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Back to School: English

19 September 2018 Billie Manning

Let’s be real: in the English classrooms of yore, you either eagerly waved your hand in the air or slammed your head down on the desk in dread. To all those who hated it and picked Maths for A-level instead, don’t worry - you’re definitely earning a lot more than those who enjoyed it. But either way, in London one thing’s for sure: from Virginia Woolf to Zadie Smith, Shakespeare to Kate Tempest, the big smoke has been home to a smugness-inducing number of literary icons. And it’s not too late for you to join their ranks, even if the last time you picked up a pen was to sign up for Maths A-level!   Today, in the very last of our Back to School series, we’re listing the crème de la crème of London’s booming literary scene, and it’s a million light-years away from the stuffy classrooms of your youth. You can even try your own hand at becoming the next writer to get that longed-for blue plaque up on the wall of your house.

Shake(speare) it out at the Globe
Image Credit: The Globe via Facebook

The Big One! Opened in 1994 just 200m from the site of the playhouse built by Shakespeare’s theatre company more than 400 years ago, Shakespeare’s Globe is a beautiful reconstruction that comes with all the rustic Tudor charm of the original without the smell of sewage. Trust us, the actors at the Globe make all that iambic pentameter (that seemed so boring on the page) truly come to life in vivid, fascinating productions, made all the better for their atmospheric, old-worldy setting. Make like a Renaissance-era peasant, grab yourself a standing ticket for just £5 and brush up on those rhyming couplets.
Shakespeare’s Globe is located at 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT
Make yourself heard with some spoken word

Image Credit: Jawdance via Facebook

London’s poetry and spoken word scene is thriving and there seems to be a new night popping up every week. You can go big and see the UK’s best poets doin’ their thing at Rich Mix’s monthly showstopper Jawdance, or for something more intimate, head to righteous and riotous hip-hop, politics and poetry night Pen-Ting at the Poetry Café. There are usually a good number of open-mic slots at each event, but for a guaranteed go on the stage, try Dalston's ever-popular open-mic night Spoken Word London, where you get five minutes to make people laugh, cry, or marvel at your rhyming skills. You might just find yourself addicted to the applause.
Jawdance runs monthly at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA
Pen-Ting runs monthly at The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton St, London WC2H 9BX
Spoken Word London runs monthly at VFD, 66 Stoke Newington Rd, London N16 7XB

Flex your creative muscles at The Poetry School London

Image Credit: The Poetry School London via Facebook

If you don’t fancy your chances on stage, there are certainly plenty of other options at the multi-disciplinary Poetry School London. The school covers reading, writing and translating poetry, or, for those wanting to dip their toes into the waters of creative writing for the first time, their ‘First Encounters’ course will begin on the 10th October.  There are also courses on poetry and cinema, using collage as a prompt and ecological writing.
The Poetry School London is located at 1, Dock Offices, Surrey Quays Rd, London SE16 2XU
Get literary at The London Library

Image Credit: The London Library via Facebook

Many of us might not have been in a library since Year 11, but they often house a whole host of hidden treasures. A small and elegant lending library tucked away in St James Square, The London Library, founded in 1841, is often overshadowed by its gargantuan cousin, The British Library. But as Shakespeare said “though she be but little, she is fierce”, so accordingly The London Library is filled with antique gems. Its extensive bookstacks are a poetry lover’s paradise for browsing, and its quaint reading room (once frequented by greats such as Arthur Conan Doyle) is perfect for doing the homework from that Poetry School class you’re now attending. The library also hosts live events, and you can go on a free hour-long tour once a month.
The London Library is located at 14 St James's Square, St. James's, London SW1Y 4LG
Go Potty for Harry

Image Credit: The Harry Potter Shop via Facebook

As a prize for good behaviour, an exploratory field trip might be in order. And what better than a Harry Potter tour of London? After all, Harry Potter was deemed responsible for getting a whole generation reading! Beloved author J.K. Rowling might be Scottish, but the Potter series is full of brilliant and discoverable London locations. No need to drop a big chunk of change on this activity either. Although you will have to pay to get into London Zoo’s Reptile House where Harry learns he can speak to snakes, most of the locations mentioned in the series are free to wander around, from Charing Cross Road, (home to the Leaky Cauldron) to Tower Bridge and, of course, Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross, which now even has a Harry Potter shop, where you can drop a big chunk of change.

The Harry Potter Shop is located at Kings Cross Station, Kings Cross, London N1 9AP

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