Sunday, 19 June 2011

Arcola Theatre: Hertford Castle – trips by train.

On a visit to the British Library I joined a discussion at a Growing Knowledge presentation.  The theme of the series is serendipity and the British Library has a visionary look at the future (excuse the tautology) and a historian’s view of previous serendipity.  I heard about ‘crowd sourcing’ and ‘crowd verification’.  I think as a blind person we might have a different aspect on crowd verification.  One train conductor told me to triple check platform announcements and timings and if you’re not sighted you may find yourself being triangulated away from the truth by what is technically known as a ‘duff’ piece if information. 

Serendipity # 1

Arcola theatre – The Seagull by Chekhov 18th June

The Arcola Theatre is located very near two London Overground stations: Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction.  There are pedestrian crossings near each station and the accessibility at Dalston Junction is excellent.  Accessibility on the Overground has been improved. 

I went to a matinee of The Seagull by Chekhov.  There are concessions and this applies to someone going with you as well.  The performance cost £11 per seat (reduced from £17).

I mentioned Chekhov in a previous post in connection with The Cherry Orchard, which I am going to see at the National Theatre next month (with touch tour and audio description).  I had a seat right at the front of the Arcola Theatre and there is virtually 180 degree audio sound from left ear to right ear, and a ‘balcony’ vignette, so there is above the sound line ‘noises’ and a dramatic finale which I will not spoil. 

This is a superb production and you almost feel as if you’re included in the drama.  The plot is complex with a play within a play and some ‘lampooning’ of actors and the performance is really slick.  There is a lot of material about the production on the Arcola Theatre website and reviews of this production are also available.

I would certainly recommend that anyone within striking distance of the London Overground, i.e. from Clapham Junction, Richmond, Watford, Barking and West Croydon (sorry if I’ve left someone out) could feel safe in attending this excellent production.  Yes – I forgot Stratford! 

The theatre crew are very welcoming and though I went with a friend I would feel safe going back there on my own. 

Serendipity # 2

Hertford – afternoon trip by train

A trip I can remember taking when I was sighted was to Hertford East from Liverpool St returning from Hertford North to Kings Cross.  The geographers among you will note that this is anti-clockwise and there is probably a good reason for doing it this way.  I hadn’t been to Liverpool St since I lost my sight and I went there on my own, having intended to go to Whitechapel but changed my mind. 

The station concourse at Liverpool St is a bit of an obstacle course with many international passengers heading to Stansted Airport.  There is quite a large ticket office with a ‘maze’ entry system, which you might have to navigate your way round.  The staff were friendly and I got a ticket from Boundary Zone 6 to Hertford stations - £3.30 with a Freedom Pass plus a Disability Railcard.  This means you can go into one station and visit most of the town centre and leave from another station. 

Hertford East has a helpful ticket office and a helpful member of staff, so I got directions to the town centre.  I found the museum, though it was closed.  I had a coffee and got directions to Hertford Castle, which was having an Open Day.  This was a real treat and I was taken round the castle, which has a long history.  There is a video with an excellent soundtrack outlining the story of the castle through the ages until it was presented by the Cecil family to the town in 1912.  (I think) 

The Friends of Hertford Castle were very enthusiastic and they were all informative and there is quite a lot of interest to those with limited sight.  Ask to experience the herring bone brickwork in the Council Chamber and a five-pointed star (you have to negotiate a spiral staircase, which is fun) and there are also other rooms on show and a trip to the cellars.  During the Open Day I met some of the staff from the Tourist Office and they have a nice selection of souvenirs, and I bought a couple of books – though I’m not sure when I’ll get them read. 

The castle is in a beautiful park and the town itself is fairly compact with good pedestrian access and tactile crossings.  Directions to ask are the following landmarks which might be useful in planning your visit and finding your way round: museum, castle, Hertford Theatre, Hertford North and Hertford Hospital.  Everyone I asked was happy to help, including the lady in a clothes shop when I got lost.  People are really helpful in shops if you head for the till. 

One of the friends of Hertford Castle is a fellow ‘railway enthusiast’ and I managed to share tales of the London Overground with Alan - a big thank you for taking me and telling me about the way to Hertford North.

Tip: There are stairs at Hertford North and the service is run by First Capital Connect (minimal announcements).  If you exit at Kings Cross, I would follow the flow to the ticket barrier and turn right heading for St Pancras.  There is too much construction at Kings Cross and if you’re concerned about the stairs, it is flat from Hertford East – though you might have to negotiate Liverpool St. 

For railway enthusiasts this is a tale of three termini and two Hertford stations.  Hertford is one of those towns near London which is relatively easy to get to in the same way that St Albans and Tonbridge are.  You can go one route and come back another, and Hertford is also accessible from Seven Sisters and Finsbury Park with other connections to London Underground.