Tag Archives: Entertainment

The Sony Center

The Sony Center

With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the redevelopment of Potsdamer Platz must have been an architect’s dream. The square was divided up into four separate areas which were to be redeveloped by four different developers, one of which was the area now occupied by the Sony Center.

During the ‘Golden Twenties’, the site was occupied by ‘The Esplanade’, one of Berlin’s most prestigious hotels. Frequented by film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo, the hotel was even used by Kaiser Wilhelm II who entertained guests in one of the hotel’s magnificent halls.

90% of the hotel was destroyed by allied bombing raids in the winter of 1944/45, with the Kaisersaal (as the hall became known) and the breakfast room the only rooms to survive. After restoration of what was left, it once again fell into disrepair following the building of the adjacent Berlin Wall.

After the Wall came down, what remained was listed as a historical monument, which created a problem for the architects of the new Sony Center. The outcome was that the Kaisersaal was moved 75 metres and incorporated into the new design behind a glass wall, and the breakfast room was dismantled piece by piece and re-created for the new Café Josty, the original being a popular Potsdamer Platz meeting place for artists in the early 20th century.

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The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

To conclude my tour of Edinburgh Castle it seems appropriate somehow to finish with the magnificent Military Tattoo.

As its name suggests, the event is based around the Scottish armed forces, but don’t let that put you off because it’s more to do with kilts and bagpipes than warfare. That said, there is also a solemn side to the proceedings, especially towards the end when recognition of those who have lost their lives in combat are remembered.

For the most part though, it’s an extravaganza of music and dancing, and not just from Scotland either. In fact, it involves more international participants than you might have imagined.

The first Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle took place in 1950 and has grown from strength to strength ever since. The spectacle has become extremely popular and consequently in order to get a good seat, or even any seat, it’s best to book well in advance. This also applies to hotels as well at this time of the year, as it coincides with the Edinburgh Festival.

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Newcastle-upon-Tyne

View of Newcastle Quayside from the Baltic Centre

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Shipbuilding, coal and bridges are all words that conjure up images of Newcastle, but so does nightlife, football and a sometimes hard to understand dialect.

This is a city that has always liked to work hard and play hard, but the native Geordies also jealously guard their city’s strong identity with a fierce pride that few other English cities can match. Newcastle is as much about the people as it is the city itself.

The city centre has an eclectic mix of medieval, Georgian, Victorian, and modern architecture, with Grey’s Monument standing pride of place at the top of Grey St which sweeps downhill towards Dean St and the Quayside.

The ‘New’ Castle is Norman in origin and built on the site where the Romans built a fort to guard Pons Aelius (Aelian Bridge). It was part of Hadrian’s Wall that passed through present day Newcastle and ended just outside the city boundary at the appropriately named Wallsend.

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Camden Town

Camden High Street

Camden Town

Not to be confused with the Borough of Camden, Camden Town is known for its markets, music venues and alternative cultures, it’s a place that attracts younger people with a zest for a more unorthodox style of living. If you’re into Punk, Goth. or Emo, then you’ve come to the right place.

Camden is named after Charles Pratt, the first Earl of Camden who took his title from Camden Place, his estate near Chislehurst in Kent (now part of the outer London Borough of Bromley).

Originally a part of the manor of Kentish Town, the Earl acquired the manor through marriage, and in 1791 started to change its appearance from a quiet, rural village on the road north out of London towards Hampstead, by granting leases for houses to be built.

Chalk Farm Road and Camden High Street are the main roads through Camden Town which still form part of that very same route, and at the Camden Town Tube Station junction is a pub called the World’s End, which was a rural hostelry as far back as 1690, but these days is an ideal place to go if you you’re looking to get a headache.

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The Borough of Camden

Camden High Street

The Borough of Camden

The Borough of Camden takes its name from Camden Town, which lies roughly half-way between Holborn in the south and Hampstead Heath in the north.

Places of interest within its boundaries include Camden Town, parts of Covent Garden, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the British Museum, the British Library, and Hampstead.

The southern part of the borough falls within Central London, and is where the major railway hub of Euston, King’s Cross, and St Pancras stations meet near the British Library.

When Britain’s first census was conducted in 1801 the total population for the parishes that make up today’s borough was 96,795. At its peak in 1891 it was 376,500, but demolition to build the railways, slum clearance, and the Blitz all resulted in a substantial fall in numbers to 161,100 by 1981. Since then there’s been a steady increase with the 2011 figures showing a population of 220,338.

The Borough of Camden, like many other places, has a disparity between districts like leafy Hampstead and grungy Camden Town, but on the whole, it has traditionally been a socialist part of London.

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Covent Garden

A Couple of Pearly Kings

Covent Garden

 

Lying on the eastern side of the West End, Covent Garden is a popular destination for tourists and includes the former fruit and vegetable Market, the Opera House, and the area around Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard.

There are no official boundaries to Covent Garden but a map I picked up at the market shows it covering an area from Charing Cross Rd in the west to Kingsway in the east, and from The Strand/Aldwych in the south to Shaftesbury Avenue/High Holborn in the north.
Running straight through the middle from St. Martin’s Lane to Drury Lane is Long Acre which separates the Market and Opera House to the south from the Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard area to the north.
Shelton St which runs parallel with Long Acre south of the Seven Dials is the boundary line between Westminster and Camden.

Originally open fields and then at the centre of Anglo Saxon Lundenwic, the area became the garden of Westminster Abbey and co(n)vent by the beginning of the 13th century.
Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries led to the estate being handed to the Earls of Bedford and a change in the layout to include a fashionable square with a small fruit and vegetable market.

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Soho

Soho Square

Soho

 

Soho’s chequered history has been at the cutting edge of film, theatre, music and other forms of entertainment including the sex industry for as long as I can remember, but gentrification in recent times has seen it become less edgy and more mainstream.

Instead of sleazy clip joints and prostitutes you’re more likely to see fashionable restaurants and blue plaques marking a place of interest, but at least visitors can now check out the area’s fascinating history without the hassle of being coerced into a strip club or worse.

Historically, Soho runs roughly from the north side of Leicester Square up to Oxford St, and from Charing Cross Rd in the east to Regent St in the west. These days though Chinatown (which is the area south of Shaftesbury Avenue), is treated as a separate locality, although it’s still an essential part of Soho.

I said that the area has been gentrified in recent times, but that doesn’t mean to say that it’s become completely sanitized. It’s still a red light district and the gay community has a strong presence around Old Compton St where the Admiral Duncan pub was the scene of a homophobic attack in 1999 which killed three and left thirty injured.

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Leicester Square

Leicester Square

 

Located slap bang in the middle of Theatreland, Leicester Square is often associated with the stage, but it’s the big screen that’s had the most influence.
Apart from being one of the venues for hosting the London Film Festival, it’s also the place to come if you want to see a film premiere.

There are several cinemas in and around the square, the most obvious being the black polished granite Odeon Cinema which has the largest single screen in the UK and more than sixteen hundred seats.

The cinema influence isn’t quite as strong as it once was though as things are constantly changing, but Leicester Square is still undeniably one of the main entertainment hubs in London. Casinos have a strong presence and if you want cut price theatre tickets the TKTS booth is the best place to come.

Talking of the theatre you can’t fail to notice the water feature surrounding a large statue of William Shakespeare which has been the centrepiece of the square since 1874. Nearby is a much smaller bronze statue of Charlie Chaplin portraying his film character of ’The Tramp’, which seems even more appropriate somehow.

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Theatreland

The Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus

Theatreland

 

Theatregoers are totally spoilt for choice in London with around 40 theatres in the West End alone, most of them concentrated in what is now called ‘Theatreland’.

Theatreland covers a large part of the West End, and some people might argue that it IS the West End. Wikipedia defines the area it covers as stretching from Kingsway in the east to Regent St in the west and from Oxford St in the north to The Strand in the south.

Some people think of Leicester Square as the epicentre of Theatreland but in actual fact it’s really the centre of ‘Cinemaland’ where many film premieres take place.
When I think of Theatreland I tend to think of the area around Shaftesbury Avenue which isn’t far from Leicester Square anyway.

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is regarded as the oldest in the West End and although it’s been entertaining audiences since 1663 there have been three other buildings prior to the one that’s currently here which opened in 1812.
The majority of the other theatres were built between the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the Twentieth, many of them being household names such as the London Palladium which is owned and run by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Really Useful Group’.

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Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus

 

“It’s like Piccadilly Circus round here” is a phrase often used when somewhere is chaotically busy, just like the road junction was until the layout was changed in the 1980s.

Up until that point the famous Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain was the central point of the Circus (circle or roundabout) where Regent St, Piccadilly, Coventry St and Shaftesbury Avenue all converged. Not only was it traffic mayhem, it was also (and still is) a meeting point.

It’s also where London’s shopping and entertainment districts meet, and in my own mind, I think of Piccadilly Circus as the centre of the West End.

The Circus was built in 1819 to connect Piccadilly with John Nash’s Regent St, but when Shaftesbury Avenue was constructed in 1886 it lost its circular shape, and now that the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain has been moved from its central position to improve traffic flow, it looks quite a bit different from its original creation.

The fountain, commemorating the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, was erected in 1893, and for years I was one of many who believed that the statue on top was that of Eros, the Greek God of Love, but in actual fact it’s his brother Anteros. If the sculptor, Sir Alfred Gilbert, had created the first Greek God, Chaos, on the top it might have been less confusing and more appropriate somehow.

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