Founded through a personal act of King George III on 10 December 1768 with the objective of promoting the arts of design in Britain through education and exhibition, the Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution that is based in Burlington House which was Lord Burlington’s spectacular London Palace on Piccadilly in London. It is an independent, privately funded institution which has a set of galleries and houses a premier art school of the country. A brilliantly curated programme of exhibitions is organised in the Royal Academy regularly and since these exhibitions are constantly changing, there is always something new to enjoy. The shows are presented in some of the most magnificent galleries of Europe.
The exhibitions are varied in nature ranging from recent fashion and photography retrospectives to much broader collections of 18th century art, and thoroughly researched explorations of historical cultures. The Summer Exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Arts is a wonderful blend of artists ranging from the established ones to those who are just starting out along with media and styles. The choicest collections celebrating the life and works of recently deceased artists are also exhibited at the Academy.
The Royal Academy of Arts is being run by eminent artists and architects whose objective is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate. The main purpose of setting up the academy was to elevate the professional status of the artist by incorporating an effective system of training and expert judgement in the arts and to organise exhibitions relating to the contemporary works of art that have reached a proper standard of excellence. The basic concept was aimed at fostering and building a national school of art and to encourage public appreciation and interest in the recognised fields of excellence in arts.
The first exhibition of contemporary art was held on 25 April 1769 and ran till 27 May 1769 at the Royal Academy. It was open to all artists and it showcased 136 works of art and since then this exhibition is held every year. It is now known as the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
The Piccadilly theatre is presenting the fun musical Viva Forever. It is based on the songs of the Spice Girls and is being presented by the team that was responsible for bringing the global mega-smash musical Mamma Mia! Jeniffer Saunders, the star of Spice World The Movie, has written Viva Forever and the story is all about how a mother and daughter face the highs and lows as they tackle a TV reality singing contest that is set against a backdrop of the fantastic and unforgettable songs of the Spice Girls that include Wannabe, Say You’ll Be There, Mama, Stop and Viva Forever.
Viva Forever charts the journey of one girl as she follows her dreams and how she reaches the world of overnight celebrity status and the impact of this journey on her family and her friends who she thought would be forever with her. The world judges her moving between London and Spain and the story is all about who you really are and what you really want to be, regardless of the cost that you have to pay.
Viva Forever, directed by Lynne Page, has set the stage at London’s Piccadilly Theatre throbbing and audiences are enjoying its original, funny and fabulous story by Jennifer Saunders and in the process the West End is also receiving some much needed boost. The musical provides the perfect setting for a feel-good night out and enables the audiences to spice up their lives with this fantastic musical that celebrates love, friendship and just being your real self and what you really want to be.
The producer of the show, Judy Craymer is the mastermind behind the tremendous financial success of Viva Forever that had grossed more than $2bn and everyone feels that it was only Judy who could have created this success with the Spice Girls’ oeuvre but even with advance bookings worth £4 million, the present show is unlikely to reach anywhere near the tremendous success of its forerunner.
The role of Viva is played by Hannah John-Kamen who looks appealing and has an above-average voice as she has to choose between fame and friendship with the three other girls in her band when she is picked to continue as a solo act in the next rounds of a TV talent contest.
Exclusive 150th Underground anniversary steam train trips were organised by the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton in January and again on the weekend of April 13-14 in which the beautiful 1898 steam engine and immaculately restored carriages were exhibited. These trips gave the opportunity to people to climb aboard these rare locomotive icons which however were stationary and not moving. It is expected that the Acton Miniature Railway will be moving full steam and there will be plenty of film screenings, workshops and guided tours.
If you visit the London Transport Museum Depot, you can see many amazing transport-related gems. There are about 400,000 items in the collection out of which you just cannot afford to miss seeing the beautiful art deco 1930’s tube train. At the Depot in Acton, the London Transport Museum stores about 370,000 items. The main objective of the Depot is to operate as a working museum store. The public can only view these items on selected dates during the year. There are diverse items on display ranging from old uniforms and posters to trains and buses. The Museum is owned and operated by Transport for London and it is a non-profit, independent Museum registered by the Museums and Galleries Commission.
The items stored at the Museum Depot include many original works of art used for the Museum’s celebrated poster collection, vehicles, signs, models, photographs, engineering drawings and uniforms. There are a total of 370,000 items that constitute one of the most comprehensive and important records of urban transport anywhere in the world.
The Depot is more like a working museum store as it provides 6000 square metres of storage space which is secure and has environmental control systems. The curators of the Depot work to catalogue and preserve objects so that their heritage is preserved for future generations. In order to visit the Depot, you can either book one of their monthly guided tours or visit it on their popular Open Weekends.
The London Transport Museum is based in Covent Garden, London and it seeks to conserve and explain the transport heritage of London. It is open to the public every day. It has recently been reopened after two years of refurbishment.
Gherkin is the nickname of one of the most eye-catching buildings in London at 30 St Mary Axe as it looms large on the city’s skyline. It is one of the many modern buildings that have been built over several years in a historic area of London. Ken Shuttlewood who was the brains behind the building of Gherkin is now working on a new project and is waiting for the approval to build the tallest skyscraper in the Square Mile to date. He has taken over the prime plot that was originally reserved for the Pinnacle which was a Saudi Arabian-backed project that was shelved in 2009 due to the economic downturn. It will be quite a challenging task as the plans are to go above and beyond the Gherkin by almost 100 metres but Ken Shuttlewood appears to be quite capable of doing the job successfully.
The Gherkin is a 41-storey skyscraper that was commissioned for construction by Swiss Re, a reinsurance company. It was built in 2004 with a modern glass and steel design by the architectural firm of Foster and Partners. It was originally known as the Swiss Re Building but later on it was renamed to its street address 30 St. Mary Axe after it was sold by Swiss Re in 2007. Londoners had however dubbed the building as ‘Gherkin’ for its distinctive shape even before its construction was completed. It is still known by that name.
Gherkin is a cigar-shaped structure that has a steel frame with circular floor plans and a glass façade with diamond-shaped panels. The exterior view of the building shows a swirling striped pattern which is caused by the building’s energy-saving system which allows the air to flow up through spiralling wells. The base of the building on the street level is well-integrated with an open public plaza. A dramatic entrance is created with huge white X braces. Even more spectacular is the top of the tower where you can find an open hall covered by a glass conical dome. You can have fantastic views of the city from this vantage point. However, it is a pity that the building is not open to the public. Gherkin has won many awards including the Stirling Prize, the London Region Award, and the Emporis Skyscraper Award, mainly because of its unique, bold and energy efficient design.
The stunning theatrical event Walking with Dinosaurs that has charmed over 8 million people in 217 cities returned to The Wembley Arena Spectacular and it seemed that the dinosaurs were roaming London once again from 1 May 2013 to 6 May 2013. This show, which is based on the award-winning BBC television series Walking with Dinosaurs, showcases Tyrannosaurus Rex and his awe-inspiring life-size friends return to terrorise UK shores once again. In doing so, these pre-historic mammoth giants astounded, thrilled and educated a new generation of budding paleontologists.
This dazzling £10,000,000 arena spectacle has been designed by internationally famous designers who have created 20 life-size dinosaurs including the terror of the ancient terrain, Tyrannosaurus-rex, in close cooperation with scientists. The greatest creatures ever created and ever to have walked the earth returned to amaze and thrill the audiences. Both young and old spectators were completely mesmerised by this fantastic show of unprecedented size and quality. They felt amazed at the story of their 200 million year domination of life on earth and they could watch them walk and hear their roar. They could see them fight for survival and supremacy. They could see what the dinosaurs were actually like by seeing the ripple of their skin and the glint in their eyes.
The hugely popular BBC series was first broadcast in 1999 and their worldwide tour enabled more than 7 million people to attend the same. The show at the Wembley Arena Spectacular presented a fresh opportunity for people to Walk with the Dinosaurs again. They could get up close to the terrifying Tyrannosaurus-Rex, who was hovering over them at a height of 39 ft, and they could also walk alongside Allosaurus, one of the largest carnivores of the Jurassic period. The theatrical display also features 20 life-size and frightening life-like models of the long-extinct creatures and during their nationwide tour the dinosaurs took a stroll at the O2 Arena, London from 26 December 2012 to 6 January 2013 and at the Wembley Arena, the dinosaurs walked from 1 May to 6 May 2013. The Wembley Arena is London’s second largest indoor arena after The O2 and its sheer size makes it an exciting place to watch the monstrous creatures.
David Auburn’s Pulitzer and Tony-winning 2000 drama Proof is being performed at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Director Polly Findlay is directing the drama about a daughter’s attempt to unlock the life and work of her mentally ill mathematician father, Robert who is a one-time maths genius but now he is suffering from an unspecified, sporadic madness and general mental decline, after his skills peaked at the age of 25. Mariah Gale and Jamie Parker play the lead roles in this drama that will be enacted this spring. The daughter Catherine is played by Mariah Gale and Jamie Parker plays the role of her father’s former student Hal. Emma Cunniffe and Matthew Marsh also feature in the play that has been designed by Helen Goddard and Paul Anderson has arranged the lighting.
The story revolves around Catherine who is also very gifted at maths, but gave up a place at college to care for her father Robert, a renowned mathematician for the past five years looking after him full-time during his mental illness. Hal finds a ground-breaking proof in Robert’s office about some brilliant work that that he had done. However, it is not clear as to whether who is the real author of the work and Catherine starts to work on solving this mystery. The play also comes up with the most perplexing problem which tries to find out about how much of Robert’s madness or genius has she inherited? The set is the back garden of their dilapidated home in Chicago, all crumbling wood and decaying plants.
The play is full of math-geek jokes which are often told with the distant intriguing gaze of people who are good at maths. The story is basically a sad tale with only a few occasions of lightness. Gale is shown to be crying most of the time but this crying, though moving, offers little variety. Her first smile appears only in the latter part of the second half, just after she gets laid. Her dry wit and depressive outlook, however, gets overshadowed by her sister Claire’s overbearing fussiness that is convincingly played by Emma Cunliffe.
The script of the play is not thorough and its shortcomings are not covered up by the direction of Polly Findlay. In the initial stages, there were doubts regarding whether Catherine was also suffering from the same vague malady as her father, but this aspect is completely neglected thereafter. The story could have been more intriguing without the several plot gaps if emphasis had been laid on whether she tried to pass off her father’s work as her own instead of the need for proof and certainty rules.
Dulwich Picture Gallery was designed by London architect Sir John Soane using an innovative and influential method of illumination, and was opened to the public in 1817. It is located in Dulwich, South London and is the world’s first purpose-built art gallery that houses one of the most celebrated collections of European Old Master paintings. The collection spanning the 1600s and 1700s has works by Rubens, Poussin, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Watteau and Gainsborough.
These works of art were originally a part of a collection of paintings that had been collected by the King of Poland in the 1790s. However, when Poland was partitioned, the works were transported to Dulwich for some ‘clean air’ and for safekeeping. The gallery proved to be the right place for keeping the collection mainly because of the quality of Soane’s design that used natural and overhead lighting combined with a clear layout of interlinked rooms. This design became a basis for future gallery design throughout the world.
Dulwich is a lovely 18th century village on the outskirts of London and has proved to be an ideal setting for housing this small, traditional collection which shows glimpses of its universal significance. Many critically-acclaimed and crowd pulling exhibitions are held throughout the year at the gallery showcasing the European Old Master paintings, the fantastic gallery design and architecture of Soane and other acclaimed events.
The Dulwich Picture gallery is the oldest public art gallery in England but it was only in 1994 that it became an independent charitable trust. Till that time, it was part of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, which was established by actor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Edward Alleyn in the early seventeenth century. Dulwich Picture Gallery has some of the finest collections of Old Masters that are especially rich in French, Italian and Spanish Baroque paintings mainly due to the acquisitions of artworks by its founders and bequests by its many patrons. It also houses British portraits from Tudor times to the 19th century.
The clear design of the Dulwich Picture Gallery by Soane is significant as there are skylights to illuminate the paintings indirectly due to which the gallery has become one of the great small galleries where you can view the oil paintings.
UK is known for its love of animals, especially during the National Pet Month when most people try to take their pets with them for a holiday. This becomes possible only due to the fact that there are many dog-friendly UK hotels where you are allowed to stay along with your pet.
For example, the Holbeck Ghyll in the Lake District provides a warm welcome from the resident golden retriever Daisy. The hotel provides a package known as VIC – Very Important Canine which is designed to pamper your pet and it includes a matching collar and lead, blanket, bowl, toy and organic treats. The location of the hotel is above Lake Windermere that is ideal for walkies. They charge £25 per dog for one night and if you stay for two or more nights, there is no charge for the dogs. The tariff is from £140pp (two sharing) half board, including a Michelin-starred dinner and full Cumbrian breakfast.
A National Pet Month package is available at the Armathwaite Hall Country House Hotel & Spa which is located on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite, also in The Lakes. The luxury hotel is offering dinner, bed and breakfast for your pet along with a framed family print as a memento for only £30. You can relax at the hotel’s spa which has a pool with waterfall. The tariff for a double room with breakfast is from £200 per night.
Some of Brittany Ferries’ ships are also ideal for pets as they have kennels and walking areas on deck. By signing up to PETS travel schemes, you can take a dog or cat on any of its routes to France from £33 return, or to Spain from £69. If you visit Paris with your pet, you can go to its largest public park, Jardin du Luxembourg, which has a dog path and even a dog fountain.
If you go to the Isle of Wight on Wightlink’s ferries, you will not need a passport for your pet and the pet can travel free. You can also avail of a dog-themed guide, Pawprint that lists countryside and beach walks. Pet-friendly luxury barn complex Niton Barns in Niton, the most southerly village on the Isle of Wight is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
A four-day cycle expedition called ‘Dalston to the Dam: The Hipster’s Unexpected Journey’ is being organised by Northernwood Films to give an opportunity to cycle enthusiasts to take up a challenge. The on-route frivolity will be filmed and turned into a cool movie which the organisers feel will be noticed at tastemaker film fests in the same way as it happened last time. In anticipation of the event, London’s first cycle-in rave at The Colourworks that took place on April 28, a unique pre-party was organised on March 28 in association with SpinLDN. The expedition met at Dalston Junction and many East Londoners set off on the cycle journey to Amsterdam in preparation for making a comedy documentary.
This was the second such attempt by Northernwood Films in making a unique brand of filmmaking regarding lengthy cycling trips which promote and provide the content for their tongue-in-cheek creations. The first attempt took place last year and it saw the cyclists travel 783 miles from West Yorkshire to Cannes to raise funds for their debut film Orange Fever. In the second attempt they cycled from Dalston to the Queen’s Day Festival in the Netherlands. It was the largest celebration of the colour Orange where they planned to flog Orange Fever merchandise.
It might seem a bit odd but other films have been made for much odder reasons and in any case there is no need for any reason to ride to Amsterdam. The trip to Amsterdam was undertaken by a team of East Londoners who were motivated to spend four days cycling to sell some T-shirts and they also appeared in the next team.
The films about last year and this year’s trips are available. The first short film premiered in New York, played at festivals around the world and won awards. The Dalston to the Dam film is also ready. Before the second event, the team members had a rollicking time at the free Spin Social event on March 28. The Northernwood Films are cross-platform filmmakers united by a shared love of comedy, cycling and storytelling.
The spring exhibition of Japanese Outsider Art in the UK at Wellcome Collection is being presented from 28 March 2013 to 30 June 2013. Although ‘outsider’ can be construed in many different ways, it refers to all attendees of social welfare institutions in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture in this latest exhibition. They produce their art as a form of therapy or distraction without any intention of becoming the masters in this field. However, the works of the 46 artists in the show are so fascinating and good that their backgrounds fade away. The art objects include tiny wire-frame superheroes, large clay totem poles, abstract diaries and bawdy nudes. Since this will be the last show at Wellcome before its refurbishment, it deserves to be seen.
The spring exhibition, which will be the first major display of Japanese Outsider Art in the UK, has a collection of more than 300 works by 46 artists who are residents and day attendees at social welfare institutions across Japan. The collection is wonderfully diverse in nature as it contains ceramics, paintings, textiles, sculpture and drawings.
The exhibition has been organised in association with Het Dolhuys, the Museum of Psychiatry in Haarlem (the Netherlands) and the Social Welfare Organisation Aiseikai (Tokyo). It reflects the growing acclaim for ‘Outsider Art’, which is a term that comes from French artist Jean Dubuffet’s theory of ‘Art Brut’ coined in the 1940′s, meaning art that has been created in a ‘raw’ form and one that has not been influenced or contaminated by outside culture. In recent cases, the term refers to work made by artists without any training. The displayed works have been created by self-taught artists living and working within social welfare facilities across Japan. These artists do not consider themselves to be artists but they see art as a way of life.
The show is expected to be object-led with an amazing display of various works that offer singular and affecting explorations of culture, memory and creativity. At the end of the exhibition, a series of documentary films highlighting some of the exhibiting artists will be played. The collection of objects does not provide any information on the background of the artists and their mental problems and the work is allowed to speak for itself.