North Americans seldom need extra prodding to visit the UK. But commemorations and exhibits are providing a special enticement for history, art and literature buffs.
In London, several current and upcoming museum exhibits are in the news. They include “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Victoria & Albert. It’s the largest retrospective ever mounted of the late designer’s works, and continues through August. In September, “The World Goes Pop” comes to the Tate Modern. It’s a much-anticipated exhibit that looks at the world’s reaction to the art of the 1960s and 1970s. At the National Gallery, “Goya: the Portraits” opens in October.
For history enthusiasts, the Churchill War Rooms in London, as well as Blenheim Palace, are worth a special visit. The latter is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the late Prime Minister’s death.
This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. While the Duke of Wellington’s military prowess might be well-known, his role in the world of art is not. The Duke’s grand London home, Apsley House at Hyde Park Corner, was just revitalized and reopened this spring. It holds one of London’s finest art collections. Many of the pieces were gifts to show gratitude for conquering Napoleon.
Brenda Staben, a front line agent with Hobson Travel, tells Travel Agent that the UK is especially hot right now.
“At the moment, the majority of my clients want to go to the UK. I have three families about to leave on trips. They’re all doing London first and then taking the train to explore other destinations. It’s incredibly popular, and these anniversaries only add to the interest,” said Staben.
Perhaps the best-known commemoration in the UK will mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will take part in a mid-June Magna Carta ceremony at Runnymeade. That’s the meadow 20 miles from London where King John sealed the great charter in 1215, forging new concepts of democracy in the process. Thousands of Americans are expected to attend official events at Runnymeade. The American Bar Association is a program co-sponsor.
Two of the surviving 1215 Magna Cartas are on display at the British Library. Through September, the British Museum is also hosting a major exhibit, “Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.”
“London this summer is going to get a huge new halo effect from these anniversaries,” Edwardian Group London Director of Marketing Dearbhla Mac Fadden tells Travel Agent.
Edwardian Group owns and operates the Radisson Blu Edwardian London collection, as well as the historic May Fair. Radisson Blu Edwardian’s Bloomsbury Street hotel will display a replica of the 1297 copy of the Charter.
Gordon Innes, CEO of London & Partners, tells Travel Agent, “London’s exciting range of cultural gems such as the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, combined with a continually spectacular and diverse tourism offering, helps boost visitor numbers to the city. Last year London received 17.4 million international visits, and we are anticipating that the capital will welcome a further surge in 2015 thanks to another blockbuster season of world class exhibitions, major events and new attractions.”
There’s one anniversary being marked in a more whimsical fashion than most. This year is the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
To celebrate, the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Guildford hotel is featuring a Queen of Hearts Afternoon Tea experience. Guests can indulge in heart-shaped sandwiches and The Queen of Hearts’ strawberry tarts, among other goodies. The entire hotel (20 minutes by train to London) was inspired by Carroll. The author lived in the city in the later years of his life.