Tag Archives: London Olympics


The sporting thriller, The Godhead Game, predicts that Obama will win the US elections, and other events in this countdown to December 2012, and the Mayan Calendar end. We’ll see, but it’s half the fun of the read. But it can hardly have predicted the remark that will surely stay with Mitt Romney, and if you were adding up bloopers, might even cost him an election. Danny Boyle clearly put black and multi-coloured faces centre stage, at the heart of a globally minded London Olympic opening, a Games for the World, while proudly talking an anglo-saxon heritage too. Perhaps the spirit of Jesse Owens is now Obama’s spiritual running mate.

Since everyone has to do it themselves these weird days, The Godhead Game is now unofficial read of the London Olympics, so go Phoenix Ark Press. To get a copy, before the end of the world, Universe and everything, Click here

Addendum: On the other hand QI pointed out last night that Hitler did not snub Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olymopics, he shook no athletes hands, while FDR did and that the ‘Facist’ salute was not invented by the Nazis, but a mix of ancient Olympians and US School kids! Owens, in racially divided America, received no welcome back at the Whitehouse, and had to enter one reception hotel through the service lifts. There you are, Democrat or Republican, never assume, or live in the easy cliché!

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London is about to host an Olympics, but there is also a Cultural Olympics going on and a Shakespeare fest too. There is useful work being done at the moment mapping Elizabethan London, and Southwark. It is work that a lay student can join in with too and an example is the use of the so-called ‘Agas Map’ Click here. A little doubtful here of ‘Virtual Reality’ or ‘interactive history’, often supposed facts and dates too, it still helps readers imagine the ground, four hundred years ago.

To start imagining Bankside though, go there today, and visit Sam Wanamaker’s Globe Project, which stands near the area of old ‘Paris Gardens‘, a Liberty, where Francis Langley’s Swan Theatre once stood, a Bull and Bear baiting arena, and the Royal Barge house on the Thames, that the landlord and impresario Philip Henslowe franchised and re-equipped. Just South East of the modern Globe, parallel with the Thames, runs dreary modern Park Street, which more or less follows the line of old Maid Lane, which for a time became the Broadway or Shaftesbury Avenue of its day. It was on Maid Lane that Henslowe put up his Rose Theatre, and in 1599, the Burbages, with Will Shakespeare a sharer, The Globe. It is possible that another figure involved in the theatres, Jacob Meade or Maide, a prominent waterman, like so many in the district, took his name for Maide Lane.

The Elephant Tavern, perhaps referenced in Twelfth Night, stood on one Maid Lane corner, as did The Vine, in a group of properties called Hunt’s Rents. The Vine included, as did many monastic and also tavern properties, a brewhouse, in a celebrated brewing area by the river, and a ‘messuage’ of land, tenements, stables and gardens. So it was like hundreds of taverns located in Southwark. It was bequeathed in the Online will of Edwarde Hunt, to his ‘beloved wife Mary’, who was pregnant, in 1588. It is uncertain when it went up, but a Vyne is mentioned in the 1530’s, and it belonged to a John Le Hunte, under Henry VI. Or rather to that Brotherhood of Our Lady of Assumption, connected to St Margaret’s Church, granted rights to buy Land and properties by the King of up to Twenty Marks. In the Token Books of Southwark Cathedral, registers of locals buying church tokens handed in to prove communion attendance, Edmund Shakespeare’s name appears at the Vine in 1607. He died that freezing December and was buried on the 31st, though the furiously chill weather extends the possible time of fairly rapid burials. Alan Nelson and his colleague Professor Ingram have been listing all the names in the Token Books to put up on line.

They include the likes of Edmund Shakespeare, Phillip Henslowe, and Edward Alleyn, several actors and some characters who appear in other references to Shakespeare. Keep walking East passed the modern sites of The Rose and Globe excavations, and you get to the point Park Street turns right and South. It was once called Deadman’s Place. If you had gone South West four hundred years ago you would have got to St Margaret’s Cross, where St Margaret’s Church once stood, dissolved during the Reformation, to become a local prison. We think Deadman’s Place is linked to land called, in one document, Lord Farrar’s Place, that St Margaret’s Church bought up for a new burial ground and sepulchre.

Above the Park Street bend, at the modern wine mecca Vineopolis, begins what was once the Liberty of The Clink, running along Clink Street, where London’s oldest prison stood, passed the remains of Winchester House, the London palace of the Bishop of Winchester, and you get to St Saviour’s Dock, where the Golden Hinde replica is, Winchester Street and then Southwark Cathedral. We can now prove that Phillipe Henslove lived in a house that was effectly No 5 Bell Alley, just before Clink Street, on the edge of the Church Square, probably part of another tavern and tenement complex, like The Vine, or the nearby Green Dragon Inn.

Henslowe lived in Southwark for over 20 years, but for several years his Son-in-law the famous actor Edward Alleyn moved in with him. Both were to become Wardens of St Saviour’s Church, for a time. Both were also involved in something called The Great Enqueste. It began with the Coronation of James I, into many affairs, but in Southwark coalescing about complaints against the Church Vestrymen and local administration, that is its own important and fascinating story. Here we think, because the Wardens oversaw legal agreements and purchases, it was very important in the Shakespeare story, and may have been one of the reasons William Shakespeare moved out of the area again. If Charles Nicholls is right about the dates surrounding Shakespeare’s sojourn on Silver Street, around Elizabeth’s death, then it makes sense, if a rival like Henslowe came more to the fore as a Southwark Man, with the Queen’s death.

The topography of the area has of course changed enormously, with the rise in height, the crowding of concrete buildings, and above all the movement of London Bridge, west by over fifty yards. But what remains is the dominating space of St Saviours Church, Southwark Cathedral, and the fact that Bankside, once Stewside, has not moved at all, unlike the North Shore. Olympic visitors disgorging next week at London Bridge Tube Station, or people trying to get away from it all, and rediscover an extraordinarily interesting and important area, threatened by buildings like the Shard and the activities of Thames Water, may find it difficult to imagine. But perhaps the coming blogs and precise details will help. In the meantime, here is a picture of JJ Visscher’s famous engraving of 1616, the year both Shakespeare and Henslowe died.

Let the eye dwell on the bottom shore, across the river from the old wooden, walled City of London. To the right is the small church of no longer standing St Olaves, the spire of which Peter Ackroyd says is mentioned more than any other in Shakespeare’s Plays, although London then had five St Olaves. Go West to the old covered London Bridge, famous throughout Europe, then to the large church of St Saviours, originally St Mary’s Overies, now Southwark Cathedral. Keep going left and you get to Winchester House or Palace, in the Clink Liberty, and then you get to Maid Lane, where the round bear gardens and theatres stood. In time we will pinpoint where Edmund Shakespeare was staying in 1607. (The panorama is taken from Wikepedia. If there are any copyright issues please contact the blog.)


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Well, a new thriller here does, although since The Godhead Game by David Clement-Davies, set around the Mayan Calendar end this year, December 2012, is actually set in 2014, there are several predictions that may or may not materialise. We’ll see. The one we hope does not come true is the predicted end of everything, with the Mayan ‘6th Monument Stele.

But with the Olympic debacle already in London, David Beckham left out of the Olympic football squad, more huge banking scandals with Barclays and Mr Diamond, and the reports of how the Romney/Obama race is so dependent on vast sums of money, the themes in the thriller, moving between facts and fictions, realities and beliefs, are rather more serious.

A game is played, both imaginative and physical, a murderous Mayan game in the rainforests, with kidnapped world athlete. Perhaps then it should be THE READ for the London Olympics, or for those interested in how you might actually beat those world financial markets, that now seem to affect and control us all, and one day may really destroy the world. Or is it all just a Game of human illusions and money mysteries?


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The London Olympics, whether a success or wash out, are actually a wonderful chance for many valuable discussions and cultural discoveries. One, for American and world visitors alike, is the coming mega exhibition at the British Museum on Elizabethan London and all its writers, Shakespeare: Staging the World, from July 19th through to November. Another are the cycle of Shakespeare plays being staged at The Globe, in 37 different languages, but then, supported by a Bardic fest on the BBC, this is also World Shakespeare Year: A Cultural Olympiad too then, with Bill going for cultural Gold.

It is a chance for an obvious plug for work here, and the experimental posting of the story of Shakespeare’s Brother, above, on Southwark and William’s unknown younger brother Edmund, also a player, who died in Southwark in the freezing winter of 1607/8. It might be a chance to stop Thames Water mutilating an important and wonderful London district too, as the actor Patrick Stewart has been campaigning on, with its plans for awful new water tunnels, to quench the washed and unwashed in the capital, in the glinting shadow of the Shard. Southwark must be preserved, or protected, but perhaps not in that ‘theme park’ way we do history nowadays. But actually the story of the players, Southwark, The City and the Reformation lies at the very root of World banking and economic discussions too, ever looming over the City of London.

For years we have talked about that “American Dream“, good or bad, dream or nightmare, but it actually came straight out of the Elizabethan City of London, and speaks of a very long ‘special relationship’. In the establishing of the Virginia Trading Company’s Free Standing Lotterie in 1612, taken up by all 13 colonies and formed in the City of London, in the founding of the East India Company too, so much of what we believe and debate today was forged five hundred years ago, in the trading ethic of the City, the battle with Rome and Euro Centrism, and the discovery and colonisation of the ‘New World’. As those writers and players, vagabond or connected, were writing their works and building their theatres, often attacked by the City Corporation, in the hungry “Square mile”. Just as the violent religious debates of the Reformation, subtly redirected in Shakespeare, and the energetic freedoms of separatist Puritans and dissenters, were carried straight to the founding heart of often still Puritan America, or East Coast America, with the actually levelling idea of Lotteries and Capitalism powerfully in toe – levelling until capital became such an unlevel playing field. It may be why there is such interest in Shakespeare and Southwark from American academics nowadays, but in many ways American consciousness has not moved on from those Elizabethan London arguments and energetic opposites, four hundred years ago. Maybe the UK is always returning to them too, especially in its symbiotic or lap dog relationship with the USA.

Perhaps the Olympics then are a chance to discuss what Shakespeare’s real vision and journey was, and if that can be a true guiding light once more, or if it is all just fustian recreation. Peter Ackroyd argues he did not have a meaning or vision, as such, since he was both a writer trying to make it, and please an audience, and all-encompassing in his mirror up to nature, or the world. Yet, if “we all such stuff as dreams are made of”, perhaps the good or bad life dream does revolve around that play Ackroyd does not think was effectively his last work, and we do, The Tempest. Especially what Shakespeare was trying to get at in terms of the creative ‘faith’ of the writer magician, Prospero, in that ‘isle full of noises’ of his mind, and those “brave new worlds that hath such people in it.” Much as Ackroyd may be right about some quality in Shakespeare drawing on “The English Imagination”, that is a world vision, for all humanity, not a London one, and a search for other ‘countries’, or reality and imagination, beyond the clashes of his time. Whatever golds the Olympics bring for Team Britain though, now branded just like the Corporation or ‘Big Apple’ New York City, there is a lot of cultural gold to be had in London this year. Enjoy.

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