London Design Festival
Explore London with One Aldwych Curator, Charles Burns
Hubert Leslie was a World War I veteran who cut silhouettes on Brighton Pier, on the south coast of
England, during the 1920s and 30s. When he died, in 1976, he left to the National Portrait Gallery a
set of duplicate albums containing some 20,000 silhouettes. Charles never met him, yet regards
Leslie as his first teacher; he learned his craft by studying these albums in the archive room.
The albums are not on public display, but you can make an appointment to see them in the archive room if you wish to see this extraordinary and little-known collection close up.
The piazza at Covent Garden is still the centre of London's thriving street performance scene. You can wander these ancient cobbles to see all manner of musicians, jugglers and other curiosities. Some are truly amazing however, you're unlikely to spot a silhouettist (although you never know) but why not stop to have your portrait drawn?
London is full of old markets to explore. One of my favourites is Borough Market, which you'll find under the railway arches at the southern end of London Bridge. The atmosphere is authentic London: slightly rough at the edges, but with plenty of cafés and bars in which to sit and soak it all up.
This innovative and well laid-out new park sprawls alongside the Regent's Canal in East London. It offers beautiful walking and cycling and includes a green bridge, with trees planted over the A11, as well as the canal towpath. Regents Canal was built in the Regency period, opening in 1820 to connect North London with the Thames Docks. It stretches from Paddington to Limehouse and is home to many who choose to live in barges and narrowboats.
On a hot summer's day I recommend taking a stroll underneath the Thames. This extraordinary tunnel was built in the late Victorian period and opened in 1902. It allowed easy access to the Docks for workers living south of the river. Whatever the weather above, it's always blissfully cool in the tunnel. Take the DLR to Island Gardens and walk through the tunnel to Greenwich, where you can visit the Cutty Sark and find refreshment at Greenwich Market.