Director’s Diary: Think Deep for Half Term

Last week I attended an interesting and very well attended launch of Thinkdeep http://www.tduk.org Their mission: To inform and guide the general public, decision makers, politicians and professionals how the use of urban underground space can create better cities with socio-economic benefits for society. This is important work. I am sure you are also familiar with APGUS whose party visited the Thames Tunnel in 2010, during construction work on the East London Line extension. Adam Stuart (Balfour Beatty) and I took the parliamentarians around, and before they arrived I asked APGUS Chair Helen Nattrass if the tunnelling industry had a message for their Lordships. Yes: ‘build it properly, because you never know what it will be used for’. This seems counter intuitive, but it is true: Brunel could not have imagined his tunnel as part of London’s busy underground system, nor motor vehicles on his famous bridge in Bristol, but these are expensive bits of infrastructure, so of course they have been re-used.

Because I was properly brought up, I made no mention to either group of the obvious and consistent use made of underground spaces. But last night the Tunnel of Love was throbbing with activity. Brunel’s First Project opened in 1843 as – amongst other things – the world’s largest underground meeting space for lovers. Last night – being the closest Saturday to the day itself – the Grand Entrance Hall was busy with torch songs, and two hundred and fifty amorous visitors were in very good voice. The Midnight Apothecary served aphrodisiac cocktails, and Eros himself (possibly a volunteer, but impeccably costumed and armed with love darts) watched over the whole affair, like Juliet, from our new balcony. During the breaks, I was pleased to see lovers in the Engine House scouring the display for advice and information: you must remember this was an entirely new French technique.

This week we have a group from St George’s International School, Rome. Last week we had a French school group from Gap, near Marseille. I take much pleasure explaining to these groups that a French man began construction of the London Underground, and I quietly enjoy my exercise of extraordinary self control, not once saying ‘Mind the Gap’. Not once. This week is half term and there will be more children in family groups for boat trips and workshop activities. All things Victorian, every day. Details here and below.

I shall return to BBC1’s TABOO when the children are safely back in school. But I will answer my own question about the East India Company and America by reminding us all that the Boston Tea Party was about tax and East India tea.

Sunday 12th February
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Monday 13th February
10.00 Thames Learning Group meet Tower Bridge Exhibition
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube: an extra day trip for half term holidays
12.00-15.00 Half term Activities for Crafty Engineers: Bring your parent. Look at the Thames and Make your own Stereoscopic Peepshow

Tuesday 14th February
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks and a party from Ireland
12.00-15.00 Half term Activities for Crafty Engineers: Bring your parent. Love is in the air, Love the Thames. Make your own Valentine’s Decoupage Frames

Wednesday 15th February
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks and a party from University of Third Age
12.00-15.00 Half term Activities for Crafty Engineers: Bring your parent. Get over the Thames. Design and build your own bridge
Family groups help our consultant Nicky Boyd with evaluation for Audience Development plan
18.15 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Thursday 16th February
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
12.00-15.00 Half term Activities for Crafty Engineers: Bring your parent. Remember the Thames. Make a medal to commemorate the biggest ship on the Thames, SS Great Eastern 1858

Friday 17th February
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
12.00-15.00 Half term Activities for Crafty Engineers: Bring your parent and smell the Thames. Keep the Great Stink away with your own fragrant herb bag

Saturday 18th February
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
13.30 lunch at the Tunnel Club, Mayflower pub upper room