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London: The West End, High Tea and Wicked


Friday focused on the West End of London.

The first stop on our itinerary was to Cockpit Arts, a social enterprise “business incubator” that hosts designer-makers of several different mediums in a collective space. The idea behind the space is what is so special about it, as it gives independent artists, who normally would work in solidarity, a space to work together in a community. Even though the designers continue to work for themselves, it allows them to share contacts and inspiration.

We talked with the marketing director to get an overview of the space before branching off to talk to some of the artists. We first talked to a recent grad who had received a scholarship to pay for her rent at the studio space. She had started her own handbag line, explaining to us not only the technical aspects behind her bags, but also how she manages the business side of her work. We also talked to a weaver, who makes beautiful fabric samples for a high-end designer (she was not able to say who).

We had some time for our own exploring after our tour. We originally scheduled one of the many free walking tours available in the city, but realized we went to the wrong meeting point when it was too late. Good thing it was free! From there we decided to make up our own tour route, seeing Wellington Arch, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, the Horse Guards, Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park. Not bad for two hours!

The next event on the schedule was a tour and high tea at Harvey Nichols, the baby cousin of Harrods. We were all thrilled to see this on our itinerary, another way Kent Sate was just doing things right on this trip. We had tea on the top floor of the department store, complete with delicious biscuits and finger sandwiches. Once we were completely full, a manager led us through the floors of the building. Finally, another thing for us merchandising majors! She explained the set up of the store based on designer price points, the clientele profile, the use of personal shoppers and the visual merchandising. A side note, everything in London was already decorated for Christmas while we were there, even though it was only October!

Now, for the highlight of the entire trip: After our tour at Harvey Nichols we went to The Apollo Victoria Theatre to see Wicked, one of my all-time favorite musicals. Even tough it was my third time seeing it, I will admit that I still cried twice during the show. Thankfully a few of us had already seen it so it was a widely common and accepted thing.

After the show some of us decided to grab a drink at the bar next to the theatre before heading home. Noticing the stage door in between the two, we decided to wait a few minutes and ended up meeting the entire cast. I actually took a picture with the woman who played Glinda, so basically all my dreams in life came true. Could this trip be any more perfect?

Keeping in mind that London closes early, we were in a race to beat the closing of the bar and the Tube. The bar was actually really inexpensive, which we decided to take advantage of as we drank next to the man who played Biq in the show. Sipping on the popular hard ciders of the area a little too quickly in order to make our train, we were those people singing the entire soundtrack of Wicked on the Tube later.

Some tips:

  • Look into walking tours before you go. So many of them are free and cover up to 20 sites in just 2 hours!
  • Definitely have high tea somewhere.
  • If you’re into theater, make sure to go see a show.

Everything in the Westminster area is really close together, so map out what you want to see in that area and do it all on the same day.

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