Supporters of London’s Soho battle to save creative history – Honolulu Star


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LONDON » Madame Jojo’s is dead, but the risque London institution is not passing quietly.

The closure of the venerable burlesque nightclub has ignited a battle between developers, residents and entertainers for the soul of Soho, the city’s late-night hub, red-light district and creative heart.

As soaring London property prices fill once-scruffy areas with glass condos and office buildings, protesters including actor Benedict Cumberbatch are rallying to try to stop Soho going the way of New York’s Times Square, a tourist playground with the rough edges removed.

“I think it’s a robbery. It’s a robbery from the people who visit Madame Jojo’s, and it’s a robbery of the people who perform there,” said musician Tim Arnold, standing in front of the club’s locked doors and unlit sign.

A singer-songwriter who performs as the “Soho Hobo,” Arnold has enlisted friends and fellow performers including Cumberbatch, actor-comedian Stephen Fry and Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who, to try to reverse the closure.

Arnold has Soho blood in his veins. His grandmother was a performer in circuses and variety shows. His mother was a “Windmill Girl” at Soho’s first nude revue club, the Windmill Theatre.

Arnold has seen many music venues close over the years, but losing Madame Jojo’s was the last straw. Everyone from Adam Ant to Adele has performed at a venue famed for its art deco interior and eclectic lineup of DJs, musicians, comedians, burlesque shows, drag acts and cabaret nights.

“All areas of culture cohabit in Soho,” said Arnold, who sees the club as a symbol of the area’s diversity. “That’s the success of it. It’s a microcosm of what really we’d all like the world to be.”

The club was closed in late November after an altercation in which bouncers attacked an unruly customer with a baseball bat. But local officials had already approved the site for demolition and redevelopment as a “high quality” complex of retail outlets, restaurants, offices and apartments.

The plans by property owner Soho Estates also promise to get rid of unlicensed sex shops nearby and “drive out anti-social and criminal uses.”

Some fear that’s code for sanitizing Soho, a longtime home to artists, outsiders and rebels whose residents have included Casanova, Mozart and Karl Marx.

After World War II, Soho’s smoky late-night dives attracted artists including Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. In the 1950s, the first British rock ‘n’ roll acts played in its coffee shops, and in the ’70s, its music clubs throbbed with the sound of punk.

Waves of immigrants — Jewish, Italian, Chinese — established shops and restaurants. Soho also became the home of Britain’s movie business — home to digital effects studios and post-production houses — and a hub of gay nightlife.

Soho has also long been synonymous with sex. Porn publisher Paul Raymond, dubbed the “King of Soho,” opened London’s first strip club here in 1958. Raymond Revuebar was considered a classy venue, but by the 1970s, sleaze was spreading, and Soho had 140 unlicensed sex shops.

There was little investment by landlords, and Soho’s Georgian buildings became run-down — but at least rents were cheap.

“They neglected the place, and in the neglect people were able to do things,” said Leslie Hardcastle, president of conservation group the Soho Society. “It was a run-down area. Now it is a very lucrative piece of real estate.”

These days, Soho’s red-light district is confined to a few streets of peep shows, strip clubs and sex shops. Visitors are more likely to be drawn to the area’s destination restaurants, boutique hotels and upmarket stores. Scuzzy apartments are being replaced by luxury dwellings. One three-bedroom apartment is currently on sale for 6.5 million pounds ($10 million).

Ironically, the property company that wants to tear down Madame Jojo’s is run by members of Raymond’s family. Soho Estates says its redevelopment will include at least two nightclubs, including a reincarnation of the lost nightclub.

“We recognize the rich and creative history of Soho and the importance of venues such as Madame Jojo’s,” the firm said in a statement.

Arnold, Cumberbatch and the club’s other supporters aren’t convinced. They want London Mayor Boris Johnson to step in to save one of a dwindling number of live-music venues in the area. Soho, they argued in a recent open letter, “has always depended on building around and adding to what has gone before, not by demolishing it.”

Despite the changes, Hardcastle and Arnold both say Soho is still a surprisingly close-knit area.

“It’s like a village,” said Hardcastle, who has lived in Soho for 47 years. “When I go out and get a loaf of bread, my wife comes after me and says ‘What’s taking you so long?’ because I’ve had a conversation with 20 people.”

By Jill Lawless, Associated Press


Omnibus: New Book Charts History Of London’s Buses

omnibusIn 1829, London’s first bus service trundled out of Paddington bound for the City. Since those first pioneering vehicles of George Shillibeer, the London omnibus has ditched horses for engines, turned red, grown an upper deck, carried troops to the trenches and Young Ones to their doom, bendified, de-bendified, moved through dozens of designs, paraded at the Olympics and, ultimately, become a worldwide symbol of our city.

The story of the London bus is both epic and nuanced. This new book from London Transport Museum satisfies both requirements. It’s a visual delight, with images rammed tighter than a Number 25 in the rush hour. Bus obsessives have plenty to ogle, with more than enough photographs charting the evolution of the vehicle. Those with a more casual appetite for transport history will also enjoy the many insights into how the bus coped with, and sometimes helped precipitate, changes in society.

It’s a multi-author book, including the talents of ubiquitous transport expert Oliver Green and London Transport Museum’s long-serving director Sam Mullins.

Despite the numerous voices, the meat of the book holds together extremely well. The start and end are less successful. The introduction feels somewhat inchoate, sliding around like a double-decker on a glacier of grease. The final chapter, meanwhile, is too cursory on the significant changes of the past decade. Nevertheless, this is a stonking tome, beautifully designed and edited, that will appeal both to everyday passengers and vehicular connoisseurs. Superb front cover, too.

Omnibus: A Social History of the London Bus is out now from London Transport Museum.

Looking for other books about London? See our book review archive.


Stegosaurus skeleton goes on display at Natural History Museum

The six-metre long installation, which is about the size of a small truck, has more than 300 bones. 

The exhibit was opened to crowds of visitors at the Natural History Museum today.

Paleontologists discovered the skeleton at the Red Canyon Ranch in the US in 2003. Its left arm and the bottom of its tail were the only parts missing, the museum said.

Scientists will use the impressive fossil as part of a series of important studies in order to develop their understanding of stegosaurs.

Paleontologist Charlotte Brassey told London Live: “This is a really significant purchase for the museum. This is the most complete stegosaur ever known. It is also the only stegosaurus on display outside of Europe.

“The thing that strikes you when you first see her is those gigantic plates.


“The wonderful thing about having such a complete skeleton is we can begin to reconstruct how heavy she was, how heavy she might have been movingm what kind of gait she had, how much food she would have been consuming just to keep herself going.

“So we can test all these hypotheses that until now would have gone untested.”

Professor Paul Barrett, the museum’s lead dinosaur researcher, said: “It’s an honour to have this extraordinary specimen permanently on display to inspire Natural History Museum visitors. Stegosaurus fossil finds are rare.

“Having the world’s most complete example here for research means we can begin to uncover the secrets behind the evolution and behaviour of this intriguing dinosaur species.”


Get a Lesson in History at London’s Imperial War Museum

That’s a good plan when you are exploring a new city with your gang. That’s what we did recently at the newly expanded Imperial War Museum in London, which was teeming with enthusiastic British families.

“It is genuinely impossible to leave without your brain full of interesting and cool facts you never knew before,” said Izzy, one of the museum’s youth advisers, who helped IWM curators create the “family trail” at the new interactive First World War exhibition.

“American kids can take away a piece of British history that captures what war was like for all generations,” offered Louie, also on the youth adviser team.

Sites like this free museum — another is the excellent Museum of London, which is a terrific introduction to the city’s history and is currently showcasing a much-heralded Sherlock Holmes exhibit. If you are heading to London for the holidays or contemplating a trip next year, these might not be on your must-see list, but they should be.

I love how the Museum of London offers children’s “activity trails” and gives you the chance to explore the London of Shakespeare’s day, contemplate the great London Fire of 1666, walk through a Victorian street and see the London 2012 Olympic cauldron.

To mark the start of the centenary of the First World War, the IWM London has opened new, permanent First World War Galleries that encourage visitors to learn the story of the war through the people who lived through it on the home front and on the frontlines. There are more than 1,300 objects on display, many which have never been exhibited — uniforms, diaries and letters, including one from the 9-year-old boy who wanted to volunteer as a bike messenger during World War I. “I can ride jolly quick on my bicycle. … I win fights with lads twice as big,” Alfie Knight wrote. The official letter he got from the War Office turning down his offer is also on display.

These new galleries are part of a transformation of the museum — established while the First World War was still being fought to ensure that future generations wouldn’t forget the sacrifice of those who fought and contributed at home — with a newly configured atrium where you’ll see everything from a Spitfire to a Land Rover damaged by a rocket attack in Gaza. There are more than 400 objects and artworks on display.

At the World War I exhibit, you can walk through a trench, “make” food, boots and shells through a large interactive Supply Line table and see how British children helped the war effort by becoming Sea Scout coast watchers looking out for German spies.

“I like how you don’t have to read about it, you can see it and touch it,” said Reece Wakeman, 10, visiting with his dad.

Maybe one reason this exhibit has such resonance with kids and teens is the input from the IWM’s youth panel, which is made up of teens who have worked with departments across the museum advising on how to encourage young people to participate. Young reporters were taught journalism skills so they could report all the changes at the museum to their communities.

“This makes history real for the kids … it’s not just textbooks like when I was in school,” said Claudette James, visiting with her 10-year-old daughter Alexia, who opined that she didn’t think she’d want to be a spy after checking out the museum’s Secret War exhibit that showcases the important role of the clandestine services.

The holidays, of course, are a popular time for families to visit London and surprisingly, one of the less expensive times of the year to come, with January and February even cheaper, according to the trivago Hotel Price Index (tHPI). While many government museums in London, like in Washington, D.C., are free, you will save money on other top attractions and avoid lines with the London Pass.

The kids we met thought the Imperial War Museum should be on the itinerary along with the Tower of London, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey and this year, the Paddington Trail with 50 life-sized Paddington Bear statues placed all around London sites. The statues will all be sold for charity.

Another plus to visiting a place like the Imperial War Museum: The chance to meet local kids and share the experience with them. Kids gain a new understanding of what war meant to those who lived through it, the youth advisers said, thanks to exhibits like A Family in Wartime that shows how one working-class London family coped during World War II — from the evacuation of children from London (46 percent of London children were evacuated to the countryside) to rationing (families had to grow their own fruit and vegetables) to using parachute silk for wedding dresses.

“My favorite part is the jacket of Harold Cope,” said Elena, who won’t forget showing the shrapnel-riddled jacket to Prince William when the exhibit opened. “Harold Cope survived his shrapnel wound from the Battle of the Somme.

It’s just as important, she said, to remember “the lucky soldiers who survived.”

And the generations who followed.

[ For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow "taking the kids" on , where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. ]


Sophie the Stegosaurus debuts at London’s Natural History Museum

More than 100m years ago she was lumbering around a subtropical forest in what is now Wyoming, ceaselessly chewing plant matter while keeping her terrifying spiked tail at the ready to swat any predator that dared to try its luck. Today, Sophie the Stegosaurus has a new home, London’s Natural History Museum, where her stunning presence dominates the Earth Hall.

With 85% of her skeleton intact, she is the world’s most complete specimen of the instantly recognisable dinosaur famous for the huge plates cresting its back and the four spear-like horns on the end of its tail.

Although museum scientists do not actually know the sex of their Stegosaurus, “she” has been informally named Sophie after the daughter of the wealthy hedge fund manager whose donation made the acquisition possible.

At 5.6 metres long and 2.9 metres tall, Sophie is relatively small compared with the largest of her species, which measured up to nine metres.

But what she lacks in size she makes up for in beauty. Poised on a small stage just inside the museum’s Exhibition Road entrance with her tail up, body lowered, and open jaws pointing at arriving visitors, she brings the Cretaceous era alive.

Sophie is the first complete dinosaur specimen to go on display at the Natural History Museum in nearly 100 years. She joins “Dippy” the Diplodocus, whose massive 26-metre skeleton – a replica – has stood in the museum’s central Hintze Hall since 1905.

Professor Paul Barrett, the museum’s chief dinosaur scientist, who found Sophie while attending an international fossil fair in the US, said: “It’s an honour to have this extraordinary specimen permanently on display to inspire Natural History Museum visitors.

“Stegosaurus fossil finds are rare. Having the world’s most complete example here for research means we can begin to uncover the secrets behind the evolution and behaviour of this intriguing dinosaur species.”

Sophie was a young adult when she died 150m years ago. Her fossilised bones were discovered in 2003 at Red Canyon Ranch in Wyoming, US, by paleontologist Bob Simon.

Prof Barrett led a year of negotiations that eventually secured the Stegosaurus for London’s Natural History Museum despite strong interest from a number of other institutions. Her cost – likely to be substantial – is not being disclosed at the request of hedge fund manager Jeremy Herrmann, who provided most of the money. A total of 69 other private donors all contributed to the purchase.

The scientific value of the specimen, containing 360 individual bones, is priceless. Many of the bones have already been laser-scanned and imaged with CT (computed tomography) x-rays to create “virtual” models that can be studied within computer simulations.

Researchers are especially interested in the way Sophie moved and ate, and the function of her 19 bony back plates, which still remains uncertain.

Prof Barrett said: “Although we know Stegosaurus was a plant eater, we don’t know exactly what sort of plants it might have been eating or how well it was able to use its feeble looking teeth to eat and support a body weighing a couple of tonnes.

“Another project is reconstructing models of the hind limbs and hips,” he said. “Stegosaurus moved on all fours very slowly, we think … It was a fairly unathletic dinosaur. A good modern analogue is something like a rhino, although a rhino is capable of short bursts of speed.”

Turning to the back plates, he added: “The function of the plates is quite controversial. An early idea was that they were a form of armour but most people don’t believe that any more, because they were quite thin. It’s possible they provided a kind of passive defence because they would have made the dinosaur look a lot bigger from a distance.”

Alternatively they could have been used as radiators. They had a large surface area and a lot of blood vessels running through them. Another possibility is that they were used for display, like a peacock’s tail.

Sophie will be on public display at the museum from Thursday.


World’s most complete stegosaurus rises again at the Natural History Museum

With 85 per cent of her skeleton intact – 18ft long and 9.5ft tall – she is the world’s most complete specimen of the easily recognisable dinosaur.

Although museum scientists do not actually know the sex of their stegosaurus, “she” has been informally named Sophie after the daughter of the wealthy hedge fund manager whose donation made the acquisition possible.

Sophie died as a young adult around 150 million years ago. Her fossilised bones were found in 2003 at Wyoming’s Red Canyon Ranch .

Professor Paul Barrett, the museum’s chief dinosaur scientist who found Sophie while at an international fossil fair in the US, said: “Stegosaurus fossil finds are rare. Having the world’s most complete example here for research means we can begin to uncover the secrets behind the evolution and behaviour of this intriguing dinosaur species.”

The skeleton is the first complete dinosaur specimen to go on display at the Natural History Museum in nearly 100 yearsThe skeleton is the first complete dinosaur specimen to go on display at the Natural History Museum in nearly 100 years (Getty)



Stations in London: Railway stations before and after in history from Euston …

Not all railway stations are boring, soulless commuter buildings, you know.

With rail travel having been part of our lives since the early 19th century, some are almost living museums – charting various urban centres over the past couple of hundred years.

Some used to be amazing, albeit almost unusable by today’s standards, while others have been rebuilt, redesigned or even changed and changed back again since they were first erected.

Here are a few favourites – from a couple in London to New York and Kuala Lumpur.


King’s Cross Station, London

Which well-known station is this?

Full circle – King’s Cross Station in 1852 and today (Pictures: Flickr / Wikipedia)

Recently redeveloped, King’s Cross St Pancras is one of the British capital’s best-known hubs (as much for the importance of Platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter books as its long history). Although the gothic exterior of next-door St Pancras is arguably more photogenic, the sweeping design of the new King’s Cross Station, which also exposes the original Grade I-listed facade, won the European Union prize for cultural heritage in 2013.

Which well-known station is this?

The methods of transport have changed a bit too (Pictures: Getty / Wikimedia Commons)

Which well-known station is this?

The new-look internal view of King’s Cross, and as it looked in 1965 (Pictures: Getty/Rex)


Euston, central London

Which well-known station is this?

The concourse at Euston in 1953 and 2012 (Pictures: Getty)

Few would argue that the modern requirements of rail travel have changed Euston station, aesthetically-speaking at least, for the worse. Its picturesque hall – complete with sweeping stairways and romantic lighting – is a far cry from the wide expanse of today’s cavernous entrance hall and digital departure boards.


New York’s Grand Central Terminal

Which well-known station is this?

Grand Central Station in 1931 and 2013 (Pictures: Getty)

Despite the passage of a century since it was remodelled to suit passenger trains as well as freighters, the overall look of New York’s iconic Grand Central has remained largely untouched. Although it doesn’t quite stack up to sights like the Empire State Building, Central Park, or the Statue of Liberty, the picturesque facade of the station still attracts a fair number of its own tourists every year.


Liverpool Street station, London

Which well-known station is this?

Liverpool Street station in London in 1921 and present day (Pictures: Getty)

One of London’s main hubs, connecting it to East Anglia and the east coast of England, doesn’t look much different, although its capacity has been increased through the addition of new platforms, as well as various modernisations and improvements.


Union Station, Chicago

Which well-known station is this?

Chicago’s Union Station in 1925 and 2011 (Pictures: Getty)

Although Americans are not known for their preservation of all things historic, the main hall at Union Station in Chicago is similar to its New York City counterpart – it’s has barely changed since it was opened in 1925 as a major transport hub for the Midwest.

Aside from a more modern clock, everything from the architecture to the benches and even the positioning of the national flag are almost identical.


Kuala Lumpur

Which well-known station is this?

The station has been extended since the 1960s – but the facade remains unchanged (Pictures: RS Murthi / Alamy)

While the station in Kuala Lumpur hasn’t changed very much, the city around it is unrecognisable half a century after the country gained independence from Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The rise of the Malaysian federal capital, from a relatively minor stop-off point in the Far East to corporate powerhouse, is best demonstrated by the rise of the Petronas Towers near to the main station – one of the world’s most iconic office blocks.

Which well-known station is this?

The surroundings of the main station in Kuala Lumpur in 2013 are vastly different to its 1972 version (Pictures: PA/Getty)


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