Visiting London? - directions and useful hints

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1. Finding your way around
2. Guitar Shops
3. Concert venues
4. Guitar Societies
5. Museums
6. CD Shops

There are many interesting things for the guitarist to do in London. This section is intended to make life easier for visitors when in search of guitar-related matters.

Finding your way around
London is very very big, very crowded and gets very tiring very quickly. The simplest and least trying means of transport is the underground system, often called "The Tube". You will find a Tube map on the back of any guide book or A-Z (ie street plan). Rather than buying individual tickets to each destination, buy a One Day TravelCard, which, after 10am weekdays, and all day weekends, gives you unrestricted travel within the zones for which the ticket is valid. Remember you need a ticket valid from wherever you are starting from, and to your final destination if different. The ticket is also valid on all buses except Night Buses, and British Rail trains within the Zones area. Most of the interesting things are in the centre of London, but plan to check the stations you need for each destination and then check on a Tube map which Zones you will need for where you want to go. The more Zones you want, the dearer the ticket (Make sure you keep good hold of your ticket. If you lose it you will have to pay a fine as if you were trying to travel without one!)

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Guitar Shops

There are very many music shops in London but sensible guitarists tend to avoid these in favour of the specialist guitar centres. These are as follows:

The Spanish Guitar Centre
36 Cranbourn Place, tel. 0207 240 0754.
Tube; Leicester Square
Directions; come out of the station and find Cranbourn Place, on the side opposite Leicester Square itself. Then find the Chinese restaurant next to the pub on the corner.

This is the Guitar Centre that started them all. Created by Len Williams, father of John, it is now managed and owned by Barry Mason, and named after him too! It has a knowledgeable staff, a very big selection of guitars, especially at the higher end, and quite a lot of music and CDs.

Attractions in the area; Leicester Square, Soho, the Strand, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Theatreland, Charing Cross Road with book shops and other music/music technology shops. Within walking distance of the South Bank Centre.


The London Guitar Studio
62 Duke Street, off Oxford Street 0207 493 1157
Tube; Bond Street
Directions; go up the escalator, come out of the station and turn left along Oxford Street. Duke Street is a couple of blocks along.

This is the newest of the guitar specialists, and has both a large selection of instruments, a lot of music and CDs, and a flamenco section downstairs, where guitar recitals are sometimes held. Noted for its friendliness.

Attractions in the area; Selfridges store opposite Duke Street, Marble Arch is not far and a vast host of fancy shopping opportunities exists at every turn.


Ivor Mairants Musicentre
56 Rathbone Place, off Oxford Street. 0171 636 1481
Tube; Tottenham Court Road
Directions; come out of the station and head westwards along Oxford Street. Rathbone Place is off on the right.

If their website is to be believed this shop no longer sells classical guitars of any great interest.

Attractions in the area; Oxford Street; HMV Record shop, Virgin Megastores, Tottenham Court Road hifi shops. British Museum is not far.

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Concert Venues
There are numerous concert venues in the centre of London;
Those which regularly feature guitar recitals include The South Bank Centre (mainly the Purcell Room, also includes the large Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, ), Tube Waterloo or Embankment if you want to walk over the river.
Wigmore Hall 0207 935 2141 Tube Bond Street.
Barbican Centre 0207 382 7000 Tube Barbican or Moorgate. Follow the yellow lines on the pavement.

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Guitar Societies

The Guitar Society has taken firm root in British guitar life, and several exist in London. They all take slightly different approaches to the celebration of the instrument, from those where guest artists, often of high calibre, feature at every meeting, to those where 'self entertainment' is the rule; from those where well organised ensemble sessions are held to those where no real structure shapes the meeting. They tend to meet once a month in small local venues, church halls and the like.
Many Societies are open to visitors from outside the membership (where there is one), though even if there is no formal concert at the meeting you will normally be asked to pay a small contribution. They are in my experience always friendly and non-judgemental gatherings and welcome musical contributions. Even at those meetings where members perform, do not expect to play for more than five or ten minutes, under normal circumstances, and if you do play, most will appreciate something other than the most obvious cliches of the repertoire.
Whatever you do, if you are interested in attending a Guitar Society Meeting during your visit, phone the organiser first to make sure the meeting is on as usual, and to find out what will be going on. Several Societies have no August meeting.

The following information is taken from the Guitar Societies Directory in Classical Guitar Magazine;
Here are the London area Societies;
Blackheath Guitar Society - first Friday, Oct-July. tel; 0208 852 4043
Bromley GS 3rd Saturday 01689 858665
Ealing GS 1st Sunday 0208 567 3061
Enfield GS concerts email:
Greenwood Classical Guitar Club each Friday 0208 891 6889
Lauderdale GS 2nd Monday GS 0208 94 9108
Putney GS 1st Saturday 0207 603 1820
Windsor GS 1st and 3rd Wednesday 01753 859 421

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The main museums for instruments are
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), Tube; South Kensington -
and the Horniman Museum, which is in South London and is not accessible by Tube but which has quite a large collection of guitars amongst its enormous general collection.

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CD Shops

The largest collection of classical guitar CDs is to be found in the HMV store on Oxford Street. Reasonable collections are also found in Virgin and Tower Records, and the many small specialist CD shops that are dotted about, along with the guitar shops themselves of course, who often stock less well known things, and are more likely to be able to offer an opinion on a particular recording, and may be happy to play a couple of tracks for you in the shop if its not too busy.

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