A week in Olympia

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As my week in London comes to a close, I thought it might be interesting to learn a little bit about the exhibition hall in which I spent the week. As with everything else in London, the layers of history go a little deeper than you might expect.

The Olympia exhibition hall sits about 4km west of Buckingham Palace in the suburb of Kensington. From the inside it looks a little like a train station, with its glassed in barrel ceiling rising high above the central hall. You might be forgiven for guessing it was built in the early 20th century; in fact, it dates to 1886. It’s survived bombings, repeated requisition to support war needs in World Wars I and II, and (especially early on) dry spells in bookings.

One of the most curious moments in its history came in 1934. It hosted a rally for Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, that turned to violence, appalling and alienating many of Mosley’s supporters; it can be said to have hosted the turning point leading to the decline of fascism as a popular movement in Britain.

Knowing its past, I think I can forgive its uneven air conditioning.

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