London Winter Walks

Ever wondered where London’s first theatre was built? What it was like to live in the Jewish Ghetto of Victorian East London? What links a samosa to The Odeon in Whitechapel, and where King’s Cross really is? The Cultural Capital Exchange (TCCE), a membership network for London’s academics are putting on a weekend of walks 28 February - 2 March, where expert London academics will share their painstakingly researched secrets from London’s history with members of the public.

The range of highly eclectic and unusual walks will take place over the weekend in King’s Cross, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Mile End, Farringdon and the City, spanning many topics and disciplines to include: The Lost Theatres of Shakespeare, Cinema and Migration, Public Lettering and Typography, Jewish Immigrant Life in London’s East End, Developing a Phenological Clock, Locating King’s Cross, and Walking and Reading in the City. Each walk lasts between one and two hours and costs £8, with bookings available online at:

Phil Baines, Professor of Typography at Central Saint Martins will lead the walk Exploring London’s Rich Tradition of Letter Writing. He says, “This is walking with a purpose, looking up and down more than ahead. Seeking out the traces of who went before, and what they did, as well as admiring the skill and artistry of the letters they carved, painted, gilded or glazed.”

Tamara Atkin, Medieval and Renaissance English Lecture at Queen Mary University will lead the walk on The Lots Of Theatres of Shakespeare’s London and adds that,  “When you jump on a tube at Moorgate and emerge two stops later at Farringdon you imagine that you have travelled some considerable distance. But walking the same route, it’s immediately apparent just how small the city of London really is. One of the things I love about walks is the way they encourage us to reassess distance, to reimagine the ways that spaces are connected, both geographically, and also by and through the people and places that once populated familiar landscapes. Bringing together research into late medieval and early modern theatrical practice, this walk aims to animate the Elizabethan and Jacobean past, both through invoking the words spoken in theatres, taverns and on the streets of Shakespeare’s London, but also through the traces of his London that live on in the names of modern streets and buildings.”

(Please click on the titles below for further information and to book)


Smithfields and St Bart’s: Exploring London’s rich tradition of public lettering

Walk Guides: Professor Phil Baines & Dr Catherine Dixon, Central Saint Martins.

Meet at 2pm, Farringdon Underground Station

Britain has a particularly rich tradition of public lettering, which encompasses formal carved inscriptions on grand buildings, as well as many more utilitarian examples. The visual success of the larger examples is due to a combination of factors in addition to the quality of the lettering itself. Scale, position and material all have a crucial role to play. Smithfield is an area dense with examples, from small scale architects’ dedications at St Bart’s, to grandiose naming by the Port of London Authority. The walk forms a circuit round the streets surrounding the market and includes St Bart’s, it starts and finishes at Farringdon Underground station.


Places of Play: The Lost Theatres of Shakespeare’s London 

Walk Guide: Tamara Atkin, Queen Mary University London

Meet 11am, exact location will be revealed to participants

Think of Whitechapel and whatever you think of you probably don’t think of the theatre. But in 1567, Whitechapel was the location of London’s first purpose-built theatre, the Red Lion.

On this walking tour we’ll visit the sites of some of Elizabethan and Jacobean London’s most important theatres in east London: the recently rediscovered Curtain, where Henry V was first performed; The Fortune, for which the original dimensions still survive; and The Red Bull, notorious for  rowdy and occasionally violent audiences. Today, with its clubs and pubs, galleries and shops, east London remains a centre for entertainment and this walking tour will seek out its origins as a place of play.

Where is King’s Cross? An AIR Silent Walk

Walk Guides: Tilly Fowler and Anna Hart, AIR Central Saint Martins

Meet at 2pm at King’s Cross, exact location will be revealed to participants

“I used to live in Kings Cross in the late 80s. In those days it was south of the Euston Road”

AIR makes silent walks to prompt paying attention to the everyday state of a place and the walks are often the beginning of something else.  The ‘Where is Kings Cross’ walk has been developing over the last two years since Central Saint Martins moved to the Granary Square site. For TCCE’s Winter Walking Weekend it will weave two overlapping circles through the neighbourhood’s rapidly changing and increasingly contested public spaces.

Walking and Talking Books

Walk Guide: Lizzi Kew Ross & Co, Trinity Laban

Meet at 4pm, Paternoster Square

In Walking and Talking Books walk participants will discuss one of series of books while walking through a number of interconnected routes in the City of London. The idea is based on an upcoming dance performance piece, Reading with Bach, which is inspired by observing people reading as they walk and read through the city. The books and their subjects that will form the starting points for these conversations include: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel on Thomas Cromwell; Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal on the collection of objects and Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wildness by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts on the contrasts of urban space and our ideas of wilderness.


Wild Walk: Helping to develop a phenological clock

Exploring natural seasonal events and enlisting observers/documenters for the local urban spring emergence. 

Walk Guides: Fran Gallardo and Kathryn Yusoff, Queen Mary University, and Natalie Jeremijenko, Goldsmiths, NYU

Meet at 11am, Queen’s Building, exact location to be revealed to participants

Designed to introduce the walkers to local urban flora and fauna, the aim of this highly participative walk is to encourage people to take pictures of budding and blooming and other phenological events. These will then be uploaded to contribute to the development of local Phenological Clock.  This is a clock that displays the times of blooming, budding, fruiting and migration events of local natural systems. Phenology is our most sensitive indicator of climate destabilization. The capacity to redesign our collective relationship to natural systems depends on our knowledge and intuitions of the complex web of interconnections that produce a healthy urban environment. This representation of time via the phonological clock aims to help point us towards a biodiverse and healthy future.

Into the Ghetto: Writing Jewish immigrant life in Victorian Whitechapel

Walk Guide: Dr Nadia Valman, Queen Mary, University of London

Meet at 2pm in Whitechapel, exact location to be revealed to participants

To mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Anglo-Jewish writer Israel Zangwill, this walk will use his extraordinary novel, Children of the Ghetto as a guide to Whitechapel.

First published in 1892 to great acclaim, Zangwill’s novel was the first to reveal the complex subculture of Jewish immigrant life in the ‘ghetto’ of London’s East End.

Set in the dilapidated terraced houses and raucous street markets of the Victorian East End, the novel evokes a Whitechapel that is both familiar and unfamiliar to us today.

In this walk, we will discover traces of Zangwill’s ‘ghetto’ in the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields and explore how its political, religious and social life was documented in his witty prose.

Samosas at the Odeon: Immigrants, cinema and everyday life in London’s East End

Walk Guide: Dr Gil Toffell, Queen Mary, University of London

Meet at 4pm on Brick Lane, exact location to be revealed to participants

The East End has long been recognised as a key site of multicultural settlement in Britain. Rarely discussed, however, is the important role the cinema has played in the communal life of immigrant groups in the area.

With particular focus on East London’s historical Jewish and South Asian communities, this walk will explore the rich and varied everyday life of now vanished cinema spaces – discussing how catcalls in Yiddish and the acrid tang of Jewish pickles wafting through the auditorium accompanied screenings at the ‘Pavilion Theatre’ on Whitechapel Road, and how Brick Lane’s ‘Naz’ became a base for political action against a rising far-right threat during the 1970s – as well as considering how these sites passed from one community to another.

TCCE website / Facebook / Twitter

Share this article

Featured Work

Zak Ové

View Details


View Details

Channel 4

View Details

Dartmouth Films | Magic Medicine

View Details