Theatre and Art on London’s Bankside

Our group in front of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Our group in front of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

This Readers’ Event, which took place towards the end of September, provided readers with inspiring insights into London’s cultural heritage. Val Baynton reports back.

‘Twenty GTOs and their guests joined me for this special Readers’ Event hosted by neighbouring attractions on London’s Bankside – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. The excellently organised day treated us to insights into how each place worked with groups but also how to combine a visit to both making a most enjoyable and easy-to-arrange day out. Positioned either side of the Millennium Bridge, the Globe and Tate are easy to get to as the Thames Clipper River Bus’s Bankside Pier is right outside, coaches can park 150 metres away for drop off and pick up, and Blackfriars and Mansion House Underground stations are a 10-minute walk away.

After a welcome from Marcia Clement, Travel trade and Marketing Manager at the Globe, we enjoyed a guided tour led by Dom, who explained how London would have looked when the theatre was first built in 1599, and why it was sited on Bankside outside the city of London where entertainments, potentially immoral or violent, were not allowed. Theatre was an extremely important part of social life with many people visiting once a week on average, hence there was a huge turnover in the programme. The Globe was built as an imaginative space for theatre with people listening and imagining the setting rather than watching actors perform in a purpose made set. Tours take place every day and, uniquely, even when a rehearsal is taking place, such as on our visit, groups are allowed into the theatre. Dom also outlined the history of the various Globe theatres explaining why the 20th century American actor and director Sam Wanamaker dedicated so much of his life to creating a replica Globe, and along the way answered all our questions about how the theatre worked and how a play might be performed.

We were then treated to an Elizabethan Dressing Demonstration by Lauren explaining the purpose of various garments. Many thanks to Noor Mills who acted as our patient model as she was dressed as Ophelia. Lauren was fantastic as she explained the significance of different items of clothing and how terms such as straight laced’ have become part of our everyday language.

Following this, we walked to Tate Modern and enjoyed a delicious pre-booked lunch of sandwiches or salad in the café. Curator Luke Smith welcomed us and we were split into two groups for an expert-led highlight tour of the collections. Claudia Merkel was the guide for my group and she was excellent in aiding us to understand how modern art can challenge what we think and helped us open our eyes to new perceptions. We started in the Oil Tanks, previously the storage area for the former Power Station, now a new exhibition space for video installations. We looked at contrasting art works by El Anatsui Ghano, Haegue Hang and Marcel Duchamp. Hang’s work used venetian blinds to create an art work suspended from the ceiling, which interacts with light creating different effects as you walk around it. Duchamp’s famous Urinal was another talking point and we ended at Monet’s Waterlilies. Claudia pointed out that when this was painted in 1888, it was considered revolutionary but is now considered mainstream – indicating how important it is to keep an open mind when looking at art.

Both the Tate and Globe offer a wide variety of tours for groups making it easy to create a package that’s perfect for your members, and catering options including lunches and afternoon teas are also available.


Our group learning about Tate Modern

Our group learning about Tate Modern

“The tour of the Globe theatre was very interesting, teaching me amongst other things that it is never a good idea to fire cannons under a thatched roof! I particularly enjoyed the afternoon tour of the Tate Modern, as the guide really helped us to think about our own interpretations of artworks which I might otherwise have dismissed as just a wall, dab of paint or men’s urinal!”
Mark, London International Meetup

“The dressing up was the highlight! Our guide was most knowledgeable and seeing a rehearsal of sorts was mesmerizing. At the Tate Modern we had a real expert on interpreting art – I will look at art with new eyes.”
Savitrie, PHP Network, Middlesex

For further information, visit Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Modern