FREE WALKS IN MIDTOWN – JULY > SEPTEMBER 2018

Summer is a great time to tour Midtown, and our tour guide can give you a new perspective on the area, filling you in on the history of the area, horrible and otherwise.

Our walks are always free, informative, and tailored to all fitness levels. Many of them are at lunchtime so you can pop out from the office, or right after work, following with a pint in a landmark pub optional.


“I had the good fortune to take part in the superb Museum Mile walk today, led by Aly Mir. He has exceptional qualities as a leader: expertise, humour and ability to engage with participants. It was a treat to be introduced to several museums which were new to me. I will certainly return for extended visits and will spread the word to my international visitors.”

Prof. Eileen O’Keefe, London Metropolitan University, 2017

Download our walks guide HERE.

FOUNDING FATHER

Wednesday 4 July, 5.30pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

A special walk for American Independence Day! In the 18th century one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, spent some time in London. We visit sites in Bloomsbury and Holborn connected to his stay here.
Duration: 90 minutes.

WALK IN THE SUN (NEW)

Thursday 5 July, 12.30pm. Farringdon Station

Today we go to sites in Farringdon connected to the stay in London in the 18th century of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. We hear about his arrival in this country and his famous experiments about electricity.
Duration: 45 minutes.

WALKING OUT!

Friday 6 July, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

The Pride London Festival is taking place this weekend. To celebrate the event we walk to sites in Bloomsbury and Holborn associated with lesbian and gay history, including the venue of the first Gay Liberation Front meeting in Britain.
Duration: 45 minutes.

THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP

Tuesday 10 July, 5.30pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

Visiting some of the many sites connected with the Bloomsbury Group of writers, artists and intellectuals.
Duration: 90 minutes.

UNLUCKY FOR SOME

Friday 13 July, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

To celebrate Friday 13th we walk to sites connected to spells, superstition and prophecies.
Duration: 45 minutes.

CRAWLING ANTS!

Sunday 8 July, 2pm. Central Saint Giles

This walk visits locations in Bloomsbury, St Giles and Covent Garden telling the story of the rise, fall and rise again of pop star Adam Ant.
Duration: 120 minutes.

BLOOMSBURY BEATLES

Tuesday 17 July, 5.30pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

We visit locations in Bloomsbury from the careers of music legends The Beatles – including places where they stayed, recorded and were photographed.
Duration: 90 minutes.

WALK IN THE SUN (NEW)

Thursday 19 July, 12.30pm. Farringdon Station

Today we go to sites in Farringdon connected to the stay in London in the 18th century of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. We hear about his arrival in this country and his famous experiments about electricity.
Duration: 45 minutes.

MAN OF OTHER WORLDS

Sunday 22 July, 2pm. Central Saint Giles

This walk visits locations in Bloomsbury and Holborn from the early life of H. G. Wells – the boy from Bromley who became the father of science fiction and author of the classic books The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.
Duration: 120 minutes.

MAGICAL MIDTOWN (NEW)

Wednesday 25 and Friday 27 July, 1pm. Chancery Lane Station

This tour visits the site of the shop, still remembered by some as ‘Gamagic.’ We also go to the location of the magic store that described itself as ‘The largest mail-order house for novelties in the world,’ and we see the shop, still open today, that was visited by the famous magician Tommy Cooper!
Duration: 45 minutes.

PEPYS SHOW

Tuesday 31 July, 5.30pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

Samuel Pepys’ famous diary provides a fascinating record of life in London in the 1660s, covering the restoration of the monarchy and the Great Plague. On the walk we see sites in the Holborn area referred to by Pepys in his diary.
Duration: 90 minutes.

WALK IN THE SUN (NEW)

Thursday 2 August, 12.30pm. Farringdon Station

Today we go to sites in Farringdon connected to the stay in London in the 18th century of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. We hear about his arrival in this country and his famous experiments about electricity.
Duration: 45 minutes.

SUFFRAGETTE CITY

Friday 3 August, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

We visit several sites in Holborn and Bloomsbury linked to the struggle for votes for women.
Duration: 45 minutes.

RETURN TO HANGING ACRE (NEW)

Wednesday 8 and Friday 10 August, 1pm. Chancery Lane Station

We revisit the area bordered by Gray’s Inn Road, Clerkenwell Road and Leather Lane to hear more about its grisly history of death, disease and executions.
Duration: 45 minutes.

A TASTE OF INDIA

Wednesday 15 August, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

A special walk for Indian Independence Day going to sites near Holborn associated with Indian history and culture.
Duration: 45 minutes.

FRIGHTFUL FARRINGDON

Thursday 16 August, 12.30pm. Farringdon Station

Farringdon is today an area of exciting change, however, it has a frightful past which this tour uncovers. Included on the walk are a visit to the site of a notorious rookery from the 19th century, the scene of gruesome events during the time of the Reformation, and we hear about the execution of the famous Scottish rebel Sir William Wallace.
Duration: 45 minutes.

SMOOTH FIELD

Saturday 25 August, 11am and 1pm. Farringdon Station

A special walk to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Smithfield Market’s opening in 1868. The tour explores the area surrounding the Market with highlights from some of Midtown’s best Farringdon walks, including Frightful Farringdon’s grisly executions; how local roads got their names from Farringdon Streets and their Story; the turmoil of the Peasants’ Revolt in our Peasants are Revolting tour; the history of the Charterhouse from our Charterhouse Square walk; plus the story of the famous Market itself from our Smithfield tour. We also include some new material about this fascinating and rapidly changing area that will soon be home to the Museum of London and new Crossrail stations.
Duration: 90 minutes.

REAL CINDERELLA

Wednesday 29 August, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

The first walk in our series about the rags-to-royalty life of Nell Gwynn, one of the most interesting characters from Restoration England. You don’t need to go on both parts of this series because each walk is designed to be enjoyed either on its own or together with the other.
Duration: 45 minutes.

MISTRESS OF THE KING

Friday 31 August, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

The second part in our series about Nell Gwynn, who became the mistress of King Charles II. You don’t need to go on both parts of this series because each walk is designed to be enjoyed either on its own or together with the other.
Duration: 45 minutes.

DR FEELBAD

Tuesday 4 September, 5.30pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

Today we visit sites connected to Dr Crippen – a notorious murderer from a century ago.
Duration: 105 minutes.

BETWEEN THE WARS

Wednesday 5 September, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

Today’s walk takes us to sites in Holborn linked to the political history of Britain in the 1920s and 1930s.
Duration: 45 minutes.

CRUEL CLERKENWELL

Thursday 6 September, 12.30pm. Farringdon Station

Although present-day Clerkenwell is creative and cool, it has a cruel history. The tour visits the site of a notorious prison and a court that sentenced criminals to be transported down under. We also hear about a terrible murder that shocked the area 200 years ago and the story of a man eaten by a bear!
Duration: 45 minutes.

MUSEUM MILE: INDIA

Friday 7 September, 2pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

A special Indian theme for today’s Museum Mile walk. We start with a visit to the recently refurbished Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery at the British Museum. Our guide has selected five of this beautiful gallery’s amazing artefacts from different periods of India’s history. We then go to the Brunei Gallery to see its two temporary exhibitions – A Most Cosmopolitan Court – Foreign Influences in the Sikh Kingdom of Punjab and Madras to Bangalore: Historical Indian Postcards.

The walk last 3 hours and will end near Russell Square at 5pm.

Our guide will also mention the other eleven members of the Museum Mile to encourage people to visit them in the future. For a full list of all members of the Museum Mile visit www.museum-mile.org.uk

20 places only. Booking is required and admission to the walk is by ticket only.
Duration: 180 minutes.

MAGICAL MIDTOWN (NEW)

Wednesday 12 and Friday 14 September, 1pm. Chancery Lane Station

This tour visits the site of the shop, still remembered by some as ‘Gamagic.’ We also go to the location of the magic store that described itself as ‘The largest mail-order house for novelties in the world,’ and we see the shop, still open today, that was visited by the famous magician Tommy Cooper!
Duration: 45 minutes.

TOY STORIES

Wednesday 19 September, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

The world famous Hamleys toyshop in Regent Street has its origins in Holborn. This walk visits the site of the first Hamleys toyshops and considers the wider history of toys.
Duration: 45 minutes.

WALK IN THE SUN (NEW)

Thursday 20 September, 12.30pm. Farringdon Station

Today we go to sites in Farringdon connected to the stay in London in the 18th century of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. We hear about his arrival in this country and his famous experiments about electricity.
Duration: 45 minutes.

OLD ST GILES

Friday 21 September, 1pm. Holborn Station Kiosk

Today we go to the site of the notorious St Giles Rookery and hear about its history.
Duration: 45 minutes.

8 Out-Of-This-Galaxy Special Effects In Star Wars

“May the 4th be with you” started out as a widely used pun by Star Wars fan, but has evolved into fully fledged Star Wars holiday. While the multi-million dollar franchise is billed as being set in “a galaxy far, far away”, the home of Star Wars’ special effects is a bit closer to our universe. Holborn is home to London Studios of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) – a special effects company founded by none other than Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas.

To mark Star Wars Day this year, we decided to pick through the many, many revolutionary special effects of these zeitgeist defying movies to bring you 8 Out-Of-This-Galaxy Special Effects that defined the sci-fi genre. With over 40 years of special-effects innovation from Industrial Light & Magic, there’s plenty to choose from.

Spaceships doing cool stuff

According to Thrillist, the creation of the spaceships in the very first Star Wars movie was revolutionary. “Until Star Wars (1977), shots of ships in space were filmed with large- and small-scale models, allowing for slow and rigid movements. All that changed when Star Warsvisual-effects supervisor John Dykstra devised a new computer-controlled motion camera system — dubbed the the “Dykstraflex” — for Star Wars. Now a spaceship model could be filmed against blue screen in a single position while the camera moved around it, the idea being to provide the illusion of movement.

Awesome weapons

Name a cooler fictional weapon that LucasFilm’s incredible energy sword, the Light Saber. It is impossible. The signature weapon of the Jedi Order and their Sith counterparts, this tool can cut, burn, and melt through most substances with little resistance, as well as leaving cauterised wounds in flesh to reduce the mess of any deadly battles (and let’s face it, this is one of the biggest parts of its appeal, right?). Fast Co Design write of the Light Saber: “According to George Lucas, he came up with the idea of a lightsaber for Star Wars because the film was meant to be a space-age Arthurian epic. It needed its own legendary weapon that the Jedi could use to set them apart, but it also needed to seem futuristic.”

(Not so) Fantastic Beasts

From Jabba the Hutt to Ja Ja Binks, the Ewoks, Yoda and beyond, the Star Wars special effects team are responsible for creating some of the most memorable space characters of all time. Using a combination of puppetry, costume and CGI, the creative teams made 180 new aliens for Star Wars, The Last Jedi alone. Speaking to Collider, Creatures Designer Neal Scanlan described the process of creating some of the films key characters: “We took animatronics and puppetry onto a location, and we were shooting on an island in the weather conditions. That takes you out of your comfort zone. You’re not in a film studio where your support structure and your workshop is close by, and you can build specific rigs and things. We had to think very much like a guerilla team and work very efficiently, using the natural environment where we could.”

Speed Chases

The thrilling speeder-bike chase on Endor in Return of the Jedi has become iconic. ILM visual-effects supervisor Dennis Muren and Garrett Brown, inventor of the “Steadicam” gliding camera rig, visited a Californian redwood forest to capture background images, meaning they didn’t need to build an enormous miniature forest and film with motion-control cameras. The characters were then filmed against a blue screen and dropped into the images filmed by Muren and Brown in California.

Robots

While R2D2 and C3PO were actors in costumes, respectively Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels, the introduction of BB-8 in The Last Jedi bought robotronics to the forefront of the Star Wars genre. At a panel in London covered by Wired,animatronics experts Matt Denton explained: “BB-8 was a ‘proper’ robot, but rarely one with completely autonomous movement. Denon and Lee introduced the ‘trike’ model – a robot guided by an attached motor unit to control the droid’s direction, which was digitally removed from shots in post-production.”

Lavish Landscapes

From sparkling cityscapes to barren deserts, the visual makeup of the Star Wars universe uses symbols and landscapes from cultures and faiths around the world to carefully create a believable alien universe. Before CGI advanced to allow the creation of the effects we now know and love,  ILM was “the master of oil matte painting”. According to Gizmodo, “Matte paintings are fake sets that—most of the times—used to be made with plexiglass and oil paint. The artists used oversized panels to create the necessary detail that the camera needed to fool the audiences when the film was projected over the large surface of the theater screen. The paintings were combined with live action filmed to match the perspective of the painting”

Bonus Spaceships

While the smaller spaceships might fly round at high speeds and often find themselves right in the midst of the fighting action, it would be remiss not to give a hat tip to the exquisite Death Star. Admittedly, it’s more of a space station that a space ship, but the moon-style station is a beast that can travel through space, albeit at a very slow pace. It’s also home to a planet destroying super-laser and is seen as the Empire’s ultimate weapon. Luke Skywalker’s efforts to destroy the Death Star in Return of the Jedi makes for one of our favourite explosions of all time.

How to Find Calm and Beat Stress in Midtown

find calm beat stress

We all feel stressed from time to time. The pace of modern life, particularly in London, can easily lead to becoming overwhelmed. While a bit of stress can be what drives us it can fast develop into a problem which affects both mental and physical health. According to HSE, 12.5 million days were lost as a result of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, while 526,000 workers reported suffering from these conditions over the same time period. Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 40% of all work-related ill health cases and 49% of all working days lost due to ill health. The biggest cause? Workload.

As part of National Stress Awareness Month we want to help employees and employers in Midtown discover ways to reduce their stress-levels. We believe that our people are key to reaching our goals of driving long-term, sustainable, commercial and social growth. We want to do everything we can to make sure Midtowners are happy and healthy. How can you find calm and beat stress? Check out our guide below.

Meditation

Meditation is not just a wellness buzzword. It is an age-old technique which is proven to reduce stress, depression and anxiety. With roots stemming from the Buddhist cultures of India and Southeast Asia, meditation has made its way into modern Western culture and become a key self care tool for many. Bodhi Yoga in Holborn offer several options for learning how to meditate and “develop concentration and emotional positivity, and to get a deeper perspective on your core values”. Classes run throughout the week, with regular day-long retreats and workplace classes available on request too.

Mindfulness

While meditation and mindfulness are inextricably linked, mindfulness can also be used as a standalone tool to reduce stress. London Mindful describe mindfulness as “a simple and very powerful practice of training our attention. It’s simple in that it’s really just about paying attention to what’s happening here and now (i.e. sensations, thoughts, and emotions) in a non-judgemental way”. Concentrating on your surroundings can be an incredibly beneficial tool in breaking the habit of getting lost in thoughts that can generate or exacerbate stress. With courses covering self compassion, stress, leadership and cultivating happiness (to name just a few) and taking place over eight weeks or in a one-day intensive environment, there’s plenty of flexibility and a course for everyone looking to find calm and beat stress in their every day lives.

Yoga

Yoga combines movement of the body with awareness of the mind, meditation and breathing techniques which reduce stress. A regular practice can help to lower blood pressure and your heart rate, and best of all, anyone can do it. There’s a style of yoga to suit everyone, regardless of ability and tailored to your needs. If you’re in the market for something to get you sweaty before you relax, try Vinyasa, or if you want to slow right down, Yin yoga is the one for you. Drop-in classes are available at Cockpit Arts, Holborn on a Thursday from 6pm.

Sleep School

Did you know that chronic sleep debt can lead to long-term mood disorders, like depression and anxiety as well as increasing stress? Whether you’re a sound sleeper or suffering insomniac, mood, productivity and health all benefit from more restful and restorative sleep. But how can we learn to sleep better? Cue Stretching the City’s Sleep School workshops on “Sleeping to Achieve, Succeed & Thrive” or developing “A Mindful Nights Sleep”. Covering everything from the neuroscience behind sleep to exploring sleep-inducing lifestyle and dietary habits and establishing stress-busting practices to help you switch off and sleep, you’ll leave these workshops ready to get straight under the covers and sleep like a baby. Stretching the City offer their workshops in your office for up to 50 people.

Art classes

Art therapy might seem like a bit of a wishy washy concept, but there is science to support the idea that it’s more than a good way to find calm and beat stress. Drawing is a right side brain activity, while stress occurs in the left side of the brain, since it is what handles logic and emotional aspects of your life. When you draw it shifts activity to the right side of the brain, which is the creative side, relieving stress and thoughts that the right brain is placing on you. Don’t consider yourself to be an artist? No worries! The meditative quality of being creative combines with the distraction from your thoughts that art offers, meaning it’s a great way to get out of your head for a bit. Check out Holborn Life Drawing for their weekly class schedule.

How do you find calm and beat stress in your life? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter

 

6 Places in Midtown to Read on World Book Night

london review bookshop

April is a busy month in our capital. From Easter to school holidays and the London Games Festival, along with our usual guided walks around Midtown, there’s so much going on. But April 23rd marks one of our favourite nights of the year as the nation celebrates all things reading and books with World Book Night.

Reading for pleasure is a globally recognised indicator in a huge range of social issues from poverty to mental health, but according to World Book Night, in England alone, 36% of people don’t regularly read. But organiser The Reading Agency has set out to change that with their annual celebration of the written word. Every year they give away a selection of books to those in  care homes, youth centres, colleges, prisons, public libraries, mental health groups and a range of other settings.

We’re big advocates of curling up with a good book as often as you can. So to mark this year’s World Book Night

London Review Bookshop

We’ve definitely talked about London Review Bookshop on more than one occasion. It is officially one of our favourite haunts to hang out and browse, but their lovely little cake shop means it’s the perfect place to sit and read too. Recent books recommended by these experts include In the Dark Room by Brian Dillon and Women and Power by Mary Beard. Find the LRB at 14 Bury Place.

Scarfes Bar

Scarfes Bar is filled with over 1,000 antique books hand-picked by a Portobello antiques dealer and a number of luxurious velvet chairs, ideal for settling into to lose yourself in a good book. Part of Rosewood London, you’re able to enjoy a cuppa or a cocktail, depending on what tickles your pickle. The Gentleman’s club vibe will inspire you to read period classics such as The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald or imagine the characters of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell chatting about magic in a cosy corner. Scarfes Bar is at 252 High Holborn.

Red Lion Square Gardens

It wouldn’t be right to write up a blog about the perfect places to read in Midtown without mentioning any of the beautiful parks we have in this area. Now that Spring has officially sprung (most of the time), it’s time to take your current literary squeeze outside and embrace the great outdoors and everything London has to offer. We might be biased but Red Lion Square Gardens is one of our favourite in the area and it’s the ideal quiet location in the heart of Midtown. It’s also home to a statue of anti-war activist Fenner Brockway, so we’d suggest getting your chops around All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr or The Book Thief by Markus Zusack.

The Hoxton Holborn

You’ll have to get there early to bag a good spot because this place gets pretty filled up with freelancers but once you’re in, you’re probably not going to want to leave. Located right in the heart of Holborn, it’s easy to get to and the lobby is the perfect place to while away a few hours in the company of your favourite fictional characters. It’s also worth mentioning Chicken Shop is right downstairs too so once you’ve worn out your reading appetite, you can satisfy your actual appetite too. Find The Hoxton Hoborn at 199-206 High Holborn.

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

These guys know a thing or two about coffee, but they also know a lot about creating the perfect haven away from the hustle and bustle of Midtown. Located at 14-16 Leather Lane, this coffee shop is pretty small but full of nooks and crannies and corners you can settle into for an hour or so. While this is a fair way away from the chocolatiers of Paris, it seems like the perfect place to tuck into Joanne Harris’ book Chocolat or to consider the works of Christopher Hitchens in his collection of essays Love, Poverty and War.

Bloomsbury Coffee House

This is a popular spot with students from the nearby UCL and SOAS, but it’s a bit of a hidden gem if you ask us. All of the food sold here is homemade using thoughtfully sourced ingredients and it’s bloomin’ delicious too. Feast on a seasonal salad with produce from the garden, or enjoy a perfectly baked cake or pastry. Right in the heart of London, this place seems like the optimum location to tuck into Norman Collins’ brilliant novel London Belongs to Me or Patrick Hamilton’s Twenty Thousand Streets.

 

Where’s your favourite place to read in London? What will you be reading on this World Book Night? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter! And just a heads up – all links to books on this page are from Hive, which means every purchase made supports your local bookshop. Cool, eh?

 

4 Ways To Help Bees in Midtown and Beyond

bee conservation

We need bees. As a nation, we’re all guilty of taking them and other pollinators like butterflies and hoverflies for granted, but they’re actually essential for stable, healthy food supplies. They’re vital for maintaining the varied, colourful and nutritious diets we require to be healthy. But bees in the UK are dying. While the use of insecticides and pesticides is largely being blamed for the decline in our country’s bee population, there are a number of other factors to take into consideration as well. From the invasion of non-native bees, to widespread disease and the loss of entire colonies (Colony Collapse Disorder known as CCD), these essential insects are responsible for maintaining much of our environmental status quo, and their numbers are fading fast.

BEE Midtown

Here at BEE Midtown, we’re as passionate about our furry flying friends as you might expect. We’ve introduced a large number of bountiful bees which live on the rooftops of Midtown in sustainable hives built with extra insulation to keep the hives warm in winter. We run workshops to celebrate these incredible insects – allowing attendees to learn everything from how to extract honey to making honey beer, lip balm and more. And we share the products amongst the community, connecting our beekeepers to local cafes and shops.

Our dedication to bees comes not only as a result of our name, but as a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to improving the environment in our local area. But this is an ongoing battle, and one which needs dedication from the county as a whole. If you want to do your bit for these fascinating and fantastic creatures, here’s how you can help.

1. BEE friendly with your flowers

Bees are losing habitat all around the world due to intensive farming practices. Planting flowers in your garden, yard, or in a planter will help provide bees with things to forage. Bees love the flowers their foraging to be in one big clump, so plant like with like. In spring try lilacs, lavender, sage, and wisteria to be bee friendly. For the summer months, mint, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies and honeysuckle will be the perfect addition to your garden. In the autumn, try fuschias, mint, bush sunflower, sage, verbena and toadflax.

2. Don’t BEE put off by weeds

Contrary to popular belief, weeds can actually be a beneficial addition to your garden. A non-weeded lawn can be a haven for honeybees (and other native pollinators too). Don’t be too overzealous with the weedkiller on the grassy areas of your garden. Wildflowers are some of the most important food sources for native bees, even though we might class many of them as weeds. If you decide you want to get rid of unwanted garden growth, wait ’til they’ve bloomed before pulling them out or cutting back.

3. Don’t BEE using pesticides and insecticides

Opt for organic alternatives to pesticides and insecticides on your flowers. The chemicals used in non-organic pesticides might make your garden look pristine and pretty, but can be devastating for the bee ecosystem. Chemical treatments are especially damaging if applied while the flowers are in bloom as they will make their way into the pollen and nectar and in turn be taken back to the bee hive. Not only is this damaging for bee colonies (it’s believed to be one of the major culprits of Colony Collapse Disorder) but these chemicals can also get into the honey, which means they can get into us. Check out this guide from gardening centre Notcutts for more info on how to make a wildlife friendly garden.

4. BEE generous with water

Not a lot of people realise that bees are often in need of water as much as they are in need of honey and nectar. If you’ve taken steps to make your garden more friendly to these essential insects and you’ve started to see more of them around, a nice basin of fresh water outside your home. A bird bath with a few stones in the water for the bees to climb on works well. Worker bees use water to control the humidity of the colony, not just the temperature, as well as to aid digestion, feed larvae and to cool themselves in the heat of the summer.

If you want to know more about how to take care of these invaluable critters, what we’re doing to help and how you can join the cause, why not come along to our BEE Garden Breakfast from 10.00 to 12.00 on Friday 27 April, 2018 at the newly opened Hive Cafe, Conway Hall. We’ll be joined by BEE expert, Caroline Birchall – Founder and CEO of the BEE Collective.

7 Free Walks in Midtown in April 2018

 

Spring was late in coming this year, but is now definitively underway.

We’re of the opinion that some of the finest days of the year in the UK are in April. Office-dwellers and sofa enthusiasts: we’ve got the perfect set of itineraries to ensure that you don’t miss out on the mood-boosting sunshine and fresh air.

Our popular historical walk series continues, with a range of themed and informative jaunts around Midtown, loosely based on different historical themes. Did we mention they’re all FREE?

Take a break from Facebook or Excel and join us at lunch or for a weekend tour. If you’ve got friends visiting, bring them along. All relevant information can be downloaded here.

None of these April walks require booking, just turn up!

 

Very Old Holborn, Wednesday 11th of April

This walk takes us to some of the buildings dating from before the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666 that still stand in Holborn.

Unlucky For Some, Friday the 13th of April

To celebrate Friday 13th we walk to sites connected to spells, superstition and prophecies.

The Bloomsbury Group, Tuesday the 17th of April

Visiting some of the many sites connected with the Bloomsbury Group of writers, artists and intellectuals.

The Peasants Are Revolting, Thursday 19th of April

For this tour we go back to 1381 and visit places in Farringdon and Clerkenwell from Wat Tyler’s Peasants’ Revolt.

Suffragette City, Friday the 20th of April

We visit several sites in Holborn and Bloomsbury linked to the struggle for votes for women.

St George, Monday the 23rd of April

A patriotic theme for St. George’s Day. This walk takes us to the place where our national anthem was first sung publicly. We also visit a former home and the final resting place of the composer of Rule Britannia.

Great Plague, Friday the 27th of April

Visit the area where the Great Plague of 1665 started, and hear about those terrible times.

 

Joining information for all walks is available here.

London Games Festival – The Best Nostalgic Games to play Online

While you may have been distracted by the Easter Holidays, our fair city is currently playing host to one of our favourite events of the year – the London Games Festival 2018. Celebrating the best of the UK games industry exploring everything from the nostalgia games of your youth to the nitty gritty of the gaming industry, the festival includes tonnes events and activities to keep the whole family entertained until 15th April.

Lucky for us, the London Games Festival Hub is located slap bang in the middle of Midtown. Operating on 9th and 10th April, the hub will provide a central home for agenda-setting summits, gallery spaces for new exhibitions, a demo zone and networking space. But there’s so much more taking place too. Join the Character Parade Family Day on 15th April (there are workshops to make your own costumes if you don’t have one) or visit the UK Games Showcase. You can explore the Festival Fringe too. Taking place across the whole festival, the Fringe will showcase comedy, immersive adventures, tournaments, while offering a huge market for games, toys and merch, conferences, a game jam for charity and more.

To get you in the gaming mood, we’ve found the best nostalgic games to play online. Treat the kids (ahem – this is definitely for the kids) to a trip down memory lane, and show them what good gaming really looks like with these retro beauties.

Warning: we cannot be held responsible for any time lost to these games. Especially if it happens in your lunch hour.

Speedball 2

 

Take yourself off to a game of Speedball – a violent futuristic cyberpunk sport that draws on elements of netball and ice hockey while rewarding violent play as well as goals.

Aladdin

Created from arguably one of the best Disney movies ever made (God love Robin Williams as the Genie), Aladdin is an equally excellent game to keep the kids occupied over the Easter holidays. Yes, the graphics might not be as good as the graphics of today’s computer games, but that’s totally part of it’s charm.

Alone in the Dark

 

While we’re on the topic of great retro graphics, Alone in the Dark is the sort of game that we worried would give us nightmares when we were kids, but still couldn’t stop playing. It’s kind of terrifying – but totally brilliant. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Streets of Rage

 

Sega’s classic “Beat ’em Up” game Streets of Rage is as much fun now as when it first came out in 1992, and, weirdly, it’s kind of therapeutic too. It’s mainly just a lot of walking combined with a lot pf punching, but after a tough day in the office, we can certainly think of worse ways to waste our time.

Sonic 2

 

We simply cannot talk about the best nostalgic games to play online without giving a nod to the brilliant blaze of blue Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic 2 was fun in the 90’s and it’s still every bit as fun now. Take Sonic and Tails on adventures galore but prepare to lose track of time very quickly.

Nesbox

 

If these games aren’t enough to satiate your need for nostalgia, we’d like to introduce you to Nesbox. Turn your current computer into a time capsule of a vintage console and play Mortal Kombat II, NBA Jam, Super Castlevania IV, Mega Man X, Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past and so many more.

What’s your favourite of the best nostalgic games to play online we’ve found? Do you have any others you waste too much time playing? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter

International Day of Happiness in Midtown

International Day of happiness

While winter still feels like it’s lingering longer than it should, today is the Spring Equinox, marking the start of the season. Not only that but 20th March coincides with International Day of Happiness –  a day to share happiness and be part of something wonderful. So we thought we’d share the top five things in our area that make us happy on a day to day basis, for International Day of Happiness and every other day we spend in Midtown.

1. Leather Lane Street Market 

While the name of this street marks it’s history, there’s no longer any leather to be found in the area. Nestled between Farringdon Road and Gray’s Inn Road, Leather Lane‘s weekday market has been operating for over 400 years. Stroll through the area on a lunch-time and you’ll see swathes of workers searching for a satisfying lunch – and they’ll certainly find it too, with stalls and shops aplenty that will meet pretty much every culinary requirement. Check out Grill My Cheese, Daddy Donkey, Pieminister and Kin.

2. Fenner Brockway Statue

Fenner Brockway spent most of WW1 in prison after refusing to enlist on the grounds of being a pacifist. Around the time of the war, “conscientious objectors” were handed white feathers as a sign of cowardice. Allegedly, Fenner, who went onto become a labour MP and campaigner, used to say that he had enough white feathers to make a fan. His statue stands in Red Lion Square and is easily one of the jolliest little statues in the whole of London. Brockway looks positively delighted and it never fails to make us smile.

3. Cittie of York Pub

As one of the top “Olde Pubs in London”, the Cittie of York seems to be historically very confused. The Londonist describes the pub as “firmly rooted in the Victorian, built in Edwardian times, a pub site since medieval days, and with a Tudor disregard for spelling” and that says a lot about how much this brilliant pub has to offer. It’s a cosy, comfy place to hang out at Beer O’Clock and has tonnes of eye-catching details – from the great iron fireplace in the centre of the room and the wooden beam ceiling. Happiness can usually be found in here with friends, colleagues and a nice cold pint, especially if they open the semi-secret beer garden in the summer months.

4. THATMuse at the British Museum

THATMuse (which stands for Treasure Hunt at the Museum) offers visitors to the British Museum the chance to scout for treasure amongst the museum’s art, injecting adrenaline, interaction and learning into their experience. The concept is simple – teams are given a list of clues and are sent to “scrutinise a Mesopotamian Lion Hunt, find a Roman girl playing Knucklebones” and search for “famous folk like Ginger (the Gebelein Mummy) & the Lindow Man (a Roman who met with a grisly end in 1st century Britain)”. Spending time with loved ones is a sure fire way to increase your happiness – especially when you’re all doing something wildly fun like this.

5. Exercise at GYMBOX

We all know that exercise makes us happy, so if you’re in search of some endorphins on this International Day of Happiness, there are few better places to find them than in the gym. Head to Gymbox at Farringdon or in Holborn to try Bike and Beats (high intensity spinning class where the lights are dimmed low and the music jacked up), Muay Thai (including defensive and offensive kicking and elbowing skills) or a House of J dance class.

What will you be doing to improve your happiness levels on the International Day of Happiness and beyond? We’d love to hear! Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Mother’s Day in Midtown

Mother's Day in Midtown

March is often marked as the turn of the season. We wave goodbye to the Winter in favour of celebrating the arrival of Spring. The weather begins to turn and the flowers begin to surface after months of hiding underground. But it’s not just the change in temperatures and the brightness of the month we’re celebrating. March is also Mother’s Day and a chance to say thanks to the Mama in your life.  Here’s our pick of the best places to spend Mother’s Day in Midtown to pick up gifts for your Ma or to take her to make her feel like the Queen she really is.

 

Gifts

 

Mum’s are always guilty of thinking about other people before themselves. Give yours the gift of some time out and TLC with a voucher for the gorgeous spa at Grange Hotel in Holborn. Their 5-Star facilities include a sauna, steam rooms and ambient treatment rooms in which your Mum will be able  to lie back and be pampered by the spa therapists. Treatments include facial therapies, massage therapies, body treatments, beauty essentials, waxing and reflexology. They’re also running a special Mother’s Day offer for Sunday, including a half-hour classic relaxation massage in the Hotel’s Ajala Spa for Mum or a 3 course lunch or dinner for £35

If your Mum is a bit more of a wild child, you could take her out for a night on the tiles. One of our favourite Midtown haunts for just such an evening is London Cabaret Club. They offer gift vouchers which will allow you and your Mum to immerse yourself in an evening of cabaret with an evening meal and a show. We’d recommend bagging tickets for their show The Best of British Pop, in which their cast of West End stars belt out chart-topping classics from the Beatles to Amy Winehouse, complete with chorus lines and dazzling choreography.

Who doesn’t love gin, right?! OK, we know not everyone does, but if your Mother is a gin lover, you want to get her a spot at Holborn Dining Room’s Gin Masterclass. Taking place once a week from 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, your Mum will be able to learn about London’s rich gin-related history, find out how gin is made, and establish how different botanicals help create unique and exciting nuances in flavour. She’ll also get to sample 4 different gins and have the opportunity to make her own gin cocktail. The experience lasts for 90 minutes and costs £60.

 

Food

 

If there’s one thing Midtown is good at (and let’s face it, there are actually MANY), it’s food. We have so many awesome restaurants on our doorstep, and what better excuse to frequent them than to celebrate your Mum and everything she does for you.

Cha Chaan Teng is one of Holborn’s more unique offerings. Billed as a sensory mash up of East meets West, old vs New, this is a dining experience like no other. The restaurant has the spirit of a traditional Hong Kong Cha Chaan Teng but infuses it with a heavy dose of contemporary London attitude. You can expect comforting Chinese classics alongside curious fusion concoctions. You could stop in for lunch, an evening meal or even a Chinese afternoon tea which includes homemade fluffy steamed bun sliders and our lightly toasted crusty rolls, topped off with a selection of mouth watering fillings. And our two favourite sweet, slightly crazy but delicious desserts – there’s no better place to enjoy a bottomless brunch.

As the fourth ROKA to open, ROKA Aldwych is a masterclass in good food. The principle cuisine is from the robata grill, which originates from the fishermen of the northern coastal waters off japan, who would cook the fish on the boats with different charcoals and share the bounty with one another using their oars. It’s not a cheap meal out, but it’s worth every penny with food critic Grace Dent commenting in a 2014 review: “If only, dear reader, I could tell you that Roka royally ripped me off. Instead, my dining companion and I warred with chopsticks over every last fresh, chubby, crisply battered morsel, little better than savages.”

If low key but great tasting natural food is on the menu for your Mother’s Day in Midtown, we’d recommend paying a visit to Natural Kitchen on Fetter Lane. Natural Kitchen has been specialising in food that is nutritious and delicious as well as being very affordable for the central London location since 2009. This is a particularly good haunt if your Mum doesn’t feel like indulging – though we’d argue she deserves it. This place branch isn’t open on weekends, but it’s the perfect place to celebrate Mother’s Day in Midtown twice!

 

International Women’s Day: Matrons of Midtown

Despite a rich history of interesting and accomplished women, Midtown’s feminine past is often overlooked. From being a home to Mary Shelley and Dorothy L. Sayers to the stamping ground of 20th century Suffragettes, Midtown has plenty of stories to tell. To celebrate International Women’s Day, here are some of our favourite stories of the incredible women who have known Midtown in the past.

The Boxer

Next time you’re flicking through redtops of the 1720s, keep an eagle eye out for the name ‘Elizabeth Wilkinson’, the long forgotten mother of boxing. Born in the Clerkenwell area of Midtown around the turn of the 18th century, Wilkinson was the most accomplished female fighter of her time, training at Britain’s first proper fight gym, the ‘School for the Manly-Art of Self-Defence’. As well as being dangerous in the ring, Wilkinson was deadly in the papers, where she issued taunting and provocative challenges to other fighters. In one printed exchange (a fantastic example of early boxing trash talk), Wilkinson responded to a challenge from fellow boxer Ann Field by saying “the blows which I shall present her with will be more difficult for her to digest than any she ever gave her asses.”

Although Wilkinson’s solo crowd appeal was enormous, she also fought alongside her husband, promoter and fellow boxer James Stokes. The pair would challenge another married duo, with Wilkinson fighting the wife whilst James fought the husband. An advertisement for one such fight notes that James and Elizabeth “fight in cloth Jackets, short Petticoats, coming just below the Knee, Holland Drawers, white Stockings, and pumps”.

Defying gender stereotypes more than 250 years before gender roles were even acknowledged, Wilkinson was loved by her public and fantastically popular. Sadly, her name has largely been forgotten, sacrificed for her less successful male contemporaries. The ‘European Championess’, as she called herself, deserves a place in history.

The Activists

Midtown and it’s neighbouring streets have a deep connection to the campaigners who won the first battle in women’s suffrage 100 years ago. The Women’s Social and Political Union, the main suffragette organisation, was headquartered at 42 Kingsway, yards from Holborn Station. Moving there in 1912, the WSPU and its co-founder Emmeline Pankhurst, suffered constant abuse and harassment from the authorities. Several times the Union headquarters were raided by police, who also tried to have the phone lines disconnected (although in a surprising display of equality the General Post Office refused this demand.)

St George’s Church in Bloomsbury also has significance in Midtown’s suffragette history, as the site of Emily Davison’s funeral. Davison died after stepping in front of King George’s horse at Epsom Racetrack, and was honoured with a 5,000-woman procession from Victoria to Kings Cross, on a route flanked by 50,000 sympathisers. It’s unclear what Davison’s intention on the racetrack was, some theorising that she planned to attach a suffragette scarf or flag to a horse. The tickets back to London and to a suffragette dance that evening, and her diary with appointments for the next week, all suggest that Davison was not attempting to martyr herself.

The Writer

In the first half of the 20th century writer Virginia Woolf lived in Gordon Square, later returning to Midtown to co-found The Bloomsbury Set with other free thinkers in the area.   

In the decades following her death, Woolf became appreciated as an early feminist thinker, and for inspiring other women to take an interest in feminism. Woolf believed that female writers were under inherent constraints in a patriarchal society, and dreamt of an “Outsiders Society” where women could develop feminist thought in a private space. This dream was never realised, but the Hogarth Press, a publishing house founded by Woolf and her husband, opened up an audience for new writing.

Although she died almost 70 years ago, some of Woolf’s work still feels pertinent. In The Waves, Rhoda complains about her fellow commuters, exclaiming “Oh, human beings, how I have hated you! How you have nudged, how you have interrupted, how hideous you have looked in Oxford Street, how squalid sitting opposite each other staring in the Tube!”

Our Very Own

Last but not least, it would be an oversight not to mention our very own Tass Mavrogordato. Tass has lived and worked in Midtown for over 11 years, tangibly shaping and contributing to the community in that time. As CEO of BEE Midtown, it’s her job to work with businesses, residents, TFL and other stakeholders to plan and manage innovative developments to help the area thrive.

Tass’ most recent project at BEE Midtown is the Midtown Big Ideas Exchange, a dynamic series of debates, celebrating the eclectic innovation of Midtown and its people. The BIE kicked off in October with the goal of rethinking London’s business, economic and social future in a quickly changing world.

With plenty planned for 2018 and beyond, expect to see more improvements in Midtown and more of Tass!