Free Art Tour on the Streets of London
A little tour of Londons art and architecture that I went on to discover the not so well known attractions on the streets of the city.
Free Art Tour on the Streets of London
On a trip to London my eyes were opened to what was available by just browsing down the street. Within an hour I found out just what I had been missing on my ‘culture’ trips to the big city on previous visits.
All I had to do was walk the walk. Armed with backpacks, comfortable shoes, an umbrella and street map you can take London by foot on your own home made tour. No queues, no crowded exhibition rooms, no push and shove, and it is all FREE.
With your mobile or tablet at the ready the “what’s that all about then” resolves when viewing the famous or unknown. Bronze or base metal, marble or concrete, brick facades, unusual shop shingles all have an art history behind them.
A walk around Piccadilly took me into the land of Grecian architecture and Gods. Eros the Greek ‘God of Love and Attraction’ is smack bang in the middle but did you know it was made from aluminium? (Only its base is bronze).
Nearby a building with graceful classic columns reaching up to a triangular pediment with statues above it reminds one of the Acropolis. This however is the London Pavilion. It had been a theatre, music hall, cinema, shopping arcade and was now finally a museum of the unusual and freaky.
Looking around Leicester Square, my walk uncovered pavement art, Renaissance masterpieces. No queues here; just vibrant pictures that disappear overnight and are replace by the artists again the next day.
Just down the road from there, in Leicester Place, I found a rather amazing bronze statue of Charley Chaplin. I had no idea he lived in the workhouse at the age of seven, attended a school for the destitute and at 14 had left it to work in the theatre.
An acting life led him to the USA. As a famous silent movie star, investigated by J. Edgar Hoover as a suspected communist and forced to leave the USA, Switzerland was his next country of residence. Our hat comes off to you Mr. Chaplin. Just love those movies.
Other famous people are commemorated on the London Blue Plaque Trail. I found Lord Byron’s plaque in Cavendish Square, and our beloved John Lennon commemorated in Montague Square where Yoko Ono unveiled his blue plaque. Charles Dickens joins the list of famous with his plaque on Doughty Street, Holborn.
Remember “Noddy” and his red and yellow car, “The Famous Five” books? The author, Enid Blyton is fondly remembered by many and if you have 1.75 millions in your back pocket you could buy her cottage now on sale in Buckinghamshire. On the other hand, like me, with childhood memories in your front pockets you can see where she lived in Shortlands road in The London Borough of Bromley. It is a bit of a walk but she has a plaque too.
Keeping up the walking pace chiming and non-chiming clocks kept me on time all day. On towers, domes, church steeples, and railway station forecourts some highly decorated and other quite plain they caught my eye wherever I went.
My favourite was called the Swiss Glockenspiel at Swiss Court. It plays music composed by the Royal School of Music, Swiss characters march along high up around its perimeter when the bells chime and it is lit up at night. 26 colourful Swiss state flags preside next to it and you can rest your feet and people watch whilst sitting and consuming your packed munchies in the pedestrian walkway.
As the bells chimed out late in the day it was time to head home. Myself made walking tour beat the cost of the bus top tours, whizzing around on the underground, or running up the tab on taxi fares. Left tired and very happy I returned home by train working out my next freebee tour in London, and I hope you do the same.
By Andrew Bailey, Art Curator for The Talent Bank