36 Before 36 ~ Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library

Try as you might, there’s no getting away from Harry Potter. Twenty years after the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the series’ popularity shows no signs of abating, and though J.K. Rowling herself rarely goes a week without putting her foot in her mouth, (or furthering the careers of domestic abusers) the books and films continue to enthrall.

I love Harry Potter as much as the next person, though as I get older and wiser I am certainly more aware of its problems than I was fifteen years ago. But I love the stories, so news of Harry Potter: A History of Magic – an exhibition taking place at the British Library, was very welcome indeed.

Harry Potter British Library
So I took myself off to London on a very, very wet Saturday morning, and, after spending a couple of hours wandering around Bloomsbury, photographing blue plaques, made my way to the British Library. In all honesty, other than knowing that the exhibition would include many of the original notes and doodles made by Rowling during the writing of the series, I didn’t know much else about what I’d be seeing. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn, once I’d entered, that there was a whole other element to it – something that should have been apparent from the name of the exhibition: A History of Magic. Alongside the very exciting notes and doodles, there were rare books, magical objects and artefacts peppered throughout covering each of the main subjects that Harry and his classmates study at Hogwarts.

It added a really fascinating dimension, as much of the inspiration for the subjects come from these traditions of folklore and magic. It’s also very humbling to stand next to a book that is hundreds of years old and realise that you are but a blip in the universe!

Harry Potter History of Magic

Of course, I did particularly enjoy seeing Rowling’s handwritten notes planning the stories, and Jim Kay’s drawings and illustrations are truly wonderful – my favourite was his drawing of Hagrid.

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition, of course, so I wasn’t allowed to take any photos to share with you, There is, however, a companion book available, which I haven’t bought yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long.

Sadly the exhibition finished at the end of February, and even before that, I think it was mostly sold out. But the book is probably a good alternative for anyone who didn’t get to see it, and I believe that some of the exhibits are going on tour around the world.

This was another 36 Before 36 item, so I’m already ahead of myself compared to last year!

1.Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library. 

 

Mark Kermode: Live in 3D

Last night I found myself back at the BFI Southbank; for someone who hadn’t been there once prior to last November, I seem to find myself there quite a lot these days (so much so that I’ve decided to become a member as soon as I get paid). This time I had a ticket to Mark Kermode: Live in 3D, a new monthly event where the always-wonderful Dr K basically stands on stage and talks about films.

Mark Kermode Live in 3D

As this was the first event of its kind, I didn’t know what to expect, though I was sure it was going to be exceptionally entertaining. I wasn’t disappointed; Mark broke the evening up into sections that included a Q&A, Listography, Guilty Pleasures, and Sound and Vision. There was plenty of audience interaction, with Mark inviting people to try and trump his guilty pleasure of Breathless, the Jim McBride remake of À bout de souffle starring Richard Gere. Much was made of someone’s suggestion of The Rock, which I think in the end was confirmed to be the only Michael Bay film that it’s acceptable to admit to liking, and therefore ruled as not being a guilty pleasure. We also got to see Richard Gere’s bum as he sang along to Suspicious Minds.

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I particularly enjoyed the listography part of the evening: Mark picked ten David Bowie performances that he particularly likes, which gave him the chance to pay tribute to the great man, and that was wonderful to hear. I wish I had taken notes though – I now can’t remember all the films he mentioned, though the clip of Into the Night that he showed had me adding that to my to-watch list immediately!

The same can be said of the clip he showed right at the end of the evening. Four young girls singing and dancing to Diamonds by Rihanna completely had me under its spell, and I now find myself desperate to watch Girlhood, the French coming-of-age film that Mark loved so much from last year.

The true joy of Mark Kermode: Live in 3D was getting to hear someone I admire very much simply standing in front of me and talking about films and the film industry. Whether he’s laughing at Udo Kier thrusting a cadaver out of the screen in Flesh for Frankenstein, or sighing over Zac Efron’s old-school movie star potential (sadly going to waste, if Mark’s sighs over Dirty Grandpa are anything to go by), he’s passionate and knowledgeable, and it’s a pleasure to witness. I already have my ticket booked for February!

I was also pleased as punch to pick up a keyring in the BFI shop on my way out; when I was younger my family and I made many trips to the Museum of the Moving Image, a museum that is sadly no longer open. It’s to my great lament that this is the case – I genuinely loved that place! So when I spotted this keyring in the shop, one that my mum had on her keys for years, I had to have it!

Museum of the Moving Image

The Movie Doctors

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Last week I was lucky enough to find myself at the BFI Southbank, watching Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo do their stuff in their guise as the Movie Doctors. I reviewed the book that accompanies their nationwide tour last month; having laughed my way through the book, I knew that I was going to have a similarly fun time at the live show.

I wasn’t disappointed; essentially the show is made up of two men standing on a stage talking about films and having the odd bicker, and when you’re a fan like me, there’s nothing better than this. As with the book, the show set out to cure various different ailments and illnesses, with members of the audience asking for help. From a lady worried about a mid-life crisis (Serial Mom was prescribed, with an accompanying clip); to my lovely friend Chloe who was seeking a cure for shyness – Punch-Drunk Love was recommended, with a disclaimer not to actually smash up any toilets.

The show really works, because Mark and Simon really know their stuff, and are really good at what they do. We even got to watch a short clip of Mary Poppins. This alone made it worth the £16, especially as it was from my favourite part, when the children are up on the rooftops with Mary and Bert, and London in the twilight makes me cry.

Afterwards I had some minor anxiety about meeting Simon and Mark, to get my book signed, mainly because I am so in awe of them, and also because I felt that I wanted to say a lot to them. Mostly I wanted to say thank you (to Mark especially) for tweeting my review of the book, and I wanted to do it eloquently without making an idiot of myself. I also wanted to make a hilarious Foot-Lamberts joke again, as I did in a letter to Wittertainment, and I wanted to say how much I liked the book, and again, this was all to be done in the coolest possible way.

In the end, though none of it was done in a remotely cool way, I managed to say thank you for the tweet, causing Mark and Simon to shake my hand like the gentlemen that they are. Simon commented on my necklace, I got my book signed, they posed for a photo with me, and all in all, it was a pretty amazing way to spend a Tuesday night.

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Mark talked all the way through our photo being taken, so there’s none where he’s not pulling this face or similar!

And, for those of you paying attention, I put ‘Have a photo taken with Mark Kermode’ on my 33 Before 33 list a whole year ago, and as this particular evening was two days before my 33rd birthday, I get to tick it off.

18. Have a photo taken with Mark Kermode

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Birthday Number 33

I had a birthday last week. I’m still a little sad that it’s over, because I just love my birthday so much. It’s not about the presents, or the fuss, it’s just about the feeling that you get on your birthday that you get on no other day of the year. I have dubbed it the special birthday feeling, because I have a way with words.

I dubbed the week surrounding last Thursday my birthday week. I’m not usually so precious, but the truth was that I got up to a lot of fun things between 7th and 15th November! A few of them are 33 Before 33 things that I wanted to get ticked off before the deadline, and as such they will have separate posts shortly. But here are just a few of the things I got up to.

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  • I got a piercing (post to follow)
  • I went to the fireworks display at Alexandra Palace with Hannah; at only £6 I think it was a bit of a bargain, and it was a really long display, and totally worth the journey into London.
  • I went to my niece’s 6th birthday party; she’s currently undergoing an incredible Spongebob Squarepants obsession, and the whole party was themed as such! She dressed as Spongebob himself, encouraged her friends to wear yellow, and had crab patty cakes. All rather fun.
  • I went to the Lord Mayor’s Show in London on Saturday morning with my sister and her family. We’ve been going for years and it was the 800th anniversary this year – amazing to think something has been going for that long!
  • No big deal, but I met Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo at their Movie Doctors event. There’s a blog post to follow here too.
  • I had a birthday! This is a photo of me that I really, really like, wearing a present that my friend Laura bought me – it’s a necklace that says ‘Practically Perfect in Every Way’ in case you can’t see it.
  • On the evening of my birthday, I went for something to eat with some lovely ladies from work. I’m really grateful to this little lot for making my birthday special and full of laughter.
  • On the day that we went to London to see the Movie Doctors, Hannah and I also went on a little boat trip on the Thames. It was freezing cold, but good fun, and I took quite a lot of photos, including this one of Tower Bridge.

In all the excitement, I sort of forgot that I had turned a year older. My age means relatively little to me; I keep waiting for the year when I’m going to freak out about getting another year older, but it hasn’t come yet. I’m 33 now, and the only thing that bothers me about it is that it’s an odd number, and I much prefer even numbers!

Shapes of London by Yoni Alter

Quite some time ago, I featured the artwork of Yoni Alter on Is That You Darling, having fallen in love with his cityscapes when I discovered them on Etsy. I love cityscapes, and Alter’s range really celebrates the wonderful architecture on display in cities across the world.

Yoni has now updated his iconic London design to include the Leadenhall Building and 20 Fenchurch Street, known as the Cheesegrater and the Walkie-Talkie respectively. This particular design also features the London Air Ambulance, and proceeds from the sales of the limited edition print will be donated to the charity.

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Coming up with the idea after a medical student emailed him suggesting the idea, Yoni says, “It’s a privilege to be able to utilise my talent for good causes and I was very impressed when I learnt about the charity and its team members. These people truly are heroes.” The helicopter is drawn to scale against the city’s iconic buildings, and the position is true to the height that it regularly flies at.

The limited edition prints are available to buy from Yoni’s online shop, priced at £45 each, with £7 from each sale being donated to the London Air Ambulance.