This Week in London – Animals in the British Library; Gladiators at Guildhall; and celebrating “pocket parks”…

title-page-1950-cs-lewis-the-lion-the-witch-and-the-wardrobe-copyright-cs-lewis-pteFrom Peter Rabbit to Aesop’s Fables, animals and their appearance in some of the classics of literature are the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the British Library in St Pancras yesterday. Animal Tales explores the role animals have played in traditional tales around the world along with their importance in the development of children’s literature, and their use in allegorical stories such as CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as literary transformations between man and beast (this last in a nod to the fact it’s the centenary of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis). Highlights in the exhibition include one of the first children’s picture books – the 1659 edition of Comenius’ Orbis sensualism pictus, an 18th century woodblock edition of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West, and a soundscape installation drawn from the library’s world leading collection of natural history recordings along with other animal tales from the sound archive. The exhibition, which runs until 1st November, will be accompanied by a series of events. Entry is free (and the display includes a children’s reading area and a family trail brochure). For more, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: The title page from the 1950 London edition of CS Lewis’ The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe. © CS Lewis Pte Ltd.

Gladiators will battle it out on the former site of London’s open air Roman amphitheatre in Guildhall Yard this weekend. The shows – which will recreate what gladiatorial games were like in Roman Londinium – will be presided over by an emperor with the crowd asked to pick its side. The ticketed event, being put on by the Museum of London, takes place Friday night from 7pm to 8pm and on Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 1pm and between 3pm and 4pm. Admission charges apply. To book, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

A new International Visitors Victim Service has been launched in London to specifically help foreign nationals affected by crime in the city. The first of its kind in the UK, the service, which has been established by the Metropolitan Police working with independent charity Victim Support and embassies, already operates across the five central London boroughs and is now available through a mobile police kiosk located in the West End’s “impact zone”, an area which spans Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus (alternatively they can contact the International Visitor Advocates by calling 0207 259 2424 or visit the West End Central Police Station at 27 Savile Row.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has celebrated the creation of 100 new pocket parks across London’s 26 boroughs in a scheme which is now being adopted by other locations across the country. The parks range from a rain garden in Vauxhall to a dinosaur playground in Hornsey and have seen more than 25 hectares of community land converted into enhanced green areas. A free exhibition is running at City Hall until 28th August which focuses on the stories of 11 people involved in the creation of the parks. For more on London’s “great outdoors”, you can see an interactive map at www.london.gov.uk/outdoors.

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

Dr Livingstone honoured; David Bowie at the V&A; Damian Lewis receives Freedom; pocket parks; and, try a new sport…

The President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, attending a wreath-laying ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday night to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Scottish missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone. The ceremony took place at the grave of Dr Livingstone – his body was repatriated to London following his death in Zambia in 1873 from malaria and dysentery. The Very Reverand Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, said the ceremony honored a “Scot of humble origins, but clear determination and courage”. “140 years after his death, he remains respected throughout these islands, and especially in Africa, where, for 30 years, he laboured to spread the Gospel, to explore the land’s secrets, and to map what he discovered,” he said. “Treating all people as his equals, he worked to abolish the slave trade in Africa.” Livingstone conducted several expeditions into the interior of Africa – while they included a failed attempt to find the source of the Nile, he is credited with documenting numerous geographical features including Victoria Falls (he named it after Queen Victoria) and Lake Malawi. Celebrated as a hero of the Victorian age, his meeting with Henry Stanley in October 1871 – Stanley had been sent to find him after he had lost contact with the outside world – gave rise to the expression “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” (though whether he actually said the phrase remains a matter of debate).

A landmark exhibition on the career of David Bowie opens at the V&A on Saturday. David Bowie is features more than 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, costumes, photographs, films, Bowie’s instruments and album artwork selected by the V&A’s theatre and performance curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh. The exhibition takes an in-depth look at Bowie’s music and how it and his “radical individualism” has influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design and contemporary culture. Among the more than 60 costumes on display will be a Ziggy Stardust bodysuit (1972) and costumes made for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries. This exhibition, which is sponsored by Gucci and Sennheiser,  runs until 11th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/davidbowieis.

Homeland star Damian Lewis has received the Freedom of the City of London in a ceremony at Guildhall on Tuesday in recognition of his “outstanding achievements in acting”. Lewis, who graduated from the City of London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 1993, has appeared in The Forsyte Saga, US mini-series Band of Brothers and, of course, in Homeland. Interestingly, his maternal grandfather, Sir Ian Bowater, was Lord Mayor of the City of London from 1938 to 1939. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.au.

Work is underway on the first of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s, “pocket parks”. The size of a tennis court, the pocket parks are set to “reinvent some of London’s forgotten nooks and crannies”. Among the first will be an edible park featuring vegetable, herbs, fruit trees and hops located on ‘dead space’ behind a Stockwell bus stop (the hops will be sold to the Brixton Beer Cooperative). All 100 of the pocket parks will be finished by March 2015 at a cost of £2 million. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/priorities/environment/greening-london/parks-green-spaces/pocket-parks.

It’s the chance to try a new sport for the first time in a day of free games and activities which will be held at the Queen Mother Sports Centre in Vauxhall Bridge Road on Saturday. From 10am to 3pm, visitors will be able to try a range of different sporting activities including football, basketball and swimming with athletes and coaches on hand to offer advice. For more, see www.westminster.gov.uk.