While 2013 was a good year for anniversaries, what with Doctor Who and the JFK conspiracy theories both celebrating their 50th birthdays and the crossword reaching its century, 2014 looks to be even more memorable. We’ll be posting lots about the centenary of the start of the First World War during the course of the year (and the Music Library’s Behind the Lines project is already well established), so let’s see what other anniversaries we have to look forward to in 2014.
While the Daily Express has predicted that this will be the worst winter for 60 years (just like it does every year), it is unlikely to be as cold (or as fun) as the winter of 1814 when the Thames froze over so solidly that an elephant was able to cross at Blackfriars. On 22 January a pig was spotted sailing down the river on a miniature iceberg. Sheep were roasted, stalls were set up and there was even an icy casino. You can read contemporary accounts of the last Frost Fair by logging into our newspaper archives using your Westminster library card.
2 February brings the 100th anniversary of the film debut of Londoner Charlie Chaplin in Making a Living. More importantly though, a few days later on 7 February, Chaplin made his first appearance as the Little Tramp in Kid Auto Races at Venice. By the end of World War I, the boy who had grown up in poverty in Lambeth was one of the most famous people in the world. You can find out more about him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your library card).
We at Treasure Hunt Towers are big fans of World War II films and one of the finest is The Great Escape. The real Great Escape took place 70 years ago, on March 24/25 1944. As most readers will know, the attempted escape from Stalag Luft III ended in tragedy with the murder of fifty of the escapers, to the horror of the Luftwaffe as well as the Allies. Incidently, Donald Pleasance, who played the doomed forger, had himself been a POW in Stalag Luft I.
2 April 2014 sees the 100th anniversary of the birth (in Maida Vale) of one of the greatest actors of all time, Sir Alec Guinness. Check out some of his films and autobiographical books and celebrate someone whose work ranged from Dickensian villains, through Popes, spies and inter-galactic superheroes but was never less than brilliant. And if you were too young to see him on stage, check out some reviews in our newspaper archives.
Many of us will have made new year resolutions and few will keep them going for long, but this year you might find some inspiration on 6 May when we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first Four Minute Mile by Roger Bannister. While the record itself was broken at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, Bannister did most of his training at the Paddington Track near St Marys Hospital where he worked. The track reopened in 2012 and is the home to the Serpentine Running Club. Check out the British Pathe site for news coverage of the event.
Delving further into the past, 23 June is the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn when Robert the Bruce defeated the invading English army lead by Edward II. Expect to hear a lot more about this in the run up to the Scottish referendum – impress your Caledonian friends with some research in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (and see if they know what Robert the Bruce died of…).
From 28 July onwards, remembrance of World War One will be foremost in all our minds – more of which in later posts.
July also sees the 300th anniversary of the passing of the Longitude Act. This offered a prize of £10,000 to £20,000 for a method of calculating longitude and, as readers of Dava Sobel’s excellent book will know, the first person to succeed was John Harrison, a clockmaker who lived in Lincolnshire. His persistence and that of Rupert Gould (who restored Harrison’s timepieces) were the subject of a television film in 2000. Once again, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can tell you more, or you can visit the Royal Observatory to see Harrison’s clocks.
2014 is the 75th anniversary of an exceptional year for cinema. 1939 saw the release of Gone with the Wind, Goodbye Mr Chips, Wuthering Heights and a particular favourite at Treasure Hunt Towers, The Wizard of Oz. There are many legends associated with this story (Is the book a parable of the economic crisis of the late nineteenth century? Did a Munchkin die during its making?) But the most amazing story of all involved the coat worn by Frank Morgan who played the Wizard himself as well as Professor Marvel.
In addition to the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II (more of which in later posts), September 2014 sees the 60th anniversary of the opening of Kidbrooke School, the first purpose-built comprehensive. Now renamed Corelli College, it is perhaps better known as the place where Jamie Oliver fed the pupils his healthy school dinners and tried to start a revolution in school food.
Expect an outbreak of silly walks, dead parrots and a quartet of Yorkshiremen in October, as this is the month of the 45th anniversary of the first broadcast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Expect too some pedantry from devotees pointing out that the Four Yorkshiremen sketch was actually written for At Last the 1948 Show. With their new stage shows in July, this is certainly going to be the year of the Python so prepare to be bombarded with repeats, DVD reissues and endless interviews. Just sit back and enjoy…
On 20 November 1994, millions of people up and down the land crossed their fingers and thought “It could be me…” as they watched the first National Lottery draw. Nobody at Treasure Hunt Towers has ever been successful at picking the right numbers, but perhaps we’re in the wrong job. According to recent news reports, the luckiest profession to be in is office administration. You’d think we’d do better considering lotteries were invented by librarian (amongst other things) Giacomo Casanova.
And finally, 17 December sees the 25th anniversary of the first broadcast of The Simpsons, starring America’s favourite yellow family. Cowabunga!