Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Wizard of Oz & Cast Interview - Part 2

Welcome back to Access London, thank you once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness.

Today's post is the last in our 2-part series on Andrew Lloyd Webber's, The Wizard of Oz at The London Palladium.

Before Wizard hit the stage at the Palladium, there was a massive investment in the disabled access to this iconic venue. This is obvious in the newly decorated access corridor which is accessed next to the main entrance steps to the theatre on Argyll Street. There is a new lift which can take a mobility scooter or wheelchair, carer/companion and a member from the front of house team to the stalls level in the theatre. There are a couple of fairly shallow slopes along the way but, apart from those, it is level and flat access all the way to the back of the stalls.

The stalls themselves are on a slightly steeper rake (although certainly not the steepest I have seen at a London theatre). There are several spaces for wheelchairs at the back of the stalls where a carer/companion can sit in the same row. Or, if you can transfer out of your chair, any aisle seat in the stalls in accessible to you. Wheelchairs and scooters can be stored at the back of the stalls and someone can bring them to you at the end of the show. If you would like a drink at the interval, this too can be arranged to be brought to you at your seat. There is also an accessible toilet in the area that the wheelchairs and scooters are stored during the performance.

This is a fantastic night out for the whole family, kids young and old! It sees the winner of BCC1's Over The Rainbow, Danielle Hope, in the role of Dorothy (with the runner up, Sophie Evans playing Dorothy every Tuesday) and also Michael Crawford's return to the West End stage. For more information about the show itself, please scroll down to yesterday's post where you can also read an interview with Sophie Evans.

Access London has been lucky enough to catch up with a couple of cast members from Oz and today's Q&A is with Paul Keating who plays Hunk and The Scarecrow....

AL: How did you get the part of the Scarecrow? Was it a long audition process?
PK: I first heard about Wizard of Oz coming to the West End when I was asked to play the Scarecrow in a short workshop of the new script, nearly a year before the West End opening. The workshop lasted a week and was held at The Really Useful Group's offices in Covent Garden. The Director, Jeremy Sams, asked for me - although we'd never worked together before, he'd seen me in a couple of other shows. It was no guarentee of being in the final production, but flattering to be asked. Some months later, when auditions began for the West End cast, I was asked to come and do a couple of movement calls with Arlene Phillips. I think in the space of 10 days I did 2 dance calls and also had to sing for Andrew Lloyd Webber and the team (most of who had seen me in the workshop). A day or two later, I was offered the part.

AL: The Scarecrow's costume in the production is fantastic. How long does it take to get ready and in make-up?
PK: It's a quick change for me. I only have about 7 minutes to get out of Kansas costume and wig and into Scarecrow costume and make-up. It's got quicker with practice but, there's no time to relax. The make-up ladies who do my face for me are amazing. They make a possibly stressful moment feel calm and fun.

AL: Just as in the film version of Oz, the actors playing the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion also play Dorothy's family in Kansas. Does the rest of the production stay fairly true to the film or were you given the freedom to adapt things?
PK: I was given complete freedom to recreate the role which was brilliant. I read the book and liked the idea that the Scarecrow is only a matter of days old. I have tried to make him like Bambi - bounding around with energy and enthusiasm. I don't think he's stupid at all, just rather naive and unworldly. Jeremy, the director, has always been supportive and steered me in certain directions, but from my point of view I have felt able to do my own thing.
In terms of the production, I think the creative team have been really imaginative and inventive. There's lots of new things to enjoy in the show, but fans of the film won't be disappointed either, as the iconic moments we all know and love remain.

AL: The cast of Oz range from those who have been working in the business for many years to those whose first professional role this is. What is it like working in a company like this?
PK: I love it. There's always lots to learn when you're surrounded by people with more experience. It's also nice to feel you can offer support to those who are a bit newer to it all. I can certainly relate to Danielle, who has been thrust into the limelight. My first role was the title role of the West End production of Tommy, it was a baptism of fire. I hadn't been to drama school either and was picked from a series of 12 auditions. I loved it but was rather like a rabbit in the headlights alot of the time. She has so much maturity, confidence and skill, I'm a little bit in awe of her. I wish I had had a bit more of that when I was starting out at age 19.

AL: What is it like working on an Andrew Lloyd Webber production?
PK: It's a very exciting experience. There's a well-oiled machine at work from the very start, ensuring things run as smoothly as possible. They've so many productions under their belt at RUG that I have felt more confident than ever before that I am in a musical with the best possible chance of succeeding - commercially and artistically.

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?
PK: I have always dreamt of playing Che in Evita. It was one of the first musicals I ever saw. I think it's Andrew's best to date and would give anything to sing those songs.

Access London would like to offer a huge Thank You to Paul for taking the time to answer our questions, I hope you enjoyed reading his responses as much as I did.

To book Access tickets to see Wizard of Oz, please call: 020 7087 7960/0844 412 4648.

COMING SOON: The London Eye, London Eye River Cruise, Tate Britain, Access London celebrates 25 years of Phantom of the Opera.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Wizard of Oz & Cast Interview - Part 1

Welcome back to Access London and thank you for your continued support for disability access and awareness.

Today's post is on Andrew Lloyd Webber's fabulously entertaining The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium.

You may remember the BBC1 programme 'Over The Rainbow', hosted by Graham Norton that televised Lloyd Webber's hunt for a Dorothy for his new production of The Wizard of Oz. The show concluded with the people's choice of Danielle Hope taking the lead role of Dorothy and the show's runner up, Sophie Evans, as the alternate Dorothy. The show sees the return of Michael Crawford to the West End stage for the first time since he appeared in The Woman in White.

This show is one for the whole family - for children and adults of all ages who want an entertaining, lively and fun night out, experiencing a show with all the well-loved songs from the film of the same name. The sets are magical with a revolve that holds the Yellow Brick Road and Dorothy's introductions to her new friends on her journey to the Emerald City. Some of my favourites include the cornfields scene where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, The Emerald City scenes and also the Munchkin Land set. The costumes too are very special - from Glinda's sparkly, princess gown to the Tin Man's squeaking joints.

The brilliant performances from both Dorothys, The Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Glinda, the Wicked Witch and of course Michael Crawford's numerous roles, including the Wizard are backed up by a talented ensemble who bring the larger scenes to life, filled with colour and laughs.

The London Palladium is located on Argyll Street - just off of Regent Street and close to Oxford Circus. Argyll Street itself has no kerbs and so access along it is straighforward. If you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, The Palladium is brilliantly accessible - especially after its recent investment in disabled access. Front of house staff will be waiting outside and will let you in a side door (just next to the main entrance steps). Inside there is a shallow slope along a corridor to a lift that takes you and your carer/companion to the stalls level. The steward will guide you through the bar area and around to the back of the stalls. You will find an accessible toilet in this area too. The stalls are on a rake down towards the stage. There are several spaces for people who cannot transfer out of their chair. For those who can, any aisle seat will be accessible for you. The staff are all extremely helpful and will store your scooter or chair at the back of the stalls, bring you interval drinks and help you at the end of the show to exit.

To book access seats for you and a carer/companion and to discuss your access needs, please call: 020 7087 7960. For all other tickets and enquiries please call: 0871 220 0260

Access London has been lucky enough to speak with a couple of the cast members of the show and we are delighted to share their answers to our questions with you. Today's Q&A is with Sophie Evans, who was the runner up in Over The Rainbow and who plays Dorothy every Tuesday and also when Danielle Hope is away.

AL: You landed the role of alternate Dorothy after competing in BBBC1's Over The Rainbow. What was it like to be auditioned in front of millions on national TV?
SE: It was extremely nerve-wracking but amazing at the same time. Looking back, I had such a fantastic time that the nerves were overcome by the whole experience.

AL: How do you juggle training at Arts College whilst being part of a West End production?
SE: It is difficult as training is so tough on its own so to be in a West End cast aswell is extra tough. I do love being at Arts Ed. though, it's great to be getting that experience and to be working, a total dream come true!

AL: The Palladium is an iconic London theatre. What was it like to step out onto its' stage the first time your played Dorothy?
SE: It was so overwhelming. The London Palladium is such an iconic theatre that I have goosebumps thinking about my first night! The curtain calls were extra special, coming out and getting a massive cheer and standing ovation completely took my breath away and tears were streaming down my face - Joyful tears!

AL: Do you and Danielle discuss how Dorothy's character should be played or do you keep your thoughts separate?
SE: It's been great doing it with Dan but we have very different Dorothy's. That's what makes the show so interesting.

AL: What is your favourite song/scene to perform in the show?
SE: I love the Emerald City scene as all of the cast are on stage and it's so fun and colouful. That's when I really feel like I'm in a West End cast and a very talented one at that. I feel so privileged.

AL: What is it like working with an animal in live theatre?
SE: It definitely keeps me on my toes. I love dogs so it wasn't too difficult to work with them. The Totos we have are so obedient and I have gained such a bond with them.

AL: This is your first professional role. Have you received much advice from the more experienced members of the cast?
SE: Yes, especially Michael Crawford. He is such a legend in the theatre-world especially. He comes into my dressing room before every show, just for a little chat and some extra words of encouragement or advice, he's a great man to work with.

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?
SE: There are many roles I would love to play but the two I would really love to do are Glinda in Wicked! and The Little Mermaid. They are both such magical shows, like The Wizard of Oz. Hopefully one day I can get the chance to do them.

A huge Thank You to Sophie for taking the time to answer our questions. Our next, and final post, on The Wizard of Oz will include an interview with the talented and hugely funny Paul Keating who plays the Scarecrow in the show.

Feel free to post a comment and to follow this blog and spread the word.

COMING NEXT: The Wizard of Oz Part 2 - Meet the Scarecrow
COMING SOON: The London Eye and River Cruise, Tate Modern.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Access London recommends Summer Afternoon Tea @ The Savoy Hotel

Welcome back to Access London, thank you to all our readers for your continued support of this blog.

Today's post is about Access London's recommended Afternoon Tea for Summer 2011 at the stunning Savoy Hotel. The Savoy is located on The Strand, 5 minutes from Trafalgar Square and just down the road from Charing Cross Station. This luxurious 5* hotel recently underwent a massive renovation - there was even a mini-series documentary on this that was aired last year.

This excerpt from The Savoy's website really says it all, the hotel combines traditional Englishness with modern touches:
"A British icon since 1989, The Savoy has once again taken its place on the world stage after over a £100 million restoration. The hotel seemlessly blends elements of the original and the new while the stunning English Edwardian and Art Deco interiors sparkle with timeless elegance and glamour."

The hotel can be accessed via its main entrance on The Strand which has level access into its extravagant foyer. The welcome and greeting you are shown by the doormen and front of house staff is friendly, warm and makes you feel like you are entering somewhere very special!

To reach The Thames Foyer Room where Afternoon Tea is served requires using 2 lifts, unless you can manage stairs with the help of a handrail. The Savoy does have its own wheelchair that you can transfer into if you don't have your own. This is an old building that has done everything it can to adapt to the modern needs of its disabled guests. However, if you use a large mobility scooter, I would advise that you take up the offer to use The Savoy's house wheelchair. Manual and electric wheelchairs and small to medium sized scooters can easily negotiate the lifts.

A member of staff will stay with you the whole way on the lifts and through some very opulent rooms (take advantage of this little detour as you will see some very special rooms that you might not otherwise have seen if you simply walked down the stairs to tea!).

The Thames Foyer Room is spacious and elegant. There is lots of room in between tables to move wheelchairs and scooters around and they have not tried to cram as many tables in as possible as is sometimes the case in large hotels. The waiting staff in The Thames Foyer are as welcoming as they were in the Foyer and more than happy to offer any help that they can to make you and your party comfortable, in fact the service is some of the best I have seen.

Afternoon Tea itself is served between 2.30pm and 6.30pm. Guests have the choice of two different teas: the first is the more traditional afternoon tea with a wide selection of finger sandwiches (vegetarian options available), plain and fruit scones with cream and jam, beautifully crafted and colourful pastries and traditional cakes. There is a huge range of teas from all over the world that you can choose to accompany this. Be warned: do not eat anything before you go, it is a large tea and you will always be offered more when you finish one of the selections! The second option is more savoury and includes hot, savoury dishes in place of the sweet pastries and cakes.

For such a grand and iconic hotel, the Afternoon Tea at The Savoy is very reasonably priced at £40 per person. Another lovely touch is the house pianist that plays throughout and who sits in the middle of the large antique gazebo in the middle of the room, playing relaxing tunes.

The Savoy asks that you dress smartly casual for afternoon tea and advanced booking is definitely recommended. You can make a reservation or call to discuss your access and dietary needs on: 020 7420 2111 or email them at:

A tea recommended for all that will please the taste buds and will certainly leave you feeling full. Access London recommends Afternoon Tea at The Savoy for Summer 2011.

Please feel free to leave a comment, follow the blog or send us an email at:
You can also view more of our videos from many other London highlights and attractions on our channel on YouTube: AccessLondon1

COMING SOON: The Wizard of Oz, Accessible Rooms at The Cavendish, The London Eye and Access London celebrates Phantom of the Opera's 25th Birthday with some fantastic surprise interviews!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Love Never Dies @ The Adelphi Theatre - Part 2

Welcome back to Access London everyone, thank you for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the capital.

Today's post is the second and last in our two-part series on the musical Love Never Dies. To see the first part from yesterday which includes an interview with cast member Daniel Gourlay, please scroll down.

Love Never Dies is showing at The Adelphi theatre on The Strand and is currently booking into 2012. There are performances Monday-Saturday evenings at 7.30 and matinee performances on a Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm.

The music in this show is spectacular and shows Andrew Lloyd Webber on top form. There are some amazing lyrics and big numbers including, Till I hear You Sing (Phantom), Beneath a Moonless Sky (Phantom & Christine) and of course the title song, Love Never Dies (Christine).

The sets are quite literally 'Phantastic' with a glass carriage, beautifully crafted balcony set and all the wonders that the audience experiences in the Phantom's domain.

The three leads, Ramin Karimloo (Phantom), Celia Graham (Christine), David Thaxton (Raoul) are supported supperbly by the likes of Liz Robertson (Madame Giry), Haley Flaherty (Meg Giry) and some wonderful young actors who share the role of Christine's son Gustave. There is also a fabulous ensemble who really bring numbers such as those on Pier 69, Heaven By The Sea, Bathing Beauty and the dramatic Phantasma scenes alive.

Access London has been lucky enough to talk with a couple of the ensemble members. Today's interview is with Kieran Brown who is also the understudy for Raoul in the show. Here's what he had to say...

AL: I can imagine Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals being extremely popular for actors wanting to be a part of them. What was the auditioning process like for you?
KB: For me it was rather unusual! I was pulled in at the last stage of auditions, having been out of the country working on A Christman Carol in Vienna when casting started. So after singing half a song to the production team, was given some material to look at and return within a day or 2 later. I learnt it inside out, went back in, did the suff once through and that was it! I did have to attend a dance call even though my track in the show doesn't require it, just to show that I CAN move (just), where I first met 2 of my fellow cast members, Mira and Vanessa. It was lovely to see them on day 1. All in all, I had it pretty easy re this job as far as auditioning goes. The hardest thing was the wait to hear if I got the job! I got the call 3 days before rehearsals started - there had been a mix up at the office and they thought they had rung me the week before and were waiting on my answer. By luck I had contacted our wonderful choreographer and he sorted it out within minutes.

AL: You have been part of many fantastic shows and performances, why Love Never Dies?
KB: Honest answer? It's a job! It is however a job I LOVE! I wanted to be in this show since it opened. It's still a bit weird actually. I told my agent months before that the one show I wanted to be in in town was LND and here I am. I auditioned for the original cast but didn't even get past round one so....

AL: The energy and chemistry is fantastic to watch as an audience member. What is it like to be part of such a cast?
KB: We have just the BEST team of people in the show. We have so much fun together and trust each other implicitly. Just watching performers like Ramin or Tam, Celia, David or Liz Robertson from the wings still takes my breath away. I'm particularly proud of and delighted to be working with Haley Flaherty who plays Meg. I think she is simply wonderful in the role and we knew each other as kids - we went to the same children's theatre school but hadn't seen each other for years! We have a strong ensemble too - I love watching the Only For You opening number from offstage and am in awe at how bloody good our dancers and accros are. I wish I could move like that!

AL: Just as with the original Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies has many technical elements in it. Do you have a tale to tell of something going wrong in a performance?
KB: Not really because as well as having the best team onstage we also have the best technical crew who know exactly what they are doing. Everyone from crew to wardrobe, wigs and make-up do their job brilliantly. We did once have a show stop because poor Haley got stuck in the balloon before Bathing Beauty. It meant that the audience had to wait a few mins so that the crew could get her safely down and our wonderful dance captain had to VERY quickly restart the number without it as most of the ensemble enter through it from substage. Everyone took it in their stride! Haley was hilarious though - people kept shouting up to her to make sure she was ok and she was more concerned as she had a friend in from home!

AL: You have performed a fair number of times in Vienna. What are the differences between performing there and on the West End stage?
KB: Well the budget for a start! The English language theatres that I have worked in in Vienna - where I lived for 6 years were generally much smaller - The Adelphi seats something like 1500 whereas the theatre I did A Christmas Carol in was about 100! And nothing quite matches the prestige of a West End show although I did love working in Vienna. I did some wonderful shows with some great actors and directors so....It's great to be home though!

AL: I understand you have directed several projects. Do you have any plans to do so again?
KB: I would love to do more directing, yes, but it's not a priority at the moment. I think eventually I will give up performing but it's still my first love. I miss the control though!

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?
KB: Well PHANTOM of course, in both shows, would literally be a dream come true for me (but unlikely). I have gotten used to the fact that I'm now too old for Marius but maybe JVJ or Javert one day! Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard is on my list as is Raoul in Phantom (though I don't think I have the matinee idol looks needed for that!). Krolock in Tanz Der Vampire or Kaiser Franz Joseph in Elisabeth (if my German was better). Basically I just wanna be a leading man! - That should be a song! If I ever get to play any of these, I'll let you know.

Access London would like to offer a huge Thank You to Kieran for taking part and answering the questions. To keep up to date with what Kieran is doing and his future projects and performances, check out his website at

To book access tickets to see Kieran and the rest of the cast in Love Never Dies, please call: 08444 124 648. For all other Love Never Dies tickets, please contact: 0870 264 3333

This ends Access London's posts on the Love Never Dies series. Please visit again soon as there will be posts on another of Andrew Lloyd Webber's shows, The Wizard of Oz and also The London Eye, Tate Britain and Thames River Cruises.

Love Never Dies @ The Adelphi Theatre - Part 1

Welcome back to Access London everyone. Well, June is in full swing and we are almost at the longest day of the year so, let's look at some fabulous evening entertainment in the capital.

Today's post is the first in a two-part series on Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Phantastic' sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies. The story jumps 10 years on from where we left The Phantom, Christine and Raoul at the end of Phantom and is set in America in Coney Island.

The setting for the story is absolute genius and a far cry from the dark depths of the Paris Opera House. Instead of torch and candle light, we have the bright, illuminous lights of Coney Island with all the mysteries and wonders that it has to offer. It is here that we find The Phantom who has risen up to run a magical place called Phantasma. Although successful and having the full support of Meg and Madame Giry, The Phantom still longs for Christine and entinces her, Raoul and their son Gustave over from France to sing for him. As you can imagine all is not straight forward and the story has some unexpected twists and a very dramatic final scene.

Instead of ballet girls and opera divas, Love Never Dies gives the audience acrobats, flame throwers, trapeze artists, some effective and very clever projection and smoke work and beautifully designed sets.

The cast is led by Ramin Karimloo as The Phantom, Celia Graham as Christine and David Thaxton as Raoul (The Phantom is played by Tam Mutu on Mondays and Thursdays). After all the re-writes during its first 6 months, the show has settled down into an exquisite piece of musical theatre. I highly recommend seeing the show but would advise audiences who haven't seen the original Phantom show to see that first. Go to see Love Never Dies with an open mind as the characters aren't always as you might expect after seeing the original but once accepting this, it is an extremely enjoyable night out at the theatre.

The Adelphi is located on The Strand, just a short walk from Charing Cross Station and Trafalgar Square. The theatre itself has excellent access if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter. Although the entrance only has 1 step up into the foyer, there is also a ramp in place. The foyer is all on one level and contains the box office and merchandise shop. There are no steps into the stalls of the theatre making this brilliantly accessible. There are 2 spaces towards the back of the stalls for those who need to remain in a wheelchair. For those who use a scooter or can transfer out of their chair then any aisle seat in the stalls is accessible to you. There is only a very shallow slope down towards the stage and a handrail to hold on to. There is an adapted toilet at the entrance to the stalls. Drinks can be brought to disabled patrons during the interval. I found the front of house staff at The Adelphi to be more than helpful in helping those with disabilities to their seat and assisting them after.

There are performances Monday - Saturday evenings at 7.30pm and also matinee performances on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm. To book access tickets, please call: 08444 124 648 for discounted access tickets for you and a carer. For all other ticket purchases, please call: 0870 264 3333.

Access London has been lucky enough to talk to a couple of the cast members from Love Never Dies. Today we are happy to share with you what Daniel Gourlay (Ensemble) had to say. Please come back tomorrow to check out our interview with Kieran Brown (Ensemble/Cover Roaul).

AL: This is your first outing onto the West End stage, how does it feel?
DG: Stepping out onto the West End stage is an amazing feeling. At first I couldn't believe I was going to be doing this every night as it is a dream come true but now I love going into work, doing something I love with a passion.

AL: The show was under an immense amount of pressure being the sequel to one of the most loved pieces of musical theatre. How do you feel the show and cast has coped with this?
DG: I believe the show has been able to deal with the pressure quite well and I think that everyone within the cast has dealt with it all well by sticking together when we had to make a big change - it has helped us all get through it.

AL: As an Ensemble member you have many costume changes throughout the show. What is it like backstage during a show?
DG: It is mad backstage. It is different for everyone but for me the busiest time is coming out of the opening and getting dressed to do Pier 69 and the hotel scenes as I have 3 changes all very quickly. It is fun though watching all the running around and I am always amazed with all the changes and some of the close calls!

AL: There are lots of special effects and stunts in the show. Did you have to learn any new skills for the show?
DG: Already having a lot of the acrobatic skills under my belt before coming to the show, I haven't had to learn too many new tricks as I was already able to tumble and do lifts. Saying that, we are learning everyday, either off one another or by teaching ourselves. Since joining I have learnt how to do fire twirling and I have just started to learn skills to do flying - this is the top person of a double acted. It is a lot of fun and we are always having a laugh when you see someone land something new or you surprise yourself.

AL: What is your favourite scene to perform in the show and what is your favourite scene to watch?
DG: I think my favourite scene to perform in the show would have to be the opening as that is where I do most of my tricks and I enjoy showing them off. My favourite scene to watch is probably the opening with The Phantom singing Till I Hear You Sing, I always enjoy that.

AL: What is like to be part of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical?
DG: It is great being part of an Andrew Lloyd Webber production and even better being one of his new ones. I think everyone looks forward to being in one of his shows as there is a magic about the show that you really enjoy and get to perform.

AL: What can audiences expect from Love Never Dies?
DG: Without giving anything away I think you need to come with an open mind to expect anything. I think if you come knowing what might happen or that you want to happen then you won't see everything you want to see. I also recommend seeing Phantom of the Opera before seeing Love Never Dies as the story follows on. If you don't it might be a little more tricky to follow.

AL: How do you prepare yourself before performing?
DG: I prepare myself just to have fun. If you are having fun then the audience will be having fun and enjoying the show. I do make sure I warm up as I do tumble and lift people. Most of my warm up is throwing myself around upside down and making sure everything I do in the show is safe and I am 100% focussed on it.

AL: If you could play any role in musical theatre, what would it be?
DG: It would be to play Cosmo Brown in Singin' in the Rain as that is one of my favourite musicals.

Access London would like to offer a huge Thank You to Daniel for agreeing to participate and answer the questions. Don't forget to check back for Part 2 of our Love Never Dies series tomorrow where there will be an interview with Kieran Brown from the cast.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Fortnum and Mason - The Restaurants

Welcome back to Access London, thank you once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in London.

Today's post is on the world famous and iconic London store - Fortnum and Mason. With a history dating back to the early 1700s and Royal Warrants being awarded over the last 150 years, Fortnum and Mason is certainly one of London's most recognised and oldest stores. Located on Piccadilly, almost opposite the Royal Academy of Arts, it is in a prime location. Its rear entrance is located on another prestigious London street - Jermyn Street.

Piccadilly has very wide pavements and pedestrian crossings making it an easy road in which to access Fortnums. Once inside, you are greeted with traditional British decor. Fortnums is famous for its food hampers and also their beautiful Christmas and other seasonal displays and products. There are several lifts within the store. If entering from the main Piccadilly entrance, the lift to the far left is the largest to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

Fortnums has several restaurants, and a wine bar. Apart from The Gallery, which is not advisable for those in a wheelchair, all of Fortnums other famous dining areas are accessible to those with disabilities.

The Wine Bar is located in the basement and can be accessed by a lift.

To dine at any of the other restaurants I would highly recommend ringing ahead and booking, especially if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter so that arrangements can be made for you.

St James's Restaurant
This is located on the fourth floor of the store and is probably the most famous of Fortnum's restaurants, offering a more formal dining experience. The restaurant serves lunch Monday-Saturday between 12noon and 2pm and Sunday roast on Sundays from 12 noon to 2.30pm. It also serves Afternoon Tea and High Tea between 12noon and 6.30pm Monday-Saturday. There is a more formal dress code for this particular restaurant. You can also enjoy the sounds of the house pianist most afternoons. There is plenty of space in St James's to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility scooters. For details on pricing, menus and to make a reservation, please call 0845 602 5694.

The Parlour Restaurant
This restaurant is located on the first floor of the store and overlooks Piccadilly. It is open from 10am to 7.30pm Monday-Saturday and 12noon to 5.30pm on a Sunday and Bank Holidays. This is the place to truly indulge your sweet tooth. The Parlour serves gorgeous ice creams (I particularly recommend the Frosted Strawberries and Shortbread or the Walnut with Maple Syrup), delicious cakes, open sandwiches, the Ultimate hot chocolate for those colder days and tea in traditional teapots. It has a definite 50s, retro feel about the place. If you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, I recommend talking to someone on the reservations team about this so that more space around your table can be arranged. There are also disabled toilets very near by.

The Fountain Restaurant
This restaurant is located on the ground floor of the store and can be accessed from both instore and also directly from the Jermyn Street entrance. For those who use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, I would recommend using the Jermyn Street entrance that leads straight into the restaurant. The Fountain has a deluxe brasserie atmosphere and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It opens for breakfast 7.30-11am Monday-Saturday, lunch 12noon-3pm, afternoon menu 3-5pm and dinner 5.30-11pm. There is a jazz guitarist that plays between 6pm and 9pm Monday to Friday. There is also a special jazz brunch on a Sunday that is served from 11am to 3pm. This restaurant also has disabled toilets located near by.

To make a reservation at any of the above restaurants and to discuss your access requirements, please call the reservations team on 0845 602 9654.

Whichever restaurant you choose to visit at Fortnum and Mason, you will enjoy an elegant experience. Don't forget, if you do go and would like to share a picture with Access London, please feel free to email it to:

COMING SOON: Love Never Dies, London Eye & River Cruise, The Wizard of Oz, Access London celebrates 25 years of Phantom of the Opera.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Tate Britain - Watercolour Exhibition Part 2

Welcome back to Access London everyone and thank you once again for supporting this site and disability access and awareness.

Today's short post continues on from yesterday's on Tate Britain's Watercolour exhibition. For more information on the gallery, exhibition, its access, times and prices, please scroll down to yesterday's post.

As promised, today's post is an interview with Tate Britain's Community and Access Curator, Nora Razian.....

AL: Who are you and what is your role at the Tate?
NR: Nora Razian. I'm the Community and Access Curator at Tate Britain.

AL: Can you briefly explain how Tate Britain is accessible to those with disabilities and mobility problems?
NR: All Tate Britain's entries are accessible to those with mobility problems; we also have elevators in the gallery and disabled parking spaces for visitors that can be booked in advance.

AL: Do you have a current special offer or exhibition that is accessible to those with disabilities?
NR: All our exhibitions are accessible to those with disabilities. In addition, we have events such as, BSL and lipspeaking-assisted talks around key works in the collection or around works in an exhibition. We also offer picture description tours on the collection. These tours can be booked in advance by contacting me directly or through contacting Tate Britain on 020 7887 4946.

AL: Do you have any concessions for disabled visitors and/or their carers?
NR: We offer concession prices to both disabled visitors and their carers.

AL: Can you sum up in 5 words the Tate Britain Experience?
NR: Singular, Dynamic, Enriching, Surprising, Engaging

Access London would like to offer a huge thank you to Nora for taking the time to answer some questions.

Watercolour is on at Tate Britain until the 21st August 2011. To book tickets for the exhibtion, please see the gallery's website:

Please feel free to leave a comment, follow this blog and spread the word about Access London.

COMING SOON: Love Never Dies, The Wizard of Oz, The London Eye

Friday, 3 June 2011

Tate Britain - Watercolour Exhibition

Welcome back to Access London, thank you for your continued support for disability access and awareness in London. After a few week's break, whilst I was on holiday, Access London is back for a busy June.

Today's post is the first of 2 on Tate Britain's Watercolour exhibition.

The Tate Britain is located in Pimlico near Vauxhall Bridge and opens daily from 10am until 6pm. For the Watercolour exhibition, the most convenient entrance is the Manton Entrance on Atterbury Street, off of Millbank. For those in a wheelchair or mobility scooter, there is a long, wide, paved slope down from the pavement level to the entrance which has automatic sliding doors.

Once inside there is a cafe, shop, ticketing hall/collections and toilets, including disabled ones. The exhibition itself is very near to this entrance and you don't need to use a lift to get to it. The exhibition is fairly large and is all on the same level.

Watercolour explores the use of this medium over the last 800 years. The exhibition is divided into rooms, each with its own theme - travel, botanical, portraits, history of watercolour tools, war and many others. The themes are so diverse that I believe anyone will find 1 or 2 rooms that really appeals to them. One of my favourites was the very first room. This included examples of intricately painted books from 800 years ago, protraits inside pendents and maps. The travel room displayed pieces from all over Europe, some of my favourites dipicted scenes in Northern Africa and Italy.

The exhibition ends with how Watercolour is being used today, with examples from Tracey Emin. This exhibition really does have something for everyone plus, you can always stop for luch after and then take a look around the main collection which is free to enter.

Watercolour runs at Tate Britain until the 21st August 2011. It costs £12.70 for an adult to enter the exhibition. For disabled visitors there is a concession to £10.90 - a carer is also admitted for free for each disabled visitor.

The Gallery has 2 parking spaces on-site that can be booked by disabled visitors - to do so, call 020 7887 8888. This number can also be used to book a wheelchair or mobility scooter that can be used around the gallery if you do not have your own.

The Tate's website writes about this exhibition:
"Watercolour at Tate Britain invites you to challenge your preconceptions of what watercolour is. The most ambitious exhibition about watercolour ever to be staged, with works spanning 800 years, this boundary-breaking suvery celebrates the full variety of ways watercolour has been used."

To visit Tate Britain's website and to book tickets for Watercolour, please see

Tomorrow's post will contain an interview with the Community and Access Curator at Tate Britain.

Also to come this month: Love Never Dies, The Wizard of Oz, Miro exhibition at Tate Modern and beginning the celebrations for Phantom of the Opera's 25th Birthday.