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Shrove Tuesday in London

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at and my theatre reviews at
Shrove Tuesday marks the last day before Lent; a period of forty days when Christians fast and repent to prepare themselves for Easter. I'm sure that many people no longer give up things for Lent, but Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, is a feature of the calendar that persists in Britain. Even if you don't eat pancakes at any other time, prepare to dust down your pancake, or crepe, pans and stock up on the necessary ingredients for making this delicious food. Originally intended to use up more pleasurable items, such as eggs, flour, sugar and milk, pancakes are still enjoyed on Shrove Tuesday, even if their ingredients are not banned from the home for the following forty days.

Britain has enjoyed a long tradition of Pancake Races, including a few that will be taking place in London next Tuesday, 21 February. They are all free for spectators.

Better Bankside will be participating in its sixth Pancake Race. This is a charity relay race that features a maximum of 25 teams drawn from local businesses. Each team must donate a minimum of 20 and this money will support Paintings in Hospitals. The Race takes place around Borough Market, is started by the Dean of Southwark Cathedral, and lasts from midday until 2pm. If the event gives you the fancies for a pancake and you really can't wait to indulge yourself, there should be some available to buy locally from pubs, restaurants and market stalls.

Pancake Day 2012
Better Bankside Pancake Day Race - Picture Courtesy of Time Out

Should you find yourself in the City of London, why not visit the ninth Inter-Livery Pancake Race 2012? The participants are drawn from city livery company members specific to pancake ingredients. The Poulters supply the eggs, the Fruiterers the lemons, and the Cutlers supply the plastic forks.

The contestants, who also include representatives from the Old Bailey, the Mansion House and the Guildhall, dress up in their respective regalia, and race to music performed by the Musicians' Company. This is also a charity event, and any monies raised are donated to the Lord Mayor's charity. The race will start at midday on Tuesday, by permission of the Chief Commoner. I'm sure that all other commoners will be allowed to cheer on the competitors.

Pancake Day 2012
Inter-Livery Pancake Day Race - Picture Courtesy of Time Out

Remaining within the City of London, Alternative Arts are running the Great Spitalfields Pancake Race. This is a far more inclusive event and is open to all. Just dress up, or down, as you wish, and bring along three friends and a frying pan. The race is run along Dray Walk by the side of the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, where the heats will start at 12.30pm. Free pancakes will be offered for all entrants to scoff, and there will be prizes for runners up too. Any funds raised will be donated to charity.

Pancake Day 2012
Spitalfields Pancake Day Race - Picture Courtesy of the Old Truman Brewery Website

Leadenhall Market will be hosting its third Pancake Day Race this year. Teams from local business will toss their pancakes as they race around this historic covered market. As an incentive for spectators to arrive early for this event that takes place between midday and 2pm, the first 100 to turn up at the Lamb Tavern will be offered free pancakes with lemon and sugar. What more could you ask for to put yourself in the mood? The successful Steady Eddies and Pancake Flippers will be able to enjoy prizes that include free lunch and a bottle of champagne.

Pancake Day 2012
Leadenhall Market Pancake Race - Picture Courtesy of the Leadenhall Market Website

The most vintage of all these events, and celebrating its fifteenth birthday this year, is the one that takes place by the Houses of Parliament. So if you want to see MPs, Lords and members of the press tossing in a way that won't make the tabloids, go and support the Parliamentary Pancake Day Race. TV newsreader, Natasha Kaplinsky, will be putting the contestants under starter's orders at 10.15 at Victoria Tower Gardens. All proceeds will go to Rehab.

Pancake Day 2012
Parliamentary Pancake Day Race - Picture Courtesy of Time Out

You can even do your own race around London and try to attend all five events, although you'd better get cracking if you want to fit them all in. You don't want to make a complete tosser of yourself.

Alternatively you could stay at home and make your own.

For related information on some of the above locations see:
Guildhall Art Gallery
Leadenhall Market
Borough Market
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Why? To watch others have fun whilst making fools of themselves and raising money for charity
When: Between 10am and 2pm, depending on venue
Where: Various locations around London
Cost: Free
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