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'We were exotic strangers competing for notches on the bedpost'

Observations: Josie's shows will be Long on laughs

Comedian Josie Long has been popping up on our televisions of late (notably Never Mind the Buzzcocks and The Culture Show), but fans take note – she is back on the London live circuit with two regular club nights. Long took a break this year from the Edinburgh Fringe – where she has previously won the If.comedy Best Newcomer award – and Lost Treasures and Adventure Club mark her return to the limelight.

Man held after Leona punched at book signing

Singer Leona Lewis was recovering today after being punched in the head as she signed books for fans.

1-2-3-4 Shoreditch Festival, Shoreditch, London<br></br>Cornershop, Jazz Café, London

Some bright upstarts ensure spirits aren't too dampened among the pseudo trendies

Observations: The Wick is hot for local art in Hackney

Who knew that London's Hackney Wick has the largest number of artists per square metre than anywhere else in the world? From today and throughout the weekend, more than 500 of them will be out in force, taking part in the second annual Hackney WickED arts festival to highlight the artist community living and working in the area.

Gang of six guilty of Shaquille Smith murder

A gang of six youths were found guilty at the Old Bailey today of murdering an innocent 14-year-old schoolboy stabbed in a park.

Teenage boy dies after stabbing

A teenage boy died after he was found with stab wounds in the street early today, Scotland Yard said.

My house: Iain Sinclair's 40-year love affair

In the 40 years since Iain Sinclair moved into Albion Drive, Hackney, Britain has become obsessed with owning property. Do we really need to move on (and up) to be happy?

Katya Kabanova, Hackney Empire, London<br>The Magic Flute, Hackney Empire, London

Even a flawed tour is a gift to the nation

Katya Kabanova/The Magic Flute, Hackney Empire, London

English Touring Opera, which has just started its annual tour, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. And when you consider the artists who have done time with it (directors Richard Jones, Declan Donellan and Stephen Pimlott, and a dazzling array of singers), you realise what a seminal effect it has had on British operatic life.

Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire, By Iain Sinclair

The grim spectre of the Olympics drags a psychogeographer back to his E9 roots

Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire, By Iain Sinclair

Anyone who has lived in Hackney is accustomed to surveillance. In my own 30 years in the borough, I've been woken by police helicopters circling my tower block, leaving me to wonder, in a state of half-awake paranoia, whether the searchlights were about to shine into my ninth-floor bedroom window. The truth, as revealed by Iain Sinclair, is worse. During an interview with the young film-maker Rob Petit, Sinclair learns of the existence of a secret bunker in Stoke Newington where banks of monitors display the real extent of Hackney's Orwellian ambition.

Susie Rushton: My Hackney feels different somehow

Urban Notebook

Keothavong slams LTA after entering world top 50

Anne Keothavong broke into the world's top 50 this morning - and then claimed she would have done it years ago were it not for "unprofessional people" at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

The Taming Of The Shrew, Novello Theatre, London<br />Othello, Hackney Empire, London

Contemporary distaste for The Taming of the Shrew is never adequately justified by the play itself which is delivered in quotation marks as a sort of warped treatise on sexual relations between a choleric, charismatic bully and a nightmarishly spirited and waspish hoyden.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there