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Mail Rail review: Travel under London on the Royal Mail’s underground railway

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The Mail Rail is a ride on the Royal Mail’s former underground railway

We all know about the Victorian origins of the London Underground, which has been transporting commuters since 1863. However, did you know it’s not the capital’s only underground railway in existence? For eight decades, the Post Office ran their own subterranean train system to transport letters and parcels under the city’s streets. Affectionately known as the ‘Mail Rail’, it closed for good in 2003. However, in September 2017, the railway was brought back to life and adapted for human passengers as part of a new experience at the Postal Museum.

Road traffic has been a problem in London for centuries, stemming back to the days of horses and carts. For owners of the Post Office, the impact on their deliveries arriving late was not good for business so something had to be done. In 1909, a committee was set up to devise a traffic-proof delivery system, and by 1911 had settled on the idea of driverless electric trains. Construction began in 1914 with a trial tunnel in Plumstead Marshes, south-east London, with the main 6 1/2 miles of tunnels completed by 1917. By this time, World War I was in full swing so lack of labour and materials meant the project was put on hold. However, the tunnels did find some use during WWI as the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate stored some of their artworks in them for safe-keeping. Following the end of the Great War, costs of materials had risen so much, it wasn’t until 1923 that work could finally resume. Finally, on 5 December 1927, parcels were transported underground between Mount Pleasant and Paddington for the first time.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

One of the former stations, where busy Royal Mail workers would be hauling carts of post to and from trains

The trains run in a single 9ft tunnel featuring a double 2ft gauge track. Approaching each station, the tunnel would split into two 7ft tunnels with a single track each. The railway’s deepest point was 70ft, although the stations tended to be slightly closer to street level. By 1930, the original rolling stock were knackered so they were replaced with new trains. These new ones featured a 27ft single car train with each container having a capacity for 15 bags of letters or six bags of parcels. These were used until they were replaced in 1980 by a new fleet. Over the decades, some of the stations came and went, including the Western Parcels Office and Western District Office, with the latter name being reused at a new station at Rathbone Place, which opened in 1965. In 1987, the train system was renamed ‘Mail Rail’ to mark its 60th anniversary. In 1993, the whole system was computerised so the trains could be controlled from a single point. By the end of the 1990s, only the stations at Paddington, Western Delivery Office, Mount Pleasant, and the East District Office were being used, carrying over 6 million bags of mail annually. However, as the system aged, Royal Mail decided it was becoming too costly to run the railway, claiming road transport was cheaper and its death warrant was signed. On 31 May 2003, the Mail Rail was closed for good.  Read the rest of this entry

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Lumiere London 2018: The capital becomes a gallery of neon

Guide to what’s on in London in January 2018

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Winter Lights Festival lights up Canary Wharf

Happy New Year! All the festivities are over and things are a bit calmer and cash-strapped after the big blow-out of Christmas and New Year. In January, it can feel tempting to curl up in front of the TV in the warm and not go out. However, if you’re not the type for cosy days in, there’s plenty of events and festivals going on around town, many free.

To find out where to celebrate Burns’ Night in London on 25 January, click here.

For a guide to Valentine’s events for both couples and singles, click here.

  • 1 January : New Year’s Day Parade

Hundreds of thousands of spectators will line the streets of London to watch 10,000 performers from around the world. Starts from Piccadilly’s Berkeley Street at 12pm, ending at Parliament Square at 3.30pm. Free. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus, Westminster or Charing Cross. For more information, visit the Parade website.

  • Now until 1 January : Winter Wonderland

The south east corner of Hyde Park is transformed into a Christmas fair with rides, food and drink stalls, ice rink, Zippos Christmas Circus, Cirque Berserk, The Sooty Christmas Show, The Magical Ice Kingdom and more. Open 10am-10pm daily. Free to enter. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner, Victoria, Knightsbridge or Marble Arch. For more information, visit the Winter Wonderland website.

  • Now until 1 January : Christmas at Kew

A one mile glittering trail which weaves its way through Kew Gardens with stunning sights lit up upon the way. There will also be Santa at the North Pole Village, a Tunnel of Light, vintage rides, festive food and drinks. 5-10pm. Tickets (advance): Adults £16, Children £10. Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens), Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • Now until 1 January : South Pole Saloon @ Brixton Rooftop

Brixton Rooftop has had a festive makeover, with plenty of bars, street food, live music, DJs and entertainment to keep you occupied. Opening Hours: Thur: 5pm-12am, Fri: 5pm-2am, Sat: 4pm-2am. South Pole Saloon @ Brixton Rooftop, Pope’s Road, Brixton, SW9 8JH. Nearest station: Brixton. For more information, visit the Brixton Rooftop website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.

  • Now until 1 January : Magical Lantern Festival

Go on an immersive journey through a sea of lights. Over 50 life-sized sculpted lanterns will be dotted through the gardens with light depictions of animals and nature. Open 5pm-10pm daily (except Xmas Eve, Xmas Day and Boxing Day). Tickets: Adults £16.50, Child £10. Chiswick House Gardens, Chiswick, W4 2QN. Nearest stations: Turnham Green and Gunnersbury. For tickets, visit the Magical Lantern Festival website. For photos of a previous year’s festival, click here.

  • Now until 1 January : Winterville

An alternative festive wonderland in south London, featuring Christmas markets, ice rink, roller disco, cinema, plonk golf, fairground, spiegeltent and more. Free entry (except Fri and Sat nights). Clapham Common, SW4 9DE. Nearest station: Clapham Common. For more information, visit the Winterville website.

  • Now until 4 January : Beauty And The Feast

Go on an underground dining immersive theatrical experience, featuring pantomime, performers, cocktails, food and fabulous fun. For 16+. Show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets from £35 (includes dinner, dessert and DJs). The Vaults (entrance via Leake Street tunnel), Launcelot Street, Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For booking, visit The Vaults website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.

  • 7 JanuaryTwelfth Night Celebration

Theatre company the Lions Part host their annual celebration of the new year, ‘mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity’ in the Bankside area of London. From 2pm. Free. Outside Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, SE1 9DT. Nearest stations: Blackfriars, London Bridge or Southwark. For more information, visit the Lions Part website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Cirque du Soleil is on at the Royal Albert Hall

  • 7 January – 4 March : Ovo by Cirque du Soleil

The newest touring production from the Cirque, a spectacular exploration of the ecosystem, with insects working, playing, fighting and looking for love. Tickets range from £25-£231. Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP. Nearest stations: South Kensington, Knightsbridge or High Street Kensington. For more information and booking, visit the Cirque Du Soleil website.

  • Now until 7 January : Christmas in Leicester Square

The West End’s famous square will feature a Christmas market and a Spiegeltent, hosting shows including A Christmas Carol, Al Murray: The Pub Landlord, Austentatious, Black Cat Cabaret, Fascinating Aida, House of Burlesque 2.0 and more. Free entry to Leicester Square, but tickets required for the Spiegeltent. Leicester Square, WC2H. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Christmas In Leicester Square website.

  • Now until 8 January : Winter Forest

New winter installation comes to Exchange Square, featuring food and drink stalls, Tipi cinema, market and art exhibitions. Open Mon-Fri 9am-11pm, Sat 11am-11pm, Sun closed. Free entry. Exchange Square, Broadgate, EC2. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit The Winter Forest website.

  • 10 – 14 January : London Boat Show

Boats of all shapes and sizes on show at ExCel in Docklands. Open Fri-Sun 10am-6pm (late nights Thurs until 8pm). Tickets: Adult £15-£22, Children 15 years and under free with a paying adult. ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Prince Regent or Custom House (DLR). For more information and to book tickets, visit the London Boat Show website.

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Where to celebrate New Year’s Eve 2017 in London

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Happy New Year! 2018 is coming…

What a year 2017 has been – Trump shenanigans, the on-going Brexit negotiations, a wave of harassment allegations in Hollywood, the horror of Grenfell Tower and more. There are many of us who are looking forward to closing the door on this year and greeting 2018 with open arms. Fortunately, there’s a host of celebrations to help you welcome in the new year from clubbing, to meals and fancy dress or fireworks, depending on your taste and budget. With all the listings below, I would highly recommend booking in advance to take advantage of some early bird prices and to avoid disappointment as many will sell out. Many events won’t be taking walk-ups. Whatever you do, have a good one!

Don’t forget, TFL will be providing free public transport from 11.45pm on New Year’s Eve until 4.30am on New Year’s Day.

Central London

  • New Year’s Eve firework display over the River Thames

Thousands expected to take to the north and south of the River to watch the fireworks display near the London Eye. Since 2014, City Hall has introduced a fee to cover costs, this year’s being £10. Tickets went on sale in November. There will be a lot of congestion or potential closures of some tube stations around the Embankments so check with TFL before you travel. For more information of where you can and can’t access without a ticket, visit the London.gov.uk website.

  • Vintage New Year’s Eve Party @ Royal Festival Hal

Travel back in time with a glamorous extravaganza of live bands and DJs spread across six pop-up vintage nightclubs from the 1920s to the 1990s, with dining, bars, beauty parlours and photo studios also on site. Around midnight, some of the action will move to one of the balconies (weather permitting) for a great vista of the New Year’s Eve fireworks over the Thames. 7pm-2am. Tickets start from £99. Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For booking, visit the Southbank Centre website. For more information, read Metro Girl’s blog post on the evening.

  • New Year’s Eve Stand Up Show – Comedy Store

See in the new year laughing your socks off with MC Mandy Knight, Felicity Ward, Jeff Innocent, Tom Lucy and The Noise Next Door. There are two shows – an early one if you’ve got plans for midnight or the later one, with a DJ spinning tracks for the after-party. Doors open at 5pm/8pm, two shows at 6pm and 9.30pm. Tickets £27-£65. The Comedy Store, 1a Oxendon Street, SW1Y 4EE. Nearest stations: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Comedy Store website.

  • Black Cat NYE and Black Cat Ball

London’s dark and daring cabaret show is offering two opportunities to see in the New Year in the Spiegeltent in Leicester Square. The cabaret show at 6.30pm for early starters or the Black Cat Ball from 9.30pm, features a cabaret show, promenade circus spectacle, live music, roving performers and extended DJ set. 6.30/9.30pm-2am. Tickets: 6.30pm cabaret show £24-£29, Black Cat Ball £55 (includes glass of bubbly). Spiegeltent, Leicester Square, WC2H 7NA. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For tickets, visit Black Cat website.

  • Great Gatsby New Year’s Eve @ Sky Garden

Celebrate New Year’s Eve at the top of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ in the bars and restaurants of the Sky Garden with views over London. Food, drink, entertainment and DJs. 6pm-2am. Tickets prices start from £95. Sky Garden, 20 Fenchurch Street, City of London, EC3M 3BY. Nearest station: Fenchurch Street or Monument. For booking, visit the Sky Garden website. For Metro Girl’s review of the Sky Garden, click here.

  • Life Of A Legend @ Playboy Club

The Playboy Club pays tribute to its late founder Hugh Hefner with a decadent bash. The club will be transformed into the Playboy Mansion, with games area, film zone, photo studio, live music, DJs, American canapés, complimentary midnight fizz and, of course, bunnies. 8pm-3am. Tickets: £49. Playboy Club, 14 Old Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1ND. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner. For more information, visit the Playboy Club website.

  • Prohibition 1920s New Year’s Eve party

Welcome the new year, 1920s style at this prohibition-themed party from Bourne & Hollingsworth, featuring live music, gramophone DJs, gambling, dancers and cocktails. Dress code: 1920s. 9pm-3am. Tickets: £55. In a secret London location to be revealed two weeks before. For more information, visit the Prohibition Party website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Gaze out over London at View From The Shard

  • New Year’s Eve Party @ The Shard

Watch the fireworks from the highest party in London, featuring welcome cocktail, DJs, complimentary champagne toast, goody bag and 360 degree view of the capital. 10pm-2am. Tickets: £199. View From The Shard, Floor 72, Joiner Street, London Bridge, SE1 9QU. Nearest station: London Bridge. For booking, visit View From The Shard.

  • Vintage New Year’s Knees Up @ Cahoots

Vintage lovers will enjoy this post-war shenangians in an old underground war shelter, featuring a Moet & Chandon and canape reception, Bottomless Belvedere cocktails, live entertainment by the Hotsie Totsies, New Year’s Eve toast and DJ set by The Roustabouts. Dress code: Post-war chic. 5pm-3.30am. Tickets: Bar £100, Table £150. Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, Soho, W1B 5PW. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For booking, visit the Cahoots website. For Metro Girl’s review of Cahoots, click here.

  • New Year’s Eve @ Flight Club

Dancing, drinking and darts at the Bloomsbury branch of Flight Club. Featuring DJs playing party hits, 90 minutes social darts session, fizz on arrival and more. 7pm-2am. Tickets from £15. Flight Club, New Oxford Street, Bloomsbury, WC1A 1BS. Nearest station: Tottenham Court Road. For tickets, visit DesignMyNight.

  • New Year’s Eve @ Devonshire Club

The City’s private members club is opening its doors for the New Year. Start your night with welcome drinks and canapes, before a decadent three or five-course dinner in the brasserie. Live entertainment from The Night Lights and DJs until the early hours. From 6.30pm until late. Tickets range from £50 (members)/£75 (non-members) to £255 depending on package. Devonshire Club, 5 Devonshire Square, City of London, EC2M 4YD. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Devonshire Club websiteRead the rest of this entry

Guide to what’s on in London in December 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Wishing my readers a Merry Christmas

It’s all very festive in the capital. If you haven’t been forced into the Christmas spirit already with the sheer volume of red, green and glitter around the capital, it won’t take long before it hits you. There is a host of events on around the capital for both adults and families. Foodies will be particularly well catered for with seasonal markets and shows on. Across town, there’s plenty of festive pop-ups, with many listed below. Of course, there are many open-air ice skating rinks for those with a good sense of balance.

For a guide to London’s New Year’s Eve events, click here.

For a guide to London’s ice rinks, click here.

To find out which bars are serving special Christmas cocktails and Winter Warmers here.

  • 1 December : Dreamworks Animation in Concert

Listen to songs from your favourite Dreamworks animated films performed live by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. From 6pm. Tickets start from £28.32. Wembley SSE Arena, Arena Square, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0AA. Nearest station: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For tickets, visit the Dreamworks SeeTickets website. For more information, visit Metro Girl’s blog post on the concert.

  • 1 – 2 DecemberThe Spirit Show

Fans of gin, vodka and the like will enjoy this boozy festival, featuring masterclasses, tastings, street food, interactive lounge, VIP speakeasy and more. Open Fri 1-9pm, Sat 12-5pm. Tickets from £25 (standard tickets inc unlimited tastings, showguide and 6 bottle jute). Business Design Centre, Islington, N1 0QH. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit The Spirit Show website.

  • 1 – 3 DecemberLondon Illustration Fair

Three-day event celebrating illustration, featuring artist-led stands, talks, workshops, music, DJs, live signings. Entry: £8 advance, Under 12s free. Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bankside, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Blackfriars or Waterloo . For more information, visit the London Illustration Fair website.

  • 1 – 10 December : London International Animation Festival

Showcase of animation from around the world featuring gala premieres, retrospectives, filmmakers Q&As, workshops, audience voting and screenings. Tickets start from £12 (Barbican standard tickets) to £95 for full pass. At the Barbican, The Horse Hospital, Close-Up Cinema and The Whitechapel Gallery. For more information and tickets, visit the LIAF website.

  • 1 – 17 December : Ferrero Rocher – Behind The Layers

Ferrero Rocher are creating an immersive sensory tasting experience for chocolate fans. Open 1pm-10.30pm (last experience 9.30pm). Tickets: £25 (45 minute experience, includes a glass of Prosecco or non-alcoholic beverage). Westfield London, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 7GF. Nearest station: Shepherd’s Bush, Shepherd’s Bush Market or Wood Lane. For booking, visit BehindTheLayers.co.uk. Read Metro Girl’s blog post to find out more.

  • 1 – 19 December : Art For Love festival

A Christmas extravaganza in the historic surrounds of Devonshire Square, featuring live music, carol singing, ballet, ice skating performances and more. Times vary. Free. Devonshire Square (Western Courtyard), City of London, EC2M. Nearest stations: Liverpool Street or Aldgate. For more information, visit the Devonshire Square website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the festival.

  • 1 – 31 December : Greenwich Winter Time

The royal borough of Greenwich are hosting a winter festival, featuring open-air ice skating outside the Old Naval College, festive market, food and drink, entertainment on the mirrored stage and Father Christmas’ launch pad. Entry tickets (morning, afternoon or evening sessions): Adults £15-£18, Children £8. Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, Greenwich, SE10 9LS. Nearest station: Cutty Sark, Greenwich or Maze Hill. For more information, visit the Greenwich Winter Time website.

  • 2 DecemberThe 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. From 11am. Free for spectators. Covent Garden Piazza, WC1. Nearest station: Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charing Cross or Embankment. For more information and details on entering, visit the Great Christmas Pudding Race website.

  • 2 DecemberBeautycon

Social media influencers and celebrities will come together to talk beauty, fashion and style. Featuring Olivia Buckland, Jordyn Woods, Patricia Bright, Montana Brown, Grace Victory, Jayde Pierce and many more. 12-6pm. Tickets start from £30. Olympia National, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Beautycon website.

  • 2 – 3 December : Santa and his huskies come to the London Wetland Centre

Special Christmas weekend event at the London Wetland Centre, where families can visit Santa’s Grotto, enjoy a sleigh ride with the huskies or a donkey ride or make decorations in the elves’ workshop. Normal admission prices to LWC apply: Adults £13.49, Children £7.42. Santa visit £8 per child (includes gift). London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT. Nearest station: Barnes. For more information, visit the WWT London Wetland Centre website.

  • 2 – 10 December : Spitalfields Music Festival

Spitalfields Music return with their winter festival. Acts include Mark Titchner, Sara Mohr-Pietsch, Musical Rumpus, Max Richter and André de Ridder among others. At various venues in the Spitalfields area including Shoreditch Church, Rich Mix and the Huguenot Houses of Spitalfields. For booking, visit the Spitalfields Music website. For this year’s highlights, read Metro Girl’s blog post.

  • 2 – 23 December : Santa’s Grotto @ Museum Of London

Meet Santa in a Victorian Santa’s Grotto. Professional photographer available to capture the moment. £10 per child (includes gift, book in advance). Museum of London, 150 London Wall, City of London, EC2Y 5HN. Nearest station: Barbican or Moorgate. For more information, visit the Museum Of London website.

  • 5 DecemberHome Front – Immersive Time Travel

One-off evening of an immersive time travel experience set in London during World War II. Featuring performances, escape rooms, live music, five bars and more. From 5.15pm-10.30pm. Tickets start from £25. At a secret east London location. For booking, visit DesignMyNight. For more information, read Metro Girl’s blog post.

  • 5 – 8 December : Vauxhall One’s Christmas Music Week

Every night, a different choir will perform in front of Vauxhall One’s Christmas tree. Choirs include West End Musical Choir, Sunday Assembly Choir, House Gospel Choir and Real Voices. 5.30pm-6.30pm. Free to spectate. Vauxhall One (outside Vauxhall station), SW8. Nearest station: Vauxhall. For more information, visit the Vauxhall One website.

  • 5 – 9 DecemberPigs Ear Beer And Cider Festival

Annual beer festival in conjunction with CAMRA, featuring over 230 real ales plus ciders, perries and bottled beers, food stalls and unique festival brews. Opening hours TBC. Entry: £3 (members), £5 (non-members). Round Chapel, Powerscroft Road, Hackney, E5 0PU. Nearest station: Hackney Downs or Hackney Central. For more information, visit the Pig’s Ear website

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Guide to what’s on in London in November 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

November kicks off with Guy Fawkes fireworks

Yes, autumn is here. The clocks have gone back, the temperatures are dropping and it feels like we’re on the countdown to the festive season. However, there’s plenty of non-Christmas events on around town to keep you living in the moment. With cosying up with a good book particularly inviting prospect at the moment, there are several literary festivals taking place around the capital. Here’s Metro Girl’s guide to the best festivals and special events in the capital this November.

For a guide to London’s open-air ice rinks, click here.

For a guide to the capital’s Christmas markets and fairs, click here.

  • Now until 1 November : London Literature Festival

The London Literature Festival returns to the Southbank, with renowned writers, futurologists and transhumanists discussing the future in these uncertain times. Among the highlights include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tom Hanks, Philip Pullman, Annie Leibovitz and a live reading of Nelson Mandela’s memoirs. Many events are free, but tickets go up to £70. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo or Embankment. For more information, visit the Southbank Centre website.

  • 1 November – 23 DecemberThe Ethicurean at The Gardening Society

Festive pop-up on the roof of John Lewis in Oxford Street, featuring food from the award-winning Ethicurean restaurant, an immersive theatrical dining experience ‘The Poisoned Garden’, bookable lodges and Christmas cocktails. Open Sun-Wed 12pm-9pm, Thu-Sat 12pm-11pm. Free entry, booking advised for the restaurant or lodges.  John Lewis, 300 Oxford Street, Marylebone, W1C 1DX. Nearest station: Bond Street or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the John Lewis website.

  • 2 November : Cantina Laredo’s Dia De Los Muertos

London’s new tequila and guacamole bar Cantina Laredo host a Day Of The Dead celebration with a one-off ofrenda four-course menu, cocktails, face-painting, DJs and more. 5pm-late. Tickets: £55pp. Cantina Laredo, 10 Upper St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FB. Nearest station: Leicester Square. For booking, visit BookATable.

  • 2 – 4 November : Wahaca’s Day Of The Dead @ The Vaults

Three day festival to celebrate Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos featuring Mexican food, drink, live music, DJs and culture in the tunnels underneath Waterloo station. Fancy dress encouraged. 7pm-2am (family day from 1pm on 4 Nov). Tickets: £15-£25. The Vaults (entrance via Leake Street tunnel), Launcelot Street, Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information, visit the Wahaca website.

  • 3 – 20 November : World Press Photo Exhibition

The shortlisted entries for the annual World Press Photo completion go on display in the Royal Festival Hall. Open 10am-11pm. Free. Royal Festival Hall, Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PX. Nearest station: Embankment or Waterloo. For more information, visit the World Press Photo website.

  • 3 – 29 November : Richmond Upon Thames Literature Festival

A festivals of books and words at various locations across the borough. Featuring workshops, talks and Q&As from authors, including David Starkey, John Grindrod, Andy Friend, Henry Hemming, Peter Snow, Ann MacMillan, Hilary Spurling and more. Venues include The Bingham, Marble Hill House, Old Town Hall, Strawberry Hill House, Teddington Library and more. For booking, visit the Richmond Literature Festival website.

  • Now until 4 November : London Horror Festival

Festival of live horror performance including cabaret, film screenings, Zombie weekends, midnight performances and a short horror play competition. Ticket prices vary. Most events take place at the Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, Islington, EC1V 4NJ. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the London Horror Festival website.

  • Now until 4 NovemberKilburn Literary Festival

The North West London suburb of Kilburn hosts their third literary festival, featuring talks, workshops, readings and competitions. Events range from free to £10. At various venues across NW6 including the North London Tavern, Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn Library and the Sheriff Centre. For more information, visit the Kilburn Literary Festival website.

  • 4 November : Regent Street Motor Show

Three hundred cars from 125 years of motoring will be on display for the Regent Street Motorshow ahead of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run the following day. Featuring entertainment and interactive displays. The road will be closed to vehicle traffic. 10.30am-4pm. Free. Regent Street, W1B 5TD. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Regent Street Motor Show website.

  • 4 NovemberWinter Wine Festival

One day wine festival featuring a choice of 600 wines to taste. As well as tastings, there is also a free wine walk, masterclasses and discounts on wine shopping. 12pm-6pm. Tickets: £20-£25. The Grand Connaught Rooms, 61-65 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5DA. Nearest station: Holborn. For more information, visit the Wine Gang website.

  • 4 November : Spice World Screening with Live Orchestra

Spice Girls fans will love this immersive screening of their 1997 movie, accompanied by a live orchestra, with Spice Girls masks and photobooth on site. 7pm-10pm (guests can stay for the club night afterwards until 3am). Tickets from £10. Clapham Grand, 21-25 St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction, SW11 1TT. Nearest station: Clapham Junction. For booking, visit the Clapham Grand website.

  • Now until 5 November : Spirit Of Christmas Fair

For the super organised, get ready for Christmas early with this fair, where you can stock up on gifts, design and food all ready for the festive season from over 750 independent boutiques. There will also be a winter restaurant and a champagne bar. Opening times vary. Tickets: £20 (advance), £24 (on the door). Olympia Grand, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Spirit Of Christmas Fair website.

  • Now until 5 November : Winter Art & Antique Fair

Arts and antiques event, featuring over 120 dealers showcasing their unusual objects and art and talks. Opening times vary. Tickets: £15-£20 (cheaper in advance). Olympia National, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Olympian Antiques website.

  • 5 November : London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

Watch the beginning of 64 mile route from the capital to Brighton. Get up early to watch 500 classic cars setting off from Hyde Park Corner between 7.04-8/8.45am. Expect many drivers and passengers to be suitably dressed in costume and vintage clothing for the spectacle. Route goes from Hyde Park Corner, past Buckingham Palace, over Westminster Bridge and south via Kennington, Brixton and Streatham. Free to spectate. Hyde Park Corner, Westminster, W2 2UH. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner. For more information, visit the Veteran Car Run website.

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Guide to what’s on in London in September 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Visit buildings normally off limits to the public at Open House London, such as City Hall

Summer is coming to an end and the temperatures are starting to cool. The children are going back to school and there’s a noted drop in the number of tourists (which probably relieves most Londoners tbh). However, with September usually being a pretty warm month, Londoners can enjoy the capital with a lot less crowds than over the official summer months. One of the highlights of September is Open House London, which takes place in the middle.

  • 31 August – 16 September : Portobello Film Festival

Two and half week festival returns to Notting Hill with screenings and events at the KPH, Pop Up Cinema in Acklam Road and the Muse Gallery. Free. Nearest stations: Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne Park. For more information, visit the Portobello Film Festival website.

  • 1 – 3 September : Meatopia

Weekend of meat, drink, music and fire. Featuring chefs from Hix, Berber & Q, Lobos, Lagom, Patty & Bun, Rhoda, Camino, Tommi’s Burger, Pizarro, Smokestak and more. Music from Tom Findlay (Groove Armada), Tantz, Hip Hop Karaoke, Beatbox Collective, The Nest Collective, Karuke, Bring Your Own Brass, Men Diamler, Bill Brewster, Op Sa! and more. Open Fri 1 5pm-11pm, Sat 2 12pm-9pm, Sun 3 12pm-7pm. Tickets: £23.85-£106 (depending on package). Tobacco Dock, 50 Porters Walk, Wapping, E1W 2SF. Nearest station: Wapping or Shadwell. For information and booking, visit the Meatopia website.

  • 1 – 10 September : Peckham & Nunhead Free Film Festival

Ten day festival featuring free screenings in the Peckham and Nunhead area at various locations, including The Old Nun’s Head, Nunhead Cemetery, Peckham Library, The Ivy House and more. Films include Singin’ In The Rain, Good Fellas, Deep End, Wall-E and Night Of The Living Dead. Free. Nearest stations: Peckham Rye, Queen’s Road Peckham and Nunhead. For more information and listings, visit the PNFFF website.

  • 1 – 30 September : Totally Thames

Totally Thames is a month-long celebration of our city’s main waterway. Among the many activities taking place are the St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival (9-10 Sept), The Great River Race (9 Sept), walks, art installations, live music, theatre, dinners, river relay, film screenings and many more activities. For more information, visit the Totally Thames website.

  • 1 September – 1 October : Lambeth Heritage Festival

A month long festival celebrating the heritage and people of Lambeth – stretching from the South Bank all the way to Streatham and Norwood. Featuring talks, film, music, theatre, exhibitions, walks and workshops. At venues across the borough including Migration Museum, Brixton Windmill, Lambeth Palace, Lambeth Archives, the Cinema Museum, London Fire Brigade Museum, the Chocolate Museum, Brockwell Lido and more. For more information, visit the Lambeth.gov.uk website.

  • 3 September : Angel Canal Festival

One day festival in the City Road Lock, Basin and Regents Canal towpath. Featuring over 80 stalls, children’s fun fair, Punch & Judy, story-teller, boat trips and canoeing, art projects and galleries, live music and street theatre. 11am-5pm. Free admission. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the Angel Canal Festival website.

  • 3 September : Zee London Mela

Festival celebrating South Asian culture, featuring four stages, outdoor arts, DJs, world food market and more. Free admission. Gunnersbury Park, Popes Lane, W3 8LQ. Nearest stations: Gunnersbury, South Ealing or Acton Town. For more information, visit the Zee London Mela website.

  • Now until 3 September : Star Wars Identities

Star Wars fans are in for a treat as over 200 costumes, props, models and artwork from the franchise are displayed in a special exhibition. Find your own Star Wars character in an interactive quest. Open 10am-6pm. Tickets: Adults £20-£25. Children £10-£15. The O2, Peninsula Square, Greenwich, SE10 0DX. Nearest station: North Greenwich. For more information, visit the Star Wars Identities website. 

  • Now until 3 September : London Bridge City Summer Festival Theatre – The Odyssey

Watch God and Monster’s epic production of The Odyssey in three parts at this open-air free theatre. Wed-Sun 6pm-10pm (Pt 1 6pm, Pt 2 7.30pm and Pt 3 9pm). Free. The Scoop, Queen’s Walk, SE1 2DB. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information, visit the London Bridge City website.

  • Now until 3 September : The Art Of The Brick – DC Super Heroes

Lego artist Nathan Sawaya has created an exhibition of Lego sculptures of Super Heroes and Villains including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Joker and Harley Quinn. Open Sun-Wed 10am-6pm, Thurs 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-7pm. Tickets: Adults £16.50, Child £11. The exhibition is in a temporary structure on the corner of Upper Ground and Cornwall Road, South Bank, SE1 9PP. Nearest station: Waterloo. For booking, visit the Art Of The Brick website. For a review of the previous Art Of The Brick exhibition, click here.

  • 4 September : RSC Live – Titus Andronicus

Watch Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus broadcast live from the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon. From 7pm. Tickets: £10. East Wintergarden, 43 Bank Street, Canary Wharf, E14 5NX. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. For more information, visit the Canary Wharf website.

  • 5 September : Candlelight Opening @ Sir John Soane’s Museum

Late-night opening of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, the former home of the 19th century architect, which is full of his sculptures, painting and antiquities. First 200 visitors in the queue at 5.30pm guaranteed entry, after that it will be one-out, one-in until 8.30pm. 6-9pm. Free. Sir John’s Soane Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn, WC2A 3BP. Nearest station: Holborn. For more information, visit the Sir John’s Soane Museum website.

  • 8 -9 September : The Beavertown Extravaganza

Two day beer festival by the Beavertown Brewery, featuring 70 of the world’s best breweries. Open Fri 8 3-10pm, Sat 9 1-8pm. Tickets: £55. The Printworks, Surrey Quays Road, SE16 7PJ. Nearest station: Rotherhithe. For tickets, visit TicketAnnoy.

  • 8 – 10 September : FemFest

Female-focused art festival featuring multi medium art exhibition, performance, fem film night, arty party and the usual Sweet ‘Art freebies and surprises. Times TBC. 47-49 Tanner Street, Bermondsey, SE1 3PL. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information, visit the Sweet Art website.

  • 9 – 10 September : Classic Boats Festival

As part of the Totally Thames celebration (see above), St Katharine Docks are hosting a weekend festival, featuring a display of 40 sail and power vessels, alongside a range of waterside attractions. 12-6pm. Free. St Katharine Docks, 50 St. Katharine’s Way, Tower Bridge, E1W 1LA. Nearest station: Tower Hill or Tower Gateway (DLR). For more information, visit the St Katharine Docks website. To find out more about the festival, read Metro Girl’s post here.

  • 9 – 10 September : Vintage Classic Car Boot

Weekend festival of classic cars, street food wagons, music, performances, street theatre and more. 10am-6pm. Entry £5. Lewis Cubitt Square, King’s Cross, N1C 4AA. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit the Classic Car Boot Sale website.

Read the rest of this entry

Fitzrovia Chapel: A beautiful hidden gem

Open House London 2017: Highlights and tips to make the most of the weekend

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Step inside some of London’s special buildings, such as 18th century Drapers Hall

History and architecture buffs rejoice – Open House London is returning. Now in its 25th year, the weekend is essentially a festival of design, history and architecture. Over 16-17 September 2017, around 800 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some usual fee-paying museums won’t be charging during the weekend, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the clock tower of St Pancras, that are usually off-limits to the public. Some buildings, such as the latter two just mentioned, are only entry by ballot or booking in advance. However, most you can just turn up and enter. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and the Billingsgate Roman Bath House, are likely to have a long queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to making the most of Open House London. This guide lists what I consider the highlights of this year’s event, although the following section featuring reviews and photos of buildings already visited by Metro Girl, includes further highlights too.

Highlights of Open House London 2017

30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm (long queues likely). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest station: Harlesden.

Drapers Hall. Livery Hall first built in 1530s, twice rebuilt. Featuring 19th century façade and Victorian interiors. Open Sunday 10am-4pm. Throgmorton Street, City of London, EC2N 2DQ. Nearest station: Bank or Liverpool Street.

Finsbury Town Hall. Art Nouveau, Victorian building from 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Rosebery Avenue, Farringdon, EC1R 4RP. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel.

Freemasons’ Hall. Art Deco meets classical, built in 1927-33. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest station: Holborn or Covent Garden.

Fuller’s Griffin Brewery. Victorian brewery, built in 1828. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (booking required). Chiswick Lane South, W4 2QB. Nearest station: Stamford Brook or Turnham Green.

Guildhall. The City’s base of their municipal Government since the 12th century, built in 1440/1789. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Gresham Street, City of London, EC2V 7HH. Nearest stations: St Paul’s, Mansion House or Moorgate.

Home House. Georgian townhouse with fine interiors, built in 1776. Open Sunday 3pm-5pm (book tour in advance). 20 Portman Square, W1H 6LW. Nearest stations: Bond Street or Marble Arch.

Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, dating back to 13th century. Open Saturday 9am-2pm (book time slot only through website). Lambeth Palace Road, Lambeth, SE1 7JU. Nearest station: Lambeth North.

Masonic Temple. Greek Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, built in 1912. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Andaz Liverpool Street, Bishopsgate, EC2M 7QN. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.

One Canada Square. Nineties skyscraper in Canary Wharf with tours to the 39th floor. Open Saturday 10am-4pm (book in advance). One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14 5AB. Nearest station: Canary Wharf.

Rudolf Steiner House. Unique example of expressionist architecture, built in 1926-1937. Open Sunday 1-5pm. 35 Park Road, Regents’ Park, NW1 6XT. Nearest stations: Baker Street or Marylebone.

St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Visit the Great Hall and Maggie’s Centre at the 18th century hospital. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (book in advance). West Smithfield, City of London, EC1A 7BE. Nearest station: Farringdon.

Two Temple Place. Victorian office/residential building in an Elizabethan style, built in 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 2 Temple Place, City of London, WC2R 3BD. Nearest station: Temple.

Underground Bunker. WWII bunker 40ft underground, used by Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet, built in 1940. Open Saturday 8.30am-5.30pm (book in advance). 109 Brook Road, Neasden, NW2 7DZ. Nearest station: Neasden or Dollis Hill.

Wrotham Park. Privately-owned Georgian, Palladian mansion, built in 1754. Open Sunday 10am-3pm (book in advance). Wrotham Park, Barnet, EN5 4SB. Nearest station: Hadley Wood or Potters Bar. Read the rest of this entry

Expanding my skills on a London Landscape Photography class with Obby

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

One of my photographs on the London Landscape Photography Course
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

I’ve long had an interest in photography and have been feeling pressure to take quality images for my blog since I started it five years ago. Of course, circumstances – such as bad restaurant lighting or a grey, cloudy day – can hamper a photograph from reaching its potential. After years of half-heartedly considering doing a photography course, I recently came across Obby – a community marketplace offering classes and workshops.

Although I initially was looking for a photography course, I found my appetite whet for others classes by the huge selection. As well as photography, there are also workshops in arts, crafts, drinks and tastings, food, health and beauty. There was a range of photography classes available, however I decided on the London Landscape Photography Workshop, which was most relevant to me as a blogger. Booking was super easy, I scrolled through the available dates and booked with a credit card. I liked that my class was confirmed straightaway and it wasn’t a voucher that I’d have to use with a second party, like other experience websites.

London photography course St Paul's Millenium Bridge © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

A much derided building, the ‘Walkie Talkie’, actually looks pretty cool from the right angle
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The workshop itself was a seven-hour class with Steve Hedges Photography. Our small group of five (including myself) met Steve at Liverpool Street station armed with our cameras and tripods at 9am on a Friday. The first part of the workshop was sat around a laptop going through the basic rules to follow when photographing landscapes and seeing examples of the powerful differences that depth and angle can make. I am currently between cameras so had borrowed one which I wasn’t so familiar with, but by the end of the class knew the settings so well I was able to teach the camera’s owner how to use it!

During the workshop, we stopped to photograph the Leadenhall Building, the Lloyds Building, the ‘Walkie Talkie’, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. The class was a mix of learning practical camera skills, but also developing our ‘eye’ for a great shot. We were taught about aperture, shutter speed, exposure, filters, ISO numbers, among other features of the camera. With the class so small, our instructor had enough time to give us individual feedback as we photographed each building. While there was a lot to take in, we were given frequent opportunity to really let what we were learning sink in and be put to practice. Although the weather weren’t on our side – it was a grey, cloudy day with occasional light rain – I’m happy with what I photographed throughout the day. There’s a selection of images I was really pleased with (such as the two I have published here), and some I wasn’t so enamoured with. However, that’s the whole process of photography, it’s all about the right light, conditions and angle coming together to create the perfect shot. There was so much things to think about afterwards. the most challenging one I think will be patience, it takes time to get the right photograph. While I would never consider myself a good photographer, I completed the workshop feeling more knowledgeable and confident with my skills going forward. Steve was a great instructor – patient, encouraging and full of experience. I thoroughly recommend the workshop and whole Obby booking experience. Now what am I going to learn next..?

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