Category Archives: London

Wheelie Pretty

10.04.29 Islington bike park & flowers 075aa170x110 They say that going green keeps you healthy, so the owners of these bicycles in London must be doubly fit.
Not only are they getting exercise as they navigate the city using pedal power, but when they arrive they can enjoy these potted tubs of budding shrubs and flowers too.
Once the bulbs and cyclists are out, we know the Summer sunshine can’t be far behind.

10.04.29 Islington bike park & flowers 076aa 600x600

King’s Cross: Community And Colossal Opportunity Combined

London cranes 3924   109x115.jpg The renewal of King’s Cross – St Pancras and all that surrounds it is long overdue, but it looks to be a spectaclar project worth the wait. The final moves to achieve success in terms of the local community will however require those who should, to put their heads above the parapet so that everything comes together to make the best possible result. This project will ‘work’ for everyone as long as people really try to collaborate to get it right.
Having travelled on the bus past King’s Cross – St. Pancras on very many occasions, I can only say my heart lifted when, at last, evidence of its renaissance began to materialise.
Community links and challenges
It’s surely a unique and exciting challenge to put together a project as enormous and impactful as this. The project hits many buttons – strategic place, infrastructure, heritage, economic benefit; we could go on… King’s Cross is in anyone’s books a very spectacular and special piece of real estate.
Of course there’s still a possibility that King’s Cross will somehow miss on that vital community connection; but only if people on all sides of the equation let it. This is where civic and corporate leadership have such a critical part to play, right from day one.
Different from, say, Canary Wharf?
Given the common emphasis on transport hubs, there have been comparisons, but Canary Wharf is different. Just for a start, Canary Wharf is not at the heart of what’s to become the most important international ‘green’ hub connecting the UK and mainland Europe, and for another thing the Wharf is a glass and concrete creation with not too much reference to a long and glorious heritage.
King’s Cross is a genuine opportunity to build on a very high profile USP with enormous promise for all stakeholders.
Doubters and objectors
There are always people who oppose what’s happening. The financial and other costs of the debate with them may well be high, but in the end everyone has to be heard for progress to be made in a well-founded way. The line must be drawn somewhere, but the views of those with reservations are valuable because they help to pinpoint potential hazards further down that line.
But it’s up to everyone to make sure that in the end King’s Cross really works. This is a programme with serious commonality of interest between developers, the wider economic infrastructure and real people on whom the project impacts day by day.
Delivering success
Having seen examples elsewhere of exiting programmes based with various degrees of success in challenging locations, I’d say everyone, but everyone, involved has to ask, what more might I need to be doing to make King’s Cross fulfil its whole potential?
Of all the ‘Rules of Regeneration’, the first rule here must be: listen, seek to understand and where possible accommodate all stakeholders. And the second rule is, always remember someone has to be brave and take the lead, accountably and visibly.
Realistically forward-facing
This is not a time for pursuing plans regardless or for heads-in-the-sand-style denial of problems; but nor, most certainly, is it a time for standing back. King’s Cross is an <opportunity which comes only very rarely…. Here we have a genuinely future-facing adventure which everyone in town can share and actually see taking shape.
I watch from my bus as things come together week by week and I wish all involved the very best.
A version of this article was published on the New Start blog of 8 November 2007.

Brent’s Only Grade 1 Listed Building: St. Andrew’s Old Church, Kingsbury

Almost within throwing distance of the new Wembley Stadium in Brent there lies another, vastly older but sadly forgotten building – the 11th Century St. Andrew’s Old Church, in the grounds of the present fine establishment. Father John Smith and his parishioners are working hard to renew the present grim Church Hall and to reclaim the old church and churchyard for the local community.
Father John T. Smith St Andrew's Old Church red 11th century bricksFor Father John Smith these small red bricks have a special significance; they suggest there was a church on the site of the photograph even back in Saxon times. The bricks are the original Roman evidence of the ancient (eleventh century) church which lies adjacent to the ‘new’ St Andrew’s Church, Kingsbury, within the grounds of his incumbency.
There is a great ambition in the parish congregation for the ‘old’ church and, especially the churchyard, with its many historic graves, to become a place of rest and respite in this busy part of London. Local people are giving their time and energy generously to clear the pathways and make more evident the generous clues to the area’s history which the overgrown graves can offer.
This plan, part of an intended programme to replace the past-its-best Church Hall with a lively and responsive building which will serve all who live in the area, is surely one which many will wish to support.

Somerset House Summer Fountains

Child & fountains Somerset House 104x80 6691aa.jpg Somerset House in London is rightly famous for its Winter skating rink, an imaginative and welcome attraction in the city. High Summer, however, permits another simple way to enjoy this historic venue’s versatile water feature, as the little person here discovered.
Somerset House fountains & child, London 495x366 6692a.jpg
See also Camera & Calendar
More information on Somerset House here.

The National Theatre Museum Has Closed

HOTFOOT(small) orange 2005 027.jpgThe National Museum of the Performing Arts closed ‘for good’ yesterday. This is a disaster for London (where it has had its home, in Covent Garden) and for the whole of the U.K. If the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum – in whose ‘care’ the Theatre Museum resides – cannot maintain the collection as an entity, perhaps the Theatre Museum should pass to those who can do better? The Chair of the V & A has close Merseyside connections; why not re-open the Theatre Museum in Liverpool?

No-one believed it could happen, but the announcement has been made – the National Museum of the Performing Arts in Covent Garden, London, closed yesterday (Sunday 7 January 2007) because the Trustees decided they couldn’t commit further resources to the venue. This is despite the description of the Museum by its own Trustees, the Victoria and Albert Museum Board, as a ‘world-class collection’.
The protests of people as diverse as Alan Ackbourne, Judi Dench (Guardians of the Theatre Museum) and Ken Livingstone have, it seems, had no effect. Somehow,
the performing arts are not compelling to the Museum Trustees. Apparently there is to be a website and some collections are to be shown at the V & A in Kensington in 2009, but basically that’s it. Just at the time when London is preparing to host the 2012 Olympics, and when Covent Garden can never have been a more popular visitor attraction, the doors have closed. Firmly.
Nonetheless, after the experience we as CAMPAM had in the late 1980s / 1990s of ‘resurrecting’ the Liverpool Everyman – which actually went dark – and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (which just about clung on) I don’t think anyone should give up all hope yet.
So come to Liverpool
I have already suggested that, if Londoners really don’t want their Theatre Museum, it should come to Liverpool. Here, up
North, we’re preparing for an event even more imminent than the Olympics. 2007 is Liverpool’s 800th Anniversary, and 2008, as everyone knows, will be our year as European Capital of Culture. The arguments for Liverpool taking this venture on have already been rehearsed; and I have been assured (though I await the evidence) that the City Council is considering things, as, one gathers from recent Minutes of the V & A Board, are the NWDA and Blackpool Council.
In the meantime, though, there is one other interesting aspect of this strange situation: The Chair of the V & A is Paula Ridley, a person with strong connections on Merseyside. It would be fascinating to know her view of the proposition that the Theatre Museum come to Liverpool.

Read more articles on the National Theatre Museum.

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Will The National Theatre Museum Come To Liverpool?

Theatre Museum (small) CIMG0748.JPG Sometimes things move quickly. The proposal to bring the national Theatre Museum to Liverpool when it closes in London seems to be one of these times. Just ten days after being mooted on this website, a proposal to take action will be debated tonight by City Councillors in Liverpool Town Hall.
The idea of the national Theatre Museum (the National Museum of the Performing Arts) coming to Liverpool took a step forward this morning, when the proposal first posted here ten days ago appeared as an article in today’s Daily Post.
TownHallCIMG0770.JPG Liverpool City Councillors Joe Anderson, Paul Brant and Steve Munby (Labour) will this evening put a motion entitled NATIONAL THEATRE MUSEUM to full Council, proposing that:
Council notes that the national collection of performing arts memorabilia, at the Theatre Museum in London, part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, is to be dispersed when the Theatre is closed in January 2007.
Council calls on the Leader to explore the possibility of bringing it to Liverpool to develop as a special national element of our celebrations in 2007 and 2008? Liverpool has a great tradition of theatre, opera and the performing arts in this city, and the V&A could open the revived exhibition as a ‘V&A in the North’, as the Tate has done with Tate Liverpool.
To the national exhibition we could explore adding the archives of our own theatres, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society’s archive and the history of Hope Street, Liverpool’s performing arts quarter.

Progress indeed
I am very hopeful that the motion will be carried with cross-party agreement, since Cllr Mike Storey (Liberal Democrat), Liverpool’s executive member for special initiatives, has told the Daily Post that he would support examining such a move for the Theatre Museum collection, and Cllr Steve Radford (Liberal Party) has also indicated his general support to me.
This is how we in Liverpool should all be working when it comes to the arts and culture. HOPES has produced, and the politicians have made progress with, a potentially good idea which would enhance parts of our civic ‘cultural offer’ in a very positive way. Just as with the development of the Hope Street Public Realm works, I hope we can deliver here something which involves both public and community voices in a virtuous circle, and so secures added value locally, regionally and even nationally.
We await the outcome of this evening’s Council Meeting with interest….
Read more articles on the National Theatre Museum.

London’s Theatre Museum Is Closing – So Why Not Bring It To Liverpool?

Theatre Museum London banners (small).jpg The national collection of performing arts memorabilia, at the Theatre Museum in London, is to be dispersed when the Museum is closed in January 2007. So why not send it instead to Liverpool, as a ‘V&A Liverpool’, and let us up here have it as a very special part of our 2008 European Capital of Culture celebrations?
The sad news this week is that London’s Theatre Museum is to close. Its home in Covent Garden near the Royal Opera House is to be no more, and its exhibits will be dispersed by its parent body, the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum.
A loss for the arts world, and everyone else
Theatre Museum London Unleashing Britain (Beatles) poster.jpg I’m sure there will be knowledgable people who will conclude that the merits or otherwise of the Theatre’s exhibits justify this decision, but to me it seems shocking. I visited it quite recently for the ‘Unleashing Britain – Ten years that shaped the nation: 1955-1964’ exhibition and, as I reported on this weblog, I found the whole place fascinating.
Perhaps the Theatre could be said to have been its own worst enemy, insofar as it always look closed even when it’s actually open – the doors seem blank and much of the exhibiiton is ‘below stairs’, in a wonderful but not-visible-from-the street warren of tunnels and small rooms; but the external visibility problems could easily have been resolved.
A bright idea?
Theatre Museum London 06.10.12.jpg However, if people in London don’t want the Theatre Museum collection as an identity, I have an idea…. Why not bring it to Liverpool for us to enjoy, and to develop as a very special national element of our celebrations in 2007 and 2008? We have a great tradition of theatre (and opera) in this city, and the V&A could open the revived exhibition as a ‘V&A in the North’, as the Tate has done with Tate Liverpool.
And to the national exhibition we could of course add the archives of our own theatres, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s archive and the history of Hope Street, Liverpool’s performing arts quarter.
There’s just about time to get the ball rolling, if we all started to work on this now. It would be a superb asset for Liverpool, and would keep the national exhibition in the public eye, when all our vitiors arrive for Liverpool’s 2008 European Capital of Culture Year. We have plenty of large buildings which could be put to good use in this way, and surely the maintenance costs could be found from somewhere, just as they will have to be if the artifacts stay in London anyway?
Benefits all round
If London really doesn’t want to keep the Theatre Museum as an identity, here’s an opportunity for them to do something really good as partners to help us ‘up North’ to gain even more value from our special years in 2007 and 2008, and beyond.
Read more articles on the National Theatre Museum.

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