Book review: Up in Smoke by Peter Watts

IMG_2816I have a terrible confession to make, one that will see me shunned by London society, if not drummed out of the city altogether: I don’t actually like Battersea power station.

Giles Gilbert Scott’s brooding brick behemoth by Chelsea Bridge has always been too squat, too square for my tastes. His Bankside power station (now the home of the Tate Modern) is wonderfully proportioned, its single chimney in tasteful contrast to the bloated glass towers on the other side of the river.

And if it were not for its chimneys, would anyone give a stuff about Battersea? Their elegant flutes are (for me) the sole redeeming feature of Scott’s earlier building. Continue reading

Hilda Hewlett – Pioneer Aviator

CguYvg9XEAEjDC9Men outnumber women on London’s Blue Plaques by over seven to one, so it was good to stumble across this in Vardens Road, just off St John’s Hill.

It was unveiled in September 2015 to commemorate the first woman to gain a pilot’s licence (in 1911, when she was 47) and – in association with French engineer Gustav Blondeau – the manufacturer of numerous aeroplanes.

Continue reading

Bonnington Square: Rus in Urbe with knobs on

IMG_2820There’s a truism that if you venture off the main street almost anywhere in London you’ll discover something new.

I do this a lot, sometimes just finding pretty ordinary Victorian streets, but often stumbling across a real gem. But it’s been a long time since I was struck by anything so wonderfully, gloriously, fabulously bonkers as Bonnington Square. Continue reading

Bricking It

IMG_2795

Step out of the back door of the Blue Fin Building (as I did this morning) and rising up in front of you is the new extension to Tate Modern – 167,699 bricks’ worth (according to their website).

It’s by the firm of Herzog & de Meuron (who did the work transforming Giles Gilbert Scott’s original Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern back in 2000) and “will present a striking combination of raw industrial spaces and refined 21st century architecture”.

Striking it certainly is, its angular form contrasting starkly with the clean lines of the power station. Its ten storeys tall, and built on the old oil storage tanks (Bankside was oil-fired, unlike Scott’s coal-fired Battersea power station, also currently being transformed). The Tate say that the new development will increase display space by 60%.

I’ve an ambivalent attitude to much contemporary art, finding it engaging on an intellectual rather than an emotional level, and although I love the Turbine Hall space at Tate Modern it’s not a gallery that I find myself drawn to. Let’s see what goes into the new extension when it opens on 17 June.

(Click on any of the images below to see the gallery of snaps)

 

Spend Sunday Morning at the British Museum

Fancy a tour around the British Museum?

Well, lucky you, I’m doing not one, but two tours on the morning of Sunday 22 May, kicking off at 10:15.

You can come on either one, or there’s a £4.00 saving if you book both.

The first looks at some of the treasures of the Ancient world – including Egypt, Assyria and, of course, Greece. The second explores some of the wonderful things found in Britain – Roman silver, Celtic gold, Anglo-saxon enamelling to name but some.

Full details can be found here, where you can also book tickets.

In the Clink

clink-logoIn London, the old Victorian prisons are just there, an almost unnoticed background to everyday life; Wandsworth is over the road from my local garden centre; I drive past Holloway and Pentonville on the way to and from the in laws;  my wife used to work a stone’s throw away from Wormwood Scrubs, and Brixton is just round the corner from where I get my car serviced.

Most of us have never been inside these places. Nor, given most reports about these places, would any of us much want to. But last Friday I did see inside, because I went along to lunch at The Clink in Brixton, a restaurant where the chefs and waiting staff are all prison inmates. Continue reading

Getting the Blue Badge

london_bb copyWell, I finally went and actually did it and passed the exams to be a fully-fledged London Blue Badge Guide.  That means I can now take groups of paying customers around Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s, the Tower and various other places in the capital.  So from any day soon I’ll be striding out talking and pointing at things for money.

My ‘professional’ website is at donbrowndotlondon, which you should all immediately go and visit, as well as recommending it to your friends (especially if they are rich Americans visiting London).

I’ve also got a new twitter feed (@donbrownlondon) and Facebook page, both of which I urge you to follow, share, like and all those other social media things that get more visibility. Those of you on Instagram can also find a random selection of pictures here.