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The Bishopsgate Blog provides an added insight into all of our activities, Library, Courses, Events and Schools and Community Learning. Our regular blogs will feature speakers from our Cultural Events, photographs, documents, letters, posters and ephemera from the Library, up-to-date news and information on courses and first-hand accounts of our Schools and Community workshops.

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Courses Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information on our courses
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Schools and Community

Our inspired Schools and Community Learning programme delivers a range of workshops and projects using the unique and fascinating collections found within our world-renowned Bishopsgate Library. Our workshops are suitable for learners of all ages and are used by wide variety of audiences from primary school pupils to pensioners.

Our regular blogs will demonstrate how our Schools and Community Learning programme encourages discovery and enquiry amongst our wide-ranging participants.


Culture and arts, heritage and history, ideas and independent thought all come together in our exciting events programmes. You can enjoy talks, walks, discussions and debates, or one of the many concerts that take place throughout the year.

Our regular blogs will give an added insight and perspective into our dynamic programme with content from speakers at our events.


Situated in a Grade II* listed building, Bishopsgate Library’s beautiful reading room is a peaceful place to study that is open to all; a calm oasis amid the bustle of Spitalfields and the City. In our dedicated Researchers’ Area, you can consult our renowned printed and archival collections on London, labour, freethought and Humanism, co-operation, or protesting and campaigning.

Our regular blogs will provide a new way for you to engage with the library collections and services, new acquisitions, activities and future developments.


Our comprehensive range of short courses offer you the opportunity to discover, discuss and be inspired in a welcoming environment. Our courses are conveniently designed to take place throughout the day, including lunchtimes, after work and at weekends. We have five course strands, Arts and Culture, Words and Ideas, Languages, Performing Arts and Body & Exercise to choose from.

Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information.

Bishopsgate Blog
Discover | Enquire | Debate

If you have ever said you're popping down the pub for a few "bevvies", "zhooshed" up your bijou flat, or commented "that's a bit naff" then you have already used Polari. But what is Polari? We asked Professor Paul Baker, author and tutor for our upcoming course, Polari: The lost language of gay men, a few questions to help us get a better understanding.
photograph of Paul Baker
Q: Can you explain what Polari is?

A: Polari is a form of language which was used by LGBT people in the 20th century. They used it as a way of identifying each other and to have private conversations while on public transport or in other situations around straight people. It also helped to create a sense of shared identity. But it had pretty much died out by the end of the 1970s.

Q: What will people learn about the culture on your course?

A: They'll learn about a range of different cultures, not just gay culture but all the different sorts of people who interacted with gay people, resulting in a mixture of words and phrases which became Polari. They'll also learn a bit about what it was like to be gay in the 1950s and how gay people were subject to blackmail, violence, police oppression and sickening medical procedures designed to make them straight. 
Q: What will surprise people about Polari?

A: I think people will be surprised to learn what's happened to Polari in the last 20 years, as it has been adopted for new purposes which are often very funny and also thought-provoking. I think people also might be surprised to find out that there is a somewhat darker side to the language, which reflects the casual racism and sexism of the time, and was one of the reasons why it was dropped.
Q: People were aware of Polari  through Julian and Sandy from  Around the Horne. Where else would they have heard it?
A: It cropped up in a 1973 episode of Dr Who (when the Dr was played by Jon Pertwee), where it was weirdly described as Telurian carnival lingo, and also was used briefly in a scene in a Frankie Howerd film called Up the Chastity Belt. Larry Grayson sometimes used the odd word in his Generation Game, while Julian Clary and Paul O'Grady have occasionally used it too. But these were often just brief snatches of Polari and it's really Round the Horne where it was used most extensively, although that was a much simplified and sanitised version!

Q: You have written a comprehensive dictionary of Polari,
Fantabulosa, but are there any words in your dictionary that have made it into the Oxford English Dictionary or are in common use today? 

A: Probably the word "naff" is the one which people may have heard of. There's mixed opinion on where it comes from but there's an interesting story behind it (which I will reveal in my course...)

Q: What light will your course shed on gay/queer culture across the years? 

A: I think what I want the course to convey really is just how much has changed for LGBT people in a very short space of time. Life is so different for us in 2016 than it was in 1956 and it's sometimes easy to forget that many difficult battles were fought for LGBT equality. We owe a debt to the people who came before us. They refused to do what doctors, police, politicians, newspaper editors and ordinary members of the public wanted them to do - which was to sit alone at home and deny who they were.

Q: What do you think people will be taking away from your course?

A: As well as learning about its history and some of the words and phrases, I hope that they will take away understanding and empathy of the people who used Polari. I also hope they'll have fun - learning a language can be a bit arduous so I've injected a bit of camp humour into some of the language exercises we'll be doing.
Our one day course, Polari: The Lost Language of gay men is on Saturday 30 July (2.30 - 4.30pm) as part of our Summer School.

There are a variety of collections relating to LGBT history, politics and culture within Bishopsgate Institute's Special Collections and Archives. These include the archive collections of organisations such as LAGNAStonewall and Outrage, and material relating to the Terrence Higgins TrustAchilles Heel magazine and QX magazine.

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David Rosenberg asks who was Emma Goldman

by Courses on 31 / 05 / 2016

Who was Emma Goldman? This is the question writer and author David Rosenberg hopes to answer in his three-part course looking at the life of this activist, writer, rabble-rouser, nurse and philosopher. Here, he gives us a little glimpse into her dramatic life.  

“Wake up. Be daring enough to demand your rights. Demonstrate before the palaces of the rich. Demand work. If they do not give you work, demand bread. if they do not give you work or bread, take bread. It is your sacred right.” Tough talking, in hard times, from an even tougher woman. 
Photograph of Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman, born into a struggling Jewish family in Kovno, Lithuania, was standing on a soap box in New York City’s historic Union Square, in her adopted country, when she made this appeal to a crowd of 5,000 hungry, angry, unemployed and downtrodden low-paid workers. She was just 24 years old then, but her power as an orator had already been recognised.

She was soon sought after, as an international anarchist celebrity. Emma turned up in London’s East End in 1899 speaking in her native tongue, Yiddish, to packed audiences who crowded into Christchurch Hall on Hanbury Street to hear her talk about how to change the world.

She felt at home wherever she was among the oppressed, and helped give them the strength and inspiration to fight for their liberation. In 1906 she founded a magazine called Mother Earth, which indicated the true boundary of her concerns.

Emma Goldman led a dramatic life and influenced the lives of so many others with her powerful ideas of liberation and her rebellious actions. Small wonder that in 1917 a State attorney described her as “the most dangerous woman in America”. Her philosophy was “anarchism”, which she defined as standing “for direct action, the open defiance of, and resistance to, all laws and restrictions, economic, social, and moral.” Her activism took her to many destinations, some by choice, others by force. In 1919 she was deported from America as an “alien radical”.

Opponents derided her as a hard unemotional revolutionary, while simultaneously complaining that she spoke of ‘free love” and sexual liberation. Emma herself was married and divorced in her 18th year. After her divorce she vowed “If ever I love a man again I will give myself to him without being bound by rabbi or law, and when that love dies, I will leave without permission.” Yet, for Emma, the “most vital right” of all was “the right to love and be loved,” adding “I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”

This three-part course will try to bring out the real Emma Goldman in all of her dimensions: activist, lover, philosopher, nurse, rabble rouser. It will look at her background, describe key moments in her life, explore her fundamental beliefs and examine the impact of her activism on the different places in which she lived. Whether it was the First World War, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, wherever dramatic events were unfolding, Emma was there, in the thick of it, part of the struggle for better conditions and better times on Mother Earth.

Our course Who Was Emma Goldman? starts on Tuesday 14 June at 6.30pm. A fictionalised version of Emma Goldman also features in our event Ragtime: The Musical.

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Ragtime in London – the Course

by Courses on 27 / 05 / 2016

Bishopsgate Institute and Centre Stage London are producing a staged concert of ‘Ragtime: The Musical’ in June 2016. Tutor Michelle Johansen explains how the themes of Ragtime will inspire a new short history course at Bishopsgate Institute.

Based on the novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow, ‘Ragtime: The Musical’ examines pivotal moments in American history through the lives of three family groups in early twentieth century New York. Many of the themes that underpin the narrative in both the novel and the musical can also be found in the historical materials in the special collections at Bishopsgate Institute, collections that are especially rich in items that describe ‘ordinary’ people’s battles to achieve justice and equality. For example, the writings of anarchist and activist Emma Goldman (who appears as a fictionalised version of herself in Ragtime) are represented by pamphlets that report her lectures on hotly contested topics such as Marriage and Love (1914) and Anarchism (1916).

Other aspects of Ragtime that find direct parallels in the Institute collections include the story of immigration as told through the character of Tateh, an impoverished socialist and silhouette artist who travels with his daughter from Eastern Europe in search of a better life in the United States. At the start of Ragtime, we meet Tateh on a crowded ship about to dock at New York. In Terence McNally’s adaption of Doctorow’s novel for ‘Ragtime: the Musical’ the script refers to: ‘rag ships [carrying] immigrants from every cesspool in western and eastern Europe.’

Many Jewish immigrants made the hazardous journey from Eastern Europe to first London then New York in the final years of the nineteenth century, fleeing new laws in Russia that prejudiced their opportunities to make a living – and were sometimes violently enforced. It has been suggested that the poorer immigrants fetched up in the East End of London while the more wealthy travellers bought a ticket to New York. New York was the destination of choice in part because it was seen as a city of opportunities, a notion explored both in Ragtime and ‘Ragtime: the Musical’ (‘in America anyone at all can succeed’).

But on both sides of the Atlantic, visibly ‘other’ immigrant groups settling in large numbers attracted outspoken criticism and disproportionate media interest in the late-nineteenth century. In the Institute collections, pamphlets and journals from the period printed articles under inflammatory headlines such as ‘The Invasion of the Pauper Foreigners’ and ‘Alien Immigrants: are they Undesirable?’

Britain’s first Asian Conservative MP even secured his East End seat on an anti-immigration ticket in the 1890s, as this original election flyer from the collection reveals.

This item will feature along with photographs, articles and ephemera from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in a new half-day course called ‘Ragtime in London’.

Responding to the themes of the Ragtime novel and musical, the course will provide hands-on access to materials on anarchism, socialism and immigration as well as making more esoteric links to Ragtime through theatrical sub-plots that include escapology, Egyptology and arson. These subjects and more will be given a uniquely London twist, allowing students to spend an afternoon immersed in the city’s past at a pivotal moment of change, expansion and explosive drama.Keep checking our courses page for 'Ragtime in London' course dates and availability.

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Create Your Own Artist's Book

by Courses on 22 / 04 / 2016
Artist Sarah Sparkes will be joining us this May to run a six-week artist bookmaking course. Sarah has also taught artist bookmaking and other practical courses at Tate Modern, UAL and Putney School of Art and Design. Sarah told us a little about what you can expect to learn on her course.

An artist book is a book produced or designed by an artist that is intended to be a work of art in itself. Usually a limited edition or a unique item, the artist book can come in many different variations around the idea of what a book is, but still retain many of what we would consider to be the key elements that we identify as 'book'.

On this practical course you will be introduced to many exciting and wide-ranging examples of artist books and gain an insight into the processes involved in making them. You will learn how to make a range of different styles of book yourself using a variety of materials, bookbinding, paper folding and pop-up bookmaking techniques. You will explore different illustrative processes, from collage to mixed media mark making and use these to create exciting and personalised designs for your books. You will also explore how to present and exhibit your finished books.

The content course participants will be using to create books - to illustrate them and even to construct them - will be drawn from the fabulous images and texts in the special collections and archives at Bishopsgate Institute. In one session you will also learn how to make a unique art work by using paper cutting and folding techniques on an actual book from the library's book sale!

In preparation for the course, Sarah has been making books with materials from the Bishopsgate archive. Below is an example of a concertina book that she has made fusing protest posters and historical photographs of local markets.
Take a look at previous examples of students' work from Sarah's bookmaking course at Tate Modern.

Create Your Own Artist's Book starts on Thursday 12 May 2016. Stay up to date with all our activities by signing up to our newsletter.

Who are the Guerrilla Girls?

by Courses on 15 / 02 / 2016
When in 1985 the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted a large exhibition titled “An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture”, out of 169 artists included only 13 were women. This disparity led to the formation of an influential and energetic activist group to combat sexism in the art world. Tutor Al Johnson introduces the Guerrilla Girls.

In 1984 a group of women artists created a radical collective: Guerrilla Girls. The group’s members protected their identities by wearing gorilla masks in public and by assuming pseudonyms taken from significant deceased female figures, including writer Gertrude Stein and artist Frida Kahlo. They were determined to expose sexual discrimination in the art world, and published thirty posters :Guerrilla Girls Talk Back. The posters included; Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? 1989. A naked woman with a gorilla mask reclines above the following text: Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female. The image is based on the painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Odalisque and Slave 1989.

Guerilla Girl Poster 'Do women have to be naked to get into the Met?

Copyright © Guerrilla Girls, courtesy guerrillagirls.com

The Guerilla Girls were attempting to redress the balance after centuries of silence, since the work of women artists has so often been hidden or unnoticed. Many published art histories make no mention at all of women artists, Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, still a standard text in Art Schools, makes no mention of women artists, and public collections still only represent a tiny minority of women working prior to the 20th century. The National Gallery in London has 2300 paintings in its collection, and only 15 of these are by women. 

Five Centuries of Women Artists will reconsider the contribution of women to the arts. We will look at the work of artists including; Sofonisba Anguissola, Rosalba Carriera, Judith Leyster, Artemisia Gentileschi, Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Kathe Kolwitz, Eileen Agar, Paula Rego and Judy Chicago. We will also explore the work of the feminist art historians of the 1970s, including the landmark essay by the American art historian Linda Nochlin; Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? 

Al Johnson will be looking at the contribution of women to the arts and the work of feminist art historians in the 1970s who strove to bring these women artists to our attention in Five Centuries of Women Artists.

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London’s Burning

by Courses on 28 / 01 / 2016
The year 2016 marks 350 years since the Great Fire of London transformed the built environment of the City forever. This anniversary will be acknowledged in a range of ways by our City neighbours, including the Museum of London and the Barbican. Here tutor Michelle Johansen explains how we are responding to the 350 milestone date through our courses programme.

For three dramatic and terrifying days in September 1666, fire raged through the streets of the City of London. The Great Fire destroyed thousands of homes and dozens of churches and public buildings. Parts of the City of London had to be almost entirely reconstructed in the years that followed, with Sir Christopher Wren taking responsibility for a transformative programme of planning and rebuilding in the area around St Paul's and what is now the Monument. 

The Great Fire took place less than a mile away from our present location. As a cultural and learning institution delivering events and courses with a distinctly London feel and focus, we could not allow this milestone local anniversary to pass unmarked in our programme. But our archives and special collections relate chiefly to the period after 1800 so how could we get involved? 

We recognised we were not in a position to engage in a meaningful way with our neighbours’ plans to commemorate the event so we adopted a creative approach by developing a half-day course exploring a range of ‘fiery’ topics. London’s Burning  is the latest in our archives-based courses that place the student at the centre of the learning process. Structured access to curated sets of original materials from our collections provide opportunities for learners to lose themselves in London’s history through immersive engagement with nineteenth-century pamphlets, Edwardian photographs, eighteenth-century maps, Victorian ephemera and so on. 

London’s Burning is perfect for curious learners with an open-minded approach to the study of the past. A wide range of subjects will be covered. For example, the course looks at changing views of childhood through mid-nineteenth-century campaigns to end the use of child chimney sweeps. We will explore fire as a recurring motif on the home front in London during the First World War, both as a positive concept (through the popular catchphrase ‘keeping the home fires burning’) and for its negative connotations (through an examination of the ground level impact of fires caused by zeppelin raids).

We will examine the use of fire as a form of political protest throughout the twentieth century and we will revisit the hazardous character of domestic life in Victorian London when house fires were an ever present threat in dwellings that were often overcrowded and insanitary and invariably heated by real fires. Some of the pioneering health and safety measures introduced at this time to mitigate personal risk, especially in new public buildings where people were increasingly gathering in unparalleled numbers to attend meetings, lectures and exhibitions, will also be scrutinised through illustrations, press clippings and institutional records. 

Finally, London’s Burning aims to mark a second key anniversary. The London Fire Brigade is 150 years old  in 2016. To add a light-hearted element to a session that focuses on otherwise relatively dark subject matter (war, destruction, poverty, child labour), we intend to include a few old photographs of firemen drinking tea between carrying out training exercises.

Also on offer for the first time in the spring term is Sex and the City, an alternative way to celebrate Valentine’s weekend by getting hands on with historic materials such as postcards, letters and flyers that place the changing nature of relationships and gender in London since around 1880 under the spotlight. Find out more here.

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Discover an A-Z of London Radicals

by Courses on 15 / 01 / 2016

London has a history of grassroots protest and revolt in the workplace, in local communities and at its centres of power. Tutor and historian David Rosenberg, introduces us to one of the activists he will talk about in his course an A-Z of London Radicals.

Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave living in London in the 1780s and 90s, came to prominence through his activity with the “Sons of Africa”, 12 men who campaigned here for the abolition of slavery. He published his autobiography in 1789. It was very popular and republished in a number of other countries. He died in 1797. 

Very few articles about him tell you what he was involved with in the last years of his life. He had become active in an innocuous sounding group called the “London Corresponding Society”. The government didn’t consider them innocuous. It passed Acts of Parliament against them to stem their activities and put some leading members on trial for high treason. Opponents of the society described them as “a motley crew of  pickpockets, seditionists, modern reformers, housebreakers, and revolutionists”. They were actually a group campaigning for democratic reform in a very undemocratic society, and it is possible to draw a line linking them to the Chartists of the 1830s, the Reform League of the 1860s and the suffragettes of the early 20th century.

The A-Z refers to the surname initials of thinkers, agitators, writers, activists and troublemakers, who lived and campaigned in London between the 1750s and the 1950s. We will meet more than 20 of them over 7 sessions: writers of incendiary pamphlets, outlaws who challenged the authorities through acts of civil disobedience, refuseniks who would not conform to the orthodoxies proclaimed by the ruling classes, courageous fighters in the workplace and on the streets, inspirers of change who promoted a vision of a new and better society. 

You can find out who they were and what they did in an A- Z of London Radicals starting on Thursday 21 January 2016.

Explore protest and campaigning in our collections. 

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Author and historian Sarah Wise is a regular tutor of 19th-century social history and literature at Bishopsgate Institute. One of her courses this term will look at the frightening re-imaginings of London in 19th- and 20th-century works of science fiction. We asked her a few questions about the new course and her interest in Victorian London.

Q: What first drew you to delve into London's Victorian past?
A: I grew up in the golden age of British telly - when adaptations of all the classic 19th-century novels were on at least once a week, and that fired my imagination about these larger-than-life people, the Victorians. So I started reading the novels and much later on, when I spotted the Victorian Studies Master's degree running at Birkbeck College, I signed up for it, and that was that.

Q: Your books on the underside of Victorian London have struck a chord with modern readers. Why do you think this is?
A: I had thought when I began to write that I was exploring social issues that were firmly in the past, such as human trafficking, rapacious, unregulated landlordism, abysmal working conditions. I'm unhappy to say that over my writing career, all of these things have risen up from the dead and have become very present concerns. Also, perhaps, my books show that there is so much virgin territory in the archives - stories that have never been told since the day they happened. It's always fun to try to find a fresh angle on an aspect of the past, or to rescue incidents and individuals from obscurity.

Q:Thinking about your Science fiction course this term. How much do you think the re-imagined worlds of Wells or Orwell drew on contemporary reality?
A: With Wells, he was exploring in fiction some of the growing ethical dilemmas that late-Victorian and Edwardian science were throwing up but which were not being deeply explored by scientists themselves or by journalistic popularisers of science. His novels were a way of opening up a dialogue about where amazing new discoveries could lead mankind. With Orwell, what is sometimes forgotten is how very well read he was in even pretty obscure Victorian fiction - although very much a 20th-century man, he was exceptionally well acquainted with the thought and unresolved anxieties of the 19th century too. For example, the 'Prole' scenes in 1984 are recognisable from some of the experiences of late-Victorian social investigators in London's slums.

Q: How much of an appetite was there among Victorian readers for stories of other worlds?
A: Well, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe and HG Wells were all pioneers of what we now call science fiction and they found wide readerships -. There was a huge appetite for non-fiction books in which the latest scientific thinking was presented for a general readership, and science fiction also captured that hunger for probing new developments and how they might impact on everyday life.

Q : What do you hope your students will take away from their encounter with these unusual visions of London?
A: Terror and wonder! Well, also a sense of the 'real' world that each fiction was responding to - the various anxieties about how the future might shape up. Science fiction holds up the mirror to the real world, so it can be a great way into social history. Also, it would be nice if anything a student read on the course triggered their own ideas for fiction.

Apocalypse London: The City in Science Fiction starts on Monday 18 January 2016. Sarah will also be looking at The London 'Lowlife'Novel, 1889-1907

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The Victorians and the Modern-Day Christmas

by Courses on 17 / 11 / 2015
Christmas has been celebrated for centuries in various forms but it was not until the mid-19th century that it took on the popular guise which we know today. Tutor Caroline Ings-Chambers looks at how our present-day Christmas is a gift from the Victorians.

The signs that Christmas is coming are everywhere at this time of year. Evergreens seemingly spring forth in profusion, thousands upon thousands of tiny lights unashamedly generate pretty carbon footprints, minimalism is superseded by decorations of red and gold or anything shiny, seasonal foods amass ready to waylay the waistline, and medleys of “Christmas Greats” fill the bottomless pit of our ears over and over again. On the streets, in the shops, on the radio and the television, the message is one of seasonal good cheer - the Christmas rush is on. Commercial it may be, but the chances are it will draw us in.
Victorian Christmas Card
Christmas, as it is known today, began in the Victorian era. Christmas trees, garlands and other evergreen decorations, presents, Christmas dinner, mince pies, Christmas cards, crackers, Father Christmas - even the commercialism of Christmas, all began in that period. Amazingly, though, Christmas had almost disappeared as a festival at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  As a religious observance, it remained widespread, but the festive jollity that had once been associated with Christmas had been stamped out by the Puritans and not revived in the intervening years.

With their austere evangelical outlook the Victorians seem unlikely candidates to have revived and in many respects generated the modern “Merry Christmas”. Paradoxically, this came out of their fear of a changing modernising world. Mass migration from the country into the towns and rapid industrialisation meant that traditions were vanishing. The way of life of a nation no longer seemed stable. Amidst the upheaval, the Victorians cast into the past for answers about how to live in the present. Nowhere did they do this to more lasting effect than with the way they evoked the spirit of Christmas past.

In their revival of the festival of Christmas, the Victorians had an inspired vision. They began with an almost blank canvas and created a festival that moves beyond the boundaries of religion to celebrate life itself, with its emphasis on bringing people together, remembering the importance of loving one another, the joy of living, of new life and of family. The same message lies in the symbolism of the decorations, which is why, when we scratch below the tinsel, Christmas captures the better part of who we are across the boundaries of history, culture and tradition.

Caroline Ings-Chambers will be looking at how the Victorians revived Christmas and why in her course The  Victorians and the Modern-day Christmas.

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Hand & Lock have been producing the world’s finest hand embroidery since 1767 and this autumn we are delighted that they are going to be running two new embroidery courses with us. To provide a bit of background information for the courses Robert McCaffrey from Hand and Lock gives us a brief history of haute couture: 

Though haute couture started in France, it was a once-famed but now largely forgotten Englishman, Charles Frederick Worth,  who started the ‘high fashion’ trend. Moving to France in 1845 he started work as a dress salesman before graduating to dressmaking and winning acclaim for his designs at the 1851 Great exhibition in London and the 1855 Paris Exposition Universelle. 
Image of Charles Worth dressmaker
In 1858 The House of Worth opened its doors and was one of the first fashion houses to use live models to showcase designs to clients. In time, Worth became known as ‘The father of haute couture’. Notable clients included: Empress Eugenie, wife of Emperor Napoleon III; Elizabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary; Louisa, Queen of Sweden; Margherita, Princess of Usedom; Maria Cristina, Queen of Spain; and Ranavlona, Queen of Madagascar. One of his lasting legacies was sewing his name into each garment he produced, pioneering the concept of the fashion brand.

One of the most iconic fashion designers was Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel who founded the brand Chanel in 1909 and was credited with liberating women from the constraints of the corset and popularising ‘casual chic’. 

Image: Left: Coco Chanel. Right: Christian Dior 'New Look'

In her early days, Chanel hired Russian immigrants to work in her embroidery studio realising her vision and developing it through the 1920s and 30s. By the outbreak of WWII, when she closed her shops claiming ‘it was not a time for fashion’, she had a workforce of 3,000 women.

Throughout a colourful and controversial life she created the famed Chanel suit and the little black dress.  American Vogue likened Chanel's ‘little black dress’ -  to the Ford, alluding to its almost universal popularity as a fashion basic. 

Another famed French couturier was Christian Dior. In 1940 Dior was called away from fashion to undertake compulsory military service. Little is known about the next two years. 

In 1942,during the occupation of France , Dior produced couture dresses for the wives of Nazi officers and collaborators. Allegedly at this time he passed sensitive information to his sister in the French resistance. He would later honour her by naming his debut fragrance Miss Dior.

Pre-war fashion had been restricted by rationing but when Dior showed his debut collection in 1947 it was a voluptuous ‘New Look’ -  an average Dior dress used 20 yards of fabric. After Dior’s death in 1957, Yves Saint Laurent took over as haute couture designer and remained at the company until 1962.

In 1970 Pierre Cardin hired an eighteen year old assistant based on sketches he had been sent; the young man was Jean Paul Gaultier. Just six years later Gaultier released his first individual collection and developed his style year after year before becoming known as the ‘enfant terrible’ of the French fashion scene. 
Image of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Halle Berry in an Ellie Saab dress
Image: Left: Jean Paul Gaultier with Madonna. Right: Halle Berry in a dress by Elie Saab 

Another early starter was Beirut-born Elie Saab who at just 18 opened his first atelier with 15 employees. His overtly feminine aesthetic and romantic crystal-encrusted gowns are a dazzling fusion of Middle Eastern detailing and European sensibilities. He gained local notoriety when Bierut’s high society began wearing his pieces before earning international fame after Halle Berry wore an Elie Saab gown when she won the Oscar for Monster’s Ball.

Hand and Lock will be running two courses this autumn: Traditional Goldwork Workshop and Contemporary Haute Couture.

SPECIAL OFFER: Anyone booking a Hand & Lock embroidery course will be invited to attend their annual prize-giving event on 5 November and entered into a prize draw to win a VIP guided tour of their studios. Deadline to book is 21 September.

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Feeding London across the centuries

by Courses on 03 / 09 / 2015

From Roman oysters to priceless Parmesan, London’s position as a world-leading port has given her people plenty of food to choose from. Tutor Caryle Webb-Ingall looks at how Londoners’ appetites have been met. 

With what was at one time the largest and wealthiest port in the world, London has arguably shaped the appetite of the nation. As produce from around the globe found its way to the London docks, markets grew up throughout the city to supply traders, restaurateurs and citizens with all kinds of food from the exotic to the staple. 

Image of London Food market
As far back as Roman times, there is evidence that a wide range of food was available from oysters, sweet apples and cultivated cherries to new vegetables like carrots and cabbage, as well as herbs including borage and chervil. 

During the middle ages, the church held strict controls over fasting and feeding, although inevitably the wealthy ate well, notwithstanding the rules. Much of the population was employed one way or another in feeding London at this time, with unpaid labour from within the household and many street sellers, stall holders and specialist dealers. Some parts of the industry were important enough that guilds were established such as the Ancient Guild of Pepperers, which was established around 1100 and renamed the Worshipful Company of Grocers in 1376 to reflect their widening interests. 

By Tudor times expanding overseas trade made luxuries such as sugar, ginger or Parmesan cheese available to those who could afford them. Although little used at first, now-familiar items including potatoes and tomatoes were also appearing from as far away as the Americas.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain’s trade expanded to such a degree that individual wharves and docks became dominant in their specialist areas. Hay’s Wharf, for example, handled 80% of all of the dry goods entering the country and became known as ‘the larder of London’. The fishermen that sailed from Barking became part of the world’s largest commercial fleet.

The markets that grew up in medieval and Tudor times expanded, some becoming the great wholesale outlets for vegetables, meat, fish and flowers that still operate today. As London expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries, local street markets were established to serve the new suburbs. Many of these continue to thrive, with some seeing a new lease of life from a resurgent interest in fresh, quality produce.

Caryle will be looking at the history of London's great food markets and the development of coffee houses and chippies in her course Feeding London: Markets and Meals for Londoners.

You can also find out about the history and politics of street trading in our series of events Cries of London

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Open Houses London focuses people's attention on the capital's great architecture. We asked tutor Steven Barrett to tell us the landmarks and buildings that he thinks gives London its unique character.

I've chosen the Boundary Estate in Bethnal Green because it embodies many of the themes I'll be covering on the Architecture of London course. History isn't only about famous people, it's about ordinary people too, and a history of London's architecture shouldn't focus only on famous landmarks but include some of the everyday buildings that have changed Londoners' lives. 

Image of Bandstand at Boundary Estate
The Boundary Estate is a perfect case study - the first planned housing estate in the capital; one of the very first in the world. It replaced Victorian London's worst slum, the Nichol, a labyrinth of dilapidated streets and courts which housed upwards of 6000 people and had a death rate double that of Bethnal Green as a whole. In Charles Booth's famous survey of East London published in 1889, Life and Labour of the People of London, the Nichol was coloured almost entirely black, Booth's lowest category denoting 'vicious and semi-criminal' inhabitants.

However, in only ten years the Nichol was gone, replaced by the Boundary Estate with its gardens and bay-fronted flats, bandstand, schools, dairy and parade of shops. The course covers the history of the Boundary Estate, focusing on its origins in Victorian philanthropy, emerging socialism and new forms of local government, and its impact upon later housing projects including the large-scale postwar rebuilding of London's housing stock. The Boundary Estate provided the template for planned urban living not only in London, or the UK, but in many other great cities and nations of the industrial age.

Famous buildings such as the Palace of Westminster and St. Paul's Cathedral are hugely important buildings in the history of London and truly iconic (a much over-used word) in that they can appear to sum up or represent the city by themselves: a picture of Big Ben says 'London' to everyone familiar with the capital. 

Steven Barrett will be looking at the Architecture of London in a one-day course on the 28th November. As well as studying London's great buildings themselves you can explore how their special, iconic, status is achieved through photography, painting, film and TV. 

Make sure that we on your itinerary for Open House London

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One Century – Many Battles!

by Courses on 15 / 06 / 2015

The East End has been a magnet for immigrants seeking freedom, safety and prosperity for hundreds of years. It has also been a focal point for anti-immigrant movements resenting 'their' territory being encroached upon and transformed. During the  20th century it had been a venue for provocative marches and rallies and dramatic clashes of ideas on the streets, as our tutor David Rosenberg reveals. 

Mention the word “Battle” in connection with the East End and many people will instantly recall Sir Oswald Mosley and the iconic 1930s clash on the streets between fascists and anti-fascists at the “Battle of Cable Street”. Estimates for the numbers on the streets that day vary between 100,000 and 300,000. But in the bigger picture, that was just one of several dramatic encounters that occurred on this territory in the 20th century – territory that has provided a home for immigrants and refugees over several hundred years, despite the efforts of those who wish to claim it exclusively and keep “intruders”, “invaders” and “interlopers” out of the East End. 

The cast of characters who have contributed to these encounters includes some surprises. In 1978 the National Front was riding high in London on an anti-immigrant platform and contested dozens of seats in Tower Hamlets at the local elections, as it sought to follow in Mosley’s footsteps. On Sunday mornings in that period, its supporters gathered in growing numbers to sell papers outside a shop run by a middle-aged Jewish couple on the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane. Rampages in the vicinity, directed against the local Bengali population frequently followed the NF paper sale. On the day of those local elections, a gang of teenagers whose minds had been poisoned by racists, attacked and murdered Altab Ali a 25-year-old Bengali clothing worker, as he walked home from work.

Later that year Mrs Thatcher stole the National Front’s thunder – and no doubt many of its potential voters. Her televised comments that Briton’s feared being “swamped” by “alien cultures” brought harsh anti-immigrant sentiment into the political mainstream debate. 

Harsh language, but also unoriginal. In 1902 the Bishop of Stepney, Cosmo Lang, accused (Jewish) immigrants of “swamping whole areas once populated by English people”. And a populist anti-immigrant group that filled the streets at that time expressing similar sentiments, claimed material support from, among others, the author Marie Corelli and Arthur Conan Doyle, inventor of Sherlock Holmes.

You can gather your own clues to try to uncover the deeper layers of the story of these recurring battles, and find out how the communities that have been victimised have built alliances across ethnic and religious divides, by enrolling on the course “Battle for the Streets: East London encounters with racism and Fascism” with David Rosenberg.

David Rosenberg is the author of 'Battle for the East End' (Five Leaves Publications, 2011) and 'Rebel Footprints' (Pluto, 2015)

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Gitika Partington: A few notes on singing

by Courses on 02 / 06 / 2015

I'd like to teach the world to sing’. Celebrating 10 years of acapella choirs at Bishopsgate Institute, tutor Gitika Partington tells us why she loves to teach singing and why she believes that anybody can sing.

Over the years I have sung harmony with thousands of people. I even taught a song to the entire audience and performers of the Royal Albert Hall – twice! I started harmony singing when I was about 5 years old - singing with my family. The love of harmony started right from the start and carried on through the Church Choir, the Drama School Pop Band, the Heavy Rock Band, Jazz, Reggae, Soul Pop bands of my twenties - it was all about the harmony. 

The Tubthumping Chorus and Bishopsgate Singers celebrate all types of voices, and the sound that comes from a mixture of very different voices is joyous. We have energy, passion, it is fun, we laugh and we sound great.  We don’t perform - we ‘share’. End of term concerts just seems to happen. We put out 100 or 200 chairs and the friends come. We have some great videos on youtube of end of term ‘sharings’. 

There is no audition and no-one has to have musical qualifications  or sight singing skills to join the choirs.  The rehearsals are jolly, challenging, there is usually an urn and a biscuit not far away. I put all the separate audio parts on a closed website and many singers download their parts and listen to them during the week on the bus. This term I asked the choirs if they could write me some little sound bites for this blog, as to why they came to the choir and I was a bit blown away as I had forgotten why people keep coming back every term. Here are a few of the quotes.

"I love the fact that when I first came and was a bit unsure of whether I was good enough, Gitika said to me, "Everyone can sing; give the altos a go."  

"It is a brilliant way for non-musicians to make music collectively. Singing opens my heart as well as my throat! It lifts my mood, is one of the highlights of my week. I haven't got that great a singing voice, but I feel welcome and it's such a great feeling to be part of a community choir."

"What I like best is that some songs are so challenging to learn at first, but with expert teaching we produce a performance that sounds pretty marvellous!  The whole is so much more than the sum of its parts! Not only that, but we have a lot of fun doing it and make new friends!"

" Singing with the basses has been an unexpected joy. Over the years close friendships have developed and led to other shared interests, none of which would have happened without the choir - it's a bit like a singing version of the "Men in Sheds" fraternity. I can't think of a better start to a week than singing with Bishopsgate and the Tubthumpers."

Gitika is the author of Novello’s Sing Pop Acapella Books 1-3 and Oxford University Press Voiceworks Community. Her new album with 3 Bucket Jones of self-penned electronica, melancholic indie pop folk-ish material continues to be lavished with layers of sumptuous harmony vocals. 

Tubthumping Chorus and Bishopsgate Singers will be starting again in our autumn term. Sign up to our newsletter for updates.

The Life and Death of Powell and Pressburger

by Courses on 22 / 05 / 2015

From the 1930s to the 1960s Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger revolutionised British cinema, producing films quite unlike anything produced in a national cinema traditionally dominated by 'realism'. Our film studies tutor, Hilary Smith looks at why the films of Powell and Pressburger created such an impact then and now.

Winston Churchill tried to prevent it ever being shown. It provoked publication of a pamphlet which harrumphed that it was: ‘a highly elaborate, flashy, flabby and costly film, the most disgraceful production that has ever emanated from a British film studio.’ The critics of the time didn’t exactly fall over themselves to offer gushing praise either. The Picturegoer reviewer rallied himself enough to opine: ‘I can't enthuse about this picture ... but I must say that it has a great deal of merit in it’, whilst the Evening Standard grudgingly conceded: ‘This is not a great picture, but it is exceptionally good entertainment.’ 

So why is it that a film so damned with faint praise, or simply damned, is now considered by many to be one of the finest British films ever made, and its creators to be the greatest artists in the history of British cinema?

The film in question is The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and its creators were Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. They came from vastly different backgrounds and pathways into the film industry, yet together they made some of the most ambitious and remarkable films of British cinema. Their symbiotic relationship is indicated by their then unheard of joint credit of ‘writer-producer-director’ they created for the title credits of their films.

The responses to Blimp on its release show how out of sync their films were with the times - and indeed how ‘out there’ the films were. Yet when viewed now their work seems timeless. Ironically, Churchill’s wartime description of Britain’s ‘finest hour’ could equally apply to Powell and Pressburger, as it was during the Second World War and in its immediate aftermath that they produced a glorious run of films, their collective masterpiece. 

The need for wartime propaganda was a motivating factor, though the faces of the British government mandarins must have been a treat when they saw the results of their brief to Powell and Pressburger for films promoting Anglo-American friendship and understanding. One very much doubts they expected the ensuing glorious but decidedly quirky paean to the English countryside of A Canterbury Tale (1944). And they must have been positively agog at the portrait of an RAF pilot in limbo between the worlds of heaven and earth - the former depicted in crisp black and white, the latter in sumptuous Technicolor - in the achingly romantic A Matter of Life and Death (1946).

The palette of their colour films is absolutely stunning. Technicolor is utilised to magical effect in the hauntingly beautiful reimagining of a Himalayan convent outpost in Black Narcissus (1947) and the spellbinding ballet-world milieu of The Red Shoes (1948). It seems fitting at this point to return to the words of the aforementioned pamphleteers. They stated they singled out The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp because: ‘of all forms of idea communication - print, speech, radio or film - the film, especially Technicolor, leaves the most lasting impression upon both the conscious and sub-conscious mind of a nation.’  

For them, that was why the films of Powell and Pressburger were so dangerous. For us, it is why they are so worth discovering or revisiting, and revelling in their many delights.

Hilary Smith will be looking at the films of Powell and Pressburger in a one day course on
Saturday 27 June.

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Tools not rules: What makes a good play?

by Bishopsgate Institute on 21 / 05 / 2015

What is it that makes a great play great? Characters? Plots? Wisdom? Honesty? All of theses things and a little something extra. Our tutor Jennifer Farmer gives us an insight into what she looks for in a good play: 

Much of my life as a playwright, dramaturg and theatre-goer is governed by the pursuit of the 'good play'. Each working day I strive to either write a good play, facilitate a good play or see a good play. So with all of this time and effort spent on the good play, it is worth considering the question: what is a good play? And is what makes a good play the same as what makes a play good? Okay, yes, that ended up being two questions...
Jennifer Farmer playwriting course
The phrase 'a good play' can evoke thoughts of a conventionally well-structured work with three-dimensional characters and a strong narrative arc. One where the conflict is clear and draws to a satisfying resolution. A play which knows the rules and follows them. As a playwriting tutor, part of my job is to share with students the conventions, if only so they can be disobeyed or ignored. In order to strike the balance between technical skill and creativity, I think it is imperative to see the conventions as 'tools not rules.'

It is widely accepted that serial word inventor Ben Jonson coined the word 'playwright' as a sneer to dramatists he perceived to be merely constructing plays, but not imbuing them with poetry. Choosing 'wright' because it means builder or craftsperson, Jonson was targeting those who created plays which were solidly well-built, but lacked a sense of artistry, of daring and transformation. And though the original negative connotations to 'playwright' have disappeared, are we more preoccupied with building the solid and safe than creating the flawed yet fascinating?

Two recent plays to challenge our very relationship with narrative, structure and character -the rules- were Tim Crouch's Adler & Gibb and Anne Washburn’s Mr Burns: A Post Electric Play, at the Royal Court and Almeida theatres respectively. Bold and audacious, both plays polarised audiences and critics and definitely prompted more questions than they answered. During and after both, I felt confusion, revelations, unsettled, angry and exhilarated.  

Image: Mr Burns: A Post-Electric Play  at the Almeida Theatre. Photographer: Manuel Harlan

Grayson Perry, in a 2009 Guardian article, argued the value of emotional responses in gauging the quality and success of a work of art. “The art world over-privileges an intellectual view of the world rather than an emotional one... I think it's perfectly valid to say you love a piece because it makes you cry, rather than saying it references Lacan.” 

Because Adler & Gibb and Mr Burns were works which refused to play by the rules, refused to play nice and refused to be good plays, they also forced us to engage more than our intellect and our academic understanding of playwriting/ theatre-making. Which makes them plays which were good. 

Jennifer's Playwriting course starts on Monday 15 June. Join in the conversation. #BIcourses

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Walking Tours: London and the Great War

by Courses on 14 / 08 / 2014

The bombings London suffered in the First World War are often overshadowed by the Blitz of the Second World War. Take a walk through the City, Holborn and Westminster to see what impact the First World War had on London in our course Walking Tours: London and the Great War. Tutor, Anne-Marie Craven gives us a glimpse of what you'll discover along the way.

Montage of WW1 images
These walks will take us through four very different parts of London to look at aspects of life on the Home Front where fear and trepidation, particularly of the unknown, were prevalent. Discover the memorials to the great and unsung heroes.

The walks will look at the vital role the medical profession played with accounts from everyone including surgeons dealing with facial reconstruction, stretcher bearers who struggled to bring back the wounded in desperate and often dangerous circumstances and the nurses, caring for the sick and dying. ‘As a patient I would rather have a good nurse than a good physician. A physician gives his blessing, the surgeon does the operation. But it is the nurse who does the work’.

What was the role of the church at this time? How did padres and chaplains make life more bearable for the troops? How did poetry and the visual arts bear witness to ‘a war to end all wars’.

Examine the complex and intricate machinery of war and how it was used to defend and attack. Ken Timbers, author of "The Royal Artillery Woolwich - A Celebration" and closely involved with Firepower, Royal Artillery Museum, will guide us through the complex Royal Arsenal.

Our course Walking Tours: London and the Great War starts on Wednesday 24 September 2014.

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The Pink Pound

by Courses on 19 / 05 / 2014

During the 1980s and 90s the gay scene in London, Manchester, Brighton and other towns and cities across the UK began to bring in serious money and the homosexual market segment became a desirable demographic. Justin Bengry, Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck College takes a look at the history of the Pink Pound:

The Pink Pound is not what you think it is. Or rather, I hope to convince you that it’s a lot more than you think it is. Generally defined as the economic or spending power of gay men and lesbians, the Pink Pound for many signals queer political power as well. Money, after all, can often translate into power.

Capitalists have sought this lucrative group of consumers relatively openly since the onset of Gay Liberation in the 1970s, but particularly from the 1980s and 1990s growth of a more public gay and lesbian community.

Queer men in particular, but also women, have been targeted as a valuable market segment ever since. They are assumed to have higher incomes and lower financial responsibilities than other consumers, greater interest in leisure services and related goods, and also to be eager and early adopters of new products. They were already in 2006, according to an Ingenious Group marketing conference, worth some £70 billion to British business, with their estimated value only growing since then. But what happens when we look historically to other incentives and other relationships between homosexuality and consumer capitalism?
How to spot a possible Homo
I want to suggest that we redefine the Pink Pound more broadly to include all economic incentives offered by homosexuality, and that it need not be restricted by the sexuality of the consumer. This can include the standard definition above, highlighting the economic power of homosexuals as consumers. It can also include politicised treatments of homosexuality in the commercial sphere, both progressive and even anti-homosexual, which find support among consumers. And finally, we can also look at the strategic use of scandal and titillation to attract audiences of any sexuality by employing homosexual experience and desire for commercial gain. Consumption is key, whether selling to homosexuals or the ‘selling’ understandings of homosexuality to all consumers.

Take, for example, anti-homosexual vitriol in the tabloid press from mid-twentieth-century newspapers like the Mirror and Sunday Pictorial (later the Sunday Mirror). Mirror Group executives like Cecil Harmsworth King and Hugh Cudlipp knew that sensational coverage of queer scandal and exploitation of the public’s fear of homosexuality was a winning tactic in the tabloid circulation wars of the 1950s and 1960s. Thus, in 1952, the Sunday Pictorial accelerated sensational tabloid coverage of homosexuality in Britain by reintroducing the homosexual exposé to readers in its three-part series ‘Evil Men’. The series suggested an unseen homosexual menace from which every Briton was at risk, particularly children.

In addition to ‘Evil Men’, a number of articles in both papers continued and even amplified the strategy over the next decades. ‘The Squalid Truth’ (1955) and ‘How to Spot a Possible Homo’ (1963) among many others all commodified homosexual scandal and desire to shock and titillate an eager audience of tabloid readers. The use of homosexuality by both papers was part of an overall strategy to sensationalise sex for public consumption and increase circulations figures. And it worked. By 1964, the Mirror achieved average daily sale of 5,000,000, which corresponded to a readership of 14,000,000 for each issue, making it in Hugh Cudlipp’s own words, ‘the greatest commercial success of any newspaper in the Western world’.

Responding in 1963 to the range of anti-homosexual content long circulating in the British tabloid press, author Douglas Plummer recognized both the lucrative nature of the vitriol, but also the commercial complicity of queer Britons as consumers of it. He called for a boycott: ‘If homosexuals stopped buying those particular newspapers,’ he asserted,  ‘some circulations would drop by many hundreds of thousands of copies. Intolerance, ignorance, and lack of understanding is no excuse for abusing us.’

The virtually exponential growth of recognition and interest in queer consumers over the last decades of the twentieth century and first years of the twenty-first has actually obscured the existence of a long and dynamic relationship between homosexuality and consumer capitalism throughout the twentieth century. Relationships between queer consumers and business enterprise go beyond our tendency to see such interactions only as relatively recent and unidirectional expressions either of oppression or opposition.

A history of the Pink Pound illuminates multiple messages and complex interactions that existed between homosexuality and the marketplace even before the partial decriminalization of male homosexual acts in 1967.

You can hear Justin talking more about the pink market in our workshop The Pink Pound.

Keep it Clean!: Lesbian and Gay Characters in British Soap Operas

Spend an exciting afternoon exploring the ways in which gay, lesbian and trans characters have been represented in British television soaps over the years. Speakers include Daran Little, BAFTA-award winning TV writer, formerly a writer for Coronation Street and now writing for EastEnders and John Partridge, The hugely popular actor, dancer and singer who is best-known for his role as Christian Clarke in EastEnders.

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Lesbian And Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA) is based at Bishopsgate Institute.

How has the press shaped ideas about homosexuality? What does past coverage of gay and lesbian news stories tell us about the agenda of the press and the ideas and understandings about queer lives they were circulating? Cultural historian Matt Cook explores these and other questions in his exploration of Bishopsgate's  Lesbian and Gay News Media Archive.

In 1962 news broke of the murder of two men ‘who lived in the twilight world of the homosexual and […] died in the garrotter’s noose’.* The News of the World salaciously re-imagined the murder scenes in Notting Hill and Pimlico, and the lives of the two victims.

Norman Rickard was 38, ‘a muscle man with a background of Civil Service respectability. [Alan] Vigar was 23, a slim pretty boy with a weak chest and theatrical ambitions’. They were, the report went on, ‘both bachelors; they lived alone; they were both apparently people who minded their own business and they shunned women. They both entertained men friends in their room.’  Vigar’s clothes were folded away and ‘his room was almost too neat – like Rickard’s’. The News of the World fitted the men into emerging ideas about queer types in the city: the weak, effeminate (‘pretty’) theatrical type, and the man with a double life (civil servant by day, kitted out in ‘tight blue faded jeans, a cowboy plaid shirt, cowboy buckled boots and an epaulletted leather jacket’ by night).  What connected them was that (tell-tale) neatness and their flats in London’s liminal bedsitter land. 

A week later the Sunday Pictorial carried a front page story of a man who ‘escape[d] the wardrobe killer’ (as the murderer was known: the bodies of Rickard and Vigar had been bundled into their respective wardrobes). Patrick Lambert (pictured anxiously clutching a telephone) had taken a man home before being attacked. The paper doesn’t label him homosexual but the suggestion is there: Lambert was ‘a bachelor’ who lived ‘in a part-furnished bed-sitting room’.**

Matt will be looking at Lesbian and Gay lives in the Press in our hands-on workshops at the  using materials from Lesbian and Gay News Media Archive to  show  shifting conceptions of lesbian and gay lives since the war.

* Jack Miller, “Murders in a Half World,” News of the World, 25 Feb. 1962.
** Norman Lucas, “I Escape Wardrobe Killer,” Daily Pictorial, March 3, 1962.

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Keep it Clean!: Lesbian and Gay Characters in British Soap Operas

Spend an exciting afternoon exploring the ways in which gay, lesbian and trans characters have been represented in British television soaps over the years. Speakers include Daran Little, BAFTA-award winning TV writer, formerly a writer for Coronation Street and now writing for EastEnders and John Partridge, the hugely popular actor, dancer and singer who is best-known for his role as Christian Clarke in EastEnders.

Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA) is based at Bishopsgate Institute.

Jane Austen's London

by Courses on 09 / 04 / 2014

What was Jane Austen's relationship with London? What was London like at the time she was writing? Our course tutor Caryle Webb-Ingall gives us a glimpse of London at that time.

Image: Microcosm of London, London Collection, Bishopsgate Institute.

What did Jane Austen have to do with London? If you’re a Janeite you’ll know that most of the action takes place away from the City and Jane is not fond of London; indeed in the eponymous novel, Emma considers “Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be”. In a similar vein but in real life Jane jokes with her sister Cassandra “here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice”.

Clearly she has a particular view of “the Great Wen”.  Nonetheless she did visit London several times and it does appear in her books. Did Jane’s experiences in London match up with the reality of everyday life?

There is a lot to discover in this brief period of English history known as the Regency. The architectural work of John Nash, the influence of the Prince Regent on London’s streets and houses, the ongoing war with France and its impact, or the Gordon Riots in the 1780s which threw London into complete turmoil.

There was cholera and poverty in the backstreets of St Giles while the aristocracy entertained in the London Season.  There were orphans and cruel punishments and silks and good food. The many attractions of the 18th century included the gaming halls, coffee houses, ladies of Covent Garden, places of culture as well as the darker side of London in the backstreets of Spitalfields and the prisons of Newgate and the Fleet.

There existed a huge disparity in the experiences of different people in London at the turn of the eighteenth century.  Whether you're interested in Jane or Georgian London our course Jane Austen's London is an opportunity to find out about London life with informal talks and a walk through the London Jane knew.

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Music and Shakespeare

by Courses on 22 / 01 / 2014

Music oft hath such a charm
To make bad good, and good provoke to harm.   

William Shakespeare

The quote above from the play ‘Measure for Measure’ illustrates the importance William Shakespeare placed on music in his work, and how he used it to heighten moments of comedy and drama. Tutor Roger Thomas will look at some of the many connections between music and the works of William Shakespeare in his course Music and Shakespeare. He discusses some of them here:

We're accustomed to studying Shakespeare as literature or drama, while music is regarded as a distinct subject. The fact is, though, that the way in which different art forms interrelate and interdepend will often have an important effect on their development - classical music, for example, actually began in the theatre before the very idea of the concert - let alone the concert hall - ever existed.

Music and Shakespeare will look at some case studies in the connections between music and the plays of Shakespeare, cramming as much as possible of this huge subject into six hours. The aim is to cover some of the ways music is used in the plays, musical adaptations of Shakespeare, and some film soundtracks - in fact any and all the ways in which the two subjects are linked.

Every connection raises more fascinating questions. Was Beethoven influenced by Shakespeare? Did Verdi fail to understand key aspects of Macbeth when he wrote his opera based on the play? How do particular instruments predict the action in the plays? How did Shakespeare use musical fashion for dramatic effect? Can you tell a sennet from a tucket and a hoboy from a dump?

When Hamlet accuses his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of 'playing' him like an instrument, why does his choice of a recorder show how angry he really is? What does he mean when he says he'll 'stake his Cremona to a Jew’s trump'? Was there music in the theatre in Shakespeare's time and what did it sound like? Which Shakespeare play has been turned into an opera by 46 different composers, and why? And which composer has turned some of Shakespeare's worst writing into some unique and successful music?

We'll be working with examples of recorded music and sections of Shakespeare's texts alongside what we know historically to try and investigate at least some of these ideas. Period costume and an ability to converse in iambic pentameter will not be required, but you will need to be conversant with at least some of the major plays. The only musical skills you’ll need will be the ability to listen and a general interest in the subject.

Music and Shakespeare starts on Thursday 6 February 2014.

This course is just one of our many Arts and Culture courses. View them online or download the spring prospectus.

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If you enjoy listening to music, why not come along to our evening and free lunchtime concerts?

Dürer: The wander years

by Courses on 20 / 11 / 2013

When artists have travelled, their experiences have often had a great influence on their work. One artist who travelled widely was Albrecht Dürer and his early journeys are explored in the current exhibition, The Young Dürer: Drawing the Figure at the Courtauld Gallery. Our tutor James Heard gives us a short tour of where Dürer went and what he saw on some of his travels:

Dürer was a traveller. Artists during the Renaissance visited the princely courts in search of patronage as well as calling at the workshops of other artists as part of their development. Dürer had an extended year of travel (wanderjahre) after he had finished his apprenticeship and in 1495 made the first of two visits to Italy.
'Young Hare' by Albrecht Dürer, 1502
Picture: 'Young Hare' by Albrecht Dürer, 1502

In 1520 he started a travel diary which includes the entry: ”On Thursday after Whitsuntide, I Albrecht Dürer, at my own cost…set out with my wife from Nuremburg for the Netherlands.”

This journal reveals the various purposes of artists’ travel – curiosity (“There has been a whale thrown up on the coast of Zeeland”) and seeking patronage (“I have seen the Lady Margaret and have shown her my pictures and would have given to her but she took so a dislike to it”) and as an art tourist seeking inspiration (“I saw the alabaster figure of the Virgin and child that Michel Angelo has done”).

During the course A Grand Tour: Artists and their Journeys, James will also lead us on a guided tour of other artists’ journeys including Hogarth’s drunken jaunt to the Isle of Sheppey, Turner’s wanderings in Europe, Ruben’s travels in Italy and Mme Vigée-Lebrun's enforced visit to Russia.

This course is just one of our many Arts and Culture courses. View them online or download the spring prospectus.

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London Crime and Punishment

by Courses on 18 / 10 / 2013

"We are a trading community, a commercial people. Murder is doubtless a very shocking offence, nevertheless as what is done is not to be undone, let us make our money out of it.” Punch, 1842

Long before the British public were enthralled by the pursuits of Victorian super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes, there had been a fascination with crime and grim tales of killers in our midst. The popularity of the BBC’s A Very British Murder with Dr Lucy Worsley demonstrates our fascination with the darker side of human nature. Tutor Caryle Webb-Ingall shines a light on our guilty pleasures:

In Georgian times many people viewed criminals and law-breaking as heroic and courageous, and the activities of robbers and villains were often widely celebrated in popular culture. Stories of daring criminality were widely reported in a host of printed pamphlets, books and newspapers, and generated high levels of public interest across the country.

Image: The trial of Steinie Morrison, 1912 (Wensley Family Archive)

When street robber Jack Sheppard was hanged in 1724 after making four escapes from prison, 200,000 people attended his execution. 100 years later in 1849 Maria Manning and her husband were hanged in public, and among that crowd was Charles Dickens who wrote The Times a letter demanding that executions be removed to within prison walls on account of the unedifying conduct of the spectators. Public opinion was turning.

Crime still made money in penny-bloods, early crime fiction and melodramas in Victorian times, but it did not sit easily with Victorians’ ideas of progress and religion. They were convinced crime could be beaten if only they could solve the crimes, punish the criminals and then reform them.

Image: Press cutting regarding the murder of Leon Beron and conviction of Steinie Morrison, 1912 (Wensley Family Archive)

In our course London Crime and Punishment,  Caryle Webb-Ingall investigates how public attitudes to crime and punishment have  changed over this period, looking at Old Bailey documents, newspaper reports and other contemporary sources. Students will hear from both sides of the fence, looking at the criminals and gang leaders as well as the reformers such as Elisabeth Fry, John Howard and Robert Peel.

The two images are from The Wensley Family Archive in London History collections, part of our world-renowned Library and Archives collections.

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The history of the East End is full of accounts of extraordinary individuals who contributed to making this such a politically important area of London. Throughout its history the East End has seen unlikely alliances develop in the struggle for equality, justice and dignity. An illuminating example was the pairing of German anarchist, Rudolph Rocker and Milly Witkop, a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine, as our tutor David Rosenberg explains:

A German anarchist bookbinder raised in a Catholic orphanage, and a young and very religious Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine were an unlikely couple. A bakers’ strike in 1895 brought young Milly Witkop into contact with the East End’s jewish anarchists, whose ringleader was Rudolph Rocker.

East End anarchists


Rudolph Rocker (second from left back row) and Milly Witkop (first on left front row)

The scandalous conditions that Milly Witkop saw and experienced in the sweatshops and tenements of the area challenged her deeply-held beliefs in a loving God and she threw herself into the fight to liberate the sweatshop workers. When she had been in the old country she had sat down serenely with her family on Friday nights, the eve of the Sabbath. In London she spent Friday nights at passionate and intense political meetings at the Sugar Loaf pub on Hanbury Street, where she helped to plot the next audacious and rebellious actions that workers could take to win their rights.

Milly and Rudolph never married but lived in a 'free union', an unconventional arrangement that led the American authorities to refuse them entry when they first tried to emigrate there in 1897. Over the next two decades, back in the UK, Milly and Rudolph became pivotal in the struggle for better lives among the East End’s most oppressed and exploited workers. They changed the East End, and the East End changed them.

Rudolph Rocker learned Yiddish well enough to edit a newspaper – Arbeter Fraynd – Workers’ Friend. He helped create the Jubilee Street Club, a radical community centre offering cultural as well as political sustenance for immigrant Jewish workers, and educational opportunities for those whose schooling was curtailed early.

The couple epitomised unity across a divide, and they devoted themselves to unifying Jewish and non-Jewish workers. In 1912 Milly led a committee seeking temporary homes among sweatshop workers’ families for dockers’ children, who were starving in the last few weeks of a bitter strike. More than 300 children were accommodated and cared for.

Find out more about Rudolph Rocker and Milly Witkop and other extraordinary individuals who left their mark locally, on a six-session course that starts on Monday 4 November - Tribunes of the people: 8 individuals who changed the East End. It is taught by David Rosenberg, author of Battle for the East End, (Five Leaves Publications).

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Who is this Man?

by Courses on 16 / 09 / 2013

Brushing book dust and bits of journal bindings from her clothes, course tutor Michelle Johansen emerges from among the boxes and folders in the Bishopsgate Institute archive to tell us about a new five-week lunchtime course. London Episodes uses historic materials to introduce adults to some curious incidents and lesser-known characters in the life of the city since the 1880s:

I’ve been using the Bishopsgate Institute archives since 2000 to inspire and inform my research, writing and teaching projects on London’s social history. The range of materials held in the Institute’s collections is surprisingly varied but, with such eclectic and expansive holdings, finding the ‘best’ materials can prove to be difficult and time-consuming. This is particularly true for the novice researcher. Online catalogues don’t reveal, for example, which are the most visually arresting flyers or posters. Book titles can be misleading or off-putting. Promising-sounding pamphlets might prove disappointing once they’ve been fetched up by library staff from the basement strong-room. How do you find that one intriguing data entry in among the one hundred mundane institutional records? How do you know which collection will yield the type of information you require? And how do you make the fragmentary whole, the pieces of the jigsaw (badges, letters, diaries, directories, maps) fit together to create a meaningful story of the past?

What’s needed is a knowledgeable guide, an experienced explorer of the stacks who has navigated their way through hundreds of folders, files and boxes, directly handling their beautiful and fragile contents and able to bring the past back to life through a thoughtfully selected set of materials. My new London Episodes course has been directly inspired by the Institute’s historic collections. The course guides you gently through the research process, introducing you to a gallery of curious and colourful characters from the archives. Each week a different subject area will be studied, from philanthropy to public libraries, from terrorism to trade unions, and from criminal activity to social clubs. By the end of the course, you will be equipped with the confidence and understanding to begin to carry out your own independent research programme. You will be able to entertain your friends and family with a fresh set of stories about curious incidents and characters from London’s past. And you will also be able to identify the man whose image appears at the top of this post – and explain his historical significance.

Michelle Johansen will be delivering London Episodes on Tuesday lunchtimes.

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Modernism and Postmodernism in the City

by Courses on 01 / 07 / 2013

As a city, London is rich in architectural styles making it a living guide book of past and present architecture. In post-war London, modernist and postmodernist architecture made a huge impact on the city landscape and skyline. Arts and Culture tutor Steven Barrett explains how the Barbican and Liverpool Street station define the ethos of both modernism and postmodernism:

Amongst the jumble of buildings within the City of London there is a rich seam of post-war architecture. Part redevelopment, part post-Blitz rebuilding these buildings are London’s first big experiments in Modern and Postmodern architecture. The City did not take to Modernism before World War Two but the building boom of the 1950s and 60s gave a new generation of architects a chance to create bold designs that emulated European Modernism.

The Barbican is the most famous example: a vast housing and arts complex, it is loved by many and hated by many too. It is regarded as near-perfect Modernist architecture, replacing centuries of history with a confident and optimistic vision of how life should be lived now. This concrete city-within-a-city stands on the remains of medieval streets flattened during World War Two. 

Liverpool Street awaits postmodernism

The redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station in the late 1980s reflects a different ethos; one more in tune with the past. The old station was a wonderfully chaotic and confusing place: two separate stations, connected by a web of walkways and bridges. The new scheme preserved much of the old station but added a new concourse and shops. In the spirit of Postmodernism, the new building echoes the architecture that it replaced.

Steven Barrett will be running two study days in August as part of our Summer SchoolModernism in the City and Postmodernsim in the City. Both study days will take an in-depth look at the history of post-war architecture in the City followed by a guided walk. On Modernism we will walk to the Barbican via further Modernist architecture close to Bishopsgate; the Postmodernism walk will begin at Liverpool Street Station and will conclude with recent office building around Bishopsgate and the City.

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Vertigo: the greatest film of all time?

by Courses on 04 / 06 / 2013

Our film studies tutor Hilary Smith considers why Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo has knocked Orson Welles film Citizen Kane from the number one spot after fifty years:

Can we really say what the greatest film of all time is? Even if we managed the impossible task of seeing every film ever made, what criteria would we use to compare and evaluate them? Nevertheless, we tend to form opinions of a film as being good, bad or ugly and often a general consensus emerges.

That is the case with Sight & Sound film magazine’s Greatest Films of All Time poll. A survey of international film critics for their ‘top ten’ every ten years, the 2012 poll garnered a formidable amount of attention in the press and social media, not least because, for the first time in 50 years, the no.1 film changed from Orson Welles’ 1941 film Citizen Kane to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 release Vertigo.  

So if we accept Vertigo as the best film, what makes it so?  And why no longer Citizen Kane? Is it that tastes have changed? It could well be that Vertigo now appears a more modern film, or indeed post-modern film,  than Citizen Kane given - without giving too  much away - its radical approach to narrative structure.  But it also has many other remarkable qualities, including the innovative camera technique since enshrined as the ‘Vertigo effect’.

Whatever the reason, there is a certain irony in critics now championing the film, as critical acclaim was not universal on Vertigo’s original release. Variety damned it with faint praise as "prime though uneven Hitchcock" whilst The New Yorker just damned it as "far-fetched nonsense".  It didn’t get a love-in from the industry either; only two Oscar nominations, in the unglamorous categories of sound and set decoration.

Does the opinion of critics matter anyway?  Surely it’s the paying customers - voting with their feet (and wallet) - that count? Vertigo performed adequately at the box office but was not as commercially successful as the three Hitchcock films that followed, which may seem surprising given it was part of a run of films now viewed as Hitchcock’s glory days in Hollywood.  

What about a film’s afterlife following its theatrical release? Does familiarity breed contempt? In these days of a seemingly endless stream of material available on a variety of viewing platforms it may seem remarkable that for a number of years Vertigo could not be seen anytime, anyplace or anywhere, as it was withdrawn from circulation in the mid 1970s.

And the bottom line... do polls matter? Surely it’s just some nerdy High Fidelity-style list-making at work? Well, if a poll acts as a gateway to the discovery, study and appreciation of films like the wondrous Vertigo I’m heartily in favour of it; we’d be missing out on one of the great pleasures of life otherwise.

Hilary Smith will be exploring the qualities of Vertigo in an introductory study day: Hitchcock’s Vertigo in Close-up, Saturday 3 August as part of our summer School.

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Image is a still from Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcockand starring James Stewart and Kim Novak. Courtesy of the British Film Institute.

St Paul's Cathedral, Bishopsgate Library, LAMAS collectionA look at recent global events might make one think that a little background information about different world religions would help us all understand what's going on in the world better.

Our tutor for An Introduction to World Religions, Clive Lawton, highlights some areas where more knowledge could create better understanding:

A new Pope, a new Archbishop, a new Chief Rabbi. Uncertainty about whether supporting the rebels in Syria will play into the hands of ‘jihadists’. BBC TV’s Panorama presenting a ‘shock horror’ undercover report on Sharia courts in Britain with at least one member of the House of Lords trying to limit the ‘power’ of such Sharia courts. Militant Buddhists (is such a thing really possible?) seem to be pushing issues in Burma and other parts of south East Asia. Militant Hindus regularly try to seize the political initiative in India. The United States, perhaps the most secularly founded and constituted country of the 18th and 19th centuries, seems to have a far higher proportion of church goers and God believers than traditionally Christian countries like Ireland, Italy or Spain, which seem to be secularising at an astonishing rate. But not soon enough to save a Hindu woman from dying in Ireland through lack of abortion opportunities. The reason given to her by one midwife because ‘it’s a Catholic thing’. Conflicts in various parts of Africa are commonly talked of as direct confrontations between Christian and Muslim groups. The first woman Prime Minister of India, Indira Ghandi, was assassinated by her own bodyguards because they were Sikhs and they perceived her actions to be deeply aggressive towards Sikhs. Putin courts the Orthodox Church in Russia and the president of Bulgaria asks his country to spend three days in prayer for the future of their recently communist state. Conflict between Israel and her neighbours is increasingly articulated as a war between Muslims and Jews, even though some of the fiercest and earliest of Palestinian fighters were staunch local Christians. The Coptic Pope lambasts the Muslim Brotherhood President of Egypt, accusing him of allowing deep aggression against Christians in that country.

An Introduction to World Religions starts on Thursday 23 May and will take you to the heart of many religious traditions.

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Caravaggio and Soutine: Wild at art

by Courses on 14 / 03 / 2013

In the art world there have always been artists whose work and lives have been viewed as unorthodox. Two who stand out for their unconventional, even criminal behaviour are Caravaggio and Soutine. Freelance lecturer in the History of Art based at the National Gallery and one of our Arts and Culture tutors, Steven Barrett gives a colourful insight into the lives of these two extraordinary artists:

Caravaggio's daring religious pictures shocked many in Rome c.1600, but they pioneered a direct, naturalistic style and influenced later painting throughout Europe. His personal life was extremely turbulent: In 1606 he killed a man over a disputed tennis match and fled Rome with a price on his head. He died in mysterious circumstances while still in exile four years later aged only 38. He was possibly murdered, while most probably en route to receive a Papal pardon, ironically.

Chaïm Soutine fled Russia for Paris in 1913 and joined the community of unconventional, émigré artists based around Montparnasse that also included Chagall and Modigliani. In Paris, Soutine developed his unmistakable, intense and expressive style of painting. He was so committed to 'truth' in art that he once kept a cow's carcass in his apartment so he could paint the decomposing flesh exactly as it appeared to him. Needless to say, the neighbours complained and Chagall is said to have panicked, thinking Soutine had been murdered when he saw blood seeping under the apartment door. Soutine was famous for his complete lack of personal hygiene and avoidance of medicine. He died tragically from a stomach ulcer aged 50.

Caravaggio and Soutine are just two of the artists Steven will be looking at in his new course at Bishopsgate Institute, Rebels and Martyrs: Artists on the Edge which will unearth much more about these and many other amazing artists who dared to rock the boat.

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Islamist insurgents retreating from Timbuktu set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts, according to the Saharan town's mayor, in an incident he described as a "devastating blow" to world heritage
The Guardian  - Monday 28th January 2013

Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.” (translated:"wherever they burn books, they will also, in the end, burn people" German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine.

The Master and Margarita
Although reports following the attack suggest that the majority of books were smuggled to safety before the attacks, assaults on knowledge and imagination - and the reed, cloth, clay, or paper objects that record them - as a precursor of assaults on a people and their culture are as old as the records themselves. In fact, evidence for the oldest "books" (in this case, clay tablets) comes from a site where they were smashed and burned. What is it about the book, in all its forms, that provokes such passions: both of preservation and destruction? And why is the destruction of books a story that we tell and tell again?

Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita, recently brought to the London stage by Theatre de Complicité, tells the story of a book burned by its own author for being too controversial. Through the novel, Bulgakov uses satire to show how Soviet state censorship was internalised by writers, directors, and performers; only the Master (as the author who burns his book is known) resists both state control and his internal censor, but this resistance drives him mad.

Bulgakov, like the Master, burnt his first manuscript of The Master and Margarita in 1930, but wrote three more versions before his death in 1940. He never saw it published in his lifetime: in 1966, a heavily censored version was published in Moscow magazine, with the first complete version being produced by (West) German publisher Posev from smuggled, samizdat publications of the omissions and unexpurgated sections.

A recent biography of Bulgakov takes its title from one of the most famous, and poignant, lines in the novel, spoken by Margarita to the Master: "Manuscripts don't burn." Margarita reflects our profound belief that books can be burnt, but ideas survive - sometimes (as with Timbuktu's libraries), an attack draws our attention to a book or books of which we were previously unaware.

Is literature's free speech in some way defined by the presence of censorship, as Italo Calvino suggests in If On a Winter's Night a Traveller? And what's the relationship between overt censorship, which can be protested, and the various ways in which we all might hold our tongues or stop our ears?

In the Free Speech and Literature course, we'll use Bulgakov's novel as both a microscope and a kaleidoscope to look into the swirling ash of book-burnings, bannings, and bowdlerisations – by the state and the individual conscience – to see what's lost and what survives, and why it matters.

Our Free Speech and Literature begins on Wednesday 20th February.

The course is in association with English PEN and the Free Word Centre, and will be held at the Free Word Centre.

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Post by Sophie Mayer.

Finding London in the Fragrant Past

by Courses on 02 / 11 / 2012

Just down the road from Bishopsgate Institute is a branch of Boots the Chemist with a perfume section at the front. In fact, chemists and department stores often put their most fragrant products by the near nearest the main street. Why is that?

Bishopsgate Institute tutor Caryle Webb-Ingall tells us that back in 1900, London was a city of horses. There were 11,000 horse-powered cabs, thousands of horse-drawn buses requiring 12 horses a day as well as countless carts, drays and other equine industry making deliveries around the ever-growing city. Over half a million horses worked in early-twentieth century London which meant an unfeasible amount of horse manure gathering on the streets. The average horse produces between fifteen to thirty-five pounds of manure a day; presumably this goes from ponies to drays, producing an organic and fragrant pollution.

London’s newly opening department stores were aware of this, in fact everyone with a sense of smell would have been aware of this, so their sweetest smelling section, the perfume counter, was placed at the front to provide olfactory relief for their customers. And once in, perhaps they would take an interest in some charming Bakelite figurines?

Apocryphal or not this is one of the many insights into late nineteenth century London our tutor Caryle provides in our afternoon London after Dickens course. Caryle promises that students will “start noticing the streets around them more - they might look up above the old shop fronts or look more closely at the meaning of street names or make some links through a television programme or book.”

As well as horse poop, other topics covered on the course include other modes of transport, the London County Council, police and crime, markets and shops, the East End, Victorian ways of death, London’s Docks, civil unrest and much more. Come and learn about the era that was fertiliser to our own.

London after Dickens begins on Tuesday 6 November at Bishopsgate Institute at 2.30pm. It runs for 6 weeks. Please see our website for more details.

Finding lost London at Bishopsgate Institute

by Courses on 02 / 10 / 2012
Old Spitalfields Market

London is an endlessly fascinating, ever changing place and Bishopsgate Institute courses and archives reflect this in the literature and images within our programme and files.

Our London Collection covers over 50,000 books, maps, pamphlets and illustrations. There are approximately 40,000 London photographs in other collections. Our archive images have recently brought a piece of old London to the BBC website, the Daily Mail and regularly to the excellent Spitalfields Life blog.

Our Images of London: Lost Buildings and Streets course begins this Saturday, 6 October 2012, so we thought we would have a quick chat with the tutor Steven Barrett as he emerges from our archive with lost images ready for the course.

Steven says “It is very exciting to be using Bishopsgate Institute archive images because they contain so many that are unusual and unpublished. There is a particular abundance of amateur street views and pictures that conjure a definite sense of the period. To my knowledge many haven't been used in teaching before.”

The Images of London course is about the city seen through pictures of buildings and streets that have changed in recent years. It will focus primarily on the pictures themselves, mostly street photography and not commercially produced images, so our students will look at what's going on with the people, traffic and incidental things as well as the period 'look' of the photograph itself.

The course will include a historical segment each week, taking a different area of the city in turn, which will lead into a discussion and possibly reminiscence of personal associations with that area. We may explore through guided walks the relevant parts of the City that are accessible from the Bishopsgate Institute, weather permitting. Steven Barrett works mainly at Bishopsgate Institute and the National Gallery. He is particularly interested in how time affects works of art, either because of the changes in how art is talked and written about in different periods, or in the ways that memory alters our experience of works of art themselves. So a trip into London’s lost buildings and streets is an ideal course for him to lead.

Images of London: Lost Buildings and Streets begins 2.30pm on Saturday 6 October at Bishopsgate Institute and runs for six weeks. Each session is two hours, the cost is £93 and £73 concessions. Please see our courses website for more information and online enrolment.