» Over the weekend I went to the Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered exhibition at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. It was really good, a thought-provoking collection of board games through the ages, from the precursors of chess to modern collaborative games. The treasures on display included several variants of The Game of the Goose, one of the original copies of Monopoly, and a whole load of classics I used to play with my family (Buccaneer!Mouse Trap!Blast Off!). There were also board games to sit down and play, and I learnt the word 'boustrophedon', which means 'from right to left and from left to right in alternate lines', and describes the route of play on a snakes and ladders board. Hats off to the team who put this comprehensive exhibition together. Unfortunately it closed on Sunday after a six month run, so you can't go today (but it will be popping up again in Maidstone, Southampton and Chichester over the next year).
» Over the weekend I went to the Mapping the Hamlets exhibition at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives in Mile End. It was damned excellent, a collection of 30 historical maps of the borough of the kind that only a local council would own. From estate maps showing individual properties to borough-wide maps showing bombsites, public houses and/or places of worship, there was a great deal to peruse. I loved the detailed 1703 map showing the entire area east of Whitechapel as separate fields, criss-crossed by the occasional lane and footpath which would later become busy thoroughfares. I loved the administrative maps, showing that the boundaries of the borough have remained remarkably constant over time, and the architects' maps showing new-born residential streets long since redeveloped, alongside a thumbnail of what's there now. But most of all I loved poring over the cartographic detail, at sites all across Tower Hamlets and closer to home, on a diverse selection of fragile documents you'd never normally see online. If you're local or love maps, particularly both, do go, indeed I've already decided to go again. Mapping the Hamlets can be viewed any weekday or on the first and third Saturdays of the month, with late opening until 8pm on Thursdays. The (free) launch party is tomorrow at 6pm, with a talk from the curator, and the exhibition's open until 23rd June so you have plenty of time to remember to visit.
» Over the weekend I went to Lea River Park: a new landscape for London at the Building Centre in Bloomsbury. It was really interesting, an extensive look at what's planned along the lower reaches of the river Lea to open up the riverside to the wider public. Some of the displays covered what's been built already, including a model of the Twelvetrees Ramp, but the majority looked forward to projected walkways, bridges and links that should finally appear along Bow Creek during the next few years. A lot of this is related to the Leaway project, formerly the Fatwalk, a southward extension of the Lea Valley Walk that's been on the drawing board for over a decade but thus far only made it as far as Cody Dock. Seeing actual plans and actual artist's impressions of each separate element gave me some confidence that the Leaway might one day be completed, and a delight to follow, but also a catalyst to kickstart major housing development along these downriver banks. I found the exhibition fascinating because I'm local and have been watching this landscape for years, and if you might too then be warned that the it closes tomorrow, so best hurry.