London Cocktail Week

This week is London Cocktail Week, a celebration of the capital’s love of hard liquor and high times. Over 200 bars have signed up as official stops on the London Cocktail Week bus tour. Simply register on the website, head to Selfridge’s on Oxford Street, pick up your wristband then hop on the booze bus and enjoy the ride. Each bar will be serving a bespoke cocktail for just £4. For bus timetables, check out the London Cocktail Week website.

Hendrick's Unusual Umbrella EmporiumAs well as the bus tours there are hundreds of other cocktail-centred special events happening across London. We’ve just come from the Hendrick’s Unusual Umbrella Emporium which is open for the rest of the week.

It’s showcasing weird and wonderful cocktail umbrellas created by some of the leading bars across London as well as bizarre brollies for dogs, parasols for smoking pipes and many more. There will, of course, be plenty of Hendrick’s gin cocktails to try plus gin-themed events including an exploration of gin in literature.

For more information and full listings of London Cocktail Week events, check the LCW website. If you’d like to know more about the best cocktails in London and where to find them, check out this great list in the Telegraph newspaper.

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Dan’s Jukebox: SBTRKT


Man in the mask, SBTRKT

You might have heard SBTRKT but never realised. (Given he relishes anonymity, it’s unlikely you’ve seen him sans mask, however.) He started out as a DJ at London’s Plastic People and he’s remixed the likes of M.I.A, Radiohead, Basement Jaxx and Mark Ronson.

His eponymous debut was released this year and it’s one of those brilliant albums that takes a whole range of influences - dubstep, Chicago house, electro, two-step -  and fuses them into something new and fresh. The album also features some great guest vocalists including Jessie Ware and Little Dragon lead singer, Yukimi Nagano.

SBTRKT is currently touring the UK, Europe and North America.

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Happy Birthday Horatio: Britain’s hero of the high seas

Lord Horatio Nelson was born on this day 253 years ago. He’s one of the UK’s most cherished heroes, killed in action by a French sniper at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He survived long enough to see his fleet clinch victory, and then died in his comrades’ arms.

He is the epitome of the plucky British hero – cool under pressure, devoted to King and country and an all-round jolly good chap. And, despite being a life-long sufferer from acute seasickness, he became the greatest naval hero the UK has ever known.

There are monuments to Nelson all over the world but here are the British ones worth checking out:

Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, London
We all know this one, don’t we? London’s most famous and photographed square is named after the famous sea battle in which Nelson died. In the centre, a statue of him stands guard atop a huge column, looking south, forever protecting Britain from invasion.

It’s one of those sights Londoners are so used to seeing they rarely give it a second look. But did you know that before Nelson’s statue was hoisted into place, the stonemasons working on the column staged a celebratory dinner party at the top? There’s also a replica of Nelson’s ship, HMS Victory, in a bottle on the fourth plinth.

Nelsons Column

Nelson’s Tomb, St Paul’s Cathedral, London
Nelson’s body was transported home from Trafalgar in a barrel of brandy, then given a full state funeral before being laid to rest in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in an imposing black sarcophagus. He was so loved by his men that the flag covering his coffin was torn to shreds as sailors vied for a keepsake. Nelson’s monument in the south transept is also impressive.

Nelson's tomb (c) Reverend Luke Warm
HMS Victory, Portsmouth
Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar is a beautifully preserved example of a Georgian warship. Take a tour to learn the brutal reality of ocean-going warfare during the period and see the spot where Nelson fell.

HMS Victory
The Lord Nelson Pub, Norfolk
After all these tales of derring-do, you’ll be in need of a stiff drink. Admiral Nelson’s local, where he grew up in Norfolk, still has the benches that were graced by the naval hero’s behind as well as stone-floors, real ales and a warm welcome. Try the homemade ‘Nelson’s Blood’, a rum-based tipple inspired by the story of sailors taking sneaky sips from the barrel in which his body was preserved after Trafalgar.

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Like cute animals? This post will make you happy

A cynical attempt to use cute creatures to boost our ratings it may be, but I defy ANYONE not to find these critters anything but adorable. There’s also a serious point:

Red squirrels are native to Britain but their numbers have dwindled in the face of competition from the disease carrying and more robust American Grey.

These rare reds were rescued when the tail end of Hurricane Katia demolished their nest in Northumberland a few weeks back. Awwwwww.

To find the best places to spot red squirrels in the UK, check out this excellent BBC page.

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Dennis Severs’ House: a magical journey into the past

Two streets away, Liverpool Street Station swirls with grim-faced commuters; in the pub opposite, early drinkers dissect the working day over pints of lager, and a short stroll west, City traders still stare, transfixed, at banks of screens as share prices fluctuate.

But here down a cobbled street in East London, just yards away from the buzz and hum of the financial district, is Dennis Severs’ House, a refuge of stillness and soft, dancing candlelight. We explore in silence, a little guiltily, as the occupants appear to have just popped out. Meals are left half eaten and uncleared, the smell of spices fills the air and a fire burns merrily in the grate.

Dennis Severs bought the Georgian townhouse at 18 Folgate Street in 1979 and set about transforming it into a glorious stage set. Each room, decorated in a different style, creates a narrative, a journey through time where you experience the sights, smells, sounds and changing fortunes of a family of weavers through the ages. If you’re a Dickens fan you’ll love the top floor, a spartan, tatty garret that’s straight out of Oliver Twist.

It’s hard to envisage a more immersive, atmospheric trip into the past. If you want to experience the East London of your imagination, this is the place to do it.

Dennis Severs’ House is open Monday evenings 6-9pm (last entry 8.15pm, £12 per person), Sunday afternoon 12-4pm (last entry 3.15pm, £8 per person) and Monday lunchtime following first and third Sundays 12-2pm (last entry 1.30pm, £5 per person).

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Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement


The Royal Academy in London finishes the year with the exhibition, Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement.

The exhibition showcases the work of Edgar Degas from 1870 onwards, when the artist focused on the world of ballet and ballerinas and strove to overcome the technical limitations of capturing the movement of dancers on canvas. Degas’ drawings and paintings have a light, rich and luminous quality but also communicate the physical precision of the ballet. Onstage, his subjects are poised, elegant and graceful, while pieces like The Rehearsal and The Dance Class offer an unsentimental glimpse into the dancers’ private worlds.

Also on display is Degas’ sculpture Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen along with a series of rarely seen drawings of the sculpture taken from every angle, a method now more commonly associated with cinematography. Pieces by contemporaries working in film and photography, including works by Eadweard Muybridge and the Lumière brothers, demonstrate the influence of these burgeoning forms on the artist and put his obsessive devotion to movement into context.

The final room shows a single looping clip by Sacha Guivley of Degas, unaware he has been captured on film, as he walks down the street. It’s a fitting coda to a brilliant exhibition, that rightly celebrates Degas, ‘The Painter of Dancers’, as a master of movement.

Degas and the Ballet : Picturing Movement is showing at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, from 17 September-11 December.

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Beautiful boozers: Britain’s loveliest pubs

To celebrate the opening of historic buildings all over the UK as part of Doors Open Days throughout September, we’ve united two of our favourite diversions – beer and buildings. Read on and raise a glass to Britain’s most beautiful pubs and bars…

The Crown Bar, Belfast
A veritable palace among pubs, the Crown Bar is one of the original Victorian ‘Gin Palaces’, pubs decorated in lavish style where ordinary folk could experience some real luxury. So special, in fact, is the Crown Bar that, in 1978, it was purchased by the National Trust so it could be preserved for future generations. Look out for the jewel-like etched and stained glass, elaborate mosaic floors and the antique bell system once used for alerting staff.

The Crown  ©NTPL/John Hammond
Bar 10, Glasgow
Fitted out by Ben Kelly, designer of Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub, in 1991, the original Glasgow style bar continues to be one of the coolest in the city. After the Hacienda closed in 1997, Bar Ten is one of the only places you can still get a taste of Kelly’s timeless designs for nightlife spaces. The slick interior with black marble, tubular steel and industrial details is as cool and satisfying as the drinks.

Champagne Bar, St Pancras Station, London
Sip on a glass of bubbly under the vast sweeping roof of St Pancras Station, London’s beautifully restored neo-gothic masterpiece. The Champagne Bar is the longest in Europe and has over 20 styles of Champagne to enjoy. See the trains pull in and out with drink in hand and admire one of the great marvels of the Victorian age.

St Pancras Champagne Bar
The Philharmonic, Liverpool
When asked whether there were any negative aspects to his enormous fame, John Lennon replied that he ‘missed having a drink in the Phil’. And well he might. The Philharmonic is one of Britain’s most ornate and spectacular pubs. Built in 1903, it boasts curling art nouveau gates, intricate mosaics, Corinthian columns and urinals in pink marble.

Philharmonic gate detail
The Blackfriar, London
This vaulted art nouveau pub takes its name from the black-robed monks who lived in this area of London during the Middle Ages. Remodelled in 1905 to reflect this august heritage, the Blackfriar is crammed with images of jolly friars making merry in mosaics, sculptures and reliefs.

The Blackfriar

To find out more about architectural open days check out Doors Open Days for Scotland, Open House London in London and Open Doors in Wales.

The Crown © NTPL/John Hammond, St Pancras © tompagenet, Philharmonic © tompatto, Blackfriar © Ewan-M

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Diver Bill: Winchester Cathedral’s hidden hero

Tucked into the dark recesses of the south-east corner of Winchester cathedral is an 18inch-high statue. Not of a saint, a bishop or a king, but of a moustachioed man in a diving suit holding his bulbous helmet before him. He’s ‘Diver Bill’, the plucky frogman who singlehandedly saved the cathedral from collapse at the start of the 20th Century.

Between 1906 and 19011 William Walker swam, alone in the darkness, for six hours a day, below the cathedral’s wobbly foundations, packing the flooded space with bags of concrete so the groundwater could be pumped out and the subsiding walls shored up. He paused only to eat lunch and to smoke his pipe.

Diver Bill

You can join a guided tour of Winchester Cathedral to see Bill and the church’s countless other treasures from Monday to Saturday, on the hour from 10.00-15.00.

Image © amandabhslater

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London International Animation Festival

Director / Animator: Daniela Negrin

Celebrating an impressive range of work from all over the world, the London International Animation Festival is back for its 8th year in a brand new home at the Barbican. This is the largest UK festival of its kind, with over 280 films shown from over 30 countries, many of them British premieres.

As well as the competitive program, where audiences and judges vote for their favourite films, there are also specially curated sessions including a focus on Polish animation, technique focus: cut-out animation, New York Who’s Who, and the British premiere of two animated feature films “Dead But Not Buried” (UK) and “George the Hedgehog” (Poland).

The festival runs from 26 August – 4 September. For a full schedule and ticket information, visit the London International Animation Festival website or the Barbican Centre.


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Lighting up the Edinburgh Fringe

One of the most striking sights at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the blow-up light installation called Mirazozo, by the Architects of Air, a giant inflatable maze in which natural light is filtered to create jewel-like patterns and colours. These great pics from piglicker show it off beautifully.


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