London 2013: Anniversaries


With bicentenaries for Wagner and Verdi, 100 years for Britten, 80th birthdays for both Yoko Ono and Sir Michael Caine, and a half-century for Doctor Who, 2013 has its fair share of milestones, writes Felix Lowe

This year boasts a flurry of anniversaries commemorating cultural heavyweights past and present, dead and alive. From celebrity birthdays to King Henry V's coronation: 2013 is the year the Tube turns 150, two classical maestros complete double centuries and Jack the Ripper makes it 125 years on the loose and avoiding the noose...

Alive & Kicking

One of London's most famous sons will be blowing the bloody candles out on his 80th birthday this spring - as well as being commemorated in a special exhibition at the Museum of London. Born in Southwark on 14th March 1933 as Maurice Micklewhite, Sir Michael Caine is as much prolific actor as iconic Londoner, and the four-month exhibition focuses on key moments in both his personal life and career.

Sir Michael is not the only famous face to turn 80 in 2013: Yoko Ono brings a lifetime of achievement in music, visual art and peace activism to the Southbank Centre in June as she curates the annual Meltdown Festival, and the award-winning British architect Richard Rogers is the subject of a summer exhibition at the Royal Academy to coincide with his own 80th birthday.

Another famous Londoner, the fabled fashion designer Sir Paul Smith, has not reached the ranks of the octogenarians just yet (he still has 14 years to go until that landmark) but his four decades in the business are celebrated in the London Design Museum from November through to spring 2014.

Dearly Departed

Two of opera's greatest pioneers - Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi - celebrate their bicentenaries in 2013 with a hefty programme of commemorative events in London. Sir Andrew Davis conducts a concert on 22nd May at Royal Festival Hall commemorating the exact 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth. This Philharmonia Orchestra offering kicks off 'Wagner 200' - a wide-ranging festival at leading venues all over the capital. Verdi's own bicentenary begins with Peter Konwitschny's new production of 'La Traviata' at the ENO's Coliseum from February through to March. 'Nabucco' - the opera to which Verdi attributed the real start of his artistic career - is performed later in the spring at the Royal Opera House.

As composer Benjamin Britten reaches his centenary in 2013 there are summer productions of 'Gloriana' at the Royal Albert Hall and his much admired final opera, 'Death in Venice', at the Coliseum. While the BBC Proms are taking a distinctive Britten flavour, Kings Place hosts a three-day 'Britten at 100' festival in February, and the moving 'War Requiem' is performed at the Albert Hall on Remembrance Sunday, 11 days before what would be the 100th birthday of Britain's most influential composer. Meanwhile, the 175th anniversary of the French composer Georges Bizet is commemorated with a limited in-the-round run of 'Carmen' at the Albert Hall in February.

2013 marks the exact 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation; both the actor Sir Michael Caine and the artist Yoko Ono turn 80 this year

Shows, Events & Pieces Of Art

Cultural landmarks of celebrating key milestones in 2013 include Igor Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring' (100 years), with dance companies and orchestras around the world doffing their cap to the 20th century masterpiece. From April to June, Sadler's Wells presents three separate productions that reinterpret the work for the 21st century: Akram Khan's 'iTMOi', a revival of Michael Keegan-Dolan's Olivier-nominated version of the ground-breaking ballet, and 'RIOT Offspring'.

Mr Darcy completes a double century as Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' is remembered with an Open Air Theatre performance of the 200-year-old romantic comedy in June, while the Albert Hall commemorates the 60th birthday of the adored musical 'Singin' in the Rain' with a cinematic makeover featuring a live orchestral accompaniment in March. On 23rd March, the 270th anniversary of the London première of Handel's 'Messiah' is marked in a performance of the great oratorio in the Grosvenor Chapel.

Bollywood was born one century ago with the release on 3rd May 1913 of the first Indian feature film. 100 years on and India is now the world's most prolific film producing nation, releasing roughly 1,000 pictures a year (twice as many as Hollywood). The annual London Indian Film Festival returns in July to commemorate the industry's centenary at the BFI Southbank and other selected cinemas.

Stilettos will be sharpened for the 'Rocky Horror Show' 40th Anniversary Tour featuring (bear with me) Rhydian from the 'X-Factor'. Even more risqué, Richard Herring's 'Talking Cock' - "man's answer to the Vagina Monologues" - returns to the Bloomsbury Theatre for its 10th anniversary Tour in April.

'Doctor Who' (main picture), the longest running and most successful science fiction series in the world, turns 50 on 23rd November 2013 (although we all know that the Doctor himself is around 1103 years old, don't we?). The BFI Southbank will hold a series of celebratory monthly screenings, starting with the first ever episode, 'An Unearthly Child' starring William Hartnell as the Doctor, in January, and 'Tomb of the Cybermen' starring second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, in February.

Staples & Venues

The world-famous Chelsea Flower Show celebrates 100 years at the Royal Hospital while, also in May, the 'Collect' Craft Show returns to the nearby Saatchi Gallery for its 10th anniversary. Also celebrating 10 years is January's London Short Film Festival, the London Bicycle Film Festival and the South West Four dance music festival. Back for the 25th time, the four-day London International Ska Festival sees more than 40 acts perform across multiple venues in March.

The National Theatre hits a half-century in 2013 with a 50th anniversary season that includes 'Othello' (directed by Nicolas Hytner) and 'The Captain of Kopenick' (starring Antony Sher). Sadler's Wells marks its 15th anniversary, the National Gallery celebrates 175 years on its Trafalgar Square site, while, most impressive, the Hunterian Museum turns 200 with a special exhibition.

The Royal Albert Hall commemorates the 60th anniversary of 'Singin' in the Rain'; the London Indian Film Festival celebrates 100 years of Bollywood

Historical Milestones

The Tube is to London what veins and arteries are to the human body. Without the Underground, it's fair to say that the whole city comes grinding to a halt. 9th January marks 150 years since the first underground journey took place between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway. TfL has planned a range of events to celebrate the world's oldest underground railway, including special steam and heritage train runs across the network in January. A series of monthly talks take place at the Transport Museum's Cubic Theatre during the spring while an exhibition of 150 Underground posters runs until October.

It's 125 years since the streets of East London were at the mercy of Jack the Ripper, the unidentified serial killer who carried out the gruesome Whitechapel murders and whose legend is a constant source of dark fascination. The official Jack the Ripper Walking Tour will be holding several anniversary walks on 3rd April, 7th & 31st August, 8th & 30th September and 9th November that focus on the particular victims on the corresponding day in 1888.

From dying dames to the beautiful game: the Football Association, the world's oldest professional football body, celebrates its 150th anniversary with a raft of special fixtures - including two England friendlies at Wembley against Samba stars Brazil in February and the old foe Scotland in August ' 178. History is also made as Wembley becomes the first stadium to host the Champions League Final twice in three years - as UEFA joins the big birthday party on 25th May.

On 29th June it will be 400 years since the Globe Theatre burned to the ground - and although the open air Bankside venue has remained tight-lipped about its 2013 schedule, it is thought to feature 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', 'The Tempest' and 'Macbeth', as well as 'Blue Stockings' by Jessica Swale and 'The Lightning Child' by Che Walker.

Royal Anniversaries

Last year all eyes were on the Queen during her Diamond Jubilee - but the exact 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's coronation on 2nd June 1953 comes this year. The BBC are planning a night of live broadcasting across all major channels to tie in with the final year of BBC broadcasting from Television Centre at White City, while Buckingham Palace is putting on a four-day celebratory Coronation Festival in the Palace gardens. Expect the annual Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade on Saturday 15th June - which celebrates the official birthday of the Queen - to carry more sway than usual.

From 60 years to 600: 9th April marks the 600th anniversary of the coronation of King Henry V. What better way to commemorate one of the most successful kings of England than watch a performance of 'Henry V' at the Noel Coward Theatre, which runs from November through to February 2014. Jude Law is cast as the title role in Michael Grandage's powerful production of Shakespeare's exploration of the horrors of war.

It's also 175 years since the ascension of Queen Victoria - although no specific events have been confirmed as yet. Perhaps a visit to the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace - or the Victoria & Albert Museum, which marks the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty from March to July with an exhibition focusing on Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars.

An exhibition of Tube posters commemorates 150 years of the Underground; Wembley welcomes the 150th anniversary of the Football Association
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Sophie Wallace


Sophie Wallace

21st September 2023


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