London is the largest city in Europe_________________________________ 3
Cultural life of London___________________________________________ 5
The characteristics of British arts and letters__________________________ 5
Theatre and cinema______________________________________________ 7
The fine arts__________________________________________________ 11
Museums of London____________________________________________ 12
Parks of London_______________________________________________ 13
Two thousand years ago there was an Iron Age Celtic culturethroughout the British Isles. It seems that the Celts, who had been arrivingfrom Europe from the eighth century BC onwards, intermingled with the peopleswho were already there. We know that religious sites that had been built longbefore the arrival of the Celts continued to be used in the Celtic period.
For people in Britain today, the chief significance of theprehistoric period is its sense of mystery. This sense finds its focus mosteasily in the astonishing monumental – architecture of this period, the remainsof which exist throughout the country. Wiltshire, in south-western England, hastwo spectacular examples: Silbury Hill, the largest burial mound in Europe, andStonehenge. Such places have a special importance for anyone interested in thecultural and religious practices of prehistoric Britain. We know very littleabout these practices, but there are some organizations today who base theirbeliefs on them.London is the largestcity in Europe
London dominates Britain. It is home for the headquartersof all government departments. Parliament, the major legal institutions and themonarch. It is the country's business and banking centre and the centre of itstransport network. It contains the headquarters of the national televisionnetworks and of all the national newspapers. It is about seven times largerthan any other city in the country. About a fifth of the total population ofthe UK lives in the Greater London area.
The original walled city of London was quite small. It didnot contain Parliament or the royal court, since this would have interfered withthe autonomy of the merchants and traders who lived and worked there. It was inWestminster, another 'city' outside London's walls, that these nationalinstitutions met. Today, both 'cities' are just two areas of central London.The square mile is home to the country's main financial organizations, theterritory of the stereotypical English 'city gent'. During the daytime, nearlya million people work there, but less than 8000 people actually live there.
Two other well-known areas of London are the West End andthe East End. The former is known for its many theatres, cinemas and expensiveshops. The latter is known as the poorer residential area of central London. Itis the home of the Cockney and in this century large numbers of immigrants havesettled there.
There are many other parts of central London which havetheir own distinctive characters, and central London itself makes up only avery small part of Greater London. In common with many other European cities,the population in the central area has decreased in the second half of thetwentieth century. The majority of Londoners' live in its suburbs, millions ofthem travelling into the centre each day to work. These suburbs cover a vastarea of land.
Like many large cities, London is in some ways untypical ofthe rest of the country in that it is so cosmopolitan. Although all ofBritain's cities have some degree of cultural and racial variety, the varietyis by far the greatest in London. A survey carried out in the 1980's found that37 different languages were spoken in the homes of just one district.
In recent years it has been claimed that London is indecline. It is losing its place as one of the world s biggest financial centresand, in comparison with many other western European cities, it looks ratherdirty and neglected. Nevertheless, its popularity as a tourist destination isstill growing. And it is not only tourists who like visiting London – thereaders of Business Traveller magazine often vote it their favourite city inthe world in which to do business. This popularity is probably the result ofits combination of apparently infinite cultural variety and a long historywhich has left many visible signs of its richness and drama.
Cultural life of London
One cannot learn or teach a language well without cominginto contact with the cultural content. It is common knowledge that everycountry has its own national culture and heritage. So has Great Britain. ThisEnglish speaking country is famous for great painters and artists, architectsand composers, brilliant playwrights and poets, actors and writers. Such namesas Christopher Wren, William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Britten,Turner and Gainsborough are well known all over world.
The centre of cultural life in Britain is London, ofcourse. If you stay in London for a few days, you will have no difficulty tofind where to spend an evening. You will find opera, comedy, drama, variety toyour taste. Some of the best known theatres in England are: the Royal OperaHouse, Royal Shakespeare theatre, Old Vic and others.The characteristics of Britisharts and letters
If there is one characteristic of British work in the artsthat seems to stand out, it is its lack of identification with widerintellectual trends. It is not usually ideologically committed, nor associatedwith particular political movements. Playwrights and directors, for instance,can be left-wing in their political outlook, but the plays which they producerarely convey a straightforward political message. The same is largely true ofBritish novelists and poets. Their writing is typically naturalistic and is notconnected with particular intellectual movements. They tend to beindividualistic, exploring emotions rather than ideas, the personal rather thanthe political. Whatever the critics say, it is quite common for Britishplaywrights and novelists to claim that they just record 'what they see' andthat they do not consciously intend any social or symbolic message. Similarly,British work in the arts also tends to be individualistic within its own field.That is, artists do not usually consider themselves to belong to this or that'movement'. In any field of the arts, even those in which British artists havestrong international reputations, it is difficult to identify a 'Britishschool'.
The style of the arts also tends to be conventional. Theavant-garde exists, of course, but, with the possible exception of painting andsculpture, it is not through such work that British artists become famous. Inthe 1980's, Peter Brook was a highly successful theatre director. But when heoccasionally directed avant-garde productions, he staged them in Paris!
In these features of the work of British artists, it isperhaps possible to find an explanation for the apparent contradiction between,on the one hand, the low level of public support for the arts and, on the otherhand, the high level of enthusiasm on the part of individuals. There appears tobe a general assumption in Britain that artistic creation is a personal affair,not a social one, and that therefore the flowering of artistic talent cannot beengineered. Either it happens, or it doesn't. It is not something for whichsociety should feel responsible.Theatre and cinema
The theatre has always been very strong in Britain. Itscentre is, of course, London, where successful plays can sometimes run withouta break for many years. But every large town in the country has its theatres. Evensmall towns often have 'repertory' theatres, where different plays areperformed for short periods by the same group of professional actors.
It seems that the conventional format of the theatricalplay gives the undemonstrative British people a safe opportunity to look behindthe mask of accepted social behaviour. The country's most successful andrespected playwrights are usually those who explore the darker side of thepersonality and of personal relationships.
British theatre has such a fine acting tradition thatHollywood is forever raiding its talent for people to star in films. Britishtelevision does the same thing. Moreover, Broadway, when looking for its nextblockbuster musical, pays close attention to London productions. In short,British theatre is much admired. As a consequence, it is something that Britishactors are proud of. Many of the most well-known television actors, though theymight make most of their money in this latter medium, continue to seethemselves as first and foremost theatre actors.
In contrast, the cinema in Britain is often regarded as notquite part of 'the arts' at all – it is simply entertainment. Partly for thisreason, Britain is unique among the large European countries in giving almostno financial help to its film industry. Therefore, although cinema-going is aregular habit for a much larger number of people than is theatre-going, Britishfilm directors often have to go to Hollywood because the resources they needare not available in Britain. As a result, comparatively few films of qualityare made in the country. This is not because expertise in film making does notexist. It does. American productions often use studios and technical facilitiesin Britain. Moreover, some of the films which Britain does manage to makebecome highly respected around the world. But even these films often make afinancial loss.
There are many cinemas and cinema clubs in London. Somecinemas show lots of comedies and long epic films. Other cinemas show a largenumber of continental films or films for young people.
If you want to know which films are on, there are manypublications to help you. Any daily newspaper will have a short list of filmsand shows. One of the newspapers which is on sale in the middle of the day,gives you the best list of films and the time they begin.
Some cinemas show films in the afternoon, early evening andlate evening. Others have continuous programmes from about two o'clock in theafternoon.
Classical music in Britain is a minority interest. Fewclassical musicians, whether British or foreign, become well known to thegeneral public. When they do, it is usually because of circumstances which havenothing to do with their music. For example, the Italian tenor Pavarotti becamefamous in the country when an aria sung by him was used by the BBC to introduceits 1990 football World Cup coverage. Despite this low profile, thousands ofBritish people are dedicated musicians and many public libraries have awell-stocked music section. Several British orchestras, soloists, singers,choirs, opera companies and ballet companies, and also certain annual musicalevents, have international reputations.
In the 1960's, British artists had a great influence on thedevelopment of music in the modern, or 'pop' idiom. The Beatles and otherBritish groups were responsible for several innovations which were then adoptedby popular musicians in the USA and the rest of the world. These included thewriting of words and music by the performers themselves, and more activeaudience participation. The words of their songs also helped to liberate thepop idiom from its former limitation to the topics of love and teenageaffection. Other British artists in groups such as Pink Floyd and Cream playeda major part in making the musical structure of pop music similarly moresophisticated.
Since the 1960's, popular music in Britain has been anenormous and profitable industry. The Beatles were awarded the honour of MBE fortheir services to British exports. Within Britain the total sales of thevarious kinds of musical recording are more than 200 million every year – andthe vast majority of them are of popular music. Many worldwide trends have comeout of Britain and British 'pop' artists have been active in attempting tocross the boundaries between popular music, folk music and classical music.
And some more about music. London is a very musicalcapital. Every evening you can see or hear opera, or classical music, ballet orrock music. The Royal Opera House is famous all over the world for itsproductions and singers, but seat prices are very high. There are three concerthalls near the National Theatre. In the summer, there are sometimes one or twofree open-air rock concerts in Hyde Park. An audience of a quarter of a millionpeople is a usual thing. Every summer, from July to September, concerts areheld in the Royal Albert Hall, and you can buy tickets at all prices. Seriousmusic-lovers stand in the arena or in the top gallery, but you do not to standbecause there are plenty of seats.
The largest provincial centres also have orchestras whichgive regular concerts. All these orchestras sometimes visit other places togive concerts.Literature
Although the British are comparatively uninterested informal education, and although they watch a lot of television, they arenonetheless enthusiastic readers.
Many people in the literary world say that Britishliterature at the end of the twentieth century has lost its way. The lastBritish author to win the Nobel Prize for literature was William Golding, in1983. Many others disagree with this opinion. But what is not in doubt is thata lot of the exciting new literature written in English and published inBritain in recent years has been written by people from outside Britain. TheBooker Prize is the most important prize in Britain for a work of fiction.Starting with Salman Rushdie in 1981, nine of its next fourteen winners werewriters from former British colonies such as Canada, India, Ireland andNigeria.
Although many of the best 'serious' British writers manageto be popular as well as profound, the vast majority of the books that are readin Britain could not be classified as 'serious' literature. Britain is the homeof what might be called 'middlebrow' literature. For example, the distinctlyBritish genre of detective fiction is regarded as entertainment rather thanliterature – but it is entertainment for intelligent readers. There are manyBritish authors, mostly female, who write novels which are sometimes classifiedas 'romances' but which are actually deeper and more serious than that termoften implies. They are neither popular 'blockbusters' nor the sort of bookswhich are reviewed in the serious literary press. And yet they continue to beread, year after year after year, by hundreds of thousands of people.
In 1993 more than half of the hundred most-borrowed booksfrom Britain's public libraries were romantic novels. Many were of themiddlebrow type. The rest were more simplistic stories about romance. TheBritish publisher which sells more books than any other is Mills &Boon, whose books are exclusively of this type.
It is more than 200 years since poetry stopped being thenormal mode of literary self-expression. And yet, poetry at the end of thetwentieth century is surprisingly, and increasingly, popular in Britain. Booksof poetry sell in comparatively large numbers. Their sales are not nearly aslarge as sales of novels, but they are large enough for a few small publishersto survive entirely on publishing poetry. Many poets are asked to do readingsof their work on radio and at arts festivals. Many of these poets are notacademics and their writing is accessible to non-specialists. Perhaps the 'pop'idiom and the easy availability of sound recording have made more peoplecomfortable with spoken verse then they were fifty years ago.The fine arts
If you are fond of painting you can visit either theNational Gallery or the Tate Gallery.
The National Gallery is remarkable because all the greatschools of painting represent here: Italian, Dutch, Spanish, French etc. TheGallery was founded in 1824 and many famous pictures of old masters werebrought to London for everybody to see and for the painters to get theirinspiration from. The truly British art of painting flourished. It contains thegreatest collection of pictures in Britain by brilliant British painters suchas Hogarth, Constable, Turner, Gainsborough, Reynolds and others.
The Tate Gallery has a rich collection of British paintingof all periods too. It was set up by Henry Tate, a sugar manufacturer in 1897.Henry Tate was a very rich man and collected paintings. Today one can also seepictures of foreign painters of the 19th and 20thcenturies impressionists and post-impressionists in particular. There are Aboutthree hundred oils and nineteen thousand water colours and drawings. There area lot of paintings by the 16th century English artists there. Youcan also see many works by the English painter William Turner. Most of hispaintings are connected with the sea theme.
In the Tate Gallery one can see works by modern painters,Pablo Picasso among them. There are many interesting sculptures there. Thecollection is rather big. Henry Moore’s works can be seen in this gallery. Hewas a famous British sculpture. The paintings of this gallery impress everyonewho visits it.
Painting and sculpture are not as widely popular as musicis in Britain. There is a general feeling that you have to be a specialist toappreciate them, especially if they are contemporary. Small private artgalleries, where people might look at paintings with a view to buying them, arerare. Nevertheless, London is one of the main centres of the internationalcollector's world. The two major auction houses of Sotheby's and Christie's are'world-famous.
Until the i 98os, the country's major museums and galleriescharged nothing for admission. Most of them now do so, although sometimespayment is voluntary. This has caused a lot of complaint that a great traditionof free education has been lost.
Museums of London
Madame Tissue's is a museum ofwax figures. Outstanding politicians, sportsmen, actors, military men arerepresented there. There is the so-called Chamber of horrors in the museum.Criminals and scenes of murders are exhibited there. They produce a frighteningimpression. The museum attracts hundreds of visitors daily.
At the Science Museum one can see the first locomotive,rocket, the latest models of aeroplanes and what not.
The Museum of British transport will tell you the story ofpublic transport in Britain.
If you have keen on sculpture, architecture and ancientthings, you can visit one of the most interesting and largest museums of Londonand the whole world. It is the British museum. To begin with, it is famous forits library. It has a copy of every book than is printed in the Englishlanguage. Therefore there are more than eight million books there. The Britishmuseum library has a big collection of old and new manuscripts which they keepin glass cases. You can also find the first English books printed by Caxton.Caxton was the first English printer. He printed his first book in 1477. In the reading hall of the British museum library many famous people read and worked. V. Leninand K. Marx included the latter studied most of the material for his book «TheCapital» their.
The British museum is famous not only for its library. Ithas also a priceless collection of sculptures ceramics, coins engraving andoriental art. It houses unit collection of Italian drawings. The British museumis the most important place of archaeological study in the World with uniqueprehistoric collections. It takes one a day or so to do the whole museum. Onecan’t help admiring the British museum collections. They are worth seeing.
Parks of London
London has many parks and gardens. The best known are HydePark, Regent's Park and St. James's Park. They are all within easy reach of thecentre of London.
Hyde Park is a royal park since 1536. It was once part ofthe forest where Henry VIII hunted wild animals. Hyde Park now has 146 hectares of parkland, and people are allowed to walk or sit and lie on the grass. The Serpentineis a lake in the middle of the park. In summer you can swim in the Serpentineor go out in a boat. It is a custom for some people to swim in it on ChristmasDay. Hyde Park is famous for its Speaker's Corner, where people go when theywant to tell other people about their political opinions.
Regent's Park is in the north-west of London. It is thehome of the London Zoo. There are more than six thousand animals and birds inthe Zoo. One can reach the Zoo by boat that goes along the Regent's canal. Insummer one can visit an open-air theatre and enjoy a play by Shakespeare. Thereare also children's playgrounds and tennis courts.
St. James's Park is the oldest and the smallest of theroyal parks. It is near Buckingham Palace. There is a lake in St. James's Parkwhich is famous for its water-birds. The pelicans were originally given toCharles n by a Russian ambassador. Hundreds of people who work in the officesnearby come to this park to rest and eat their lunch.Housing
Almost everybody in Britain dreams of living in a detachedhouse; 'that is, a house which is a separate building. The saying, 'AnEnglishman's home is his castle' is well-known. It illustrates the desire forprivacy and the importance attached to ownership which seem to be at the heartof the British attitude to housing.
A large, detached house not only ensures privacy. It isalso a status symbol. At the extreme end of the scale there is the aristocratic'stately home' set in acres of garden. Of course, such a house is anunrealistic dream for most people. But even a small detached house, surroundedby garden, gives the required suggestion of rural life which is dear to thehearts of many British people. Most people would be happy to live in a cottage,and if this is a thatched cottage, reminiscent of a pre-industrial age, so muchthe better.
Most people try to avoid living in blocks of flats. Flats,they feel, provide the least amount of privacy. With a few exceptions, mostlyin certain locations in central London, flats are the cheapest kind of home.The people who live in them are those who cannot afford to live anywhere else.
The dislike of living in flats is very strong. In themillions of poorer people lived in old, cold, uncomfortable nineteenth centuryhouses, often with only an outside toilet and no bathroom. During the nexttwenty years many of them were given smart new 'high rise' blocks of flats tolive in which, with central heating and bathrooms, were much more comfortableand were surrounded by grassy open spaces. But people hated their new homes.They said they felt cut off from the world all those floors up. They missed theneigh-burliness. They couldn't keep a watchful eye on their children playingdown there in those lovely green spaces. The new high-rise blocks quicklydeteriorated. The lifts broke down. The lights in the corridors didn't work.Windows got broken and were not repaired. There was graffiti all over thewalls.
In theory, there is no objective reason why these high-riseblocks could not have been a success. In other countries millions of peoplelive reasonably happily in flats. But in Britain they were a failure becausethey do not suit British attitudes. The failure has been generally recognizedfor several years now. No more high-rises are being built. At the present time,only 4% of the population live in one. Only 20% of the country's householdslive in flats of any kind.Traffic
Public transport services in urban areas, as elsewhere inEurope, suffer from the fact that there is so much private traffic on the roadsthat they are not as cheap, as frequent or as fast as they otherwise could be.They also stop running inconveniently early at night. Efforts have been made tospeed up journey times by reserving certain lanes for buses, but so far therehas been no widespread attempt to give priority to public transport vehicles attraffic lights.
An interesting modern development is that trams, whichdisappeared from the country's towns during the 1950's and 1960's, are nowmaking a comeback. Research has shown that people seem to have more confidencein the reliability of a service which runs on tracks, and are therefore readierto use a tram than they would be to use an ordinary bus.
Britain is one of the few countries in Europe wheredouble-decker buses are a common sight. Although single-deckers have also beenin use since the 1960's, London still has more than 3,000 double-deckers inoperation. In their original form they were 'hop-on, hop-off' buses. That is,there were no doors, just an opening at the back to the outside. There was aconductor who walked around collecting fares while the bus was moving. However,most buses these days, including double-deckers, have separate doors forgetting on and off and no conductor.
The famous London Underground, known as 'the tube', isfeeling the effects of its age. It is now one of the dirtiest and leastefficient of all such systems in European cities. However, it is still heavilyused because it provides excellent connections with the main line trainstations and with the suburbs surrounding the city.
Another symbol of London is the distinctive black taxi.
According to the traditional stereotype, the owner-driversof London taxis, known as cabbies, are friendly Cockneys who never stoptalking. While it may not be true that they are all like this, they all have todemonstrate, in a difficult examination, detailed familiarity with London'sstreets and buildings before they are given their licence. Normally, thesetraditional taxis cannot be hired by phone. You simply have to find one on thestreet. But there are also many taxi companies who get most of their businessover the phone. Their taxis are known as 'minicabs'. They tend to have areputation, not always justified, for unreliability as well as for chargingunsuspecting tourists outrageous prices. However, taxis and minicabs areexpensive and most British people rarely use them, except, perhaps, when goinghome late at night after public transport has stopped running, especially ifthey have been drinking alcohol.
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