20 facts about London’s culture

24/09/2014 23:33

Here are 20 of the many reasons why London is one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the world.

1.      Three of the top ten museums and galleries in the world are in London and 857 art galleries in total.

2.      London has four UNESCO world heritage sites: Tower of LondonMaritime GreenwichWestminster Palace which includes Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church as well as Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

3.      There are more than 300 languages spoken in London, more than in any other city in the world.

4.      There are more than 17,000 music performances a year across London's 300+ venues including The O2 arena - the world's most popular music venue for the last five years running.

5.      84% of Londoners think that the city's cultural scene is important in ensuring a high quality of life. (GLA/ICM research).

6.      London has over 170 museums with 11 national museums including theBritish Museum - home to thousands of years of culture including the Rosetta Stone (196 BC).

7.      Around 250 festivals take place in London every year including London’s largest free festival - The Mayor’s Thames Festival and Europe's biggest street festival- The Notting Hill Carnival which attracts near one million people.

8.      The first performance of a Punch and Judy show at Covent Garden was recorded in Samuel Pepys's diary entry for 9 May 1662, and it is believed a similar puppet show has been seen there every year since. (Oh yes there is!)

9.      London presents more live comedy than any other city in the world. From hosting new talent in the backrooms of pubs to the likes of Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock and Steve Coogan performing in major arenas.

10.  London dominates the UK visual arts sector, which accounts for 30% of the global art market.

11.  London has played a major role in countless films from A Clockwork OrangeHarry Potter to Notting Hill and is now the world’s third busiest film production centre with over 14,000 ‘shooting days’ in 2011 including the 23rd Bond film Skyfall.

12.  Over a fifth of all the UK’s cinema screens are based in London. There are more cinema screens in the capital (796) than in any other part of the country.

13.  London Fashion Week 2012 generated over £100m of orders, saw the return of Philip Treacy and was the most socially savvy yet with over 2 million viewers tuning in from more than 100 countries to the live-streamed of Topshop's latest collection.

14.  From the first performance of Shakespeare at The Globe in 1599 there are now at least 200 shows to choose from every day across West End including current hits Matilda and War Horse.

15.  Wilton’s Music Hall in the city is the world’s oldest surviving Music Hall, built in 1743 and still a living piece of London’s musical history.

16.  In the last 5 years, London based artists Adele, Coldplay and Amy Winehouse (RIP) have been the world's best-selling recording artists and have amassed £1.9bn last year in worldwide sales, up from £1.83bn in 2010.

17.  London has more than 800 bookshops and over 380 public libraries including British Library which holds the Magna Carta.

18.  The London Design Festival is now the world’s leading event of its kind, which attracted over 350,000 people in 2012 to innovative projects including the groundbreaking audio-technology, the BE OPEN Sound Portal.

19.  A third of all the UK’s archives are in London including the National Archiveswhich dates back to the 11th century and preserves William the Conqueror's Domesday survey.

20.  London boasts some of the oldest milliners in the world including Lock & Co(est. 1676) famous for creating Lord Nelson's original bicorn hat, as well as a specially commissioned version for Hatwalk as part of the London 2012 Festival.

History of the English Language

24/09/2014 13:35

History of the English Language

What is English?

A short history of the origins and development of English

The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders - mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from "Englaland" [sic] and their language was called "Englisc" - from which the words "England" and "English" are derived.

Old English (450-1100 AD)


The invading Germanic tribes spoke similar languages, which in Britain developed into what we now call Old English. Old English did not sound or look like English today. Native English speakers now would have great difficulty understanding Old English. Nevertheless, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English have Old English roots. The words be,strong and water, for example, derive from Old English. Old English was spoken until around 1100.

Middle English (1100-1500)


In 1066 William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy (part of modern France), invaded and conquered England. The new conquerors (called the Normans) brought with them a kind of French, which became the language of the Royal Court, and the ruling and business classes. For a period there was a kind of linguistic class division, where the lower classes spoke English and the upper classes spoke French. In the 14th century English became dominant in Britain again, but with many French words added. This language is called Middle English. It was the language of the great poet Chaucer (c1340-1400), but it would still be difficult for native English speakers to understand today.

Modern English

Early Modern English (1500-1800)

Towards the end of Middle English, a sudden and distinct change in pronunciation (the Great Vowel Shift) started, with vowels being pronounced shorter and shorter. From the 16th century the British had contact with many peoples from around the world.



This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that many new words and phrases entered the language. The invention of printing also meant that there was now a common language in print. Books became cheaper and more people learned to read. Printing also brought standardization to English. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of London, where most publishing houses were, became the standard. In 1604 the first English dictionary was published.

Late Modern English (1800-Present)

The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: firstly, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; secondly, the British Empire at its height covered one quarter of the earth's surface, and the English language adopted foreign words from many countries.

Varieties of English

From around 1600, the English colonization of North America resulted in the creation of a distinct American variety of English. Some English pronunciations and words "froze" when they reached America. In some ways, American English is more like the English of Shakespeare than modern British English is. Some expressions that the British call "Americanisms" are in fact original British expressions that were preserved in the colonies while lost for a time in Britain (for example trash for rubbish, loan as a verb instead of lend, and fall for autumn; another example, frame-up, was re-imported into Britain through Hollywood gangster movies). Spanish also had an influence on American English (and subsequently British English), with words like canyonranchstampede and vigilante being examples of Spanish words that entered English through the settlement of the American West. French words (through Louisiana) and West African words (through the slave trade) also influenced American English (and so, to an extent, British English).

Today, American English is particularly influential, due to the USA's dominance of cinema, television, popular music, trade and technology (including the Internet). But there are many other varieties of English around the world, including for example Australian English, New Zealand English, Canadian English, South African English, Indian English and Caribbean English.

English is a member of the Germanic family of languages. Germanic is a branch of the Indo-European language family.

A brief chronology of English

55 BC

Roman invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar


AD 43

Roman invasion and occupation. Beginning of Roman rule of Britain


Roman withdrawal from Britain complete


Settlement of Britain by Germanic invaders begins


Earliest known Old English inscriptions



William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invades and conquers England


Earliest surviving manuscripts in Middle English



English replaces Latin as the language of instruction in most schools


English replaces French as the language of law. English is used in Parliament for the first time


Chaucer starts writing The Canterbury Tales


The Great Vowel Shift begins


William Caxton establishes the first English printing press



Shakespeare is born


Table Alphabeticall, the first English dictionary, is published


The first permanent English settlement in the New World (Jamestown) is established


Shakespeare dies


Shakespeare's First Folio is published


The first daily English-language newspaper, The Daily Courant, is published in London


Samuel Johnson publishes his English dictionary


Thomas Jefferson writes the American Declaration of Independence


Britain abandons its colonies in what is later to become the USA


Webster publishes his American English dictionary



The British Broadcasting Corporation is founded


The Oxford English Dictionary is published


First blog

22/09/2014 19:09

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