30 April 2012

Literary stars in London!

London is such a world hub that you have access to some amazing events and get to see your favourite stars whether they are musical, theatrical or literary!
Last week saw World Book Night roll into town.  It's a wonderful event which was held outdoors last year in Trafalgar Square but I think the literary folk got a bit too cold so this yea it moved into the Queen Elizabeth Hall, part of the South Bank complex. This was just as well, as it was a chilly wet evening again! The date was 23rd April, St George's Day but more relevant for this night, is that it's Shakespeare's birthday and the day he died!
World Book Night is an evening of book readings by authors and famous book lovers and part of a major campaign to encourage reading. 25 titles are chosen each year, then 1 million special editions of these are printed and 'givers' pledge to hand out copies to those who don't regularly read. That's a lot of extra books going round to excite new readers!

Have a look through this photos gallery of some of the stars who read for us: Margaret Attwood (by video), David Nicholls (One Fine Day) Iain Banks (also known as Iain M Banks!), Mark Haddon (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night) Andrea Levy (Small Island) and Kathy Lette (loads of best sellers).

Margaret Attwood
Iain M Banks

Kathy Lette
Andrea Levy
David Nicholls
Mark Haddon

One other bookish event worth a mention was 5x15 held in Notting Hill. These evenings bring us 5 speakers who each have 15 minutes on a topic of their choice. The guests can be anything from famous singers to TV personalities to authors or campaigners.

The last event was a great mix including Paul Conroy who was the big draw for me. He's just escaped from Syria where his colleague Mary Colvin sadly died and he arrived fresh from hospital with a drip! We had Andrew Davies who has written and adapted major TV successes including the famous Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and more recently Bleak House.  He told us just how easy it is to adapt a famous novel for TV! We were entertained by Bettany Hughes, historian TV presenter and writer, a passionate speaker, Prue Leith, the cookery master and now writer and Richard Davenport-Hines who has just published a book on the Titanic. And here they are:

Paul Conroy

Andrew Davies

Bettany Hughes

Richard Davenport-Hines
Prue Leith

That's all from literary London for now!

25 April 2012

Cutty Sark reopens and joins the London list of 'must see'

Greenwich is a great place to visit and it has just got a whole lot better!  The beautiful Cutty Sark sailing ship has been reopened and is a new landmark for the area. To offer even more, The National Maritime Museum has added to their already amazing collections with a fascinating new exhibition called Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames. 
The Cutty Sark was the fastest ship of her day and plied her trade around the world mostly as a tea clipper and is the last surviving of these ships.  She has been restored using a great deal of original material which is a miracle given the fire that swept through her in 2007. Luck was on their side that day as a great deal of the original timbers had been removed from the site so survived to be reinstated to make the wonderful ship we can visit.

The restoration has at its heart a glass apron which means you can walk right underneath the golden hull and see the glorious shape of the ship as well as explore the decks and cabins. 

There are evocative tea chests on the lower decks and fun interactive maps where you can try to beat the Cutty Sark's best journey time but I was 10 days slower! Famous as a tea clipper that name deriving from these ships 'clipping' the time taken and you can learn how the trade winds and doldrums influenced their racing times.

On the top deck you can admire the high rigging which once held 32 sails and reaches up 152 feet/47 metres, and see the tiny bunks the crew slept in, Cutty Sark was launched in 1869 when the men were clearly much shorter than we are now!  The wheel, however, is really tall (as you can see in the photo with yours truly)  and I'm sure the Captain would have to stand on a box to reach the top spokes.

The Queen opens the Cutty Sark for visitors on 24th April which must be strange for her as she performed the same act in 1957 as this photo shows. The photo is part of a really interesting slide show with commentary where we learn that a Cutty Sark is a ladies undergarment and it taken from a poem by Robert Burns! 

On our preview day they were still adding the finishing touches but I'm sure by the time the Queen arrives it'll be perfect. The Cutty Sark is now on my list of recommendations for visitors to London.

My laptop has let me down recently but hopefully I'll be back posting many more London blogs.

Bye for now,