The Painted Hall, Greenwich.

The Painted Hall in Greenwich is a wonderful sight at any time but during their restoration project you can climb a huge scaffolding and see the artwork close up.   There’s a massive conservation project going on before the hall reopens in full splendour next year.

What is the Painted Hall? They certainly didn’t spend too much time thinking up the name!  The enormous hall is covered in an array of extraordinary art work.  Dating from 1694, the hall was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, the finest architects of their day, the paintings were added between 1707 and 1726 by Sir James Thornhill.  If that name sounds familiar it’s because he painted the interior of the dome at St Paul’s cathedral and  this major commission pre-dates St Paul’s so the Painted Hall was a huge boost to his career.   He was paid £1 per square yard for the wall work and £3 for the ceilings and as the whole lot came in at a whopping 40,000 square feet, which would have added up to a  reasonable sum – £6,685 apparently. The  21st century restoration is costing £10.5 million so let’s hope this work  lasts the 100 years their are banking on!  The tour costs are going towards this as well as a great deal of fundraising.

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Ice cream van

What’s on in London summer 2018

I send out a newsletter to subscribers with a preview of some of the great stuff on in London over the next 3 months but blog readers are able to enjoy it too. So here it is and I’m  happy to take any questions about anything featured.


Here’s your Summer 2018 newsletter giving you a taster of the exciting events coming up in the next 3 months in our capital. If you want to hear more about anything listed (or other things you’ve heard about) send me an email ( and I’ll get right back to you.

Have a look at Sue’s blog on the website ( to read about what I’ve been up to lately – a peek into life in London. I’m also on Twitter at @itsyourlondon so do join my 4000+ followers for the latest news and I’m on Instagram as @sueinlondon for some lovely photos.

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BP Portrait Award 2018

The BP Portrait Award 2018

Each year the judges sift through the thousands of entries from all round the world for the BP Portrait Award and somehow decide on the 48 that will make the show at the National Portrait Gallery. I don’t envy them this incredibly hard task but the outcome is a wonderful display and a stunning range of portraits for us to enjoy and marvel at.

I was lucky enough to go to a preview where the artists were milling around and i grabbed a few moments with Vanessa Garwood whose portrait of Francesca Hayward, principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, was by far my favourite piece of the show. I loved the light and how she used it on the face and body of the dancer and to highlight the different fabrics, such as the satin, along with the muted but arresting palate. The contemplative face and pose of the elegant subject caught my attention. I shared with Vanessa how I appreciated her interpretive portrait more than the more photographic detail of some other works, including the winner and she told me how she feels her work and approach allows her to stitch together different periods of time. She saw the combination of strength and softness in Francesca  and I read that Vanessa had studied ballet but injury had forced her to stop and I felt her closeness to the world of dance come through in her work.

BP Portrait Award 2018 BP Portrait Award 2018








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Serpentine Pavilion 2018

The Serpentine Pavilion 2018

The arrival of the Serpentine Pavilion each year is a sure sign that the London summer has started and yesterday I enjoyed the 2018 pavilion on a perfect June day in London.

Now in its 18th year, each Pavilion is strikingly different from every predecessor and the 2018 version is another delight. The architect is Frida Escobeda from Mexico City is the youngest person to be given this annual commission and only the second woman after the late Zaha Hadid, who was the first back in 2000 .  Frida said she was very surprised to be asked to take on this commission however she has proved more than worthy of this award as her work is a wonderful addition to the list of great Pavilions. She talked of the challenge of designing a temporary structure that would be in its site specific location for just 4 months and the would go on to an unknown location in a private collection.  I’d not realised Pavilions have a second life and it made me wonder where previous ones have ended up.

Serpentine Pavilion 2018

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National Portrait Gallery

Rebel Women at the National Portrait Gallery

I’m really familiar with the National Portrait Gallery, London, or so I thought until I was invited to preview their Rebel Women Trail.  Much to my shame and amusement I found a section of the gallery which had escaped me so I am very pleased to highlight it in this blog post.

The Rebel Women Trail is a brilliant way to highlight the number of portraits of women in the permanent collection, perhaps often overlooked.  The portraits in the trail were chosen by a select group of women featuring: Gillian Wearing; Miranda Hart; Liv LIttle; Sara Pascoe; and, Ali Smith.

Join me and enjoy my highlights of the trail around the upper gallery of the National Portrait Gallery:

My favourite of all was the portrait of Mary Seacole, the often overlooked heroine of the Crimean War, where Florence Nightingale gets all the glory.  She travelled to the Crimea at her own expense and became a familiar figures at the battle front taking food, drink and her nursing skills to the injured and dying.   Sadly she was declared bankrupt after the war and although funds were raised by those who knew her work and she wrote a book (the first autobiography by a black women in Britain) she was dogged by lack of money.  Her statue by St Thomas’s hospital where there is the Florence Nightingale Museum, shows the tribute being paid to her in the 21st century.National Portrait Gallery

Dame Laura Knight was self taught and women were denied access to nude models at the time so this portrait of the model with Laura in shot is a triumph over oppressive practices of early 1900s. She was also the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy in 1936 despite it being in existence since its foundation in 1768!

National Portrait Gallery

As a great tennis fan, I was delighted to see Virginia Wade featured as she was such a leading player for so many years and won Wimbledon in 1977, the centenary of Wimbledon and the Queen’s Silver jubilee year.

National Portrait Gallery

Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson fought to qualify as a doctor at a time when women were not admitted to the profession and then fought to join the British Medical Association in 1873. She set up treatment areas for women that grew to become the New Hospital for Women which still exists in London although it was renamed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital after her death.  She was also an active suffragist, although not as active as her sister Millicent Fawcett (see below) – what a family!

Sylvia Pankhurst gets a mention here because of her extraordinary campaigning  life which ended in Addis Ababa where I was lucky enough to see her grave and magnificent memorial, so she has a special resonance for me

Sylvia Pankhurst

Marie Stopes changed the world of contraception for women as she founded the first birth control clinic in the UK in 1921 and the Marie Stopes International organisation continues her work.  We can only imagine the battles she had to fight to push her work forward.

Marie Stopes

There are so many more I could pick out but perhaps I will finish with Olive Morris, who I was less familiar with.  She was a hugely influential figure in the campaign against racial injustice in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. Her campaign was key in ending  Police’s stop and search activities based solely on suspicion of someone carrying weapons which had dis-proportionally impacted black citizens. Clearly I need to find out more about her and as any good exhibition will open up new avenues of research I can confirm this one has opened up a good number of interesting areas for further investigation.

Olive Morris

As this was a preview visit we were treated to introductory talks by the curators and rather wonderfully to talks by some contemporary rebel women.  We heard from Jenny Beavan, a world leading movie costume designer who grabbed the headlines  and broke the mould when she won an Oscar for her work on Mad Max: Fury Road and accepted the award in an outfit straight out of the film not wearing traditional Oscar dress.  She treated us with stories about that event and was keen to point out that she has worked on period dramas as well although it was clear that outfit had changed her life.

Another speaker from the world of film was the inspirational Lorna Tucker, a director, who had taken the hardest route to success after leaving school aged 14.  She has just directed Westwood,  about Vivienne Westwood, a 4 year project during which had been a tough time, including the subject herself.  Lorna was  describing the power of ‘no’ in the face of those who seem to have all the power- a great rebel women whose rallying cry was the power of women sticking together.

Jenny Beavan

Jenny Beavan

Lorna Tucker

Lorna Tucker








For more information about the National Portrait Gallery and their Rebel Women Trail check their website:

I continued my Rebel Women morning by visiting the new statue in Parliament Square, the first of a woman.  Millicent Fawcett, a key figure in the campaign for women’s vote, has finally appeared in front of Parliament where her struggles helped women win the vote (but not all women) 100 years ago.

Millicent Fawcett

Full disclosure: I was invited to a preview visit of the Rebel Women Trail but it is free to enter as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.  The sponsors kindly supported the preview and are supporting the whole Rebel Women season and they are MGallery by Sofitel, more info here.

Mithraeum London

Stepping back into Roman London at the Mithraeum

Did you know you can visit a Roman temple right in the heard of London?  First discovered in 1954 in an old bomb site, the Roman Temple of Mithras was a sensation with huge crowds coming to see it but then the site was redeveloped and the temple was dismantled, moved and seemed to be an unloved treasure.   Then came Bloomberg, building a shiny new HQ on the same site and announcing plans to return the temple to its original position and open it up to the public again.   Bloomberg have delivered on their promise and a fully reconstructed temple is now open to the public and London has another important piece to add to its Roman jigsaw.

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Trafalgar Square 4th Plinth

A new arrival on Trafalgar Square’s 4th Plinth

London has wonderful art  in its museums and galleries but the art and sculpture in public spaces is a constant delight as we walk around. My favourite site is the  4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square which has extremely varied pieces which have changed every couple of years since 1999.  After sitting empty for 150 years what is known as the  Fourth Plinth began hosting some  temporary commissions and this has built into a stunning series of works, often provoking debate and controversy but always bringing something new to the square.

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