London’s One Stop Culture Shop
On Friday night I appeared at a terrific Polari event run by Paul Burston, with six of the most varied writers imaginable, talking about everything from South African weddings to bonkbusters. The room overlooked the London Eye, and had a bar and a bookshop, and what was interesting was that the entire South Bank was as busy as any shopping mall (way busier, in fact).
What’s happened is that in the last few years, the National Theatre foyers and Festival Hall open areas have become hosts to a ton of free events, making this the go-to area for all things cultural, providing entertainment for everyone without dumbing down, and you never have to check to see if something is on. Phone apps make it easy to find out the start time of events. Also, the opening of places to eat (albeit chains) means you no longer have to trudge about looking for a cup of tea.
The signposting system has improved (making this easier to navigate than the Barbican, which is still a pain), the open areas still smell of stale food and can get overcrowded, it could do with a couple of new late-night venues (the Archduke gets packed) but it’s somewhere you can go alone and not feel out of place.
What a surprising number of my friends don’t realise, though, is how close it is to the centre of town. A five minute walk over Charing Cross bridge drops you in the heart of it. This month is fairly typical in range and choice, so you have absolutely no excuse for staying in and letting the miserable weather get to you!