Summer in the City

Summer in the City
Credit Kathleen Arundell Photography

Angela Sharda talks to historian Dr Michelle Johansen about her new course Summer in the City (1850s-1960s).

Discover summer in the nineteenth and twentieth-century city using guidebooks, maps, photographs, and pamphlets from Bishopsgate Institute’s special collections.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the course?

A. We want to celebrate summer by looking back at the ways in which Londoners have spent time outdoors during warm weather in the past, whether that’s hanging out in parks or beside the river, or going along to seasonal events like the fair on Hampstead Heath or grass theatre performances on Streatham Common.

Q. How did you go about sourcing images and information for this event?

A. I’ve spent over twenty years rummaging about in the archives at Bishopsgate Institute so I’m quite familiar with our collections by now! For this course, I headed straight to the London Collections and started fetching up the guidebooks, pamphlets, and photographs which I felt told the story of Summer in the City in the most exciting and visually attractive way. So students will get to handle and view beautiful large-format guides to the River Thames, full of evocative watercolours of life on the water (boating parties were hugely popular in the early part of the period the workshop covers). For those fascinated by facts and figures, there will be pamphlets produced by those in charge of London’s green spaces, which include stats on things like the numbers of bulbs planted each year in the city’s parks!

Q. What are the most exciting parts of this workshop?

A. The unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the subject by handling original sources, many of them over one hundred years old and all of them offering rich – and sometimes unexpected – insight into life in London in summer.

Q. What do you hope people will learn and takeaway from this session?

A. I hope people will see the city differently after spending an evening discovering the past through historical documents and images. I’d like the workshop to enrich their relationship with the city and its parks, river, people, and buildings. Our hands-on history workshops always seem to surprise and delight students by providing new nuggets of information about the city so most of all I’d like people to go away thinking “I didn’t know that about…”, for example, Battersea Funfair or model yachting or ice-houses or the Embankment Gardens.

Q. Why should people attend?

A. To learn something new in a friendly environment that may change the way they view or experience “Summer in the City” in the future!

Wednesday 19 July at Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4QH

Booking link or 

Tickets are priced at £16.

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