Thursday, 28 April 2011

The National Gallery - An American Experiment Exhibition - Part 2

Welcome back to Access London and the second part of my series on The National Gallery and its exhibition 'An American Experiment: George Bellows and The Ashcan Painters'.

If you missed the post yesterday, please feel free to scroll down and read it. It contains details of access requirements if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter and also has an interesting interview with the Access Officer and Senior Information Manager at the gallery.

Today's post will focus more on the exhibition itself. Access London has been fortunate enough to interview the curator of the exhibition, here's what he had to say...

X7318, George Luks, Knitting for the soldiers: High Bridge Park, 1918, Copyright Photo Courtesy of the Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel. J, Terra Collection, Chicago, 1999.87

AL: Who are you and what is your role at The National Gallery?
CR: I am Christopher Riopelle, Curator of Post 1800 Paintings at The National Gallery. T: 020 7747 2804 E:

AL: What work and time is involved to bring an exhibition such as 'An American Experiment' to the UK?
CR: An American Experiment was put together in the relatively brief period of fourteen months from the time we propsed an exhibition on George Bellows and his colleagues to our collaborators on the project, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and I and my fellow curator, Katherine Bourguignon of the Terra Foundation, began to identify and solicit loans. From then, the usual tasks involved in mounting an exhibition with foreign loans kicked in; they simply had to be carried out by the various departments of the National Gallery on a speeded-up timetable.

x7315, William Glackens, Washington Square, 1910, Copyright New Britain Museum of American Art, Charles F. Smith Fund, 1944.03. Photo: Alex Morganti

AL: Why did the gallery choose this particular group of artists to dedicate an exhibition to?
CR: The purpose of our on-going collaboration with The Terra Foundation is to introduce aspects of the American painting tradition, little known here, to British and European audiences. There was broad agreement that Bellows is a remarkable artist, arguably the most innovative American painter of the early 20th Century, but that he is hardly known on this side of the Atlantic. This would be our opportunity to introduce him to a new audience, although it would always be a 'taste', rather than an exhaustive presentation. Because the exhibition was conceived as an introduction to Bellows, we also determined that we should show him in the context of his closest painterly colleagues, the so-called Ashcan Painters.

AL: Why were the 12 paintings in the exhibition specifically chosen to represent the painters and their style?
CR: We were particularly interested in showing Bellows as a landscape painter. This dictated our choice of paintings, especially the four views of Manhattan that hardly show Manhattan at all. We also wanted to show these artists as figurative painters and social commentators. As a major Bellows retrospective exhibition is coming to the Royal Academy in 2013, we did not want to duplicate works that will be shown there. With only one exception of a loan refused, because of the fragile condition of the painting, we were able to borrow all the works we asked for.

x7309 George Bellows, Blue Snow, The Battery, 1910, Copyright Columbus Museum of Art, Howald Fund Purchase 1958.035

AL: For those who have never heard of this group of artists before, how would you describe their style of art?
CR: These are realist painters dedicated to detailing the social scene in a rapidly changing and expanding America, and to forging a distinctive American school of painting. Their art of social realism is tinged with expressionism and with a new freedom in the handling of paint that had only recently been introduced into European avant-garde art.

AL: What influences and importance do you belive the Ashcan Painters had on 20th Century art?
CR: The importance of the Ashcan Painters for American art in the early 20th Century is universally acknowledged by American art historians. Because they have not been widely seen in a European context, we are still in the process of determining their wider importance of 20th Century art as a whole. Certainly Bellows' audacious handling of paint must place him among the innovators of painting technique in those decades.

x7314 George Bellows, The Big Dory, 1913, Copyright New Britain Museum of American Art, Harriet Russel Stanley Fund, 1944.21. Photo: Alex Morganti

AL: Can you sum up in 5 words or less what people can expect from this exhibition?
CR: Frankly, no. I find that too reductive. Visitors must find their own way, open their eyes to new artists they probably haven't known and, with the help of the exhibition catalogue, wall texts etc, make of it what they make of it.

Access London would like to offer a huge thank you to Chris Riopelle for taking the time to answer our questions and help us to open our eyes to artists we may not have heard of before. I would also like to thank Karen Bosomworth for allowing me to use images of some of the beautiful pieces that you can see at this exhibition.

An American Experiment is open to the public at the National Gallery until the end of May. It has free entry to all and is completely accessible to those with disabilities (please see previous post for more details on this).

Please feel free to leave a comment, follow the blog and help to spread the word on disability access and awareness in London.

COMING SOON: Pre-Theatre dinner, Tate Britain's Watercolour exhibition and The Royal Parks

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The National Gallery - An American Experiment Exhibition - Part 1

Welcome back to Access London, thank you for your continued support for disability access and awareness. Today's post is the first in a two-part series on The National Gallery and, in particular, one of its current exhibitions - 'An American Experiment: George Bellows and The Ashcan Painters'.

I recently visited this exhibition and was amazed by the rich colours and unique style of the artists. The exhibition is part of the National's attempt to showcase American art in the UK. This particular exhibition consists of 12 paintings, never before seen in the UK.

X7314 George Bellows, The Big Dory, 1913, Copyright New Britain Museum of American Art, Harriett Russell Stanley Fund 1944.21. Photo: Alex Morganti

Over half of the paintings in An American Experiment are by George Bellows, the other artists include, William Glackens, George Luks, John Sloan and Robert Henri. The paintings portray landscapes, urban scenes and portraits, all from the beginning of the 20th Century in America.

The National is free to visit and this particular exhibition is also free. The gallery is open from 10am-6pm daily with a late night on Fridays until 9pm. An American Experiment is in Room 1, just past the gift shop that is definitely worth a stop off for postcards of these paintings.

If you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, the gallery and exhibition are definitely accessible. Although the main entrance to The National, that is on Trafalgar Square, has steps, there is another entrance just next to it called The Getty entrance. This has a gentle slope up to it and a lift inside to take you to the entrance level. Once inside, there is a cafe to the right that is completely accessible. Along the walkway to the left is an accessible toilet and the lifts up to the exhibition floors.

If you are a blue badge holder, you can pre-book a parking space just behind the gallery on Orange Street by calling, 0207 747 2854.

x7307 George Bellows, North River, 1908, Copyright Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Philadelphia, Joseph E. Temple Fund 1909.2

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the gallery and especially An American Experiment - it certainly opened my eyes to some of the art being produced in America at the beginning of the 20th Century and to a relatively unknown group of artists here in the UK. The exhibition is open until May 30 2011.

In part 2 of this series there will be an interview with the exhibition's curator who will explain more about the paintings, artists and how the exhibition came together. Please visit again tomorrow to see what was said.

Access London has also been fortunate enough to interview 2 people from the education, access and information departments at the gallery, here's what they had to say....

AL: Who are you and what is your role at The National Gallery?
MB: My name is Miranda Baxter and I am the interim Access Officer at the National Gallery, situated within the education department. My colleague and I will share this wonderful opportunity to respond to your questions about access at the National Gallery.
My role as Access Officer is to collaborate with other departments across the gallery, like information, with whom I work very closely to ensure that the quality of visitor experience at the National Gallery continues to be delivered on all levels. In education specifically I organise a variety of BSL and BSL-interpreted talks about paintings and exhibitions at the gallery. Often I work with an adult learning team to design events that resonate cohesively and thematically with the other areas of educational and interpretive provision. I also organise description-based sessions called Art Through Words for Blind and Partially-Sighted Visitors on the last Saturday of every month. Each session focuses on one painting and participants are provided with high quality prints, including close-ups of interesting details. A specially trained educator provides a highly descriptive narrative of the painting, which is further enhanced by multi-sensory elements such as, poetry, story-telling, music and handling objects, as well as lively discussions. The session finishes with a visit to the gallery to see the painting in situ.
CM: My name is Chris Morton and I am the Senior Information Manager at The National Gallery. The Information Department's first responsibility is to provide exceptional service to all our visitors, by offering a warm, professional welcome, doing all we can to make sure they have a successful visit and a positive, enjoyable experience. Information staff are the first point of contact for many visitors, offering help, advice and information on all aspects of The National Gallery, whether navigating the building, exploring the collection or finding out about our huge range of exhibitions, events and activities.

AL: Can you briefly explain how the gallery is accessible to those with mobility problems/disabilities?
CM: The National Gallery provides access and assistance, where possible, to all visitors. The gallery consists of 2 buildings, both of which have level access. Wheelchairs, folding chairs, large-print labels, braille descriptions and large-print descriptions are available for key paintings, as well as audio guides (free for visually impaired visitors) and induction loops; water bowls are available for assistance dogs. The gallery also provides a parking space for Blue Badge Holders which can be booked in advance by contacting the Duty Manager's Office on 020 7747 2854. The gallery also offers a variety of events and lectures for deaf and visually impaired visitors, as my colleague Miranda mentioned above.

AL: Do you have a current exhibition on, available to those with disabilities?
NG: The main temporary exhibition is Jan Gossaert's Renaissance. Please see the gallery's website for further details of current free exhibitions and forthcoming exhibitions at the gallery

AL: Do you have any concessions for disabled visitors and/or their carers?
NG: Disabled visitors are entitled to a concession ticket to paid exhibitions and accompanying carers have free entry. The concession price for Jan Gossaert's Renaissance is £9 and there is a Tuesday afternoon offer from 2.30pm where all visitors entitled to a concession can purchase £5 entry.

AL: Can you sum up in 5 words The National Gallery experience?
NG: Eminent, Elegant, Inspiring, Inclusive and Educational

Access London would like to offer a huge thanks to both Miranda Baxter and Chris Morton for taking the time to answer our questions.

Please feel free to leave a comment, follow the blog and help to spread the word on disability access and awareness. Don't forget tomorrow's post with the curator of An American Experiment.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Theatre News - Phantom and Umbrellas

Welcome back to Access London, thank you for your continued support. This is just a quick update post in addition to this coming week's posts on the 'An American Experiment' Exhibition at The National Gallery.

Firstly, a very Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates it from Access London, I hope that everyone has been enjoying their long weekend and the beautiful London weather.

The first piece of information is the exciting news that Sofia Escobar has renewed her contract with The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre to play Christine for another year. Phantom will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year so it is an exciting time to be part of this much loved show.

Access London were lucky enough to interview Sofia last month and you can see what she had to say about singing, Phantom and her time in London in our previous 3-part post on Phantom of the Opera. Once again, thank you so much Sofia for taking the time to answer the questions and I wish you all the best over the next year in the show.

Sofia performs alongside John Owen Jones in Phantom who has also recently renewed his contract with the show and will now be staying to play The Phantom until March 2012 - please see last Theatre News post for updates on this.

Her Majesty's Theatre is very accessible to those in a wheelchair or mobility scooter and access rate tickets can be purchased from the dedicated access line on: 0844 412 4648. To book non-access tickets, please call: 0844 412 2707.

The second piece of theatre news for today's post is that Kneehigh's show, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, currently playing at The Gielgud Theatre is sadly closing early on May 21st. Access London were due to see this show in June and so unfortunately had to cancel the tickets. We have luckily been able to arrange some tickets for May 5 and will post directly after that about the show.

Many reviews written on the show have been extremely positive and it will be a shame to see it close early. You can buy top price tickets for £18.50 for 29th May and 1st June to celebrate the bank holiday weekend. There are also many other great offers around, so if you want to catch this show before it closes, it is well worth looking out for these.

The Gielgud Theatre is accessible to those who use a wheelchair or mobility scooter. The theatre has basement level stalls and stage therefore, the accessible entrance takes you onto the dress circle level where there are dedicated spaces for those with disabilities and/or needing to stay in their chair. For full details on The Gielgud Theatre, see our earlier post from January (which included a review of the previous show there, Yes Prime Minister).

For access rate tickets to Umbrellas, please call: 0844 482 5137. For non-access tickets, please call: 0844 482 5130.

Please feel free to leave a comment, follow the blog and help to spread the word about disability access and awareness in London.

COMING NEXT: 'An American Experiment' Exhibition at The National Gallery
COMING SOON: 'Watercolour' at The Tate Britain and The Wizard of Oz

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Royal Afternoon Tea at The Cavendish and Concierge Interview

Welcome back to Access London, thank you all for your continued support of this blog and helping to promote disability access and awareness.

London has been enjoying some beautiful weather over the last few weeks, so plenty of opportunity for people to get out and enjoy the capital at its best. As I write this post, thousands of people are running the London marathon, raising lots of money for charity and good causes, I wish them all the best and hope everyone enjoys the day.

Regular readers may remember a post that I wrote last month about The Royal Afternoon Tea at The Cavendish Hotel (Access London's recommended hotel for 2011) that is running throughout April. Access London was lucky enough to enjoy this delicious tea last week and I would highly recommend it to our readers.

The Cavendish is in Piccadilly/Mayfair, on the prestigious Jermyn Street and opposite Fortnum and Masons. To celebrate the Royal wedding in a couple of week's time, The Cavendish have developed a Royal version of their afternoon tea to commemorate the big day.

The tea costs £15 per person and can be enjoyed in the beautiful and tasteful setting of the hotel's first floor lounge. Diners can enjoy the likes of smoked salmon sandwiches, fresh, warm scones with jam and cream, Prince William pear and almond tart, wedding fruit cake and Katie's chocolates.

The staff at The Cavendish are all extremely helpful, warm, welcoming and happy to assist in any way they can.

For those who use a wheelchair, mobility scooter or cannot manage stairs, the hotel can be accessed on Duke Street where there is also a drop off point. From here, the reception area is all on one level and the lifts to the first floor are close by. Upon arriving on the first floor, the lounge is directly in front of you and is all on one level. There is also a disabled access toilet near by.

Here is a short video Access London took of the lounge area and the beautifully presented Royal Afternoon Tea.

Access London were lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview the concierge at The Cavendish who do a fantastic job, ensuring the happiness and comfort of all the guests. To find out what they had to on.

AL: Who are you and what is your role at The Cavendish?
MC: My name is Mo Charane and I am the concierge at The Cavendish Hotel.

AL: What services do the concierge team provide to guests?
MC: The service that we provide to our guests is to greet them on their arrival and then assist them throughout their stay. We make recommendations based on their needs and then provide all the information that they need and require. This information includes: travel routes, tours, dining, limousines and car hire, hairdressers, shopping, flowers, champagne, after hours haircut appointments, spa treaments, private jets, trips abroad and much more.

We make suggestions that best suit the guests and deliver the highest level of customer service. Our role is to provide a service that goes beyond the guest's expectations and offer them an unforgetable stay. We are the first and last point of contact at the hotel for our guests.

AL: What hours does the concierge team operate?
MC: We operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

AL: How do you and the team ensure that you are best informed about London and its attractions to best serve your guests?
MC: We keep up to date with what is happening in London by trying it ourselves, for example, visiting a new restaurant. More often than not, we are recommending from personal experience.

AL: If a couple were planning a special, long-weekend break to London and stay at The Cavendish, what would you recommend that they see and do? How could you make it special for them?
MC: We try to take as much information as we can about the couple so that we can better understand them and what they enjoy doing so we can assess how best to make it special for them. This could be a very romantic dinner or special afternoon tea followed by one of London's best shows, or recommending the best places to shop. I always do my best to make it memorable for them.

AL: In 5 words, how would you sum up The Cavendish experience?
MC: Welcoming, Friendly, Innovative, Green, Accessible

Access London would like to offer a huge Thank You to Mo for taking the time to answer our questions and also to Fabricio Torres for helping to arrange the interview.

To book for your Royal Afternoon Tea, please contact The Cavendish on: 020 7930 2111 or email: or see their WEBSITE

Please note that after April, The Cavendish will finish their Royal Afternoon Tea but guests can still enjoy their delicious Traditional Afternoon Tea.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, we hope you will return soon. Please feel free to post a comment, follow the blog and spread the word about Access London.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Royal Wedding - Disabled Access

Hi Everyone. This is just a short, extra little post for this week, based on an article on the DirectGov website.

This month, the country, and London in particular, are all buzzing about the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton on Friday 29th April. The day has been created as an extra Bank Holiday to celebrate and many will be journeying into town to help the couple celebrate.

As you can imagine, London will be packed and even more busy than usual on this day. Many people are hoping to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple. This will be difficult enough for able bodied people, as there will be large crowds along the whole route, but for people with disabilities, it seems an even more daunting experience.

DirectGov have issued details of locations along the route that have been reserved for people using a wheelchair and a carer (1 carer per disabled viewer will be allowed entry into these areas). There are several areas along the route, including Horse Guards Road, Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park.

For details on all the designated locations and the times that you can access them (they are generally accepting people on a first come basis from 07.30 onwards) then here is the link to the Direct Gov website and the article: The Royal Wedding

Access London would like to wish the couple a happy and special day.

If you are travelling up there for the day, have a fantastic time and enjoy the celebrations.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Our New Background & Theatre News

Hi Everyone, thanks once again for your continued support of this blog. Welcome back to Access London. I am actually away from London this week on a short holiday but really wanted to post some updates for you all.

Firstly, you may have noticed....we have a fabulous new background for our blog. I love the design and would like to offer a huge thanks to Damion from Degrafik designs for putting it all together for us :)
Hopefully you can recognise some of London's great attractions and highlights from the pictures, if not, then check out some of our previous posts or, stay tuned for more to come.

It would be great to hear your thoughts and feedback on our new background, so feel free to post a comment on this post or drop an email to:

If you are a regular reader of Access London, you may remember I dedicated a post to the brilliant theatre version of Yes Prime Minister back in January. I was lucky enough to see it before it finished its West End run.

I am delighted to share the news that it will be back this summer in the West End for a limited run, and would definitely recommend going to see it.

Yes Prime Minister will be showing at The Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue from the 6th July to the 17th September 2011.

There has been a cast change since its original run and the show will now star Simon Williams and Richard McCabe. Yes Prime Minister was the Winner of the Best New Comedy Award at the Awards 2011.

The Apollo theatre is accessible to wheelchair users, who can sit in the stalls area. There are spaces for wheelchair users to remain in their chairs and also for wheelchair transferees in any aisle seat in the stalls. The theatre cannot unfortunately accommodate scooters but can provide assistance for a step-free access into the stalls area.

To book tickets, please call: 0844 412 4648 where you can ask for an Access Rate if required for you and 1 carer.

Our second piece of exciting theatre news for this post relates to another magical show that we reviewed in earlier posts - The Phantom of the Opera.

London's current Phantom, the Phantastic John Owen Jones, has agreed to extend his contract until March 2012, so there is plenty of opportunity to go and see him perform behind the mask.

John has performed as the Phantom more times than any other actor and this is his second run in the show in the West End. To read an exclusive interview that John did with Access London last month, please see our previous posts on Phantom, which also include an interview with the current Christine, Sofia Escobar. Again, our thanks go to both actors for taking the time out to do this.

Access London is delighted to learn of John's extended contract and hope to bring our readers more from him later this year, after we visit Her Majesty's again in September.

John also has his own album out which you can purchase from his website HERE

To book Access Tickets for Phantom, please call: 0844 412 2707.
To book all other tickets for Phantom, please call the box office on: 0870 890 1106.

Her Majesty's Theatre is accessible to both wheelchair users and mobility scooters. Please inform the theatre/box office when booking and then a member of the front of house team on arrival. You will then be escorted to the accessible entrance that leads straight into the stalls. There are several places for those who cannot transfer from a wheelchair. For those that can, any alise seat in the stalls is easily accessible.

Thanks once again for taking the time to catch up with Access London and for helping to support disabled access in London.

COMING SOON: Love Never Dies, The National Gallery, The Royal Parks