Category Archives: Activities

Get involved – things to do as well as see

Scenes in the Square: Meet icons of cinema on Leicester Square’s art trail

Going to ‘town’: A guide to Jane Austen’s London

Find out where Jane Austen stayed, shopped and socialised during her many visits to London.

Jane Austen
(1870 engraving based on sketch by Cassandra Austen)

Jane Austen (1775-1817) spent most of her years living in Hampshire and Bath, but visited London frequently throughout her adult life. Her favourite brother Henry Thomas Austen (1771-1850) lived in the capital for a lot of his life, while publishing houses were another incentive for the author to visit London.

As well as being a frequent visitor to London, the city also served as inspiration for Austen’s novels. Some of her wealthier characters had homes in the capital, while it often poses as a location for many scandalous scenes. Who can forget Lydia Bennet and Mr Wickham eloping to London and being made to marry in a City church? Or Marianne Dashwood realising Mr Willoughby is engaged to another woman while in the capital with her sister Elinor? While London is full of adventure for some of Austen’s characters, one in particular wasn’t so fond. In ‘Emma’, the title character’s father Henry Woodhouse laments London’s pollution, declaring: “The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.”

Guide to Jane Austen’s London haunts

Find out where Jane Austen lodged, socialised and shopped during her frequent visits to London.

  • Cork Street

Jane and her brothers are believed to have slept at an inn on Cork Street in Mayfair on her first visit to London in 1796. Cork Street was a short walk from White Horse Cellar on Piccadilly (the present site of the Burlington Arcade) – where Jane was likely to have disembarked as it was a popular coach drop-off for travellers from the south and west of England.

– Cork Street, Mayfair, W1S. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park.

  • 64 Sloane Street

Jane’s older brother Henry and his wife Eliza moved from nearby Brompton (where they lived in 1808) to Sloane Street by the time Jane visited in 1811. Henry was a banker at the time so could entertain his sibling with parties and trips to the theatre. Jane returned for another visit in 1813. Today, the building is Grade II listed and is home to an investment bank, with its façade dating back to a redevelopment by Fairfax Wade in the late 19th century. The original house inside dates back to 1780.

– 64 Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, SW1X 9SH. Nearest station: Knightsbridge or Sloane Square.

  • 10 Henrietta Street

Jane lived with her brother at Henrietta Street during summer 1813 and March 1814. In 1813, Henry was devastated by the death of his wife Eliza. Soon after her passing, Henry moved to rooms above Tilson’s bank on Henrietta Street. Jane and their niece Fanny Knight visited him there in the spring of 1814.

– 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8PS. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Charing Cross.

  • 23 Hans Place

Henry moved round the corner from Sloane Street to Hans Place in 1814 – a year after his wife Eliza died. Jane stayed at the house during her visits in 1814 and October-December 1815. Jane was fond of the building and the square’s garden. The author travelled to London in 1815 while she was preparing her novel ‘Emma’ for publication. While there, her brother became seriously ill so Jane remained in the city to nurse him back to health. It is believed this was Jane’s last visit to ‘town’, as she died in Hampshire 19 months later. Today, No.23 has been redeveloped, but No.s 15, 33 and 34, as well as the garden from the original period, still exist. A blue plaque commemorates Jane’s time at the residence.

– Hans Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X. Nearest station: Knightsbridge.

  • Carlton House

During her visit to London is 1815, Jane was invited to the Prince Regent’s (the future King George IV) library at Carlton House by the royal librarian James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834). The latter suggested Jane dedicate ‘Emma’ to the prince, and despite her disdain for the royal, she was in no position to refuse. Carlton House was demolished the following decade, with Carlton House Terrace being erected on the site in the 1820s.

– Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y 5AH. Nearest stations: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.

Buy some tea like Jane in Twining’s flagship in the Strand

  • Twining’s flagship store

The oldest tea shop in London has been trading on Strand for over 300 years. The Austen family, including Jane, visited the shop to buy their tea. Jane wrote in her diary that her mother Cassandra (1739-1827) had asked her to pick up some Twining’s tea to bring back west. She also refers to the price of tea going up in a March 1814 letter to her sister Cassandra (1773-1845), written from Henrietta Street.

– 216 Strand, Aldwych, WC2R 1AP. Nearest station: Temple. For more information, visit the Twining’s website.

  • Astley’s Amphitheatre

Jane was entertained at Astley’s Amphitheatre during a trip to London and referenced the location in ‘Emma’. The performance venue was opened by Philip Astley in 1773 and is considered the first modern circus ring. Although the Amphitheatre is long gone, a plaque on the site remains today. It makes an appearance in ‘Emma’, as the location of Robert Martin and Harriet Smith’s reconciliation and subsequent engagement.

– Cornwall Road, Waterloo, SE1 8TW. Nearest station: Waterloo. Read the rest of this entry

Immerse yourself in a colourful wonderland as Colourscape returns to Wembley

Be entertained by musicians and dancers as you walk through a tunnel of sound and light.

© Colourscape at Wembley Park

Colourscape comes to Wembley Park this Easter

IMPORTANT UPDATE 16/03/20: Due to the Covid-19 virus, Colourscape has been postponed. All ticket holders should receive an automatic refund in the coming days. If you have not received a refund by the end of the week please contact KX Tickets directly at customers@kxtickets.com.

Returning to Wembley Park this Easter is the travelling immersive art installation Colourscape. From 8 – 13 April 2020, visitors can walk through a labyrinth of colour and light while enjoying live performances by musicians and dancers.

Colourscape was originally created by artist Peter Jones in the early ’70s and has previously popped up at the Vienna Festival of Youth, Cologne for the World Cup and Turku for European Capital of Culture. The installation is comprised of a series of interlinked, kaleidoscopic chambers. As visitors stroll through the maze of light, they will be met by musicians playing instruments from Tibet, China and Mongolia. Guests will be given coloured capes to wear so they blend into the interactive tunnel of colour.

Returning to Wembley for the second year running, this year’s Colourscape will be supporting learning disability charity Brent Mencap.

  • Colourscape takes place from 8 – 13 April 2020. At Wembley Park Boulevard (next to London Designer Outlet), Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest stations: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. Open 11am-4.30pm (sessions last 30 mins). Tickets (must be pre-booked): Adults £5, Children £3. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Wheelchair accessible. No dogs allowed. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.

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An evening of escape rooms and Murder Mystery at the immersive ‘a Twist of the Rope’

If you’re a fan of escape games and immersive experiences, this fun charity event could be right up your street. This November, KIDS are hosting an evening of murder mystery in trendy east London for one night only.

‘A Twist of the Rope’ will combine the traditional murder mystery format with live performances and an interactive escape room. Visitors will be taken on a mysterious journey to join the circus, where a killer is hiding in the world of ringmasters, lion tamers and mimes. Keep an eye out for clues, solve riddles, interrogate witnesses and unravel the secrets of the circus.

Guests are invited to help Detective Jones find out who killed the circus acrobat, found dead in her dressing room next to a mysterious vanishing cabinet. Aspiring investigators can take part in teams of 2-6 people.

Money raised from the event goes to KIDS, who support over 13,500 disabled children, young people and their families across Britain. Established in 1970, the charity provides over 120 different services and works with 80 local authorities across the country.

  • Murder Mystery: A Twist of the Rope takes place on 13 November 2019. From 7.30pm-10.30pm. Over 18s only. Tickets: £30. Trapeze Bar, 89 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 3HX. Nearest station: Old Street. For more information, visit the KIDS charity website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this November, click here.

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Guide to London’s outdoor ice rinks this winter 2019/2020

Somerset House ice rink © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Skate in the historic Georgian courtyard of Somerset House

Now autumn is in full swing, we’re now on a steady countdown to Christmas. With the nights getting darker and colder, a visit to a festive ice rink could be just what you need to lift the spirits.

From the end of October until early January, a host of outdoor ice rinks are popping up in the capital. You can ice skate against some iconic London backdrops, such as Somerset House, the Natural History Museum and the Tower of London. Alternatively, there are more unusual venues, like Skylight London in Wapping, which gives you stunning city views from the ice.

Most rinks are open daily including Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but are closed on Christmas Day.

Here’s a guide to London ice rinks – both outdoor and permanent – open this winter season.

  • 19 October – 12 January 2020 : Natural History Museum Ice Rink

A 1,000 square metre rink in the gardens of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Open 10am-9pm. Session times last 1 hour. Adults from £12.65, Children 12 and under from £8.80. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD. Nearest station: South Kensington. To book, visit the Natural History Museum website.

  • 31 October – 25 January 2020 : Skylight London

Skate on London’s rooftops with views of the City of London’s skyscrapers. Features alfresco and covered bars, igloos, and street food. Open Thu-Sun only. Free entry to Skylight. Skating tickets: £12 (45 minutes inc skate hire). Skylight, Tobacco Quay, Pennington Street entrance, Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. For booking, visit the Skylight London website.

  • 13 November – 12 January 2020 : Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason

One of the original pop-up ice rinks located in the historic courtyard of Somerset House. As well as general skating, they also host club nights on ice and skate lessons. Session times last 1 hour and are from 10am until 10.30pm (later for club nights and New Year’s Eve). Tickets: Adults start from £11, Children (12yr and under) from £8.50. Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA. Nearest station: Temple. To book, visit the Somerset House website.

  • 16 November – 5 January 2020 : Tower Of London Ice Rink

Skate on a rink in the moat of the Tower of London. After a skate, visit the ice rink café bar serving hot snacks and drinks. (16 Nov-18 Dec) Weekdays 11am-9pm, Weekends 10am-9pm. (19 Dec-5 Jan) 10am-9pm all week. Tickets: Adults/teens from £15, Children under 12: £10.50. Tower Of London (off Lower Thames Street or Tower Hill), EC3N 4AB. Nearest station: Tower Hill. To book, visit the Tower Of London Ice Rink website. Read the rest of this entry

William Shakespeare’s London: Guide to The Bard’s former homes and haunts

Find out where William Shakespeare used to spend his time during his two decades in London.

Shakespeare Jimmy C mural © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

William Shakespeare mural by Jimmy C on Bankside

Although he was born, died and spent a lot of his life in Stratford-upon-Avon, actor, playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616) found fame – and fortune – on the London stage. Over 400 years after The Bard’s death, his life and works continue to fascinate and entertain people around the world. Although many of Shakespeare’s former homes and haunts in Warwickshire are in good condition, it’s rather more difficult to find his London hotspots. Fires, plagues, war and redevelopment over the centuries have changed the fabric of the City of London and Bankside and left little of Shakespearean sights. However, fans of the great literary legend can make a pilgrimage to some Shakespearean landmarks, with some buildings still in existence or plaques marking his presence.

What was William Shakespeare’s life like in London?

Born in 1564, Shakespeare moved to the capital in his twenties. It’s been difficult to pinpoint exactly when he headed for the big city, as historians have referred to 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare’s “lost years” due to lack of records. However, it’s certain that he was a married man and a father-of-three by the time he sought fame and fortune in the capital. He was definitely working in London by 1592 when he was mentioned by a rival dramatist Robert Greene.

Shakespeare lived in London for around two decades, but split his time between the city and Stratford-upon-Avon, where his wife Anne (1556-1623) remained bringing up their children. Soon after arriving in London, he began his career as an actor and playwright, with records showing his plays were being performed by 1592. He started acting with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later becoming the King’s Men, and became part owner of several theatres, including The Globe. He turned his attention from plays to poetry when theatres were closed during the plague outbreak of 1593. He remained in London for another 20 years or so, eventually retiring to Stratford in 1613, three years before he died.

Guide to William Shakespeare’s London landmarks

  • The Crosse Keys

Today, the Crosse Keys is a Wetherspoons pub in a former Victorian bank. However, the pub takes its name from the former Crosse Keys Inn, which stood near the site in the late 16th century. Shakespeare’s troupe, the Chamberlain’s Men, performed for audiences of up to 500 people in the cobbled courtyard of the Inn on a regular basis in the early 1590s. The original Crosse Keys was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, with its replacement burning down in 1734.

– The Crosse Keys, 9 Gracechurch Street, City of London, EC3V 0DR. Nearest station: Bank.

  • St Helen’s Parish

By 1596, Shakespeare was living in the parish of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, while his family back in Stratford had moved into the recently bought New Place. The exact address is not known, but it is believed he was living near Leadenhall Street and St Mary Avenue. The Bard is listed as failing to pay 5 shillings on £5 worth of taxable goods in November 1597. Living locally, it was likely he worshipped at St Helen’s Bishopgate church and is commemorated inside with a stained glass window of his image.

– St Helen’s Bishopsgate, Great St Helen’s, EC3A 6AT. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.

New Inn Broadway © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Romeo and Juliet mural on the site of The Theatre

  • The Theatre

After the Plague led to plays being banned from the City of London, theatre troupes like Shakespeare and co started to move to just outside the jurisdiction of the City. The Theatre was built in 1576 on the site of the former Holywell Priory by actor and theatre impresario James Burbage – a colleague of Shakespeare at the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. By 1594, the group started performing The Bard’s plays exclusively and it soon became the leading acting company in London. Romeo & Juliet was believed to have been performed at The Theatre for the first time, with the tragedy estimated to have been written around 1591-95. However, The Theatre was dismantled in 1598, with some of its materials being used to build The Globe, after the company fell out with the land’s owner Giles Allen. Archaeologists discovered remains of the theatre in 2008. A building to house offices and a permanent exhibition about The Theatre is currently being constructed on site. Today, a mural of Romeo & Juliet commemorates Shakespeare’s spell in Shoreditch.

– New Inn Broadway, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PZ. Nearest stations: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street.

Read the rest of this entry

Japan Matsuri 2019: The best of Japanese food, arts and culture at a one-day spectacular in London

Head to Trafalgar Square for the Japan Matsuri festival

Japanese cultural festival Japan Matsuri is returning to the capital this September. The annual one-day spectacular offers Londoners the chance to experience the best of Japanese food, music, dance and more. Designed for the whole family, the 10-hour festival is free to attend and takes place in the city’s iconic Trafalgar Square.

Kicking off at 10am, Japan Matsuri will host two stages featuring an exciting programme of traditional and modern theatre, dance, martial arts and music. Acts include Iwami Kagura; ICHI; Joji Hirota & the London Taiko Drummers; Hasiken; Okinawa Sanshinkai / Kenjinkai and Sonda Seinenkai Eisa Group; Hibiki Ichikawa & Akari Mochizuki; Yosakoi London – Temuzu; Hiroko Tanaka Nihon Buyo Group; O-HA-YA-SHI Couple“Reiwa” Group; and Naomi Suzuki. There will also be a family activity tent when visitors can enjoy free workshops in manga, calligraphy and origami, as well as the chance to dress up in Kimonos.

Watch traditional Japanese martial arts displays

Foodies will be in for a treat with a wide variety of food stalls offering classic Japanese street snacks, including takoyaki octopus balls, yakisoba noodles and okonomiyaki pancakes. Or if you fancy something larger, you can choose from wagyu burgers, ramen, bento boxes, donburi rice bowls and sushi. For those with a sweet tooth, there will be plenty of dessert such as red-bean jam dorayaki pancakes to mochi rice cakes.

If you’re feeling inspired to visit the country, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) will also be on-site offering travel inspiration and information. The JNTO are also one of the event sponsors.

  • Japan Matsuri takes place on Sunday 29 September 2019. From 10am-8pm. Free. Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2N 5DN. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Embankment, Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Japan Matsuri website.

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Take a ‘wade’ on the wild side with Creekside Discovery Centre’s low tide walk

Explore the history and nature of Deptford Creek with the Creekside Center

With the current pace of building in the capital and developers looking to seize every last piece of land to build on, London’s wildlife is being squeezed into increasingly smaller environments. As banks of rivers and streams are absorbed into manmade land and structures, many animals and birds are running out of space to build nests, or even shelter during bad weather. While we need more homes in this overcrowded capital, it’s trying to balance fulfilling demand while protecting the wildlife’s habitats that is a real challenge.

Recently I paid a visit to the Creekside Discovery Center in Deptford, south-east London to join one of their Low Tide Walks. My boyfriend and I were up bright and early on a Sunday (well, by my standards early for a Sunday!) morning to get suited up for our visit to Deptford Creek. We were told to wear old clothes and a hat, with the CDC providing thigh-high waders and a walking stick. The Center itself is a one-storey educational space in a garden full of beautiful, coloured wildflowers. In fact there are over 130 different wildflower species across the site. It was rather amusing to see various memorabilia retrieved from the Creek dotted around like a modern art display, such as shopping trolleys, rollerskates and typewriters. I’m always baffled why someone would find enjoyment by throwing a trolley into a river or creek… perhaps they should get an actual hobby?!

The old lifting bridge, built in the 1830s

The name Deptford comes from ‘deep ford’, with the Creek forming the north end of the River Ravensbourne before it flows into the Thames. We started our two-hour expedition being led down to the Creek by a conservationist Nick. We entered the water – and mud – near the historic lifting bridge. It was originally built in the 1830s for the London and Greenwich Railway, which connected London Bridge with Greenwich, which was incredibly busy at the time due to its naval and royal connections. The railway was the first steam service in the capital and also the first entirely elevated railway. When it came to crossing the Creek, the railway owners realised it was problematic. They couldn’t build a regular fixed crossing as that would have blocked the many ships passing up and down the Creek. Civil engineer George Thomas Landmann (1779-1854) came up with the idea of a lifting bridge, which would allow trains to pass over while in situ, but could be lifted up for passing barges via pulleys, chains and sliding rods with eight men required to operate it. The current bridge you can see today, is a younger replacement, with several bridges replacing the original 1830s one. At time of writing, it’s been out of action for decades and is a listed structure. Read the rest of this entry

Ready to throw? Check out the EVE Riot Grrrls of Wrestling live experience in London

© EVE Riot Grrrls of Wrestling

EVE Riot Grrrls of Wrestling is a feminist-punk-rock wrestling live experience

Women’s sports are rightly getting the spotlight they deserve right now after decades of hiding in the shadows of their male counterparts. With the hit Netflix show Glow fuelling the popularity of women’s wrestling, there’s never been a better time to hit the ring and cheer on the ladies.

EVE Riot Grrrls of Wrestling is a feminist and fabulous, punk-rock wrestling live experience. EVE was founded by married couple and activists Emily and Dann Read, who have been fighting for acceptable of women in the professional wrestling industry since 2006 and create events showcasing the talents of female wrestlers.

Already this summer has seen some of EVE’s biggest shows to date, including Wrestle Queendom II – the largest ever women’s wrestling event in Europe. On 10 August 2019, the home of the EVE Academy in Bethnal Green will host Fights and False Lashes. Expect an empowering and entertaining show of fight and fun. Following in the autumn will be the three-day 2019 SHE-1 Series in November, with Wrestle Queendom kicking off the new year in January 2020,

Meanwhile, if you fancy being the next Ronda Rousey or Nikki Bella, you can enrol at the EVE Academy’s classes. You will be taught in the art of callisthenics, core strengthening, stretches and aerobic exercises and tune-chanting by two-time EVE champion and fitness instructor Rhia O’Reilly and Lucha Libre head coach and pro-wrestler Greg Burridge.

  • EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling Present: Fights and False Lashes takes place on 10 August 2019. 7.30pm-10.30pm. Tickets: £25 + booking fee. Over 18s only. At Resistance Gallery, 265 Poyser Street, Bethnal Green, E2 9RF. Nearest station: Bethnal Green or Cambridge Heath. For more information and tickets, visit EVEWrestling.com.
  • Further events: 9-11 November 2019: EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling Present: THE 2019 SHE-1 SERIES @ Resistance Gallery and 11 January 2020: EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling Present: Wrestle Queendom @ York Hall, Bethnal Green.

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Improve your skills and help save the planet with the Small Change Big Difference cookery classes


Want to do your bit to help the planet? Feel like your cooking skills could do with some improvement? There’s an opportunity to do both at some new sustainable cooking classes popping up across London… and the best part – they’re free!

Run by the Small Change, Big Difference campaign, a new series of 30 classes are offering Londoners the chance to expand their cooking skills. Along with whipping up some gastro delights, the classes will also aim to reduce the estimated 910,000 tonnes of food wasted by the capital’s residents every year. You can find inspiration on how to create quick and easy recipes using whatever is lingering in your fridge or cupboards. Expert chefs will showcase their passion for food and teach you how you can improve your health and protect the planet by choosing the right ingredients.

The first workshops have launched already with weekly ‘Waste-FREE Lunch’ every Thursdays (in July) at Mercato Metropolitano in Borough. Attendees can learn how to make a healthy, sustainable packed lunch – before eating it! – in a lunchtime session. There will also be classes on Wednesday evenings through the month at venues in Brixton, Stoke Newington, Battersea and Oxford Circus.

The remaining July workshops include:

Sunday 21 July : Waste-FREE cookery class at Newburgh Street, Soho. (10.30am-11.15am)

Wednesday 24 July : Cookery School at Little Portland Street, Oxford Circus (6.30pm-9pm)

Thursday 25 July : ‘Waste-FREE lunch’ at Mercato Metropolitano, Elephant and Castle (12.45pm-1.40pm).

You book a space on one of the classes through a Eventbrite, which will require a fully-refundable £10 deposit to guarantee your spot. The classes are running from now until October 2019.

  • Small Change, Big Difference cookery workshops are taking place from now until October 2019 on selected dates. Places are free, but a £10 returnable deposit is required to secure your place (You will be refunded after attending the class, however this is not refunded in the event of a no-show, with the money donated to charity). Book your place (up to 2 weeks in advance) via Eventbrite or find more information on the Small Change, Big Difference website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in February, click here.

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