Weekend roundup for 9 July
Featuring sad slides, startling seagulls and Slavic firestarters
Well it’s been a hell of a week for anyone trying to keep up with the news, but you’ll be glad to know that this week’s roundup is mercifully free(ish) of anything Johnson-related. Instead we’ve got Big Ben’s bongs, baby tigers, bees and buffalo curd swirls. (Fair warning, we’ll have a bit of a ‘What all this means for London’ piece in Monday’s issue).
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👁️ If you were anywhere near Oxford Circus onThursday you might have seen the Met deploying live facial recognition, just a few days after an independent review said that use of the technology in public spaces should be banned. It didn’t take very long for the reasons behind that advice to become apparent:
🖼️ Before the news cycle got completely jammed up, climate protestors were continuing their strategy of gluing themselves to old paintings. On Monday two people attached themselves to The Hay Wain by John Constable at the National Gallery, and a day later four Just Stop Oil activists glued their hands to the Last Supper in the Royal Academy (a subtle message to Boris Johnson maybe?).
🦶 The latest count of central London’s footfall is out and the numbers aren’t great. After a bit of a Jubilee spike, things started to lag a bit in the last week of June when high streets saw nearly 20% less people than they did in 2019 (and it’s likely to stay around 15% lower throughout the year as the cost-of-living crisis kicks in).
🧮 Sadiq Khan’s claim that moving City Hall to the Royal Docks would “save £61m over the next five years,” might not have been entirely accurate. The GLA’s Oversight Committee has had a look at the numbers and have come up with a figure closer to £37m.
🏗️ Talking of the Royal Docks, The Millennium Mills building in Silvertown is going to get a £3.5bn restoration that will create “7 million square feet of residential and commercial space… 6,000 new homes and 10,000 new jobs.” The former flour mill has been derelict since 1981, but that hasn’t stopped it having a decent TV and movie career with bit parts in The Batman, Spider-Man: Far From Home and…. erm, the video for Coldplay’s Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall.
🔔 Ahead of Big Ben getting its bong on again this summer, the New York Times has a very nice article (with some great photos) on the recent restoration (we had no idea that the company who restored it had to keep the whole thing a secret and told people it was the clock from Manchester Town Hall).
📈 Someone crunched the data from one of those flat sharing sites, and it seems that the cost of renting a room (not a flat, a room!) in London is now over £800 per month.
🏚️ There’s been quite a few Houses of Parliament problems this week, but the one the Guardian’s architecture critic, Rowan Moore is most interested is that “the Palace of Westminster could be Britain’s Notre Dame” i.e. It wouldn’t take a lot for it to go up in smoke, especially as there’s water leaking into the electrical cupboards. (For more on this see our recent issue about stuff in London that’s falling down).
🚲 In an attempt to try and meet its climate goals Amazon has opened a ‘micromobility hub’ in Hackney so it can start delivering packages by e-bike and on foot for the first time (in the UK at least). The company reckons that this will mean they can make “more than a million deliveries a year” this way instead of using vans. The ultimate aim is to deliver half of all packages with net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.
📶 Vodafone and O2 are joining the Tube wifi party. The carriers have joined EE and Three to offer 4G and 5G across the entire Underground, starting with Camden Town, Euston, Bank, Oxford Circus, and Tottenham Court Road at the end of this year.
🚳The Cycle To Work scheme is “not working for London” according to Labour’s London Assembly Transport spokesperson. Elly Baker says the scheme is “outdated and frankly no longer fit for purpose” and it needs “wholesale reform” to help boost “affordable, healthy and greener travel options for Londoners”.
🐯 Time for a cute animal break. London Zoo has shared the first video footage of the three Sumatran tiger cubs which were born there last month.
Is this the saddest playground in London?
Art and culture bits
🐦 Jamie Lloyd’s take on Chekhov’s The Seagull (starring Emilia Clarke) was one of our theatrical ‘things to look forward to in 2022’ and it looks like that optimism was well placed. In the Guardian Arifa Akbar says it’s “not Chekhov as we know it, nor theatre as we know it,” with “actors stand[ing] almost lifeless, moving forward for a scene and back again.” But this “dangerous and daring” approach apparently works and Akbar awards the play four stars. It’s another four stars in the Standard (“an exciting break with tradition, converting its star power into a darker, weirder, and more satisfying kind of energy”) and the same mark from Time Out (“the ostensibly subdued performances are all gripping and often startlingly original”). The i goes one better and awards five stars, calling it “a brutally beautiful reimagining”.
🤒 The Old Vic recently had to refund everyone who bought tickets to see Timothy Chalamet in 4,000 Miles, but those who took gift vouchers might want to use them to go and see Helen Hunt in Eureka Day. The play, which is due to open in September, is about the “outbreak of a highly contagious virus” (mumps) in a a liberal school in California.
💰A couple of months ago we talked to Caroline Knowles about her new book Serious Money: Walking Plutocratic London. This week Iain Sinclair used the book as the starting point for one of his legendary London walks and then wrote a 6,000 word article for the London Review of Books about it.
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