Posted by: Chris Jones | May 22, 2008

The Subway Buskers

This is Chris coming to say that the buskers were FANTASTIC at the subway! Some of the best music we heard! LOL Thanks to my mom for taking me to london. The Buskers were AMAZING! phenomenal

Posted by: krisinhawaii | May 22, 2008

Opera on the Underground.

“Buskers,” or subway performers, were all over the Tube. We saw FIRST-RATE guitar, jazz and classical performers. Now sanctioned by the TFL, (Transport for London) buskers can officially collect money, and they have to be good…In fact, they must audition to get a spot on the Tube. There are actually some big-name performers who have done a stint in Underground busking. Learn more about them here. We saw this baritone one day on the Piccadilly line and we were so enthralled that we sat down to listen. Later, I went to the trouble of tracking him down, we’re now in touch, and I have learned that he’s sung at Carnegie Hall. Fantastic. Sorry the videos are not shot well, this was the first time I had ever tried “movie” mode from my camera.

Posted by: Chris Jones | May 21, 2008

Art Gallery and Priceless Masterpeices…

whats up? I am here to comment on the art we saw. I would say the art was fantastic! Photo Realism is my favorite. but the Impressionist photos were awesome too! I loved London and you should too!

Posted by: krisinhawaii | May 20, 2008

Remembering Covent Garden…

Because I want Chris to know a little bit more about the places we visited, such as Covent Garden, I’m now googling more about these places, cutting and pasting and posting them here. (Excuse the LONG history posts… but I just wantto have reminders and background). Of course Chris will probably best remember Covent Garden because of the candy cart. He talked the guy into giving him free samples of everything before he bought: “Excuse me mister, I don’t know what this one tastes like,” was how he worded it. “Oh well young man, go right ahead and try one.” When we came back two days later, Chris used the same trick on him, and he had caught on by then and said, “Hey weren’t you guys here the other day?” This photo caught Chris pandering for samples.

And Chris will also no doubt remember the Tube station there which was a hassle (you had to either take the lift or climb 193 stairs). Later we read that that station is notoriously haunted. Covent Garden flea market was where I found Kyle’s wind-up pocket watch, a silver antique cream pitcher and one of my best finds — a slim red leather belt cut to order for £3.99! It’s a very interesting place, and as I told Chris, has been a marketplace in one form or another for longer than the U.S. has been a nation!

As for the candy purchased from this candy cart, I readily admit I got into Chris’s bag of candy and ate almost all the white chocolate wafers with the multi-color sprinkles. So delicious I had to go back later and buy my own bag. (Gaaah… to add to the weight I gained while in England!!) Covent Garden is also the home of the world famous Royal Opera House. I think the main entrance fronts another street…because the back entrance is located right next to the Roxy/Quicksilver surf shop and Build-a-Bear! You can never escape the chains, can you?

Will also post some more quick videos….just now getting around to uploading them…

Posted by: krisinhawaii | May 20, 2008

History of Covent Garden.

The history of Covent Garden Market is a fascinating story. Now one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, for much of its existence Covent Garden served as a fruit and vegetable market, the largest in England. The market used to cover the whole of the square and occupied many of the buildings, but has since been transformed beyond all recognition.

By John Richardson

The modern story of Covent Garden began in the 1630s when land formerly belonging to Westminster Abbey, ‘the Convent Garden’ was redeveloped by the 4th Earl of Bedford.

But there is a much earlier story that has been discovered only in recent years. In archaeological digs, especially near the Strand, in Shorts Gardens and on the site of the Jubilee Hall, significant Saxon remains have been found. They point to a new theory of what happened in the London area once the Romans abandoned England and the walled city of Londinium in about AD410.

Our knowledge of events once the Saxon invaders took their place is very scant for at least three hundred years. There is little evidence that the Saxons settled within the walls of the city the Romans left behind. And what happened to the Britons who lived in Londinium under the Roman administration? We don’t know much. What we do know now is that the Saxons established a trading port to the west of the city, along Fleet Street and the Strand, up Aldwych (the name itself probably meaning old port) and covering today’s Covent Garden. This new settlement, which was abandoned once the Viking invaders became too dangerous in the 9th century, was called Lundenwic.

The Covent Garden area then reverted to agricultural land until the 17th century. It was then the scene of the first experiment in London of town planning, and the creation of the first public square in the country. It was the work of three men – the Earl of Bedford the developer, Charles I, who gave his strong support to the scheme, and Inigo Jones the most important architect of the day.

St Paul’s Church and the Piazza, by Wencelaus Hollar

“Londoners must
have been amazed
by this watershed
in English

The enthusiasm of Jones for classical, especially Palladian, architecture was to have an enormous effect on London’s later buildings. Having seen and studied the many public squares in Italy, he brought the idea to London and he also surrounded it with a perfectly straight grid of streets. Londoners, used to the random and haphazard arrangement of winding streets, alleyways and courtyards, must have been amazed. Architecturally, it was a watershed in English architecture.

The Piazza was designed by Jones with arcaded houses to the north and east. (These are now all gone but more modern developments have sought to remind us of them.) To the west was the church of St Paul, flanked by two houses, and to the south there was at first no development because the Piazza backed on to the mansion of the Bedford family, which faced the Strand, the main artery of London connecting City and Court at Westminster.

Architect Inigo Jones

This new square was a public one – and meant to be so. But this imaginative approach was, socially, to lead to its downfall. For the distinguished people who occupied the houses around the square soon began to tire of their lack of privacy and the intrusion of all sorts of London underworld beneath their windows. Once the private Bloomsbury Square and others were built, with bars across them to prevent undesirables, the rich went there instead, leaving Covent Garden to a different kind of tenancy, much of it artistic.

There was too the matter of the fruit and vegetable market in the square. This began in a very small way in 1649 but, no doubt, expanded quite a lot when the Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed the markets in the City. By the 1760s the market occupied much of the Piazza. What with this, the nearby theatres in Drury Lane and Bow Street and the many public houses, the neighbourhood acquired an extremely dubious reputation, though it was still popular.

Eventually the area was dominated by the market. The main building in the Piazza we see today was erected in 1830 by Charles Fowler, but did not then have a glass roof – that came in the 1870s. Gradually, other market buildings were added. The first part of the Flower Market was put up in 1872 – it is now used by the London Transport Museum and the National Theatre Museum. More significantly, the market extended into the houses and shops in the streets around, especially up to the lower-priced premises in Seven Dials, then a notorious slum. In these premises traders operated outside of the market proper, or else just used them as warehouses.

Even before the last war it was evident that the country’s principal fruit and veg market could not remain where it was in a very congested part of London. But it was long after the war had finished that the decision to move it to Nine Elms was taken. It was relocated there in 1973, leaving empty market buildings and numerous vacant premises in the hinterland.

“A vigorous campaign by local residents prevented plans to knock most of it down”

The planners wanted to knock most of it down and build a new metropolis of through highways, hotels and conference centres. But a vigorous campaign by local residents and the general public prevented this vandalistic plan from going through. Instead, the market was renovated to become the popular shopping centre it is, and gradually the streets around became a mecca also for shoppers and for niche businesses. It was an amazing transformation.

The Covent Garden area has long been associated with theatre. The oldest established is the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which had its origins in a patent granted on the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. A small theatre was established off Drury Lane in 1663 and this has evolved via several auditoria to the present famous building. Covent Garden theatre began in Bow Street in 1732.

“Covent Garden is a pleasure to explore but we should remember that it was a close-run thing to save it”

The kernel of the present theatre was built in 1858 after a disastrous fire had destroyed the old one. It was designed by E.M. Barry in classical style. He also built for the theatre’s management the Floral Hall next door in glass and iron, meant to be a straightforward rival to the Bedford’s flower market. Both of Barry’s buildings are now part of the rebuilt Royal Opera House complex completed recently in a storm of bad publicity about the running of the enterprise. There are other theatres in the area – notably at the Aldwych and in the Strand: the Lyceum, Aldwych, Strand, Duchess, New London, Coliseum, Fortune plus of course, more recently, the Donmar.

Covent Garden has traditionally been a centre of small businesses. Once, it was a hive of coachmakers, especially in Long Acre, premises which later became car dealers; there have been lots of famous publishers and printers, notably Odhams Press. Sainsbury’s began in Drury Lane. Moss Bros. began on the site of the Tesco store in Bedford Street. Samuel French, the theatrical publishers began in Wellington Street. Sotheby’s, the auctioneers began in the same road.

Despite its throngs of tourists, Covent Garden is still remarkably intact and attractive. Much of it is fairly traffic-free and the area is therefore relaxed and a pleasure to explore. But we should all remember that it was a close-run thing to save it.

Pasture and gardens of the Convent of St Peter of Westminster
Henry VIII takes over after his destruction of the monasteries
4th Earl commissions Inigo Jones to design Piazza and Square.
5th Earl grants licence for fruit and vegetable market
Market grows, aristocracy move west to Mayfair.  Coffee houses, gambling dens and brothels move in
The first ballet staged at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, even though the Manager Colley Clibber has doubts that this new type of dance would catch on.
6th Duke secures Act of Parliament regulating market
C Fowler designs and builds the present market
Mid 18th Century
Many homes in Covent Garden converted into seedy lodging houses and Turkish baths.  Several doubled as brothels.  The area becomes so renowned for prostitutes that magistrate Sir John Fielding calls it the Great Square of Venus
London’s main fruit and vegetable market employing over 1,000 porters
Market is sold to the Beecham family (Beechams Powders)
Sold to the GLC for redevelopment
Secretary of State creates 250 listed buildings in Covent Garden overnight to stop mass development
Market finally moves
Market area restored and basement opened up.
Market opens with 26 shops and six restaurants
Market is sold to Guardian Royal Exchange but GLC set up the Covent Garden Area Trust to preserve its character.
Buy this book now and save 20%
John Richardson has written books on various areas of London, including Highgate, Hampstead, Camden Town and Islington. He is chairman of the Camden History Society. His book Covent Garden Past (published by Historical Publications/ ISBN 0 948667 27 3) is in print and generally available at bookshops in central London.
Buy this book
To read more about the history of Covent Garden, the Piazza and Jubilee Hall Market
click here

Posted by: krisinhawaii | May 20, 2008

Chris & I jump on a Piccadilly line train…

Posted by: krisinhawaii | May 18, 2008

More on the West End theatres…

Look how many West End theatres there are! This site lists all the major ones and links their Web sites. Cool. In particular, look at their entry on Her Majesty’s.

Above – Her Majesty’s Theatre during the run of ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ which opened on the 9th of October 1986 and is still there in 2007, twenty one years later! – Photo – M.L. October 2006.

Posted by: Chris Jones | May 16, 2008

I forever Lay a changed man…

Yes, I do forever lay a changed boy. I do because I’ve seen another country, another culture, and now I see how the US is different from all the others. The food, the accent, the teachings, the religion, everything is different and therefore I am changed.

Posted by: krisinhawaii | May 15, 2008

The Criterion Theatre.

Now that I’m back home, I have more time to google places we saw and find out about their history. This was another highly cool place Chris and I visited (with Eroica): The Criterion Theatre. We had a drink in the elegant and yet surprisingly affordable restaurant. (A well-kept secret!) Just reading more about its history here:

The White Bear & Regent’s Street

The White Bear Inn In the latter half of the 17th century, on the site of the Criterion Theatre, there stood a coaching inn called the White Bear with the address of No. 221 Pickadilly. It stood on a sloping ground stretching from the south side of Piccadilly to the north side of Jermyn Street with Haymarket to the east. The inn was surrounded by covered entrances and adjacent to it was an open area named Fleece Yard. There is also evidence of another tavern called the Fleece Inn.

In 1811 John Nash, the prominent Regency architect, developed New Street (as Regent’s Street was originally known) between Soho and Mayfair. It was to be extended south to Pall Mall providing a ceremonial route for The Prince Regent’s residence at Carlton House in St James’ to the new Regent’s Park. The intersection of where New Street crossed Piccadilly was named Regent’s Circus South and created the western boundary of The White Bear.

Map of Piccadilly 1875During the latter half of the 18th century the White Bear’s reputation was one of the finest in the West End. Coaches to Dover, Margate, Ramsgate, Canterbury and Rochester left regularly at dawn every morning. The White Bear was also a popular pick up point for other coaches heading for the west country.

The White Bear Inn survived for a considerable number of years after the end of the coaching age. A respectable hotel, known as Webb’s Hotel, had been established in two of the houses in Piccadilly, whilst the White Bear had become ‘the resort of Sporting characters’. In 1866 a building lease of the whole plot was granted to Joseph Challis, the proprietor of Webb’s Hotel, who in 1870 assigned the lease to Messrs. Spiers and Pond a firm of wine merchants and caterers. The White Bear Inn was demolished in 1870.

Building the Theatre

Thomas Verity's Original Ground PlanSpiers and Pond held an architectural competition for designs for a large restaurant and tavern with ancillary public rooms. The competition was won by Thomas Verity out of 15 entries. He designed a ground floor with vestibule, dining-room, buffet and smoking-room. The first floor was entirely devoted to dining-rooms and serving rooms. The whole of the Piccadilly front on the second floor was occupied by the grand hall. Behind it were another dining-room, service-rooms and a room tentatively labelled ‘picture gallery or ball supper-room’. In the basement there was to be another hall, for concerts and the exhibition of pictures. Building work began in the summer of 1871, and was completed in 1873 at a total cost of over £80,000.

In January 1873, when the carcass of the building was already completed, the proprietors successfully applied to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for permission to convert the concert hall in the basement into a theatre, with entrances from both Piccadilly and Jermyn Street.

The interiors of the new building were extensively decorated with ornamental tile-work, one of the first examples of the use of this material on such a scale following its successful use in the recently completed refreshment rooms at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). The cartoons for the figure subjects were drawn by A. S. Coke. The ornamental tile-work and painted decorations of both the theatre and the restaurant were the work of Messrs. Simpson and Son.

The Criterion Restaurant was opened to the public on 17th November 1873 and the Criterion Theatre on 21st March 1874 under the management of Henry J. Byron & EP Hingston.

Creating Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus circa 1900In 1877, not too long after The Criterion had opened the area in front of the theatre was redeveloped to make way for a new street linking Piccadilly and Bloomsbury. The aim was not merely the formation of over a mile of main thoroughfare sixty feet wide, but also the abolition of some of the worst slums in London. The new street was named Shaftesbury Avenue, in honour of Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. Along with the removal of Tichbourne Street and Regent’s Circus South this created a new larger intersection in front of The Criterion where Piccadilly, Regent’s Street & Shaftesbury Avenue met. It was called Piccadilly Circus.

The famous statue of Eros was erected in 1893, officially titled the Angel of Christian Charity and inaccurately named Eros ever since (It is actually Anteros, Eros’ twin), and stood in the centre of Piccadilly Circus. Eros stands on top of the Shaftesbury Monument Memorial Fountain, a further commemoration to Lord Shaftesbury and he points to the Earl’s ancestral home at Wimbourne in Dorset. The statue and fountain were moved 30 yards nearer The Criterion in the early 1980s in an attempt to improve the traffic congestion.

Early Years of the Theatre

1900's Programme AdvertThe programme of the first performance on 21st March 1874, consisted of An American Lady written and performed by Henry Byron and a piece by W. S. Gilbert, with music by Alfred Cellier, entitled Topsyturveydom. Unfortunately, the opening does not seem to have made much of an impression on Mr. Gilbert. In a letter to Edgar Pemberton, author of the book on The Criterion in 1903, Gilbert wrote: “I am sorry to say that in my mind is an absolute blank to the opening of The Criterion. I never saw Topsyturveydom. If you happen to have a copy of it and could lend it to me for a few hours it might suggest some reminiscences: as it is I don’t even know what the piece was about!” Nevertheless, Gilbert was back at the theatre in 1877 with his farce, On Bail (a revised version of his 1874 work, Committed for Trial); in 1881, with another farce, Foggerty’s Fairy; and in 1892, with a comic opera flop, Haste to the Wedding, with music by George Grossmith (an operatic version of Gilbert’s 1873 play, The Wedding March).

Charles Wyndham became the manager and lessee in 1875 and under his management The Criterion became one of the leading light comedy houses in London. The first production under the manager was The Great Divorce Case, opening on 15th April 1876. When Wyndham left in 1899 to open his own theatre, The Wyndham’s Theatre (and then the New Theatre, now called the Noel Coward Theatre, in 1903) he remained the lessee bringing in various managements and their companies.

The Criterion Theatre Foyer CeilingIn November 1882, the Metropolitan Board of Works condemned The Criterion on the grounds that it would be unsafe in the event of fire and also, as it was below ground and lit by gas, there was risk of toxic fumes. As a result the proprietors carried out extensive alterations between March 1883 and April 1884. Thomas Verity supervised the alterations (Verity by now had also designed the Comedy Theatre in 1881 and The Empire Theatre in 1882). A new area open to the sky was formed on a site formerly occupied by part of the ground floor dining-room. Corridors were built along the Piccadilly front, leading at one end to the box office entrance (west) and at the other to a new crush room and exit (east). In the auditorium most of the boxes were removed in order to increase the size of the circles. New decorations were carried out by Messrs. Simpson and Sons. The improvements also included an elaborate system of air conditioning and the installation of electric lights throughout the theatre. Still unsure that the improvements were safe The Metropolitan Board of Works had to vote twice before the necessary licence was issued and the theatre was re-opened on 16 April 1884.

Twentieth Century

Much more extensive alterations were made between 1921 and 1924, when the property immediately to the west was being rebuilt from the designs of Sir Reginald Blomfield. Parts of the upper floors of this block were added to the Criterion Restaurant, the whole of which was now to be reached by way of a new entrance and staircase in Regent Street. The former entrance vestibule in Piccadilly Circus and the ground floor of The Criterion front were converted into shops. The ‘Marble Restaurant’ and Theatre were left as before.

View from the StageDuring World War II, The Criterion was requisitioned by the BBC – as an underground theatre it made an ideal studio safe from the London blitz – and light entertainment programmes were both recorded and broadcast live. After the war, The Criterion repertoire included avant-garde works such as Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and pieces by Anouilh, Dario Fo and others.

In the 1970s the whole of The Criterion site was proposed for redevelopment, which caused protest as people feared the theatre would be lost. In February 1975 the GLC Planning Committee approved the development on the condition that the theatre continued in “full, continuous and uninterrupted use” while the redevelopments took place. However, this proved to be a false dawn and throughout the 1970s and early 1980s the row increased and the Equity Save London’s Theatre Committee organised high profile demonstrations (campaigners included Sir John Gielgud, Edward Woodward, Dame Diana Rigg, Robert Morley and Prunella Scales) as they feared that the theatre would still be lost. Eventually the theatre’s future was secured, but it had to close temporarily from April 1989 to October 1992.

The Criterion Today

Dress Circle Refurbishment DrawingDuring the refurbishment the entire block was demolished save the original part of the restaurant, the theatre auditorium & entrance staircase along with the concert hall above. The Regent’s Street entrance was lost, so too the entire backstage area including the dressing rooms, offices and bars. The concert hall was converted into shops and in most part houses Lillywhites today.

The building work created a new backstage area with dressing rooms, offices and workshops plus two new bars (Greene & Stalls). The auditorium was refurbished and remodelled slightly and the theatre was extensively re-equipped with modern sound and lighting systems. The Criterion Theatre re-opened under the management of Sally Greene (who had refurbished and re-opened the Richmond Theatre) on October 10th 1992 with Ennio Marchetto.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company made the Criterion Theatre their home for 9 years ending in April 2005. Since then recent productions have included: The Gruffalo; What the Butler Saw; Otherwise Engaged and Mack & Mabel. The current production of The 39 Steps opened on September 20th 2006.

Posted by: krisinhawaii | May 15, 2008

Something about Ramin.

Ramin Kairmloo was our 28-year-old Phantom. He’s played the role in London since late 2007. Naturally, his credentials are amazing. He started in the role of Raoul and understudied the Phantom, then took on the role full-time. Born in Iran, but escaped the regime with his family who immigrated to Canada. You can’t tell onstage of course…but he’s very good looking. A classic, square-jawed movie star face… a bit Orlando Bloom meets Johnny Depp. Fortunately, along with his bio and stage shots and such he’s posted a few beefcake shots of himself on his Web site.

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