BBC 2024-03-13 16:01:39

UN aid convoy uses new land route from Israel to reach north Gaza

The UN says a new land route has been used to deliver food to northern Gaza for the first time in three weeks.

The Israeli military said six lorries from the World Food Programme crossed via a gate in the Gaza border fence.

Tuesday night’s delivery was “part of a pilot to prevent Hamas from taking over the aid”, it added.

It comes amid global pressure on Israel to allow more access to the Palestinian territory for aid amid a looming famine as it continues its war on Hamas.

A boat carrying 200 tonnes of food aid for distribution by a charity also set sail from Cyprus on Tuesday, inaugurating a new maritime corridor into the Palestinian territory. It is expected to arrive on Thursday off Gaza’s coast, where a jetty is being built.

Senior UN officials welcomed the initiative, but noted that “for aid delivery at scale there is no meaningful substitute to the many land routes and entry points from Israel into Gaza”.

Israel insists there are no limits to the amount of aid that can be delivered into and across Gaza and blames UN agencies for failing to distribute supplies.

The war began when Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages. More than 31,200 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

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The UN says at least 576,000 Palestinians in Gaza – one quarter of the population – are one step away from famine.

It warns that time is running out for the estimated 300,000 people with little food or clean water in the north of the territory, which UN agencies have struggled to access for several months.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says 27 people, including 23 children, have died as a result of malnutrition and dehydration at hospitals there.

UN officials said the World Food Programme (WFP) convoy was able to use an Israeli military road that runs along the Gaza border fence to reach the north and deliver enough food for 25,000 people – about 88 tonnes of food parcels and wheat flour – to Gaza City after nightfall on Tuesday.

WFP spokeswoman Shaza Moghraby said the delivery proved that “moving food by road is possible”.

“We are hoping to scale up, we need access to be regular and consistent especially with people in northern Gaza on the brink of famine,” she told Reuters news agency. “We need entry points directly to the north.”

Israeli security officials carried out a prior security check on the aid lorries at the Kerem Shalom crossing with southern Gaza, the military said, adding that the pilot’s results would be presented to government officials.

“We are constantly trying to find creative ways to maintain the flow of humanitarian supplies into Gaza,” military spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that the US was “working with the Israelis to increase the throughput of humanitarian assistance by ground, both through Kerem Shalom and through a new crossing where we had the first trucks get in last night”.

“We need to see more where that came from,” he added.

Almost all of the limited aid that has reached northern Gaza has been delivered via the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom and the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossings, which are in southern Gaza, and then distributed by lorries.

However, the UN says “ongoing fighting and Israeli bombardment, as well as insecurity, frequent border closures and access constraints” have impeded safe and efficient aid operations.

On 20 February, the WFP said it had been forced to suspend aid deliveries to the north after its first convoy in three weeks was surrounded by hungry crowds close to an Israeli checkpoint and then faced gunfire in Gaza City.

Nine days later, more than 100 people were killed trying to reach an aid convoy south-west of Gaza City, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Palestinians said most were shot by Israeli troops overseeing the delivery, but the Israeli military said most were killed in a stampede or run over.

Last week, the WFP attempted to resume deliveries to the north, but said a convoy was “turned back” by Israeli forces before being looted by a crowd. Israeli officials said the convoy arrived two hours before the co-ordinated time and that it decided not to proceed on its own initiative.

Western and Arab countries have also carried out more than 30 airdrops since the start of the war, mostly over northern Gaza. However, they are considered ineffective and costly, and last week five people were reportedly killed north of Gaza City due to the malfunction of a parachute on one airdropped package.

In addition to the Cyprus-Gaza maritime corridor, the US military is planning to build a floating harbour off Gaza’s coast and a pier to transport supplies to the shore. It could take up to 60 days to become operational.

As Gaza’s humanitarian crisis deepens, Qatari and Egyptian mediators say they are continuing to push for a truce between Israel and Hamas.

Tensions also remain high in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Overnight, at least five Palestinians, including two children, were reportedly killed by Israeli security forces.

Israeli forces shoot dead 12-year-old Palestinian who set off firework

In the last few seconds of his life, Rami Hamdan Al-Halhouli lit a firework and held it above his head. Then there were three sharp cracks – the first was a police officer’s bullet, the second was the firework leaving Rami’s hand, the third was the sound of the firework bursting over Rami’s body in a bright shower of red and gold.

Rami al-Halhouli was a 12-year-old Palestinian boy born and raised in Shuafat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem that is home to about 16,000 people. On Tuesday night, he was playing with his brother and friends in front of the family home when they urged him on to light a firework. He pointed it away from him, roughly in the direction of Israeli border police, but aimed high up into the sky.

According to video of the incident, before even the firework could go off Rami was hit by a bullet fired by a border police officer positioned some distance away. In a statement, the police said a single shot was fired at a suspect who had “endangered the forces while firing aerial fireworks in their direction”.

The police have not yet released Rami’s body to the family. The police did not respond to specific questions about the shooting, but the family told the BBC on Wednesday that the bullet hit Rami in his heart.

“There was no hope,” said his older brother Mahmoud, 19, who rushed to Rami the moment he was shot. “He was already dead.”

Rami’s mother Rawia, 50, was inside the family home when the shot rang out. When she heard someone shouting her name she ran out into the night.

“I did not think anything too bad at first because there had been no clashes with the police or any demonstrations around, no sounds of gunshots or percussion grenades,” she said.

“Then I saw Rami’s body lying on the ground and I thought he had fallen down from the games the children were playing. When they turned his body, I saw the hole in his chest. The bullet was in his heart.

“Then I began to scream.”

Rami was one of six Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli security forces in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Tuesday, marking a grim start to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in the city, with the mood already clouded by the war taking place in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas.

At a press conference on Wednesday morning, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir hailed the officer who shot Rami as a “hero and a warrior”, saying he had done an “exemplary job” and would receive the full support of the minister’s office.

Mr Ben-Gvir branded Rami al-Halhouli a “terrorist”.

Not far from the police station where the minister spoke, on Wednesday, Rawia al-Halhouli was sitting in her living room surrounded by friends, relatives and tearful mourners who came one at a time to pay their respects.

Outside in the courtyard, Rami’s father Ali, 60, was sitting with the men of the family and friends, unable for more than a few minutes to hold back his tears.

“I ask you, a kid the age of 12, how is he a terrorist?” Ali said. “He was fasting and he broke his fast and he went out afterwards and he was playing with the other kids. It is Ramadan, they set off fireworks. They were playing.”

Rami was a “good kid”, Ali said. “He was good at school, he was smart, he helped our neighbours. This was his neighbourhood and he never went any further. He was not a troublemaker.”

The officer who killed Rami was “just a guy following orders”, he added.

“It really all comes from Ben-Gvir,” he said. “He will not let any Palestinian have peace.”

The BBC asked the Israeli police on Wednesday to provide any evidence it had showing violence, rioting or any other incidents of concern in the area in the days or hours leading up to the shooting, or any evidence against Rami al-Halhouli, but they did not provide any. They referred instead to a written police statement published on Tuesday which said described “a violent disturbance occurred in Shuafat, including the throwing of Molotov cocktails and direct shooting of aerial fireworks towards security forces”.

Leaflets written in Arabic and distributed by Israeli police in Shuafat camp on Tuesday – copies of which were provided to the BBC by residents – said that 15 to 20 youths had organised to go to evening prayers “with the aim of violating the rules, launching fireworks, and throwing Molotov cocktails”.

“The police will never tolerate acts of violence of any kind and will take strict action against anyone who acts violently or attempts to harm them,” the leaflets said.

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There has been a surge in violence in the occupied West Bank since the beginning of the war in Gaza. At least 418 Palestinians – including members of armed groups, attackers and civilians – have been killed by Israeli forces, according to the UN. In the same period, 15 Israelis, including four security forces personnel, have been killed.

According to the most up-to-date figures from the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, 519 children were killed by Israeli in East Jerusalem and the West Bank between 2000 and the beginning of October 2023.

“Israel has a policy of being light on the trigger when it comes to dealing with Palestinians,” said Dror Sadot, a spokeswoman for B’Tselem.

“We have documented dozens of cases like this over the years. We haven’t investigated this specific case yet, in Shuafat, but it appears that the boy presented no danger to the police.”

Salim Anati, a doctor who has lived and worked in Shuafat camp since it was built in 1965, told the BBC that he had treated at least 20 children there during his years who had lost one or both eyes after being hit by rubber bullets, and knew at least 10 who were killed.

“So many children are injured, so many are imprisoned, if they are not imprisoned they are not allowed to leave their homes,” Dr Anati said. “It is a very hard life here for a child.”

Rami had “not even been lucky enough to escape from the camp,” he added. “All his childhood was under occupation”.

On the last day of his life, Rami slept until noon, his mother Rawia said, and then played games inside the house until she made him help her prepare for Iftar – the evening meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast at sunset. After the family ate, Rami went to mosque for prayers, then came home and asked his parents for pocket money to go to the shop. His father said no, he wanted Rami to stay home.

“But I went to him and told him quietly, I will give you some pocket money if you go straight there and come back,” Rawia said.

“Within five minutes of leaving the house, he was gone.”

TikTok bill live: US House passes bill that could lead to nationwide TikTok ban


Natalie Sherman

US business reporter

In the world of business, the likelihood
that a sale of TikTok will happen still looks a long way from reality.

The bill faces uncertain prospects in
the Senate and with both China and owner ByteDance opposed to a deal, a legal
fight is almost certain.

But analysts say there are plenty of
potentially interested buyers in the US – especially from the tech and shopping
worlds – if it comes to that point, given TikTok’s rapid growth.

What deal might ultimately pass muster is another question, given anti-monopoly concerns weighing on the tech sector
and the likely high price.

“All the big social media companies would be
interested but I think they would face a lot of anti-trust hurdles,” Emarketer analyst Jasmine Enberg tells me. “There are
other firms in the social media space that are smaller – like Snapchat – that would
be interested but wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

When the Trump administration ordered a
sale in 2020, some of the biggest firms in the country emerged to explore bids,
which then reportedly valued the firm at about $50bn.

Microsoft ultimately lost
out to a team that included Walmart and software giant Oracle, led by Larry Ellison and Safra Catz, who was cosy
with the Trump administration. But the deal fell apart amid legal
challenges and the change-over to a new administration.

Today, TikTok’s reach and advertising
revenue have increased significantly. Research firm Emarketer estimates TikTok
will bring in about $8.66bn in advertising revenue from the US this year,
compared to less than $1bn in 2020.

The complex truth about fertility and age

Female fertility is often said to “fall off a cliff” after 35, but there is growing recognition that this idea overlooks much of what we now know about how and when women become pregnant.

In terms of milestones, turning 35 years old may seem unremarkable. Unless, that is, you’re a woman who hopes to get pregnant – in which case it can loom large.

For decades, the age has been seen as a watershed moment for female fertility. Before 35, the theory often goes, most women will have little trouble conceiving, but that point, fertility falls off a cliff. For those who do become pregnant later, there even are particular medical terms, including “geriatric pregnancy” and “advanced maternal age”, used to drive the point home.

But the reality is more nuanced, say experts. It’s true that more women in their late 30s will experience difficulties conceiving – and, in some cases, face more risks in pregnancy and delivery itself – than women in their late 20s or early 30s. However, the decline is a continuum, not a cliff, and it looks different from one woman to the next.

“From 35 years onwards, the rate of decline speeds up, in egg quality and quantity,” says Lorraine Kasaven, an obstetrician-gynaecologist and clinical research fellow at Imperial College London with a special interest in fertility. “The rate of decline, however, will vary from individual to individual.”

Infertility – clinically defined as not being able to get pregnant spontaneously after a year of trying – becomes more likely the older that prospective parents get. One of the largest studies on the topic, for example, found that, of 2,820 Danish women who had intercourse at least twice a week, 84% of those aged 25-29, 88% of those aged 30-34, and 73% of those aged 35-40 conceived within 12 menstrual cycles.

Of course, not being able to get pregnant in that time frame doesn’t mean never being able to. Another study found that, of women in their late 30s who hadn’t conceived after a year of trying, more than half still got pregnant naturally after two more years if their partner was younger; if their partner was 40, 43% did.

For those who go on to use assisted reproductive technologies (ART), there is still more hope. According to the most recent data, for example, in 2020 for example, 40.6% of all egg retrievals for 35- to 37-year-old female patients in the US led to live births. That’s lower than the average of 54.1% for under-35s. But the decline holds steady until the 38- to 40-year age range, when it hits 26.9%. For patients over 40, it drops to 9.3%.

Many women in their late 30s who have failed to conceive over a 12 month period will go on to become pregnant, even without assisted reproduction (Credit: Getty Images)

Of course, this is the success rate per egg retrieval. Patients who persist with multiple cycles have still higher chances. One study of more than 150,000 women, for example, found that, in women less than 40 years old, using their own eggs, there was a 68% chance of having a live birth with six cycles of in vitro fertilisation. For women aged 40 to 42, the success rate of six cycles was less than half that. (While it is worth noting that the data lumps together all women under 40, the median age of the participants was 35).

These numbers point to a decline happening sometime in the late 30s. They also show, however, that the majority of women in their late 30s will conceive naturally within a year. And they underscore that the real watershed moment may be 40, not 35.

“The most women have difficulties in getting pregnant when they’re over 40, even though they go into menopause at an average age of 51.7,” says Anja Bisgaard Pinborg, head of the fertility department at Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet and clinical medicine professor at the University of Copenhagen.

The ‘real’ 35: 38? Or 40?

One recent academic review, for example, looked at how likely it was that women who were defined as infertile could conceive spontaneously, without medical assistance, after a year. At 35 years old, these women had a 29% chance. That rate remained steady until age 38, after which it fell more quickly. At 39, 25% of women were successful; at 40, 22%; at 41, 18%; and at 42, 15%. 

But even that change needs to be interpreted with caution, points out Spencer McClelland, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at the Denver Health Hospital, US, who has criticised his field’s focus on the age 35. “There is a statistically significant change in the rate of decline at 38. But is it clinically relevant? Maybe not,” he says. “Is 29% at 35 that different from 22% at 40? Probably most people would not find much difference in those numbers. So from either a woman’s or doctor’s perspective, it means we shouldn’t react differently to a 35-year-old vs 40-year-old when counselling about fertility.”

It seems that the late 30s are when fertility seems to start falling more rapidly

The 18th Century parish studies aren’t the only source of the focus on 35. Another is the risk-benefit calculation of amniocentesis, McClelland says. In the 1970s, as he has written before, the only way to genetically test a foetus was by amniocentesis – which involves using a needle to draw amniotic fluid and, at the time, was normally done to determine the likelihood of Down syndrome. The procedure comes with a risk of miscarriage. At what age was the risk of an amniocentesis-induced miscarriage outweighed, mathematically, by the chance of Down syndrome? Around age 35.

Yet even that risk-benefit calculation is now outdated, he points out. Today, there is about a one in 500 chance of miscarriage due to amniocentesis, compared to one in 200 in the 1970s. That would mean the calculation would be in favour of doing the procedure at a younger age – 32.5 – than in the 1970s. It’s something of an “absurdity”, he points out, that improvements in amniocentesis safety mean that the age at which we define pregnancy-related risk is younger – not older.

Why conceiving becomes harder

Why does conceiving become more difficult at all? For ovulating women, a lot of it, specialists say, has to do with two factors: egg quantity, and quality. While female babies are born with all the eggs they’re ever going to have – about two million – by puberty, that’s already about 600,000. The ovarian reserve continues to decline into adulthood.

“As we get older, women have less eggs, and the quality of the eggs also declines,” Kasaven says. “So, it does become harder to naturally conceive, and even when you go for fertility treatment, overall success rates may be less, compared to if you were to do it when you’re younger.”

Egg quality is important, too. As we age, we have a higher proportion of abnormal eggs left.

That’s part of why fertility, in and of itself, is just one dimension to consider.

Male fertility also starts to decline with age once men reach their late 30s (Credit: Getty Images)

Another risk is miscarriage. “The other thing that that happens in the late 30s is that the chromosomes in the X (chromosome) are getting more unstable – that’s why there’s an increased risk of chromosomal aberrations, such as Down syndrome. So, many of the pregnancies will end up in a miscarriage,” says Pinborg.

One very large study of more than 1.2 million pregnancies, for example, found that the risk of miscarriage was around 10% for women aged 20-24, but started to rise more steeply close to the age of 35, when it was over 20%. By age 42, more than half of intended pregnancies – nearly 55% – were lost.

Birth defects and stillbirth also become more common as we age, but generally closer to 40, not 35. One study of 1.2 million births registered in Norway from 1967 to 1998 looked at the average age of the parents, for example, and found that birth defects became markedly more common when the parents’ mean age was 40-44 (with a mean age of 38 for the mother and 45 for the father), while infant mortality rose around 35-39 (with a mean age of 34.5 for the mother and almost 39 for the father). “While the 40–44 parental age category had an increased risk relative to the benchmark group, it was vastly exceeded by the risk for the 45–49 parental age category,” the researchers write.

But younger wasn’t always better: couples with an average age of between 20 and 24, for example (where the mean age of the mother was 21), had the same infant mortality risk as those aged 40-44 (with the mother’s mean age of 38).

Even age-associated risks, however, are complicated. Egg quality is also impacted by factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity, for example.

Other risks commonly associated with “advanced maternal age” are nuanced, too. It’s common, for example, to hear that the risk of pre-eclampsia is higher after age 40. But one authoritative study which looked at more than 25,000 pregnancies over 10 years found that, after taking other risk factors into account, like whether mothers smoked, age alone did not increase the risk of pre-eclampsia.

The same study also found that other commonly discussed risks, such as that of an emergency caesarean-section or placenta previa, increased from the age of 40 or 45 – not 35. One exception was the risk of gestational diabetes, which increased from age 30 onwards.

Men matter, too

Meanwhile, the focus on female fertility alone can distract from the fact that male age matters, too. The study of European couples found that while a father’s age had no bearing on the likelihood of conceiving if he was 35 or under, that changed in the late 30s. “Among 35-year-old women, the proportion of couples failing to conceive within 12 cycles increases from 18% if the male partner is 35 years old to 28% if the male partner is 40,” the researchers write. After two years, that fell to 9% and 16%, respectively.

Sperm quality declines with age, including in terms of sperm count, motility, and the percentage of normal sperm

There also is a higher risk of miscarriage if the father is over 40.

Sperm quality declines with age, research has found, including in terms of sperm count, motility, and the percentage of normal sperm. While sperm regenerates every two to three months, unlike eggs, the decline in quality may stem from some similar reasons – including DNA damage, environmental toxins, and hormone-related declines.

So for couples, or women, approaching their mid- or late 30s or 40s, what is the takeaway?

One aspect to note, say specialists, is that in IVF, using younger eggs, such as frozen or donor eggs, mitigates much of the effect of the mother’s age on live-birth success rates as she gets older.

This is why many who work in the field recommend that, if a woman wants to preserve her fertility and can afford the process, it can be a good idea to freeze her eggs. But every patient also has to weigh the costs and benefits, notes Kasaven.

“If you’re freezing too young, like in your 20s, it’s probably not cost-effective,” she says, given that many younger women will go on to naturally conceive. Studies trying to determine the most cost-effective age, on average, for a woman to freeze her eggs have found it is around 35 years old.

Particularly when she sees a patient who wants to be a parent but who has been waiting for the right partner, Pinborg says she starts with a simple question.

“When a single woman comes in, I start by saying, ‘How do you see your life? Do you absolutely see yourself with a child?’ Or do you say, ‘Okay, if I get a child it’s fine with me, or if I don’t, it’s fine?’,” she says. “If she says, ‘I can’t see myself in life without a child, it has always been my dream’ – then I say, ‘You need to think about it before you’re 40. You need to use donor semen when you’re 37, 38.’

“There are so many ways of making a family today.”

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Four Overground stops to explore the ‘real’ London

London’s revamped Tube map not only shines a light on the city’s diversity and history but will show visitors a new side to London beyond zones 1 and 2.

It’s one of the most recognisable maps in the world and arguably the most talked about: the London Tube. Hated by some, adored by others, the collection of colour-coded straight lines, intersecting at 45-degree angles, dispenses with geographical accuracy to such an extent that you could easily station-hop for half an hour to a destination that was in fact a five-minute walk down the road.

This perhaps explains why more than 90 years after it was designed by Henry (“Harry”) Beck, the map remains a topic of fierce debate today – particularly when changes are involved. The latest controversy came this February when it was revealed that the London Overground – the city’s suburban rail network – which appears on the Tube map as a sprawling orange network, would be divided into six lines, each with its own colour and name . They include the Windrush and Suffragette Lines, with some of the names criticised for being “woke” or “virtue signalling” due to their focus on women and minority groups.

Others feel the map is getting too cramped. “It would have been nice if they’d renamed the Overground and combined it with a wonderful new map,” said Dr Maxwell Roberts, a transit map designer and psychologist. “The problem is they’ve been squeezing stuff onto this map since 2000 and it’s failing to do what Beck managed to, which is to turn London into simple straight lines.”

Away from the debate, however, London’s revamped Overground will make it easier for visitors to experience the capital beyond its well-trodden sights in zones 1 & 2. And that’s a good thing: it’s in these lesser-known parts of London where you’ll find some of its most vibrant communities and fascinating history. Here are four places travellers should go to see the “real” London.

The revamped London Overground map was revealed in February 2024 (Credit: TfL)

1. Explore a thriving Caribbean community on the Windrush Line

The Windrush Line runs through areas with strong ties to Caribbean communities, such as Dalston Junction, Peckham Rye and West Croydon, and honours the generation of Commonwealth citizens who, arriving on the HMT Empire Windrush ship, came to live in Britain between 1948-1971. They are known as the Windrush generation.

Hackney in East London was one of the places where many people from the Windrush generation settled and it remains a vital social hub to connect with and learn about Caribbean culture.

Here, Caribbean culture is visible from every street corner, from local street art and roti shops to specialist bakeries, hairdressers and local Caribbean greengrocers.

A two-minute walk from Hackney’s Dalston Junction station down Gillet Street will get you to Ewart’s Jerk, one of many Caribbean restaurants in the area. Here, you’ll likely find locals chatting outside to a background of reggae music and big BBQ barrels releasing seductive plumes of smoke every time owner Ewart checks his jerk chicken and pork belly.

Not far away on Balls Pond Road, is Peppers and Spice, a legendary Caribbean takeaway renowned for their flaky pastry patties filled with classics like spiced callaloo greens, salt fish and pepper or ground beef.

At the heart of all this sits Dalston’s Ridley Road Market, famously known as one of the settings for the hit Netflix show Top Boy, a defining drama about inner-city London life and immigration. Beyond that, however, this more-than-140-year-old market has long been a place with a rich black heritage.

That first generation of Caribbean businesses around Ridley Road began selling ingredients not readily available at the time, and the stalls still brim with produce such as yam, plantain and ackee, while specialist butchers sell chicken feet and pig snout, which can both be added to dishes like souse, a classic Caribbean broth flavoured with scotch bonnets, garlic, onion, spices and lime.

Kilburn State was originally built as a cinema in 1937, with its facade paying tribute to New York’s Empire State Building (Credit: Getty Images)

2. See lesser-known musical landmarks via the Lioness Line

While The Lioness Line, which runs from Euston to Watford Junction, is so named for the lasting legacy created by the England women’s football team, the route is also home to some musical landmarks that are definitely worth a visit.

From Kilburn High Road station, it’s just a 15-minute walk from Abbey Road Studios, most famous for the time the Beatles spent there between 1962-1970. But before you make a dash for photos across the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing, head down Kilburn High Road to see the Kilburn State puncturing the clouds.

This Art Deco, Grade II-listed building (now occupied by Ruach City Church) was originally built as a cinema in 1937, a few years after the Empire State Building, with its facade paying tribute to the New York landmark. Its seating capacity of 4,004 made it the largest in England at the time and it quickly became a legendary music venue, hosting an endless stream of artists like Django Reinhardt, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones and, of course, the Beatles. Today, visitors can still admire the building from outside.

Across the road from Kilburn State is the Kilburn National Club, another former cinema-turned-music venue that hosted names like Johnny Cash, David Bowie and Nirvana. Today, it is occupied by the Evangelical church group UCKG HelpCentre, but its impressive domed Grade-II listed building can be admired from the street.

A 13-minute walk towards West Hampstead, meanwhile, will get you to the building once occupied by Decca Studios, the label that turned down the Beatles after they auditioned there in 1962. Head there to see a plaque that has been installed on the building’s exterior – an ideal last stop before heading to Abbey Road.

Islington’s King’s Head Theatre focuses on LGBTQ+ work, writers and themes (Credit: Robyn Wilson)

3. Uncover hidden LGBTQ+ history via the Mildmay and Windrush Lines

The Mildmay Line, which runs from Stratford to Richmond/Clapham Junction, honours a small charitable hospital in Shoreditch that played a pivotal role in caring for people during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s and made the area a valued place for London’s LGBTQ+ community.

To learn more, take the Overground to Highbury & Islington station, where there’s a wealth of LGBTQ+ history to explore – much of which is unknown even to most local residents.

That’s why Islington Heritage, a local council department, launched the Islington Pride initiative in 2017, an interactive digital and physical archive that allows visitors to create and follow tailored-made walking tours to key LGBTQ+ landmarks and points of interest. Many have received physical pink plaques to mark the routes as well as QR codes to link you to their backstory.

Head over to Highbury Fields, for example, a leafy green park about five minutes from Highbury & Islington station, and you can visit the spot where, on 27 November 1970, 150 members of the Gay Liberation Front staged their first demonstration.

“That was a precursor to the UK’s Pride festivals,” said Seán McGovern, the heritage project manager who headed up the programme

Islington has a number of other LGBTQ+ firsts, too. It was home to the UK’s first feminist bookshop Sisterwrite, which became a hub for feminist and lesbian communities (although no longer a bookshop, the building still stands on 190 Upper Street). Chris Smith, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, became the UK’s first MP to publicly come out as gay in 1984. The area is also home to the UK’s oldest LGBTQ+ charity, London Friend, which is still running today.

In addition to the heritage walks, travellers should visit London’s first pub theatre, King’s Head Theatre, which focuses specifically on LGBTQ+ work, writers and themes. Central Station is also one of the last remaining LGBTQ+ bars in Islington, while the ivy-covered Hemingford Arms pub embraces its LGBTQ+ history with a pink plaque. Nightclub Egg London, meanwhile, hosts dedicated queer nights.

Walthamstow has a long history of industry and innovation (Credit: Alamy)

4. Soak up the East London’s creative vibe via the Suffragette Line

While the Suffragette Line is named to celebrate how London’s East End working-class community fought for women’s rights, the route also takes you into another chapter of London’s history: one of industry and innovation.

Jump off at Walthamstow’s Blackhorse Road station and visit the ever-expanding Blackhorse Beer Mile, an industrial estate within the borough that’s being transformed by an influx of exciting craft drinks producers.

A look back at the borough’s history and you’ll discover it manufactured the first British car, the Bremer, in the 1892, and is home to the unique Walthamstow Pump Museum that pays tribute to its transport and industrial heritage, including holding supper club dining experiences in an old Victoria Line underground tube.

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Today, that theme of innovation continues, breathing fresh life into its industrial spaces. This has been driven in part by cheaper rents, which have enabled start-up businesses priced out of central London locations to set up a thriving creative community.

The independent craft brewing scene had been steadily growing here before the beer mile officially launched in 2022, but business is now flourishing. Signature Brew, Exale and Big Penny Social were some of the first names to join, with entrepreneurs expanding beyond just beer in recent months to include an urban winery.

The newest recruit is Burnt Faith, the UK’s first dedicated brandy house, which, in addition to having a bar (with a dedicated brandy cocktail list), runs distillery tours and tastings.

“It’s not only just breweries and drinks producers, of which there are now quite a few, but generally the vibe here is just incredibly creative,” said Burnt Faith founder, Simon Wright. “You’ve got Blackhorse Lane Ateliers [a craft jean maker] just behind us and Slow Burn [a vegetarian-focused restaurant], so you’ve got all these creative industries going on.”

Before heading over for a drink, start with a walk around the Walthamstow’s protected wetlands, which is conveniently located next to the beer mile. On a good day you can see all sorts of wildlife across the 211-hectare Thames Water reservoir site, including rare waterfowl and birds of prey. And rest assured, if you get tired, the London Overground is never far away.


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