by Robina Dam
Organised by Joanna Bevan and Anya Paul, the Speak Street Art Talks events are held each month at a London venue of cultural interest.
Opening doors, both literally and metaphorically, these events offer Speak Street students a guided introduction to places which benefit their spoken English as well as offering a social interaction.
June 2023 event: RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects)
The magnificent 1930s building that is the headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) was where we gathered for our June art talk.
It is, as you would expect, an extraordinary architectural masterpiece from the outside; inside it is even more breathtaking.
Our group was taken to the top of the building and given privileged access to the Council Chamber which is usually reserved for members. On this occasion we took the opportunity to sit around the Chamber’s table while we were given a talk by architect Robert Loader who shared his vast knowledge of the changing face of London, and gave insight into amazing buildings with views of the city — all for free!
Among Robert’s recommendations were Temple of Mithras in the City, the small garden behind St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, the British Museum the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank which faces the river and often holds free musical performances in the foyer.
Talking of free, many people, including those who have lived in London for decades, don’t realise that entrance to RIBA is, in fact, free to the public. This includes special exhibitions which may be on throughout the year, and RIBA often organise family-friendly events where you can bring your children (or grandchildren) to join in with hands-on activities.
Our group was then given a tour by Robert, coming down the spectacular staircase with its polished brass handrail. On each floor we would stop to gaze at beautiful etchings in the glass or go close up to the marble columns close-up and get views of the building’s interior all the way down.
A visit to the cafe, where Anya and Joanna organised coffee and pastries, meant a glamorous setting for Speak Street students to continue practising their architectural vocabulary with volunteers.
Thanks to Mishcon (Verity Taylor, Georgina Yik and Kasaneel McEwan) and volunteers Denise Ward and Kal Mohammed.
RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD