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Review of Our Londinium 2012 at the Museum of London

Masks, Londinium 2012 at Museum of London

Each of the masks above represents one of the young people (over 100 of them) involved in curating the new, cleverly named Our Londinium 2012, recently opened at the Museum of London. The exhibition constitutes the Museum of London’s contribution to Stories of the World

Portico, Hackney

I visited a few days after opening, intrigued by the concept of seeing how Rome is still an influence in today’s London, and having already posted my picture of the Portico in Hackney to their Flickr group Londinium through a Lens I was very pleased to see they’ve used it as part of the exhibition!

(The Portico has been an orphanage and headquarters of the Salvation Army, and is now the Portico City Learning Centre. They’ve cleverly added a modern bit behind the Roman-influenced bit.)

The exhibition isn’t just about ancient Roman finds – it’s about finding similarities between the way we live in London today and the way we used to at the time of the Roman empire.

WAH nails etc amongst Roman health accoutrements, Londinium 2012 at Museum of London

These specially designed WAH nails, for instance, as well as the Piz Buin and shaving accoutrements, show that we look after our physical appearance just as much as the Romans did, though perhaps the technology and fashions have changed to the extent that we can now glue plastic garish nails onto our fingers and cover ourselves in orange goo in the name of “beauty”.

A look at power and authority, Londinium 2012 at Museum of London

This juxtaposition of the V for Vendetta masks used in the Occupy London protests with a bust of the Emperor Hadrian is a comment on power and authority then and now.

Old and new glass ornament Londinium 2012 at Museum of London

And these two beautiful items clearly show that we still have a love of beautiful objects.

Modern items inside a centurion's helmet, Londinium 2012 at Museum of London

Olly Gibbs was responsible for the look of the exhibition, and the centurion’s helmet (above) is his. You probably can’t see the detail but inside the helmet are pictured such modern items as headphones, doughnuts, trainers and Japanese waving cats, Maneki Niko.

What I thought was clever about Our Londinium 2012 was the surprise of finding out of place modern items (are they really so out of place?) amongst the ancient artefacts. Some may find it comforting that we haven’t really changed that much since the days when Londinium had its own forum (now it has Westfield), though to be honest I find it a bit depressing.

Anyway, a splendid effort, and Andrew who showed me round advised that this exhibition is a sort of tester to see how some of the ideas in this sort of display can be used within the museum’s upcoming and newly designed  Roman London Gallery.

The next exhibition at the Museum of London will definitely be of interest to Quirky Travel, as it’s all about Doctors, Dissection and the Resurrection Men and it opens in October. Our Londinium 2012 runs until 2014.

Museum of London Address

150 London Wall
London EC2Y 5HN

Opening times: Monday to Sunday: 10am-6pm
Nearest tube stations: Barbican and St Paul’s

50 Olympic Events You Won’t See At London 2012

Note from Quirky Travel: Although I’ll be clearing out of London for the Olympics and tend to switch off the TV as soon as I hear them mentioned, the infographic below tickled me – thanks to Mike of Find Me a Gift for providing it in the guest post below. There’s an alternative way of looking at everything in this life …

It’s really not very long until the Olympic juggernaut rolls into London, and people from all corners of the United Kingdom are starting to get excited. And there’s good reason for such excitement, as the Olympic Games is an awesome spectacle. Thousands of the finest athletes from around the world will be competing in 302 events across 26 different sports. In fact 204 nations will be participating in total, making in the joint largest games in history.

As exciting as this is, we kind of know what we’re going to get. Sure there will be a few alternative events, Like BMX riding, but the line-up has been pretty consistent for the last 60 years. It hasn’t always been like this though.

The years 1896 to 1936 were a golden age for experimentation at the Olympic Games. It would be great if some of these past events could be incorporated today, but we should probably be thankful that the rest of them have been left in the past …

50 discontinued Olympic events

This infographic was created by Find Me A Gift where you’ll find a great range of products suitable for any Olympian.

10 Best Cultural Events for London 2012

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama from

Yayoi Kusama at the Tate Modern

9th February to 5th June 2012

Spots, pumpkins and repetition are this 82 year old lady’s trademarks and she is said to have been a big influence on Yoko Ono. Her art, which earned a record amount of money for a female artist  in 2008,  reflects her own obsessions and she has been living voluntarily in a psychiatric insitution since the 1970s.

Sweeney Todd at the Adelphi Theatre

10th March to 22nd September 2012

QT has already bought tickets for this one. The production of this dark musical earned fabulous reviews when it ran in Chichester in 2011, and its stars Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton are transferring to the West End show. The lyrics and music in this Stephen Sondheim creation are the best I’ve ever heard, so if you like your entertainment slightly twisted and in a minor key, go for it!

Master and Margarita

Master and Margrita from

Master and Margarita at the Barbican

15th March to 7th April 2012

Mikhail Bulgakov who wrote “The White Guard” which ran at the National Theatre in 2011 wrote the novel on which this is based.  It describes a visit of the devil to the Soviet Union and is a satire on the stifling social order in Russia of the 1920s and 30s. Considered a masterpiece this production comes from the Complicite theatre company.

Gross and Klein at the Barbican

13th to 29th April 2012

This one’s set to be immensely popular as it stars Oscar award winning actress Cate Blanchett. It’s a surreal Alice in Wonderland-like play where the main character becomes unfamiliar to all who previously knew her. This production has already appeared in her home country Australia, and garnered great reviews for Ms Blanchett’s performance.

Caligula at ENO

25th May to 14th June 2012

This German opera composed by Detlev Glanert is based on Albert Camus’ 1944 play about the perverted Roman emperor of the same name. QT knows nothing about opera but has been a fan of Caligula since seeing John Hurt play him the 1970s BBC series I, Caligula (available very cheaply on Amazon) Should be dark and disturbing and will probably bring to mind our modern day dictators.

Bauhaus School, Dessau

Bauhaus School, Dessau

Bauhaus – Art as Life at the Barbican

3rd May to 12th August 2012

The Bauhaus school was only around for 14 years but has had a huge influence on Modernist architecture and design ever since. This exhibition will include painting, sculpture, architecture and more and the Barbican are running workshops and films to complement the exhibition. Read QT’s review of the Bauhaus exhibition

Dr Dee at ENO

5th June to 7th July 2012

The prodigious talent of Damon Albarn keeps on rocking. This Alan Moore-inspired opera first saw the light of day in Manchester in 2011 and is coming to the ENO. It tells the story of 16th century magician and scientist John Dee, advisor to Elizabeth I and owner of one of the largest libraries in Britain at the time.

Here’s a Guardian video of Albarn and others discussing Dr Dee

Gillian Wearing at the Whitechapel Gallery

Gillian Wearing

Gillian Wearing at Whitechapel Gallery

28th March to 17th June 2012

A Turner prize winner (for her sins), Gillian’s photographs and films are really quite unnerving and apparently seek to explore identity. They often feature ordinary people in slightly odd circumstances. The Whitechapel Gallery itself is a lovely gallery and if you get a chance, go to see its Rothko exhibition before it ends on 26th February.

Another London at Tate Britain

1st July to 16th September 2012

This photographic exhibition will feature classic 20th century images of London by the likes of Henri-Cartier Bresson, Bruce Davidson and Elliot Erwit. Old London photographs always a winner, in my book!

And last but certainly not least …

Viva Forever

Yes – Spice Girls, the Musical. I haven’t bothered to look up where it’s happening or when as this is a bit tongue in cheek. But it’s written by Jennifer Saunders!

Related post: Top 10 Best Kept Secrets in London

Autumn 2011 exhibitions and events in London

Grayson Perry pot

Here’s QT’s pick of the upcoming events in London 2011.


Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 – 1990

This exhibition looks athe ideas behind and features of the movement known as postmodernism in art, design and architecture. Runs from 24th September 2011 to 15th January 2012.

Private Eye: The First 50 Years

Private Eye magazine is one of the best satirical magazines in the world. This V&A exhibition loosks at the The Eye has used graphical representations to present its investigative findings. It runs from 18th October 2011 to 8th January 2012.

Tate Modern

[Film] Cine Fantom

This series of seven films by Russian underground film-makers showcases works that featured in the ‘film journal’ presented by this film club formed in 1986. It runs from 16th to 25th September 2011.

This is a major retrospective of the work of this influential German artist. Runs from 6th October 2011 to 8th January 2012.

British Museum

This peculiarly dressed but talented individual curates an exhbition which brings together works of art from many different parts of the world. Should be illuminating. Runs from 6th October 2011 to 8th January 2012.

Wellcome Collection

Features around 100 Mexican votive paintings done on roof tiles or plaques, these depict miracles of the saints and are intended to give thanks. The exhibition also features amulets and multimedia work exploring the tradition of the votive in Mexico. Runs from 6th October to 6th February 2012.


A few of the interesting looking films in this year’s festival are the French animated film Tales Of The Night, adaption of the best-selling book We need to talk about Kevin and an impressive-sounding Faust. Runs from 12th to 27th October 2011.

Diane Arbus in Paris

I saw this ad in the Eurostar magazine, and was intrigued by the picture. The boy has a funnily weird expression on his face, and I wondered what on earth was going on with the crooked hand. I decided to do a bit of research.

Not surprisingly it turns out that this is an iconic photograph, by American photographer Diane Arbus who famously did not want to be seen as a photographer of “freaks” (she tended to capture the more interesting people in society: circus performers, transvestites, dwarfs and giants.)

This subject is a guy called Colin Wood, son of golfer Sidney Wood. He’s now an insurance salesman and father of two.

Colin was simply a boy playing in the park when Arbus came upon him. He has said “That grenade was one of two I bought at the five and ten,” Wood told freelance writer Hugh Hart. The second one went out the window when I tried to blow up the alley behind our apartment…” (from the Washington Post.)

Arbus seemingly didn’t direct him, and most of the shots were of a normal boy prancing around trying to be funny, but by this shot he was getting impatient and I think that’s where this really unusual expression and stance comes from. Frustration perhaps?

Anyway – it’s striking – it’s not a picture that you forget in a hurry. The toy hand grenade of course adds to the slightly unsettling feeling it gives you.  I love it and I’ll be doing a lot more research on Diane Arbus. And I’ll certainly be going to the exhibition. Details below.

Diane Arbus

Jeu de Paume
18th October 2011 – 5th February 2012
1 Place de la Concorde

More details and buy tickets: