The Birth of British Rhythm and Blues At Eel Pie Island

eel pie island twickenham


Eel Pie Island is a small island on the River Thames in Twickenham, Middlesex, 20 minutes from the centre of London. It is a residential island today, but in the 1960s, a dilapidated hotel on the Island was part of a music revolution that would change popular music forever.

Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, UK.


Eel Pie Island – the name itself draws you to it! In the 1830s, it was known by the mundane name of Twickenham Ait and was renowned as a resort for visitors and boat parties, some brought by pleasure steamers in the days when there wasn’t a bridge. Tea gardens lined the front of the island, and the eel pies served here were famous. It led to the renaming of the island – and of the pub located on it from Island Hotel to Eel Pie Island Hotel.

It’s not just the name or its fame for serving great eel pies that have made this tiny island famous. It is music! Just as The Cavern Club in Liverpool is renowned for The Beatles music scene, the Eel Pie Island Hotel is famous for The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Bowie (then David Wood), Pink Floyd, The Who, and many, many more who, between 1962 and ’67, fused the gritty sound of R&B with the electric sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll to define the shape of popular music.

But Eel Pie Island has been used as a music venue well before the 1960s. In Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens mentioned the hotel as a place where one could "dance to the music of a locomotive band". In the 1920s, it was a local tea dance venue. In 1956, it was a popular jazz venue. Arthur Chisnall set up the Eel Pie Club at the Island Hotel in the late ’50s, and in the early ’60s, it rapidly became “the” place to hear rhythm and blues bands. Youngsters flocked to the island every weekend. They paid the toll (around 2d) to cross the bridge, bought tickets (about 3 shillings 6d), and had their wrists stamped. The ink colour was varied from week to week to stop people from gaining entry again by not washing their wrist for a week.

The hotel was already in a dilapidated condition when it became a jazz hangout in the early 1900s. Part of the dance floor in front of the stage had actually rotted away in the R&B music years. The dilapidated condition of the stage added to the excitement of the venue, as did the highly sprung dance floor. You could not stand still even if you wanted to!

eel pie island twickenham

Before the first bridge was built in 1957, bands had to haul their equipment over the river on a chain barge. There was an instance when the barge sank, and with it, all the music equipment was lost, and the main band had to borrow the music equipment of their support band.

Eel Pie Island was a popular venue for youngsters from West London, but people travelled from all over London to this vibrant venue. Many parents banned their teenagers from the island. Many of them would have preferred their kids enjoy The Beatles’ music instead of the bands playing at The Eel Pie Island Hotel. After all, The Beatles wore suits!

The Eel Pie Club was forced to close down for safety reasons by the council in 1967. For a couple of years, it was used as a venue for well-known bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, but by the end of the ’60s it completely closed down. It went into rapid decline with communes making it their home, and even the Hell’s Angels moved in. In 1971, the hotel burned to the ground.

eel pie island twickenham

Now, the island is home to residents. There are artist studios and boatyards. Phil Collins is the President of the Richmond Yacht Club on the island. This is where he, as a boy, learnt to play the drums. At a very young age, he played in a band on a set of tin drums bought from Woolworths.

You walk across the narrow bridge to Eel Pie Island, and you are in a different world, far removed from the hustle and bustle of London. The main road on the island is a pathway, no cars allowed – there is no way for them to come over and there is no road to drive on. The undergrowth is dense, and cottages line the road, some visible from the path, others tucked away. The most striking of these is called the Love Shack, a weatherboard cottage, bright blue with a white picket fence. Half a mannequin, her legs sticking out from the ground, adorns the entrance. On another cottage, a sign, “Any person omitting to shut and fasten this gate after using it is liable to a penalty of forty shillings”. The island retains some of its quirkiness.

All photographs by Mahrukh McDonald except feature photography by Iridescenti [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5 ], from Wikimedia Commons

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12 Hours In Kingston Upon Thames

kingston upon thames



More than 1,000 years ago, Kingston was where England began. Seven Anglo-Saxon kings, including the first King of England, were crowned here from the years 900 to 978. Today, Kingston upon Thames is the main town in the Royal Borough of Kingston in south west London. It’s just 10 miles from the centre of London (a 25-minute train ride from Waterloo) and next door to one of the best palaces in England – Hampton Court.

10:00 a.m.

When you exit Kingston station, cross the road and turn left. Within a few minutes you’ll reach Old London Road, where you cannot miss the modern art installation called “Out Of Order” by David Mach. It consists of 12 tumbling full size red telephone boxes, the first one upright with the rest tilted to various degrees until the final one is almost flat on the ground – like dominoes. This is where your tour of Kingston will begin.

kingston upon thames

A few yards beyond the telephone boxes is Kingston Antiques on Old London Road. It is a treasure trove packed full of antique clothing, jewellery, furniture, and just about anything anyone can imagine. If you haven’t had breakfast, stop off at the little Polish Café on the upper level that serves a selection of food from sandwiches, salads, full English breakfast to Polish dishes like Pieroggi (Polish ravioli with meat or sauerkraut and mushrooms or potato and cheese).

Just around the corner from the Out Of Order art is an interesting bit of history about a dog called Nipper. A Kingston artist painted the famous HMV logo on which his dog, Nipper, appears.  He was named Nipper because he would "nip" the backs of people’s legs! The celebrity dog is buried in a narrow street that has been renamed Nipper Alley in commemoration. You can easily miss it, because the only sign is up on the wall at the start of the alley. Look out for the Kings Tun, a Wetherspoons pub, and you’ll find Nipper Alley adjacent to it.

kingston upon thames

11.00 a.m.

Clarence Street is the main shopping precinct and is a pedestrian-only street. Often, especially on weekends, you can enjoy fabulous street performances ranging from music, magic, and acrobats. The Bentalls Centre is a landmark shopping centre that was founded in 1867. Between 1935 and 1976, it was UK’s largest department store outside of London. It is now home to many high street shops like Gap, Monsoon, Boots etc. tastefully set out on a number of floors. Bentalls still exists at the far end, and the façade has been retained and is heritage listed.

After exiting the Bentalls Centre, walk down Church Street to All Saints Church which has beautiful stained-glass windows and a café inside the church. If you’re lucky, you could be enjoying tea and cake during a cello and piano recital. This was the site of the coronation of the very first king of England. When the church was built the Coronation Stone was moved to behind the Guildhall building.

kingston upon thames

12.30 p.m.

The heart of Kingston is its bustling market square, which dates back to 1242. From 1603, livestock was sold in the market square on Saturdays, but it was moved to another location in 1625 after the local chemist complained about unwanted visitors – sheep! – entering his shop.

The Market Square, with the brilliant gold statue of Queen Anne atop the Market House building and beautiful Tudor architecture, is home to a variety of shops and several market stalls, including the artisan Oliver’s Bakery (don’t miss the “Naughty Chocolate Brownie”) and many food stalls offering authentic, inexpensive foods from around the world.

kingston upon thames

There are often a long queue at the famous Phoreal Vietnamese food stall. The menu is limited, but everything on it is delicious. The Pho is particularly good, as is the roast pork. Namu is another favourite offering shoppers authentic Japanese gyozo, katsu, tempura, and curries, or perhaps the enticing spicy aromas may attract you to the Exotic Tangine that serves authentic Moroccan dishes. The food at the stalls represent excellent value for the quality and is very popular with hungry shoppers and day trippers.

On a hot afternoon, stop off for a welcome drink at the Druid’s Head pub in the square. Located in a beautiful 16th century building, it offers traditional pub food and a wide range of beers and other drinks.

2.30 p.m.

Just a five-minute stroll from the market square, busy cafés line the Thames along the Riverside Walk. Outside dining is popular in good weather with restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines, including English (Bill’s), Thai (Busaba Eathai), Argentinian (CAU Steak Restaurant), Italian (Al Forno Restaurant) or the Riverside Vegetaria for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes.

kingston upon thames

Even if you have already filled your stomach with street food in Market Square, the Riverside Walk is a wonderful place to while away your time in a stunning location, watching ducks and swans float by and rowers competing against each other while enjoying a desert, drink, or ice cream at one of the Riverside restaurants.

4.00 p.m.

Walk under the arch of the bridge to the huge department store building of John Lewis and by the mosaic outside you will come across one of Kingston’s hidden gems. Look through the large glass window panes to see a 650-year-old chalk and flint-barrel vaulted cellar of the old Rose and Crown Inn that stood at this spot. Right next to it are the remains of two stone pillars that supported a flimsy wooden bridge built in 1219, only one of two bridges across the River Thames until 1729 when Putney Bridge was built.  The bridge fell victim to destruction during the War of the Roses in the 1400s.

kingston upon thames

Another 5-minute walk along the river, you come to Turks Pier where you can take a leisurely paddle boat river cruise between Richmond, Kingston, and Hampton Court, taking in the beautiful scenery along the way. You can also stop off and see Hampton Court. However, Hampton Court is massive and really requires a separate visit to see it properly.

6.30 p.m.

After docking back at Turks Pier, walk towards Kingston Bridge (also called Horse Fair) down Riverside Walk till you get to Charter Quay. Just a short walk along this inlet till you come to the historic Clattern Bridge, the oldest surviving bridge in London built around 1175.

kingston upon thames

Opposite Clattern Bridge is a semi-circular building, the Guildhall. To the right of this building you will see the Coronation Stone, an ancient stone block believed to have been the site of the coronation of the first kings of England. It rests on a plinth with the names of seven kings inscribed around it. When the All Saints Church was built in 1120, the stone was moved to its current location but there are plans to move the stone back to its original place in or next to the All Saints Church.

7.00 p.m.

Right next to Clattern Bridge is the famous Rose Theatre where you can catch a show. Shows usually start at 7.30 p.m. giving you time to enjoy a light refreshment at the theatre before the show.

rose theatre kingston university south london

9.30 p.m.

There are many eateries right next to the Rose Theatre or you can choose to enjoy a meal at one of the Riverside restaurants. Kingston has many other excellent restaurants and pubs, some of which have live music. If you are not ready to return home yet, you can go clubbing at the Pryzm on Clarence Street, the Hippodrome on St. James Road, or the Bacchus Late Bar.

All photographs by Mahrukh McDonald except feature photograph copyright gb27photo -

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Meet The Laughing Cavalier At Hertford House

wallace collection hertford house


Hertford House is home to the Wallace Collection, a fabulous art collection that belonged to the 4th Marquess of Hertford and his illegitimate son Richard Wallace. It houses Frans Hals’s Laughing Cavalier along with other priceless paintings, intricate furniture, and elaborate helmets. Entry to the museum is free.

The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN. Phone: 020 7563 9500


George Montagu, the 4th Duke of Manchester had Hertford House built in the late 18th century because the area was good for duck shooting. Today, it’s right in the centre of London, so there’s not a duck in sight!

Tucked away in the corner of Manchester Square, Hertford House is a mansion that is home to the fabulous Wallace Collection. The collection started when the 4th Marquess of Hertford used the building to house his growing art collection. His illegitimate son, Richard Wallace (after whom the collection is named), added to it by bringing his substantial art collection from his Paris home.

In 1897, Richard’s wife, Lady Wallace, bequeathed the Wallace Collection to the nation. It has been open to the public as a museum since 1900 (although it took breaks during both World Wars).

The impressive grand marble staircase that greets you when you enter the building has an intricate cast iron, gilt brass, and lacquer balustrade. The staircase appears to be part of the original building construction, but on closer inspection of the design at the base of the balustrade you will see horns of plenty overflowing with coins and banknotes, showing that it once belonged in a bank in France. It was bought by Richard Wallace in 1871 and installed in Hertford House three years later.

The Great Gallery is the jewel of the Wallace Collection – a massive room full of priceless paintings by famous grand masters. The most famous is Frans Hals’s Laughing Cavalier (1624). Nobody knows who the Laughing Cavalier was and, in fact, he is not even laughing but does have a bit of a smile. Wherever you go in the room, the Laughing Cavalier’s eyes will follow you.

The Wallace Collection_002

As you walk through the rooms among the intricately made furniture, you can literally breathe the atmosphere of opulence and luxury. One of the most imposing pieces of furniture is a wardrobe made by Andre-Charles Boulle – who was the most important cabinet maker for Louis XIV – in 1715.

The armoury section contains elaborate helmets worn by the nobility as well as helmets worn by common soldiers who could not afford to buy fancy armour and had to make them out of whatever material they could find. This type of armour is rare, because after the battle was over soldiers usually melted them down to make more useful items such as cooking pots.

The museum is free, and you can walk around it at your own pace, but if you have a couple of hours, the free guided tour by volunteer historians is highly recommended. When you’re done, retreat to the stunning glass-covered courtyard that is a glamorous location for a café/restaurant with tables set among trees and sculptures.

Feature photograph by Musicartgeek [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Large Drawing room photograph by M.chohan [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

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The London of Karl Marx

karl marx london



We know quite a bit about the time Karl Marx spent in London in 1849 after fleeing the Prussian monarchy. The communist philosopher intended to return to Germany upon a successful revolution there, but he ended up spending the rest of his life in London, occupying rooms in Soho with his wife, Jenny, and their children.

The Marxes lived at 28 Dean Street between 1851 until 1856 before moving down the road to 64 Dean Street. Jenny described the modest dwellings – Marx was at this point in his life scratching a living on the margins of journalism – as “frightful”. Marx himself self-pityingly described the penurious hack-work he was forced to undertake to make ends meet as “grinding bones and making soup of them like the paupers in a workhouse”. Fortunately for Marx, his co-conspirator, Friedrich Engels, was generous in his financial support for his impecunious friend.

Marx’s grave remains a site of pilgrimage for socialists from around the world.

Perhaps the most well-known stories surrounding Marx in London revolve around the drunken escapades he often found himself involved in. One story, in particular, involves Marx breaking street lamps with stones together with his German drinking companions Wilhelm Liebknecht and Edgar Bauer in the early hours of the morning. Liebknecht’s account of the revelry has several bobbies giving chase with the two drunkards managing to escape by turning into a side street and there running through an alley. “Marx showed an activity that I should not have attributed to him,” Liebknecht dryly commented on the incident.

Marx and his boozing companions found themselves in this state of inebriation after setting out, as a challenge of sorts, to “take something in every saloon between Oxford Street and Hampstead Road”, as Liebknecht had put it. One can still stop off at some of the public houses frequented by Marx’s today – though hopefully without engaging in any bouts of vandalism on the way home. The Jack Horner, The Rising Sun, The Fitzroy Belle, Bar TCR, The Northumberland Arms, and The Court are all still open to drinkers, despite the closure of other establishments that would have stood along the route in Marx’s time. Marx also used to frequent the Museum Tavern in Bloomsbury, which, as the name suggests, is next to the British Museum.

Marx may have been a bit of a barfly, but he was no slouch, and when not in a state of inebriation in one of the capital’s watering holes, he was usually holed up at the British Library on the Euston Road. It was here, in the reading room, that Marx wrote his masterwork Capital, a seminal text in materialist philosophy. The old reading room closed in 1997, but visitors can still view where it stood from the library’s Great Court. Marx’s Russian disciple Vladimir Lenin also worked in the reading room, going under the name of Jacob Richter.

The Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell is not a place that Marx himself visited, yet it is a treasure trove of socialist memorabilia and was another frequent haunt of Lenin’s during his period in exile in London. Founded in 1933, the library is a wonderful place to delve into the history of a movement that rose and fell with comparable precipitousness during the twentieth century.

Perhaps the most well-known stories surrounding Marx in London revolve around the drunken escapades he often found himself involved in.

Those wishing to see Marx’s final resting place can visit the majestic Highgate Cemetery in Swain’s Lane, Highgate. Marx’s grave remains a site of pilgrimage for socialists from around the world, but his imposing tombstone – complete with bearded Marx bust – is worth seeing, whatever one’s political inclinations. The monument is flanked by several notable public figures whose lives were inspired by the German’s writings, such as the former British Labour Party leader Michael Foot and Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm.

Do all of this and you will have trodden in the footsteps of the hirsute tribune of materialist philosophy and the communist movement. Though for the experience to be retained for later retellings, it is probably wise to leave the pub crawl until the end.

By Paasikivi [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

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Tour A Local Distillery At East London Liquor Company

east london liquor company


Located in Tower Hamlets, East London Liquor Company is a distillery that produces vodka, gin, and whisky. There is also a bar and restaurant where you can taste their spirits – neat or in a cocktail – and a shop from where you can purchase your own bottle. If you’re interested in the craft of making spirits, you can book a distillery tour by emailing

East London Liquor Company, 221 Grove Road, London E3 5SN. Phone: 020 3011 0980


London was, at one time awash, with gin distilleries; in the 18th Century there were rumoured to be as many as 1,500. Nowadays, most of them are gone, but East London Liquor Company is bringing vodka, gin, and whisky distilling back to one of its historic homes, with a bar, shop, and distillery situated in an old glue factory in Mile End.

Situated in Bow Wharf carpark, the bar – an enchanting juxtaposition of high ceilings, marble, and straw-coloured brickwork – contains an exciting array of in-house gins, rums, vodkas, and whiskeys as well as imported liquors. These can be imbibed as they are, or they can serve as the foundation for the large array of unusually-named cocktails on offer (“Basiq Beach”, “Something Hoppy This Way Comes”). For those feeling peckish, a selection of cheeses and cured meats are available from the bar as well as more substantial offerings with an Italian theme from the restaurant.

Those wanting to see up close how the distillery’s own London dry or British wheat vodka are made – or to gain a better understanding of the world of distilling and do some tasting – can book a full distillery tour. Visitors can also pick up a bottle of in-house liquor from the gift shop to continue enjoying the craft distilling experience at home. But a word of warning: look ELLC up on a map before setting out, for it is one of those places that deserve the appellation “hidden gem”.

Note: East London Liquor Company launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £750,000 to drive growth in the UK and abroad. It exceeded its original target in under 24 hours and surpassed the £1 million mark in four days.

Feature photograph courtesy East London Liquor Company

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12 Hours In Islington




The Borough of Islington covers a surprisingly large portion of central London, taking in many of the city’s most bustling, beautiful, and culturally interesting bits, not to mention more than its fair share of parks and gardens. It stretches from the northernmost edge of the historic Smithfields Market (just north of the historic Chancery Lane), west to Kings Cross, east to the bars and restaurants of Dalston, and north as far as Archway and Crouch Hill, the heartland of Arsenal football club. Within its limits it covers a miniature version of London as a whole, bringing together great nightspots, shopping districts, theatres, restaurants, a sports stadium and music venues, not to mention the beautiful Regents Canal, which gives the middle of the borough a lovely waterside atmosphere.

9:00 a.m.

The best place to start exploring Islington is Angel. So-called after the 1903 Angel Hotel Building on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road, Angel today is a charming city centre unto itself, loved particularly for its huge selection of cafés, bars, and restaurants, along with some irresistible alleyways — notably Camden Passage — full of curiosity shops and antiques market stalls. At 9 a.m., breakfast is probably a good idea, so try Kipferl — an Austrian café with a wonderful mix of Tyrolean hams, rye bread, fruit, cinnamon, and Austrian bacon. If you prefer a more rustic woodland cabin feel, try the Elk in The Woods. Here you’ll be greeted with oak smoked bacon, vanilla pancakes, poached eggs, pickled beetroorts, and more. Both of these are on the aforementioned Camden Passage, and you’ll find this a great place to start exploring.

Kipferl, 20 Camden Passage, London N1 8ED. Phone: 020 7704 1555

The Elk In The Woods, 37-39 Camden Passage, London N1 8EA. Phone: 020 7226 3535

Islington Guide_003

11:00 a.m.

After breakfast, you can either take a stroll through the nearby shops of Camden Passage and beyond, or head east along the Regent’s Canal and see the city from what feels like a secret vantage, tucked away from the traffic, flanked by one of London’s historic waterways, and generally submerged in a more natural setting. You can follow the canal all the way to the edge of the borough, which conveniently ends at a pub — The Rosemary Branch, a charming Victorian ale-house which was formely a music hall — just across the water from the beautiful green expanse of Shoreditch Park. Theatre lovers might want to stop by the Almeida Theatre or Sadler’s Wells and pick up some tickets for an evening performance. Sadlers Wells is the number one place in London for dance performances, from ballet to flamenco, while the Almeida focuses on cutting edge drama from up and coming actors.

Camden Passage, London N1 8EA

Regent’s Canal

The Rosemary Branch, 2 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DT. Phone: 020 7704 2730

Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, London N1 1TA. Phone: 020 7359 4404

Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Ave, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4TN. Phone: 020 7863 8000

Islington Guide_006

12:15 p.m.

If you’re ready to eat at midday, you have an array of choices before you in Islington. Either stay in Angel to experience the famous creations of Ottolenghi — delicious North-African and Middle Eastern flavours, not to mention unbelievable cakes — or catch a bus a little way south into Clerkenwell and make for Exmouth Market. Clerkenwell is one of London’s ancient parishes, once famous for its watchmakers and a centre of activity thanks to the well from which it takes its name, which was rediscoverd in the 1920s. It has a historic, Victorian elegance, and Exmouth Market is one of its central thoroughfares, best known for its rich selection of restaurants and street food vendors, food boutiques, and hip cafes, not to mention delightful old pubs. Try Caravan for a huge range of modern cuisine, all day brunch, or just a coffee. After lunch, head over to St Luke’s Church for a lunchtime concert. The London Symphony Orchestra rehearse here, and entry is often free. Most begin between 12:30 and 1 p.m., so bear this in mind when you’re having lunch.

Ottolenghi, 287 Upper Street, London N1 2TZ. Phone: 020 7288 1454

Caravan, 11-13 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QD. Phone: 020 7833 8115

St Lukes, 161 Old Street, London EC1V 9NG. Phone: 020 7490 3939

Islington Guide_007

2:00 p.m.

If you’re a fan of literature, or find you can’t resist a historic cemetary, make a stop at Bunhill Fields, where famous poet and artist William Blake is buried. Or, if you feel like some live music, pay a visit to the Piano Works, a non-stop music venue where pianists play requests given to them by the audience, all day and night! At weekends, the music starts from 12 p.m., or 1 p.m. on Sundays.

Bunhill Fields, 38 City Road, London EC1Y 2BG. Phone: 020 7374 4127

Piano Works, 113-117 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3BX. Phone: 020 7278 1966

Islington Guide_004

3:30 p.m.

Around 3:30 p.m. you can take in one of the lesser-known museums or galleries of Islington. From Piano Works, you’re very close to The Charterhouse, a medieval priory that dates back to the 14th Century. It resisted Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, was a medieval school, and was even a burial place for victims of the Black Death. It’s extremely atmospheric, and the gardens are an ideal place to unwind if you have a spare hour. After it closes, head to Modern Art, a gallery that showcases up and coming modern artists.

Modern Art, 4-8 Helmet Row, London EC1V 3QJ. Phone: 020 7299 7950

The Charterhouse, Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6AN. Phone: 020 3818 8873

Islington Guide_002

7:30 p.m.

To start your evening, a trip to the secluded Nightjar is a must. An underground cocktail bar with a great speakeasy feel, it’s rich in atmosphere and magnificent décor and has a host of inventive cocktails. Be warned though – once you stop by, you’ll find it hard to leave. Of course, if you’ve made plans at the Barbican, Sadlers Wells, the Almeida or any of the other major arts venues in Islington, this would be a good time to head across to their respectives bars and cafés and grab a drink and a bite to eat before the show. The Slaughtered Lamb is a delightful gastro pub that’s nicely equidistant from the first two, but for the Almeida you’ll want to head back into Angel and grab something to eat at The King’s Head, another stunning historic pub decked with Victorian fittings and full of theatre memorabilia.

Islington Guide_008

If you’re more of a music person, Islington is home to some of London’s biggest and best music venues. Islington Assembly Hall, Union Chapel, the O2 Academy, The Garage, XOYO, and The Lexington all hold live music events — they’re all large venues, with the exception of the Lexington, which is the place to go for smaller, more intimate gigs. Of this selection, the Union Chapel is the most majestic, so book a concert here for a truly special experience.

The Nightjar, 129 City Road, Hoxton, London EC1V 1JB. Phone: 020 7253 4101

The Kings Head Theatre Pub, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN. Phone: 020 7226 4443

The Slaughtered Lamb, 34-35 Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 0DX. Phone: 020 7253 1516

XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, London EC2A 4AP. Phone: 020 7608 2878

Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN. Phone: 020 7226 1686

The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JB. Phone: 020 7837 5371

O2 Academy Islington, 16 Parkfield Street, London N1 0PS. Phone: 020 7288 4400

The Garage, 20-22 Highbury Corner, Highbury East, London N5 1RD. Phone: 020 7619 6721

Islington Assembly Hall, Upper Street, London N1 2UD. Phone: 020 7527 8900

9:00 p.m.

If you’ve gone to a concert or a performance, you may well be there until 10 or 11 p.m. But if you haven’t, or the show ends early, it’s a safe bet that by 9 p.m. you’ll want some food or drink. The best hubs for nightime eating and drinking in Islington are without a doubt Clerkenwell, Upper Street, and the area surrounding Old Street.

For great restaurants on Upper Street, try MEATliquor for an extensive burger menu (vegan and vegetarian options available), and Rök for delicious smoked and fermented dishes,drawing on historic Northern European cooking techniques. On Old Street, The Clove Club is a must for high-end, gourmet dining.

Islington Guide_005

In Clerkenwell, the famous St John Restaurant serves traditional British fare done to perfection, although beware, it definitely errs on the side meaty, so vegetarians might prefer Mildreds, toward the north of Clerkenwell, which serves an incredible array of vegan food.

If you’ve already eaten your fill and just want to hit the bars, The New Rose on Essex Road is a lively pub with great ambience, while The Green in Clerkenwell is great for some cosy drinking in a relaxed setting.

The Clove Club, Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London EC1V 9LT. Phone: 020 7729 6496

St John, 26 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 4AY. Phone: 020 7251 0848

Rök Islington, 149 Upper Street, London N1 1RA. Phone: 020 7686 8024

The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0DU. Phone: 20 7490 1258

The New Rose, 84-86 Essex Road, London N1 8LU. Phone: 020 7226 1082

MEATliquor, 133B Upper Street, London N1 1QP. Phone: 020 3711 0104


  1. Feature photo by Juhi Pande
  2. Breakfast photo copyright grinchh -
  3. Regent's Canal photo by Mark Hogan from London, UK, USA (Islington TunnelUploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Caravan photo by Ewan Munro from London, UK (Caravan, Clerkenwell, EC1Uploaded by Oxyman) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Bunhill Fields photo by Jim Linwood [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr
  6. Nightjar photo by Jerome Courtial (courtesy Nightjar)
  7. MEATliquor N1 photo courtesy MEATliquor
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Match Day at the Travellers Tavern

travellers tavern


Travellers Tavern is a bar in Belgravia where you can watch football on the television while you drink a pint. If football isn’t your game of choice, you can enjoy your drink in the beer garden instead. Avoid getting a full meal.

Travellers Tavern, 4 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RB. Phone: 020 7730 3957


Childhood memories are commonly bound up with sounds, smells, or individuals. Yet one particularly potent recollection of mine revolves around a specific hour of the day – 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, to be precise.

In contrast to most childhood memories when the sun is forever beating down on green fields and golden sandy beaches, this one is invariably set in winter. I am sat cross-legged on a grey carpet at my grandmother’s house, probably with a jam tart in my hand and a cup of tea perched precariously by my side. The old television set has been fired up, and a moth-eaten presenter has started reading football scores from something mysteriously called the “Vidiprinter”.

That was how you watched football back then. Nowadays sport is a more commercial affair, which means that if you don’t have satellite television at home, a trip to the boozer to watch the match is in order. A favourite place of mine in London is the Travellers Tavern in Victoria, which is an excellent football pub if you can forgive it the missing apostrophe in its name.

I’m letting you in on this secret because I know from experience that finding a place to watch the match is something of a lottery. Choose the wrong venue, and you could end up nursing an unwanted drink in a noisy dive bar, scrolling furtively through football forums on your phone for insider information from those prolific posters who you hope are in the know. Where has a big screen? Which venue won’t be too rammed? Will I be greeted by a wall of hostile stares if I pass through the front doors wearing club colours?

The Travellers Tavern fits the bill because it has not one but five screens. Despite being located near Victoria Coach Station – hours spent aboard cheap coaches lends itself favourably to nursing alcoholic beverages in pubs – the place is rarely so packed that you feel like a sardine squeezed tightly inside an oily tin. This doesn’t betray something ominous – the Tavern hasn’t gained some word-of-mouth reputation for filthy lavatories or a rowdy clientele. It’s merely that there is a glut of pubs in the area, which serves to dilute the crowds somewhat even at peak hours of the day. If football shirts are your thing, then they aren’t likely to be a problem either.

it is a sparsely populated drinking den where the ups and downs of the “beautiful game” hum away in the background with the eccentric ambience of that crackly old television set when you were a kid.

I don’t intend for this to be a hagiographical account, so let me briefly touch on the downsides of the place. First off, if you intend to eat during your visit, know that the food is billed at what are commonly known as “London prices”. With so many tourists about – traipsing through the doors with their union jack flags trailed by suitcases on wheels – who can blame the management for doing what every other establishment in London is doing? Unless you just want a bowl of chips, it is worthwhile going elsewhere for your grub.

Drinks can be a little pricey too – £5 for a pint of Estrella is hardly cheap. But I can’t say I begrudge paying that amount when I feel as if I’m being provided with such agreeable free entertainment.

I understand that football isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I am aware, too, that stepping into a pub in which football fans congregate – an unusual tribe to the uninitiated and not a single tribe at all for those on the inside – can be intimidating.

But the Travellers Tavern isn’t like that. Rather, it is a sparsely populated drinking den where the ups and downs of the “beautiful game” hum away in the background with the eccentric ambience of that crackly old television set when you were a kid. Close your eyes and – for a split second at least – you are your former selff again, sat cross-legged on the carpet in your living room while an autumn mist envelopes everything outside.

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12 Hours In And Around Brixton

david bowie memorial mural tunstall road brixton morleys



Brixton sits at one end of the Victoria line on the London Underground. It is in the south of the city and is represented by a long light blue line on the tube map that appears to stop abruptly in zone two. South London is famously poorly served by the tube system: there are 250 stations on the north side of the river but just 29 stations on the south side. Fortunately for us, Brixton has its own station; and this is where we will start on our journey around this multicultural district of the capital.

9:00 a.m.

Emerging from the London Underground into the frost-bitten air at the height of rush hour can be a reviving experience. Down there, under the ground with its undulating tide of commuters, can be a claustrophobic and suffocating experience. Emerging from Brixton station and taking that first gasp of air can feel a little like tearing off a strip of parcel tape from your mouth. You can breathe again, finally – and once you have calibrated yourself to your new surroundings you can start to think about re-fuelling.

Like many of London’s multi-ethnic areas, you are spoilt for choice in Brixton. There are also the more prosaic and familiar options. Heading right out of the tube station you will come across a couple of chain coffee houses about 100 yards down, one on either side of the road. It’s the usual stuff – bang-average hot drinks with the ancillary option of a sandwich or muffin on the side. Then again, sometimes that’s precisely what you want, especially if you’re in a hurry.

There are Pret A Manger, Costa, and McDonalds, plus a couple of smaller independent shops that all do speedy snacks and breakfasts for the traveller on the go – or the traveller who simply wants the basics done well.

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For something a little fancier, try Federation Coffee inside Brixton Market’s covered arcade. As well as the selection of hot beverages, there’s the chance to try the smashed avocado on sourdough or banana bread if you’re feeling peckish. A selection of grilled sandwiches are also available, as are yogurts with granola.

Federation Coffee, 77-78 Brixton Village and Market Row Markets, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PS.

If you want something a little more daring on the weekend, head down to The Blues Kitchen on Acre Lane. Here you can get everything from a traditional full English breakfast to pancakes to Huevos Rancheros (fried eggs Mexican style).

The Blues Kitchen, 40 Acre Lane, Brixton, London SW2 5SP. Phone: 020 7274 0591

11:00 a.m.

Now that you’ve satisfied your appetite, it’s time to get yourself acquainted with the neighbourhood. If the weather is good, you might want to go for a stroll amidst the greenery at Brockwell Park, a tranquil expanse with an impressive view of the city. Opened to the public in 1891, Brockwell Park is home to the famous Lido, one of the most impressive outdoor public swimming pools in all of London. That’s right, it’s an outdoor swimming pool. Probably best therefore to visit in the summer, although the park is good for a relaxing stroll at any time of the year.

Brockwell Park, Norwood Road, London SE24 9BJ

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12:15 p.m.

For lunch, you could do worse than sample some of the West Indian street food. With this in mind, Brixton Market is an ideal place to start. Over 80 street sellers ply their trade in the famous market, different parts of which can be reached via Electric Avenue, Brixton Station Road, or Pope’s Road. There are several stalls that sell dinner boxes of things like jerk chicken, rice, and plantains to take away. “Authentic” is a word that is bandied around to sell all sorts nowadays, however the Brixton Market is the genuine article for those looking for genuine Caribbean food and a host of other enchanting cultural trinkets.

Brixton Market, 16B Electric Avenue, Brixton, London SW9 8JX (Click here to view a map of the market)

On Saturdays, be sure to check out the Brixton Brewery, an independent brewery that produces craft beer using local ingredients. You can enjoy a pint or two in the tap room or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even take a full tour, complete with a beer tasting session.

Brixton Brewery, Arch 547, Brixton Station Road, Brixton, London SW9 8PF. Phone: 020 3609 8880

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2:00 p.m.

How about a quick beverage before we forge ahead into the critical hours of the afternoon?

Whether you want a pint of fizzy lager or a softer drink, The Beehive – a straightforward JD Wetherspoon pub – is located mid-way up the Brixton Road near the train station. A quiet place at this hour of the day, The Beehive resembles its namesake if you pop back at 5 o’clock. However, mid-afternoon is a good time to slow things down, park yourself at one of the wooden tables, unfold your paper, and peruse the day’s events. The Beehive in the daytime is also a good place to meet some of the locals.

The Beehive, 407-409 Brixton Road, Brixton, London, SW9 7DG. Phone: 020 7738 3643

4:00 p.m.

Catch a movie at the centrally located Ritzy Cinema, a building that was recently restored from a picture house first built in 1911. In addition to five screens, the cinema complex contains a couple of bars, and a café. As with most cinemas, it’s wise to eat your snacks – or at least to buy them – before you get into the cinema itself, where the food and drink prices are apt to unsettle the discerning spender.

Ritzy Cinema, Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, London, SW2 1JG

Another option for the afternoon – which will especially suit those with a sweet tooth – is a visit to the Brixton chocolate museum. You can drop in and make your own chocolatey creations in group or individual sessions, or you can visit the chocolate museum’s free exhibition and learn about the process of chocolate making.

The Chocolate Museum, 187 Ferndale Road, Brixton, London SW9 8BA. Phone: 07723 434235 (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

7:30 p.m.

There are a ton of options in Brixton for those who like to eat before they head out for an evening’s entertainment. You can get pizza at Made of Dough or plates of tapas in Boqueria. There’s also the option of Mama’s Jerk, Khamsa (Algerian/BYO wine, beer, or champagne), or Nanban, which serves something intriguingly called “Japanese soul food”. On weekends, you can get spicy Pakistani street food at the Elephant in Brixton Village.

Made of Dough, Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ.

Boqueria, 192 Acre Lane, Brixton, London SW2 5UL. Phone: 020 7733 4408

Mama’s Jerk, 49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ.

Khamsa, 140 Acre Lane, Brixton, London, SW2 5UT. Phone: 020 7733 3150

Nanban, 426 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London, SW9 8LF. Phone: 020 7346 0098.

Elephant, 55 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8PS. Phone: 7715 439857 (open for dinner Thursday to Saturday)

9:00 p.m.

After all that food, you might not feel like doing much other than lying down, but should you still be up for venturing out where better than the Brixton Academy, one of the best live music venues in London. Many world-famous bands have graced the stage at the academy over the years, from Madonna to The Clash to Rita Ora, so it’s worth checking who’s on when you’re in town.

The O2 Academy, Brixton, 211 Stockwell Road, Brixton, London SW9 9SL

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If a gig isn’t for you, then why not check out some of the local bars? The Shrub and Shutter, Three Eight Four, and Salon all offer a range of beers, cocktails, and mocktails to suit every palate.

The Shrub and Shutter, 336 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8QH. Phone: 020 7326 0643 (closed Sunday and Monday)

Three Eight Four, 384 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8LF. Phone: 020 3417 7309

Salon, 18 Market Row, Brixton, London SW9 8LD. Phone: 020 7501 9152 (closed Sunday evenings and all day Monday)

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Experience The Icon That Is Battersea Power Station

battersea power station


Battersea Power Station is a Grade II* listed building in the borough of Wandsworth. One of the largest brick buildings in the world, it was decommissioned in 1975 and listed on the World Monuments Watch in 2004. Today, the surrounding area hosts shops, restaurants, and cultural spaces.

Battersea Power Station, 188 Kirtling Street, London SW8 5BN


It’s hard to pass Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s epic buildings without a nod to their impressive enormity. Some of the best known are Bankside Power Station — better known today as the Tate Modern —and the tower of Cambridge University Library. But Battersea Power station, in large part thanks to popularisation through its appearance on the album cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals, is particularly iconic.

The sheer scale of these buildings, towering above you and seemingly impenetrable, produce a sense of that compelling, Orwellian London of enormous, forbidding buildings with mysterious contents. (Incidentally, Bankside was built in 1948, the year Orwell’s 1984 was written, and Battersea played the exterior of a railway station in Michael Radford’s film Nineteen Eighty-Four).

Battersea was built as a coal-fired power station, during the “brick-cathedral” era of power station design and was described by the Manchester Guardian in 1939 as “a temple of power” — definitely an Orwellian overtone to be felt there. When you actually lay eyes on Battersea, however, temple of power does seem to be a fitting description, both literally, as a power station of course, but also because of its scale and design – four enormous smoke chimneys around a solid brick centre, which is very arresting.

While the now de-commissioned power station itself is closed to the public, the area around it is being developed into the Circus West Village, which is full of great restaurants (Mother, No. 29 Power Station West, Fiume) and is probably the best focal point to get a closer look at the power station itself. Take a walk along the Thames that passes by, then stop off here for food or drinks, and take in this epic building in comfort.

Feature photograph by David Samuel, User:Hellodavey1902 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Traverse The Thames On The Woolwich Ferry

woolwich ferry


The Woolwich Ferry connects Woolwich (in Greenwich) to North Woolwich (in Newham). Around two million passengers use the ferry each year, with around 7,000 people boarding the free service each day. The crossing itself is surprisingly quick, taking no more than around 7 or 8 minutes. A two-boat service operates, meaning there is usually no more than a 10-minute interval between sailings.

You can take the Woolwich Ferry from the south at New Ferry Approach, Woolwich SE18 6DX and from the north at Pier Road, London E16 2JJ.


There are several ways to cross the Thames.

There are 33 bridges between Richmond and the Dartford Crossing (officially known as the Queen Elizabeth II bridge) you can walk or drive across. Similarly, you can walk under the Thames in the Woolwich foot tunnel. Or you can glide high above it in one of the cable cars that run on a kilometre-long gondola line from Greenwich to the Royal Victoria Dock.

If I had to pick my favourite way of traversing the Thames, however, I would choose the Woolwich Ferry, which connects Woolwich to the south with North Woolwich and has done so since as far back as 1889.

I first made the journey in 2010 when I moved to London, crossing on the ferry early every morning. In the winter, I would watch the waves lapping at the edge of the boat and face down a brisk, icy wind. In the summer, the orange sun tentatively creeping over the horizon to the east and flashing off the dark river was enough to rally even my darkest moods. I’ve made the journey many times over the years. For me personally, it seems preferable to welcoming the new day by nuzzling up against a stranger’s sweaty armpit on the underground. 

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