Windrush arrived in 1948. Photographs of the items, along with oral histories recorded by Tihara, her mother and her grandfather, can be explored on the Museum of London website. For more on Windrush, see the Windrush Stories page on the Museum of London Docklands website

Treasures of London – St Thomas Becket pilgrim badges…

The Museum of London is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic but we run this story in the hope you’ll be able to visit soon.

This pilgrim badge depicts the scene of Becket’s martyrdom. An inscription at the base of the badge reads ‘THOMAS MA’ (meaning ‘Thomas Martyr’). Becket is on his knees in front of an altar with a number of knights attacking him. Behind the altar stands the figure of Edward Grim, a clerk who tried to stop Becket’s murder. One of the knights carries a shield with two bears’ heads on it, identifying him as Reginald Fitzurse (through the visual pun on the Latin ‘ursus’, meaning ‘bear’). Fitzurse was the knight popularly believed to have struck final blow that killed Becket. PICTURE: © Museum of London.
Pilgrim badge in the shape of a bust of St Thomas Becket wearing a mitre and inscribed ‘T:H:O:M:A:S’. PICTURE: © Museum of London.

The Museum of London contains a large collection – in fact, it’s said to be the largest in the UK – of pilgrim badges relating to the commemoration of the Archbishop of Canterbury, St Thomas Becket, who was brutally murdered in 1170.

Produced largely in Canterbury (possibly some in London), the lead-alloy badges were worn, typically on a hat or staff, by pilgrims as a means of commemorating their pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury.

They came in various shapes and sizes. Many simply depict a bust of Becket’s head wearing the Archbishop of Canterbury’s mitre (see picture right).

But others are more elaborate and depict the full-length figure of the archbishop, scenes of his martyrdom at the hands of King Henry II’s knights (see picture above) and even the elaborate bejewelled shrine housing St Thomas’ remains that was erected in about 1220 in Canterbury Cathedral (the endpoint of the pilgrimage).

The museum also has small tin ampullae which were created to hold “Canterbury Water” or “St Thomas’ Water” – water into which drops of the martyred archbishop’s blood were dripped before it was blessed – which was given to pilgrims to take home as a kind of “cure all”.

The collection of badges can be seen when the museum reopens. Keep an eye out for the reopening at www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

LondonLife – Women’s history inspires comedians for International Women’s Day…

Female bus conductor. March 1975 © Henry Grant Collection – Museum of London

The world observed International Women’s Day on Monday and to mark the occasion, the Museum of London has launched an original video series featuring five female comedians performing short original pieces inspired by objects in the museum’s women’s history archives. The first of the videos features comedian Thanyia Moore responding to a Henry Grant photograph of a female bus conductor from the mid-1970s when London Underground first officially employed women as bus drivers (pictured right). Further videos – which will be rolled out over Women’s History Month – feature comedians Samantha Baines, Jenny Bede, Jen Ives and Leila Navabi responding to objects ranging from a commemorative toilet roll created by First 100 Years to mark a century since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act made it illegal to ban people from jobs based on their sex in 1919 (pictured below) to a recruitment letter from Sainsbury’s seeking female staff to work in their shops during World War I. To watch the first of the series head here.

Commemorative toilet roll, 2017 © Museum of London

This Week in London – Astronomical wonders; Lambeth Mayor’s homemade chain; a gift for conservation; and, a Darwinian donation…

Winner of the People’s Choice Awards 2020 – The Cave of the Wild Horses © Bryony Richards (Winner)

A photograph of the Milky Way taken from the Cave of the Wild Horses in the southern Utah desert has won the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year: People’s Choice Awards 2020. The stunning image by Bryony Richards was captured in the cave after a long hike through the desert. It was selected from 25 images short-listed by the Royal Observatory Greenwich. ‘Reflection of the Stars’ by Linh Nguyen won second place award and Qiqige (Nina) Zhao won third for ‘Anniversary of Apollo 11 Mission’. Meanwhile, the deadline for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 13 competition run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine is looming – photographers need to have submitted their images by 12pm on 5th March. The overall winner of the competition will take home a top prize of £10,000 and see their image in the accompanying exhibition, which is scheduled to open at the National Maritime Museum on 18th September. For more details, see www.rmg.co.uk/astrocomp.

The Mayor of Lambeth’s homemade ceremonial chain has been acquired by the Museum of London as part of its ‘Collecting COVID’ initiative. The chain was made by the mayor, Councillor Philip Normal, for the virtual ceremony in which he was created mayor on 22nd April, 2020, during the first national lockdown. Made of card and plaited t-shirt fabric, it features Lambeth’s coat of arms painted within a fluorescent pink oval with the words ‘Spectemur Agendo’ meaning, ‘Let us be judged by our acts’. For more on ‘Collecting COVID’, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

An oil painting of Sir John Maitland by an unknown Anglo-Dutch artist, part of the art collection at Ham House in London’s south-west, is among artworks which are to undergo restoration thanks to a £3 million gift to the National Trust from American charity, the Royal Oak Foundation. The gift will support the Trust’s conservation work for the next five years mainly based at its specialist conservation studio in Knole, Kent. It was made in honour of the 125th anniversary of the National Trust, which cares for more than 200 historic properties containing more than a million objects – everything from artworks to furniture, textiles and ceramics. The painting of Sir John came to public attention in 2017 when X-ray analysis revealed what is believed to be an unfinished portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, hidden underneath it. For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk.

• Looking further afield and a keepsake box containing mementos associated with Charles Darwin – including shells gathered on his famous voyage in the HMS Beagle – have been donated to English Heritage. The charity announced the gift this week to mark the 150th anniversary of the 1871 publication of his book, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. The red leather box and its contents will go on display at Down House in Kent later this year following conservation work. Charles and Emma Darwin initially gave the box to their eldest daughter Annie but, following her death at the age of 10 in 1851, it passed to her sister Henrietta, known as “Etty”. Among the souvenirs placed in it were locks of hair belonging to different members of the Darwin family (including Emma and Henrietta), a silk handkerchief embroidered with Charles’ initials CD, and the shells which his daughters later carefully labelled using scrap paper from the naturalist’s draft manuscripts. English Heritage is appealing for donations for the care and display of the box. To support the work, head to www.english-heritage.org.uk/support-us/.

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This Week in London – Exploring the ‘Raphael Cartoons’; using art to bridge Brexit divide; a 21st century police box; and, COVID’s viral tweets…

One of the Raphael Cartoons depicting ‘The Death of Ananias (Acts 5: 1-5)’, by Raphael, 1515 –16, Italy. Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021as.

An in-depth exploration of the so-called ‘Raphael Cartoons’ has gone online at the V&A ahead of the reopening of the newly transformed Raphael Court later this year. Among the greatest Renaissance treasures in the UK, the cartoons were commissioned by Pope Leo X for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican shortly after his election in 1513. The Pope asked artist Raphael to create a series of 10 designs illustrating the lives of St Peter and St Paul which could then be turned into tapestries to grace the walls of the chapel. Created in the workshop of merchant-weaver Pieter van Aelst in Brussels, the 10 tapestries were each five metres wide and 3.5 metres high. Seven of Raphael’s original cartoons survive – they were brought to Britain in the early 17th century by the Prince of Wales (later King Charles I) and remained behind closed doors in the Royal Collection until they were lent to the South Kensington Museum – now the V&A – by Queen Victoria in 1865 in memory of Prince Albert. The cartoons have been on public display in the museum ever since. The new online offering traces the story of the cartoons and using ultra- high-resolution photography, infrared imagery, and 3D scans, and is the first time people have been able to explore the cartoons in such detail. It was produced as part of the V&A’s ‘Raphael Project’, marking the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in 2020, which includes a landmark renovation of the Raphael Court – home to the cartoons. The refurbished gallery will be unveiled when the museum reopens. To see the new online display, head to vam.ac.uk/raphael-cartoons.

A participatory art project exploring the relationship between the UK and France in a post-Brexit world has commenced this week. I Love You, Moi Non Plus – presented in partnership by Somerset House, Dover Street Market London, The Adonyeva Foundation, Collectif Coulanges, Eurostar and coordinated by Sabir, invites artists to share their interpretation of what the British-French relationship means to them with works to be displayed in a new online gallery alongside bespoke pieces from “project ambassadors” including Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, fashion designer Stella McCartney, English electronic musician Brian Eno, English National Ballet artistic director Tamara Rojo,and British artist Bob and Roberta Smith. The project seeks to highlight how art and creativity can “maintain connections between communities across the channels, unifying voices from across Britain and the EU”. Participants are asked to contribute either by sharing their creations on social media with hashtags #ILoveYouMoiNonPlus, #ILYMNP and #LifeAfterBrexit or submit them directly to the website here

Does this mean a new Tardis for Dr Who? The City of London Corporation is calling on architects, landscape architects, designers and artists to submit ideas for the design of a “21st century police box”. The competition, which is being run by the City in conjunction with the City of London Police, New London Architecture (NLA) and Bloomberg Associates, aims to provide “a modern and engaging way to provide information and safety” to the Square Mile’s residents, workers and visitors. Up to six shortlisted teams will be awarded funding to develop their idea into a design proposal and the winning design will be unveiled in the summer. For more, head to nla.london/submissions/digital-service-point-open-call-competition.

The Museum of London has acquired 13 tweets shared by Londoners during the initial coronavirus-related lockdown as part of its ongoing ‘Collecting COVID’ project. The tweets, which were collected under the ‘Going Viral’ strand of the Collecting COVID project, now form part of the museum’s permanent collection and lay bare what people were experiencing during 2020. The Going Viral project focused on collecting text, memes, videos and images that were ‘shared’ or ‘liked’ on Twitter more than 30,000 times. Additional tweets will be considered for acquisition this year.

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This Week in London – City statues to be removed; 800-year-old window at centre of upcoming Becket exhibition; and, weavers give £100,000 for new museum…

Statues of two prominent men with links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade will be removed from Guildhall, the City of London has said. The City of London Corporation’s policy and resources committee voted to remove statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass following a recommendation from the corporation’s Tackling Racism Taskforce. The statue of Beckford, a two-time Lord Mayor of London in the late 1700s who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves, will be replaced with a new artwork while the likeness of Sir John Cass, a merchant, MP and philanthropist in the 17th and 18th centuries who also profited from the slave trade, will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation. The corporation will now set up a working group to oversee the removal of the statues and replacement works and will also consider commissioning a new memorial to the slave trade in the City.

A detail from the healing of Ralph de Longeville in the Miracle window, Canterbury Cathedral, early 1200s. © The Chapter, Canterbury Cathedral.

An 800-year-old stained glass window from Canterbury Cathedral will form the centrepiece of an upcoming exhibition on Thomas Becket. Now scheduled for April after delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint will feature more than 100 objects as it tells the story of Becket’s life, death and enduring legacy. The ‘Miracle Window’ – one of seven surviving from an original series of 12 – will be shown in its original arrangement of the first time in more than 350 years. The fifth in the series, it depicts miracles which took place in the three year after Becket’s death including the healing of eyesight and the replacement of lost genitals. The exhibition will represent the first time a complete stained glass window has been lent by the cathedral. Details of tickets will be announced soon. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/becket.

The Worshipful Company of Weavers this week announced the donation of £100,000 towards the creation of the new Museum of London in former market buildings at West Smithfield. The donation is one of the largest ever awarded by the livery company which, having a Royal charter dating from 1155, is the oldest surviving. The masterplan for the new museum received planning permission in June last year.

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This Week in London – Museum of London takes delivery of ‘Trump Baby’; and, a call-out for African fashions…

As the inauguration of US President Joe Biden took place in the US this week, the Museum of London announced it had taken possession of the larger-than-life ‘Trump Baby’ balloon. The blimp first appeared at protests in July, 2018, during then-US President Donald Trump’s first visit to the city, and has since followed the President around the world. The museum said it will now form part of its protest collection which also includes objects relating to the Suffrage movement, banners, flags, and tents that belonged to Houses of Parliament protestor Brian Haw and placards used recently by protestors against public spending cuts. Sharon Ament, director of the museum, said: “From the Suffragettes of the early twentieth century to the anti-austerity marches, free speech and Black Lives Matter most recently – the capital has always been the place to have your say. By collecting the baby blimp we can mark the wave of feeling that washed over the city that day and capture a particular moment of resistance – a feeling still relevant today as we live through these exceptionally challenging times – that ultimately shows Londoners banding together in the face of extreme adversity.” The Trump Baby team added that it was their hope the blimp “will stand as a reminder of when London stood against Trump – but will prompt those who see it to examine how they can continue the fight against the politics of hate”. “Most of all we hope the Trump Baby serves as a reminder of the politics of resistance that took place during Trump’s time in office.”

Kofi Ansah ‘Indigo’ Couture 1997 – Narh & Linda – PICTURE: © 1997 Eric Don-Arthur http://www.EricDonArthur.com

The V&A is seeking to contact people who have worn fashions designed by the likes of Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah, and Alphadi – a group who, along with their peers, represent the first generation of African designers to gain international attention. The call out comes as the South Kensington museum announces plans to hold an exhibition, supported by GRoW @ Annenberg, which aims to celebrate the creativity, ingenuity and global impact of contemporary African fashions in June. The display will feature more than 250 objects, drawn from the personal archives of African fashion creatives, alongside textiles and photographs from the V&A’s collection (many of which are being displayed for the first time). Alongside the objects, the museum is seeking a range of items – and the stories that go with them – from the public. They include Chris Seydou’s 1980s experimental garments in bògòlanfini, 20th century kente, bògòlanfini, khanga and commemorative cloths from the independence and liberation years in Africa, and family portraits and home movies showing African and African diasporic fashion trends. Members of the public with objects that fit the above description are asked to get in touch by email at africafashion@vam.ac.uk, and to share their pictures and memories on social media, using the hashtag #AfricaFashion. For the full list of sought after items, head to www.vam.ac.uk/blog/news/va-africa-fashion-call-out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LondonLife – Iconic shirt becomes part of Collecting COVID…

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with the shirt. PICTURE: © Arsenal FC

A Black Lives Matter tribute shirt worn by Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the 2020-21 Premier League season is being donated to the Museum of London as part of its Collecting COVID project. The Black Lives Matter logo was added to all Premier League shirts following anti-racism protests across the globe earlier this year. Aubameyang – the latest Black player to captain Arsenal – said it was “an honour to have the opportunity to donate my Black Lives Matter shirt to the Museum of London’s Collecting COVID project”. “I hope this will be remembered as the moment that football stood against all forms of racism and that it will inspire young people for the future,” he said. The Collecting COVID project was launched in April this year with the aim of collecting objects relating to how Londoners lived during coronavirus pandemic. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/museum-for-london-collecting-covid.

This Week in London – ‘Dub London’; exploring Sin; and, COVID-19 explored at Science Museum Late…

Channel One Sound System at Notting Hill Carnival 2019. PICTURE © Eddie Otchere / Museum of London

Dub music and the impact it’s had on London’s identity and people is the subject of a new, long delayed, exhibition which opened at the Museum of London late last week. Dub London: Bassline of a City, which had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, charts how, from its roots in Jamaican reggae, dub music went on to influence multiple genres and played a key role in the development of punk bands like The Clash. The display includes the iconic speaker stack belonging to Channel One Sound System that has appeared yearly at Notting Hill Carnival since 1983 (pictured above) and a specially created bespoke record shop with a selection of 150 vinyl records chosen by 15 London based independent record shops which can be listened to. Runs until 31st January. Admission is free but must be booked in advance (and bring your own headphones). For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/dub-london.

The concept of sin is at the heart of a new free exhibition at The National Gallery. Sin brings together 14 works dating from the 16th century to now by artists ranging from Jan Brueghel the Elder and William Hogarth to Andy Warhol and Ron Mueck. Among the paintings on show are Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve (1526), Hogarth’s The Tête à Tête and Marriage A-la-Mode, Diego Velázquez’s Immaculate Conception, William Holman Hunt’s The Scapegoat (1854-55), and Ron Mueck’s sculpture Youth (2009). The display can be seen in Room 1. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.

The science of the coronavirus is explored in a special night event at the Science Museum next Wednesday, 14th October. Staff from the Francis Crick Institute will be joining with those from the Science Museum in exploring how the immune system remembers and evolves and how the Crick was turned from a biomedical research centre into a COVID-19 testing facility. Visitors can also hear from NHS transplant surgeon Pankaj Chandak who has been using 3D printing tech to make life-saving PPE for frontline staff while the Leonard Cheshire charity shows how assistive eyegaze technology has played a vital role in helping to keep people with access needs connected. There will also be a chance to make a facemask as part of the museum’s #MaskSelfie campaign and the opportunity to explore the museum’s new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries. Admission charge applies and pre-booking is essential. Head to sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/lates.

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LondonLife – Listening to London…

The first recorded soundscape of London’s busy streets was created in 1928 as part of a Daily Mail campaign calling for noise restrictions. Recordings were made at five sites – Whitechapel East, St George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner, Leicester Square, Cromwell Road and Beauchamp Place in South Kensington – in a collaborative project between the Mail and the Columbia Graphophone Company. Now, more than 90 years later, the sounds at the five original locations – or rather the lack of sounds during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown – have been captured again, this time as binaural recordings, a method of recording sound that uses two microphones to create a 3D stereo sound. It’s all part of the Museum of London’s ongoing ‘Collecting COVID’ project and was created in collaboration with String and Tins, an award-winning team of sound designers, composers, sound supervisors and mix engineers. Both the 1928 recordings (now digitised) and the modern recordings have been made available to listen to in their entirety for the first time on the Museum of London’s website. There are accompanying photographs by Damien Hewetson as well as historic imagery from the museum’s archive. PICTURE: A sparsely populated Leicester Square in an image taken in May this year during the coronavirus lockdown (ACME/licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

This Week in London – Windrush oral histories; Berkeley Square gets a new sculpture; and, Sir Robert Geffrye statue under review…

Hitherto unheard oral histories documenting the lived experience of the Windrush generation and the generations that followed have been released by the Museum of London. The oral histories, which were recorded in 2018 as part of the Conversation Booth project in City Hall, are part of the museum’s new online collection of Windrush-related content. Drawn from the collections of both the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, it includes objects, photos, videos and articles. To explore the collection, head to www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/windrush-stories.

A hybrid sculpture depicting the body of a woman with the head of a hare has gone on show in Berkeley Square. The work of Sophie Ryder, Crawling was hand-made in 1999 from wet plaster, old machine parts and scavenged toys then cast in bronze. The work is part of City of Westminster’s City of Sculpture programme which brings sculpture to iconic outdoor locations.

The Museum of the Home is asking people for their opinion on the future of the statue of Sir Robert Geffrye which stands out the front of the almshouses housing the museum in Shoreditch. The almshouses were built by Geffrye, who was involved with the slave trade having made made his fortune with the East India Company and the Royal African Company, in 1714. The consultation is being held in partnership with Hackney Council which is conducting a wider review of landmarks and the naming of public spaces in the borough. The consultation remains open until the 2nd July. To have your say, head to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/geffrye-statue.

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This Week in London – ‘Disease X’ online; explore the world of the kimono; and, National Gallery announces extensions and deferrals…

The Museum of London is offering the chance to explore its previous exhibition, Disease X: London’s next epidemic?, online. The exhibition, which was first shown at the museum in between November, 2018, and March, 2019 to make the 100th anniversary of the second wave of the Spanish flu, draws on the museum’s collections as well as historical research and expert views to explore if the city was at risk from an unknown ‘Disease X’. Among the objects in the display are the mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria to mark the shock passing of her grandson Prince Albert Victor due to ‘Russian Flu’, a 17th century pomander used to waft away the foul vapors thought to cause diseases like the plague and a poster advertising ‘Flu-Mal’, a supposed cure for both influenza and malaria. To see the exhibition, head to https://virtualexhibitions.museumoflondon.org.uk/disease-x/. The online exhibition is part of the museum’s mission to bring online content to people at home while its doors are closed under the banner of the ‘Museum for London’. PICTURE: Influenza conquered by Flu-Mal. Advertising Poster © Museum of London.

The V&A has launched a series of five films that take viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of its exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. Curator Anna Jackson guides viewers through the exhibition spaces and provides personal insights into the making of the show, some of the star exhibits and the history of the kimono. The exhibition tracks the “sartorial and social significance” of the kimono from the 1660s to the present day in both Japan and elsewhere around the world and features international designer fashions and iconic costumes from films and performances. Highlights include a kimono created by Living National Treasure Kunihiko Moriguchi, the Alexander McQueen dress Björk wore on the cover of her album Homogenic, and original Star Wars costumes modelled on kimono by John Mollo. To watch, head here.

The National Gallery has announced it has extended its landmark exhibition Titian: Love, Desire, Death which had been due to close on 14th June, having been open for just three days before lockdown measures were put in place. The gallery has also announced the exhibition Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age will also be extended while dates for upcoming exhibitions including Sin, Conversations with God: Copernicus by Jan Matejko, and The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael have been pushed back. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Collecting COVID…

Have an item that shows how your life has changed since the arrival of the novel coronavirus in London in January? 

The Museum of London is seeking to build a collection of objects and first-hand experiences related to the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to ensure future generations of Londoners will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period in the city’s history.

The museum, which already holds collections related to disease outbreaks such as the 1889 -1893 and 1918 flu pandemics, is looking for both physical and digital objects related to three main themes – how the physical spaces in the city have been transformed, the effects on key and home workers, and how children and young people are reacting to and coping with the changes now that many schools are closed.

Like those in existing pandemic-related collections – such as the dress Queen Victoria wore to mourn the loss of her grandson to influenza in 1892 (pictured – right) or an 1832 cholera notice issued for St Katharine Docks (pictured – top), the COVID-19-related objects will serve as a reminder of the suffering people are experiencing but also tell the story of the pandemic’s effect on society and culture.

“Londoners, like millions of people around the world, have to find ways of coping with the new life the epidemic has imposed,” says Beatrice Behlen, senior curator at the Museum of London.

“This is a major moment in the capital’s history and we want to collect a range of objects, from clothing to hairclippers, from diaries to memes that reflect the physical and emotional response of Londoners to COVID-19. The Museum of London always strives to tell the story of London and its people. We feel it is imperative to capture this time for future generations, to help us understand how this city dealt with an extraordinary situation.“

Individuals and organisations who would like to donate objects should get in touch via social media @MuseumofLondon or email enquiry@museumoflondon.org.uk.

PICTURES: Top – Printed cholera notice issued by the Secretary of St Katharine Dock Company; Right – Dress ensemble, 1892. Worn by Queen Victoria when in mourning for her grandson, the Duke of Clarence, who died in the flu pandemic in 1893. (© Museum of London)

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