The blog for hip + arty urban adventurers. Uncovering things to do and places to go in London and beyond. Visit the main site at a www.theculturalexpose.co.uk and click here to join the mailing list...
Love or hate it, itâs hard to deny the impact that the tube and train network has on Londoners. And with a history that spans over 160 years, itâs no surprise that the city has its share of stations that have closed over the decades. The stories behind these derelict and disused buildings is something that fascinates me, especially as many tube and train lines still run through their decaying platforms. Itâs what inspired me to writeÂ Do Not Alight Here, which takes the reader on 12 walks across London to explore old stations, tunnels and more, giving you the chance to go urban exploring and experience a part of London history often ignored by guidebooks. So here are some tips for seeing these intriguing places for yourself:
Keep your eyes peeled
Although passed unaware by thousands every day, many abandoned tube and train stations are actually easy to spot. Seen a building with the same red bricks that many Underground stations have? Itâs probably a former station. Bricked-up windows or doorways near current stations will also often be an old part no longer used.
Do it right now
London is forever changing. The downside is that its old stations are disappearing fast, so nowâs the time to see them. Currently on the danger list are various structures behind Kings Cross, soon to be cleared as part of the re-development. Crossrail means that many old stations in the Docklands will also soon disappear, including Silvertown and North Woolwich.
Always explore by day
A bit of a no-brainer, but visiting old station sites in the day isnât just a good idea because they are easier to see. Go at night and youâll look suspicious to the beady-eyed folks that man the CCTV cameras that several sites are protected by.
Donât try to get inside
The true urban explorer is one who dares to venture inside a hidden building they find. But with abandoned stations itâs not advised, so donât even try. Most still have active train lines running through them, while many old tube stations have empty lift shafts hundreds of feet deep. This makes them very dangerous. They are also monitored by cameras, with some even part-owned by the Ministry of Defence.
Take the Metropolitan line from Finchley Road to Liverpool Street
Many disused stations can easily be seen by riding along the current lines, and this route is one of the best. From Finchley Road to Baker Street youâll see the old platforms of Swiss Cottage, Marlborough Road and Lords. Later on you can find more old platforms at Kings Cross, Barbican and Moorgate, before the journey ends with an old signal box and bay platform at Liverpool Street.
Embrace the darkness
Peer into the darkness of the tunnels through the window when riding the tube. Simply wrap your hands around your face to block the light from the carriage and youâll be rewarded with a glimpse of a secret London. Not convinced? Hereâs an example: look out the right hand windows on a Central line train between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, and youâll see the remains of the platforms of British Museum station, closed 1933.Â (Words: Ben Pedroche)
My culinary experiments in the kitchen rarely end well. Although I dream of learning to cook like Nigella (one day!), the reality definitely falls short and my dishes could do with more inspiration. So for cultural and creative explorations in the kitchen, I’ve found cookery classes could be the answer.
A city like London means it’s easy to learn national faves like Indian and Chinese (Jeremy Pang’s School of Wok comes highly recommended) - but it’s also paved the way for Akhaya, London’s first cookery school dedicated to African cooking. Recently featured on CNN, it’s an ambitious venture considering this cuisine doesn’t usually fare well in the popularity stakes - but past students have boasted of discovering tasty and exciting dishes from Morocco, Nigeria, and East Africa, in a beautiful, decked out kitchen in North London that also celebrates the cultures to the full.
Classes give students access to authentic ingredients and spices, takeaway dishes for the massive portions, as well as a goodie bag with recipe cards and ingredients so dishes can be recreated at home. And for beginners, there are ‘Introduction to…’ workshops which probably won’t make you the next Gordon or Jamie after one session - but for novices like me, it’s a good start. To learn more, Akhaya will have a free Taste of Africa open day on November 25th - click here for more info. (Words: Tosin Omilaju)
Q: Have you ever attended a cookery class? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!
As long as the weather’s behaving itself, a walk around London is a wonderful way to take in the city’s nooks and crannies. It ticks off the exercise quota, gives you a bit of fresh-ish air, and saves you money when you’re feeling particularly hard done by TFL’s premium tariffs (and all the other stuff that’s a nightmare in the morning - like that person under the train *who IS that?!*)
Anywho - a new guide’s arrived to show us how to explore the capital, penned by artist and writer Badaude (aka Joanna Walsh). Not only has she outlined 21 walks, 3 bus routes - AND a boat trip! - but the good lady’s included charming hand-drawn illustrations to bring to life London’s many colourful characters and traits.
The release of the book is being marked by a series of events, starting with Badaude’s How To Be A Tourist lecture at The Idler Academy on June 1st (£20, including wine, games and nibbles), an alternative walking tour at Foyles Charing Cross Road (June 4th: Free) and finally Drawing London at Tate Modern on June 11th (Free). The final gig sees Badaude graffiti the walls of the galleries’ bookshop with her quirky drawings before signing copies of her book, which is certain to put walking back into fashion. Go get it. (Words: Matilda Egere-Cooper)
Tired of the usual nights out at bars, clubs, restaurants and err, the multiplex? Looking to do something a bit different on an eve? Well, we may have just the ticket, dear readers.
Between May 13-15th, the annual Museums at Night event takes place across the country. This will see hundreds of museums, galleries and heritage sites all over the UK open their doors after-hours for a wide range of special activities, screenings and talks. We’ve checked out the listings and some of the events at the smaller, lesser-known venues as well as at the bigger ones look quite fun and unusual, to say the least…!
Here’s a sample of the London gigs: ‘surgery by gaslight’ at the Old Operating Theatre Museum featuring a Victorian amputation demonstration (!), a double bill of mummy films at the Egyptian Petrie Museum, Balinese dancing at the Horniman and a Renaissance night with period music and life drawing at the National Gallery.
I am personally visualizing some highly cultured people on some very creative first dates. (suitors, feel free to take me to the Royal Observatory for some stargazing, you’ll definitely get a second.) (Words: Aoife Moriarty)
Confession: before I bought my very first SLR in 2008, I thought those suckers were MAGICAL. The sheer size of them, the changeable lenses…the power of having one in your hands. I truly believed once I owned an SLR, I’d be up there with RANKIN.
The first picture I took with my Canon 450D was the ugliest picture I ever shot in my life. Dull. Boring. And that was on AUTO mode. I could hear my discarded Samsung point and shoot mocking me, “it’s not the camera that makes a good picture, you fool” - and I soon learned that this was very true. So I did a few short courses and learned how to use manual mode…I understood how to compose…I learned the difference between aperture and shutter speed (easy things people, trust me), and I went from being an SLR novice, to being endorsed by top photojournalist Edmond Terakopian, and this month, receiving a commendation by the Sony World Photography Awards (!). So with all that I’ve acquired over the years, I’ve been inspired to put together a very simple beginners workshop on May 21st in London to help people take great pictures and get to grips with their camera too.
It’s been organised through The Culture Club and it will be led by acclaimed London photographer Joy Ekpeti (check out her website, she’s all kinds of awesome!). It’s only 3 and 1/2 hours, and by the end of it, you’ll become a more confident photographer, learn how to take great shots outdoors and never struggle with your camera again. Lastly, you don’t need an SLR to take part - just a camera and a Saturday afternoon to spare! (Words: Matilda Egere-Cooper)
For more info, visit The Culture Club website.
(And if you’re curious to see how I shoot nowadays, here’s some of my pics online)
If you haven’t heard by now, Zumba is the dance fitness class that’s currently making waves across the country. It was created in the mid-90s by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez (a choreographer for pop stars like Shakira) by accident, when he forgot his usual fitness music and used Latin music instead. But what makes it so unique is that it uses a variety of different dance styles including salsa, merengue, belly dancing, samba, Bhangra and hip-hop, set to Latin, African and Caribbean-based music - and it’s actually fun, making working out seem like, well, not working out.
The enthusiastic and energetic teacher of the Zumba class I went to at the O2 Esporta stressed to us that we should just have fun and not worry about getting everything right, which was a change from the usual ‘no pain, no gain’ ethos you get from some instructors (the ones who think they’re actually drill sergeants). Meanwhile, the fear of actually doing yourself an injury from bad technique is also erased, leaving you to just enjoy yourself. The moves themselves make you feel sexy, powerful and feminine (it’s a class that’s targeted at women) and you can’t help but smile and woop as the music builds momentum and you lose all inhibitions, sashaying across the room, waving your arms, shaking your bum and feeling like a dancer in an MTV video. This is definitely an exercise class for people who don’t like exercise -and for more info visit www.zumbauk.co.uk. (Words: Priscilla Ayres, Pic: SaySandra)
Disclaimer people: TCé are not the biggest brainiacs when it comes to exhalting the finer points of fashion (seek out the dope Five Five Fabulous for that), but we know great garms when we see them - particularly the ones that can strike a balance between creativity, technicality and art, which we can wear without coming across too tryhard, knowwhatimsaying? So this weekend, TCé is getting into as much LFW as possible to learn and report on lovely collections and trends before returning to our regularly scheduled recommendations on Monday. We’ll be passing through Elliott J Frieze’s show on Saturday afternoon, while our ACF Gallery friends have invited the crew to hit up a few of the designer’s after-parties on the night. As for Sunday, we’ll be tweeting live and direct from the Fjaba catwalk and later, the A La Mode show, featuring collections from the hottest independent designers. There’s still tickets available for the Mode show (find details here) and if you want to see what the celebrity designers are getting up to, check out LFW’s Live Stream here for frequent updates from the comfort of your sofa (saves finding something to wear, right? ;-) (Words: Matilda Egere-Cooper)
A chill-out rather than a competition, the SoulBrew Karaoke night gives everyone their long-awaited moment of fame. With a crowd of cheering fans to support you and a funk-and-soul live band playing loud enough to back up any flaws of your talent, this is a great opportunity to make your superstar dream come true! The regular night take place on the last Friday of each month, gathering a mixed flock of all ages, races, sexes and styles, united in their love for music and fun. A broad selection of songs ranges from contemporary top hits to old forgotten classics: rock, pop, funk, soul, disco – so you’ll be sure to find something you like! So whether you aspire to rock the stage, or simply want to have a great night out, you can be sure not to be disappointed! (Words and pics: Tina Remiz)
The next night will be taking place on February 25th. For more details, visit www.soulbrew.com
Swishing is basically the sport of swapping your unwanted clothes for someone else’s. Fashionistas do this because 1) they want to save money 2) they’re eco warriors who believe recycling clothes is doing their part to protecting the environment 3) They want to par-tay (obviously!). I attended my 3rd ever swishing soiree (hosted by charity Fashion4Change) on Friday. I actually didn’t have any unwanted clothes, so I quickly rummaged H&M the day before to buy a couple tops that wouldn’t break the bank and could be a worthwhile investment towards anything I managed to grab on the night.
You might have noticed I called swishing a ‘sport’. Well, it is – and what many don’t realise is that in order to be successful you have to understand the rules otherwise you might leave with someone’s sloppy seconds. So my rule number 1: Scan the swishing shop as early as you can. It’ll be rare you’ll actually be allowed to go through the racks beforehand, but this is when your eyes need to work like scanners - dit dit dit dit dit DIT! Take note of the colours and styles you like (not point in wasting time over those burnt orange harem pants), and strategise the quickest routes to the shop once the whistle blows. I already knew that it was much better to sit as close to the shop as possible, at the end of the row (in this case, near the back), while all the newbies sat innocently at the front. Suckers.
My rule number 2: Once the whistle blows, head over to the shop, and grab at least four items in one go that vaguely resemble something you might go for. You’ve got to be quick though because once everyone else catches up with you after choking on your dust, they’ll be trying to adopt your technique – and there’s a good chance at least one of those four items will be a keeper. I managed to grab a pink dress, a green chiffon-style top, a black and white print dressy top and a gray shirt dress (which was actually the one I brought, hee hee! I put it back though!), but it turns out the pink dress wasn’t my size. And the black and white number actually belonged to one of the workers who accidentally left it on the side, only for it to be placed in the shop! LOL My Rule number 3: Forget the accessories. I rarely go for these, and would only consider them as a last resort. Accessories (bangles, belts, etc) in my opinion are relatively cheap – and I’m trying to get my £8 entry fee’s worth, HELLO!? Saying that, I did manage to get a Burberry Bag at Swishing number 2, but it was, like I said, a last resort (and good fortune!)
Some events might also hold auctions - and Fashion4Change put on a fashion show/auction which featured some AMAZING items. I managed to land a lovely River Island cocktail dress for £7!!!!! Oooo, I do love a bargain (downside though: must diet to fit in it LOL. No rules for this except always think about the maximum you’re willing to spend on an item and bid in tiny increments, like eBay.
So if you’re into fashion and might want to your part for charity in a unique way, go to a swishing party ASAP. You can keep up to date with Fashion4Change here or visit swishing.org to find out about other events.