My Favourite London Art Installations

The challenge of filling the Tate Modern’s vast turbine hall has only been met with complete success a couple of times. many of the installations have looked lost in the space. Kara Walker’s giant ceramic fountain fits well inside the hall, but its meaning – something to do with slavery – is obscure and it’s […]

Theatre Season: The Good, The Bad & The Overhyped

October in London means serious plays. This year we have Lucy Prebble’s ‘A Very Expensive Poison’ and Nancy Harris’s ‘Two Ladies’ leading plenty of state-of-the-art modern plays. I have tickets for those and ‘The Man in the White Suit’, based on my father’s favourite film (probably because he imagined himself in the lead, a backroom […]

Superblocks And Spaghetti Streets

London is a city that confounds the casual visitor because so many extreme opposites sit side by side. It’s partly the fault of geography; the roads still follow old riverbanks and hedgerows, and never adopted a grid pattern, although many were proposed. Sir Christopher Wren imagined a reconstructed capital full of wide boulevards and grand civic […]

Late Night Rather Than Last Night

I could think of nothing more frightful than sitting through the Last Night of the Proms. It must have once been a charming event, a letting-off of steam after a long season of concerts. Now it’s a parody, all those stamping sea shanties, all that flag waving colonial nonsense – of course it’s an important […]

In A Bad Place

Having read the new Malcolm Gladwell book, ‘Talking To Strangers’, I found myself thinking about bad locations. He points out that crime statistics are affected by bad areas (obviously) but not areas as a whole – crime and anti-social behaviour can usually be pinpointed to a single block or length of street, and mistakes arise […]

From The Mouths Of Londoners

‘In the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.’ – ‘Mrs Dalloway’, Virginia Woolf ‘Garden-silks, ladies, Italian silks, […]

Coming Soon: Your Shopping Hell

With the high streets in trouble and shopping malls not always proving to be as exciting as we’d hoped, corporations are punting around for ways of making it interesting to shop again. London’s vast King’s Cross Coal Drops project (ie. fancy mall) is in the press for the wrong reasons. This POPS (Privately Owned Public Space) […]

Q&A 1

I love good public Q&As, and with the peak book and film seasons coming up in the not too distant future, I’ll be booking myself in for as many Q&A events as possible. They’re best when the questions are original and the answers aren’t rote. Here are a few of the questions I’ve been asked […]

The Big Reveal

I once watched ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ at a cinema in Putney, West London, when the film broke down just before the ending and the audience didn’t get to find out who did it. Not that anyone cared much – this was the first version directed by Sidney ‘Living Statue’ Lumet, famous for never […]

Things You Could Once Do In London That You Can’t Do Now

…Like go to the London Zoo and ride a fair selection of animals. You could see Lubetkin’s beautiful penguin pool actually filled with penguins. Or how about the chimps’ tea party, where cakes were thrown by monkeys in frocks. Anthropomorphism, I know, but I recall the chimps loving it as much as the children. However… […]