We're so close
A big milestone for the Spy is just around the corner
Morning — a bumper round-up for you today, as the Spy team soaks up the rays this weekend.
We’re also reflecting on a big moment for the Spy: we’re now on the verge of 1,000 subscribers. Pretty crazy, to be honest with you, seeing as we only started sleuthing five months ago.
We’re really excited about what’s next. We’ve had a great reaction to our recent pieces — the battle for Brick Lane, Daniel Korski’s Downing Street days, the trouble in clubland and the Shadwell squatters. We’d love to build a community of Londoners around this kind of journalism.
One way to join us is to pledge a subscription to the Spy below. You won’t pay anything just yet — but you’ll be first in line whenever we launch Spy+ / Club Spy / Spy Premium / something else entirely. But that’s a way off, and as you know the newsletter is totally free for now.
And one more thing: If you think there’s something we should be looking into, please get in touch. We’re interested in anything and everything about London, from the serious to the playful. Drop us a line at email@example.com.
What we’ve spied
👀 A few whoopsies from London’s cultural establishments this week. First is the Barbican, which has apologised after asking a Palestinian speaker to avoid discussing “free Palestine” at length during an event. Elias Anastas, co-founder of Palestine-based Radio Alhara, was due to speak via live stream on the ‘radical possibilities’ of broadcasting, but during a soundcheck beforehand he received a text message from a member of the Barbican team: “In terms of content, avoid talking about free Palestine at length …just to further safeguard the audience”. Following criticism from Artists for Palestine UK, the Barbican issued a statement calling the intervention an “unacceptable and serious error of judgement”. Also saying sorry was the British Museum, when it turned out it had used a translator’s work in its new China’s Hidden Century exhibition without pay or acknowledgement. The museum chalked up the omission of credit to “unintentional human error” and offered to pay translator Yilin Wang after the fact. Related: plenty of takes on the National Portrait Gallery’s re-opening this week following its big multi-year refurb. The Guardian welcomes the inclusion of “cool-girl ceiling-smashers” in new exhibits, the Financial Times says the museum has been made more approachable and “public-facing”, while the New York Times explores the way the museum had to tap into private donors to fund the £40m facelift as public funding dried up.
💪 The cast of Magic Mike Live in the West End has told the Evening Standard that audiences are ‘taking it too far’, subjecting them to ‘scratching, biting and licking’ without their consent. Male dancers from the show, which has been running at the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square since 2018, say female audience members are taking too many liberties and treating them differently to female exotic dancers because of their gender. One cast member, Myles Harper, said: “They scratch you, bite you, lick you, anything you can imagine”. The theatre is having to kick some audience members out because of their behaviour. While we’re on the West End — this week businesses in the area declared war on the rise of pedicabs on the streets of central London.
💡 More spitballing from the three Conservative mayoral hopefuls as they continue to vie for the chance to take on Sadiq Khan in the election next year. The latest ideas from ex-Downing Street aide and tech entrepreneur Daniel Korksi include autonomous, hydrogen-powered barges on the Thames for package deliveries and an anti-social behaviour hotline that would let you book in a police patrol in your area. Barrister Mozammel Hossain KC wants to fit all of London’s bus stops with CCTV to reduce violence against women and girls and to create a ‘targeted termination team’ to “cut the head off the snake” of gang leaders in London. London’s primary schools would continue to offer free lunches to all under a pledge from London Assembly member Susan Hall, who this week also jumped to the defence of ice cream vans getting banned by Greenwich council. Unfortunately no word from any of the three on how they feel about rumours Boris Johnson is considering another run at mayor now that he’s resigned as an MP.
🇪🇺 Meanwhile Sadiq Khan had a different battle preoccupying his time: his banned attempts to fly an EU flag from City Hall. The mayor’s office wanted to display the flag over his office to coincide with the seven year anniversary of the 2016 Brexit referendum on Friday, but had been warned it would be illegal without permission from the local Newham council under new planning regulations. Khan instead opted to display blue and yellow lights from City Hall.
💸 Businesses in London that have failed to pay workers minimum wage have been named and shamed by HMRC. They include Roka Mayfair, an upmarket sushi restaurant near Oxford Street that offers £105 per person tasting menus — it failed to pay £5,741.87 to 16 workers, the data shows. Also called out were Park View Health Clubs Ltd, which runs three leisure centres in Barnet, Morleys Stores, which runs eight department stores in the capital (not the chicken shops), and various hairdressers and nail bars, such as Baccarat Hair Design in Bromley.
👨⚖️ A man has been found guilty of murdering a Met Police sergeant while in custody. Matiu Ratana died of a chest wound after being shot with an antique gun by Louis De Zoysa that he had smuggled into a custody centre in Croydon. De Zoysa had claimed diminished responsibility but a jury ruled he had acted deliberately. He will be sentenced on July 27.
🏳️🌈 Anti-drag story hour protests are back in south London, and this time they’ve left a trans activist bloodied. Far-right protestors have been accused of attacking a group of trans activists on Saturday morning outside the Honor Oak pub, where inside a drag queen was reading stories to children. The Met say three people were arrested during the disturbances. Drag story hour protests have been happening on and off outside the Honor Oak pub since February this year, after the more high-profile clash at the Tate Britain.
🕺 For anyone with Glastonbury FOMO after passing on the pricey tickets, the Spy can point you to two free arts festivals in London. Right now the National Theatre is hosting its free River Stage outdoor festival on the South Bank, running until July 2 and featuring live music, dance and other arts performances. Then in August it’s the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, again with lots of outdoor theatre and performances, this year under the theme of ‘Acts of Hope’.
🍺 A bit of buzz in Hackney about the reopening of an old local dive, The Dolphin. The pub on Mare Street was a notorious late night spot in the noughties, with its 4am closing time at the weekend and bad karaoke. It drew a few rowdy crowds, to the extent that an assault incident in 2021 lost it its licence. The pub’s now back open, though with its closing time tweaked to 12.30am — perhaps another victim of the borough’s relatively new late night licensing rules.
🎭 One for Succession fans: Sarah Snook, who played Shiv Roy in the HBO series, is opening a one-woman show in London next year. She’s starring in a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, which will open on January 23, 2024.
🤓 Some nerdy London bits from this week. For Oyster card collectors, TfL has released a limited edition card to mark 20 years since the payment method was introduced — they’re available from all zone 1 tube stations and a few visitor centres. If exploring the city’s streets by foot is more your thing, Londonist has published a guide to the city’s coal hole covers — decorative metal discs that cover chutes once used by the coal man to fill up London’s coal cellars. And for gamers, a replica of a sword from the Final Fantasy series is going on show at the Tower of London as PR for a new game.
🍲 A parting gift from Beyonce after she wrapped up her Renaissance World Tour in north London: an £8,000 donation to a struggling Nigerian tapas restaurant. Chuku’s in Tottenham has received the grant from her BeyGood Foundation, which is giving out cash to businesses in the cities she’s recently performed in.
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Correction: in our last issue on Brick Lane, we stated that a boutique chocolatier was now in the spot once occupied by the Famous Clifton curry house. That chocolatier actually closed down during the pandemic, and a Japanese noodle bar has opened in its place.