Last chance to ice skate at Canary Wharf

Tired of the cold yet? No? Well head on down to the last weekend of ice skating at Canary Wharf.

The ice rink is closing on Sunday, February 20 – so get your skates on (quite literally) before it’s over for another year.

Learn to skate amongst the towers above on the 720-metre-square rink, or watch from the bar or viewing gallery.

The rink is open 9:45am-11pm on Saturday, and 9:45am-7:30pm on Sunday.  Last entry to the rink is an hour before closing.

Tickets are £12 or £9 conecssions, and that includes the hire of the skates.

The ice rink is located at Canada Square Park.

Nearest Tube: Canada Square DLR

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Great Spitalfields Pancake Race

Mmmm pancakes.  Stuffing your face with them doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with exercise – but the Great Spitalfields Pancake Race is all in the name of fun.

And charity.

It might seem a while away – Pancake Day is on March 8 this year – but  if you’re up for it, you and 3 team-mates can race up and down Dray Walk to raise money for the London Air Ambulance.  Email or call 020 7375 0441 to enter or for more information.

That’s about a month to get in training!

After you’ve worked up an appetite after all that running, you can always reward yourself and eat the pancake – providing you didn’t drop it along the way….

Aside from pride and glory, the winners receive an engraved frying pan for their efforts.

The race goes from the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, starting at 12:30pm.

Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street

 

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Filed under E London, Food & Drink, Historical, Local interest

Gloomy Valentines

It’s that time of year again, Valentines Day is just around the corner.  If you’re single though FEAR NOT.  Feeling Gloomy and Down With Dating are here to save the day.

Tonight you can head down to o2 Academy Islington and drown your sorrows/meet your future love from 8pm.

The evening is split into two parts:

Feeling Gloomy embrace single behaviour on Valentines

Part One is organised by Down With Dating and is a speed hating and blind hate event.  No – that’s not a typo.

Speed Hating works the same as speed dating, but you get to rant about all the things you dislike about the world, and hope the person opposite you feels the same way.

Blind Hate works as if Cilla were there in person, asking you questions like “If I left you how would you take your revenge on my beloved pet kitten?”

Surprisingly, many people have found love through these events…

Part Two is brought to you by Feeling Gloomy, who will play you sad songs to let you remember your singledom.  Expect heartbreakers like Tainted Love and classic hairbrush sing-along song Total Eclipse of the Heart.

To add insult to injury, dead flowers will be scattered around the room, along with tissues to dry those eyes, and favourite divorce film Kramer vs Kramer will be screened on the wall throughout the evening.

Down With Dating starts at 8pm; Feeling Gloomy starts at 10:30pm.

Down With Dating tickets are £10 advance, whilst Feeling Gloomy tickets are £4.50 adv, £6 before midnight, £8 after, NUS £5.

All tickets are available from Feeling Gloomy or Down With Dating – or call 0844 477 2000

Nearest Tube: Angel

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East End shadows & Soho Star-Spotting

Mike Bradley http://www.brilliamstv.com

A popular perception of what Jack The Ripper might have looked like

The Jack the Ripper tour is a great atmospheric way to walk the murky footsteps of the Ripper who completed five murders in a short space of time in London’s East End. The murders were committed mainly over the summer months, so film-fans, I’m afraid to say a great deal of poetic and historic licence has been taken in the many Ripper gore-fest films as there would have been no fog or mist shrouding that suspicious figure lurking in the shadows. Further information reveals any well dressed psychopath would definitely not have worn a cloak or tall hat at that time as neither were in fashion.

Our guide on the night revealed many of the stop-off points on the walk were still used as filming venues and she had glimpsed Gywneth Paltrow in costume not far from Brick Lane. Priced at only £7 per person, our walk was booked through Jack The Ripper Walk and represented excellent value for money.

Having completed the walk, we checked into the Dean Street Townhouse, high in glamour and low in price providing you’re lucky enough to book one of the ‘Tiny’ rooms at £95 per night. We were lucky, very lucky, to secure such a deal and have as yet been unable to repeat the feat.

The room was extremely cosy with what felt like fine Egyptian cotton sheets along with a wide array of snacks and peanuts in the mini bar. Warning: please don’t repeat our mistake and scoff the nuts thinking they’re free. They’re not, and £17 is a lot to spend on munchies. On the plus side the bathroom is full of fragrant Cowshed products which are free to use in the room – but come with a hefty price tag should you attempt to stuff them into your toiletry bag.

Popular with celebs, Quentin Tarantino had been spotted in the restaurant but he was nowhere to be seen during our stay. On the plus side we did manage to rub shoulders with Tracy Emin’s pencil drawing as we tucked into a full English Breakfast at £11 per head. Coffee and water were complimentary as was the loud business meeting at the next table we were forced to endure for the duration of our breakfast.

Soho Celeb-Spotting

Dean Street Townhouse is perfectly placed if you’re a celebrity spotter and Soho has always reaped great rewards for the ardent star stalker. I’ve seen Ricky Gervais twice, Jarvis Cocker, I’ve sat behind Ricky Hatton at Patisserie Valerie (just round the corner on Old Compton Street) whilst Bill Nighy and Michelle Dewsberry walked by, not together I hasten to add.

I’ve sat inside Patisserie Valerie and watched David Bailey and wife Catherine stroll in, Howard Jacobson brushed past me too and last time I was there former Heartbeat actor Jason Durr was talking loudly in a mid Atlantic drawl to his equally loud American friend. And that was weird, the real life Mike Bradley sat behind an actor who made a name for himself playing a character called…Mike Bradley.

Soho is home to numerous post-production houses where everyone does their voice-overs or catches up with their agents. I’ve seen Mike Leigh and Lenny Henry there too. You can observe the comings and goings at the Groucho Club on Dean Street or The Ivy on West Street and my tip would be to keep your eyes peeled at all times.

Scott’s Restaurant, Mount Street, Mayfair is where Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi are often papped. It’s a posh fish restaurant. We lunched there but were disappointed to only rub shoulders with the many businessmen tucking into their fish and chips. Nigella was nowhere to be seen but photographer Terry O’Neill did pop in so all was not lost.

Frank Finlay hopping on the tube, Josie Lawrence hurrying down Oxford Street, I tell you, the stars are everywhere!

 

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Filed under Central London, E London, Local interest

Hop into the year of the Rabbit

Kung hei fat choi!

That’s happy new year to you and me, yes – we’ve made it through to another Chinese New Year.  One of my favourite times of year, there are plenty of ways to get involved and see what makes it so special.

Thursday, Feb 3 and Friday, Feb 4

Burlesque dancer

Chinese New Year Cabaret

For an alternative way to see in the new year, head on down to Volupte to see Marianne Cheesecake host Suri Sumatra and Rachel Ong as they bellydance and burlesque their way through the evening.

There are two shows starting at 6:30pm and 9:30pm at Volupte, 9 Norwich Street.  It’s £15 entry.

Nearest Tube: Chancery Lane

Saturday, Feb 5

Drop-in Day

The National Portrait Gallery is holding its annual Chinese New Year drop-in day.  I went to this last year and it was great fun…it’s aimed at kids really, with lots of story telling, but the performances can be enjoyed by all ages.  You can see traditional dancing and acrobatics, and learn about the Chinese calendar.

It’s free entry and on 1pm-4pm.

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross/Leicester Square

Chinese Lanterns in NYC's Chinatown

Lantern Making

Get the kids involved and get over to the Geffrye Museum this Saturday.  Here you’ll be able to make Chinese lanterns using paper from the museum’s collection.

Activities are for those aged 11-16 and are free.

The Geffrye Museum is on Kingsland Road, and the event runs 10:30am-12:30pm and 2pm-4pm.

Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street/Old Street, then 149, 242 or 243 bus

Saturday, Feb 5 and Sunday, Feb 6

Chinese Calligraphy

Another one for the kids, this time you can learn to write in the Chinese art of calligraphy.

For children aged 6+.

It’s taking place at the Museum of London Docklands from 12pm-3pm

Nearest Tube: West India Quay (DLR)

Old Chinatown

The original Chinatown in London was in Limehouse – now’s your chance to have a tour around the area and find out what things were like in those days on this walking tour.

Tours are on Saturday and Sunday at 11am and 2pm each day, and tickets can be booked here (scroll to the bottom of the page).  Tickets cost £6, £5 concession.

The tours leave from the Museum of London Docklands (see above for details)

Lion dancing through the streets

Sunday, Feb 6

Paint Your Own Rabbit

Another activity at the Museum of London Docklands, this time you can paint your own ceramic bunny to take home.  Suitable for ages 3+.

It’s free and painting takes place at 12:30pm-1:30pm and 2:30pm-3:30pm.

The Main Event

This is it! The big celebration in Chinatown.  Loads of stuff is happening around Trafalgar Square and Shaftesbury Avenue on Sunday.

The opening ceremony kicks off at 12pm in Trafalgar Square, followed by dragon and lion dances, acrobatics, music and dance.

Chinatown will be awash with food and trinket stalls – but the traditional fireworks display that normally goes on in Leicester Square are cancelled this week, due to the work that’s going on there.

Celebrations will be on 12pm-6pm.

Nearest Tubes: Charing Cross or Leicester Square

 

 

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Filed under Central London, E London, Festival, Food & Drink, Local interest

Place In Mind

Is the daily grind getting you down? Feeling claustrophobic in London? If you’ve forgotten what green space looks like, worry not – head down to see Harry Cory Wright’s ‘Place In Mind’ exhibition.

Taking photos of a variety of landscapes across the country (including Stonehenge and come of Britain’s coastal cliffs), ‘Place In Mind’ captures the intensity of each scene.

Taking only one photograph in each location, Harry Cory Wright also uses an old-school camera (rather than a DSLR) to capture the moment.

The exhibition is on at Eleven, 11 Eccleston Street and opens this Friday, February 4.  It runs until March 26.

Opening hours are Tues, Wed, Fri: 11am-6pm; Thursday 11am-7pm and Saturday 11am-4pm.

Nearest Tube: Victoria or Sloane Square

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Review: London Voucher and Guide Book

Mike Bradley www.brilliamstv.com

Having negotiated my way through the opening three pages of TakeTwo’s ‘London Voucher and Guide Book,’ I found myself recalling one of Groucho Marx’s funniest quotes, ‘From the moment I picked up your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.”

Published on behalf of the ‘SOS Children’s Villages’ charity, readers are urged to ‘…enjoy the best of London at half the cost.’ And enjoy the best of London at half the cost they certainly can – providing the London Wetland Centre and Fan Museum occupy the top spots on their ‘must-see’ list.

Several colour-coded indexes add to the untidy, cluttered design as do the pages of translated text which crop up at random intervals. A better idea would have been a separate section aimed exclusively at overseas visitors, further broken down by their country of origin.

And there lies the main problem for the book, just who is it aimed at? Many UK and indeed overseas visitors would set their own itinerary in advance no doubt focusing on the attractions and sites we could all reel off without research. However in the unlikely event they are tempted to sample a TakeTwo suggestion, one of the first on offer (the Vintage Red Double Decker Bus Tour and River Cruise) requires advance booking either by telephone or email. Could you be bothered?

If a trip to the Golden Hinde happens to be on your list, you’re in luck…providing you have three other people in your party as the guide book appears to imply their ‘2 for 1’ voucher is only valid when used by four people. I’ve lost interest already.

With gastronomic delights to suit all budgets scattered throughout our capital I was angered by the inclusion of Planet Hollywood which gets the ‘Places to Eat, Drink and Dance’ section underway. Hand on heart, would you?

Having already dug deep and paid a hefty £14.95 for the book, I doubt many readers philanthropy would further extend to spending an extra £29 on a three-and-a-half hour jogging tour or worse still, the special offer price of £30 for the, wait for it, ‘Hairy Goat Photography Mystery Tour.’ No, I hadn’t heard of it either.

Tremendous concept, commendable aim, questionable research, poor execution. Time to TakeTwo on the next edition.

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