London Calling

Pride in our City

In July this year, the annual carnival that Pride London has become took place and once again was attended and participated in by more people than ever before.

The first Gay Pride marches took place in London in 1969 as a response to the Stonewall Riots in New York that year, but the marches only became ‘official’ in the capital in 1972. Since then the numbers of participants and onlookers have increased dramatically and now it is a joyous annual parade, at the end of a week of events, celebrating the great diversity of London.

Pride in London is the biggest LGBT event in the UK and the procession is the seventh largest in the world (top of the table comes São Paulo in Brazil). Bringing an estimated one million additional visitors to the city, this has become an important annual event in London’s social calendar and always gathers significant celebrity participation.

Sir Elton John, Sir Ian McKellan and former Wimbledon star Martina Navratilova are among the Patrons and a few lucky people get to watch the parade as it snakes along Regent Street from the newly-introduced grandstand to the finish point near Trafalgar Square.

Art on the Underground

Transport for London (TfL), which deals with all matters relating to travelling around the UK capital, has just released a summer art map which they hail as an A to Z of contemporary art you can see simply by travelling around on the tube system.

At the newly-refurbished Tottenham Court Road station you can see work by one of France’s greatest living artists, Daniel Buren, in the ticket hall and there are other famous works of art on display at various other stations.

Despite the name and theme, not all the art is underground! Near Bank Station you can see Damien Hirst’s “Temple”, a seven-metre bronze sculpture, weighing in at over three tonnes and the map contains directions to David Shrigley’s “Really Good Sculpture”, a giant ‘thumbs up’, currently occupying the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. This striking sculpture seems to urge Londoners to carry on – an important message in these challenging times!

All the art is free to view and so long as you avoid the rush hour, you may be able to enjoy it in a lot more peace than in the ever-popular art museums of the capital. Grab a map at any tube station and go see what you can find!

The need for speed

As your columnist taps away at his laptop in leafy Wimbledon, the slowness of the internet in one of the world’s leading tech cities is a constant frustration! Now the answer is clear – move to King’s Cross in North London.

Tech giant Google’s London HQ is there and is wired up with stunningly fast ethernet and wifi which seems to benefit near neighbours too! Apparently you can download a two-hour, high-definition movie anywhere nearby in 25 seconds! But people are not so happy just a short distance away at the Olympic Park, home of the London 2012 Olympics. Despite the billions of infrastructure investment that went in there at the time, the area has some of the slowest internet speeds in the capital.

Oliver O’Brien from University College London’s mapping of the city has come up with some surprising results. Generally the suburbs fare better than the central areas and even companies in the Square Mile are having to buy in expensive additional ethernet boosting to their systems. This has a lot to do with the old fabric of inner city streets and buildings, according to O’Brien.

A spokesman for BT Openreach said: “Almost 96% of homes and businesses in London can order a service of 30Mbps or more today. We’re investing billions of pounds to extend our network and make faster speeds available to more people.”

Jurassic Zoo

London Zoo in Regent’s Park has been entertaining visitors since the early 1800s with displays of caged and otherwise confined wild animals, but now they have stepped back in time with their latest display.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has unveiled Zoorassic Park comprising full-size models of the largest creatures to roam the earth. Each motorised dinosaur is fitted with sensors to make them interact with visitors by moving, roaring and even spitting when they approach!

Visitors to the attraction will pass through a time tunnel, explaining the development of our planet over the last few million years before meeting the dinosaurs, starting with the ‘gentle giant’, Brachiosaurus. Things then get a lot more scary with a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex and a horned Triceratops.

The enclosure ends with a display of ZSL’s current conservation work, highlighting just what they are doing to stop the extinction of creatures today.

The exhibition runs until mid September and entry is included within the normal admission charge at the zoo. It coincides with the annual ‘sleepover’ programme run by the zoo so if you harbour a desire to sleep with an dinosaur, now’s your chance!

Culture club

The Square Mile of the City of London is more famous for its financial deals than its cultural heritage but that is all about to change if a new group called Culture Mile get their way.

There are some particularly bland areas like Beech Street in the Barbican, which they aim to transform with shops and pedestrian-friendly areas, and there is an ambitious plan to turn the existing Museum of London site into a concert hall once it moves to its beautiful new home in nearby Smithfield.

The Barbican Centre, the London Symphony Orchestra and the City Of London Corporation are all backing the plans which include cleaner air, greater provision for pedestrians and cyclists, and more exhibition spaces in the financial district.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican said: “There is no doubt that Culture Mile will transform the area and in the face of Brexit send a signal to the world that London is – and always will be – a welcoming, open and resolutely internationalist city.” Let’s hope so!