One City Stories: Jenney Surelia, Tango Teacher at Kahaila

Nicola Sheppey
Jenney Surelia (centre) leads a class. Image: https://tasteoftango.co.uk

‘Walk, enjoy the music, find someone whose movements interest you, and gravitate towards them.’ In Jenney Surelia’s weekly tango classes at Kahaila Aldgate, connection and conversation are at the forefront of class. The dancers – a group of perfectly ordinary, diverse Londoners of all ages, all willing to have fun and try something new – seem shy at first, but gradually open up and relax into the music, connect with one another, and become bolder with each step. This is the transformative experience of Jenney’s tango classes – bringing strangers together, not pushing a forced intimacy on the attendees but letting them find their own feet and explore the relationship it creates.

By day, Kahaila is an ordinary (albeit visually striking) cafe in Aldgate Square, but on Wednesdays at 7pm, the tables are pushed aside and the dance floor is cleared. Jenney’s weekly class is a place to explore a social side that you never knew you had, even for just an hour. In a country that feels full of division, this is more important than ever. Ahead of the taster class – which happens on the last Wednesday of every month, at 6:30pm – One City sat down with Jenney, the warm and graceful teacher bringing something very unusual to the Square Mile.

How did you get into teaching tango?

Jenney: It began completely by accident: I studied in Paris for a year, and by chance I found a tango class. I really got into it and started dancing a lot, and I was encouraged – i.e. set up! – by my sister and a friend to teach a class, even though I’d never taught before. They organised a space in a gym without telling me until a month before! Later, in London I approached Pineapple Dance Studios to teach a beginners’ class.

Two days before my first class, the London bombings happened. I thought it was over, thinking ‘why would anyone be interested in tango when this has happened?’ But to my surprise, a small group came: they needed some kind of connective experience.

Do you think tango is beneficial for hard-working Citysiders?

Definitely – when you’re in the rhythm of the City, it’s hard to not hear the drum that beats everyday, and sometimes London feels like a place where you can’t make eye contact with anyone! It’s the complete opposite to tango, where invitations are done by eye contact. For someone who’s not used to that, it can be intimidating.

What’s really nice about tango is that not only is it meditative, but it really is an exploration of yourself. It does develop you. In order to listen to somebody, you have to know the sound of yourself, to be present. For City workers that want to come to these classes, it’s an oasis for them once a week – they’re able to tap into that. It’s not just about being social and meeting new people, and not about the sexy side of tango – and there’s plenty of people selling that – it’s about a human connection that we’re all really thirsting for. By moving your body, you open your body up, you get endorphins running, you get to stretch, but you’re not doing it by yourself. You’re doing it in relation to another person, so that is really transformative. There’s no sense of competition; our glass bubble in Kahaila becomes a cocoon. We had a girl who works in FinTech take the class and she hit the nail on the head when she said ‘it’s not necessarily what I want, but it’s what I need.’

What do you like about teaching in Kahaila Aldgate?

Kahaila is brilliant. I teach at Pineapple, which is what always comes to mind when you think of dance classes and it is a lovely place to teach, but it’s a dance studio. Rather than trying to invoke this authentic experience which everyone imagines with fishnets and fedoras (all the cliche stereotypes of tango you can think about), what I wanted to focus on was the social side and creating an environment of exploration and experimentation, which is how people used to learn before there were commercial dance schools. In Argentina, before schools, people learned tango in two ways – the men learned amongst themselves in groups, in what was called una Academia, so they could go out and dance socially without embarrassing themselves in front of women, whereas the women were taught at home. It sounds old-school – times have moved on, our culture is much more diverse and much less macho, so I wanted to put that traditional learning experience into a modern context. 

I wanted to find a place that feels homely but also has room for experimentation, and we’re very flexible on the roles. It’s not just men leading, women following – that’s how it was traditionally allocated – now we have women leading men, men leading women, men leading men, women leading women – it’s about exploring what the body can do but also the relationships and feelings that come from this on both sides. We can do this here because it’s not a dance studio, it’s a cafe. It’s relaxed, social and has this beautiful view, and we’re really in the heart of the City – all this life and action is happening all around us, and we’re in a safe cocoon in the middle. For me it’s perfect.

Argentina itself is not the birthplace of tango, but more Buenos Aires and the Rio Plate area.  That’s an important point to make because we begin to understand that tango came from an urban, metropolitan context. It’s got a lot in common with London. Then when we understand that this was a dance that brought people – usually immigrants – together to socialise, we can see tango was the street dance of its day.  This atmosphere is impossible to copy and paste from Buenos Aires, and it would be wrong to do so. But London is a big metropolitan city with its own character and that is totally something that feeds into how we learn and dance tango here.

A social activity: participants of Jenney’s class in Kahaila Aldgate.

What would you say to someone who might want to try tango but is a little bit shy?

It’s frightening, and as Brits we’re not used to getting up close and dancing intimately, but you do choose the intimacy. This is what’s really nice, if you’re able to see beyond the stereotypes you’ll find there’s a whole spectrum of creativity and inspiration, but you’ve got to be present. If you were having a conversation with someone, you would either be engaged or disengaged. I’d encourage people to think of it in that way, and not to feel like people are scrutinising you. Even people who come from other dances (salsa, ballet, contemporary) see very quickly that this is not just dance steps. You’re not learning choreography. I give you an idea and we have fun and play with it.

Ultimately, you’ve got to want to do it – I don’t want people to come to class unless they want to do it. You don’t need to be a fantastic dancer to dance tango. I’ve heard ‘I’ve got two left feet’ and ‘I can’t dance’ a lot, and those tend to be the people who really enjoy the classes as it’s improvisation, you’re not learning choreography. I’m trying to give you tools to have fun and play with.

A famous musician once said: “the tango is waiting for you,” and without wanting it to sound too creepy, it is. Like anything, it’ll happen at the right time for you. But it’s up to you to take the chance.

A lot of people might only know of tango after seeing it on Strictly, and seeing that intensity with a partner – they might have ideas about what tango looks like and worry they’re not at the same level.

Well, I’m not one to say that Hollywood gets tango right but if anybody did Hollywood tango well, it’s Al Pacino. It wasn’t because he dances particularly well, but it’s because he got the idea: it’s about having a conversation with your partner and if the conversation goes adrift, you just bring it back in. The idea is to stay with your partner, not doing what is technically right and technically wrong. Through that you can create a safe space which creates trust and openness, and possibilities.

Anybody can come and try it, you don’t have to be an experienced dancer, but you’ve got to be open to it. You’ve got to be willing to try. It’s a really relaxed environment, not a hunting ground, and I really like that about Kahaila. It is very open and inclusive, and a really good way to get an idea of what tango is beyond Strictly. It’s great that tango has been showcased on TV and at the beginning it brought so many people to classes. But the tango I know and have lived with for the last 20 years is a more subtle animal. It’s a practice you build up with time – quite different to what you see on Strictly. It’s less important how tango looks, than how it feels, and if you can understand that then you’re on the right track.

If you’d told me 20 years ago ‘you’ll be teaching tango’, I would have said ‘what’s tango?’ Whereas now, through it I’ve learned languages, I’ve learned things about myself. I used to be very awkward when I first started dancing, I wasn’t comfortable with being physical with other people, and tango doesn’t necessarily pull that shyness out of you but it does encourage you to open up.

What’s your favourite cultural spot in London?

The Tate is amazing, there’s so much going on there. The free tours run by their volunteers are worth a visit. I love museums and galleries in general. We’re so lucky in London, we’re spoilt for choice and we don’t always realise that until we’re in different places. I went to St Paul’s Cathedral properly for the first time a couple of months ago and I was struck by how beautiful it is. I’ve taught in Italy and have seen my fair share of classical cathedrals, but St Paul’s is breathtaking – and you can climb it!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt, and what advice would you give to someone who wanted to teach tango (or similar)?

Balance is really important. You should be able to sustain yourself by doing different work outside of your passion, that’s a practical thing to do. You do need to work a lot at finding something that is authentic to what you do. I don’t tick the boxes of a typical tango teacher; I’m not Argentinian, I’m an East African Indian, London-born woman who teaches tango by myself. Many people might think I shouldn’t be doing it – but I am. There should be more people learning it, and if they see that a London-born, Indian woman who is teaching and has been to Buenos Aires and is trying to connect to this culture that is entirely unrelated to the cultures she has grown up with, then anyone can do it.

Tango is not the same in London, or Paris, or Buenos Aires, and it shouldn’t be – it should have a local flavour, and that’s what makes it real. So have respect for the art form, and don’t be afraid to be yourself. Being real and authentic also means doing the work. Learning doesn’t stop just because I teach and I love that. I take inspiration from everywhere: my students; my own teachers and peers; other dance forms; art. Never stop learning and having fun with it. 

Tango classes are held every Wednesday 7-8:30pm in Kahaila Aldgate (Aldgate Square) followed by a práctica until 9:30pm (£15 pp). On the last Wednesday of the month, there is a free taster session at 6:30pm (must be booked in advance). Click here for more info about Jenney and her classes.

There will be a 2-hour workshop at Pineapple Dance Studios on 21 July and on 1 September (£20 pp). Book using promo code ONECITYTANGO to get two places for the price of one. Click here to book.

Enjoy an audio taste of tango: https://www.tasteoftango.co.uk/tastes/

For updates on what’s happening in the City plus exclusive offers and content for One City Friends, sign up for our newsletter here!

Best Places to Watch Wimbledon in the City

Nicola Sheppey

July in London: a time of Pimm’s, beer gardens, sticky tube carriages, carefully thought-out ‘is this appropriate for the office?’ clothing, and gleeful holiday anticipation (even if you know you’re escaping the country during the hottest month of the year). It’s also a time for the best summer event in the London calendar: Wimbledon.

For those unable to make it down to bask on Murray Mound with a tub of strawberries and cream, never fear: we’ve rounded up the five most interesting places in the Square Mile to watch Wimbledon in the sun.

The Rooftop on One New Change

If you can’t be on the grounds, you might as well not be on the ground. One New Change presents tennis with a spectacular view, with the dome of St Paul’s peeking over the screen. Lounge on a deck chair or bed down on a beanbag with a Peroni and cheer on the all stars at this scenic spot.

While you’re there… take a look around Colour My Summer, a summer installation that has turned the whole rooftop green. Psst: live your best influencer life and snap a picture with the butterfly wings.

Bloomberg Arcade

Bloomberg Arcade’s incredible array of eateries means it’s probably already a regular lunch spot for you (it certainly is for us) – so why not kick back and watch the tennis while you tuck into your Bleecker Burger? The Arcade is screening the home stretch of the tournament, with showings from 11 July onwards.

While you’re there… sign up for yoga, live orchestra and brunch – all in one! On 20 July Bloomberg Arcade is hosting a yoga class with a soundtrack of live classical music, followed by a healthy breakfast at Caravan. You’ll be the most relaxed one in the office. Click here to book.

Paternoster Square

It’s an atmosphere like no other in this buzzing square – save this spot for the really tense matches. You’ll get to keep an eye on St Paul’s, and the Happenstance is waiting with your celebratory/commiseration pint after the match.

While you’re there… grab a colleague and flex your own tennis skills; the Square has its own court set up. All right, it’s table tennis, but it’s close enough.

Greenpoint Summer Garden at Citypoint

It’s up close and personal at Citypoint’s mini Wimbledon – you’ll really feel as if you’re part of the action in this intimate set-up. Surrounded by bars and eateries, you might just have to pull a sickie* to stay there all afternoon (*not endorsed by One City).

While you’re there… spend some time in the Greenpoint Summer Garden, and make sure you come back for the outdoor cinema screenings, courtesy of Nomad Cinema. Click here to see the full line-up.

New Street Square

Western Citysiders don’t have to head far for their Wimbledon fix – as part of Colour My Summer, New Street Square has been transformed into a blue haven with its own Wimbledon showings. The perfect post-work social event (with minimal physical movement required).

While you’re there… grab a summer acai bowl from Crussh – with free tasters on 11 July! Click here for more info.

The Men’s Final: South Place Hotel

It’s the final – make it spectacular. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re watching the French Open if you head to the Rosé Riviera Southern France-inspired garden at South Place Hotel. Sip on Minuty wine and enjoy a cream tart under a beautiful floral canopy. It’s even outdoors (sort of), with a retractable roof. Showing on 14 July; click here for tickets.

While you’re there… well, stick around! The garden is open all summer long and is an ideal retreat away from the City – there are even be cinema screenings under the canopy. Click here for more info.

Game, set and match!

For updates on what’s happening in the City plus exclusive offers and content for One City Friends, sign up for our newsletter here!

One City Stories: Ben and Gaz, Founders of Sub Cult

Nicola Sheppey
The ‘sandwich kings’: Gareth ‘Gaz’ Phillips (left) and Ben Chancellor. Photo: Sam Harris (@samharrisphoto)

‘This quirky little island has birthed so many subcultures – they’ve always fascinated me.’ Such was the starting point for old friends Ben Chancellor and Gareth ‘Gaz’ Phillips, merging love for food, music and fashion into the ultimate sandwich brand. Sub Cult puts a very British spin on the great American sandwich – a place where submarine rolls pay homage to stylish subcultures.

After five years, the ‘sandwich kings of the street food scene’ (Time Out London) are putting down roots in the City, growing from a monochrome van (the ‘Soul Roller’) to a shiny new store in Watling Street. Ahead of the big launch later this week, founders Ben and Gaz sat down with One City to talk all things Sub Cult.

Tell us the origin of Sub Cult.

Ben: It’s a bittersweet story – I was working in PR and I got very sick, and I was signed off work for a year. It made me rethink everything. I thought if I start something for myself in an area that I love, perhaps things will be more manageable. I was really interested in the street food scene, seeing successful London-centric chains launched off the back of street food – there was a real zeitgeist going on, but no one was doing the American sandwich. I’d been out to the States at 19 and was blown away by Sub sandwiches out there, thinking ‘man, this isn’t a sandwich, this is next level – this is something completely different’. America’s the home of the Po’ Boy, the Sloppy Joe, the Reuben, the Philly Cheesesteak … they absolutely think of a different value proposition as a sandwich.

Gaz and I are old friends; Gaz was living in America at the time. I’d had an idea for a food business already, but whilst Gaz was away I was going down to markets like Street Feast and Maltby St, and I kept coming back to the American sandwich, thinking ‘why is nobody doing it?’ At the time I was a proper die hard mod – I’ve always been interested in subcultures from a sartorial perspective. I wanted to tie it all in together – music, fashion, and food. I was in the bath one night and I had this eureka moment – ‘sub cult’! I leapt out of the water like a dolphin and phoned Gaz, who was in America – weirdly, he’d been thinking about sandwiches out there as well.

Gaz: I’d been eating incredible sandwiches in the States. When I got back an opportunity came up in Dalston – a friend asked if we wanted to do a pop up in a pub. We’d been trading out of a gazebo in Soho, then suddenly found a new home in Dalston. We got some press attention from it and stayed there for 18 months – it was great, we had a prep space, storage, stash, and we could sell our sandwiches in the pub and prep for events and markets. We got a van after around six months.

Ben: As press caught wind of it, we were popping up in ‘best sandwiches’ lists, and we ended up doing quite a few kitchen residencies around east London. We entered the British Street Food Awards and won ‘Best Sandwich’ and ‘Best Vegetarian’ categories, which were judged and awarded by Michelin starred chefs. That got us on the radar and we started to collaborate with chefs like Tom Aiken. We ended up in his restaurant in Chelsea, doing lobster sandwiches, a whole lobster in a sub – our sales in his restaurant ended up being better than his sales overall! After getting into the more decorated markets like Maltby St and Street Feast, we went to a forum and connected with CODE Hospitality – soon they and a few others were investing in us. We managed to open a shipping container in Liverpool Street, and are now opening a brand new site in Watling Street. It’s really been quite the journey and not without its peaks and troughs.

Being in the City is great – the workers love the sandwiches, they want lunch that’s tasty, gourmet, filling, and quick. We’ve built a fanbase here – this is where the sandwich belongs. It’s a daytime food, and we’ve really refined our menu. We’re hoping this’ll be the first of many targeting the Square Mile, after which we can look beyond it. A lot of the City workers love that we’re independent – one guy came in and said he felt like he was ‘cheating on the system’. We’re not from the same background as your average chain, we’ve come from street food.

British subcultures meet great American flavours: a selection of the subs. Photo: Sam Harris (@samharrisphoto)

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the London food scene?

Ben: Street food is a hard graft – it’s weather dependent, seasonal, really physically hard. We’ve had some difficult times, as any street food trader could tell you – even when you’re really busy, it’s make-or-break quite often every year. Winter’s got the lean months, summer’s where you make your money. One of our worst moments was literally the day before we spoke to CODE and began our investment journey: we were driving to Essex to pick up our catering van, driving in the workhouse van that did all the supply runs – it was winter so it was gloomy – and the van broke down. It was bleak – we’d come a cropper with a problem that was completely out of our control and had nothing to do with our performance, and we were deep into our overdraft. We looked at each other and said ‘let’s just call it a day, eh?’

We were planning on rolling the company up when we made it to that forum the very next day, and good fortune came along. Really miraculous. Here we are.

What’s your daily routine like?

Gaz: Given that we’ve got the shipping containers and now a new shop to prepare for, as well as the street food van, our days are pretty varied. I’m more on the operations side, so in the mornings I’ll usually head down to the arch at 7am to pack up all of the deliveries that come in the middle of the night, then get ready for a day on the markets. I’ll drive the Soul Roller into town, at Broadgate on weekdays, drop the van in situ, meet the staff who’ll be working on it, set them up for the day, then head over to the new shop. I’ll have site meetings, staff meetings, talk to suppliers, then have a working lunch with our consultant. After that I’ll head back to the van and reverse the process – drop the van back at the arch, get the stock packed away.

Ben: The landscape’s totally changed to when we began. When we first started, for the first few years we’d have two markets on the go every day – Gaz would be doing one, I’d be doing the other – and at one point, we had three kitchen residencies running at the same time. It was absolutely crazy, we’d all be deployed in different areas. Sub Cult’s growing up now, so a day in the life is totally different. I’m normally replying to lots of emails and spending my days in meetings with PR consultants, investors, accountants, lawyers, web designers, whoever it might be. We do private events for huge brands, and have even been asked to do TV appearances. Then we’ve got our family life as well. There’s no ‘day in the life’ the way there used to be – but we’re riding the wave. We take each day as it comes.

A creative combination: the ‘Submarine’. Photo: Sam Harris (@samharrisphoto)

What’s the secret to a good sandwich?

Gaz: We keep our sandwiches really accessible with some flourishes of magic in there – whether that’s adding some decadence with truffle, or creating unusual combinations like our pork and seafood ‘Submarine’ sandwich (pictured above) – people always think ‘I wouldn’t have put those ingredients together’ but after they’ve tried it, they’re sold. You want the sandwich to be accessible enough for people to come back daily. Our best-seller is the chicken club, a straightforward sandwich – with our own Sub Cult magic in there.

Ben: We never try to reinvent the wheel – we looked at all of the American classics and played around, honing our menu down to just four subs for breakfast and eight for lunch, including our seasonal special. With the seasonal sub, we love to collaborate with suppliers and chefs to create something really fresh.

One of the four breakfast subs: the Subcontractor. Photo: Sam Harris (@samharrisphoto)

Where’s your favourite place to spend time in London?

Gaz: I really enjoy going to Peckham – my brother (who’s our Head Chef) runs a music event each month in the Bussey Building, which I love to go to. It’s child friendly, so I can take my little boy and my wife and we hang out in Peckham for the day.

Ben: I’ve been in London 16 years, used to love Camden and Shoreditch areas, but I’m 41 now with an eight-month-old baby so my regular spots have changed. Gaz and I love a quirky old pub. At the moment, as middle-aged as it sounds, I can often be found traipsing around Beckenham Place Park which is this amazing green space which I think rivals Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park. It’s an old stately home which was a golf course for a while, but then given to Lewisham Council. The Bussey Building guys come and throw vintage fairs, street food fairs, yoga, record store days, things like that. It’s really beautiful grounds, sweeping hills, forests and lakes – you can walk for miles and miles. When work gets stressful (and I’m a West Country boy, a country boy at heart), I go there for some ‘tree-bathing’ which is very therapeutic to the soul. Getting a good work-life balance is so important.

London offers an awful lot, you’ve just got to scratch the surface to get into the underbelly of it, but the more diverse and unusual spots you find, the better. The markets are such a key part of this city, all the street food markets and the vintage fairs – it’s a lovely tapestry for London.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own food business?

Gaz: The advice I always give it to never do it alone. Do it with a partner. It’s too much on your own – I’ve seen people burn out. Do it with someone that you trust, ideally someone who’s got a skillset different to your own.

Ben: Gaz and I complement each other perfectly – my background is PR, marketing and sales, whereas Gaz’s has always been operations, events and cheffing – and we learn from each other all the time. But the fact that we’re such good friends is great for morale. A lot of people say ‘don’t work with mates’ but we personify the reason to do it: you can call a spade a spade when you’re close mates and it makes things a lot easier when you’re going through tough times.

The other advice I’d give is not to try and reinvent the wheel. Look at what you think is missing out there, but stick to something that has universal appeal, especially in the current market, with the shadow of Brexit and big chains going belly-up. There are trends, but certain markets are quite saturated; choose something where there’s room for growth and isn’t too obscure.

Also – don’t despise humble beginnings, and be prepared to fail. Someone once said to me ‘when you fall, fall forwards and pick something up when you’re down’. There’s no such thing as failure with the right outlook – always stay learning. Things can trip you up that are out of your control – it’s not a walk in the park. But we wouldn’t change anything – we’ve learnt so much. Help as many people as you can, because what goes around comes around – when you’ve got a network of friends and peers, everyone can help each other when things get tough. Always have an attitude towards altruism, and enjoy the journey!

Photo: Sam Harris (@samharrisphoto)

Sub Cult opens at 82 Watling St, EC4M 9BX, this Weds 19 June. Open Mon-Fri 7am-6pm; click here for info & more locations.

For updates on what’s happening in the City plus exclusive offers and content for One City Friends, sign up for our newsletter here!

Five Must-See Summer Exhibitions in the City

Nicola Sheppey

Lee Krasner: Living Colour – Barbican Art Gallery

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 29: Lee Krasner: Living Colour exhibition at Barbican Art Gallery on May 29, 2019 in London, England. The exhibition is on view 30 May – 1 September 2019. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)

It’s almost criminal that this is the retrospective in Europe for over 50 years of Abstract Expressionist Lee Krasner, but it’s certainly worth the wait; this summer the Barbican celebrates the American artist who reflected the feeling of possibility and experiment in New York in the mid 20th Century. The large, multi-floor exhibition takes you through the origin of her work, from intimate self-portraits of a painter at work, to cubist life drawings under the tutelage of Hans Hofmann (so good ‘you would not know it was done by a woman’ said Hofmann of Krasner’s work) to geometric abstractions and wildly colourful canvases reflecting her turbulent life.

The scale of the art gallery is perfect for the scale of her impact; walk through her life and watch her style evolve in over 100 works, some of which are being exhibited in the UK for the first time. Alongside this, enjoy rare photography and film from the period, grounding her work in the post-war period; her surreal, abstract paintings contrasting with stark footage from a time when the USA was reeling from its new position as a superpower and women were embracing lives of domesticity. All this and more, at an exhibition that provides ‘an exciting opportunity for visitors here to experience the sheer impact of her work’ (Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican).

1 Jun – 1 Sep 2019 | Barbican Art Gallery
Admission: Mon-Fri £15; weekends and bank holidays £17; members and under-14s free
Click here for more info plus related talks and events

Haffendi Anuar & Nadia Waheed: For the Few and the Many – BEERS London

In situ image of exhibition courtesy of Damian Griffiths

The two artists in this group exhibition offer a vastly different yet complementary analyses of society. Both born in Asia and having lived and worked around the world, each artist has created different visuals on identity and environment that are proudly explored at this colourful exhibition near Old Street. Waheed, a Pakistani-born Saudi-American artist, exhibits a set of intimate paintings of women, some self-portraits, some other – the women are painted in various bright hues (‘What really signifies one’s identity,’ questions Waheed, ‘do they have to be painted brown to be brown?’) and intertwine and cradle one another. The traditional dress of some of the paintings and the often-nude portrayals explore Waheed’s identity – and women’s identity – in thought-provoking detail.

Anuar on the other hand, a Malaysian sculptor, looks at societal issues of construction and modernisation in a more abstract way – with sculptures that resemble foundational support columns that hold up the more traditional Southeast Asian buildings. Painted with numerous layers and sanded down, the wear-and-tear aesthetic artificially dates the sculptures so they almost resemble antiques. At the same time, the bright layers of paint shining through create their own suggestions about exposing vulnerability, and how this architectural imagery may tell us more about our changing landscape.

18 May – 29 Jun 2019 | BEERS London
Admission: free (closed Sundays & Mondays)
Click here for more info


Architecture of London – Guildhall Art Gallery

© Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London; Image © Anthony Lowe

London has long been a fascinating and inspiring place for artists, and here the Guildhall Art Gallery brings together 400 years’ worth of urban and suburban depictions of our city. The exhibition features 80 works by 60 artists, giving us a glimpse into how London, its residents and its skyline have changed over the years – with each artist’s own unique perspective on the era they lived in.

The City itself has been through astronomical change – from the destruction following the Great Fire of London, to the rebuilding on the old medieval street pattern, the Victorian boom, the introduction of brutalism, to the ‘big bang’ in the financial sector causing the City’s skyline to grow ever larger. Nowhere else has this fascinating contrast of old against new, and ‘Architecture of London’ shows its enormous artistic influence on the people who dwell in it. A must-see for all who are fascinated by London’s built environment.

31 May – 1 Dec 2019 | Guildhall Art Gallery
Admission: £10 / concessions £7
Click here for more info


Queer Spaces: London, 1980s – Today – Whitechapel Gallery

Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings, The Scarcity of Liberty #2 , 2016. Cork board mounted on wooden frame, magazine pages, pins. Courtesy the artists and Arcadia Missa

LGBTQ+ spaces in London have long provided safe havens to the community and have been places to celebrate all kinds of love and identity, from centres to pubs to theatres to cruising areas. But are they increasingly under threat? In a time when redevelopment seems to be putting the needs of investors over the LGBTQ+ community, Whitechapel Gallery charts the appearances and disappearances of queer spaces over the last 30 years.

Displays from the archives and artists’ depictions show safe spaces for self-expression and look at how activists have fought to protect these areas in the past and present. Case studies and eye-opening art pieces reveal the radical inventiveness and creativity of London’s LGBTQ+ communities since the 1980s to today.

2 Apr – 25 Aug 2019 | Whitechapel Gallery
Admission: free
Click here for more info

London Festival of Architecture City Showcase – The City Centre


How creative can an architect be with something you take a seat on? That’s the question the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) puts out to both new and well-established architects and designers each year. Benches, normally considered the unassuming and not-that-interesting amenity that you’ll find in any public area, take the spotlight this June as part of the LFA ‘A City of London Bench’ competition. Alongside that, the ‘City Parklets’ competition inspired designers to reimagine under-used car parking spaces and turn them into miniature urban parks that transform kerbside areas into something completely new.

You might have already seen ‘Whippet Good’, the large sleeping dog curled up on the ground by St Mary-le-Bow Church; ‘Love Without Borders’, a heart-shaped hole nearby that seems best shaped for a summer snooze; the ‘Pavement Art Gallery’, the paving stones elevated to canvas-level paying tribute to London’s old pavement artists (inspiring you to get stuck in yourself); or many of the other colourful new sights around the City. But at The City Centre you can find out all about their designers, the plans, and the inspiration behind each bench and parklet – all as part of the LFA City Showcase exhibition, up until 27 July. A fascinating look at just how creative London’s architectural experts can be.

20 May – 27 Jul 2019 | The City Centre
Admission: free (closed Sundays)
Click here for more info

For updates on what’s happening in the City plus exclusive offers and content for One City Friends, sign up for our newsletter here!

Six Facts About Fleet Street

Nicola Sheppey

Fleet Street: it’s one of the most recognisable and prominent streets in our City, connecting the the Strand to St Paul’s. We’re all familiar with the shops, cafes and offices dotted along the busy street – and particularly the pubs. But have you ever wondered what other legacy lurks along this old road? We’ve rounded up six of our favourite stories and facts about this historical hub.

The Home of British Press

A long history of printing and publishing has made the name ‘Fleet Street’ synonymous with British journalism; the road was the home of London’s first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, initially published in 1702. In the 20th Century it housed most of the more recognisable papers to modern readers – The Times, The Daily Express and The Sun to name a few – but sadly by 2016 all had relocated. Some newspapers’ shady journalism meant Fleet Street wasn’t always celebrated for its long publishing history, but it’s sure to mean that the street’s pub-goers were the first to eavesdrop on some juicy gossip over the years.

Protecting St Paul’s

Walk from west to east on Fleet Street and you’ll see the majesty of St Paul’s emerge. The great dome of our City’s finest monument, St Paul’s Cathedral, is subject to protected views: legislations that prevent architects from building modern towers that might block a particular view of the cathedral, known as viewing corridors. While most of these views are from parks and hills around the whole of London, including Primrose Hill, Alexandra Palace and Greenwich Park, there are also some street-level restrictions – with an unofficial (but generally respected) viewing corridor on Fleet Street. If you stand at a certain point in the street, you must be able to look up at the dome and see blue sky* on either side – complicating some planners’ ambitions to build on the eastern side of the City, but protecting a historical skyline. This is even part of the reason the Leadenhall Building (the Cheesegrater) and the Scalpel have their iconic slanted shapes. (*Well, grey sky. It is London, after all…)

The Demon Barber

For some literary and musical theatre fans, it’s difficult to hear the words ‘Fleet Street’ without thinking of its very own demon barber Sweeney Todd, made particularly famous after Tim Burton’s 2007 film starring Johnny Depp. First appearing in a Victorian penny dreadful, Sweeney Todd became an urban legend: a serial killer barber who polishes off his victims during a shave – often slitting their throats with his barber’s razor – and baking their remains into meat pies for the public. Don’t worry – it’s unlikely he was based off a real man (according to most scholars), but if he was we can only assume he was inspired by all that cut-throat journalism taking place.

Fancy seeing more of Sweeney Todd? St Bride’s Foundation are performing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on 19-22 June; click here to book.

Polly the Parrot

Historical pub Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese has had a few notable customers passing through it – Charles Dickens and Mark Twain included – but maybe its most beloved presence was its cheerfully rude parrot. Polly, the pub’s resident African Grey, was famous for memorising an extensive vocabulary of abusive words and even drew crowds from all around the country to come and be insulted by him. After he died in the early 20th Century, his obituary was published in over 200 newspapers (and even covered by the BBC). If you’re keen to see Polly, his taxidermied remains still reside in the taproom, his old home (though we hope he’s a bit quieter these days).

A Wordy Resident

Speaking of vocabulary, it’s suddenly become a lot clearer where Polly might have learnt all those swear words – Dr Samuel Johnson famously lived in Gough Square in the 18th Century. It was while he was here that his most famous achievement was published: A Dictionary of the English Language, the comprehensive book that formed the basis for most English dictionaries after it. Today his Gough Square house is a museum, commemorated with a Royal Society of Arts blue plaque, and it sports a variety of cultural and historical events – take a look here to see what’s on. You can even find a statue of beloved cat Hodge in the courtyard outside.

Winning Monopoly

Pass Go and collect £200 – if only living in London were that easy. It might be pricey to rent on Fleet Street in real life but you can live there vicariously through Monopoly (on the board, Fleet Street is teamed up with the Strand and Trafalgar Square). Within the game, the Chance card: ‘You have won a crossword competition – collect £100’ was inspired by the public crossword competitions of Fleet Street’s newspaper behemoths during the 1930s.

For updates on what’s happening in the City plus exclusive offers and content for One City Friends, sign up for our newsletter here!