Build Your Own London Seminar- Resources for Talks and Events

When we were coming to London I started by looking at a variety of courses and classes offered at places like the V&A, various universities and colleges in London including City Lit. The problem was that some were very expensive, others not quite what I wanted, the dates didn't fit our trip or they were already fully subscribed.

But the joy of London is there is just so much on all the time and you can build your own seminar around a whole range of public events, lectures, exhibits, walks and more. To give you an idea I wanted to share what we were up to over our couple of days in London and how we've constructed a range of events and talks focusing on the urban environment, architecture and planning in London. 
  1. We went on a walk  with London Walks focusing on "The Architecture of The Post- War City" which I've blogged about here. There are so many walks in London that you could create an entire study around them. There are  alternative walks, walks on the tidal Thames, walks to see street art and endless walks looking at different neighborhoods and histories. 
  2. A few days later we headed to a talk by Tom Bolton whose book Vanished City looks at ten areas that have disappeared from the A-Z. He looks at the forgotten parts of the city and reminds us what used to be there. He wrote the fascinating Lost Rivers which provides a walking guide to the forgotten rivers that traverse London. 
  3. Later in the same week we went to the Bishopsgate Institute for a  fascinating lecture on "The Seven Dark Arts of Developers". The Institute has an incredible range of courses, classes and lectures on a wide range of topics, from languages, to arts and history, it's programs are certainly worth checking out. I'm very much enjoyed the lecture which was given by the design and architecture critic for the Guardia. He focused on the gentrification of the East End and the concomitant housing crisis, stressing the ways that developers get around government targets for affordably housing  Incidentally the event was free but if you wanted tickets you needed to register early. It was an excellent introduction for us and if you are interested you can catch the podcast of the talk here.
  4. Modern architecture by Routemaster bus?!! At first this sounded to good to be true but it's really happening courtesy of a collaboration between the National Trust and the Southbank Center. You really need to search things out and though we didn't go on this it looked great. There were three tours focusing on architectural developments in London between 1945-1979, 1979-1997 and 1997-2015. The tours include entrance into buildings that normally restrict the public and transportation was be provided by a restored double decker bus, the famous old Routmasters in the original green, how fabulous is that? Here are all the details on the Roadtrip by Routmaster Programme. The London Festival of Architecture offers something similar but for three times the price!
    My point isn't to say what you could or should focus on, it's merely to say that there are some great resources out there on so many different topics. Just browsing the ticket provider Eventbrite gives you an idea of whats on in London. Look out for festivals and special event which have lots of associated events, many of which are free. For example London Craft Week  in May has piles of free or low cost  events or the Hugenot Summer Festival which has everything from walks, to music to lectures. TimeOut which is available for free on Tuesdays remains a great resource.

    Following on from our urban environment these we heard the architect Norman Foster speak at the China Exchange last week, he has designed so many great buildings including the Gherkin, the new London City Hall (below) and the fabulous roof over the Great Hall at the British Museum. If you can hold your nose through David Tang's sexist remarks (it's his salon) you can heard amazing people speak for only five pounds.
    The British Library has great events including a free tour of their conservation department. The Guildhall Library  hosts lots of free events including a free illustrated lecture on the "Impresssive Architecture and Fascinating Occupants" of the Brompton Cemetery which I'm went to a few weeks ago. In June they have a talk on Developers in the City which I've signed up for. Many of their events sell out but they have a great system that allows you to waitlist for any cancellations.

    I can also recommend the walking tours Guided by Isobel. isobel who also works with London Walks is a Blue Badge Guide and does a number of interesting walks through off-beat neighborhoods and dealing with topics like suffrage and slavery. She is an excellent guide and has a local following for her Saturday morning jaunts. 

    Equally worth seeking out is Go to London Tours led by the irrepressible Rachel. She her book  on Jewish London came out in 2012 and she leads a number of interesting tours through the East End, the center of town and lots of places you may not have heard of! Both of these guides offer interesting itineraries and they are a good place to start if you've already been to London.

    So what am I saying? I guess it's obvious, there's lots of fab stuff out there, much of it free so why not take advantage when you have time. 

    PS I'll try to do another post on walking tours as I have links for  online resources as well as walks on less common topics.