Calling Elvis!

A trip to the O2 at North Greenwich in London is a day out in itself. The huge tent-like structure which was originally the Millennium Dome is now a world class, multi-media entertainment venue. Famous headline events take place in the main arena but in the surrounding area are a huge variety of restaurants, a cinema, a bowling alley and the terminal for the fantastic Emirates Airline where you can jump onto an air-conditioned chair lift over to the Royal Docks near the Excel centre grabbing the most stunning bird’s eye view of London on the way.

If you really want to take your time to see up to 15 miles in all directions on a clear day though, for around €20 you can take a guided walk right over the roof of the dome in an experience called ‘Up at the O2’.

But I was at the O2 to see Elvis – well as close as you can get these days. A truly superb exhibition, ‘Graceland Presents Elvis at the O2’ was opened by Priscilla Presley last month and displays some of the most touching, most personal possessions and memories of the King of Rock and Roll. From early school reports and family photographs to the glitzy suits and cars which fame and fortune delivered to the great man.

There are lots of memories of his famous home, Graceland in Memphis, and these really capture the spirit of the place. Of course they reflect a different age when tastes and colours were, shall we say, a little more garish, and flamboyance is certainly part of the Elvis legend.

For me though it was some of the more personal items which really struck a chord – the well-worn bedside telephone (gold of course!), Elvis’s American Express card and his sunglasses, just the stuff of normal, everyday life.

On January 8 2015, Elvis would have been 80 but astonishingly it is nearly 40 years since he died. To commemorate this date, there is an auction that day at Graceland with some truly astonishing items for sale – like the first ever record Elvis had made for his mother. With an auction estimate of $100,000 not only will you need deep pockets, but also something to play it on!

Now that was a planned day out. For a more surreal experience, drop into Soho for a weird and wonderful pop-up exhibition called ‘Lights of Soho’, presented by God’s Own Junkyard in Brewer Street, London W1. Here you can see a stunning range of work by the late, great neon artist, Chris Bracey.

Sadly Chris died in November 2014, but in this shop and basement 40 years of his high visual impact artwork lives on. In the mid 1970s, Bracey transformed Soho from a seedy red light district into an Americana-inspired extravaganza that lives on today.

The sheer brightness of all the lights in this shop caught my eye as I walked past on a cold London winter’s evening and it drew me in to find out more – like how much is the electricity bill! There are restored vintage signs and old movie props, new hand-made sculptures and salvaged signs. Don’t miss this one.

By Richard Lamberth