The Wonders Of Wandsworth Common

On Saturday I was planning to take part in a tour of Wandsworth Prison – I’m a member of the London Historians group and one of the members is a serving officer there. Unfortunately, although I’d packed all the other things that I would need for the day I forgot my ID so was unable to participate – understandably they don’t let just anyone wander around one of the country’s Category B penal institutions.

There’s no doubt that the prison will feature on the Londoneer in the near future, but I did take the opportunity to have a look around the area that’s just down the road from the prison itself – Wandsworth Common. This particular stretch of London’s common land has an interesting history – as early as 1871 local people sought to protect it from the urban sprawl that was already beginning to encroach on the area, and for many years the common was home to the 85 foot long ‘scope‘ – built by the Reverend John Craig and supported by a tall brick tower in the middle of the common, it was once the largest astronomical instrument in the world.

Wandsworth Common’s other notable feature is the building that sits on its western edge – the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building. This handsome mid-Victorian structure was built in 1859 as an asylum for girls who were orphaned during the Crimean War of 1853-1856. While it operated as a school well into the 20th century, during World War II it was used as an interrogation centre by the Secret Intelligence Service (or MI6). Today the buildings in the complex house the Academy of Live & Recorded Arts, posh flats and the ‘Le Gothique’ restaurant. The exterior is easily accessible if you would like to take a look around, but a good opportunity to check out the interior of the building comes twice a year, when it hosts the annual Wandsworth Common Beer Festival (unfortunately you’ve missed the 2013 outing, which took place in March).

One of the other surprising discoveries I made about Wandsworth Common is how incredibly popular it is with dog-owners – I’ve never seen so many pooches in one place at the same time. Popping into the coffee bar outlet near Wandsworth Common railway station I was one of the few people there without a canine in tow – odd!…

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Stella Artois ‘Black Diamond’ Coming To Shoreditch In July

I had a rather strange experience last night. I was asked to go a fairly non-descript 19th century building near Barbican to take part in a preview event for something that’s happening next month…

To start at the beginning, when I arrived I was directed downstairs to a basement door where I was met by a rather prim looking young lady (think Madmen but with a bit of a gallic flare) and asked to sit and wait for a few minutes. Looking around I noticed something odd – all of the usual signs that you would expect to see in an office building were in French – the exit signs read ‘Sortie’, for example. Strange, I thought… I was then guided to the lifts, which I took to an upper floor and then proceeded down a corridor between a group of rather serious looking men who were having a very animated conversation. Stepping through a door at the end of the corridor I was confronted with a police officer who asked me to enter my details on a press pass, and then guided into a room with a large group of people in it who were quietly chatting and milling around. After a few minutes the police officer reappeared and we were all ushered into a conference room, where we sat down as the men who I’d seen earlier took their seats behind a long desk with some rather ancient looking microphones and a reel to reel tape deck sitting on it.

The gentlemen introduced themselves as various members of the local gendarmerie, and proceed to tell us about the case of the ‘Black Diamond’, which involved the theft of a precious gem. Using some slides and a recording of a song on the tape deck we learned about the various protagonists in the case – Jacques Ferre, the young jeweller from whom the diamond was stolen just before he was able to present to his fiancee Cecile Fontaine, the probable thief and his accomplice, Lucas and Etienne Chabrol, and an enigmatic cabaret singer with an unknown agenda, Lola Coeur. What happened next came as a shock – the lights flickered and went out and the room was then plunged into darkness as disembodied voices and screams echoed around the room.

Intrigued? It turns out that this is the beginning of a live theatre experience that takes place througout July where you can get involved in solving the mystery of the ‘Black Diamond‘, through a series of online puzzles and real-time events centred around Shoreditch. Felix Barrett, the theatre director has been working with Stella Artois to put this all together as part of the launch of their new ‘Stella Artois Black’ brand, which is matured for longer – I tried it later in the evening and it is rather good, as it lacks the heaviness of the regular Stella brand. You can sign up for tickets for the Shoreditch happenings here – if last night is anything to go …

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Four Nights Of Free Music In Newham Later This Month, ‘Under The Stars’…

Bolstering the London Borough of Newham’s cultural output for 2020, later this month the borough will host four nights of free musical performances. Taking place from 15 to 18 August, ‘Under The Stars‘ will take place in East Ham’s Central Park, covering musical styles from jazz to orchestral.

On 15 August the park hosts an evening of jazz, with acid jazz combo Incognito, The Brand New Heavies, Ciyo Brown and DJ sets from James Anthony and Ash Selector
On 16 August, it’s the turn of Asian culture with Eastern Beats, which will feature fire-eaters, Bollywood dance routines and live sets presented by Kiss FM’s DJ Neeve
On 17th, boogie nights are back with a set from Boney M and Liz Mitchell, Imagination featuring Leee John, The Real Thing and the best of funk and disco from the 70s and 80s
On Sunday 18 August things get a little more sophisticated when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra put in an appearance – they will be performing pieces by Brahms, Grieg and others. Under The Stars will close with a firework spectacular at the end of the evening.

Free live music in Newham later this month – what’s not to like?…

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Cobra 10th Annual Brick Lane Curry Festival

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Cobra Brick Lane Curry Festival, a two week celebration of south Asian culture and cuisine, which starts tomorrow and runs until 4 June.

The launch of the event took place at the Clifton, a very well appointed restaurant right at the bottom of Brick Lane and the area’s oldest. The invited guests were addressed by several local dignitaries, including Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE, the founder of Cobra Beer and who is very well respected by the local community being one of the most succesful Indian entrepeneurs living in the UK. Bajloor Rashid, president of the long-established Bangladeshi Caterers Association, also spoke and reminded the assembled crowd that not only does 2010 mark the tenth anniversary of the Curry Festival, but also the 20th anniversary of Cobra Beer, and 50 years since the Association came into existence. We also heard from Tower Hamlet’s Mayor, Councillor Ahmed Adam Omer, who was clearly extremely proud of what the people of Brick Lane have achieved over the years.

There are several special events taking place to mark this year’s Curry Festival, including Baisakhi Mela this coming Sunday, when Brick Lane will be pedestrianised for the day and where there will be lots of live music and other performances by the local community. The Cobra Beer Mela will take place at the Vibe Bar on 31 May, an all day festival that will see live music from famous international artists including Bobby Friction and Nerm, and there will even be some dramatic Bollywood dancing! The event will also include the climax of the Best of Brick Lane Awards where the public will be judging the People’s Choice Brick Lane Curry 2010 from a shortlist which includes dishes from several of the area’s most notable restaurants – the Mango, the Clifton, The Clipper, Reema Balti House and Cafe Naz.

If you can’t make it on those particular dates, the good news is that restaurants that are participating in the Curry Festival will be offering 20% off their normal prices and creating special festival dishes throughout, so now’s the time to get down to Brick Lane to sample some curry if you’ve never visited before (and take it from me that they’re already very reasonably priced in comparison to curry houses elsewhere in London). Brick Lane is a fantastic and colourful place to visit, and it definitely gets the thumbs up from me, not least because in addition to the many, many restaurants it also plays host to one of my favourite live music venues, 93 Feet East.…

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Iconic Images Of London

Typical London scenes don’t normally feature on the Londoneer, but a change is as good as a rest, so I hope you’ll enjoy looking at some photographs snapped earlier today on Whitehall in Central London.

First, a member of the Queen’s Life Guard, part of the Household Cavalry, two of whom flank the entrance to Horse Guards Parade wearing their glistening armour and sitting astride their beautifully turned out horses every day – the tradition is that they remain motionless when they are at their post, so if you want to see them actually moving then turn up at 11am (or 10am on Sundays) to witness their elaborate changing ceremony.

Second, two magnificent beasts of the mechanical kind, parked on a side street on the opposite side of Whitehall – a vintage Routemaster which serves the ‘Heritage Route 9′ between Olympia in West London and Trafalgar Square, and another which goes from Trafalgar square to Tower Hill on ‘Heritage Route 15′ (these buses are serviced by mechanics at the West Ham Bus Garage, which you can see in this post). You might be interested to know that the Routemaster’s 21st century replacement is due to enter service in London later this year…

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The Royal Ballet’s ‘Raven Girl’ & ‘Symphony in C’ – A Review

Sarah Lamb as Raven Girl in Raven Girl © ROH / Johan Persson 2013

A brand new work by Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor is always something to look forward to, and I booked for Raven Girl at the Royal Opera House well before there was much information about what it would be like. It turned out to be a modern fairytale, the result of a collaboration between McGregor and Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife, with music specially composed by Gabriel Yared. With all that talent combined, why did I find it disappointing?

The main issue is the general gloominess, both in the story and on stage where the dancers battle manfully against an almost jet-black set, sporadically lit. With dancers of the calibre of Ed Watson and Sarah Lamb you want to be able to see every detail of their movement; having them appear fitfully in the spotlight is such a waste. The second issue, sadly, is that the choreography is just not interesting enough. Yes, there are some beautiful moments for Sarah Lamb when she acquires her wings – and some scary ones when she constructs a tower from chairs and climbs up it – and the detail of Watson’s portrayal of the Postman and his love for the Raven (Olivia Cowley, affecting despite the handicap of a black mask) is a joy. But the dance of the ravens is too simplistic – we want to see them soar, not trot, and the pas de deux for Sarah Lamb and Eric Underwood (riveting as always – such an undervalued dancer!) while bringing a welcome touch of excitement, is very much business as usual for a McGregor ballet.

It was such a relief to come back after the interval to Symphony in C and see how an old master like Balanchine does it. Bright lights, plain blue backcloth, dancers in white tutus and all the emphasis on the dancing. And what dancing! The inimitable elegance of Marianela Nunez, impeccably partnered by Thiago Soares; Stephen McRae and Yuhui Choe fizzing with energy and humour. A supporting lineup that demonstrated what a wealth of talent the Royal has waiting just below the top rank. But above all, choreography of wit and charm, subtly becoming more challenging both for dancers to perform and audience to follow, performed with a sense of fun by dancers at the top of their game. The audience went wild – and rightly.…

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The Future Of Microwave Cooking: What To Expect?

The odds that you have a microwave at your home is pretty much high. Microwave has become one of the most useful appliances which are used by the people. In recent times, Microwave has become an indispensable part of the kitchen and rightly so. The appliance has got multiple uses and reduces the work of a person very much. In addition to this, the appliance is also pretty simple to operate. The question that arises now is, will this thing be useful in the future as much as it is now. Many people have a doubt regarding the future of microwave cooking. What will it be? What to expect? Will a replacement come? Well, let’s find out.

Replacement of magnetron based Microwaves

Well, we all know that Microwaves that are used today are based on magnetron technology. The microwaves with this technology have ruled into the kitchen of a common household for quite some time now, but it seems like things are about tochange. In the not very distant future, the magnetron based Microwaves are set to disappear. They are going to be replaced by solid-state RF energy. The magnetron based Microwaves have been in use for so long, that it might seem impossible that something can replace them, but believe us, it’s soon going to happen.

The benefits of solid-state RF energy

 

Well, there is a wide range of benefits of the solid-state RF energy which cannot be ignored and it is the major reason because of which it is speculated that it will replace the magnetron based microwaves. The biggest advantage that solid-state RF energy has over the magnetron based Microwaves is that it cooks food more precisely in comparison to the latter one. Another aspect is that more amount of healthier food can be prepared on the solid-state RF energy. This is one of the functions because of which it will find a connection between a large group of people nowadays. The vast majority of people are going for healthier alternatives for food nowadays. The problem with microwaves is that when you think about it, healthy food will come into your mind.

Increase of players producing solid-state RF energy

When companies come to see the possibility of a product they are automatically attracted to it. Similarly, it is happening in the case of solid-state RF energy. There are multiple organizations such as the MACOM and REFA that are hell-bent on unlocking the full potential of the solid-state RF energy.

The magnetron based microwaves might be ruling the households for some time now, but with the onset of the solid-state RF energy, it is surely going to lose a large number of its users. This is because the solid-state RF energy has got way advanced features as compared to the magnetron based Microwaves. It is also able to cooking food which is tastier as well as healthier. …

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Whatever Happened To The London Pleasure Gardens?

Sittting on the southern side of the Royal Victoria Dock is the site of the now defunct London Pleasure Gardens.

Intended to be an outdoor festival venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games and beyond, with the organisers given a three-year licence to run the site, the London Pleasure Garden’s problems got off to an early start. A week after opening to great fanfare, the Pleasure Gardens hosted the two day Bloc dance festival, but this was cancelled after problems on its first night with many people reporting that they were unable to enter the site and, for those who did get in, tales of massive queues building up inside. Visitors noted that many of the promised attractions on the site had not materialised either, and basic necessities such as seating or even the tiniest patch of grass to sit on were also noticeable by their absence (despite the artists’ impressions which you can see in this piece over at The Quietus). Clearly, the site was opened well before completion – one wonders whether they would have fared better if they had delayed the opening until all of the components of the site were in place.

Shortly after the incident with Bloc, the stated capacity of the London Pleasure Gardens was slashed by 8,000 to 17,000. Reading warning signs, this prompted the organisers of the one of the upcoming music festivals, Secretsundaze, to withdraw their offer to use the site, stating that their festival would continue elsewhere (Secretsundaze GoBang will now take place at Camden’s Roundhouse on 26 August). Big visitor numbers were anticipated throughout the London 2012 Olympic Games because of the proximity of the ExCeL London conference centre, which was hosting seven sports in total, including the boxing, judo and table tennis events. These large crowds failed to materialise, and anyone with an understanding of the local geography of the area could tell you why. The London Pleasure Gardens site is located on the opposite side of the Royal Victoria Docks from ExCeL, and the only feasible route between them is to use the limited capacity bridge suspended high above the dock and then take a fairly lengthy walk along a main road until you reach the site entrance opposite the Pontoon Dock DLR station. No doubt faced with the prospect of a long walk to the festival site, and then having to negotiate an entirely different branch of the DLR to get back home afterwards, people simply got back on at Custom House or Prince Regent after watching the sport and went on about their business.

Unable to surmount these early issues, the London Pleasure Gardens laid off its largely idle waiting staff on Tuesday 30 July, and then went into voluntary administration three days later on Friday 3 August, less than five weeks after it first opened to the public. Many staff were left unpaid, and taxpayers are now out of pocket to the tune of over £3 million because the London Borough of Newham gave …

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The Most Peculiar Of The Peculiars – The Queen’s Chapel Of The Savoy

Tucked away behind London’s Savoy Hotel is one of the country’s most unusual churches – The Queen’s Chapel Of The Savoy. This 16th century building (the last remnant of a hospital established by Henry VII for the homeless) has a unique status as, unlike its compatriots in the surrounding streets, it does not belong to the parish and diocese system of the Church of England – it is directly owned and controlled by the Queen in her capacity as Duke of Lancaster. She personally appoints the priest, a post currently taken up by the Reverend Professor Peter Galloway OBE who is a noted historian and educator, and directly funds the upkeep of the building.

As you might expect, the chapel has myriads of royal connections. For example, it houses two thrones at the rear which, while they’re not used by the Queen (she usually sits on a throne near the altar) have seen their fair share of royal bums on seats over the years – most recently by Michael, King of Romania, and his daughter who attended a service here towards the end of 2012. The stained glass windows also reward close examination, in particular the windows over the altar which mark the Second World War and the contribution of the Armed Forces, and the most recent addition – a glorious installation marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

This was designed by Scottish artist Douglas Hogg and was installed in November of last year – look closely and you’ll even discover corgis and a scene showing the Queen on horseback. In my opinion, the soon-to-be-installed window at the Palace of Westminster, made for the same purpose and funded by contributions from members of both Houses of Parliament, isn’t a patch on this one!…

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‘Jack The Ripper’s London’ – A Review

For a couple of weeks the Crow Theatre is bringing an interesting new take on one of London’s abiding mysteries to, not Whitechapel, but London Bridge, ‘Jack The Ripper’s London’.

It’s difficult to talk about these participatory performances without giving away the surprises so I’ll gloss over the details, but expect the experience to start with a guided walk. Led by a prim matronly figure it won’t be long before you’re shedding your 21st century pretensions and imagining life as a costermonger or guttersnipe in Victorian London. The main event takes place in a convincing recreation of a streetscape, thronged with all the colourful characters that we associate with this period in London’s history. All credit is due to Crow Theatre for pulling this off with a cast of just thirteen – given all the jostling, the noise and running to and fro you’ll swear that there are more.

There are some charming little conceits involved in ‘Jack The Ripper’s London’ that help to stitch the experience together, and there’s lots of colour and more than a few spine-tingling moments and shocking scenes. I’m sure that if you go along you’ll get a great deal of enjoyment out of it – I certainly did. It’s a shame that they couldn’t find a suitable venue over in Whitechapel itself…

Tickets to ‘Jack The Ripper’s London’ really are a steal at £12 per person. Performances take place at 12pm, 3pm and 8pm on Wednesday thru Sunday until 5 August.…

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