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Cultural Guide to Queen’s Park and Kilburn

30 January 2016 | London Calling

Kilburn and Queen's Park are two very different areas. While one is all about its nice park with yummy mummies and pétanque, the other is centred on its crowded, multicultural high road which still bears witness to its past as 'County Kilburn', with a large number of Irish pubs. Together, however, they make quite the cultural powerhouse. And here's why…

Art

The Ben Uri Gallery, just off Abbey Road, has an extensive collection of work by Jewish artists from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. In its small, temporary premises, the gallery can only show a fraction of its varied range of works by the likes of Auerbach and Chagall, but the free exhibitions are worth a visit nevertheless. Make the most of it while they’re still living in NW, because the search for a big venue in central London continues.

 

Theatre and film

One of North London’s most interesting theatres, the Tricycle Theatre is a cosy venue on the Kilburn High Road that has a rich history of producing engaging and challenging plays. It’s currently faring well under the artistic direction of Indhu Rubasingham; she was responsible for last year’s West End hit transfer Handbagged, which gave the audience a humorous (if speculative) insight into the relationship between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher, as well as for Red Velvet, which is about to do a stint at the Garrick Theatre with Adrian Lester reprising the role of 19th century actor Ira Aldridge for the third time. Apart from great theatre, the Tricycle also offers its visitors a well-curated selection of films that includes blockbusters, art house films and NT Live screenings.

Meanwhile in Queen’s Park, the Lexi Cinema on Chamberlayne Road is another great venue for a night at the movies. The selection is even more varied here, with the National Theatre starring alongside big Hollywood flicks, foreign films, Met Opera and special kids ‘baby and carer’ screenings. If the friendly atmosphere and the more than reasonable prices aren’t enough reason to go, you should definitely be convinced by the fact that 100% of the Lexi’s profits go to The Sustainability Institute, a charity working mainly with children in South Africa.

 

Music

If you’re more of a music lover, have a look at The Good Ship. Just up the road from the Tricycle, this live music bar celebrated its tenth birthday last year. In those ten years they’ve brought Kilburn some of the best and most exciting bands and live acts, both upcoming and established. They even had Adele! (But they don’t like to talk about that too much, so we’ll leave it at that.) Not content with merely doing music, they also have room for other artsy pursuits such as spoken word performances and, every Monday night, stand up comedy. But, in their own words, ‘Not karaoke though. No no no no no.’

 

Architecture and heritage

Although certainly not among the oldest parts of London, Kilburn and Queen’s Park have quite a few heritage sites that are worth a visit. One of those is Ernö Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower, which was completed in 1972 and still provides 31 floors worth of social housing. At 120 metres high, its distinctive, Brutalist profile dominates the surrounding area. Love it or hate it, Trellick has undeniably become quite the London landmark.

Another architectural gem that divides public opinion is the Kilburn Tin Tabernacle that sits just off the Kilburn High Road. Built in the 1860s, it was born in a sudden wave of enthusiasm for prefabricated churches made of corrugated iron. Few of these unlikely constructions survive, but, although it might be a bit of an ugly duckling, the Kilburn tabernacle is still going strong. Currently home to the Sea Cadets, there’s also a regular line up of events including cabaret, film screenings and art installations. 

If you’re in the area on a nice, sunny day, a visit to Queen’s Park’s eponymous 30 acre bit of greenery is a must. It’s a great place to bring a book and a picnic, or to have a nosy around one of the festivals that usually take place over the summer. The nearby Lexi, for example, is also the headquarters of the travelling Nomad Cinema, so at least a few of the Nomad’s outdoor screenings of popular films are guaranteed to take place in the park each year.

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