The Peter Pan Cup: An ice-cold Christmas Day swimming race
When I first speak to Alan Mitchell, 61, it is December 4. He has just got back from a morning dip in the Thames. ‘About five degrees,’ he tells me. Mitchell’s the president of the Serpentine Swimming Club, and last swam in the Hyde Park lake the Saturday before. It was colder still: ‘Two point three – it’s usually one or two degrees below the Thames.’ Mitchell is in training for December 25. Christmas Day marks the club’s big event of the year, when its hardiest members compete for the Peter Pan Cup in a 100-yard race across the Serpentine, without a wetsuit. The race has been swum every year since 1864, when the club was established, but Mitchell says that it may have begun before then. The prize is named after the lead character in JM Barrie’s children’s novel, and from 1903 to 1932, the author sponsored the competition and presented the cup to the victor. Shutterstock Competitors come from around the UK, and there’s no upper age limit (one entrant is in his eighties). ‘If you are lucky enough to win, you spend the rest of the day in a dream-like state, answering emails from people who have read the result in the most obscure newspapers,’ says Mitchell. ‘Outside of an Olympic 100m final, no other swimming event attracts the same level of worldwide media attention.’ ‘If you win, you spend the rest of the day in a dream-like state’ Contenders take part in a number of races throughout the winter to qualify – six or seven if they’re newcomers – and although there is plenty
The best life-drawing classes in London
Have you been meaning to try a life-drawing class for months, but don't know where to start? Pencil out your route to artistic exploration with our guide to finding the best (and weirdest) life-drawing classes in London. After all, you might end up creating your finest body of work yet – maybe one day your drawings could end up in our list of London' top ten art exhibitions or even the 100 best paintings in London. And if not, don't worry – just keep on sketchin' those bodies.
Pride in London 2016: everything you ever wanted to know
What is Pride?In London, ‘Pride’ generally refers to the Pride in London parade which celebrates LGBTQ+ identity on the last Saturday in June (Saturday 25 June 2016). Pride parties take place on the same day across London and there are also Pride parades in other British cities and all over the world. How long has it been running?The first Pride weekend took place in New York in 1969. London got involved two years later when a group of around 200 activists from the UK branch of the Gay Liberation Front marched on central London – though not before a dozen drag queens had staged a ‘dress rehearsal’ the day before, pursued by police. The first official London Pride was held in 1972, with 2,000 people in attendance. Compare that to 2014, when Pride attracted more than 750,000 partygoers. What happens on the parade?Over 300 groups and floats (featuring everyone from the cast of ‘Ab Fab’ to the London Fire Brigade) travel from Baker Street station to Trafalgar Square, where there’s a party from 12pm to 8pm with Sinitta, the cast of ‘Kinky Boots’ and more camp fun. Previous Pride parades have seen a gay Putin riding a tank and a drag Jackie O in JFK’s assassination car, as well as gay bikers, roller derby girls and Sir Ian McKellen. But you’ll have to turn up to see what’s planned this year – everything’s a surprise until the parade starts. What happens aside from the parade?Tours of work by LGBTQ+ artists at the V&A, debates about homoeroticism in Laurel and Hardy films, drag show
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Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design
The late Danish-British engineer Ove Arup was responsible for some of the world’s most iconic buildings. He didn’t design them; he built them. Before his death in 1988, Arup brought his groundbreaking techniques to realise projects from the penguin pool at London Zoo to the Sydney Opera House. The firm he founded is now a multinational empire whose current projects include Crossrail. In short, Arup is a very big deal. Even so, this show might be a hard sell. Engineers are quiet achievers, overshadowed by architects and designers. Everyone knows it takes innovation and imagination to design a beautiful building. The show’s prototypes, models, drawings, photographs and films make it clear that those skills are also crucial for those who make buildings work. The Sydney Opera House could never have been built without Arup. Commissioned in 1957, it was finally completed in 1973. Through the ’50s and ’60s, Arup and his team went through plan after plan, trying to find a way to build the now-famous shells. They finally cracked it using a computer – a pioneering approach that transformed the way engineers work. That computer – a colossal box – is on display at the V&A alongside tanks of gurgling algae, a more recent Arup innovation that uses photosynthesis to heat buildings. The emphasis here is on Arup and his company’s huge projects, but small details provide a glimpse into his personality: his own slides of the Opera House under construction; his doodles and party invitations. Aru
The Northern line is being used to heat homes in Islington
A system that recycles hot air from London Underground is being used to heat more than 1,000 homes in Islington, thanks to council investment. The derelict City Road tube station has been converted into a space for a two-metre-wide underground fan that extracts hot air from the stretch of the Northern line between Angel and Old Street. The air then warms water for a network of pipes that lead to local homes. Architects at Cullinan Studio even claim it could make the Northern line feel cooler – the fan can be reversed in the summer. Result. Photograph: Islington Council Although the technology is not completely new – it’s actually an addition to a system installed back in 2012 – it’s the first of its kind, and if reproduced could have the potential to help London and other cities become more self-sufficient for their energy needs. The new energy centre – named Bunhill 2 – isn’t bad-looking, either. Cast aluminium reliefs by Toby Paterson (who also designed the patterned glass on Stratford’s DLR platforms) wrap the building at pavement level. Photograph: Steve Bainbridge/Islington Council Bunhill 2 certainly represents a big step for Sadiq Khan’s plan to get London carbon neutral by 2030. Praising the project, the Mayor said: ‘If we’re going to tackle the climate emergency we will need progressive partnerships between local authorities, City Hall, TfL and others, as was demonstrated so perfectly by this project.’ So remember this exciting development to try and stay ze
Lady Gaga is bringing The Chromatica Ball tour to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
‘A Star Is Born’ made us all starry-eyed for Lady Gaga, but it did mean a hiatus from pop performance for her. But now Stefani Germanotta is back, and this summer she’s returning to London with The Chromatica Ball. The queen of art-pop has just announced that she is gracing Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with her presence on Thursday July 30. It’s her only UK date and it’s gonna be huge. In a venue with a bonkers 62,303 capacity, she’ll be giving her new album, ‘Chromatica’, the epic approach that a return like this deserves. (Wembley and The O2 could never). Tickets go on sale via livenation.co.uk at 9am on Friday March 13, but you can get priority access by pre-ordering the new album from the artist's official store by 5pm on Monday March 9. Listen to Lady Gaga’s new single ‘Stupid Love’ now to get in the mood for the Tottenham bash. Book ahead for the best gigs in London this April.
This London bar is in full bloom for Japanese cherry blossom season
Frothier than a tulle milkshake in a wind tunnel, the sakura is back at Sakagura. The bar's pretty and pink spring display has captured hearts on Instagram for years now, and it's back for 2020. Photograph: Steven Joyce With the styling comes a short-but-sweet menu of cocktails with sake, yuzu an umeboshu, and the debut of a non-alcoholic sake. Bar blossoms arrive weeks ahead of the real deal. In a month, the city's parks are also due their first flush. Greenwich Park, St Paul’s Cathedral gardens and Kew Gardens promise clouds of delicate petal clusters shivering in the breeze. Kew has its own 'cherry walks' and Greenwich Park has dozens too by the rose garden at Ranger’s House. Sakura arrives in Japan in mid-March, according to the Blossom Forecast, beginning in Tokyo and slowly making its way up the country to Sendai and Sapporo. But Sakagura gets its first flush on Sunday March 1. Photograph: Steven Joyce London's bars and restaurants love to run away with this trend, and now Sakagura's in full bloom the rest are bound to follow. Classic Japanese bars like Nobu deck their Shoreditch outfit with swathes of flowers, while trendy spots like Shochu Lounge bring in whole trees. Photograph: Steven Joyce Whether you're inside or out, it's a glorious season. Check out six of London’s most beautiful blossom-filled bars This new restaurant in Tottenham is looking just as pretty in pink
A double-decker cheese barge docks in Paddington next month
This news should float your boat: a double-decker cheese barge is scheduled to open in Paddington Basin this spring. Matthew Carver – a World Cheese Awards judge, Cheese Bar founder and doyen of dairy – had already made a name for himself in the capital with Pick & Cheese, a Seven Dials restaurant where dishes are rolled out to diners on a 40-metre conveyor belt. Photograph: The Cheese Barge Now he's launching – literally – a floating restaurant for cheese-loaded British dishes that highlight the UK's best ‘small producer’ cheeses. And it’s not just brie on the quay. Cropwell Bishop, Baron Bigod, Quicke’s: cheese nerds will already recognise the names on the menu. We’re still recovering from the cheese-themed hotel that popped up this month, but I’m sure we can manage one more mouthful... The Cheese Barge opens in Paddington in April Curd’s the word: make a date with one of these 11 cheesy London locations Check out Pick & Cheese’s heavenly conveyor belt in action...
Crystal Palace Park’s dinosaurs are ‘at risk’ of extinction
Dinosaur teeth, tails and toes are at risk in Crystal Palace Park, Historic England has warned, with cracks appearing in the bodies of its 166-year-old Grade I-listed dinosaur statues. No-one’s yet sure why the reptiles are fracturing, but it’s suggested that shifting ground on the Park’s artificial islands and changing water levels in the surrounding lake might be to blame. Eagle-eyed spotters may have noticed that the hylaeosaurus has a broken tail. Photograph: Historic England The statues, built between 1852 and 1855, had conservation work done in 2016-17. But given the new damage, Historic England has called for a survey to get to the bottom of the problem and find a more long-term solution that could save these south-east London icons. In 2018, a local charity successfully crowdfunded £70,000 to build a bridge across to the islands so visitors can see the sculptures up close. Let’s hope the historians can save them in time for its installation. Dippy for a diplodocus? Explore nine days out in London for the dinosaur-mad
London St Pancras is named Europe’s best railway station
From its soaring gothic spires to its vast glazed roof to its croissant-packed concourse below, St Pancras station is well loved by Londoners. But now its status is official: St Pancras International has been named the best railway station in Europe by the Consumer Choice Centre. St Pancras, which serves 35.6 million passengers a year, came out top among Europe’s 50 biggest stations for accessibility for wheelchair users, cleanliness and range of destinations served. Wheelchair users have previously praised the station’s step-free access to the Underground and helpful staff. The European Railway Station Index also noted St Pancras’s excellent range of shops and restaurants (although they gave it minus points for rail strikes – boo!) and scored it a superb 116 points out of 139. St Pancras International even beat Zürich Central to the top spot, despite the Swiss station’s 100 percent score for cleanliness. There is NO DIRT on Zürich station. Other London stations have done us proud too. The newly-refurbed London Bridge made it into fifteenth place and London Victoria got the twentieth spot. Feeling inspired? Eurostar’s just opened a direct train from St Pancras International to Amsterdam from April, from just £35 each way. A direct service to Rotterdam opens in May. Here are the 23 best things to do in Amsterdam right now.
Five totally free things to do in London this week
Put your money away! Here are the week’s best free events ‘The Depth of Darkness, the Return of the Light’ For the 2019 winter commission, artist Anne Hardy has turned one half of Tate Britain into a spooky abandoned temple on the banks of the Thames, rumbling with the sound of thunder and the hum of relentless mosquitoes. Scarier than chucking out time at Inferno’s. Tate Britain. Tube: Pimlico. Until Jan 26. Deliveroo free bacon sarnies Celebrate ‘bleak Friday’, aka the UK’s festive hangover peak, at a real-life piggy bank. Deliveroo is building a ‘rash point’ (nothing to do with STDs), dispensing free bacon sandwiches to office Christmas party survivors. Bank Junction. Tube: Bank. Wed Dec 11-Fri Dec 13. The Sun Tavern’s Polling Punch It’s time for real change – not that you’ll need any to pay for this round, though. After you vote this week, flash your polling card or a polling station selfie at The Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green in exchange for a poitín-laced treat. The Sun Tavern. Tube: Bethnal Green. Thu Dec 12. iBike London Santa Cruise Dig out your fake beard and something red for a becostumed ride through town with iBike. Meet on the South Bank at noon before rolling up The Mall, pedalling past Hyde Park and looping through the City before returning to Waterloo. Southbank. Tube: Waterloo. Sat Dec 14. Westminster Chapel Carols Swerve Westminster Abbey for its small and friendly cousin: Westminster Chapel opens its doors for a candlelit carol concert (followed by mince pi
Belt out some Christmas bangers at these festive singalongs in London
Swap hymns for bops at seven of the heavenliest Christmas sing-songs in town. Go on, make Mariah proud ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ singalong It’s not Christmas until Kermit puts on his top hat. Get into the seasonal spirit at the Prince Charles Cinema, which will be packed with London’s Noël-loving residents for this singalong screening. Get ready for hearty renditions of ‘Scrooge’, ‘Marley and Marley’ and Bean Bunny’s ‘Good King Wenceslas’ which will get the popcorn flying. As a bonus, any doubts about how to vote next week will be banished by Michael Caine’s overnight conversion to socialism. God bless us, every one. Prince Charles Cinema. Tube: Leicester Square. Until Dec 24, various times. £13.50. Photograph: Neil Massey Bearpit Carol-oke After ten years of running the show in Berlin’s Mauerpark, karaoke veteran Joe Hatchiban takes over Vauxhall Food & Beer Garden this Friday. By now, he knows a thing or two about getting ordinary folk to become stars on the mic. It’s free and there’s no pressure to sing, but you know you will... Vauxhall Food & Beer Garden. Tube: Vauxhall. Fri Dec 6, 6-10pm. Free. Celebrity Drag Clash: Mariah vs Celine (Christmas Special) Christmas 2019’s answer to ‘Feud’: in a battle of voices that will put your family’s Boxing Day bicker in the shade, Scarlett Harlett’s drag queen of Christmas faces her arch-rival Jonathan ‘Celine Dion’ Booth for a brunch-time showdown. There’s a free Bombay Sapphire cocktail on arrival (let’s just hope that ‘A
6 Instagram shots you (probably) took in London this summer
View this post on Instagram A post shared by annie morrad (@anniemorrad) on Aug 19, 2019 at 9:39am PDT Here in London, each passing month brings new opportunities to live, love and gain social currency. Here are six pics that graced your ‘grams... 1. Olafur Eliasson’s rainbow reflections (above) ‘Your Uncertain Shadow’, part of Olafur Eliasson’s hyper-photogenic exhibition at the Tate, provided the perfect opportunity for all camera-shy mortals to take their one selfie of the summer. No actual face in shot necessary. Just huge multicoloured shapes. For anyone who hasn’t yet roamed the art fog, the exhibition runs into 2020. à ‘In Real Life’. Tate Modern. m Southwark. Until Jan 5 2020. £18. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Rachel Westwood (@rachelemmawestwood) on Aug 17, 2019 at 12:18pm PDT 2. ‘Makr Shakr’ at the Barbican It looked like a machine used to assemble microwaves rather than prime Instagram fodder, but you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or a robot by its design). ‘Makr Shakr’ turned out to be a classy cocktail-making robot that poured Negronis with style and flair, thank you very much. Its mesmerisingly smooth shaking was the star of the Barbican’s ‘AI: More Than Human’ exhibition, and many an Insta story. Just don’t ask it for a Screwdriver. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Ana Cardoso Cachopo (@acardocacho) on Aug 9, 2019 at 1:22am PDT 3. Chihuly at Kew Swirling tentacles and fragile space blooms tu
Things you only know if you’re a Thames Clipper captain
…according to Ellie Wooldridge, 23. Driving a boat is like driving a bus, but with more ships to dodge ‘The MBNA Thames Clippers are like red buses, but on the river. We carry a lot of commuters. A lot of people think that we just drive in a straight line, but it’s not that easy. We have a lot to think about, from equipment decks to traffic density. Cruise ships cause more chaos than most, because they’re not as manoeuvrable as us.’ Clippers can get speeding tickets ‘We have to stick to a timetable, but we’re careful about our speed. You can get pulled up by a harbourmaster, who can monitor your speed using the onboard system. It’s almost like getting a speeding ticket – you get called into a disciplinary meeting and they can put a black mark against your name.’ The Thames can be deadly… ‘When I first started I was amazed how strong the tides and undercurrents are. Because it is such a fast-flowing river, people don’t last long in it. It catches people out. A couple of years back, two young lads jumped in at London Bridge beyond the pier. We managed to get a life ring to them. But it happens more than you’d think – we do drills every month to make sure we can get people out.’ …but it’s also full of life: specifically, seals ‘There are eels, otters and 119 species of fish. You see seals once a month, sometimes even twice in a week. They are very playful and they sit on the shore and sunbathe. Last summer we got porpoises too. They’re becoming a lot more common now, as the rive
Things you only know if you’re a Big Issue seller
…according to George Anderson. It helps to make some noise ‘I very seldom shout “Big Issue!” – but if you’re selling on Oxford Street, you can’t just stand there and say nothing. The person who sells best there is the guy outside John Lewis who shouts “Anybody going to buy one?” But not everybody has that showmanship. You have to find the right way of expressing yourself given the pitch you’re standing on.’ Even basic digs make a big difference ‘I’ve tried sleeping rough. Initially, I sold the magazine outside a Pret, where they would supply me with coffee. I wandered about at night, trying to sleep a little during the day in a library or something. Then, at Charing Cross police station, they told me about a backpackers’ hostel. There were 20 people in the room and mice running about, but it was £7 a night for a roof over my head. It gave me some semblance of a normal life.’ Having a chat can be as important as earning a crust ‘When I first started selling, I struggled to say, “Big Issue?” But now I like being out meeting and engaging with people. It reminds me of working in a bar, when you have regulars who you have little chats and banter with. It’s an easy way to avoid feeling isolated.’ Selling the Big Issue can get you a pretty decent income ‘We buy magazines for £1.25 each and sell them to the public for £2.50. About 80 percent of my income comes from selling the Big Issue, with the remaining 20 percent from my editing and proofreading business. I’m formally registered
Don't miss the London Contemporary Music Festival this December
Here are six shows to catch in the adventurous annual fest, held in a huge concrete hall. Ragnar KjartanssonBack after last year’s barnstorming Barbican show, the Icelandic artist opens LCMF with another treat: the UK premiere of ‘An die Musik’. Over seven hours, he will build a ‘sound sculpture’ as five singers and pianists layer a single song by Schubert over and over. Talk about earworms. Sun Dec 3. Juliana HuxtableThis pioneer of NYC cool founded all-female queer-and trans-friendly nights and has performed to compositions by Elysia Crampton at MoMA in New York. Her new commission for LCMF – a mix of music, AV and spoken word – is still under wraps, but is not to be missed. Mon Dec 4. Pan DaijingBerlin-based electronic musician Pan Daijing makes dark noise-inspired techno that mixes sexy, yet creepy, vocalisations with harsh synths. After a night that opens with Carolee Schneeman’s cult art/ sex film ‘Fuses’ (1967) and charged performances such as Kajsa Magnarsson’s ‘StrapOn and Electric Guitar’, she will take the vibe to a wild and thrashing climax. Dec 7. Philip Corner and Phoebe NevilleCorner’s best known for his violent compositions written as part of the Fluxus collective, involving pianos being smashed to smithereens. But this time he’s taking a more softly-softly approach. Corner and wife Phoebe Neville open Saturday night with something a little more delicate: sweet and spare piano pieces that glorify sound with silence. Dec 9. Moor MotherCamae Ayewa is a poet,