Visit London Blog » horniman museum Enjoy the very best of London Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:00:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I’m With the Band: Top 10 London Attractions for Musicians Tue, 04 Mar 2014 09:00:36 +0000

London has long been a magnet for the world’s most famous singers and bands – and it’s produced a fair few itself, from Queen to Amy Winehouse. So the city is full of great attractions where musicians and lovers of music can learn about their idols, buy classic records and even record a tune. Here are 10 of the best:

Abbey Road
The iconic Beatles album cover picturing the famous four walking over a zebra crossing on London’s Abbey Road has inspired endless copies and parodies. The nearby Abbey Road Studios are not open to the public (unless you’ve booked a recording session), but they do have a live web cam online so why tell your friends back home to look out for you doing the famous walk?

Jersey Boys
Even if you’re not familiar with the name Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, you’ll know their songs: Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye), Big Girls Don’t Cry, Beggin’, December 1963 (better known as Oh What A Night)… the list goes on. So Jersey Boys, the Olivier Award-winning musical about the band, is a must for all music fans – even if you think you’re not into musicals! Other great musicals to check out include Thriller – Live (Michael Jackson) and We Will Rock You (Queen).

British Music Experience
Roll back the years at the British Music Experience (located inside The O2) and explore amazing outfits, instruments, videos, photos and other memorabilia from the past and present of British popular music. Look out for John Lennon’s glasses, Ziggy Stardust’s 1970s number outfit and ‘Ginger Spice’ Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress. Plus you can show your best moves in the Dance The Decades booth, record a track in the Gibson Interactive Studio and transport yourself to some of the biggest concerts of the past 60 years in The Finale.

Open Mic Night at The Spice of Life
Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Jamie Cullum have all performed at The Spice of Life in Soho. And you can too if you pop along to its Open Mic Night, held every Monday. Make use of the in-house piano and PA, or bring along your own instrument. The music kicks off at 7pm, but performers should sign up at 6.30pm to be sure of getting a spot.

Denmark Street
Denmark Street, near Leicester Square, is known as London’s Tin Pan Alley. Both sides of the small street are lined with music shops, including Wunjo Guitars (selling new, used and vintage guitars), Vintage & Rare Guitars and Stick around into the evening to enjoy live music at the intimate 12 Bar Club or Alleycat Bar Club, located below Regent Sounds Studio – where the Rolling Stones recorded their first album.

Rock and Roll London Walk
If you love to be regaled by tales of rockstar exploits, book a spot on the fascinating, two-hour-long Rock and Roll London Walk. You’ll visit the famous Marquee Club, pop into the pub where Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton once jammed, discover the location of the Sex Pistols’ world debut, and much more. No need to book, just turn up at Tottenham Court Road station (Exit 3) any Friday at 2pm.

Honest Jon’s Records
Arguably the most legendary of London’s independent record stores, Honest Jon’s is the retail arm of the acclaimed record label of the same name. Specialising in reggae, jazz and soul, Honest Jon’s has enjoyed a colourful, rollercoaster existence since its birth in 1974 and is still considered to be one of London’s best record shops by those in the know.

Wembley Arena
Every musician dreams of shouting “Hello Wembley!” to a sea of screaming fans – and many have done it, including Madonna, David Bowie and Prince. Check out Visit London’s music section for listings of gigs taking place every night across London at venues including Wembley Arena.

Music Gallery at Horniman Museum
See, hear and play instruments from around the world at Horniman Museum – from a 3,500-year-old pair of Egyptian bone clappers to a retro synth. Make time to visit ongoing exhibition The Art of Harmony, exploring Western classical music traditions, as well as the Hands-On Base, where you can give the instruments a go. Other London music museums to check out are The Royal Academy of Music Museum and The Royal College of Music’s Museum of Instruments.

Hard Rock Cafe
Today there are Hard Rock Cafes all around the world, but the London branch is where it all began in 1971. The walls of the restaurant – and the vault below – are lined with memorabilia, including the first piece donated to the cafe: Eric Clapton’s Lead II Fender. You may even spot the odd rock star popping in for a burger, according to the cafe – or witness one of the occasional jamming sessions. And if you don’t, you’ll still get a great meal out of it.

]]> 0
Togo in London: African Worlds Gallery at the Horniman Museum Thu, 12 Jan 2012 10:00:55 +0000 Drum with membrane, red textile and bells at either end. Part of set with beater Wooden female Ho Ho figure (one of twin set), wearing blue dress 'Hare' green lipstick in green and gold plastic container Bottle of perfume called Bint El Sudan Gourd rattle with blue and yellow plastic beads Anyu soap in pink box

Where can you find something in London which represents the small West African Nation of Togo? The answer is in Forest Hill. More specifically, in the African Worlds Gallery of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, a  treasure trove of objects collected from across Africa.

We’ve been to the Horniman before on our World in London journey, in fact, we’ve previously featured the very Vooduon altar where the objects from Togo can be found.

Nestled among the pieces in the Mami Wata altar from Benin, are a few seemingly random objects from neighbouring Togo. Not much is known about these objects, which were acquired during a field trip in 1998. They include a glass perfume bottle, a green lipstick (!), a rattle, a drum and wooden figures.

All these objects are on display at the museum and can be seen on the Mami Wata altar, apart from the perfume bottle which is positioned out of view.

Do you know anywhere else where you can find Togoan culture in London?

]]> 0
Family Friendly Museum Award: Vote for Your Family’s Favourite London Museum Thu, 20 Oct 2011 15:10:32 +0000

In the run-up to Half Term, Dea Birkett, writer and founder of the Family Friendly Museum Award, reveals her family’s favourite London museums

What’s the most family friendly museum in Britain? The 2012 Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award has been launched – the biggest museum award in Britain and the only one judged by families. Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, museums are great places for families. They might still have a few stuffed animals, but they’re far from stuffy.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is free – and the biggest museum ever to be shortlisted for the Family Friendly Award. It’s a treasure trove of 3000 years of beautiful artefacts, with backpacks for kids full of quizzes and jigsaws.

My 10-year-old twins love Tipu’s Tiger – an automaton showing the ferocious beast killing a man. My teenager prefers Kylie’s dressing room, transplanted with her stage costumes and even half-used lip gloss to the Theatre and Performance gallery.

The Horniman Museum in South London has been shortlisted for the Award twice. Set in wonderful gardens to play and picnic in, this museum is quite literally alive and buzzing.

In the Nature Base gallery for under eights, you can watch bees make honey in a glass-sided hive, spot beetles and harvest mice, listen to bats and learn about fox droppings. There’s a world-renowned music collection and a room where you can bang, strum and pluck unusual instruments. There’s even an aquarium in the basement.

The Geffrye Museum in East London is an 18th-century almshouse. You take a 400-year walk through a series of middle class living rooms, each decorated and furnished in a different era from 17th-century oak panelling to a late 20th-century converted warehouse living space. We always argue about which one we’d prefer to live in.

These are some of my family’s favourites. But what’s yours?

How to make a nomination for the Family Friendly Award:

Just say why your favourite museum should win.

Post: Family Friendly Museum Award, Kids in Museums, 49-51 East Road, London N1 6AH
Deadline for nominations: 2 December 2011

Find out more about Kids in Museums at

]]> 0
Benin in London: Benin Vodoun Altar for Mami Wata Mon, 05 Sep 2011 09:00:15 +0000  

This colourful altar from West African country Benin is on permanent display in the Horniman Museum’s African Worlds gallery.

Vodoun (voodoo) is widely practised in Benin and this altar is dedicated to the vodoun water spirit Mami Wata.

Where else in London can you find examples of Benin culture?

]]> 0
Ghana in London: Nzinga Dance Fri, 11 Mar 2011 14:36:27 +0000

For the latest in our World in London series, we put on our dancing shoes and spoke to Deanna Michel-de Sousa, leader of African performing arts ensemble Nzinga Dance, which teaches African drumming and dance at south London’s Horniman Museum

What does Nzinga Dance do?

Our main remit is bringing African history, culture and tradition to life – telling its story with dance and music. The classes are about coming along and learning traditional dance and drumming – and about their importance in African culture – but in a fun and creative way.

We do lots of performances at the museum and elsewhere too – for Refugee Week, Adult Learners’ Week, at summer festivals… We’re not just at the Horniman!

Are all the Nzinga teachers Ghanaian?

There’s a mixture of people, mainly Ghanaian and a couple of us from St Lucia – the one person that isn’t is from Pakistan, so there you go! We’re an African-Caribbean group but a lot of what we teach and perform is from Ghana.

Ghanaian dance is a big part of what we do. In terms of African dance culture, Ghana has prolific dancers and musicians. You have one country but within that country so many different nations – whether it’s Ewe, Ashanti or Ga – and each has their own style. You find literally hundreds of dances and that’s what’s quite unique about Ghanaian dance and drumming – there’s a lot to learn and pick from as well. So within one course, we may say to people we’re teaching Ghanaian dance but that can include completely different styles.

Who comes to your dance classes? Ghanaians living in London or a mixture of people?

We get a mix of people, although we do have Ghanaian students who come along that haven’t learnt so much about their culture in that respect and just feel that they really want to touch base and learn.  It’s nice that people want to come along – both Ghanaian and non-Ghanaian – and learn about African culture in a creative way, and in a really social atmosphere.

What do your students think about the course?

Most of them say they enjoy coming along because it’s a non-competitive atmosphere and they feel that what they’re learning is authentic. We can be specific – we can say you’ve learnt Kpanlogo dance from this place in Ghana – and they like that feeling of knowing what they’ve been taught and the significance of it in history and culture. For example, that when I’m dancing this step, it means this or that.

I think we get lots of students, too, because of the live drumming [the djembe drummers who accompany the dance classes]. Not knocking anyone who uses a CD, but I think it being authentic is a big part of drawing people. I think that’s why we’re still going strong.

See Nzinga Dance (and their students) perform at the Nzinga Dance Ensemble Concert on 27 March 2011 at Horniman Museum. The next term of Nzinga dance and drumming courses for adults and children at Horniman Museum begin on 1 May 2011.

Do you know anywhere else you can experience Ghanaian culture in London? Let us know in the comments below.

]]> 3
Two London Museums up for Family-Friendly Award Wed, 16 Feb 2011 12:13:18 +0000 Two London museums have been nominated for this year’s Guardian Family-Friendly Museum Award.

Congratulations to the Horniman Museum and Geffrye Museum, both of which made the long list for the national award. (The same two museums were up for the prize in 2009.)

A shortlist will be announced next month, and a panel of families will then road test each museum anonymously and decide on a winner.

If you fancy taking part as a judging family, get in touch with the organisers at

]]> 0
Haiti in London: The Horniman Museum’s Haitian Vodou Altar Fri, 12 Nov 2010 10:30:48 +0000 A view of the whole altar. Image © the Horniman Museum A goblin-like figure at the bottom of the altar. Photo by the author The Vodou Altar in all its glitzy glory. Photo by the author A coffin with a skull inside it, next to a bottle. Photo by the author A sequin-covered bottle, and a dolls head in a jar. Photo by the author A skull with money in its eye sockets, plus tinsel. Photo by the author

There’s plenty in the news about the plight of Haiti at the moment. But for our World in London series, I wanted to highlight something other than the earthquake and cholera outbreaks that we associate with Haiti today. Haiti is an historic country, with a colourful past and a fascinating blend of cultures. In the Horniman Museum, you can find a Haitian Vodou Altar that has been created with guidance from Haitian priests, a piece of Haiti right here in South East London.

The first thing that strikes me about the Vodou Altar is just how glitzy it is. After examining Mestizo’s Day of the Dead altar last week, I’m getting used to seeing different worshipping platforms, but I wasn’t prepared for this. Every piece of the altar seems to shimmer and shine with gaudy sequins and colourful material. The Haitian spirits must really enjoy their bling.

There are skulls with dollar bills in their eye sockets, dolls’ heads in bottles, brightly coloured scarves, tinsel, bottles of alcohol, and a very strange-looking goblin at the base, its head fixed to a cross with a single eye embedded into its tongue. Alongside the more weird and wonderful items, you can also see more everyday things, like a simple straw hat, and what looks like a tube of mascara.

I learn that this altar is dedicated to spirits including:

  • La Sirene, the goddess of the sea (linked to the sirens of Greek mythology). The sequin flags symbolise her presence
  • Baron Samdi, the spirit chief of the graveyard, is represented by the coffin shaped bottles, the skulls and the snake stick
  • Papa Zaka is associated with farming. His dedicated objects include the straw hat, clothing and bag, which on first glance look quite incongruous against the other more decorated items
  • Ezulie Danton, the goddess of beauty and love, is represented by those weird-looking dolls heads in bottles

Alongside these items, you can see the mixing of Catholic and traditional African beliefs that make Haiti unique: pictures of Christian saints like St Michael, with wings and a sword are a reminder of the clash of cultures in the 16th century when Europeans brought African slaves to Haiti. The Horniman’s fantastic website explains that this process of mixing continues today; altars in Haiti include images from American popular culture such as Darth Vader and Fred Flintstone.

Check out the Haitian Vodou Altar in the African Worlds gallery at the Horniman Museum. Entrance to the Horniman is free, and the museum is open every day between 10.30am and 5.30pm. And if you know of any other opportunities to explore Haitian culture in London, add them to the comments below.

]]> 6
Romania in London: The Romanian Cultural Centre and Romanian Film Festival Tue, 12 Oct 2010 10:36:09 +0000

Ramona Mitrica, director of the Romanian Cultural Centre, explains the rich community of Romanian film, art and more in London for our World in London series:

“I joined the Centre in 2002, a time when the Romanian community in the UK started to grow. The Centre is funded by the Ratiu Foundation, a charitable body established in 1979 by the Romanian dissident and democracy campaigner Ion Ratiu and his wife Elisabeth.

“Our activities are run by a great team of volunteers, many of them Ratiu Scholars – Romanian but also British – who give generously in order to make our projects reality. We also have the friendship of important UK-based Romanian businessmen, such as Nicolae Ratiu (our chairman) and George Iacobescu, the CEO of Canary Wharf.”

Where can you find examples of Romanian culture in London?

“Anyone wanting to find information about Romanian culture can visit us in Manchester Square. We organise events on a regular basis, where anyone with an interest in Romania is welcome to attend.

Romanian films are also screened regularly in London’s cinemas, such as the Curzon and the Ritzy. Following Romanian successes at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals, the BFI London Film Festival has featured Romanian films every year since 2005.

“London museums host some Romanian artefacts such as the Horniman Museum in South East London. Tate Modern has several works by the great Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi and also works by the late, London-based sculptor Paul Neagu.

“Romanian musicians perform on a regular basis on London stages, from the Wigmore Hall to the Royal Festival Hall, and from the Royal Opera House to the LSO: the great soprano Angela Gheorghiu, violinist Alexander Balanescu and the Balanescu Quartet, ballerina Alina Cojocaru, conductor Cristian Mandeal, the Belcea Quartet, the Contempo Quartet, Taraf de Haidouks, Fanfare Ciocarlia – and the list could go on.

“We publish details of all Romania-related events in our electronic cultural diary.”

Tell us about the Romanian Film Festival. How is the RCC involved?

“The Romanian Film Festival is organised by the Romanian Cultural Centre, with the help of Curzon Cinemas, our UK partners, and the National Centre of Cinematography in Bucharest, our Romanian partners.

“We build a strong line-up every year, and for each edition we invite film specialists from Romania – directors, actors, screenwriters, critics – in order to give the festival a broader context.”

What do you like about living in London? Why do you think it appeals to Romanians?

“I cannot speak for all the Romanians living London but, from my own experience and from what I know from friends, Romanians here love the dynamism of this great city and its vibrant, colourful life. It is amazing how all types of people can meet here and work and live together.

“I also love the way in which culture, history and living history meet in London. Then there are the lovely parks and gardens which can make you feel you are not in a city with some other 11 million people. Especially Holland Park, Hampstead Heath, or the Temple Gardens near the Royal Court of Justice.

“London is a great place to be student, as many of our Ratiu Scholars, MA and PhD students in London’s universities assure us. London is a very cosmopolitan place, where cultures meet, and where everybody can have their fair share of cultural events. Here, cultural immersion is a fact of life.”

Visit for more info on the Romanian Cultural Centre, and the film festival.

Where else in London have you experienced Romanian culture? Tell us in the comments below.

]]> 8
Two London Museums Up For Kids in Museums Award Tue, 01 Dec 2009 11:27:49 +0000 The Geffrye Museum at ChristmasWe’re happy to announce that two of London’s museums have been nominated for the Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award.

The Geffrye Museum in East London and the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill are the two lucky venues to get a place on the long list.

Visit to see if your favourite regional museum has made it too.

The Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award is driving change in Britain’s museums. Hundreds of museums took up the challenge to make a nomination. The museums went to their visitors to ask them what they enjoyed most in a visit, using the Kids in Museums Manifesto as a guide.

The Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award is now firmly established as one of the most popular museum awards in Britain, attracting more nominations that any other. And it’s still the only award to be judged by families.

Fancy taking part as a judging family? Just email and let them know!

The 20-strong long list will now be presented to a panel of judges, chaired by Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund. Once this panel has drawn up a short list, those top museums will be road-tested, anonymously, by families. And it’s these families pick the winner of the 2009 Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award.

We want to wish both the Geffrye and the Horniman the best of luck!

]]> 0