Cultural Experience | London

Wallice & Gromit’s Alternative Day Out

Explore London’s hipster culture

By Lizi Woolgar

We all know how that same old London tourist story goes. You hop on the train, see Big Ben, swing by Buckingham Palace, take a boat down the Thames or a bike ride through Hyde Park, get lost on Oxford Street and maybe finish up catching a theatre show on Drury Lane. Real original day you’ve got out there. You can see big grey buildings, water and grass in any city. So hows about trying something a little off-key on your next tourist expedition to London? Leave those all-important DSLRs at home along with your ‘Top 10 Sights of London’ guide book and go – dare I say it – without a predictable plan.

London (particularly with the recent explosion of eccentric youngster culture) is having to make developments constantly to keep up with this growing hunger for oddness. Everyone wants to find the cushtie bar that’s hidden away; set back from the streets of normality. Everyone wants to stumble upon the weirdest vintage boutiques or visit the most left-field exhibition out there. It’s a claim to legit quirkiness. And after all, if London kids don’t pass the test of alternative, what else could they possibly do to reflect any achievement in life?

So, for all your aspiring London locals, here’s a couple of ideas how to spend your next visit to the big smoke to ensure you get your daily fix of hipster culture.

Let’s start with an exhibition or two to get the ball rolling shall we? Good.

I did something last week that I have done literally time and time again. I set off for an exhibition with absolutely no forward planning or foresight. Yep, I dragged my friend to London to see Bailey’s Stardust exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery. I’ve been going on about it for weeks.

Didn’t start until February 6th did it.

Embarro’d. I totally deserved it; I really do not ever learn.

That left us standing as little bewildered drowned rats, in the middle of the National Portrait gallery. But s’all good, we improvised. We indulged in the cultural deliciousness of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2013 exhibition.

London Museum

Maria & Corinne by Lydia Panas

Maria & Corinne by Lydia Panas

Paul Dewitte - from a series where children are photographed in their parents' clothes

Paul Dewitte – from a series where children are photographed in their parents’ clothes

My sincerest apologies for the irritating reflections in the photos – the lights in there resembled football-pitch floodlights. Besides that minor annoyance, hopefully this gives you an idea of the sorts of portraits there. I’d thoroughly recommend checking it out.

And of course, for you lucky forward-planning souls, the Bailey’s Stardust exhibition is now in full swing. For anyone who doesn’t know who this elusive ‘Bailey’ is; he is the one and only David Bailey CBE. Bailey is the cheekie-chappie East London geezer –cum-Fashion Photographer. The latter part, I must say, is just slightly more important here. Rising to fame in the 1960s when he was contracted as an official British Vogue photographer, Bailey was also renowned for his close relationship and engaging photographic work with 60s It-girl Jean Shrimpton.

Anyway, his photography exhibition contains over 250 pieces spanning his unbelievable platter of work, the exhibition having already been coined “a Landmark Exhibition”. With everything from light-hearted humour, a series of thought-provoking portraits to a nod to surrealism, I can see no way how this delectable feast of geniousity (ya I know that’s not a word) can be disliked.

If you need a refreshment stop afterwards, just head on down to the bottom floor café. NOT I repeat NOT the top floor restaurant – it is far too sophisticated for normal human beings, let alone the hippest of hipsters. (Cut them, they’ll bleed poetry). The café has a great little selection of snacks and light meals, with occasional art events taking place in the evenings. Yes, you can of course get afternoon tea and scones if you’re a fiend for this ‘British’ fix.

Next comes possibly the weirdest thing I have ever done out of purely my own choice. “An exhibition with pickled (NB probably not scientific term) body parts? Well, that sounds like fun; I’d love to!”

Fun Indeed. The Hunterian Museum, at the Royal College of Surgeons (the name was a big clue) has collections gathered over the past 4 centuries by an array of prominent figures, including John Hunter himself. The displays comprise human and animal anatomy, horrifically jagged historical surgical instruments, punctuated by somewhat bizarre art and a background of gruesome surgery videos.

Huntarian

hunterian

hunterfoot

Claiming to “encourage visitors to explore the science and art of surgery”; I would argue it unfortunately encourages the resurgence of your lunch. You need a strong stomach to visit this place. I’m usually pretty good with this stuff but some of it really had me wincing. The feet in jars, for example, were the creepiest sight my sore eyes have ever seen. Don’t eat before, don’t stare at anything for too long and you can actually learn some pretty interesting info about ground-breaking scientific achievements of the past.

On a lighter note, let’s talk about cats. Some of us love them (the sane people in the world as they are commonly known) and some cannot stand ‘em. So if you grimaced at the c-word, look away now.

Coming soon to East London (qwerkytown, of course) is Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium. It is genuinely exactly as it sounds; A café, with the food and all of the usual trimmings, but with added feline friends. The café is still under development but you can track the progress on their website and take a peek as they make their final cat selections and so on. Set to open in the next few months, I am certain this will be a total hit and can’t wait to visit.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I also tried to visit Lady Dinah’s on the day of #Bailey’sStardustFail until I found out this too was not yet open. Really, really good one.

So, next time you head to the capital, instead of the predictable Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Day Out, try some of the more unusual hangouts, to create your very own Wallace & Gromit’s Alternative Day Out.

 

 

Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.


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