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Culture Guide to Greater London

Culture in Greater London From Greater London to the vibrant Central communities there’s plenty of things to see and do that should appeal to even the most selective culture vulture.

The North West area is home to some of the leading art galleries in London, namely the Catto Gallery [map] for fine art and the Proud Gallery [map] for contemporary photography. And while these two may be the stars in the area, they are in good company with a variety of arts spaces in North West London that cater for the spectrum of artistic expression.

Performing arts also have a place in the North West of London with the Tricycle Theatre [map] being the central location for those in search of human centred art. Musicals, topical dramatic pieces and classic plays can all be seen at this multipurpose venue.

The area boasts several dens of antiquities from the populist Madame Tussauds [map] to the more traditional Hampstead Museum of Local History [map]. In addition, well-known people from the area are honoured with their own museums including Freud, Keats and Sherlock Holmes while other museums celebrate subjects as diverse as Judaism and aviation.

The North of London will come alive in September 2005 when a new arts centre will open in Barnet, equipped with two state of the art theatres as well as studio space. This is likely to become the focus of arts in the area but in the meantime you’ll find a good selection of performing arts venues.

There’s the Millfield Theatre [map] for more mainstream options, while Jackson’s Lane Arts Centre [map] fields an eclectic mix of productions for audiences to enjoy. Meanwhile those who would rather take in the delights of dance should head for the Bull Theatre .

The East of London is home to some impressive and dynamic examples of architecture. Owned by the National Trust, Sutton House [map] is a red brick Tudor mansion in the heart of East London. Once home to merchants, silk weavers, Edwardian clergy and England’s first secretary of state Ralph Sadleir for Henry VIII, the house is resplendent with carved fireplaces and oak panelled room. This is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the UK.

For culture of the dramatic kind, head for Hackney Empire [map] where you’ll find musicals, opera, ballet, comedy and more. The recently opened Stratford Circus [map] is the place for performing arts and the Arcola [map], E8 has an innovative programme of new shows.

The South West of London is perfect for those keen to see some living history. The Pump House [map] in Battersea Park was built in 1861 to feed the Victorian lake cascades from a well beneath the building. By the end of World War II, the pumping machinery had been stripped out and the roof had collapsed. English Heritage undertook essential repairs in 1985 and since its reopening, after an award-winning transformation in 1992, the Pump House Gallery has presented a wide variety of exhibitions and events.

If you want to be at one with nature check out Bushy Park which is located on the edge of the Longford River, an artificial waterway that is 13 miles long and was created by Charles I in 1639 to bring fresh water to Hampton Court. Bushy Park offers visitors the opportunity to wander in more than 445 hectares of historic deer park before stopping for refreshments or chilling out at a picnic table. Children will enjoy the many talks and nature trails that they’ll have access to and adults can relax in a family-orientated and safe environment.

Culture is, literally, everywhere in Central London from the Southbank to Covent Garden, from the National to the Barbican [map], from the London Aquarium [map] to the Serpentine Gallery.

The Royal Opera House [map], Covent Garden, is home to the awe-inspiring moves of the Royal Ballet and the world class Royal Opera, two prestigious groups that were granted their Royal Charters in 1956 and 1968 respectively. Two studio spaces at the same venue ensure that the feast of fun is as diverse as you’d expect from a building that dates back to 1728.

Lovers of visuals must visit the National Gallery [map], which contains the
largest portrait collection in the world, dating back to the Tudor period.
Recent redevelopment has seen the addition of the Ondaatje wing while the National’s restaurant offers a perfect viewpoint of Parliament.

Culture vultures can enjoy a leisurely afternoon at Riverside Studios [map] in West London which is like a scaled down version of London’s South Bank area. This thriving arts and media centre is located at Crisp Road, Hammersmith, W5, and was originally a theatre and cinema dating back to 1934, which is famous for being the first place to broadcast colour television. The venue is now brimming with contemporary art, and hosts a range of workshops including theatre, music and poetry.

If this doesn’t satisfy your craving for all things media head to The Electric Cinema [map], Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11, which is believed to be the oldest cinema in the country. With a programme packed with art house and independent films, as well as general release and blockbusters, there’s something for everyone.

Notting Hill and Labroke Grove play host to one of the world’s best carnivals. The Notting Hill Carnival [map] has been taking place in London on the last weekend of August for the past 35 years. The festivities started as a local affair set up by the West Indian immigrants of the area and has become a full-blooded Caribbean carnival, attracting millions of people from all around the world.

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