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Rapid and joyous bells

‘Oranges and lemons Say the bells of St Clements’ …is or used to be well-known as the first couplet of a nursery rhyme which featured seven churches close to the City of London. The bells of St Clement Danes ring out the tune every day. The Danes built a church at Aldwych, hence the name…

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‘March in February’ 2018

The Strand has been home to innumerable protests over the years, with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, led by Wat Tyler, creating perhaps the most enduring folk memory. Strandlines could encompass the Stop the War march of 2003 which was variously estimated to be between one and three million people, still the largest political demonstration in…

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A Canadian girl on her way to work on the Strand

In Street Haunting, Virginia Woolf describes the streets of London as having “buses strung on a chain. People fight and struggle. Knocking each other off the pavement.” On all my visits to London riding the tube in the morning to visit one art gallery or another, I would look longingly at the stylish women in…

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The changing face of (academic) retail

The empty King's Shop in November 2017

I worked at King’s College London for seven years, and I was a student there a long time before that. I have many memories of interesting projects at the College, but this post is about one in particular—in 2009 I helped to build a new retail space for the university on the corner of Surrey…

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Souvenirs on the Strand

A Strand shop window

A recent walk along the Strand in search of fidget spinners led me to start thinking about souvenirs. Sadly the Strand doesn’t feature in London-themed merchandise – it’s not as cool as the other big streets. A couple of years ago I asked a souvenir seller why he didn’t have items with the Strand? He…

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Moving Past Present: Digitally Reanimating the Gaiety Girls

Photographs from the Moving Past Present performance

In the 1890s the Strand’s Gaiety theatre became famous as the home of a new genre: the musical comedy. The brainchild of Irish impressario George Edwardes, musical comedies like A Gaiety Girl, The Shop Girl, The Quaker Girl, A Runaway Girl and The Circus Girl beguiled audiences with a mixture of songs, spectacle, romance, daring…

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Lord Nelson and the Strand

On a bright, cold afternoon at the end of January 2003 I made my way down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square in the company of American audio artist and playwright Gregory Whitehead and BBC radio producer Neil McCarthy. Ahead of us, high up on the column in Trafalgar Square and silhouetted against a clear blue…

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170 Strand with reflections of Bush House

[missing image] Morning light, early autumn.  Before becoming part of King’s College London, this building was known as Aldwych Chambers; this floor was occupied at one time by the stamp merchant Bridger & Kay—the fixing-points for the letters of their name can be seen along the architrave at the top of the photo.  It’s a…

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Childhood days in Embankment Gardens

This is my sister, Kate, eating ice cream (or is it yoghurt?) on a September day in 1982. This was a few years before I was born, but it’s evocative of my own childhood memories of the Strand. We grew up in Kent, but our parents’ roots are further North, so we would often pass…

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