Friday 27 February 2015

Historical Highlights of Somerset House Guided Tour

Historical Highlights guided tours occur on the Thursday and Saturdays, unless there is an event such as the London Fashion Week on that might have to be put off for during the duration. The tour covers 470 years of Somerset House.

The tour starts off with Henry VIII having passed away, but his son Edward VI, who would have been the next in line to succeed him was too young to take the throne. Edward’s VI’s uncle, Edward Seymour, saw the opportunity and seized it. Edward Seymour named himself Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset, with an aim to create a palace for himself. Renovations started to take place with graves being dug up and moved to Finsbury Fields as well as churches and chapels being knocked downed, which included some of St Paul’s Cathedral buildings. His choices led to him becoming very unpopular and ultimately led to him being stripped of his titles. He was arrested as well and was not charged. He left the old Gothic style moving towards the style of English Renaissance. In 1551, he was arrested again and was charged with felony.

Elizabeth I moved in once it was completed in 1553, but she mostly resided in the palaces of Whitehall or St. James’s. Somerset House became the Somerset House Conference, and was mainly used for apartments for the lodgers and for Elizabeth I’s council meetings.

Elizabeth’s death came at 1603, so was handed to the next successor who was James I of England and VI of Scotland. James had married Anne of Denmark, who was given Somerset House and renaming it to “Denmark House”. She had an affinity for English Dramaso she employed Indigo Jones for designing stage sets and Ben Johnson to create the stage plays. She too begun to reconstruct the building some of which followed from Jones’s stage designs such as building an extension.
Charles I became king and married Henrietta Maria of France in 1625. Henrietta Maria begun remodelling and modernising for the French inhabitants. A Roman Catholic chapel was built on the construct. Civil War broke out which led to Somerset House becoming the headquarters for the parliamentary army. Henrietta Maria fled and Charles I was executed.

Charles II became king and moved into Somerset House as opposed to his wife, Catherine of Brazanga, who settled in Whitehall instead. When Charles II died, he had no children so essentially had no heir to succeed him. Catherine moved in to Somerset House.

When George III became king and Somerset House was then used for office space for clerks. The building was eventually given to the government who had the building flattened. William Chambers was given 2 year planning to get Somerset House back up and running but he had completed it within 3 months. Chambers studied Italian architecture and employed a lot of sculptures into the designs and avoided any use of greenery. Some of the sculpture can be seen on top of the North Wing from the courtyard of four figures representing the trades from African, America, Asia and Europe. Some of the sculptures found on the embankment side are of Mermen, sea monsters and sea-related images

With the new building, the Royal Academy was given a section what is now known as the North Wing and the government moved in next to them. The West Wing created separate sections for different apartments. The Tax Office moved into the West Wing. Another occupier was the General Register Office, where you the registry for births and deaths are found. Somerset House was opened to the public in 1990.
There is a chance to see the Miles Stairs designed by architect EvA Jiřičná. The threads and landing are made entirely of ductal, which is a substance 1000 times stronger than concrete. Then heading the Navy’s quarters of Somerset House, there is a chance to compare the designs and age of both stairs. The final section of the tour explored the Deadhouse underneath the courtyard which had memorials. There are also rooms that used to hold coals which are still there. You can view the full height of Somerset House from this area.

There are other tours on offer such as the Old Palaces Tour on Tuesdays and Spotlight on Style Tours on ongoing exhibitions and displays on Wednesdays and Fridays.


Wednesday 25 February 2015

Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre

Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre was originally the venue for tennis and the hockey pitches were across two bridges on Hopkins’ Fields. During the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, the venue had 9 competition pitches and 4 warm-up pitches. It was reopened in June 2014 as a conjoined site. The centre is at what is known as Eton Manor at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. You’ll be able to find the poem Carol Ann Duffy wrote for Eton Manor. War memorials dedicating to people who fought in World War I on Eton Manor are displayed on site.

The centre now holds 2 hockey pitches, 4 indoor tennis courts and 6 outdoor courts. There is Hockey training and weekend matches for all ages and skill levels that run as sessions weekly. The Hockey stadium holds up to 3,000 people. There is a café on the first level of the centre.

In early 20th Century, 4 pioneering men who attended Eton school decided that they wanted to give something back to the community so set up the Eton Manor Boys' Club. In over 100 years, Eton Manor provided underprivileged boys and men a chance to take part in sports, which built a community around it.

Carol Ann Duffy was commissioned to write the poem for Eton Manor which is now displayed on the outside the hockey pitch wall attached to the main centre:

The past is all around us, in the air,
the acres were once ‘the Wilderness’ –
“Blimey, it’s fit for a millionaire” -
Where Eton Manor Boys Club came to train;
Or, in the Clubhouse (built 1913)
translated poverty to self-esteem
camaraderie, and optimism smiled in smiles.

Hackney Wick –
Fleas, flie, bin-lids, Clarnico’s Jam;
the poor enclosed by railway, marshland, factories, canal –
where Wellesley, Villers, Wagg, Cadogan came,
philanphropists, to clear glorious space;
connect the power of place to human hope,
through World War One, the Blitz till 1967…
on this spot; functional, free, real - heaven.

This is Legacy –
young lives respected, cherished, valued, helped
to sprint, swim, bowl, box, play, excel, belong;
believe community is self in multitude –
the way the past still dedicates to us its distant, present light.
The Same high sky, same East End moon,
above this reclaimed wilderness,
where relay boys are raced by running ghosts.

The design of the poem was created by Stephen Raw who worked with a local sign maker to create the lettering. The lettering were created from brass using water jet cutting techniques which were then placed upon the stainless steel plating. The Eton Manor poem is part of the "Art in the Park" series.

Monday 23 February 2015

Chinese New Year Celebrations 2015

Kung Hei Fat Choi! It’s Chinese New Year! Chinese New Year was on 12 February 2015 celebrating Year of the Sheep which happens to be my zodiac. Celebrations for the London event took place on Sunday 22 February 2015.

The event started with a parade down Shaftesbury Avenue showcasing different styles of Chinese culture. Taking centre stage at the Shaftesbury Avenue Stage were performances of dramatization, martial arts and dance with music which included strangely K-Pop.

With events taking full swing, Trafalgar Square Stage opened up with fireworks and speeches of different representatives of the events and the Chinese community. In the surrounding areas, there were stalls with freebies galore, Chinese food and drinks. Met Police were there at hand to offer advice on staying safe at the event near their double decker bus. Next door to them were the Royal Air Force giving experiences of taking flight into the air. The design on it is reminiscent of the Chinese flag of the 5 stars in the corner.

On Charing Cross road, you’ll be able to find the Leicester Square and Charing Cross Performance Hub with performances of different kinds which includes martial arts. Just nearby, there were small rides adorned with Chinese decorations and lanterns.

In Chinatown, there were many things to do such as enjoying the views of the Chinese lanterns of all different colours on display, watching and following the lions as they dance their way around Chinatown. There were many food stalls placed outside their respective restaurants. There was also a pop up exhibition in the Q Car Park.