London’s Newly Elected Mayor
THE NEWLY-elected Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, having retained his seat at City Hall by the narrowest of margins, and immediately called for a new airport in the Thames Estuary to take the pressure off West Londoners. He beat Ken Livingstone who said he would not contest the Mayoral seat again. Jenny Jones of the Green Party came third, pushing the Lib Dems back into fourth place.
Johnson said that a new airport would be an incredible expression of confidence in the dynamism of this country. Driverless tube trains are another much-heralded project. He said: “We will drive through the reforms and the transport of this city will be better for it.” Would he consider running for a third term at City Hall? “No, I’ve said that eight years is enough for any politician and I think that’s the truth.”
WEST END STARS JOIN JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
The best of the West End will help celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as the cast of Billy Elliot join stars of War Horse and The Lion King in the Jubilee Family Festival in Hyde Park next month.
The Billy Elliot team will perform the number Electricity in the two-day event backed by Sainsbury’s. Former Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo, who wrote the book War Horse, will join the stage version’s puppets Joey and Topthorn while Lion King performers will take part in the “magic of Disney” concert finale. Strictly Come Dancing’s 2010 winner Kara Tointon and her dance partner and fiancé, Artem Chigvintsev, will also perform.
Blind soprano Lissa Hermans will sing her version of God Save the Queen, which will be the first single version of the national anthem when it is released for charity this month.
RING OF MISSILE SITES IN CAPITAL
Six batteries will protect Olympic Park from jet attack, one battery possibly positioned near a playground in Waltham Forest, with the others providing round-the-clock cover from Blackheath Common, the Lea Valley Reservoir, Oxleas Wood, Barn Hill in Epping Forest and on top of a block of flats in Bow.
General Sir Nick Parker, in charge of Olympic operations, said: “We are practising the worst-case scenario, not the most likely scenario but we believe that it is prudent to be prepared. It is sensible to prepare for the worst.”
REINFORCEMENTS FROM MANCHESTER BROUGHT IN TO END PASSPORT QUEUES
Extra passport staff were drafted into Heathrow as passengers complained of continuing border delays and the row over the chaos at the airport intensified. Immigration union leaders said UK Border Force officers from Manchester had been rushed down to help in London following a barrage of criticism about the excessive delays.
There were reports of long queues as passengers arriving from North America into Terminal 3 complained of large numbers of unmanned passport desks.
Steve Ridgway, the head of Virgin Atlantic, joined the attack over the border chaos by accusing ministers of economic “madness”. He said the Government had blundered by cutting border guard numbers without ensuring that adequate technology was available to replace them – and warned that ministers were jeopardising the country’s prosperity when Britain needed “everything it can get” from overseas business and tourism.
BRAVE NEW UNDERWORLD
At long last, the Heathrow to Stratford rail link is under full-scale construction. Phyllis, named after Phyllis Pearsall, 1930s creator of the London A-Z, is essentially a 150-metre long underground factory on rails with a seven-metre drill bit on the front. She will roar into life at Royal Oak in a few weeks’ time. Edging forward by about 100m a week through the clay, she will emerge at Farringdon in autumn next year.
Crossrail has been talked about for 40 years but the turning point came from 2005-2007, following London’s successful Olympic bid and in the run-up to the 2008 mayoral election. Aided by the clout of the mayoralty and an innovative funding programme, Ken Livingstone, No 10 and the Department for Transport finally overcame Treasury resistance.
London’s new railways may never quite match the glamour of their Victorian roots. But if they get more of us back and forth across the city more quickly, most Londoners will gladly settle for that.
SELFRIDGES HITS THE LOUD PEDAL WITH PIANO ACCOMPANIMENT
Superstar architect, Renzo Piano, has been appointed to redesign the world-famous department store, Selfridges, by the billionaire owners, the Weston family and an enormous glass-roofed space at the centre will be an important feature.
Creative director, Alannah Weston, said a year ago: “My goal is to make Selfridges a destination where people can have an extraordinary experience. I have to surprise, amaze and amuse them.”
Piano, the 74-year-old Italian architect of the Shard, and those brightly coloured offices in St Giles, works from hillside offices on the coast near Genoa, where he was born.
The shy, solid, philanthropic Weston family will have appealed to Piano, who turns down hundreds of commissions a year. What will he dream up? The basic idea is to make the 540,000-square-foot store 40 percent bigger by adding an extra 200,000 square feet of trading space. A five-star hotel at the back to replace the now closed Thistle? Probably, by no office tower or expensive flats apparently.
PEERLESS VISION OF LONDON FROM OLYMPIC SCULPTURE
From the top of its twisting red steel coils you can see the Shard, St Paul’s, Crystal Palace and Wembley Stadium. And, of course, the Olympic site laid out beneath you. The completion of the 114.5 metre-high Arcelor Mittal Orbit Tower, which cost £22.7m, was then marked by a ceremony May 11, attended by sculptor Anish Kapoor, designer and engineer Cecil Balmond, sponsor Lakshmi Mittal and Mayor Boris Johnson.
The vista is extraordinary. Critics will say the structure has the best views of the Olympic site because when you’re up it, you can’t actually see it. But now it’s completed, the Orbit seems to impose less on the buildings around it.
Not ideal for vertigo sufferers, but a must-see for connoisseurs of high views of the capital.
THE YOUNG ONES PLAY IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE
More than 70 young musicians from east London joined one of the world’s greatest conductors on May 12 for the first outdoors performance in Trafalgar Square by a full symphony orchestra.
Conductor Valery Gergiev said the concert by the London Symphony Orchestra and members of its youth learning scheme was fun. He also hopes it will attract young people to listen to classical music for the first time. He said he hoped they would find it interesting and become a passion for the rest of their life.
The young performers played alongside the LSO’s musicians in The Lite of Spring, an adaptation of The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. The concert was the first in an annual series sponsored by BMW.
£100 ‘SECURITY’ LEVY ON BOATS IN THAMES PAGEANT
The 1,000 boats taking part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee pageant have been hit with last-minute charges to cover security. Dozens of passenger boats carrying spectators on Sunday, June 3 – the biggest royal river festival for 350 years – will be asked to stump up £100.
The majority of the smaller craft, including Dunkirk’s little ships, row boats, canal boats and the Havengore launch that carried Churchill’s coffin, will pay £10.
It is the latest example of the festival, costing £10.5m, being forced to abandon plans for being self-funding and free to the public after potential sponsors such as Unilever and British Airways failed to contribute.
A spokesman for the pageant said security had been increased since the event was announced, leading to the charges. The news has received a mixed reaction on boating message boards. One said: “What next – charge to use the water taxis, charge for the security bracelets, and charge for the compulsory pennant?”
Heard about the Irishman who was taking his driving test? He failed because he opened the door to let the clutch out!!