London Calling

All along the Watchtower

Jimi Hendrix famously died at his hotel in Notting Hill, London, in September 1970 and now another building associated with the most influential guitarist of the 1960s is in the news.

The four-star Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch is set to become Britain’s first Hard Rock Hotel. Hendrix gave his last press interview at this hotel and Shirley Bassey was held at gunpoint in her suite for two hours by an obsessed fan in 1957.

The famous Hard Rock Cafe chain was born in London when two Americans set up the first venue in Piccadilly when they could not find anywhere to buy a decent burger!

Like the restaurants, the hotel will feature rock memorabilia when it opens in spring 2018 after a major refit. General Manager Oliver Kahf said: “We’re very excited about the opportunity to have a Hard Rock Hotel in the cradle of music. There is nowhere more relevant to us than London.”

With nearly 1,000 rooms ranging from £250 (€284) to £450 (€510) per night, this will be a mid-priced hotel and will have a 370 seat Hard Rock Cafe as its main restaurant. There will also be two bars and a Hard Rock Shop selling those famous t-shirts and other goods.

Jimi Hendrix often stayed at the Cumberland and other famous musical guests over the decades include Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Madonna. A real chance, therefore, to get up close and personal to your musical heroes beckons!

Meanwhile, just down the road at Selfridges, a pop-up shop also looks like attracting a lot of interest from rock enthusiasts. Four windows of the famous department store will feature memorabilia from super group, The Rolling Stones. On sale will be stage outfits worn by Sir Mick Jagger and merchandise for their forthcoming world tour. The Stones’ historic Havana Moon concert will be playing on in-store screens with headphones available for that extra-real experience.

This is your chance to buy Jagger’s red ostrich feather jacket or his full-length sequin coat designed by Dior. The pop-up shop will be open until early June and demand is likely to be high – maybe including the buyers for the new hotel just a little further down Oxford Street!

River of light

There are many bridges across the Thames in London and they are some of the most iconic landmarks of the capital city. A recent taxi trip across Albert Bridge in Chelsea revealed something which had eluded your columnist before. The driver pointed out a sign which asks soldiers to ‘break step’ as they march across the bridge. This is because there was considerable instability to the bridge when there were large numbers of people crossing and it had become known locally as ‘the trembling lady’.

There are now exciting plans to light up all the 15 bridges in a 2.5 mile (4km) stretch from Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge as an ‘art installation’ by American artists Leo Villareal. The Illuminated River Foundation has submitted 30 planning applications and 18 listed building applications using British architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands in what will become the longest piece of public art in the world.

If approved, the first four bridges will light up in spring 2018 and the project will be completed in 2022. Each bridge will be lit differently with an overall plan to emphasise the beauty of the bridges and the river. Villareal worked on a similar project in San Francisco which has been hugely popular. One to watch out for.

Back to the future

One of South Kensington’s most famous museums is completely departing from its long and fine history of retrospective exhibitions with something completely different. ‘The Future Starts Here’ has opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum and runs till November with an exciting glimpse of how the future may look.

Visitors will be able to experience what travelling around London in a driverless car will be like and there are artworks that react to mobile phones and other ground-breaking futuristic designs. Not surprisingly, the exhibition is sponsored by Volkswagen and ‘Sedric’, their driverless vehicle will give people a wholly different perspective of how London may look.

There is also some interesting artwork from US artist Miranda July. “I’m Your President, Baby” consists of four curtains that open and shut to track the activity of an Uber-driving African refugee in Los Angeles. This is linked directly to Oumarou Idrissa as he drives around tinsel town and will respond when he messages on WhatsApp or Instagram or picks up a fare!

Former Labour MP, now director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt says the show will examine “the fast-accelerating future of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and space exploration”, adding “this is the first major exhibition produced by our design, architecture and digital department and revives our founding principle to forefront cutting-edge art and design”.

That wedding!

The excitement has been growing all month in the capital for the wedding of Prince Harry and Hollywood star Meghan Markle.

As the Union Jacks went up all over the capital, the famous waxwork museum in Baker Street, Madame Tussauds, unveiled their tribute to the golden couple. Harry, of course, was already there but his figure was created for his 30th birthday and needed a bit of updating. With Meghan they needed to start from scratch and she has been dressed in the green Parosh dress she wore when they announced their engagement from Kensington Palace.

In a nod to selfie culture, members of the public have been allowed to pose with the couple in a picture frame for that true Royal experience and for those people lucky enough to be named Harry or Meghan, entry to the attraction was free on the royal wedding day!

Top marks for London

A new survey claims that London has taken over from Montreal as the best student city in the world. Higher education analyst QS Quacquarelli Symonds has scored London highly for tolerance, diversity, employability and safety though, unsurprisingly, affordability came out low.

Ben Sowter, research director at QS, said: “The city benefits from outstanding employment prospects, more world class universities than any other city and enviable lifestyle opportunities. These factors mean that London remains a great place to study.” No surprise then that another survey claims 41% of the capital’s student population comes from overseas.

Richard leads parallel lives with homes and business interests in London and Portugal. He provides consultancy services to leading businesses in insurance and financial services, property and media sectors. He has four sons, two dogs and enjoys a busy family life. He likes swimming, keeping fit and an outdoor life.

By Richard Lamberth