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London: A Life in Maps events

The British Library is making recordings of selected events available as downloadable audio files (in MP3 format). However not all events are suitable for podcasting. If and when a podcast is available we will give details on this page.

For more details about our podcasts and podcasting in general, see our help page.

Monday 27 November 2006
Underground London
Antony Clayton

Image of 'Subterranean City' by Antony ClaytonAn illustrated talk by Antony Clayton, author of Subterranean City; beneath the streets of London, which will uncover some of the mysterious overcrowded world beneath the streets of London. Topics will include: London's lost rivers, Victorian utility subways, the growth of the underground railway, government bunkers and tunnels and aspects of the folklore of underground London such as alleged secret tunnels and ghosts. The talk will conclude with a short film about Piccadilly Circus and its underground services.

Antony Clayton is also the author of London’s Coffee Houses; a Stimulating Story (2003) and Decadent London (2005).

Tuesday 12 December 2006
Classic Book: Dickens' Oliver Twist and Great Expectations
A panel discussion chaired by Peter Florence

Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist tells the tale of an orphan who was born in a workhouse. After an unhappy apprenticeship, Oliver runs away to London where he falls in with thieves, headed by Fagin. He is rescued by Mr Brownlow but the gang kidnap him back. Oliver discovers the identity of his parents and the gang is exposed.

Great Expectations opens unforgettably with the orphan Pip, disturbed to meet an escaped convict, Magwitch, but gives him food, in an encounter that is to haunt both their lives. How Pip receives riches from a mysterious benefactor, snobbishly abandons his friends for London society and 'great expectations', and grows through misfortune and suffering to maturity is the theme of one of Dickens best-loved novels.

Panel including Howard Jacobson and John Sutherland.

Monday 15 January 2007
Classic Book: Martin Amis' Money
discussion chaired by Peter Florence

Martin Amis begins a loose trilogy of novels set in London with Money: A Suicide Note (1984), a satire of Thatcherite amorality and greed, continues with London Fields (1989), and concludes with The Information (1995), a tale of literary rivalry.

Peter Florence is Director of the Guardian Hay Festival.

Wednesday 24 January 2007
Statuary and the London Townscape
Philip Ward-Jackson

Though much has been written about individual London statues and memorials, the logic of their distribution remains largely virgin territory. After a brief look at medieval and later precedents, this talk will explore the impact of statue-mania on town-planning. Moving from the legacy of John Nash to Victorian laissez-faire, and then on to the neo-baroque 1900s, it shows how, from grandiose conceptions, through economic stringency and inspired afterthought, the monumental topography of London today has been arrived at.

Philip Ward-Jackson is author of Public Monuments of the City of London.

Wednesday 31 January 2007
The Delight of All Persons of Reputation and Taste: Vauxhall Gardens 1661-1859
David Coke

Vauxhall Gardens, with its avant-garde art and eccentric architecture, became the great pleasure resort of Georgian London, celebrated in literature by Fanny Burney, Charles Dickens and many others. It provided the first public gallery of modern British art, and gave contemporary music and song its first truly mass audience, but was more famous at the time for its astonishing illuminations and meagre fare. This talk aims to give an idea of what it was like to visit Vauxhall in the 1750s, the journey there, the costume, the sights, sounds and smells.

David Coke is an art-historian and museum curator, is now completing (with Alan Borg) a comprehensive history of Vauxhall Gardens which he hopes will be published in 2007/8.

Monday 5 February 2007
Over Here: Americans in London
Panel discussion with Loyd Grossman and Mary Jordan

Loyd GrossmanAs London correspondent for The Washington Post, Mary Jordan has professional as well as personal reasons to be able to find her way around London and the rest of the UK, and has had a while to find her bearings. James Pfiffner (George Mason University, Washington DC) might still be finding his days in London rather foggy, having been in London for just one month of a Visiting Professorship at London University. For some of us it might seem that Loyd Grossman has himself become and integral part of the culture and the landscape. These three Americans share with the audience their experiences of the city, and their personal Maps of London.

Listen again (MP3, 59 minutes, 23.6MB): Mary Jordan, James Pfiffner and Loyd Grossman, introduced by Philip Davies of the Eccles Centre for American Studies. We apologise for the poor sound quality during part of this recording.

Wednesday 14 February 2007
Uncharted Territories: The Brave New World of Mapping 

The current British Library exhibition London: a Life in Maps demonstrates our fascination with art and science of mapping, linking the global to the local and the personal. For its first major event of 2007, CreateKX celebrates creative and artistic innovation which uses satellite, mobile and internet technology to transform the world of maps and builds the relationships between places. This event will showcase projects like Proboscis' extraordinary Urban Tapestries, a "Mass Observation for the 21st Century", and Jen Hamilton and Jen Southern's Running Stitch a huge tapestry map, created live over four weeks, that uses satellite navigation technology to explore urban environments. This is a unique event not to be missed, with a chance to talk to these artists and other creative and digital innovators over drinks.

Wednesday 21 February 2007
Crown or People: Who Ran Tudor and Stuart London?
Simon Thurley

So many European capital cities were modelled by their rulers. Paris , for example, owes its appearance to the French monarchy; it isn't the only one. What about London? Did the Tudor and Stuart monarchs want to transform London into a carefully planned royal capital or did London develop differently? Dr Simon Thurley looks at the balance of forces that went in to the creation of early modern London - on the one hand the monarchy and the court and the other the city oligarchy and the merchants. Who had the upper hand, and to which group do we owe the foundations of modern London?

Simon Thurley is Chief Executive of English Heritage.

Tuesday 27 February 2007
North Face of Soho: Clive James

After "Unreliable Memoirs", "Falling Towards England" and "May Week Was in June" comes the next instalment in the ongoing saga that is Clive James 's life. At the very end of "May Week Was in June", we left our hero sitting beside the River Cam one beautiful 1968 spring day, jotting down his thoughts in a journal. Newly married and about to leave the cloistered world of Cambridge academia for the racier, glossier life promised by "Literary London", he was, so he informed his journal, reasonably satisfied.

With his criticism beginning to appear in magazines and newspapers such as the "New Statesman", and his poetry published in "Carcanet", as well as a play then being performed to rave reviews at the Arts Theatre, James had good reason to be content. But what happened next? This is the question posed, and answered by Clive James as he walks the audience through the "North Face of Soho". Intelligent, amusing and provocative - the words apply to the man himself as much as his memoirs - it's a book that can't come soon enough for the legions of Clive James fans worldwide.

In association with the Times Literary Supplement.

Wednesday 28 February 2007
2012 Design

With preparations already underway for 2012, the map of east London is already undergoing a dramatic and permanent change. Jerome Frost will explain what areas are affected, how the plans are progressing and how the vision will be delivered in time for the Olympics. He will also talk about the legacy of the games and their influence on the story of London.

Jerome Frost is Head of Design from the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Family events

February Half-Term
Tuesday 20, Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 February 2007

Free, drop-in storytelling sessions
10.30 and 11.30 (45 minutes per session)

Go on a journey through London: A Life in Maps with storyteller, Kevin Graal.

Workshop (including storytelling)

Mind-stretching maps and hair-raising trails - join Kevin Graal as he explores London: A Life in Maps through tale, myth and riddle. In this session you will also have the opportunity to make up your own London legend.

Admission Free (places must be booked in advance)
Suitable for under 11s.

How to get the most out of your Map Research

Maps are an invaluable source of social as well as topographical information. They can also reveal attitudes and mentalities that are rarely committed to writing. However unlocking their secrets involves close study and skilled evaluation of the written and visual evidence.

To help all those interested in local history the British Library is running a series of events explaining how to use maps as a research tool, each focusing on a particular London Borough or adjacent Borough:

Camden/Haringey Monday 5 February 2007 14.00-16.30
Kensington and Chelsea Monday 12 February 2007 14.00-16.30
Lewisham Saturday 17 February 2007 14.00-16.30
Newham/Tower Hamlets Tuesday 27 February 2007 14.00-16.30

Each workshop will include a guided tour of the exhibition, London: A Life in Maps, and will be hosted by Peter Barber, head of the Map Collection at the British Library and curator of the exhibition.

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