diamond geezer

 Thursday, September 09, 2010

Story of LondonI thought I'd keep you updated on the progress of the Story of London festival, given that City Hall hasn't made much of a fuss yet. Three weeks to go - still plenty of time to get the capital excited, and plenty of time to work out whether there are any events you're interested in attending. Don't bother looking at the website - it's been slightly updated since last week but not improved. Don't bother with the official Twitter feed either, because so far it's blank. You'll much prefer Ian's map, which is a much clearer way to view what's on where, and also to read all relevant text without endlessly clicking through to another page. Or, hurrah, you might prefer the 16 page leaflet that the organisers have just produced. Actually it's a Time Out production, and it shows, but everything's here in easy-to-scan good-old-fashioned print. Via a pdf, obviously.

So here are a few good and bad Story of London events, culled from the very latest online updates:

Good event: Docking at Dagenham (Fri 1 Oct, 10am-1pm; £5) "A rare chance for a guided tour of Dagenham Dock, built in 1887." [great... for anyone who's not at work on a Friday morning]
Good event: London Futures (Fri 1 Oct, 6-10pm; free) An after-hours 'Late' at the Museum of London, with tours, workshops, galleries, music and a bar [Museum of London? What's not to love?]
Bad event: Testimonies (Sat 2 Oct, 12noon-4pm; free) "Everyone is invited to write what they expect from the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games on a large Post-it note. The notes will be exhibited in the Gallery foyer at Willesden Green Centre" [all so very worthy, but as part of a festival possibly the dullest event ever]

Good event: On Our Street (9 & 10 Oct, 2pm; free) "Join performers as they act, dance and sing along Upper Street exploring the area’s heritage. Plus a film screening." [this sounds like it epitomises the heart and soul of the SoL festival]
Bad event: Beer Masterclass (Fri 8 Oct, 11am-4pm; £60) "A tutored beer appreciation course focusing on the brewing process and London ale’s role in the development of world brewing." [which costs how bloody much?!] [and this is no one-off, merely a college course grasping onto the coattails of the Story of London Festival to gain publicity]

Good event: 14th Floor Guided Walk (Sun 9 Oct, 1pm; free) "A tour about East End social housing" [OK, so this may not be floating your boat, but it's a good example of the handful of non-central events appealing to specialist local audiences]
Good event: Iconic Factories of West London (Thu 7 Oct, 6:15pm; £4) "Talk by Robert Gurd, Chair of Ealing Civic Society" [another gem of local interest, and for appreciators of Art Deco architecture everywhere]
Bad event: Digital Craftsmanship (Sun 10 Oct, 3pm; £10) "Find out how Rare Architecture used cutting-edge digital design technology to redesign Bethnal Green Town Hall" [...into a hotel, yawn] [sheesh, this sounds expensively dull]

Really bad event: London Without… Bazalgette (2, 3, 9 & 10 Oct; 9am, 1pm & 5pm; £10) A trail celebrating Joseph Bazalgette’s Victorian sewage system [sorry, it's the event I slagged off last Saturday. But there's more information now, and I can only assume that the organisers are having a laugh. You pay £10 in advance to book a place, at a web address that's been updated on the SoL website but is still wrong in the booklet. Your tenner gets you a scratch and sniff card, a taste of gin, and a two-hour guided tour. Or you can do the tour yourself, for nothing, using a pdf kindly provided online. Apparently there's also an "I-Phone app and accompanying podcast" available for download on the website, except there isn't. The tour starts on the Embankment near Cleopatra's Needle, where there's a statue to the great man. And then a 20 minute walk to the heart of Soho to see John Snow's cholera pump, which is chronologically backwards. And then 30 minutes back to the Thames to see the Albert Embankment at St Thomas' Hospital, not that this is terribly exciting. There's only one more stop, Crossness, but that's in Bexley! If you walked it would take four hours, so instead the organisers suggest you take a train (from London Bridge, despite the fact that Waterloo East is hugely closer) and then a bus from Abbey Wood (they advise the B11, although the 229 goes a lot nearer). They suggest that this train/bus combination from St Thomas' to Crossness will take about 50 minutes, although Journey Planner suggests an hour and a half at best. The whole four-stop tour will definitely take a lot more than two hours, and that's even assuming you don't once stop to look at anything. Even worse, when you reach Crossness it'll probably be shut. Even worse, if you've been stupid enough to sign up for the 5pm tour, this being October, you'll arrive at a sewage works on the banks of the Thames estuary after sunset in the dark. This is no way to spend £10, or your weekend. It strikes me that the organisers have researched four disparate locations, joined them in a sub-optimum order (via a route that's far too long and needs a train ticket), devised a podcast you can't access without an iPhone, and thrown in a scratch'n'sniff card to try justify the £10 charge. At best they're well-meaning but impractical. At worst they're inept opportunists using the Story of London Festival to try to earn as much money as possible for minimum outlay. I'm actually tempted to sign up for this just to see how much of a shambles it is. But I'd recommend you don't bother]


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