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What a year it’s been for London. As well as hosting the biggest sporting event in the world the city has celebrated the Queen’s 60th year on the throne, marked Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, re-opened the world’s last remaining tea clipper and played a big part in the World Shakespeare Festival. There are almost too many good bits to cram into one blog post, but here are some of the Visit London blog team’s 2012 highlights:
“It’s possibly been London’s best year since the Romans decided to build a crossing over the Thames. Highlights have included the 100m-high photo of the Royal Family on Sea Container’s House to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the completion of the Overground line making it easier to zip around London from south of the river and perhaps most memorable of all, seeing the Olympic Rings hanging from Tower Bridge. I’m sure the Romans would have approved.”
“In 2012 I enjoyed flying through the sky on the Emirates Air Line, visiting the beautifully refurbished Cutty Sark and fell madly in love with the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I had a great day out at Mudchute City Farm in the summer and met some splendid sheep and a grumpy rabbit. My favourite theatre show of the year was The Ladykillers with Peter Capaldi and I’m still excited about visiting The Who Shop.
I’ve watched people celebrating public events in The Mall on television so many times but the athletes’ parade was the first time I’ve ever joined the crowds in the street to cheer. It was an absolutely perfect afternoon, the perfect end to a wonderful London 2012 games and a London moment I’ll never forget.”
“My 2012 highlights include seeing the Royal Ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardee with my mum (visiting from Australia) at the always impressive Royal Opera House. Finally seeing Wicked, and having second-row seats that meant I could bask in the full glory of the amazing costumes. And rocking out to Cold Chisel, Iggy Pop & The Stooges and Soundgarden in Hyde Park.
Closer to home, it was a real buzz to see Grayson Perry’s Walthamstow Tapestry in Walthamstow, at the newly renovated William Morris Gallery. I enjoyed my local street party for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I also discovered the delights of Victoria Park, which I visited several times, including during the Olympics when the BT Live Site provided a great family day out.”
“For me, 2012 was all about one-off festivals like BT River of Music and BT London Live where I saw Blur close the Olympic celebrations. There were also smaller experiences like sampling “pick your own” strawberries on the roof of the new Harmony boat on the Thames. Seeing Mark Rylance as Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe was an honour, as was being in a room with London’s acting elite at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. But the stand-out event, and it was so immense and unmatched that I’m not sure “event” really covers it, was Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony. I watched on TV (while playing an elaborate Olympic-themed drinking game) and am not ashamed to say that parts of it moved me to tears.”
“The undoubted highlight of my year was being part of the Thames Jubilee Pageant. Seeing 1,000 boats, carrying all manner of people, come together in celebration of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, was something I’ll never forget. It was especially brilliant to see everyone ignoring the wet weather and carrying on regardless! Cultural highlights of my year were seeing Henry V at the Globe Theatre and finally visiting the Steam Museum at Kew. In 2012, London for me has also been augmented by the addition of Duck and Waffle to the capital’s vertical gastronomy scene, as well as a new Hawksmoor outpost in Air Street and the continued expansion of London’s craft beer scene.”
“There have been so many amazing things to enjoy this year. My highlights have to include the bright and beautiful paintings of David Hockney at the Royal Academy and the fabulous glamour of the musical Top Hat. I was thrilled to explore the Cutty Sark when it reopened looking more stunning than ever before. I loved the giant Olympic Rings at Tower Bridge and watching the city welcome the Olympic Games. I went to see the beach volleyball and loved the feeling of being on a beach in the middle of Horse Guard’s Parade. It has been an incredible 2012 for me!”
“Who wouldn’t put this year’s summer of sport as the number one highlight of 2012? However, it wasn’t just the sporting competitions that stood out for me. The showcase of celebrations and cultural events pulled together by the Mayor’s office was fantastic. In particular, the breath-taking open-air performance of Bells in Finchley, North London, on the day that the Olympic torch passed through the area. This aerial dance performance, a collaboration between Theater Tol (Belgium) and Akademi (London), was utterly original and awe-inspiring.
My kids also loved tracking down the many disguised Wenlocks and Mandevilles that were dotted around London throughout the summer. The trails were reminiscent of the Faberge egg hunt at Easter, which they also enjoyed.”
“Aside from the all the buzz and excitement that goes with living and working in an Olympic city over the summer, there have been plenty of pre- and post-Games highlights. The bunting, the cake, and the precious hours before the torrential rain made for a brilliant Diamond Jubilee celebration in Battersea Park – I even saw the Queen as she floated past on the Royal Barge! The David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy lived up to all the hype and I also ticked a couple of London’s smaller museums off my list – Keat’s House and the Freud Museum. My favourite theatre of the year was undoubtedly Constellations (but in a parallel universe it might not beâ€¦)”
“From Damien Hirst at Tate Modern to Fifty Years of Bond Style at the Barbican, 2012 has been a top year for exhibitions in London. I also loved seeing the totally bonkers Lucho Libre Mexican wrestling at Bethnal Green’s Resistance Gallery where I enjoyed a night of spandex, cabaret, comedy and body-slamming fun.
Culinary highlights included dinner at Ceviche, London’s hottest new Peruvian restaurant, and a delightful, great-value afternoon tea at Soho’s secret tea rooms, sited in a vintage-style room above a pub.
A visit to the Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park was a stand-out moment for me, as well as soaking up some of the cultural events that ran alongside London 2012 – seeing hats on some of the capital’s most famous statues as part of Hatwalk and being wowed by the Lords of Lightning, who flung four million volts of raw electricity at one another at the hip Frank’s bar, perched atop Peckham multi-storey car park in South London, which has epic views of the city’s skyline.”
“An incredible year in London for me: from watching the Diamond Jubilee Pageant at Battersea Park to white water rafting at an Olympic venue, going up the Orbit during the 2012 games and bouncing on Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege (an inflatable Stonehenge) . My theatre highlights have included Chariots of Fire, Last of the Haussmann’s, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, and Constellations. From a foodie perspective I have loved all the street food at the South Bank and the most amazing breakfast with breath-taking panoramic views of London from the Duck and Waffle. There were so many surprises too, including the amazing pop-up circus spectacular in Piccadilly Circus and watching London’s Bridges dazzle. Roll on 2013 I can’t wait!
“My best experience of 2012 was at the Paralympic Games. After a few hours spent looking around the Olympic Park, enjoying the architecture, parklands and friendly atmosphere, I headed into the stadium for the athletics. I saw Oscar Pistorius unexpectedly lose the T44 200m final and David Weir roar into the lead at the last minute to win the 5,000m wheelchair race. So exciting! I thought the tickets were amazing value at just £20.
My second pick of the year is David Hockney: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts. I loved walking through room after room of Hockney’s big, colourful paintings. I was impressed by the fact that he has remained so productive and creative into his 70s, experimenting with new technologies such as iPad drawings, and spending days working outside in the Yorkshire countryside with spectacular results.”
What was your highlight of the year in London?