I haven’t done a ‘Photo Friday’ post for a long time but took this photo with my camera phone this week and wanted to share it. While I’m not a fan of the cold weather, the cooler temperatures do often make for clearer skies. I visited the National Gallery after work earlier this week and was distracted by the stunning light in the sky as I left the building. As the sun went down, the lights gradually started to come on as the city starts to twinkle. I see this as a quintessential London scene, with people meandering around the square, buses and taxis whizzing past and the monuments such as the Houses of Parliament and Nelson’s Column standing tall against the sky.
Trafalgar Square has been given a new piece of art amongst its fountains, lions and statues following the unveiling of the latest Fourth Plinth commission. Succeeding David Shrigley’s divisive Really Good, the latest piece is a recreation of a lost ancient artefact.
Michael Rakowitz’s artwork The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist is a piece from his long-term project to recreate 7,000 objects that have been lost forever. This particular sculpture is a recreation of the Lamassu, which had guarded the Nergal Gate of Nineveh (near Mosul, Iraq). Created around 700BC, it was destroyed by ISIS in 2015, along with many other ancient artefacts and historical sites. The Lamassu is a deity featuring a human head with the body of a winged bull. Rakowitz has chosen to make his sculpture from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans, a once thriving industry which was ravaged by the conflicts of the region. On the fountain facing side of the piece, an inscription in Cuneiform reads: ‘Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, had the inner and outer wall of Ninevah built anew and raised as high as mountains.’
This is the 12th work to appear on the Fourth Plinth since the programme started in 1998. The plinth was designed as one of four by architect Sir Charles Barry when he laid out Trafalgar Square in the 1840s. It was originally scheduled to showcase an equestrian statue of King William IV, but the plan was never realised due to austerity cuts. After 150 years of remaining empty, the Fourth Plinth programme was finally conceived in the 1990s as a platform for temporary artworks.
- The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist will remain in situ until March 2020. At the Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Embankment or Leicester Square.
For the latest guide to what’s on in London, click here.
The latest artwork has been unveiled on the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square and it’s already dividing critics and the public. Really Good, a giant hand in a thumbs up gesture by artist David Shrigley, was unveiled on 29 September 2016 and will remain there for the foreseeable future. The new sculpture replaces Gift Horse by German artist Hans Haacke, which had been in situ since March 2015.
After Trafalgar Square was laid out in the 1840s, three of the four plinths were – and still are – occupied by sculptures of King George IV, General Sir Charles James Napier and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock. The Fourth Plinth was originally designed to hold an equestrian statue of King William IV, but plans were dropped due to lack of funds. After decades of being empty, a new public art project was conceived in 1998 for the Fourth Plinth to house a rotation of temporary artworks.
Brighton-based artist Shrigley has created a seven-metre high, bronze hand with a disproportionately large thumb. This new sculpture has been hailed as a beacon for positive thinking during a somewhat tricky year, with the Brexit vote dividing the British public. The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones wrote: ‘This is a weird and bizarre sculpture whose stark silhouette against the London sky is not affirmative or reassuring but aggressive.’ Meanwhile, The Telegraph’s Mark Hudson said: ‘If the dark bronze skilfully echoes the patina of the older statues, blending the sculpture into its grandiose setting, the way the ball of the hand, the clenched fingers and thumb relate to each other is uncomfortable and patently unrealistic.’ Personally, I’m still undecided what I think about it and may have to see it a few more times before I decide if I like it or hate it. It’s certainly prompted a lot more debate among Londoners than recent commissions.
- Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Embankment or Leicester Square.
Trafalgar Square is a pretty dramatic setting, bordered by listed, historical buildings with Nelson’s Column as its centrepiece. Standing out amongst the predominantly Victorian architecture is the Fourth Plinth in the north-west corner of the Square – containing changing contemporary art pieces. When the Square was laid out in the 1840s by architect Sir Charles Barry, two plinths on the north wall were created. It was only in the 1850s two free-standing plinths were erected on the south of the fountains creating a grand total of four. The plan was for notable figures to be placed on all plinths, but only three were filled. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century and until present day, three of the plinths hosted sculptures of King George IV, General Sir Charles James Napier and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock. The Fourth Plinth was originally designed to hold an equestrian statue of King William IV, but plans were dropped due to lack of funds.
It’s only been since 1998 that the Fourth Plinth has been occupied. It was decided it would host temporary contemporary artworks. Over the years, it has been the base of many sculptures, including Marc Quinn’s one of Alison Lapper, Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle and Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s Powerless Structures, Fig. 101.
In March 2015, the 10th artwork to occupy the plinth was unveiled to the public, replacing the previous Hahn/Cock which had been there since July 2013. The new ‘inhabitant’ is Gift Horse by German artist Hans Haacke. The sculpture is a skeleton of a horse with an electronic bow featuring share prices from the Stock Exchange. The art is a nod to the original Victorian plan for an equestrian statue that was due to stand on the fourth plinth, but didn’t make it due to funding. Haacke admitted he was inspired by 18th century painter George Stubbs’ The Anatomy Of The Horse. Gift Horse is due to remain on the Fourth Plinth until September 2016, when it will be replaced by David Shrigley’s bronze hand Really Good.
- Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2N. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Embankment or Leicester Square.
This Thursday (19 February) sees the arrival of the Chinese New Year Of The Sheep. With London having long had a large Chinese population, it’s no surprise to see the city will be hosting the biggest celebrations of the New Year in Europe. On Sunday, the action will spill beyond the borders of Chinatown into Trafalgar Square with fun and festivities to mark the advent of the new year. The Sheep (goat or ram) is known for being gentle and calm, with people being born in the animal’s years being tender, polite, shy, filial, clever, indecisive and kind-hearted.
For early risers, the New Year’s Parade will begin in Trafalgar Square at 10am, going through the West End before ending in Chinatown. Meanwhile, back in Trafalgar Square, a street party kicks off at noon, featuring performances from Chinese acrobatics, traditional dancers and the iconic lion dance, which will weave through the streets wishing restaurant owners good luck for the coming year. Mr Wei Ding, who performed the culture evening show for world leaders at the APEC Summit last November, is producing a variety show ‘Cultures of China, Festival of Spring’. While Trafalgar will be playing host to large-scale performances, there will also be a second stage on Shaftesbury Avenue for local acts and upcoming talent. including martial arts groups, Canto pop and K-pop. The celebrations will be hosted by British Chinese actress Jing Lusi (Holby City) and Amy Herzog’s award-winning play 4000 Miles.
And of course, no Chinese New Year celebrations would be complete without the country’s famous cuisines being represented. Over 80 restaurants in Chinatown will be offering a range of cuisines from traditional Hong Kong street food to modern Chinese fusion from Shanghai and Beijing. Among the venues taking part include the Golden Phoenix and Opium Cocktail And Dim Sum Parlour on Gerrard Street. Many eateries will be setting up craft stalls and food stands outside so you can eat on the move or take home a piece of Chinese arts and crafts.
Chinese New Year Highlights to look out for:
10am: Parade begins at Trafalgar Square, ending on Shaftesbury Avenue
12-1pm: Dragon and Lion Dance performance at the Trafalgar Square Stage
1.30pm: Cultures of China – Festival of Spring performance on Trafalgar Square Stage
3.30pm: Red Poppy Ladies Percussion Group performance on Trafalgar Square Stage
5-6pm: Finale on Trafalgar Square Stage
- Chinese New Year celebrations will take part on Sunday 22 February 2015 from 10am to 6pm. Free. Nearest stations: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Charing Cross. For more information, visit the Chinatown London website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
December is one of the best months to be in London. Yes, the weather is rather cold, but there’s so much going on. Obviously, most of it involves Christmassy stuff. Just because the temperatures have plummeted, it doesn’t mean outside is totally off-limits – there’s plenty of fairs, winter wonderlands and other places to have fun in the fresh air. Or if you can’t stomach being outside, there’s also tons of activities and places to visit in the warm too.
For the 2014 guide to what’s on in London this Christmas, click here.
- 3 – 7 December : Pig’s Ear Beer Festival
Annual beer festival in conjunction with CAMRA at the Round Chapel in Hackney. Over 200 beers, food stalls and unique festival brews. Round Chapel, Powerscroft Road, Hackney, E5 0PU. Admission £2 for CAMRA members, £4 for non-members. Open from noon until 11pm. Nearest rail station: Hackney Downs or Hackney Central. Visit the Pig’s Ear website for more information.
- 3 December : Candlelight evening opening at Sir John Soane’s Museum
The former home of 19th century architect Sir John Soane is a treasure trove of sculptures, painting and antiquities which he collected over his lifetime. Once a month, the museum is open on the first Tuesday of the month for an evening candlelight opening Bookings are not taken in advance, with tickets only issued to the first 200 people. Open from 6-9pm, however tickets are issued at 5.30pm. Sir John’s Soane Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP. Nearest tube: Holborn. For more information, visit the Sir John Soane website.
- Now until 4 December : Nordic Film Festival
A celebration of the best films to come out of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden at various locations across London, including Riverside Studios, ICA and Ciné Lumière. For more information, visit the Nordic Film Festival website.
- 5 – 8 December : East London Design Show
Showcasing the best in UK contemporary design, including homewares, ceramics, furniture, jewellery, lighting and fashion. Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, Shoreditch, EC1V 9LT. Nearest tube: Old Street, Shoreditch High Street or Hoxton. For more information, visit the East London Design Show website.
- 5 – 22 December : Christmas at Trafalgar Square
After the lighting of the Christmas Tree on December 5 (a gift from Norway), there is annual carol singing in the Square. Carol singing weekdays 4-8pm, weekends 2-6pm. Trafalgar Square. Nearest tube: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square or Embankment. For more information, visit the London.gov.uk website.
- 6 – 17 December : Spitalfields Winter Festival
Music festival in the Spitalfields area of the East End featuring music old and new. For listings and more information, visit the Spitalfields Music website.
- 7 December : Great Christmas Pudding Race
Watch or take part in the annual Great Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden, which sees participants dressing up and raising money for Cancer Research UK. Covent Garden Piazza, WC1. Nearest tube: Covent Garden, Charing Cross or Embankment. For more information and details on entering, visit the Xmas Pudding Race website.
Trafalgar Square is easily London’s most famous square. Once marooned as a traffic island, the closure of the north road beside the National Gallery has made the space more pedestrian friendly. The square is a huge draw to tourists due to Nelson’s Column and his lions and the great view down Whitehall looking towards Victoria Tower and Big Ben. Dotted around the square, which was laid out in 1845 by Sir Charles Barry, are three plinths containing statues of notable figures: King George IV, General Sir Charles James Napier and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock. Which leaves the fourth plinth in the north-west corner, which stood empty for decades. It was originally designed to hold an equestrian statue of King William IV, but plans were dropped due to lack of funds.
Finally, after decades of debates about what would go there, it was decided in 1998 that the fourth plinth would play home to temporary contemporary artworks. Over the years, it has been the base of many sculptures, including Marc Quinn’s one of Alison Lapper, Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle and, most recently, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s Powerless Structures, Fig. 101.
In July 2013, a striking and colourful creation was unveiled. Katharina Fritsch’s 4.73 metre high sculpture of a blue cockerel, entitled Hahn/Cock. Meant to symbolise ‘regeneration, awakening and strength’ and the British triumph at the Tour De France, it will remain on the fourth plinth for 18 months. German artist Fritsch admitted her work is a feminist sculpture, prompting a humorous juxtaposition in a square full of alpha male historical figures.
N.B. Hahn/Cock has since been replaced on the Fourth Plinth by a new piece entitled Gift Horse. Click here to find out more.
- Trafalgar Square is located in the City of Westminster. Nearest tube: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Embankment or Leicester Square.
To find out the history of another famous London Square, read More than just a traffic island: The history behind Parliament Square.
To find out the story behind the nearby statue of Charles I and the Eleanor Cross which stood on the same site, read Civil war, centre of London and a memorial to a queen: The story behind Charing Cross.
This gallery contains 9 photos.
July 1 is a big day for Canadians – the chance to celebrate their country’s birthday. As London has a huge Canadian expat community – and a lot of Canadian visitors – Trafalgar Square has hosted the annual Canada Day London celebrations for the past eight years. The iconic square becomes a mini festival celebrating […]
Well, spring was slightly disappointing with the weather… but let’s hope it FINALLY warms up in June now summer has finally begun. Although admittedly this summer won’t be as exciting as last year without the Olympics/Paralympics and Diamond Jubilee, there’s still plenty going on.
- 2 June : Soho Flea Market
Soho’s Dean Street will be closed to traffic for this one-day only market featuring stalls from artisans, artists, fashion designers and jewellery designers, while filmmakers will exhibit and sell their works directly to the public. Noon until 8pm. Nearest tube: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the City Showcase Markets website.
- 3 – 9 June : Stoke Newington Literary Festival
A festival featuring readings, workshops and performances at venues across the suburb, including the Town Hall, Library and Abney Park Cemetery. Tickets range from free to £10. Caitlin Moran, Danny Baker and Cleo Rocos among the names taking part. For more information and tickets, visit the Stoke Newington Literary Festival website.
- 6 – 15 June : Terracotta Far East Film Festival
Films, events, masterclasses and parties celebrating the best of Far East cinema. Taking place at the Prince Charles Cinema in Chinatown and ICA in The Mall. For schedule and tickets, visit the Terracotta Festival website.
- 7 – 9 June : MINT Polo In The Park
Bringing polo from the country estates into London. As well as watching the polo, there is plenty of entertainment and food and drink venues, including Kerb Gourmet Street Food; Pommery Champagne Garden; Mahiki Bar; The Polo Bar; The Pimms’ bus; luxury shopping village and Club Med Kids. Tickets start from £20-35 (adults), £10-£15 (children). Hurlingham Park, Fulham, SW6 3RH. Nearest tube: Putney Bridge or Parson’s Green. For more information and tickets, visit MINT Polo In The Park’s website. To read about Metro Girl’s visit to the polo, check out this post.
- 7 – 16 June : London Jewellery Week
The biggest jewellery festival in the UK, taking places at various venues across the capital including Somerset House and Spitalfields Market. Featuring markets, pop-up shops, parties, workshops and open studios. For more information, visit the Jewellery Week website.
- 7 June – 26 Jul (Fridays only) : London Zoo Lates
Visit London’s iconic zoo after-hours on Fridays in June and July. All the usual fun… except with alcohol and no screaming children! Includes pop-up bars, live music, food market and other entertainment. Embrace your inner child and rent a costume or buy an animal mask. Metro Girl went last year and a had a great time. Tickets are £25 and must be booked in advance, but sometimes early booking discounts are available. Located on Outer Circle (Regent’s Park), NW1 4RY. Nearest tube: Camden Town or Regent’s Park. For more information, visit the London Zoo website.
- 7 – 22 June : Spitalfields Summer Music Festival
Two week festival incorporating classical music, contemporary music, family activities and bespoke tours. For more information, venues and tickets, visit the Spitalfields Music website.
Like a majority of Londoners I have spoken to, I’ve been surprised by the sudden onset of Olympic fever. After months, if not years, of negative press about the spiralling costs, the difficulty in getting (affordable!) tickets, engineering and road works and… sorry have mentioned this in a previous blog post, but those horrific Boris ‘it’s the big one’ announcements at stations, it’s finally here.
Since going to watch the Olympic torch relay last Monday, I have been growing more and more excited about the games. Many people like me, who don’t usually have an interest in sports and haven’t watched previous Olympics, are stunned to find a newfound enthusiasm for the Games, which have come out of nowhere. During Friday night’s Opening Ceremony, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were awash with pride (from the Brits) and admiration (from my foreign pals) and it appears the country has finally embraced the games.
So although I have been lucky enough to win tickets to the hockey (of which I know nothing about…), most of my friends haven’t got tickets so we’ve been trying to find ways of soaking up the atmosphere and even catch a game without spending a penny. On Saturday, I went to watch the Men’s Cycle Road Race on Constitution Hill and it was great fun. So here’s a guide to enjoying the Games and the other events on in London over the summer.
Free Olympic and Paralympic Events (click links for detailed maps and schedules)
The Women’s Individual Time Trial starts at 12:30 and ends (estimated) 13:45 at Hampton Court Palace, goes through Esher, Hersham, Cobham and Thames Ditton.
The Men’s Individual Time Trial starts at 14:15 and ends (estimated) 16:10 at Hampton Court Palace, going through similar route to Women’s, but also including Teddington and Hampton Wick.
- Saturday 4th August – Women’s Triathlon
The Women’s Triathlon includes ticketed seating on the north bank of the Serpentine in Hyde Park, but the remainder of the course is free for spectators. The swimming part (1.5km) will start in the Serpentine at 9am, then the cycling (43km in 7 laps of 6.1km), which will go along South Carriage Drive in the park, down Constitution Hill and back to the park, then there’s a 10km run (4 laps of 2.5km), ending at approx 10:30am. The winner will be presented with their medal at the end.
- Saturday 4th August – Men’s 20km Race Walk
The Men’s 20km Race Walk starts at 17:00 at The Mall. The rules stipulate one foot may remain on the ground at all times as the competitors speed-walk along the route of 10 laps around the 2km between The Mall and the Constitution Hill and back again. The Mall area is ticketed, but Constitution Hill and around the Queen Victoria Memorial are free.
- Sunday 5th August – Women’s Marathon
The Women’s Marathon starts at 11am at The Mall (ticket holders only), before taking a route along Victoria Embankment, St Paul’s, Cannon Street and Blackfriars before ending at The Mall.
- Tuesday 7th August – Men’s Triathlon
The Men’s Triathlon is pretty much the same route and set-up as the women’s above. So apart from ticketed area on Serpentine’s north bank, spectators can find free spots along the route in and outside of the park. The event starts at 11am and is scheduled to finish at 13:15 with the medal presentation at the climax.
- Thursday 9th August – Women’s 10k Swimming Marathon
The Women’s 10K Swimming Marathon starts at 12:00 and will include 10 laps of the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Apart from ticketed area on Serpentine’s north bank, the south bank is free for spectators.
- Friday 10th August – Men’s 10k Swimming Marathon
The Men’s 10K Swimming Marathon starts at 12:00 and will include 10 laps of the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Apart from ticketed area on Serpentine’s north bank, the south bank is free for spectators.
- Saturday 11th August – Men’s 50k Race Walk
The Men’s 50km Race Walk starts at 9am at The Mall. The rules stipulate one foot may remain on the ground at all times as the competitors speed-walk along the route of 25 laps around the 2km course between The Mall and the Constitution Hill and back again. The Mall area is ticketed, but Constitution Hill and around the Queen Victoria Memorial are free.
- Saturday 11th August – Women’s 20K Race Walk
The Women’s 20km Race Walk starts at 17:00 at The Mall. The rules stipulate one foot may remain on the ground at all times as the competitors speed-walk along the route of 10 laps around the 2km course between The Mall and the Constitution Hill and back again. The Mall area is ticketed, but Constitution Hill and around the Queen Victoria Memorial are free.
- Sunday 12th August – Men’s Marathon
Again, very similar route to the Women’s, starting at The Mall at 11am (ticket holders only) but then going along Victoria Embankment into the City of London and back again. Estimated to finish at 13:30 with the medal presentation.
- Sunday 9 September – Paralympic Marathon
The Men’s and Women’s Marathon both take place today. Some athletes will compete with wheelchairs or throwing frames, some with prostheses or with guidance from a sighted companion.
- Monday 10 September – Team GB Parade
Giving the public a chance to cheer for and celebrate with the athletes of the Games as they parade from Mansion House in the City of London, past St Paul’s Cathedral, The Strand, Trafalgar Square and ending in The Mall.
BT London Live
BT have commandeered three famous London spaces – Hyde Park, Victoria Park in East London and Trafalgar Square – to give Londoners and visitors the chance to enjoy the games if they haven’t got a ticket. As well as big TV screens being set up to watch the action live from the Olympic Park and other sites, there is also a variety of entertainment, including concerts. While many of the bigger concerts in Hyde Park will be paid ticket only, to watch the actual games is free entry. A certain amount of tickets for guaranteed entry are available in advance online, but there will also be tickets available each day on a first come, first served basis, depending on capacity. While Hyde Park and Victoria Park are currently running from now until 12 August, the Trafalgar Square area will be open over the whole summer, including the Paralympics. Hyde Park will have a sports area so you can try your hand at your favourite sports, while Victoria Park will have an Observation Wheel, zipline, bungee trampolines and water-zorbing pool. Visit BT London Live’s website for more information.
Olympic Photo Opportunities
Even when you’re not at a sports venue, you can be sure wherever you are in London, they’ll be an Olympic symbol or event going on. The iconic Olympic rings have been placed on Tower Bridge, while the Paralympic symbol will be illuminated on the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square from 19 August.
Every night during the Olympics and Paralympics, images from the Games will be projected along the Houses of Parliament.
London’s famous bridges will be lit up in dazzling light displays every night of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. My tip is go for dinner or drinks at one of the many restaurants or bars spanning the Southbank between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge then walk off your dinner while checking out the bridges.
Games Mascots Wenlock and Mandeville Discovery Tours
Wenlock – the official mascot of the Olympics – and Mandeville – the official mascot of the Paralympics – have been somewhat controversial, but following their recent appearance on the streets of London, are growing on some Londoners. The Mayor Of London’s office have put together six walking routes in London with different designs of Wenlock and Mandeville highlighting history and culture of the surrounding area. Go to the MOLpresents website to find maps, or see how many you can spot by yourself. Fun activity for adults and children alike.
Big Screen at Potters Fields Park and The Scoop
Watch the games on a big screen at Potters Fields Park on the south bank of the Thames, in between Tower Bridge and City Hall. Nearby is The Scoop amphitheatre, with free music, theatre and films available to all. Visit The Scoop’s website for more info.
Special Events around London
Sacrilege – inflatable Stonehenge tour of London
Artist Jeremy Deller has created a large inflatable, bouncy castle replica of Stonehenge for both adults and children to jump on. It will be popping up in parks and spaces in London. Check the website for locations and dates.
Bandstand Marathon – free live music
On Sunday 9 September, over 500 bandstands across the country will host free musical performances. Visit the Bandstand Marathon website for more details.
Carnaval del Pueblo – Latin American festival