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A Brief History of the Tower of London

Having loomed over the landscape of Britain’s capital city for a thousand years, the Tower of London is as imposing now as it was in the Middle Ages. Indeed, the Tower’s history is deeply tied to the history of Britain; in times of both war and peace, it has stood as a mirror image of both the best and worst of English power and authority.

Despite its place as a central symbol of British culture, the Tower of London’s actual history stretches back to the Norman government of William the Conqueror. After successfully defeating Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William’s troops began their occupation of Britain in earnest; after taking London, one of William’s first projects was to build massive structures around the city in the Norman style.

William’s construction of the Tower of London began after he invaded Britain. He had several goals in mind and wanted the new monarch needed to project strength against a reluctant and often rebellious populace. The Tower accomplished this by frightening most of London’s peasant population into submission. The Tower also needed to strike fear into the hearts of William’s political enemies. If they were lucky enough to escape the gallows, this was to be where aristocratic prisoners of the new regime would be sent.

Architectural expansion of the castle began in the 13th Century under monarchs Henry III and Edward I. The architectural additions ordered by these two kings gave us the Tower as we know it today. Over a century after William’s invasion, the Tower still stood as a symbol of imperial might.

From the outset, the populace of London is said to have loathed the Tower. And with good reason: Regardless of who was on the British throne, a dark reputation sprang up around the Tower for centuries. This was where Richard III was said to have murdered his nephews to secure power during the 15th Century. In the 16th Century, Anne Boleyn was executed here, and in the 17th Century, Guy Fawkes was tortured into confessing his role in the failed Gunpowder Plot.

If the ghosts of history can be found anywhere in England, the Tower of London is their likely abode. The site of many dark plots and the home of both scoundrels and martyrs, the Tower’s symbolic power shouldn’t be lost on anyone. It lies dormant now, but no one should forget the Tower’s important and at times infamous role in England’s history.

Currently, the Tower of London is closed due to COVID-19 guidelines. Please check their website for news regarding their opening.

Top Things to do in London This Winter

*This blog was initially written before London was placed under Tier 4 lockdown. Please follow all rules and guidelines that were put in place to ensure your safety.*

London has long been known as the United Kingdom’s premier destination for fun and entertainment. During the winter, the city comes to life with seasonal activities perfect for the whole family. Here are some of the best ways to spend time in London during the winter.

Walk Along Regent Street to See the Christmas Lights

London’s famous Regent Street sparkles during the holiday season when the beautiful Christmas lights are displayed. Colourful bulbs that are formed into exquisite arrangements provide a feast for the eyes. Spectators can tour the street at their own pace to see all the beautiful lights while getting more into the holiday spirit.

Get a Panoramic City View from The Shard

The Shard is one of Europe’s tallest structures and offers some of London’s best views from the observation areas. Viewing the city from inside The Shard can also provide a great way to escape the winter cold. The 72nd floor is a particularly ideal location for getting spectacular city views.

Experience Winter at Kew Gardens

Even though there are no new plants or flowers that grow here during the winter, the gorgeous holiday light displays should still not be missed. Tunnels that are lined with twinkling lights are created to give visitors a memorable walkthrough experience. Additional lights can be seen strewn over the greenhouses and waterways.

Visit Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge serves as a symbol of progress and history. It’s been converted into a beautiful walkthrough museum and adds terrific views of the city. Built in the late 1800s, the bridge allows pedestrians to walk freely across while cars pass below. 

Explore the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park, which has long been one of London’s most iconic gathering spots, transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. A Christmas market where people can buy decorations, crafts, and jewellery is a significant part of the event. The UK’s largest outdoor ice rink also opens for the season during the celebration so that first-time and experienced skaters can glide across the pristine ice. Ice sculptures are also on display in Hyde Park to ignite even more of the season’s magic.

Visiting London during the winter can be a more worthwhile experience when people partake in these fun activities. Winter in London can give people opportunities to try new things and see different sides of the city.

The Best British Playwrights Working Today

England is home to the greatest playwright ever to live. While William Shakespeare remains unequalled more than four centuries after his death, The Bard himself might be proud of talent still emerging from “this Sceptered Isle” as modern British playwrights continue to produce works of stunning originality.

Caryl Churchill

An example of Britain’s best over the past half-century is Caryl Churchill. She made her debut in 1958 when she was still a student at Lady Margaret Hall, a women’s college at Oxford University. A recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald called her, “Britain’s greatest poet and innovator of the contemporary stage.” Some critics name her best work is Top Girls (1983) which won the Obie Award. Other celebrated works include Cloud 9 (1979), Serious Money (1987) and Blue Heart (1997).

Nina Raine

Nina Raine is an English playwright and the grandniece of famous Russian novelist Boris Pasternak. A graduate of Christ Church, Oxford, her first play, Rabbit, appeared at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London. It earned her the Evening Standard’s Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright. The Rabbit was performed on Broadway in New York City the following year. Her second play, Tribes, swiftly gained international attention and was produced in theatres around the world.

Debbie Tucker Green

British playwright Debbie Tucker Green requests that her name be displayed in lower-case letters. Her themes centre around racial perceptions in modern society. Her style is described as “feisty” and “emotionally fraught” with the “emotional depth of a full-length novel.” Among her most noted works is Stoning Mary (2005). Her break-out play was Born Bad which won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Newcomer play of 2004.

Bola Agbaje

Bola Agbaje is a British-born playwright of Nigerian heritage. Her plays draw on her African roots to portray characters who are immersed in contemporary issues confronted by black people living in a white but increasingly diverse British society. Critics say her work puts forward an ethos and philosophy derived from Nigerian origins. Her debut play, Gone Too Far!, is currently being made into a feature film. Agbaje was named the recipient of the 2010 Women of the Future Award in the Field of Arts and Culture.

The History of the West End

Throughout most of its history, there can be little doubt that London has been the nerve-centre of English life. Initially founded as a colonial outpost of the then-dominant Roman Empire during the 1st Century AD, London swiftly grew to encompass and absorb several surrounding districts into its boundaries.

By the Middle Ages, the dominant sectors of London included two primary areas established to the north of the River Thames. These surrounded both the early walled Roman settlements and a handful of neighbourhoods connected to the region known as the City of Westminster.

The former district became the financial hub of London is still known as the “City of London,” in fact. The area remains home to some of the world’s largest and most prestigious banking corporations.

Conversely, the so-called “City of Westminster” and its surrounding districts gradually became absorbed into London over hundreds of years. Over time, the region became known as West London or the “West End.” Primarily, the area’s prestige derives from its traditional association with the British aristocracy. It has been the site of Buckingham Palace since 1703 and the Houses of Parliament for hundreds of years; however, the history of local sites such as Westminster Abbey and the original Westminster Palace stretch back to the Early Middle Ages.

Neighbourhoods in West London such as Kensington, Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Chelsea, and Belgravia are still some of the most aristocratic districts within the city proper.

In parallel to these aristocratic neighbourhoods, a thriving theatre scene has developed in the West End since the 17th Century. To this day, the West End retains many of London’s most prestigious theatre associations. Many of these theatres are located around Piccadilly Circus, and Covent Garden in an area often referred to by locals and visitors as “Theatreland.”

In parallel with the growth of these theatre districts and aristocratic neighbourhoods was the establishment of West London as a premier residential district for the upwardly-mobile middle classes during the Victorian era. Established under the reign of Queen Victoria during the 19th Century, many of the city’s most beautiful and compelling parks, concert halls, museums, and department stores can still be found here.

For anyone visiting London, a trip to the city’s West End is an absolute must. The City of London may be the financial heart of England, but the West End remains the beating heart of London’s cultural life. It is a place that everyone should visit at least once.

The Best James Bond Cars

James Bond is one of the most iconic film characters of all-time. The James Bond films are still trendy today nearly 60 years after the release of the first film in the franchise. While there are a lot of things to admire about the character, his beautiful luxury car collection is undoubtedly at the top of the list. These are the four best James Bond cars of all-time.

Aston Martin DB5

When it comes to James Bond cars, there is not one more memorable than the Aston Martin DB5. The franchise was starting to boom in popularity when this stunning car was featured in the 1964 film “Goldfinger.” The car was such a big hit with the fans that it was immediately reused for the next film “Thunderball.” After a long break, the Aston Martin DB5 returned in 1995 for “Goldfinger.” Daniel Craig also drove the Aston Martin in Skyfall.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

The Aston Martin brand has become synonymous with James Bond at this point in franchise’s history. It only makes sense that the premier British luxury auto manufacturer is linked to the best British film character of all-time. While nothing will top the DB5, the V8 Vantage from “The Living Daylights” also came close. In addition to having a beautiful design and powerful engine, the V8 Vantage was loaded with fun gadgets that made everyone wish they were a secret agent.

Lotus Esprit

The Lotus Esprit is the only other car to be prominently featured in more than one James Bond film. The Lotus was first used in the 1977 film “The Spy Who Loved Me” and functioned as a submarine. The Espirit returned four years later in “For Your Eyes Only.” With the franchise stepping away from comedy, the second Lotus Esprit was only used as a stunning piece of land transportation by James Bond.

Sunbeam Alpine

It is impossible to mention the best James Bond cars without honouring the vehicle that started it all. The Sunbeam Alpine became the first exotic car driven by James Bond when it was featured in the franchise’s first film “Dr. No.” The Alpine had a refined elegance that correctly displayed the personality of James Bond to the new audience.

Top Museums to Visit the Next Time You’re in London

As one of the world’s great holiday destinations, there can be little doubt that London, England is home to some of the most excellent museums to be found anywhere on earth. Exploring the collections of this great city would take many lifetimes, it is true, but here are just a few great institutions that every traveller to London should visit at least once.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Knightsbridge

Featuring everything from exhibits on art, history, and fashion to exclusive concert performances, the V&A is famous among fans of London culture for its stunning holdings and cutting-edge curation policies. Just a few blocks down the Brompton Road from the favourite Harrods department store, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a must-see destination on any trip to the capitol.

Natural History Museum, Knightsbridge

With its full Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and statue of Charles Darwin, the Natural History Museum is a science lover’s dream come true. The museum’s vast complex will be a delight for people of all ages; whether you love astronomy, biology, or good old-fashioned palaeontology, a visit to the Natural History Museum is sure to foster beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.

John Keats House, Hampstead

Tucked away in leafy Hampstead, the John Keats House museum is centred around the life of a person many regards as England’s greatest Romantic poet. Keats lived here near the end of his life and composed some of his most excellent poetry on the grounds of the property. In a state of recovery after hearing the sounds of a beautiful birdsong, Keats is said to have composed his great “Ode to a Nightingale” in the front garden. Nearby Hampstead Village is also full of some of London’s most charming pubs, cafes, and bookstores.

The British Museum, Bloomsbury

With a truly astonishing collection of nearly 8 million pieces to its credit, the British Museum is undoubtedly one of the most significant institutions of public learning in the world. Its collection contains incredible artefacts and works of art spanning millions of years and hundreds of cultures. If you can only stop at one museum on your trip to London, the British Museum might be your best bet.

 The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

If you’re a fan of the visual arts, it’s hard to go wrong with a visit to the National Gallery. Set directly across from Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, the museum’s exhibits feature everything from Ancient Egyptian relics to the works of Vincent Van Gogh. Its central location in the heart of London also makes the institution an excellent spot for families and individuals to start their own unique London journey.

Top British Films

Over the years, Britain has been involved in the production of many fantastic films. Everyone has their definition of what makes a film good, with some people preferring heartwarming storylines while others enjoy stellar acting or unusual camerawork. The following are just some of the best films that are guaranteed to become one of your new favourites. 

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

An iconic parody of Arthurian legend, this 1975 comedy continues to make people around the world laugh. With jokes that still feel fresh and relevant today, this delightful blend of absurdity and political commentary is an excellent introduction to British humour.

Don’t Look Now

Filmed in 1973, this film continues to influence filmmakers around the world. With stellar performances from Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, this adaption of a Daphne du Maurier novel has groundbreaking filming techniques.

The Queen

Starring Dame Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, this film looks at the British royal family’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death. It provides insight into a unique political institution while showcasing masterful acting.

The Red Shoes

Based on a classic fairytale, this 1948 film has a stunning blend of beautiful dancing and influential filmmaking. Underneath the cute ballerina themed dance sequences is a surprisingly dark and tragic story.

Notting Hill

This charming film is routinely voted as one of the top romantic comedies of all times. Starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, it sensitively portrays a moving romance. Grant portrays a bookshop owner in idyllic Notting Hill while Roberts plays an A-list actress looking to escape her everyday life. 

Distance Voices, Still Lives

Get a glimpse of British working-class lives with Terence Davies 1988 masterpiece. This film follows quiet events like weddings and nights at the pub to create a moving and truthful portrait of a family.

The Third Man

The noir film follows a man trying to uncover the hidden forces behind the death of an old friend. Its combination of strong visuals and mind-twisting thrills makes it truly exciting to watch.

The King’s Speech

This Oscar-winning royal drama dives deep into the life and relationship of King George VI and his speech therapist Lionel George Logue who helped George VI overcome his debilitating stutter. 

5 Classic British Authors

Whether you had to learn about them in secondary school or took a University literature course, you should be familiar with British authors. Britain has given us some of the most beloved authors. From Eliot to Fleming, their stories reflect humanity’s issues, like poverty, love, death, and grief. The following are just some of the best British authors of our time. 

Charles Dickens

You might have seen A Christmas Carol when the holidays came around, but have you read the book? It’s one of the dozens that Dickens wrote in his lifetime. He was known for releasing chapters of his novels in weekly periodicals. An advocate for the poor of England, he spoke tirelessly against child labour.

Jane Austen

Though Jane Austen became famous for her romantic novels, she never married. Her stories are seen as parodies of British society during her lifetime. They have inspired numerous movies and works of historical fiction. From Emma to Mansfield Park, Austen published her novels anonymously. 

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte was one of three sisters who wrote and published using pen names. Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë lived during a time in which female authors were not taken seriously, so they were forced to use the aliases of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. While Brontë is best known for her novels, she was able to use her words to take a modest, feminist stand against the male-dominated society.

C.S. Lewis

Born in Northern Ireland, C.S. Lewis is known best for the Chronicles of Narnia series. The former WW1 soldier and Oxford and Cambridge University professor also wrote a collection of Christian works. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, originally a radio broadcast during the Great War, was turned into a novel and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

Roald Dahl

Mostly known for childhood classics, Roald Dahl also dabbled in adult short stories. Known best for James and the Giant Peach and Willy Wonka, Dahl created many unique characters who lived in fascinating worlds. Dahl spent the later parts of his career focusing on his short story collections which can still be found on bookshelves at your local bookshop. 

The United Kingdom has given us no shortage of talented authors, and they have written about a great variety of topics. If you’re looking for a good read, start with these five classics, then dig further to discover more treasures.

Britain’s Most Influential Musical Artists

Many British music artists get overlooked for their contributions to modern rock and pop because of the overwhelming celebrity of the UK’s megastars. Artists like the members of Queen, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones and solo superstars like David Bowie have decades of hits to prove their dominance. However, many others have contributed equally in how they inspire future artists and help to create singles that stay relevant 40-50 years later. 

The Jam

Formed in 1972, The Jam lured in audiences with their angry, defiant punk sound. The band did not receive the media attention given to other punk bands. Luckily, they were not on stage for the media but their broad and appreciative audience. The Jam released, in just five years, 18 consecutive Top 40 singles in the UK. A lifetime achievement award in 2006 helped to reawaken the influence and meaning The Jam still had over their audience.

Roxy Music

Singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry and bass guitarist Graham Simpson teamed up to create Roxy Music in 1970. A mixture of glam and punk, the band sold millions of albums around the world. The Ferry would become a style icon for many. Simpson, Ferry, and bandmate Brian Eno went on to have successful solo careers. Simpson was active in music until passing away in 2012, while Ferry and Eno continue to record. In 2019, Roxy Music was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cliff Richard

Sir Cliff Richard OBE dominated the rock scene in Britain before the Beatles arrived. His achievements are many, including more than 130 singles, EPs, and albums in the Top 20 in the UK and selling more than 250 million records worldwide. Richard also uniquely transitioned to contemporary Christian music while still enjoying a career in pop and rock music. Other achievements of his include 14 number-one singles in the UK and being the only UK singer to have a number-one song in five consecutive decades. Richard is the only act to make it onto the singles charts in the UK every decade during the first six decades the list existed.

It is an impossible task to list every influential British music artist as more continue to arrive on the music scene each year. The musicians and singers listed here are examples of some of the talents that get less attention but have contributed equally to the shaping of popular modern music.

Nurture Repeat Donations for Charity With Donor Retention Strategy

Fundraisers working for charities would do well to rip a page from the playbook of experienced for-profit salespeople. The latter will tell you here is nothing worse than “cold calling.” That’s approaching a new prospect for the first time and trying to sell them something.

Salespeople know it is at least ten times easier to sell a “warm prospect.” That can be either someone who has already purchased the same or similar product previously or a name from a list of “pre-qualified prospects.” These can be bought from list brokers. Great sellers will tell you that the right path to success in sales is nurturing repeat sales.

People who fundraise for charities can leverage the same advantage. A person who has given to a charity once before is many times more likely to contribute again.

The key is to create a “house list” or donor database. This is a cache of the names of the people who have already contributed. It takes time to accumulate a significant house list, but once you have it, that list is worth its weight in gold. Then when it comes time to fundraise, “massaging the house list” will bring in more revenue faster than getting on the phone and cold calling all-new prospects.

Always be thinking in terms of donor retention when charity fundraising. Repeat donations are not only easier to get, but studies show that retaining a relationship with a donor for five years or more may result in a significant contribution from that individual.

Just one significant gift from a single donor can sometimes be more substantial than all of the small individual contributions from new donors combined over one year.

Experienced professional nonprofit fundraisers say that the best donor retention strategy for charities is about the long game. One must still do the drudge work of cold calling and searching for new givers. That involves expensive advertising, emailing brochures, sending emails and more. But when you know what part of your effort will pay off the most, you can focus more time there and less time on strategies that are not as efficient.

Finally, don’t forget the power of “thank you!” Not saying thank you in a significant and meaningful way is the fastest way to burn a permanent bridge with a promising long-term donor.

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