A whole day for music

Next Saturday, London is holding the Music Day, a day of free public events to celebrate the universal language of music.

music 2 logo

Originated in France, in 1982, it takes place yearly on the 21st of June – the mid-summer solstice. Last year, it was celebrated in 108 countries and 726 cities around the world.

The idea is to take music onto the streets – parks, street corners, cafe terraces, rooftops, underpasses and playgrounds, although some gigs happen in venues.

A performance in previous year

A performance in previous year

The UK started participating in 2013, with 20 events from Belfast to Jersey. Since this year the date falls on a Saturday, the organisers’ expectation is to gather many more performances and people.

Everyone is invited to take part – you can perform, organise, lend equipment and support it. In case you want to join in, but you are not sure how, they offer an attractive inspiration page.

Check up the event listings: performances occur in several towns and are divided into 24 music styles. That is music for all tastes!

A performance in previous year

A performance in previous year

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London’s buildings: Up, up and away

In the last months, a lot has been said about how tall buildings are getting in London, and how it could change, also in a negative way, its historic and outstanding landscape.

Should London become a town full of skyscrapers, comparable to Dubai, New York or Sao Paulo? Passionate about London say no; economy says yes.

The modern Gherkin (left)  in contrast to the Tower of London (first built in 1078). Photo: Captain Roger Fenton - https://www.flickr.com/photos/762_photo/

The modern Gherkin (left) in contrast to the Tower of London (first built in 1078). Photo: Captain Roger Fenton – https://www.flickr.com/photos/762_photo/

There are pressures for more dwelling units due to the very high prices in this area. Towers would help fund huge regeneration schemes. Today, the Europe’s tallest residential tower is in Vauxhall: The 594ft One St George’s Wharf.

In March, there were almost 250 tall towers proposed, approved or already under construction as announced by The Guardian. The New London Architecture (NLA) think tank says that 236 buildings will have more than 20 storeys.

London skyline chart: Big Ben is the shortest one

2012 London skyline chart: Big Ben is the shortest one

But critics say these “monster towers,” as they have been called, could destroy London’s skyline. The Guardian published this interactive guide to show how it is going to change – just click on each picture and find it out – and it is pretty astonishing!

The view east from Waterloo Bridge, as published on The Guardian: 1) Doon Street; 2) 20 Blackfriars; 3) Kings Reach; 4) One Blackfriars; 5) Ludgate & Sampson House; 6) 40 Leadenhall; 7) 52 Lime Street; 8) Pinnacle; 9) 100 Bishopsgate; 10) The Hotel at Heron Tower; 11) One Crown Place. Image: Hayes Davidson

The view east from Waterloo Bridge, as published on The Guardian: 1) Doon Street; 2) 20 Blackfriars; 3) Kings Reach; 4) One Blackfriars; 5) Ludgate & Sampson House; 6) 40 Leadenhall; 7) 52 Lime Street; 8) Pinnacle; 9) 100 Bishopsgate; 10) The Hotel at Heron Tower; 11) One Crown Place. Image: Hayes Davidson

They also defend there are already too many towers with silly shapes, and condemn the fact there is no planning on it.

At the end of April, the Guardian listed the 10 worst London skyscrapers – new towers, built and imminent – with Oliver Wainwright asking: Will the new tower frenzy spoil London’s skyline which is so full of history?

The Strata, the fourth worst skyscraper, according to the Guardian.  Photo: R28B - http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:R28B&action=edit&redlink=1

The Strata, the fourth worst skyscraper, according to the Guardian. Photo: R28B – http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:R28B&action=edit&redlink=1

David Edwards, architect, took all the plans for skyscrapers and created a vision of the future skyline. Londontopia published his concept designs.

 

  • NLA study

Knowing 250 towers were on the way, NLA developed an Insight Study into tall buildings in London, examining the impact this growth will have on the capital. A Project Showcase is also available, presenting a selection of tall building projects being delivered by or for NLA Partners across the capital.

 

NLA study logo

NLA study logo

 

  • The mayor’s rulebook

The London Plan is the mayor’s rulebook for development across the capital. It supports tall buildings where they “create attractive landmarks enhancing London’s character, help to provide a coherent location for economic clusters of related activities and/or act as a catalyst for regeneration and where they are also acceptable

 

  • History

Changing is part of the time passing process, isn’t it? Londontopia published a beautiful gallery of pictures that illustrate how London’s skyline has changed since the 1600′s.

 

  • Festival of Architecture

Open until June 30 in several places, The London Festival of Architecture consists of a program delivered by partner organisations – leading cultural and academic institutions – alongside associated projects and open studios by architects, engineers, designers, artists, and curators. In 2014, the festival takes ‘Capital’ as its central theme, and explores its various manifestations; from London’s place as the UK’s seat of government and finance, its flows of social and intellectual capital, the politics of regeneration and its impact on the city and its position as a world capital of architecture, through its practices and its built environment.

 

  • Modern architecture in the City of London

A video by The City of London shows its modern architecture from street level to 230m into the skyline:

Dynamic art all over town

If you have a crush on street art, London is definitely a place to be – or, at least, to check out when being around.

But street art is alive, dynamic, and it may disappear faster than you have the time to know it first appeared. So, tracking information on the internet may be an excellent way to support and visit the best art in town.

The Hookedblog is an important source of updated information about it: which artists have been in town, what contributions they have done to the art scene of London, and the website explores details on artists’ styles, colours and effects.

Artist: Rone Photo: Mark Rigney Published at Hookedblog.co.uk

Artist: Rone
Photo: Mark Rigney
Published at Hookedblog.co.uk

 

It is all about UK street art, or, in their own words: “ephemeral art, graffiti, stencils, zines, tags, screen printing, illustration and everything and anything in between!” They’ve been online since 2005 and are an excellent source for those who want to appreciate street art and also learn more about it.

On Instagram, I’ve been following @londongraffiti. They publish pictures of recent art around the town, identifying who the artist is – many do not live in London – and explaining traces and features found on the drawings. Once again, there is much to be learnt from them.

Picture from the londongraffiti Instagram: "Aerial shot (from a bench) of @dankitchener , Dale G working the front of the car and @its_artista the side"

Picture from the londongraffiti Instagram: “Aerial shot (from a bench) of @dankitchener , Dale G working the front of the car and @its_artista the side”

Since it is all about pictures, also on Instagram I’ve enjoyed @artpiedotcodotuk, on modern and street art in London and around. When researching to write this post, I found out their amazing website. They make reviews on art shows and update a very intense blog. I particularly love this Banksys Now Wears Shoes entry.

Artist:  Dan Kitchener‘s (aka DANK)  Photo: Pierrick Senelaer Published at http://www.artpie.co.uk/

Artist: Dan Kitchener‘s (aka DANK)
Photo: Pierrick Senelaer
Published at http://www.artpie.co.uk/

The Walls Project is an effort by the Global Street Art to paint the world, starting with London. They arrange new walls for street art and spread the word (and pictures!) about it. In March, they were approaching their 500th street art mural. Another great group to follow in order to get updated information.

Artist: Alicé Published at: http://www.globalstreetart.com/

Artist: Alicé
Published at: http://www.globalstreetart.com/

That is far from being everything on London street art, of course, but these are my main references by now. I keep an eye on those to know what is going on in street art in London. Have you got any artists or websites to recommend? Have you spotted anything brand new out there?

The (controversial) year of the bus

This year, Transport for London (TfL) and the London Transport Museum have been celebrating the ‘Year of the Bus’. Several events, exhibitions and activities have been presented to connect Londoners with what is not only one of their means of transportation, but also a symbol of the city.

yotb-logo

They explain: “It’s been 60 years since the creation of the iconic Routemaster, 75 years since the launch of the RT-Type bus and 100 years since the world’s first mass-produced motor bus, the B-Type ‘Battle Bus’ that carried soldiers to the frontline during the First World War.”

The RT Type was the predecessor of the Routemaster model, with very similar looks

The RT Type was the predecessor of the Routemaster model, with very similar looks

According to TfL, each day 8,600 buses operate across 700 bus routes, serving 19,500 bus stops and carrying 6.5 million passengers, more than the rest of England combined.

Many busses garages have held special open days to celebrate it, displaying historic vehicles and offering fun activities. On June 7, it is Alperton bus garage’s turn and, on June 21, Stockwell’s. Check the whole calendar here.

Also, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, unveiled a specially commissioned silver-painted New Routemaster to mark the year. Gifts and souvenirs inspired by London’s buses are available from the London Transport Museum shop.

The New Routemaster, specially silver-painted to mark the year

The New Routemaster, specially silver-painted to mark the year

But not everything in the garden is rosy, in this celebration year. TfL has decided to go cashless on buses from July 6. Yes, that is it: no cash to pay for a ride anymore. You should carry your Oyster card with you topped up at all times.

A consultation was held and two-thirds of the 37,000 respondents were against their decision, but that did not stop TfL from going ahead. They say only 1% of passengers pay with cash, but this low percentage means 24 million journeys a year.

People are worried; more ticket machines are needed, especially away from the central area, and they rejected the idea of installing Oyster machines by bus stops, and drivers should be trained to deal with uninformed people in a sensible way.

There is also a delicate issue concerning tourists. TfL says most of them know how to pick up a Visitor Oyster card – the plastic smartcard they can use instead of paper tickets, and the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London. The town has been considered the world capital for tourists. In 2013, it received 16.8 million visitors, a record that made it beat Paris as the top city to visit. And from this year on, all these people will have to learn new ways to pay for their buses rides.

The Visitor Oyster card

The Visitor Oyster card

Contactless – It is also possible to pay for bus using contactless credit, debit or charge cards, since it has been issued in the UK and displays the contactless payment symbol.

The contactless payment symbol

The contactless payment symbol

All users should do is touch the card on the yellow card reader, as they board, as they do with Oyster.

But be aware: if there are other cards in your wallet or bag when you try to touch in, the reader may detect them and it won’t be able to identify which one it should read. The card is then rejected, what they call as ‘card clash’. Your fare could be charged to a card you didn’t intend to pay with.

Contactless payment is cheaper though: £1.45 for each bus journey.

If you need more information on how it works, download this TfL PDF file.

 

The greatness of minimalism

The art of minimalism is great! It asks for attention to details, patience and care. For me, when it is associated to London, it becomes even more amazing, and there are many works worth to know and follow.

Roy Tyson has a project called Roy’s People – Explore the world of the little people! He creates images and installations using miniature figures to spread his vision of the world – sometimes, a very critical view, encouraging or provoking the audience.

'Anything's possible', a Roy's People installation

‘Anything’s possible’, a Roy’s People installation

His first installation, Mandibularis beetle, showed a family walking their pet, a beetle, on the beach: “The idea was based on the control the human race has over any other animal,” he explains on his website.

'The Family', Roy's first work

‘The Family’, Roy’s first work

He challenges people by creating intriguing, humorous, provoking and fun images, and he hopes he will encourage all ages to take an interest in art.

His most popular project is called Homeless – he leaves miniature figures around the streets of London for people to find and keep them. Each figure comes with a signed tag explaining what it is about and what to do next.

'The Grate Tower', by Roy

‘The Grate Tower’, by Roy

Roy has just finished an exhibition at the Curious Duke Gallery and The Other Art Fair, both in London. In July and August, he will be back at the Curious Duck Gallery, for a summer show. On his website, it is possible to buy prints of his work.

Steve Wheen runs the amazing The Porthole Gardener – A Guerrilla Gardening blog. He seeks to create unexpected moments of happiness, by developing marvelous and highly detailed gardens in holes on the streets.

One of The Pothole Gardener's work, with Tower Bridge and The  Shard in the background

One of The Pothole Gardener’s work, with Tower Bridge and The Shard in the background

“My little gardens are a respite from the greyness of London,” he says on his website. He looks for holes on the footpaths and tries to inspire people’s imagination.

The gardener's latest installation, published on his blog in March

The gardener’s latest installation, published on his blog in March

His project started as part of his Masters in Design and generated his first book, The Little Book of Little Gardens, published by Dokument Press late in 2012.

Cover of the book, published in 2012, born from his work posted on the blog

Cover of the book, published in 2012, born from his work posted on the blog

 

History alive on the streets of London

Predictably, there are thousands of apps about London – if you want some reliable nominations, check the ‘Top 10 Free London Apps’ article by Visit London, the city’s official visitor guide.

But a few of them are as amazing and lovely as The Museum of London app, called Streetmuseum and available on Google Play and iTunes.

Firstly, let’s make things clear: I’m talking about the Museum of London, which is not the British Museum. Since I’ve seen Londoners making confusion between them, I thought it would be nice to specify. The London one tells the history of – guess what? – London (wow!), and it is close to St Paul’s tube station.

The app gives a unique perspective of old and new London, from the Great Fire of 1666 to the swinging sixties.

There are two ways of using it: once you select a destination from the map, a historical image of the location appears onscreen, with historical information. You do not have to be in London to use it. The pictures are splendid!

information 2

Being in London, you can use the app’s augmented reality mode, which identifies your location and overlays the historic image over the current camera view. Just hold your camera up to the street scene and see the same location in the past. By tapping the information button, you get historical facts. Jaw dropping!

carnaby st

Streetmuseum is not brand new; it has been updated with over 100 new locations and images, dating as far as back as 1868. Also, its locations have been expanded to outer boroughs as Richmond, Brent Cross and Ealing.

To promote it, the museum has released historic pictures of London juxtaposed with modern ones. It is magical to see how a city can change so much and so little!

Duncannon Street, Westminster, 1902. The street was decorated for the coronation ceremony of Edward VII

Duncannon Street, Westminster, 1902. The street was decorated for the coronation ceremony of Edward VII

 

Palace Theatre in 1958. Photographer: Bob Collins

Palace Theatre in 1958. Photographer: Bob Collins

 

Gloucester Road Station under construction in the late 1860. Photo by Henry Flather

Gloucester Road Station under construction in the late 1860. Photo by Henry Flather

 

A scene of Oxford Street in 1905 by Christina Broom

A scene of Oxford Street in 1905 by Christina Broom

Taking legacy seriously

Next Saturday, April 5, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will open to the public. Yes, that’s what you read – Olympic. After the 2012 games, an entity called London Legacy Development Corporation became responsible for the redevelopment of the park, and followed their goal of driving the legacy of the Olympic park to transform the lives of east Londoners.

So, yes again, this is about legacy, and how it can be properly conducted.

park 3

It will be a 24-hour public garden and recreation area with playgrounds, parklands and activity trails. People can swim, climb, relax, walk and cycle on a 500 acre space. There will also be a theatre, an amphitheatre and a nature reserve.

One of the most expected attractions is the 114.5m tall ArcelorMittal Orbit, or just The Orbit Tower, and tickets for it are already on sale – a new perspective on London from above, and we can never get tired of it!

Orbit 1

The complex structure — part sculpture, part viewing tower — was designed as a landmark for the London 2012 Games. With two observation floors, at 76m and 80m, it provides stunning views over the park and across London’s skyline. This time-lapse photography shows the Orbit taking shape beside the Olympic Stadium, on March 2012:

Think about something you’d like to have in a weekend with friends or family. Fountains? Checked. Waterways? Checked. Artworks? Checked. Biodiversity? Checked. Culture, climbing walls, restaurants? Guess what: checked. Can’t you make up your mind? At least, use the park map to get situated.

Orbit 3

In fact, the northern of the park and its arena have been open since July 2013, and more than a million visitors have been there for concerts, festivals and sporting events last summer. On Saturday, the south of the park opens, as well as the Orbit, and the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre opens in May.

There are plans it will host five matches during Rugby World Cup 2015, be the permanent home of West Ham United Football Club from 2016, and the new national competition stadium for athletics in the UK hosting regional and national age group championships.

park 1

The nearest station is Stratford (tube, DLR and Overground), where staff will be on hand to guide everyone to the park. There will be an accessible shuttle bus from Stratford Regional Station every 15-20 minutes.

Easy to access, multiple activities, planned for different ages, dwellers and tourists: there is space for everyone in this new London park – but for white elephants.