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Portraits of London's 19th century poor


Thomas Lord Busby's 1820 volume Costume Of The Lower Orders was part of a genre of books that featured colourful paintings depicting working people in the streets of London, generally viewed through the lens of an aristocratic voyeur. They're a kind of visual companion to Mayhew's classic London Labour and the London Poor (though this latter dates 20 years after Busby's book).

Another important volume is Thomas Rowlandson's Characteristic Series of the Lower Orders, which Spitalfields Life has excerpted in two posts (1, 2).

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City of London Police told they can't just take away domains because Hollywood doesn't like them


The City of London is a curiosity; it's the financial district within London proper, and it has its own local government, which is elected by the banks and other corporations within the district. This (literally) corporate-run government then operates its own police force, separate from the Metropolitan Police, with sweeping powers.

The City of London Police recently gave themselves the power to seize domains that they believed were implicated in copyright violation, and started sending officious letters to domain registrars demanding that the domains be shut down. This was a purely extrajudicial, ad-hoc procedure -- in other words, the City of London Police were just making it up. The letters they sent had no force in law, cited no evidence from a court, and were unenforceable.

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Mat Ricardo's one-man mime show in London's West End, Jan 21-25

Mat Ricardo writes, "Very happy to announce that my new one man show 'Showman' is running for a week in London's West End as part of the London International Mime Festival. I've been a fan (and customer) of the Mime Fest for more than a decade, so I'm really happy to be involved this year - in spite of not being a mime artist, and having a show that sees me talk pretty much from beginning to end!"

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Council's Xmas card to social housing tenants: don't spend your rent money on booze


London's Hammersmith and Fulham Council sent a "Christmas card" to its social housing tenants that implied that they would squander their rent money on booze. The council insists the card wasn't intended to be insulting -- rather, it was meant as a "hard hitting" reminder that to call the council's helpline if you are struggling with your rent money.

Record numbers of Britons are living in fuel- and food-poverty, a condition that continues to worsen in the face of cuts to benefits and the rise of jobs that pay sub-poverty wages for full-time employment. The council sent the card to 17,000 households (including tenants who'd never fallen behind in their rent) at an expense of £2,000.

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New London police powers: the right to bite


Britons, take note: Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives has a timely reminder about the London Police's new powers. The new biting powers will be useful alongside the ASBO, detention without charge, the right to seize domain names, illegal harvesting of innocent peoples' DNA, the right to arrest you for reading things that might help terrorists, the right to kettle legal demonstrations, the right to shoot people in the street, the right to beat people standing near demonstrations to death, the right to arrest you for taking pictures that might help terrorists, and all the other legal doctrines that are so consistent with all the invisible words in our "unwritten constitution."

New Police Powers (via Boing Boing Flickr Pool)

English Pen's privacy/surveillance debate in London

Jo from English Pen writes, "Thanks to Edward Snowden's leaks about the secret surveillance of all our communications by intelligence services in the UK and US, privacy is one of the biggest stories of the day. None of us can be sure now that our emails or phone calls are ever confidential, so this is something we should all be worried about. At English PEN there's a discussion next Wednesday 11 December at 630pm, with some experts on the subject and it should be a lively debate - with writer Alan Judd, former MI6 director for operations Nigel Inkster and Ian Brown, director of the Oxford Internet Institute. It's chaired by English PEN's director Jo Glanville at the Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3GA." Cory 1

Abandoned and hidden tube stations beneath London.


Tom writes, "Subterranean London is a strange and fascinating world, a labyrinth of underground tunnels that range from Victorian sewers to wartime bunkers. Among them is the famous London Underground network, known as the Tube due to the shape of its deep level tunnels. The network boasts around 40 ghost stations, from including entire stations that closed decades ago as well as disused platforms hidden behind iron gates in still operational hubs. This article looks at 13 of London's most impressive abandoned underground stations."

If you like this, check out Peter Laurie's classic Beneath the City Streets, a comprehensive list of subterranean shelters, bunkers, tunnels, and tubes (I drew on it heavily for Pirate Cinema).

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Museum display of toys confiscated from London schoolchildren


A British teacher and artist named Guy Tarrant has assembled two cases' worth of toys confiscated from London schoolchildren, soliciting them from fellow teachers. The collection represents items from 150 schools and 30 years, and is on display at the excellent Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. The Childhood Museum is very close to my home, and it's one of my favourite London museums -- I like it better, even, than its enormous parent institution, the V&A down in South Kensington.

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Venn menu


Spotted this morning at London's Giddyup Coffee in Fortune Park (near the Barbican): this terrific Venn diagram/grill menu. Haven't tried Giddyup's grill, but it's my daily morning coffee, and it is spectacular.

Betrayers' Banquet: gourmet dining vs the Prisoner's Dilemma


Ed writes, "The Betrayers' Banquet is an experimental dining experience from London, where guests play the iterated prisoner's dilemma to win a better or worse meal. Each of the 48 participants is served eight different courses over two hours; two starters, four mains and two desserts. While all dishes are edible, their allure differs considerably between the top and the bottom of the table; those at the top will enjoy a fine dining experience to match any in London, while those at the bottom will grapple with pickled walnuts, chicken's feet soup, lumpy gruel, and worse."

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Should you short the London property bubble?


Economist Tim Harford answers my question: How would you short the London property bubble? in a column that also asks the important question: should you?

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How would you short London?

Here's a finance riddle: how would you short London's property bubble? House prices are up GBP50K in the last six months, our freeholder is making noises about either buying or forcing us out in order to build a giant tower, and they sold off Scotland Yard (!). They say the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, and I've been marvelling at the irrationality of London's property market since I moved there in 2003. Just for the sake of argument, if you wanted to put a bet down on a property value crash, how would you make it? Cory 91

Feed the Beast: London's extreme horror-cake shop opens with an edible devil-horse


Miss Cakehead writes, "Feed The Beast, the world's most extreme cake sho,p is open. Guests coming along will be able to see, and feast on the 'flesh' of, this showstopper cake by The Tattooed Bakers - a Devil Horse cake dripping in rum, literally. The beast has Kraken Rum pouring from its nose into a skull-surrounded font. It was cut open by the mighty Kraken Hunter and guests at the opening party who wanted a top up could simply place their glass under the stream for an instant supply of The Kraken Rum. It took The Tattooed Bakers over 200 hours to complete, shown in the stunning attention to detail, and anatomically correct detailing. The cake flesh was of course made from red velvet."

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Cthulhu visits a Waterstones

The WaterstonesOxfordSt Twitter account is staffed by someone pretty darned funny, as evidenced by The Call of Cthulhu, a series of tweets describing what happened when a patron read aloud from the Necronomicon and unleashed an Elder God.

The Call of Cthulhu (via Seanan)

South London school bans "slang"


An "Academy School" (like US charter schools) in south London has banned "slang" from its student body, under the mistaken apprehension that English has a language academy that determines what is and is not correct speech. The argument is that privileged British people look down on people who talk "poor" -- using words like "woz" and "ain't" -- and that the inability to code-switch into rich-person's English makes it harder to get a job. There is some validity to this (that is, rich people are indeed bigoted against poor people), but my experience in my own neighbourhood is that people are perfectly capable of code-switching to formal registers if they want to.

In the meantime, the school is throttling the expressive potential of their kids' English (as a writer, it's totally obvious to me that "I wasn't doing nuffink" has a totally different flavour from "I did nothing" or "It wasn't me").

Academy Schools have a lot of freedom to diverge from the curriculum, to hire unusual instructors, and to try variations on school meals and other conventions. In theory, this makes room for schools that are freer and more student-oriented. In practice, many of them are run by Young Earth Creationists who teach that the universe is 5,000 years old; or sell sugary drinks and candy bars as a source of profit for the school's investors; or do sweetheart deals with preferred suppliers for mandatory, overpriced school uniforms that include some form of kickback for the school; or hire totally unqualified ideologues to teach the kids.

Academies are "selective schools," meaning that they can suck all the high-scoring kids out of the local state schools, which brings down the average performance of the state schools, costing them budget and ensuring that parents will try to keep their kids out of them. And Academies are only accountable to the national government, instead of the local council, so if your local Academy is screwed up, your only real remedy is to ask your MP to raise a question about it in Parliament.

It's great if your neighbourhood Academy is a progressive hotbed of exciting educational ideas that uses community-based experts in its instruction and grows a garden to supplement the school dinners. But if it's a rent-seeking hotbed of loony Creationism and dumb ideas about policing language, it's still likely to be the only game in town for your kids, after the state school has been drained of any kid with the chance to go somewhere else, and then punished for failing.

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