Category Archives: London


London, capital city of the UK and England, home of the West End Theatre and 2012 Olympics

Arc Royal to extend London City Airport
London Cable Car May Go Ahead
Wanstead Flats Campaign
How To Steal Back Time
Enlightenment at Hampstead Theatre and Deathtrap
Open Plaques Open Day
Ten More Things to do in London on Bank Holidays

London, capital city of the UK and England, home of the West End Theatre and 2012 Olympics

Arc Royal to extend London City Airport

An article in the Daily Mail Online reports that the decommissioned air craft carrier Arc Royal could be ‘saved’ and used as a helipad in London. The intended location turns out to be right next to London City Airport, in effect providing an instant additional runway to the controversial inner city airfield within the London borough of Newham.

Ark Royal could be saved from the scrapheap under plans to turn it into a heliport.

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier, axed in last October’s defence cuts and due to be decommissioned next month, could be based on the Thames by May 2012.

The 693ft vessel would be manned by around 150 former servicemen, for whom it would be both a home and a job, and would cater for City workers, police helicopters and London’s air ambulance.

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the head of the Navy, said the move could safeguard the future of the carrier, and the Ministry of Defence  confirmed it was considering the plan.

Currently in Portsmouth, the ship would be moored in the Royal Docks near City Airport to comply with noise-pollution rules.

HMS Illustrious at Greenwich

Photo: HMS Illustrious at Greenwich

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London Cable Car May Go Ahead


See also:  London Cable Car
Planning applications for a new London cable car crossing over the Thames linking 2012 Olympic venues in east London have been submitted by Transport for London. TfL has submitted the plans to both Newham and Greenwich borough councils proposing that a London Cable Car station be built a few hundred metres from the O2 arena. The scheme, which it is hoped will be in operation by 2012, is designed to cut journey times between the arena and the ExCel exhibition centre – both of which will be venues for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

More information and video:

  • thisislondon/cable-cars-over-thames-a-high-way-to-the-east
  •  plans outlined_for_boris johnson’s_cable_car_scheme_over_london
  • Gondola Project

Here’s the impressionistic video to give an idea of what the ride on the London cable car will feel like from Summer 2012. It’s going to be called the Emirates Air Line by the way.

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Wanstead Flats Campaign

Join us for ‘Take Back Wanstead Flats’ on 2pm on Sunday 21 November. The Save Wanstead Flats campaign plans to use wooden stakes and tape to mark out the boundaries of the proposed police base on the Flats, in order to show just how much space it will swallow up in 2012. Maps or drawings can never make as much sense as… seeing its massive size for yourself but we’d prefer not to wait until construction starts and it’s too late… to stop these plans.

Facebook: Protect-Wanstead-Flats-and-Epping-Forest

As you can see from the publicity, the message behind this event also harkens back to the historical opposition by local people to enclosure of the Flats. We hope people will see this as an opportunity to come along and celebrate in their own way our right to enjoy our open spaces – although it is late November, so we do recommend that people wrap up warmly!

Leaflets available to download from and A3 posters from – please ask local shops and businesses to put up a poster, or stick one up in your window (but no flyposting please, as it gets some of us in all sorts of trouble!)

Take Back Wanstead Flats

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How To Steal Back Time

I cannot believe that the theft of the hands of Big Ben in London can go unnoticed like this.

Whoever the “Time Association” are, they must be stopped from interfering with any more of our famous landmark icons here in London. So the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street and St Paul’s will all be under special surveillance tonight.

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Enlightenment at Hampstead Theatre and Deathtrap

I’m going to see a play called “Enlightenment” at the Hampstead Theatre in London on Monday.

I don’t really know much about the play “Enlightenment” apart from the slightly worrying description “a mesmeric psychological thriller” and this trailer video here:

I’ll probably come back here and let you know how the play went next week.

Trailer videos for plays are becoming quite the thing, but I wonder how apt it is to make a very filmic piece of media to represent live theatre, which is a very different kind of thing entirely.

Another example is the poster campaign for Deathtrap , another thriller play but also a comedy, which includes showing the outdoor gravedigging scene on camera, when the live stage play takes place entirely indoors in one room.


Yes, that’s Simon Russel Beale, The current Home Secretary in Spooks, pushing the wheelbarrow with Jonathan Groff in it.

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Open Plaques Open Day

No breakfast before going out on a Saturday!?  The reason why I was in a hurry to leave the house early yesterday was to get to the Open Plaques Open Day at the Centre for Creative Collaboration near Kings Cross Station.

Centre for Creative Collaboration - Venue for Open Plaques day

I know the venue from the Tuttle club, which I have attended once or twice there. The Open Day was due to kick off at 09.50 with a presentation by Frankie Roberto about “How We Got To Where We Are” which I didn’t want to miss. Well, I did manage to get there in time, despite the fact there were no trains at all on the Circle, Hammersmith and City, and District Lines in that direction. (Weekends are a bad time to get about in London, midweek breaks are better).

So Frankie talked a bit about how he sent out a tweet once wondering if there was a database somewhere of Blue Plaques, and how the answers came in suggesting things, none of which were at all adequate. The best resource available was a single page on one of the plaque erecting organisation  sites. So he scraped the list into a database and started trying to parse it into meaningful data, using his linguistics abilities.


Lenin by Simon Harriyott - Plaque #2210

Another useful source of information would be the pictures on Flickr, and these could be geotagged which then provided a link into the new Open Plaques database. Once the people at Flickr had made a blog post about the Open Plaques group and integrated the special tag

ging into Flickr itself, then there was no turning back. Open Plaques could not be switched off, it was now more than just an experiment. The provision of an api to send the data out again meant that satellite applications could be built by creative people

and these would find new and unthought of uses for the growing system. There was also a graph which showed the steady growth in numbers of plaques added during the lifetime of the project. This graph could be expected to turn dramatically upwards once there is an easy way to add new plaques, which at present requires somebody from the “core team” to do it!

Morning Agenda

09:50 – 10:05 – Frankie Roberto, ‘The Story So Far’
10:05 – 10:20 – Ian Ozsvald, ‘The OCR Challenge
10:20 – 10:35 – Richard Vahrman, ‘Games based on Open Plaques data’
10:35 – 10:50 – Emily Toop, ‘Open Plaques the iPhone app

Next up we had Ian Ozsvald using a subset of the pictures of plaques as an AI research project to see how well they could get OCR software to recognise the writing in the plaques. This makes a nice real world example dataset which can help to advance the science of artificial intelligence and character recognition in the real world. The vision is that one day soon you will be able to simply wave your phone camera about in a room and it will automatically detect any faces present, take a picture of each of them and store it with their names and the geolocation of the place on a map, as well as read any text that is being displayed in the room, on the walls or from a projector for example, and store that as well with the date, time, place and list of attendees etc. It can’t be done yet, but this will be mainstream in just a few years, he said. Is that scary? Then an iPhone app which is being built to show all the plaques nearby as pins on a map which you can get information about. The future is mobile, and anybody who isn’t intending to get a smart phone within the next twelve months might as well just go and live in a cave somewhere, cut off from all of technical society. And a mobile app that turns it into a game, which has gone through some transitions. Based on a treasure trail type model, the app ended up giving out directions for how to get to the next plaque, so that was just too easy and not fun. The clever idea was to take a picture with your back to the plaque, of the view from the plaque as it were, which can then be used in a “Guess where Plaque” game, with the numbers on the plaques adding up to link references which tells you where the pub is. Some of the people just wanted to take a short cut to the pub though, which is fair enough.

So then we broke up into groups to try and further the project from different angles. One team discussed the future direction from from the developers point of view, one looked at design I think, and the group I joined discussed content. We brainstormed about “who are the different types of users” who may have an interest in Open Plaques, both current and potential, came out with some wistful ideas for addons and expansion, hammered out the concept of what a plaque is, looked at the different page types, the additional information that could be included within the database or on a specific page, and suggested new functions and concepts. If it came down to just one new facility that would make the biggest difference that would be the ability to Nominate a New Plaque which would then sit alongside the existing plaques as a ‘virtual plaque’. I chose this as the most important because it’s a disruptive move which takes the initiative out of the hands of the few organisations who very slowly make the decisions as to which locations or historical figures are worthy of a plaque, and puts it into the hands of the ordinary person, or the ordinary Open Plaques user. It was interesting to note that most of the small group of people present, some of whom admitted to being mildly obsessed with plaques, one who described herself as being a “plaques widow” and half of whom seemed to come from Brighton, all had a clear idea that somewhere out there would be the “ordinary Open plaques user” for whom the grand service is being refined and must be orientated. What the ordinary user, should such a group of people come into being at some point, will make out of of all this, of course has yet to be seen.

I found the whole topic a lot more interesting than I had originally anticipated to be honest, and far from feeling that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, did my best to add in and highlight what I felt to be the most pertinent ideas. Using the theory of Social Objects it seems fairly clear that the principal page type and the url at which the casual visitor arrives should be the plaque itself rather than the person or place. The verbs then need to encourage contributions in order to help build out the community around plaques in general, and perhaps temporarily around individual plaques, probably asynchronously. “Add a Plaque”   “Edit this Page” or even “check in here” are contenders for prominent verbs on the page, but you have to remember that this is a small and in some ways unlikely project, that just happens to have gained enough momentum to become sustainable, but is unlikely to attract enormous resources for development and maintenance. Definitely something to keep an eye on though.

Open Plaques Open Day on other blogs:

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Ten More Things to do in London on Bank Holidays

Things to do in London August Bank Holiday Weekend

Things to do in London

Things to do in London

With another Bank Holiday coming up and the weather looking typical for August, I thought I’d compile another inspiring ten things to do in London. Some are obvious but worthwhile, while others are more unusual things to do in London that you might not know about and some are relatively topic so check the dates before you make detailed plans. Here’s the jump list:

Ten Things to do in London

  1. Visit the Maps Exhibition at the British Library
  2. Take the ferry from Richmond to Twickenham
  3. Visit the biggest Apple Store in the World at London Covent Garden.
  4. Eat Vietnamese food in Kingsland Road, Dalston
  5. See the ship in a bottle at Trafalgar Square
  6. See a hundred objects at the British Museum
  7. Go on a Skyscraper hunt
  8. Hire a blue bike
  9. Eat authentic Mexican food at Wacaca
  10. Travel on the new London Overground to Croydon

Visit the Maps Exhibition at the British Library

There’s a free exhibition at the British Library which is next to London St Pancras Station. Called “Magnificent Maps – Power, Propaganda and Art”  the exhibition features plenty of old historical maps which are fine works of art as much as political history.

Magnificent Maps

Magnificent Maps

Of interest in particular to Londoners is a modern work called “The Island” which is a giant sketch map of London depicted as an island with all sorts of strange comments and illustrations written on top of your favourite neighbourhoods. Where I live for example is written most curiously “Wikipedia, yeah right!” I’ve no idea why. Zoom in and scroll around at the site below:

Take the Ferry from Richmond to Twickenham

One of my favourite destinations for sunny days out in London is Richmond on Thames, because the tide never goes right out thanks to a weir across the river. It’s also possible to take a pleasure boat circle trip up around teddington locks, past all the islands which is nice, but my recommendation this time is to go a bit further on foot then cross the river by passenger ferry. This is just a little boat with an outboard motor that crosses the river Thames from one bank to the other. Cost £1 single. You may have to wait around for the boatman if the crossing is not busy. The reason why I would recommend this is because it’s a lovely way to approach the old part of Twickenham, which has many delights. The walk along the river upstream from Richmond to where the little passenger ferry docks is about one mile, and once on the other side you are only a few hundred yards from the beginnings of Twickenham with York House gardens a must see. There are several nice places for lunch or refreshments too. Returning to the Richmond side, you might visit Ham House as well if you like these sort of grand places.

Visit the biggest Apple Store in the World at London Covent Garden.

Opening hours Mon – Sat: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm, Noon – 6:00 pm on Sundays

I might just forgive the Apple Store in London’s Regent Street for being a bit chaotic, overcrowded and understocked recently if the new Apple Store at Covent Garden is the culprit. Said to be the biggest in the world, the Covent Garden shop is Apple’s 300th retail outlet worldwide and 28th in the UK. The Apple store in Covent Garden has 300 staff, and certainly looks the business, with a glass roof, two imposing glass staircases, and huge York stone arches. And of course loads of demo Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPods to play with, along with dedicated rooms where training and workshops on Apple products take place.

Eat Vietnamese food in Kingsland Road, Dalston

Best place to eat Vietnamese food in London, with a choice of nearly a dozen authentic Vietnamese restaurants and cafes in close proximity, near to the Geoffrye museum and not so far from Columbia Road flower market which is open on Sundays. The food in these places is wonderfully fragrant with special herbs, fresh chilli and lime juice. Go for the green papaya salads, lotus root salad or Beef noodle soup. Yum.

beef noodle soup

beef noodle soup

See the ship in a bottle at Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar square is worth a visit anytime, and there’s often something different taking place within the landmark. For example quire recently, the amazing walk-in life size maze of green hedges. The different events at the heart of the maze included a showcase from some of the cast of the West End show Priscilla Queen of the Desert, a giant paper dragon show from Chinatown and a Carnaby Street-inspired 60s party.
While you’re at Trafalgar Square, check out the giant ship in a bottle on the fourth plinth. If there’s a rainshower, nip in to the National Gallery and have a posh afternoon tea snack in the rooftop restaurant with views across London.
Ship In A Bottle Trafalgar Square Fourth Plinth

See a hundred objects at the British Museum

The BBC Radio 4 programme “A history of the world in 100 objects” has brought a whole new interest into any visit to the British museum, and if you’ve been listening, then you’ll want to track down some of the 100 objects on display, which are all well signposted. On the outside of the building there is the South African garden planted by Kew but on my last visit I though it was already just past its best, so once the bank holiday is over this may not be the best attraction.

Go on a Skyscraper hunt

London skyscraper
There are several new skyscrapers in London in the process of being built and it may be of interest to catch the changing skyline by spotting as many as you can during one visit. Eventually the public viewing gallery in the Shard at London Bridghe will become one of the most spectacular things to do in London.

Hire a blue bike

blue bike hire

The much talked about London blue bicycle hire scheme is now live in London and you will see people getting around on these contraptions and wonder what it’s like to pick up a bike in one place and then just leave it somewhere else instead of having to worry about it. Well you can’t try it out as a guest yet, unless you have to foresight to register for a card beforehand, so why not visit the TFL site and get signed up now.

Eat authentic Mexican food at Wahaca

Wahaca is a mexican food chain started up by the same people who originally ran Wagamama, the Californian/Japanese noodle bars that were all the rage in the 1990s. This isn’t your average tex/mex greasy fast food mince and beans though, it’s more like a genuine Mexican market cuisine with interesting flavours and contrasting textures including plenty of fresh citrus and salad. The service is also very congenial without being intrusive, which I like.

Wahaca Covent Garden
66 Chandos Place
Covent Garden
London WC2N 4HG

Travel on the new London Overground to Croydon

The old East London Line Tube has been revamped and extended as part of the London Overground network with a new station at Shoreditch High Street from where you can travel to either Dalston Kingsland to the North, or way across to West Croydon, south of the river.

More Things to do in London on Bank Holidays

The ideas listed above may not be original but they’re mine. For loads more ideas of things to do in London, you might read the blog “Tired of London, Tired of Life

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Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about London on the DARnet Blog