Tag: London

Stolen Books Worth $3.5 Million Discovered Beneath a House in Romania

Three years ago, 200 valuable books were stolen from a warehouse in London and among these were first editions of Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, and Francisco Goya. Last Wednesday, however, they were found beneath a house in Romania. Read to learn more!

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Theater Fans, Say Goodbye to ‘Phantom of the Opera’…Sort Of

For the uninitiated, Phantom of the Opera is a musical with music written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. It’s based on a 1910 novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux. The musical opened in 1986 in London’s West End. It had been running for 34 years, until March 2020 when the theater had to close because of the coronavirus.

And yet, as theater fans—not just in the U.K. but around the world—waited with bated breath for the reopening of society and the theater, Cameron Mackintosh, the producer of the musical, announced that Phantom of the Opera would be closing permanently. After a run of 34 years since 1986, Phantom of the Opera’s curtains and infamous chandelier will not be rising again, even after other shows open again.

Image Via Twin Cities Arts Reader

At least, that’s what the original statement was. In the U.K.’s Evening Standard newspaper, Mackintosh wrotean article about how untenable opening theaters back up was in the current pandemic. And since there’s no end in sight, he had to make huge downsizes to his company to make sure it would survive. Mackintosh knew this was coming—he wrote:

In early May I warned Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and the Government that [downsizing] would be necessary unless we received financial help. Despite the recent announcement of a £1.57 billion rescue fund for the arts, this help still hasn’t materialized.

Unfortunately, this meant he had to make some tough decisions.

“Andrew [Lloyd Webber] and I have had to sadly permanently shut down our London and U.K. touring productions of The Phantom of the Opera, but are determined to bring it back to London in the future.”

While his comma use is questionable, his intentions are not—he wants to bring the musical back to London. But he also said that it is closed permanently. These two statements seem contradictory. How can the musical be closed permanently and yet hopefully will be brought back?

Image Via Classic FM

Well, the answer lies in a statement made to The Stage by The Really Useful Group, which is owned by Lloyd Webber and produces, licenses, and promotes his shows. The president of the Really Useful Group, Jessica Koravos, said:

What Cameron [Mackintosh] was meaning to say is, we have closed down the production entity that has been that [production of] The Phantom of the Opera for 34 years, and have closed down the physical production. Even before the pandemic hit, we were already in a process of going carefully through the physical production, some parts of it already having been decommissioned. There are systems in that set you could not get the replacement parts for me any more—they just aren’t made after 34 years.

What does that mean? They’re permanently closing down the production of The Phantom of the Opera that’s been running for 34 years, but they’re not permanently stopping showing a production of the musical. It’ll be back as the same glorious musical it’s always been, just with some necessary updates needed. It’s basically a reboot.

The musical is going to return unchanged, with the same work done by the original creative team, including director Hal Prince and designer Maria Björnson. But they needed to update the physical set itself, because it’s been more than three decades and it’s probably getting a little rusty.

Koravos added that they had planned to do a period of closure in a few years to do said renovations, but after the pandemic forced a close, they couldn’t afford to do two. So, honestly, it’s pretty efficient that they’re doing the reboot now instead of in a few years.

Phantom of the Opera set
Image Via Lincoln Journal Star

Furthermore, once they looked at the set, it became clear that the building itself also needed work. So they need to do repairs on the set and the building, and they can’t even work on the building until the whole set is out.

But, theater fans, the gist of it is that you don’t have to worry, The Phantom of the Opera will be returning in all its glory. They just need to do some renovations and add in some new technology, but the show will continue to be “the brilliant original.”

So when will The Phantom of the Opera be back in London? It’s difficult to say. Koravos said, “Unlike some other shows that can say they will reopen as soon as social distancing ends, we have these other issues which means we are not able to give people a date, and so could not in all good faith keep people hanging on for a genuinely unknown length of time.”

They’re working hard to update the musical and keep it working, so fans just need to be patient. It will be back. The theater venue will be waiting—no other show will take The Phantom of the Opera’s place. Not that it could, anyway.

Featured Image Via Entertainment Weekly

Bookspot of the Week: Gay’s the Word!

An LGBTQ+ meeting place entirely centered around books? We love to see it! This week, we’re chatting with bookseller Erica Gillingham from the ever-so-magical Gay’s the Word bookshop in Bloomsbury, London. Spoiler alert: you will want to book a flight immediately after reading this.

How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?

The bookshop was opened in January 1979 by a group of gay socialists led by Ernest Hole. Ernest had been inspired by the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in NYC, which he had visited just after the Stonewall Riots.

image via gay’s the word

What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?

We are a bookshop, a community space, a meeting place, and a sanctuary for the LGBTQ+ community, locally, nationally, and internationally. It is truly an honor and a privilege to work here.

If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?

More books by, about, and for LGBTQ+ people!! Our bookshop is very small, so we are limited in some ways with what we can stock. However, we’ve recently given more space to young adult novels, graphic novels, and poetry, which has been very well received. 


How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?

We’re the oldest LGBTQ+ bookshop in the country and one of the only queer spaces in London that is not related to alcohol. In our local areas of Bloomsbury and King’s Cross, we’re also neighbors to a fantastic group of indie bookshops–Housmans, Persephone, London Review Bookshop, Judd Books, Skoob, and more.

What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?

Specialist knowledge and a curated collection that is based on decades of reading, research, and community interaction. 

image via gay’s the word

Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?

Each of us has our own areas of interest and knowledge, but our main objective as staff is to be friendly and welcoming with each person who comes through the door. 

How else do you create a welcoming environment?

We strive to make sure that the bookshop–from the window display to the smallest details of the shop–makes it possible for every person who visits the shop to find something that speaks to them. 


What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?

Whether people live or just work nearby, our neighborhood customers know the bookshop is a place where they can visit for book recommendations or to have a browse or a chat. Marchmont Street really is a lovely place to be. 

image via gay’s the word

Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?

There are some great new books coming out in April 2020, such as The Ministry of Guidance and Other Stories by Golnoosh Nour, No Modernism Without Lesbians by Diana Souhami, Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez, and Tongues of Fire by Sean Hewitt. 

Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?

Absolutely! It’s the bread and butter of what we do, and we work to constantly respond and adapt to the diversity and evolution of our community. 

Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?

We miss seeing you, and are excited to re-open once the threat of COVID-19 has passed!

Well, what did you think of Gay’s the Word? It sounds like a magical little shop where dreams come true! If you have a book spot you’d like to see recognized as well, just contact us through any of our social channels and you just might catch it here next week.

Featured Image Via Gay’s the word

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