Shards and pancakes: This month's culture

Written by 28 Jan 2013 on 28 January 2013 in Culture
Our previews of this month's best cultural events for politicos

This article is from the February 2013 issue of Total Politics


– The Paddy Power & Total Politics Political Book Awards 2013
After a sensational year for political literature, the best of the best are to be rewarded at this glittering ceremony. Noted figures like Mary Beard, Michael Crick, Alastair Campbell and Chris Mullin are to judge various categories, from ‘Political Book of the Year’ and ‘Political Fictional Book of the Year’ to the gong for ‘Lifetime Achievement Award in Political Literature’. Famous hosts will keep the evening running seamlessly and the literati will not want to miss it. Tickets can be purchased at
6 Feb, BFI Imax, Waterloo
– Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race
In aid of Rehab, a charity specialising in brain injury, the annual Parliamentary Pancake Race will be held on Shrove Tuesday; the racers – MPs, Lords and journalists – will dash around Victoria Tower Gardens in this competitive pancake-tossing relay, much to the mirth of onlookers. A large amount of money is normally raised for the excellent Rehab, while aged stalwarts of the event like Stephen Pound MP can be relied on to liven up the atmosphere with a crafty elbow jab or unexpected tumble.
12 Feb, Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster
– Making a British Nation
This ‘Late Shift’ event at the National Portrait Gallery will see Professor Catherine Hall in conversation with other experts to discuss the Victorian Whig historian Thomas Babington Macaulay’s dream of a united nation and its impossibility. Hall re-thinks the relation between Britain and its empire in the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on how the empire affected both metropolitan and home life, and the way English identity, both male and female, was established in relation to the ‘others’ of the empire.
7pm, 28 Feb, National Portrait Gallery, Westminster
– The View from The Shard
Much anticipated by all who have watched the glass behemoth slice further and further through London’s grey clouds over the past four years – from excitable tourists to London Bridge’s dead-eyed commuters – the city’s first public observation deck opens at last.
Visitors will whizz up 244m in an ear-popping 60 seconds to the 72nd floor – the highest vantage point from any Western European building, and the open-air topmost “habitable” (although it is rather chilly) level of The Shard.
On a good day, 360-degree views spanning a 40-mile radius of the capital will be on offer, but if you happen to take your trip on the other 364 days of the year, there are some rather techy and exciting ‘Tell:scopes’ in the viewing gallery on Level 69, which give you the opportunity to zoom in to pre-shot digital images of the vista.
Seeing the building’s structure and the dizzying narrowness of The Shard’s sharpest point up close is one of the most fascinating features, and hitherto skyscraper-cynics will struggle not to be thrilled by the intricacy of something that is essentially just 11,000 windows mixed with 54 million litres of concrete. Stand-out views include the weirdly dwarfed City, glistening in The Shard’s shadow, and the miniscule toy railway that is London Bridge, bustling immediately below.
However, visitors should note that it isn’t only the viewing gallery that’s sky-high. You may get vertigo at the ticket costs, which are currently set at £24.95 for adults and £18.95 for children in advanced bookings. Architect William Matthews’ intention that the building had to be open to the public so that “normal people could go to the top” may be a little pie in the sky…
Opens 1 February, 9am-10pm daily; 32 London Bridge Street, London

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