Asia House, Marylebone
Asia House is a non-profit and non-political organisation that seeks to foster and promote a broad understanding of the incredibly diverse Asian continent.
With headquarters in a beautiful Georgian townhouse in Marylebone, Asia House offers regular exhibitions and a wide ranging programme of cultural and corporate events, lectures and workshops - almost all of which are open to the public. If you have even a passing interest in Asia its well worth checking out.
Asia House is located in Marylebone, in a fine Adam-style 18th century town house.
We used to live in a little mews house just around the corner from Asia House, and for a while we had the luxury of going there once a week or more. The organisation's remit covers over 40 countries, and we've been to events as diverse as a concert of folk music from Kazakhstan, talks on Chinese medicine, a discussion about Indian Bollywood movies, and a fantastic exhibition of contemporary Korean art. It is a lovely venue, a friendly place to meet Londoners interested in Asia, and the sheer number of events and variety of what's on offer is impressive.
In addition to lectures and talks, there are concerts, dance performances, readings, receptions and cookery demonstrations. Exhibitions in the gallery space are often accompanied by a lecture programme. There are visits to Asia-related exhibitions at other venues and curator talks. Asia House organises the annual Festival of Asian Literature
which, now in its 5th year, is an increasingly major event, attracting some high profile authors and commentators.
Coming up during Summer 2011 are workshops in Zen meditation, origami and Persian calligraphy, and a demonstration and talk on Indian Bridal Makeup, a symposium on investment in women's education in Asia, and a lecture on inter-faith pilgrimage and 'spiritual tourism'.
This beautiful peacock, inspired by Vay Naidu's telling of "The Peacock's Tail", was made at an Asia House family workshop.
We're also big fans of Asia House's occasional family days and children's workshops. Over the past few years we've printed T-shirts with Burmese artist (and former prisoner of conscience) Htein Lin
, listened to stories and music from GuoYue
, a musician who grew up during China's Cultural Revolution, and - most recently - listened to traditional Indian storyteller Vayu Naidu
, followed by a craft session inspired by her tales. A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon with kids (and even more so if it's rainy!).
The 'Fine Rooms' boast chandeliers and beautiful neo-classical ceilings
Most events take place in Asia House's own building, a grand Georgian townhouse planned by famous 18th century architects Robert and James Adam (who designed and laid out much of nearby Portland Place), but completed by another architect in the 'Adam style'. The building has been beautifully and thoughtfully restored and boasts a grand staircase, bookcases designed by Sir John Soane in the library, and delicate neo-classical plasterwork ceilings and cornices in the upper 'Fine Rooms'. It all provides a surprisingly good backdrop for Asian art and events.
The Silk Road Café occupies an elegant room on the ground floor, and is open on weekdays from 9am to 5pm. It's a nice place for a drink (select from a range of teas and coffees) or a light Asian-inspired lunch.
There is a small shop in the reception area, and usually also a good selection of free leaflets about Asia-related events across the city. The friendly receptionists are happy to advise on booking tickets for Asia House events.
The Dover Castle pub is just around the corner from Asia House, and a great place for a pint after an evening event.
Following an evening event at Asia House, we like to walk around the corner into cobbled Weymouth Mews and enjoy a pint at the Dover Castle - a cosy, atmospheric pub that dates back to 1778 and is very much 'off the tourist trail'. It is popular with local business people and employees from the BBC's Broadcasting House across the road.
Essentials: Asia House
Asia House, 63 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7LP
Great Portland Street, Regent's Park or Oxford Circus.
The building is open 9am - 7pm on weekdays and, when an exhibition is on, from 10am to 6pm on Saturdays. Closed on Sundays.