It is one of the biggest, most interesting and most happening cities on earth. And with the Olympic Games returning, now's the ideal time to rediscover London in all its polish, pomp, grit and glory.
Author Joe Keohane Photography Richard James Taylor
Last year Sir Ian McKellen, Shakespearean thespian and The Lord of the Rings star, got some distressing news. The proprietor of his beloved local watering hole, The Grapes, was retiring, and the pub, built in 1720 and featured in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, was in danger of shutting down. So McKellen teamed up with director Sean Mathias, bought out the lease, restored the bar and reopened it earlier this year.
Then, fresh off of filming the forthcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, McKellen got word that the company that owns the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s books was suing a long-standing Hobbit-themed pub in Southampton for copyright infringement. After an outcry, McKellen and Hobbit co-star Stephen Fry offered to pay the licensing fees for the pub. “It’s clearly not a place to ill-treat hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards in any way,” McKellen said. “So what’s the problem?”
This month will see the debut of East London’s Olympic Park, which features, among other things, eco-friendly arenas and a crazily looping $30 million, 394-foot-tall sculpture by Anish Kapoor titled Orbit. But even more interesting are the plans for the park after the 2012 Olympic Games (when it will be renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park). Five new neighborhoods will be built here, containing some 11,000 homes and London’s largest public park, as well as the $16 million British Olympic Museum, set to open in 2014. As for Orbit, it’s expected to stand — especially if London Mayor Boris Johnson has anything to do with it. “It would have boggled the minds of the Romans,” he says, with more than a glint of pride. “It would have boggled Gustave Eiffel.”
“It rains a bit in London, as you may have heard, so it’s good to know some interesting indoor spots. I especially like the Old Cinema in Chiswick, a vast space — they call it a vintage department store — full of creative ideas for using old things in new ways.”
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, QUERCUS PUBLISHING
“Kew Gardens has these enormous glass houses filled with plants from faraway continents, but the best thing is just roaming around the grounds, sitting under trees you could never hope to identify.”
STUDIO ASSISTANT, THE JOINT MUSIC STUDIO
“Passing Clouds, hidden away in northeast London, is a great venue for live music. It’s like a warehouse, there’s a good atmosphere, it’s very friendly. I always end up meeting someone interesting.”
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