Apr 252016
 

Hello longer days, more sunshine and happy times in London this month.

Photo London

London is celebrating photography across the capital throughout May, with Photo London at Somerset House as a focal point for city-wide exhibitions, and events.

From 19 to 22 May 2016, Photo London is a unique festival of photography, centred around a major international photography fair featuring over 80 exhibitors. The fair showcases the broad range of photographic practice, from vintage to contemporary. There are also talks and lectures, performances and installations.

The list of exhibitors includes galleries from Berlin, Cologne, Helsinki, Lisbon, Zurich, Tehran, Minneapolis, New York, Palm Beach, Santa Monica, Singapore, Tokyo, alongside the pick of London’s top photography galleries, with an extended ‘Discovery’ section for new and emerging galleries.

Some of London’s public museums and galleries featuring photography in May include:
Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed at the Barbican Art Gallery, Vogue 100: A Century of Style at the National Portrait Gallery and Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern.

The London Photo Festival is also on 19-21 May with the festival theme of ‘4 elements: Earth, Water, Air and Fire’. It’s held in Borough in The Crypt of St George the Martyr Church.

Somerset House from River

Somerset House from River © Hayes Davidson

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

For Shakespeare400, the Royal Shakespeare Company and amateur companies across the UK are performing the nation’s favourite Shakespeare play in a unique production.

The Dream2016 collaboration can be seen at the Barbican Theatre from 17 to 21 May when the RSC is performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in association with Tower Theatre Company and east London schoolchildren.

A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Topher McGrillis © RSC

A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Topher McGrillis © RSC

 

London Wine Week

From 23 to 29 May, London Wine Week is on and attendees can purchase a £10 wristband to enjoy self-guided wine tours, events and tasting sessions across London.

The capital’s many knowledgeable sommeliers have put together a trail that leads intrepid drinkers on a journey to discover new grapes, varieties and vintages. The trips cover many enticing venues, including leading restaurants and small, lesser-known eateries to dusty wine vaults and renowned hotel bars.

London Wine Week

 

Charles Dickens Museum

Opening on 3 May (and on until 20 November 2016), The Other Dickens: Discovering Catherine brings Catherine Dickens away from the shadow of her husband with many personal items and letters displayed here in the couple’s first family home.

Catherine Hogarth married Charles Dickens in 1836. They lived together for the next 22 years, Catherine having ten children (two of whom were born at Doughty Street) in the first sixteen of those years, as well as travelling to America and living abroad. When they separated, Charles Dickens painted a harshly negative portrait of his wife but the exhibition helps to build a more rounded picture of a Victorian woman devoted to her children and part of a lively social group, who enjoyed frequent visits to the theatre, concerts and late-night parties. Catherine was also a published writer; her popular cookbook, What Shall We Have For Dinner, ran into several editions.

The Museum has commissioned sound artist Felicity Ford to make Hearing Catherine, a collection of six new works which bring Catherine’s voice back to Doughty Street. Introduced throughout the exhibition, a subtle combination of spoken word, music and field recordings use Catherine’s own words to give her a presence and build something of the atmosphere that she would have known in the family home.

Dickens After Dark is a special evening opening of the museum on 12 May for twilight browsing.

Charles Dickens Museum

 

Museums at Night

Museums at Night is on from Wednesday 11 through to Saturday 14 May 2016 and you can enjoy museums, galleries and heritage sites after hours.

On Friday 13 May, the Bank of England Museum is offering a rare opportunity for an evening visit. As well as the Museum displays, there will be presentations on banknotes, gallery talks and Bank staff will also be on hand to answer questions about gold.

Benjamin Franklin House and Dr Johnson’s House are also involved as well as Keat’s House and Banqueting House so there really is lots of choice in London.

 

Rose Playhouse

For more evening entertainment, The Rose Playhouse has Shakespeare’s dramatic comedy Measure for Measure on from 10 to 29 May 2016.

Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, announces he is going on a diplomatic mission and sets in his place the upright Angelo to govern by the letter of the law. The Duke disguises himself as a priest to observe him. Isabella rejects a tainted world and devotes her life to the church, only to be dragged out of a nunnery to save her brother accused of sexual misconduct. Angelo has the power to save or slaughter but could be persuaded by Isabella, posing her a moral conundrum.

Over four hundred years after its first performance Measure For Measure’s heady mix of hypocrisy, money, power, sex, religion, justice and mercy continues to resonate in a world still battling with issues of compassion and fear.

Measure for Measure

 

Missoni Art Colour

Opening on 6 May (and on until 4 September 2016), Missoni Art Colour is at the Fashion and Textile Museum. The exhibition showcases over 60 years of fashion alongside paintings by leading 20th century European artists, and previously unseen textile studies, paintings and Arazzi by Ottavio Missoni, founders of this distinctive international fashion brand.

Missoni Art Colour

 

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the Things to Do in London in May 2016 from Kensington House Hotel, our sister hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

The new building at Tate Modern opens on 17 June with entirely new collection displays, 75% of which will have been acquired since 2000, when the main building opened.

There are more dates available to visit Parliament on most weekdays between 27 May and 3 June as well as 16/17 June and 23/24 June. These dates are in addition to the Saturday tours throughout the year and Monday to Friday summer tours between 26 July and 2 September.

The Serpentine Architecture Programme expands for 2016, with four Summer Houses joining the Serpentine Pavilion, open from 10 June.

And The Queen’s House reopens on 4 July 2016, to celebrate its 400th anniversary with refurbished galleries, including the King’s Presence Chamber and the Tulip Stairs. This beautiful royal villa was designed by Inigo Jones in 1616 for James I’s queen, Anne of Denmark, and completed around 1638 for Charles I’s queen, Henrietta Maria.

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Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Nov 212014
 

London is sparkling now as the Christmas lights are switched on and the ice rinks are open.

Trafalgar Square

The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree is the last to light up and the special evening there is on Thursday 4 December at 6pm. The tree comes from Norway every year as a thank you for our help during World War II and is decorated with simple white lights.

There’s a torch-lit procession for the Blessing of the Crib in Trafalgar Square on Sunday 7 December, and from 8 to 23 December you can enjoy carol singing in Trafalgar Square. (Nearer to the London Bridge Hotel, there’s an Annual Carol Concert at The Rose Playhouse on Monday 15 December.)

For indoor musical entertainment, St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square has popular free lunchtime concerts.

Also nearby, Grayson Perry will be giving a lecture at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday 4 December. Who Are You? looks at portraiture and British identity, drawing on his current display of new work at the Gallery, and the people he met during this project.

GP-image

 

Christmas Movie

If you’re ready for a classic film, It’s A Wonderful Life is on at the Prince Charles Cinema throughout December. Starring a suicidal James Stewart as he struggles to ‘find himself’ it comes with a happy ending.

Its-A-Wonderful-Life

 

Another Christmassy idea, is the special candlelit readings of A Christmas Carol at The Charles Dickens Museum on Sunday 7 and 14 December, and Monday 8 and 15 December at 3.30pm and 6.30pm.

Shopping

For many, this is the season to indulge and the Southbank Centre Winter Festival has a Christmas market, cabaret, family events and much more. And, it would be hard to miss the Giant 7m high illuminated white rabbit sculptures by artist Amanda Parer.

© Rodney Campbell

There’s also the Magical Christmas Tree Maze made up of 300 real blue spruce Christmas trees and the Southbank Centre Express train taking passengers across the riverfront.

The foodies need to be there for the Real Food Christmas Festival on 19-23 December, and they should make a note of the Christmas opening hours at Borough Market.

Over in west London, there are Christmas shopping opportunities at the Chelsea Physic Garden from 2 to 12 December.

 

Christmas Past

The Geffrye Museum has an annual ‘Christmas Past’ exhibition, on from Tuesday 25 November 2014 to Sunday 4 January 2015,  where the 400 years of domestic interiors are adorned with traditional Christmas decorations for each era.

A good time to go would be on Thursday 4 December as there’s an open evening for A Georgian Christmas when the Christmas Past displays are lit by candlelight. Expect festive music and children can try a decoration-making workshop.

Christmas Past 1830

 

Walks

If you’d like to get away from the festive preparations for a while there’s an excellent guided walk in Kensington Gardens on Friday 12 December. This seasonal stroll will look at winter feasts, folklore and traditions. Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert introduced many of the traditions we recognise today.

 

Or you could choose A walk around Shakespeare’s London on Saturday 6, 13 and 20 December, at 10.30am. You’ll see the sights of Shakespeare’s London with a knowledgeable Museum of London guide passing many picturesque settings you might recognise from films.

There’s more Shakespeare at the Barbican with Royal Shakespeare Company – Henry IV Parts I and II from 29 November 2014 to 24 January 2015.

And more festive entertainment with Raymond Gubbay’s Christmas Festival including Glorious Handel by Candlelight, on Saturday 27 December, and Last Night of the Christmas Proms on Sunday 28 December.

 

Dinosaurs

From Thursday 4 December, The Natural History Museum will have on display the most complete Stegosaurus fossil ever found and the only Stegosaurus in a public collection outside the USA. This is the first complete dinosaur specimen to go on display at the Natural History Museum in nearly 100 years. The 150 million year old Stegosaurus stenops is the most significant dinosaur the Museum has acquired since the 1980s and will take pride of place inside the Museum’s Exhibition Road entrance.

© NHM, London

© NHM, London

Another good time to visit the Natural History Museum is for the Night Safari on Tuesday 9 December when you can meet three Museum scientists and hear them talk about their work on endangered species.

 

Buckingham Palace

This could make a very nice Christmas present: There are exclusive guided tours of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace from 12 December 2014 to 1 February 2015. Each tour is limited to just 30 guests who will have an expert guide describe the paintings, furniture, sculptures and porcelains, before offering a glass of champagne served in the Grand Entrance.

 

The King Has Arrived

We may be singing Hallelujah in the Christmas carols but it’s not that king we’re referring to here. It’s Elvis! The largest ever retrospective of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll opens at The O2 on 12 December. The nine month exhibition will showcase over 300 artefacts direct from the Presley family’s treasured Graceland Archives, some of which have never been exhibited outside of Graceland in Memphis.

 

Paddington Bear

Paddington the movie opens on 28 November and there are 50 Paddington Bear statues across London for Paddington Trails. A lovely addition to the love for the bear is A Bear Called Paddington at the Museum of London which is on until 4 January 2015. This free exhibition includes lots from the author’s family archives that have never been displayed before. I’ve been already and loved it.

© Museum of London

© Museum of London

 

Looking Ahead

January is a great time to be in London if you don’t mind it being a bit chilly. We don’t often get snow so come and enjoy the capital without the crowds.

A couple of things I’m looking forward to in the new year are the London International Mime Festival (8-21 January 2015). It’s the longest-established annual theatre season of its kind with innovative visual theatre from around the world performing at many venues including the Barbican, the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells and Southbank Centre.

Plus, Churchill’s Scientists opens at the Science Museum on 23 January 2015.

 

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jan 252014
 
© anniemullinsuk

This is still, technically,  the quiet time of the year for London but, as we discovered in the January round-up, there’s always an incredible amount going on.

We start the month with the celebrations for Chinese New Year which falls on 31 January but London’s celebrations are on Sunday 2 February. 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse and the festivities will be across Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Chinatown.

ChineseNY-1

If you’re looking for some Chinese food near to London Bridge, I can recommend Dim T at More London as you can dine while looking out to Tower Bridge, or Hutong on level 33 of The Shard.

 thamesjet22

For those with no fear, and who are craving something to blow away the winter cobwebs, can I suggest Thamesjet for speedboat sightseeing? A trip on The Thames is always a good way to see the London sights and this is the fastest ride available on The Thames (up to 40mph).

Valentine’s Ideas

romantic-candlelight

This is also the month of lurve. While there are many romantic dining opportunities available (the Londinium restaurant is, of course, a fine choice, as is afternoon tea in the Quarter Bar & Lounge) there are some more unusual ways to spend Valentine’s Day in London this year.

Valentines-Late

How about stepping back in time and learning to dance the Jitterbug before sitting down to compose a love letter, 1940s-style? The Churchill War Rooms have a special late night opening on 14 February with vintage gifts in the shop and a pop-up bar.

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

Moving even further back in history to Victorian times, the Charles Dickens Museum is celebrating Valentine’s on 13 February with The Literary Gin Palace. While exploring the home of Dickens and his family you can follow a botanicals trail and even create your own unique gin and tonic in the original kitchen.

Or, if you’re in London later in the month, the Charles Dickens Museum has a candlelit evening on 26 February. There isn’t a guided tour but it would be wonderful to see the home lit this way as Dickens often wrote by candlelight.

Historic homes and candlelight do seem a popular collaboration as the stunning Georgian townhouse that is Dr Johnson’s House, in the City of London, has a candlelit tour on  Valentine’s Day when you can hear about Johnson’s views on love and ‘the fairer sex’. Tours include wine and a recital in the Withdrawing Room.

And there is a monthly candlelit tour at Sir John Soane’s House, at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, on the first Tuesday of each month (so that’s 4 February this month).

Southbank

A walk along the Southbank is for everyone, not just the romantics.

Pop into BFI Southbank during February and March and you’ll find they are having a Derek Jarman film retrospective as part of their Queer Pagan Punk Season. Across Waterloo Bridge, at Somerset House, there’s a Derek Jarman exhibition too with more of his Super 8 films. Pandemonium is hosted by King’s College London as he was a student there in the 1960s.

A_Taste_of_Honey_NoTitle-11

Keeping with a theme of taboos, A Taste of Honey at the National Theatre was written in the 1950s and depicts the harsh working-class life in post-war England with plenty of love and humour too. Previews start from 10 February and it’s booking until 5 April.

Another reason to visit the National Theatre is to try one of the Backstage Tours which run daily. On Saturdays there’s a Costume Tour so you can see the costume and wig room, and during school holidays there are special family tours too.

Speaking of school holidays, do note that most London schoolchildren have a one week break from 17 to 22 February.

If you need to entertain the family, do consider the annual Imagine Children’s Festival at Southbank Centre which is on from 10 to 23 February. There are more than 100 events for families to enjoy.

Barbican

There’s a lot going on at the Barbican Centre this month including a new installation in The Curve from 13 February. What could just be a pathway within the building is used for interesting art projects; the latest from United Visual Artists (UVA) is called Momentum and combines light, sound and movement through the 90 metre long gallery.

MND

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the first collaboration between Handspring Puppet Company and Tom Morris since War Horse and runs from 6 to 15 February. And on 6 February there’s also Blow the Bloody Doors Off! – a concert celebrating the music featured in the defining films of Michael Caine’s career.

Bermondsey Street

© London Glassblowing

© London Glassblowing

There are more good reasons to take a stroll down Bermondsey Street this month as the Silent Auction at London Glassblowing starts on 27 February (and ends on 15 March). This is your opportunity to acquire a unique piece of contemporary studio glass from internationally renowned glass artist, Peter Layton, at less than than the usual gallery price. You’ll have to wait until 6 March for everything to be on display but, as I mentioned in January, it’s always worth visiting the workshop, especially on a cold day.

Do cross the road and see the Fashion & Textile Museum (FTM) which reopens on 31 January with a new exhibition: Artists Textiles: Matisse to Warhol that traces the history of 20th century art in textiles.

There’s also an interesting talk on 27 February celebrating Lucienne Day’s designs for textiles, carpet, wallpaper and ceramics called In the Spirit of the Age.

A Treat

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

Let’s end with something relaxing. Did you know there are Sunday organ recitals at St Paul’s Cathedral? They start at 4.45pm, last for half an hour and are free to attend.

 

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.