“Is this really London?”

This is a clip from Fiona’s Candle, Gas, Electric, Sparkle! Street Lights of London – Xmas Special Virtual Tour that was aired earlier this evening. (It’ll go again on December 20 at 11 am gmt.)

In the circumstances the mot juste here is, this award-winning guide illuminates.

Anybody can go out and shoot the lights of London, with a special emphasis on the Christmas lights. But all that amounts to is a travelogue. A pretty travelogue but a (ho hum, yawn) travelogue all the same.

Fiona’s illuminated the illuminations. You not only see a great deal – indeed a great deal more* than you would see from a bog standard travelogue – what you see, all of it visually appealing in the extreme, is taken to a whole new level with the “back stories” that accompany each “display.” How gas lamp lighting works, how theatre-going became “a completely different experience thanks to gas lamp lighting;” those thousands of blocks of stones that were taken to India, carved there and then sent back to London and “assembled” and now provoke that astonished outburst “Is this really London?”; the “Queen of the Forest” and how an important memory/tradition that was fading was made green again; etc. etc.**

*the Hindu Temple, the Savoy’s Lego Christmas tree from last year, the “prosaic” (as Fiona called it) visual explanation of limelight, the “sentinel” on the Strand, etc. etc.

**the examples I’ve cited here – rich little repast that they are – are all from the short extract that comprises this podcast. The full length, full-on virtual tour is a feast – getting on for ten times as multitudinous, as rich as what I’ve doled out here in this short extract.

Two other points. 1) this gifted, nonpareil guide has taken full advantage of the possibilities inherent in the medium. She takes you all over London. Not only do you see far more than you would see on a conventional walking tour (because it’s “virtual” she can range right across London – cover the nearly 10 miles from Neasden to Sloane Square in less than a second) – you in fact see more in an hour than you would see in a five hour automobile tour. At 1/50th of the cost. And 2) she’s got both the little balance and the big balance right. The little balance is the mixture of contemporary photos (shot by Fiona in the last week or so) with fascinating old images (cartoons, prints, maps, etc.) that are the fruit of a lot of hard work (picture research).  The big balance is the balance of those stills with the many short but telling videos that she’s shot out on location. Those short videos are leavening. They make this feel like a walking tour – something cut from a very different, much richer cloth than you get with an illustrated lecture.

The fifteen of us witnessed something special, something remarkably rewarding tonight. A Christmas treat (so to speak) put together by a brilliant guide working right at the zenith of her nonpareil skillset.

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