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London Short Fiction: The Fingernail Fairy

Continuing our series of short fiction set in, or influenced by London. This week’s story by Tracy Kuhn is one of the finalists in our competition with the British Academy’s Literature Week to find a new modern fairy tale for London. To explore the Literature Week programme and register visit the British Academy’s website.
Alana pulled her coat around her and shivered. She really needed a new one; the long, faded velvet frock coat was starting to look shabby. They’d all admired it once, rubbing the plush, velvety fabric between their fingers as she’d twirled around. The best dressed fairy in London she’d been, whizzing around Chelsea depositing five pound notes like confetti from her suede clutch bag.
Those days were long gone.
She shifted around on the windowsill to look at her reflection and flinched. Her hair was lank and dirty, her skin dry and flaky. She reached for the dirty velvet pouch lying next to her and sighed at the state of her hands. Here she was, spending her evenings collecting fingernails when her own were in such a mess. The irony.
Not that she hadn’t been warned. But her demotion had been so swift, she hadn’t had time to think. One minute she’d been head of the whole Tooth Fairy department and the next? The next she’d been called in to see The Boss who’d heard rumours about a ‘situation’ and had been ‘terribly disappointed’ but hoped that she’d understand that this kind of thing ‘must be seen to be dealt with’ and here she was.
He’d talked his way out of it of course, with a flash of snug fitting emerald green slacks; typical leprechaun. She mentally shook herself. It was no good being distracted when you were sneaking into houses at 3am to steal fingernails.
She reached into her pocket, pulled out the small metal tool she used to open windows and slid it along the edge of the glass, carefully removing it. She listened. Nothing. She was especially careful now after that time with the little boy who’d sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes.
“You’re here! It’s you! You’re real!”
“Yeah, whatever, go back to sleep, kid.” It had been a long night and the last thing she needed was some gummy kid getting excited.
He’d pulled out a piece of tissue from under his pillow, unwrapping it to reveal a blood-streaked tooth.
“Here you are.”
She’d stepped back in horror. “Oh gross, put it away! Not my department I’m afraid.”
His lower lip wobbled.
“Look, she’ll be here soon.”
He looked her up and down.
“Does she look like you?”
“Gosh no, you can’t miss her, all pink sequins and hair extensions, with boobs you can see from space.”
She’d left him thinking about this as she searched the flat, looking in all the usual places; the bathroom bin, the side of the bed and, increasingly nowadays, the computer keyboard. Humans seemed to spend a lot of time sat at these things chewing their nails. It could be a bank balance, a difficult email, an illicit web chat, you never knew.
She’d gone back upstairs to find that the Tooth Fairy had arrived, all smiles and fluff, everybody’s favourite fairy. No searching through bins for her; in and out in five minutes leaving behind a waft of perfume and glitter.
This time all was quiet so she set to work. Was this what her life had become? She’d had plans, ambition. She looked down at the pile of yellow, brittle toe nails in her hand and sighed.
She was just about to open the bathroom door when she heard a very faint retching noise from inside. She froze. It was against the rules to actively seek interaction with Humans and it was nearly the end of her shift. But it didn’t feel right to leave someone who was obviously distressed.
She opened the door. There, draped dramatically over the toilet, wings drooping, glittery mascara smeared across her cheeks, was the tooth fairy.
“Well, well, well!” Alana walked over and slapped the other fairy on the back. “Big night, eh? Come on, you’ll be fine, happens to the best of us.”
The Tooth Fairy retched again, then sobbed, wiping glittery snot across the back of her hand.
“I’m not drunk. I’m pregnant.” She said quietly.
“OK. I’m very happy for you. But as much as I’d love to hang around and share this magical moment with you, we need to get out of here.”
She grabbed her under her wings and pulled her to her feet.
“No,” said the Tooth Fairy, shaking her head, “you don’t understand, it’s not a fairy, it’s a…” She glanced over at the door. “… a Human. He caught me, a couple of months back. We got talking. Things happened. He liked the thing I do with my wings and the fairy oil.”
The two fairies looked at each other awkwardly, neither knowing what to say.
“This is bloody fantastic!” Alana said finally, “You gave me such a hard time after my leprechaun situation and all this time you’ve been shaking your wings at Humans. Dirty girl.” She whistled softly. “Oh you couldn’t make this up. The boss will be livid.”
She saw the stricken look on the other fairy’s face and sighed.
“Come on,” she said, gently pushing her towards the window, “let’s get you home.”
They set off slowly over the rooftops, then followed the curve of the river until they reached Fairy Headquarters under Blackfriars bridge. They deposited the night’s takings with the duty fairy.
“It’ll be fine,” said Alana. “Although I can’t promise you wont end up on the fingernail rota with me, your reputation in tatters and a slight whiff of cheese about you.”
The Tooth Fairy managed a small smile as she knocked on the boss’ door. Alana sat patiently outside and was just nodding off when the tooth fairy reappeared. Alana raised her eyebrows.
The tooth fairy shrugged and looked at her feet.
“Tube fairy,” she muttered, “District Line, Saturday nights, urine disposal.”
Alana pulled a face.
“Grim,” she said, suddenly feeling grateful for the toenails.
She took the other fairy’s hand.
“Come on.” she said, smiling, “I’ll buy you a drink while you tell me all about the fairy oil thing.”
Londonist is proud to be media partner to the British Academy’s Literature Week.
Copyright, Tracy Kuhn (follow her on Twitter @Tracy_Kuhn), image by Simon Crubellier in the Londonist Flickr pool.
We’re still after your stories, which you should send to Entries must be no more than 1,000 words, and must be set in London, or strongly inspired by the city. Full details here.
Previously in this series
For children/by children
The Lion: Something’s up in Trafalgar Square.
Lyndon The Greatest Thief in London: A light fingered robber meets the Queen.
Beyond the Central Line: Notting Hill Gate looks different today…
The Makings of a Killer: A dark encounter in Southwark.
Places to Hide a T-Rex in London: About time someone tackled this one.
The Modern Fire of London: A sneezing dragon is a dangerous thing.
The Let Down Competition: A mango has a fight with a pig.
General London fiction
Mark: A struggling actor becomes a hero of the people.
The Guardian of Travellers: Victoria Coach Station passengers take the advice of a sage.
Graphic Novels: A celebrated novelist finds inspiration in Shoreditch Library.
Not Enough: A family struggles to get by.
London at Night
The Soho Nocturnes: Sebastian Groes tries to shatter the concrete dream that is London.
The Station Clock: Peter Watson takes a slow walk to Euston.
Asparagus and Syrian Gold: A guy on a blind date takes a risk… but will it pay off?
The Race: Susanna James races against the dying of the light.
Sirens of the Tideway: Emily Williams recounts a ghostly police chase.
Mark: A struggling actor becomes a hero of the people.
Christmas in London
The Ghost of Christmas Replete: David Croser shares a Christmas tale set in the bleak midwinter.
Keep the Change: Lee Hamblin takes a sneaky taxi ride.
Night Bus Dreams: Michelle Surtees-Myers is picked up by an enchanted night bus.
The Patient Banker: Tom Dean has a visitor call in at a houseboat.
An Afternoon Some Time Ago: Nathan Good takes a nostalgic ride on the London Eye.
Easy Pickings: Kay Seeley is being vigilant on the South Bank.
Stepping Stones: Alison Chandler goes on a night walk.
One Summer in London: Angela M. Rodriguez steals a very personal item and then wears it at Notting Hill Carnival.
London razed
Blackout on Fen Street: Seth Insua wishes away the city.
The Man From BEER: Which bits of London would you delete? By David Ritchie.
London Falls: Liz Hedgecock unleashes a digital wipeout on the city.
They Walked: Adam MacLean ponders what would happen if London’s building just got up and left.
The Wallbuilder: A great wall was built around London, not everyone was happy, by Jonathon Dean.
Tastes Like Chicken: Glen Delaney retreats inside London’s oldest fortress.
The Conqueror: Rebecca Sams filches a legendary London object.
The Busker Ascends: Darren Lee brings plague to Leicester Square.
Transport tales
Amelie: Narges Rashidi considers the interactions of three people on a District Line tube.
Shelter Drawings: Stuart Snelson’s tale of a mysterious Circle Line artist.
Tracks and Albums: Richard Lakin attracts the attentions of the British Transport Police.
Seeing Red: Anthony Fitzgerald on the woes of a cab driver.
Instant Karma on the 263 to North Finchley: one seat left on the bus. Next to you. Raving drunk gets on. By Ronnie Capaldi.
The Sender of Second Chances: Anthea Morrison records a chance encounter on a bus.
Two Four Eight: Lance V Ramsay envisions an Orwellian dystopia in the lingo of future London.
Old Nichol: Jill Fricker evokes the woes of the old East End.
Clissar: Grazia Brunello dips into the future of north London, through a glass darkly.
Harvest Festival: A spooky Halloween tale in the London suburbs by Helen Craig.
Ordinary Days in London: Madelaine Hills on a Docklands disturbance.
Bishopsgate: Oliver Zarandi visits the site of a bomb.
Sirens Of The Tideway: Emily Williams recounts a ghostly police chase.
The Perfect Gift: A Christmas fairy tale in which London’s statues come to life, by Katherine Wheston.
The City Inside: Tom Butler has some curious metropolitan anatomy.
Routine: The importance of the day-to-day, by Clare Kane.
Jazz Code and the Tube: The ambivalence of dating, by Jenny Mackenzie.
A Free Man: Melanie White’s flash fiction piece considers a recently single guy at a bachelor party.
Clean Living London: Ursula Dewey rolls her sleeves up for some housework.
Swipe Right: Does Tinder have the answers? By Heidi Scherz
The Writer and the Dancer: Close encounter at a flat party by Vincent Wood.
St Peter’s Gate, Knightsbridge: A nocturnal romance at closing time, by Theo Klay
First: A romance begins inside a London gay club. By Lance Middleton.
Natural Disasters: Can you find love at the supermarket checkout, when your customer’s buying porn? Yoel Noorali enquires.
NO! SUSHI: A relationship breaks down during a Japanese leaving party, by Clare Kane.
Other tales
Compatibility: Stephen Lynch conjures the awkwardness of flat hunting.
An Extract From the Diary of Kay Richardson, Actor: The surreal tribulations of a washed-up London thesp, by Tom Mitchell.
The Further Adventures of Kay Richardson, Actor: More from the feckless thesp, by Tom Mitchell.
The Further Adventures of Kay Richardson, Actor (Part 2): Our debauched hero tussles with mannequins.
You Were Not In When We Called: A Christmas tale from Megan Toogood.
The Do: Alan Fisher gets party phobia.
Direction: Kevin Acott goes on a time-shifting pub crawl.
RTA: Ryan Cartwright is involved in a traffic accident where all is not what it seems.
Vegan Pigeon Eater: Rae Chambers sees a south London cafe get an unwelcome visitor.

Read More

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Gypsy: Dazzling, Intense, Explosive, And That’s Just Imelda Staunton

Imelda Staunton as Momma Rose. Photo by Johan Persson.
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Imelda Staunton is nothing short of explosive in Jonathan Kent’s version of the musical Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre.
The depression era tale centres on Momma Rose who will stop at nothing to transform her two girls into stars in the kitsch world of children’s vaudeville. A sharp-tongued, quick-witted and hard negotiator, Rose is a woman of many dreams, except the fulfilment of her own. Along with her new-found, saintly companion Herbie (Peter Davison), she ferries the broke troupe around in a desperate search for their next gig.
The dramatic tension reaches a height years later when the prettier, squeakier daughter June (Gemma Sutton), who Rose has favoured over the years, defects, forcing Rose to scrabble together the next project. Unfortunately this means the same cheesy number played out in a variety of different costumes, which is aptly nauseating.
Rose then aims to find stardom for her other, “two left footed” daughter, Louise (Lara Pulver) whose most recent gig has been playing the back-side of a cow. Opportunity finally knocks for Louise, but it comes from the more risqué world of burlesque. The girl transforms into a woman before our eyes and the troupe’s signature children’s song Let Me Entertain You morphs uncomfortably into a sexually suggestive ballad as she heads into striptease stardom as Gypsy Rose Lee.
A great actress, Imelda Staunton’s intense performance as Momma Rose constitutes a career highlight, making you shudder as you wrestle to decide whether her ambiguous actions are for her character’s own delusional self-interest or that of her daughters. It’s a dramatic part that asks you to accept the idea that even a tough momma’s love is still a momma’s love.
Anthony Ward’s set design is absolutely gorgeous and the punchy dialogue work together to off-set the heart-breaking truth of an economic era in which survival often trumped moral righteousness. Other show highlights include a moonlit dance to All I Need Is A Girl and You Gotta Get A Gimmick performed by a hilarious burlesque trio.
Gypsy will entertain, impress and even overwhelm as it showcases in dazzling splendour the devastating consequences that sacrifices in the cut-throat world of showbusiness can have on those chasing dreams.
By Sophia Shluger
Gypsy runs at the Savoy Theatre, Strand, until 18 July. from Londonist saw the show on a complimentary ticket. Tickets are £24.50 to £99.50

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Free And Cheap London Events: 20-26 April 2015

Interesting and unusual things to do for a fiver or less this week, sponsored by CommuterClub.
All Week
Roy’s People at Curious Duke
ARTS EMERGENCY: There’s an immersive exhibition at The Cass Bank Gallery on Whitechapel High Street, curated by Bob and Roberta Smith (who’ll be in residence throughout). Get your Arts Emergency Kit including prescriptions from the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Samantha Morton and Vampire Weekend and get involved with politics and the arts. Free, until 3 May
TINY PEOPLE: Miniature superheroes are on show at Curious Duke on Whitecross Street, in a new — and adorable — exhibition from Roy’s People. Free, until 9 May
CITYREAD: The month of free events around Ben Aaronovitch’s book Rivers of London continues. Catch Ben reading at a library near you. Free, until 30 April
Monday 20 April
KNOWING ONE ANOTHER: Knowing One Another is a volunteer led research project by the Brick Lane Circle which aims to build better relationships between the various communities that live in London. Tonight the free launch takes place at Rich Mix with live music, comedy and vegetarian food from all over the world. Free, prebook, 6pm
COMEDY: Every Monday, The Good Ship in Kilburn holds a comedy night. Tonight’s line-up is Elis Jones, Sophie Hagen, Rob Carter and more. £5/£4, prebook, from 8pm
Tuesday 21 April
SOUTHWARK FREEMASONRY: Head to John Harvard Library in Borough for a talk about freemasonry in Southwark and Lambeth. Freemasonry is a long-established fraternal organisation for men. This talks looks at important masonic personalities associated with the area and local institutions with links to the masonic world. Free, just turn up, 6.30pm
CRAP FILM CLUB: Revelling in all that’s terrible about cinema, Crap Film Club presents a screening of Star Crash, a low-budget Italian-American 1978 science fiction film. Takes place at The Book Club in Shoreditch. £3.50, prebook, 7pm
Watch a Crap Film Club screening at The Book Club
Wednesday 22 April
MICHAEL JACKSON CLAY: Drink Shop Do invites you to recreate your favourite face of the King of Pop from clay. Don’t be lax, it’s a competition. Free, from 7pm (judging at 10pm)
JAWDANCE: Jawdance at Rich Mix is a spoken word event from the excellent Apples and Snakes. Tonight it’s the turn of Kayo Chingonyi and Aisling Fahey. Free, just turn up, 7.30pm
RESTORATION PALACES: This Gresham College lecture at Museum of London is about the reign of Charles II. He introduced new fashions and forms into English palaces but, under the surface, many of his innovations were backward-looking and reactionary, reinforcing traditions and practices that had been established before the Civil War. Free, just turn up, 6pm
BOOK TALK: Graham Burnett is at Housmans book shop to introduce his new book and lead a discussion around the connections between veganism and permaculture. £3, 7pm
HOME MAKER: The Kennington Bioscope returns to the Cinema Museum with a screening of 1925 film The Home Maker. Presented by writer, historian, collector and Honorary Academy Award-winner Kevin Brownlow, the silent film will have a live piano accompaniment. £4, prebook, 7.30pm
The list continues after a message from our sponsor.
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Thursday 23 April
REDBRIDGE FILM ARCHIVE: Head to Redbridge Museum for a screening of archive film clips of Redbridge, and see how the area has changed over the past century. Free, prebook, 2pm
CARIBBEAN POETS: In this lecture at the British Academy, Professor Kwame Dawes talks about the aesthetic principles of reggae music and reveals the ways in which the music, in its many incarnations, continues to shape the work of several generations of Caribbean poets. Free, just turn up, 6pm
ST GEORGE’S DAY: Mark St George’s Day by making your own papier mache dragon at Drink Shop Do. Free, from 7pm
CITY SHIMMY: Proud Cabaret in the City transforms into a 1920s speakeasy tonight, with classic burlesque entertainment. £2, prebook, 8.30pm
Make a papier mache dragon at Drink Shop Do
Friday 24 April
BLACK ART: The V&A Museum runs an afternoon symposium about black art from 1960 to now, focusing on British and international artists and institutions. Free, prebook, 1.30pm
CHANGING MUSIC: Journalist, broadcaster and writer Kevin LeGendre presents an event in which the audience listens to and talks about the changing face of British popular music and impact of migration across different generations. Part of Southbank Centre’s Changing Britain Festival. Free, 5.30pm
LIVE JAZZ: Kick your weekend off with an evening of live jazz at GH Space in Soho — think Frank Sinatra meets Midnight in Paris. Ticket includes a welcome cocktail. Age 18+. £5, prebook, 6.30pm
JUBILEE CLUB: Head to Barfly in Camden for the Jubilee Club, a night of live bands and DJs specialising in rock anthems — expect everything from Nirvana to The Prodigy. £5, prebook, 10pm
Saturday 25 April
LITERATURE FESTIVAL: The Boishakhi Literature Festival takes place this weekend at Rich Mix, using both English and Bengali. Saturday focuses on children’s literature. A book fair runs all weekend alongside the events. Free, 25-26 April
Sunday 26 April
NATURE TRAIL: Perivale Wood has an open day (PDF), giving the public a chance to explore the Bluebell Wood and take part in a nature trail. Free, just turn up, 10am-4.30pm
BARBICAN CONSERVATORY: A green haven against the Brutalist architecture, Barbican Conservatory is open to the public. It houses exotic fish and over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. Free, just turn up, 11am-5pm
CHANGING BRITAIN: We’re halfway through Southbank Centre’s Changing Britain Festival. Today, there’s a screening of Kes, in which Billy Casper tames and trains his pet kestrel falcon (free, 8pm). You can also choose from a performance of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Twice Through The Heart, a musical work about the challenges facing the arts between 1979 and 1997 (free although booking fee applies, prebook, 5pm) and Restaging the Election 1979, which screens key speeches from Margaret Thatcher and James Callaghan in the 1979 election, and asks the audience to cast a vote. Will the outcome today be the same as it was back then? (Free, 3pm)
AUTHORS IN CONVERSATION: Hear four of the shortlisted authors of The Wellcome Book Prize in conversation at Wellcome Collection. Marion Coutts, Henry Marsh, Sarah Moss and Miriam Toews discuss the creative process behind their critically acclaimed books while exploring the broader context of medicine and literature. Free, prebook, 3pm
Check out our map of free things to do in London for more frugal fun.

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Drink Your Way Through The General Election

Colour coded drinks from The Met Bar.
Drinking holes with political connotations are everywhere in London — from The Gladstone Arms to Peckham Liberal Club to The Speaker — but what about the drinks themselves; which Westminster-themed liquids are available to take the edge off the onerous stretch of electioneering that lies ahead? Here’s what we’ve found so far. If you know of any others, cast your vote in the comments.
Partay politics
Between now and 10 May The Met Bar on Old Park Lane is whipping up three partisan cocktails (£13.50 a pop), sporting the colours of the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems. It seems that Cleggites get the most palatable quaffable; a sunny concoction of fresh passion fruit and lemongrass shaken with agave, lemon juice and tequila. Whichever one you go for though, resist the temptation to mix your drinks; if you combine the blue and the yellow, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth for five years.
Along a similar colour-coded theme — but duly noting the election is no longer a three-horse race — the Corinthia’s Bassoon bar is going with a ‘Cast Your Cocktail’ theme; select from a Call Me Dave, Red Ed, Compliant Clegg, Gordon Bennett and a Naughty Nigel (the latter is a purple potion infused with violet liqueur and bubblegum syrup, which the real-life Nige would probably try to deport). Cocktails are £15 each, and available from 23 April-7 May.
Elsewhere, we recommend cocktail lovers get their chops round a Big Society or Diplomatic Immunity (PDF) at Scarfes Bar in Holborn, a Churchill Martini at Browns Hotel (only serious drinkers need apply), an Iron Lady at the Ritz’s Rivoli Bar (The Ritz is, after all, where the former PM rusted away), or a Coalition at Old Street’s Nightjar — a deceptively drinkable work of art, served up in an icy hip flask.
Ale drinkers needn’t feel marginalised; one microbrewery in particular is doing sterling work on the political beerscape, namely Islington Brewhouse & Kitchen, who serve a Disraeli American wheat beer, a Suffragette Ninja milk stout, and, our favourite, Granita Pact — an India white ale marking the alleged gentlemen’s agreement in a north London restaurant between Blair and Brown. Different beers are on tap at different times, but the latter was available when we visited recently. Alternatively, why not sup your way through a selection of London’s finest ‘coalition’ beers.
Political wines are harder to come by, unless you get your hands on some official Houses of Parliament plonk. Alternatively, plump for a red (Labour), Blue Nun (Conservatives), Wolf Blass Yellow Label (Lib Dems), green ginger wine (Greens) or anything so long as it’s white (UKIP).
Courtesy of the Islington Brewhouse & Kitchen website.
Booze like a politician
If none of the above sound up your (Downing) street, why not try boozing like you’re an actual politician. What’s Westminster’s tipple of choice? According to the Daily Record, in 2014 the Houses of Parliament quaffed its way through 8,670 bottles of champagne, 522 bottles of Gordon’s Gin and 257 bottles of Pimm’s No. 1. Questionable lager, meanwhile, did a roaring trade: 10,800 bottles of Peroni and 10,248 bottles of Beck’s were necked last year. 408 bottles of alcohol-free Beck’s was also sold, which, as you’ll know, is 408 bottles too many. Or you can always seek out a pint of Top Totty, the fruity ale swiftly withdrawn from a House of Commons bar back in 2012.
Otherwise, why not re-enact a notorious booze-fuelled episode from London’s political history. You could down a few bottles of port a day, like William Pitt the Younger (he also once vomited behind the Speaker’s chair), get squiffy in the manner of former premier Herbert Asquith (who was known for swaying during his Commons speeches, and had a music hall ditty written in honour of his alcoholism), make like Ken Livingstone and drink 47% ABV whisky while at work, have a corrupt glug of Krug à la Jeffrey Archer, gulp a scotch before lunch like Margaret Thatcher (she once said “you must have whisky to give you energy”), be Blair by bolting half a bottle of wine with a whisky chaser, pull a Churchill by sampling a bit of everything, get “muzzy” at a wine tasting before toking a huge Havana and riling one of your peers, like Alan Clark once did, chug 14 pints of real ale as William Hague claims he used to do, or — god forbid — replicate Ed Miliband by sipping on a Five Points Red Ale as if it might be laced with cyanide.
Actually, not that last one. You don’t want to lose all sense of dignity.
Read more of Londonist’s election coverage.

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Deal Of The Day, 19 April 2015: 40% Off Chicken Brunch

London Deals of the Day are provided by YPlan.
TODAY: 40% off Chicken Brunch at The Eastway

What: Love It Or Ate It Chicken Brunch + DIY Bloody Mary
Why: Chicken Brunch on a Sunday, need we say more? Fine, we will. Confit chicken legs, glazed with Marmite. Served on a rosemary and bacon waffle. Washed down with a drink from the DIY Bloody Mary bar. Happy Sunday.
Where: The Eastway, Andaz Hotel, 40 Liverpool Street, EC2M 4QN
When: Sunday 19 April, 11am-4pm
Cost: £12 (discounted from £20)
Book Now!

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Best Of Londonist: Tube Tours, Punchdrunk And Cheese

Your Sunday morning best-of-Londonist weekly round-up sponsored this week by Pact, who are giving Londonist readers their first bag of coffee, delivered to their door, for just £1. More details below.
Hungerford Bridge/Charing Cross Railway Bridge. Photo: Jenny Lovaglio
London News
Seven separate rail failures caused lengthy delays for commuters on Monday morning.
A campaign has been launched to bring back a Bob Marley mural which was lost during demolition.
Housing is a big issue. We know it. You know it. But do London MPs actually care?
The Conservative Party is pledging to extend the Right to Buy scheme. This is not a good idea.
A Tottenham pub has been saved by a community group.
Miss out on Londonist merchandise the last time round? We’re back, with tote bags, t-shirts, mugs and more.
Must-read articles
As all the parties released their manifestos, here at Londonist, we released ours.
We spoke to Green party leader (and Holborn and St Pancras candidate) Natalie Bennett about housing and more.
What’s it like to spend 19 hours on the tube? Well, since you ask…
The best places to eat and drink in Streatham.
Have you seen the incredible bridges of Paddington open?
Have we reached the peak of the animal cafe trend, or will we be seeing these eateries on London’s streets soon?
We’ve been awash with sunshine this week, but why is London so rubbish at putting it to good use as solar power?
Blackheath at dusk. Photo: Francesco Camardo
Top reviews
Immersive theatre wizards Punchdrunk are back, with a nautical show for kids ★★★★★
So much art, so little time — let’s talk about which new art exhibitions are actually worth visiting
Watershed: a strong showing of contemporary artists in a great venue ★★★☆☆
Roy’s (teeny tiny) People are back — mini heroes take to the streets of London ★★★☆☆
Minor snags don’t prevent Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London from being a first class production ★★★★☆
Things to do
Book now buttons are provided by YPlan.
ABANDONED TUBE TOURS: Visit the abandoned tube tunnels used for filming James Bond film Skyfall.
CHEESE MASTERCLASS: Yes, we’re serious. Spend two hours learning the ins, outs, ups and downs of the good stuff. Taste handmade, artisan cheeses under the guidance of a professional cheesemonger. £28, 23 April, 7pmBook Now
ROUTEMASTER TOUR: Hop on board a classic 1962 Routemaster coach to explore London’s architectural history.
THREE COURSE ROAST: Nothing says Sunday like a Sunday roast. Treat yourself to a three-course roast meal, plus bottomless cocktails, at Mews of Mayfair. £40, various datesBook Now
FAIRYTALE WEEK: Fairytales are top of the bill at British Academy’s free Literature Week.
THE HOBBIT: …And The Battle Of The Five Armies is the final Bilbo Baggins film. Watch it at Roxy in Borough High Street, while tucking into a meal. 18+. £12, prebook, 20 April, 8pmBook Now
SPACES AND PLACES: Get ready for London Transport Museum’s London Places and Spaces exhibition, celebrating the unique character of the city.
CIRCUS CABARET: Guanabara in Covent Garden hosts a showcase of world-class Latin and UK circus talent with burlesque acts, contortionists, ballerinas, fire-breathers and much more. Enjoy the show while you tuck into dinner and a Caipirinha cocktail. 18+. £15, various datesBook Now
SCIENCE IN THE PUB: Pint of Science: Learn stuff down the pub.
JACK THE RIPPER: Let’s face it, everyone has a little curiosity about London’s famous serial killer. Take a Jack the Ripper Walking Tour and learn about the theories surrounding the killer’s identities and motives. £10, various datesBook Now
ST GEORGE’S DAY: Things to do in London on St George’s Day (that’s this Thursday, FYI).
GUN CULTURE: Investigative journalist Iain Overton is at the Frontline Club in Paddington to talk about the impact of gun crime, the relationships we have with guns and the place they have in every day life. £12.50, 22 April, 7pmBook Now
Book now buttons are provided by YPlan.
Reader Offer
Bermondsey start-up Pact Coffee is on a mission to get London drinking better, fresher coffee. Get your first 250g bag of hand-roasted coffee delivered to your home or office for only £1 with free P&P. Just use the code ONEPOUNDBAG at checkout. For more info and T&Cs click here.

This week’s Best of Londonist is sponsored by Pact.
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Death Of A Comedian Targets Mainstream Stand Up

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playwright Owen McCafferty’s last play at the Soho Theatre was an intense meditation on the bitter legacy of The Troubles in Northern Ireland which quietly blew us away. His new play here, Death Of A Comedian, is a very different piece, focusing on the progress of a stand-up comic (Brian Doherty) as his career takes him from backroom dive bars to the big time thanks to a wily agent (Shaun Dingwall) who knows what sells and how best to sell it.
It’s a familiar Faustian journey, with The Comedian (as Doherty’s character is called) ignoring the warnings of his Girlfriend (Katie McGuiness) before agreeing to compromise his act so he can get the top slots, TV panel shows and other trappings on offer if he can make it into the country’s comedy elite.
Clearly McCafferty loathes mainstream stand-up and sees the punkish spirit of plucky pub wannabes as having far greater artistic integrity. That might seem a reasonable point but the angrier this play gets the more it feels like a throwback opinion and a strangely cynical one too — do comedians who gig for charity really do so solely to boost their profile and get ahead of the rest?
The anger in the play’s veins is also a problem for the drama. Though the dialogue is well-written, the three main characters are flattened to archetypes (as their names suggest) in order that McCafferty can get his ire off his chest. Girlfriend and Agent play the roles of angel and devil sitting on The Comedian’s shoulders with little variation in their mantras — she says ‘don’t sell out’, he says ‘you must’ and round and round they go.
In between the conversations about integrity and purpose we get chunks of The Comedian’s routine, some of which work well, but some of which miss the mark, especially as we get several variations on the same jokes, the delivery morphing depending on which of his guardians The Comedian is listening to more.
There is an interesting idea here but the final product is flawed. It should be short and punchy, yet the play lacks the requisite amount of drama to propel it forward. Strong performances and a few moments of clever stagecraft by director Steve Marmion make up for the sections that drag, but overall it feels like the whole concept needs more thought and a little less choler.
Death Of A Comedian runs at the Soho Theatre until 16 May. Tickets £15-20. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket.

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See Towering Sand Dunes And Lakes So Salty They Don’t Freeze

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Puna is the Incan name for a plateau high up in the Andes mountain range. It’s a place that experiences weather extremes of heat, cold, wind and even greater solar radiation due to its altitude. These desolate conditions, however, make for great photography and Alexander Lindsay has captured some truly breathtaking landscapes covering everything from deserts to glaciers.
These images don’t do the works justice as some of the photographs on display are enormous and the detail within them is superb. Getting up close to a massive landscape it’s possible to discern those distant pink and white blobs to be a flamingos in a far away lake.
There’s a lot of variety in Lindsay’s portfolio, covering lakes so salty they don’t freeze, mountains formed from lava that are so new that the weather hasn’t had a chance to erode them yet and gnarled and bleached driftwood by the ocean’s shore.
The presence of people features too in the city of Iquique, but it is dwarfed by the giant sand dune called Dragon’s Hill, which towers over the buildings. These photographs wouldn’t work on a smaller scale and so it’s fitting they aren’t restricted to a standard gallery and can take advantage of this massive atrial space over two floors.
These are majestic photographs and standing before them makes the viewer feel small and inconsequential in front of these natural wonders.
Alexander Lindsay: Altitude is on at Piano Nobile King’s Place, 90 York Way, N1 9AG until 20 June. Admission is free and the exhibition is on Monday to Sunday, 9am-8pm.
For more great photography exhibitions see the latest nominees for the Deutsche Börse photography prize and another excellent edition of Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

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Ideas To Make London Better: How Devolution Could Benefit Us

Photo by Steve Coughlan from the Londonist Flickr pool
For all the talk about how devolving more power and financial autonomy to London will be super useful for us, it can occasionally be hard not to nod off at talk of fiscal policy and stamp duty land tax. It’s all a bit amorphous, saying we’d be able to build more houses or fund more infrastructure. Yes, we want to say; lovely. But how and what and where?
The first point of call for anything to do with devolution should always be the London Finance Commission report Raising the Capital. Written by an independent committee chaired by Tony Travers, it’s a comprehensive look at the kinds of powers London could and should have, and how to implement them. However, it’s a bit short on practical suggestions — which isn’t the fault of the report, as it’s down to politicians to decide whether property taxes should be funnelled towards Crossrail 2 or a programme of social housebuilding.
So we went looking for more specific examples of what devolution could do for London. Darren Johnson, one of the Greens on the London Assembly, describes how “introducing additional council tax bands could ensure those in multi-million pound London properties contribute their fair share towards the running of the city. It could allow income from stamp duty, combined with a relaxation on the borrowing cap on local councils, to be used to fund a programme of genuinely affordable social housing.”
Andrew Carter, Acting Chief Executive at Centre for Cities, suggests London could have “greater control over welfare-to-work contracts and skills and education programmes, a more reliable and secure settlement for Transport for London, and further planning powers to unlock development — including authority to conduct reviews of the green belt and re-designate land, and to establish development corporations to support large-scale projects”.
Carter also makes the excellent point that devolution isn’t just about getting us more cash. “It’s also about strengthening the certainty around its planning,” he says. “Reducing risks and costs, and augmenting the incentives to encourage development, which is critical to economic growth. When local leaders know they will have the funding to support investments in housing, transport and local services, they are much more willing and able to deliver more homes, and to bear the disruptions and financial risk associated with transport investment and reconfiguring public services.”
Sadiq Khan, Shadow Minister for London and currently campaigning to be re-elected as MP for Tooting, also mentions housing, and gives us another suggestion about how devolution could help get Londoners into work. “Currently, adult skills training and further education is controlled by distant civil servants in Whitehall. This means courses and programmes aren’t adapted to meet the needs of local people. So in Hackney for example, the majority of further education places are for beauticians and hairdressers. But Hackney already has too many beauticians, so people struggle to find work after they’ve finished their training.
“Instead, Hackney has a big shortage of skilled workers for its booming hotel industry,” he continues. “Giving Hackney Council and the London Mayor control over further education spending would mean that they could provide more hospitality training courses and get more local people into well paid, secure jobs. Applied across the capital this could get tens of thousands more people into work and provide a huge boost for the capital’s economy.”
Read more:
What Would Happen If London Could Raise Its Own Taxes?
It’s OK: The Rest Of The Country Won’t Hate Us If London Gets More Power