Jun 252016
 

Houses of Parliament Contemporary Art

Westminster Hall has two new artworks to see this month. New Dawn is a six metre high light sculpture by Suffragette Artist-in-Residence Mary Branson. It is the first piece of abstract art commissioned for permanent display in the Palace of Westminster.

The Ethics of Dust is on display from 29 June to 1 September and was created by artist, architect and conservationist Jorge Otero-Pailos. The artwork is a 50 metre long translucent latex cast of Westminster Hall’s east wall, now suspended from the roof, and contains hundreds of years of surface pollution and dust.

Both can be seen when attending a tour or you can visit for free but must book tickets in advance.

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Ragnar Kjartansson

Ragnar Kjartansson is an Icelandic performance artist and this is the first ever survey of his work in the UK. The exhibition is at the Barbican and opens on 14 July (and runs until 4 September). It includes film and performance as well as his less well known work as a painter and draughtsman.

His artwork explores the boundary between fact and fiction, as well as constructs of myth and identity. Donning various guises from a foot soldier, to a Hollywood crooner, to the incarnation of death, Kjartansson both celebrates and derides the romanticised figure of the artist as cultural hero.

Kjartansson has created a site-specific performance and there will be women in a rowing boat on the lake kissing each weekend.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík ©. Elisabet Davids

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík ©. Elisabet Davids

Frog Morris

On Saturdays throughout the month Frog Morris, a local artist, is performing with the traders of Bermondsey Market in (and around) Bermondsey Market Square and Bermondsey Street.

It all sounds very family-friendly and looks like a good reason to visit the Bermondsey Square Farmers’ Market.

Waterloo Food Festival

On throughout the whole of July, Waterloo Food Festival is an annual celebration of local food businesses. This is the eighth year and there are tastings, masterclasses and demonstrations on offer, and even two days for kids on 20 and 21 July.

Download your Gastro Passport and enjoy gin masterclasses and beer tastings to brunches, lunches, supper clubs and banquets.

Waterloo Food Festival

Titus Andronicus

This violent tragedy by William Shakespeare has shocked and fascinated audiences since its first performance in 1594 at The Rose Playhouse. Back at the venue from 5 to 30 July, Titus Andronicus is about a fictional Roman General in the latter days of the Roman Empire.

This highly physical take on Shakespeare’s tragedy is directed by New York City-based director Jung Han Kim whose unique style shapes his interpretation of Shakespeare’s bloodiest play.

Titus Andronicus

Georgia O’Keeffe

Opening on 6 July, and on until 30 October 2016, Tate Modern has the UK’s first retrospective of American artist Georgia O’Keefe in over 20 years.

Considered to be a founding figure of American modernism, this ambitious and wide-ranging overview will reassess O’Keeffe’s place in the canon of modern art, charting her progression from early abstract experiments to late work.

Featuring more than 100 works, which have rarely left America since her death in 1986, the display includes her 1932 Jimson Weed painting (seen here), which in 2014 became the most expensive painting sold at auction by a female artist when it was bought for $44.4m.

 Georgia O'Keeffe Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, 1932 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA Photography by Edward C. Robison III© 2016 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum/DACS, London

Georgia O’Keeffe
Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, 1932
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA Photography by Edward C. Robison III © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London

Fire! Fire!

This year is the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London and the Museum of London has a new major exhibition, Fire! Fire!, opening on 23 July.

The exhibition focuses on life on the eve of the fire, the dramatic events that took place as the blaze burned through a quarter of the city in 1666, and how London recovered from the devastation.

This is one of the Museum of London’s most immersive and interactive exhibitions to date. Visitors walk down a recreated Pudding Lane and into the bakery to see the fire start. They then walk into an ‘oven’ to watch the fire spread.

Against a 10 metre long backdrop in the room showing London on fire, there are a variety of incredibly fragile flame-scarred archaeological artefacts that reveal the destructive power of the inferno.

Oil painting of the Great Fire of London, seen from Ludgate (c) Museum of London

Oil painting of the Great Fire of London, seen from Ludgate (c) Museum of London

London Bridge City Summer Festival

London Bridge City Summer Festival is London’s largest free outdoor festival. There’s live entertainment, food and drink all summer long from Tower Bridge to London Bridge.

There’s sport and films to watch, plus street performances and live theatre. Enjoy all with a cocktail from the tropical pop up food and drink experience, London Riviera.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Over at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, Above and Beyond is a ground-breaking exhibition about the wonders of flight and mankind’s remarkable journey to space. Created in collaboration with NASA, this exhibition hopes to inspire the next wave of engineers, pilots and astronauts. You’ve got until 29 August to see it.

Throughout August, BFI Southbank is hosting a season of films curated by the film director, DJ and musician Don Letts. Through documentary, archive footage and feature films, the Punk on Film season draws attention to the diversity of the punk movement, how it has been depicted on film, and its huge influence on filmmakers past and present.

Children will love the summer adventures at Eltham Palace including the Kings and Queens event on 1-3 August, and the Ugly Bug Safari on 8-10 August. This event gives kids the opportunity to grab magnifying glasses and join the big hunt for some mini beasts and discover a bug’s life. There’s more fun happening in August but we’ll share that in our next monthly round-up.

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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.

Jan 252016
 

What a great month to be exploring London. As 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death we’ve got a look at the month’s Shakespearean highlights, some flipping good fun and much more.

Shakespeare

The first production of 2016 at The Rose Playhouse is Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Starring Chris Clynes as Hamlet and Suzie Marie as Ophelia, there are performances from 2 to 26 February. Directed by Diana Vucane, this production seeks to journey through Shakespeare’s well-known play, focusing on the perspective of a disturbed mind, thus defying the reality-based structure of time and space, recognising solely the inconceivable logic of a dream.

2016 is an important year for The Rose Playhouse as they are raising the funds for The Rose Revealed Project to complete the 1989 dig. It is also the year they will particularly remember Philip Henslowe, who died on Twelfth Night 1616.

Hamlet at Rose Playhouse

Have you visited the stunning indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe? This month would be a perfect time to enjoy a candlelit production of The Tempest in the recreated intimate seventeenth century theatre.

Inspired by English colonial adventures and brilliantly conjuring up a magic and supernatural world, The Tempest is Shakespeare’s late masterpiece of forgiveness, generosity and enlightenment. It’s on from 17 February until 22 April.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Photo credit: Peter Le May / The Globe

By Me William Shakespeare – A Life in Writing is a joint exhibition from The National Archives and King’s College London that brings six key Shakespeare documents together for the first time to provide a unique journey and fresh insights into Shakespeare’s life in London.

From 3 February to 29 May, at the Inigo Rooms at Somerset House, you can see Shakespeare’s Last Will and Testament and four of his six known signatures in existence – including his earliest and latest.

As an aside, also at Somerset House, is The Museum of Innocence. A free exhibition from 27 January until 3 April, this is a collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk creating a physical manifestation of his novel of the same name.

Pancake Races

Shrove Tuesday is also Pancake Day and the date this year is Tuesday 9 February. We embrace the fun with races where teams have to carry a frying pan and flip a pancake while running to win. Spectators are always needed to cheer the teams and they are usually raising money for charity.

The Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race is by the Houses of Parliament at 9.45am to 10.30am. The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race is at 12.30pm. And The Better Bankside Pancake Race is at 12.30pm to 2pm.

The one with the best ‘costumes’ though is The Inter Livery Pancake Races at The Guildhall in The City of London which starts at 12pm.

Inter Livery Pancake Race

© Laura Porter / @AboutLondon

Capturing The City

Staying in The City of London, Capturing the City: Photography at the Bank of England is now open at the Bank of England Museum. Their fascinating historic photography collection includes the history of photography too with early salt paper prints from the 1840s through to images taken by Royal Photographic Society photographers in 2015.

The exhibition explores an alternative and sometimes surprising history of the Bank, its buildings and staff, while also creating a history of London from the Bank’s perspective. Images of Threadneedle Street’s hidden emergency operating theatre and Sir John Soane’s ‘lost’ Bank have convinced me this is definitely one to visit this month.

VE Day at the Bank (WARHO56)

Photo taken from the Bank of England roof on VE Day. © Bank of England

Tattoo London

Nearby at the Museum of London, there’s another free exhibition but this time about the history of professional tattooing in London from the 17th century to today. Tattoo London is on until 8 May and reveals life inside four contemporary tattoo studios in the capital.

There’s an event on Monday 22 February – Tattoo London: Under The Skin – where you can meet the featured artists and hear talks at this after-hours adult evening.

Two Temple Place

Somewhere that’s worth visiting any time is Two Temple Place. It’s a fabulous late Victorian mansion built by William Waldorf Astor – once the world’s richest man, which explains the opulent interior.

The latest exhibition is about the beauty of Ancient Egypt and runs from 30 January to 24 April. Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt looks at the day-to-day routines of ancient Egyptians and the importance of appearance in the afterlife. Through artefacts spanning over four millennia, from 3,500 B.C. to 400 A.D., we can consider why Egyptians cared so much about transforming the way they looked and how our perceptions are influenced by the objects they left behind.

Performing for the Camera

Performing for the Camera is at Tate Modern from 18 February to 12 June 2016. It looks at the relationship between photography and performance, from the invention of photography in the 19th century to the selfie culture of today. The 500 images cover the humour and improvisation of posing for the camera, as well as photography as a serious art form.

Masahisa Fukase, From Window, 1974

Masahisa Fukase, From Window, 1974 . © Masahisa Fukase Archives

Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection

This major exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery features thirty of Botticelli’s drawings for Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ alongside a selection of outstanding Renaissance illuminated manuscripts. Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection is on from 18 February until 15 May 2016.

These drawings, dated to around 1480-95 and drawn on vellum, are rarely on display. They are accompanied by a selection of illuminated manuscripts, many from the time of Botticelli.

Sandro Botticelli Dante and Beatrice in the second planetary sphere of Paradise (Divine Comedy, Paradiso VI), around 1481-1495, Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 32,5 x 47,6 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

Sandro Botticelli, Dante and Beatrice in the second planetary sphere of Paradise (Divine Comedy, Paradiso VI), around 1481-1495 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

The Master Builder

For  a theatre recommendation this month I’ve chosen The Master Builder at The Old Vic Theatre from 29 January to 19 March. Ralph Fiennes plays Halvard Solness, a master architect, who has spent his lifetime building the tallest spires in the land. But when Hilde, a radiant country girl, descends unexpectedly into his world, age is confronted by youth, and a series of revelations build to a vertiginous climax.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

There’s the 162nd university Boat Race on The Thames between Oxford and Cambridge on 27 March. In this annual competition Oxford is leading Cambridge 81 wins to 79 so it’s a close thing.

There’s more sport in The Velodrome in the Olympic Park when it’s the venue for the UCI Track Cycling Championships on 2 to 6 March.

The Fashion & Textile Museum has a new exhibition opening on 11 March. Art Textiles: Marian Clayden.
It’s a retrospective of luxurious art textiles in silk, velvet, cotton and felted wool by this internationally collected designer.

The Guildhall Art Gallery has a wonderful free photography exhibition on 4 March to 31 July. Unseen City: Photos by Martin Parr captures pomp, ceremony and unguarded moments in the City of London.

And for more light display joy in London, Shakespeare Son et Lumière is at The Guildhall on 4 and 5 March. It a free event with projections on The Guildhall building between 6.45pm and 8.45pm.

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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 the About.com London Travel site and 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.

Sep 282015
 

This is the month for Halloween, the clocks changing and a school holiday. As the school holiday is the last week of October (26-30 October) the Halloween fun will last all week at the main attractions. And do remember, the clocks go back one hour on Sunday 25 October so the holiday fun starts an hour earlier.

Big Ben

Barbican

If you are looking for something different to do on the Halloween weekend, how about Sound Unbound: The Barbican Classical Weekender?

On Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November, audiences can enjoy some of the greatest music ever written, in an informal festival environment. Sound Unbound is across the Barbican Centre and surrounding venues featuring over 50 short concerts across 48 hours that will showcase an unparalleled variety of music and artists.

Alongside the live music programme, a range of conversations and debates will take place throughout the weekend, while a team of expert hosts will guide audiences through the plethora of music on offer.

 

As well as music, The Barbican has a new exhibition in the art gallery: The World of Charles and Ray Eames.

charles-and-ray-eames

Opening on 21 October 2015, here’s where you can find out about this husband and wife team who are among the most important designers of the 20th century. Their enduring influence is widely acknowledged and continues to be celebrated worldwide.

The Eames Office was active for over four decades as they saw no separation between life and work. With collaborators and staff, they produced an array of pioneering and influential designs – from architecture, furniture and product design to film, photography, communication design, multi-media installation and exhibitions, as well as new models for arts education.

 

And for a free exhibition, in The Curve at The Barbican Centre, Eddie Peake: The Forever Loop opens on 9 October. London-based artist Eddie Peake presents an ambitious web of architectural installations, choreographed performance and video.

The exhibition features a raised scaffold walkway spanning the length of the 90 metre long Curve providing a stage for performance and a viewing platform for visitors. A group of performers carry out a looped choreography of dance movement in synchronisation with sound and video works dispersed throughout the space. Around the scaffold walkway, a number of structures rendered in plaster, acrylic and red velvet form a maze-like pathway through the gallery, functioning both as backdrops and objects for the performers to interact with.

 

October Plenty

For something traditional, head to Bankside, by Shakespeare’s Globe on Sunday 25 October to see October Plenty. It’s an annual autumn harvest celebration that mixes ancient seasonal customs and theatre with contemporary festivity. The fun moves to Borough Market to link up with Borough Market’s Apple Day. October Plenty is free and happens whatever the weather.

© S Pakhrin

October Plenty, © S Pakhrin

 

Rose Playhouse

For some Shakespearean comedy, The Rose Playhouse is having fun with The Twelfth Night this month. From 6 to 30 October there are two companies of actors – one male, one female – performing Twelfth Night in four different versions playing in rep. You have the choice of: a) All female, b) All male, c) Cast play their own gender, or d) Cast play the opposite gender. The story always has shipwrecks, twins, mistaken identities, comedy and love, but this could be one to see more than once.

 

Tate Modern

Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas has the inaugural Hyundai Commission for the Turbine Hall opening on 13 October. There’s not much news before the date on what to expect but it’s called Empty Lot.

Tate Modern Turbine Hall

Tate Modern Turbine Hall, © Tate

And while you are there, the new blockbuster exhibition has opened: The World Goes Pop. It’s got Pop Art from Latin America to Asia, and from Europe to the Middle East. It’s bright and colourful and certainly makes an impact.

 

London Riviera

The summer isn’t completely over as we have a touch of the French Riviera sophistication on the South Bank, next to City Hall, near Tower Bridge. The London Riviera is on until 31 October with great coffee and great cocktails. And this month you can enjoy the Rugby World Cup matches at More Bar with food and drink specials from Monday to Friday.

unnamed (2)

 

London Literature Festival

Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival is on from 28 September to 12 October. It includes Sir Tom Jones launching his first ever biography, Inside The Head of Terry Gilliam, poetry from PJ Harvey and Moby Dick read aloud for four days.

LondonLiteratureFestival

Liberty on Fashion

On Bermondsey Street, the Fashion & Textile Museum has a new exhibition opening on 9 October. Liberty in Fashion looks at the iconic brand’s impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s.

Liberty in Fashion

 

A Woman’s War

Opening on 15 October at the Imperial War Museum, Lee Miller: A Woman’s War explores the impact of the Second World War on women’s lives through the photography of Lee Miller, one of the most important female war photographers of the twentieth century.

This exhibition traces Miller’s career as a photographer for Vogue Magazine and for the first time will address her vision of gender, featuring many photographs, objects, art and personal items never before seen on display.

© Lee Miller Archives England 2014

© Lee Miller Archives England 2014

 

Crime Uncovered

The Museum of London’s next major exhibition is The Crime Museum Uncovered, looking at the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum that has never been open to the public. From 9 October we can see objects previously only accessible to police professionals and invited guests.

With the popular fascination for detective stories and crime TV shows this has got to be another hit.

Counterfeiting and Forgery: Implements used for counterfeiting seized by Metropolitan Police © Museum of London

Counterfeiting and Forgery: Implements used for counterfeiting seized by Metropolitan Police © Museum of London

 

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the Things to Do in London in October 2015 from Kensington House Hotel, our sister hotel.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

It’s the annual Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday 14 November in the City of London. This is a popular free event with lots of floats in a long parade so wrap up warm and get ready to wave.

In a city striving to accommodate more cyclists, The Design Museum’s next exhibition, Cycle Revolution, opens on 18 November to celebrate the diversity of cycling in Britain.

In Greenwich at the National Maritime Museum, Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution opens on 20 November as the largest ever exhibition about the famous diarist with 200 objects from national and international museums, galleries and private collections.

And, yes it is that time, Christmas lights going on across the capital throughout November.

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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 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.

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.

Oct 242014
 

As Autumn moves towards Winter, November is a great time to be in London. Now that the clocks have gone back (you didn’t forget, did you?) we have darker evenings but that makes Bonfire Night so much fun.

© Nilfanion

© Nilfanion

Firework Displays

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot…

In 1605 Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He didn’t succeed, and was caught and executed, but we now commemorate the date with firework displays. There are lots going on from 1 to 8 November so have a look at this handy list and wrap up warm to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the sky.

Veteran Car Run

There’s a lot going on near the start of the month. Sunday 2 November is the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Groups of cars start to leave Hyde Park from sunrise and go over Westminster Bridge towards south London. The cars can be seen in town until around 10am so this is fun to see if you’re up early.

© Krzysztof Marek Wlodarczyk

© Krzysztof Marek Wlodarczyk

Remembrance  Sunday

With all of the focus on the WWI centenary, this year’s Remembrance Sunday will be especially poignant.

poppy

Remembrance Sunday 2014 is on Sunday 9 November and it’s a time to reflect and remember. There is a National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in the morning. There is a parade from around 9.30am and a 2 minute silence at 11am. Members of the Royal Family will be attending.

© Richard Lea-Hair and Historic Royal Palaces

© Richard Lea-Hair and Historic Royal Palaces

Do go to the Tower of London too as the moat has been filled with ceramic poppies for the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation. The poppies are there until 11 November.

Behind-the-scenes at Tower Bridge 

From Saturday 15 November, you can book a Tower Bridge Engineering Tour running on weekends throughout December, January and March.

© Quistnix

© Quistnix

These two-hour tours usually sell out so do book ahead. After a self-guided tour of the high walkways and the Bridge’s Engine Rooms, one of the Bridge’s Senior Technical Officers escorts visitors to several areas normally out of bounds to the public, including the Bridge Control Room and the immense Bascule Chambers below river level.  Tickets are £50 each and visitors must be over 12 years old.

Sherlock Holmes

The latest major exhibition at the Museum of London has opened and is well worth seeing. Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die is on until 12 April 2015 and gives an insight to the world most famous consulting detective. (I reviewed the exhibition here.) To test your detective skills, can you work out where the entrance is to the exhibition?

Can you see the way in? You push open the second bookcase on the left.

No, it’s not by the hatstand on the right. You actually push open the second bookcase on the left.

Also at the Museum of London, A Bear Called Paddington opens on 14 November, and The Paddington Trail means 50 Paddington statues are across London from 4 November to 30 December. All of this is because of the new Paddington movie in the cinemas from 28 November. There’s a nice tie-in with the Sherlock Holmes exhibition though as the Museum of London will have the Paddington statue designed by Benedict Cumberbatch, the lead in the BBC TV series Sherlock.

Year of The Bus

As well as the Paddington bears, you can also go spotting decorated London bus sculptures across town.

© TfL

© TfL

There are 60 bus scultpures to find in the Year of the Bus Sculpture Trails with three trails in place already and another coming before Christmas.

Spooky Night Out

If Halloween wasn’t scary enough for you, The London Dungeon has some evening openings for grown-ups only. As well as the usual shrieks and fun there’s a Victorian Gin Palace Bar and a dressing-up box for all. Book ahead for Friday 7 and Friday 21 November and Friday 5 and Friday 19 December.

Lates

Another spooky, but more civilised idea is a Candlelight tour of The Queen’s House in Greenwich. This intimate evening tour with a curator is on Thursday 20 November, 7-8pm, and takes in The Art and Science of Exploration 1768-80 exhibition.

Lord Mayor’s Show

The highlight of the month for many is this annual free parade and show.

© Howard Russell

© Howard Russell

On 8 November, you can see the three-mile long parade go from Mansion House in The City of London to the Royal Courts of Justice. The Procession leaves Mansion House at 11am and arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice at 12.40pm where the Lord Mayor leaves the coach and swears an oath of allegiance before the return journey starts at 1.15pm and ends at 2.40pm.

If you’re up early, do go and see the Lord Mayor travelling down The Thames in the Queen’s Row Barge Gloriana in a flotilla from near Waterloo Bridge to Tower Bridge (which will open in salute) starting from 9am.

But don’t think that’s it as the day is capped off nicely with fireworks from a barge on The Thames, near Blackfriar’s Bridge at 5.15pm. The best views will be from the South Bank and the Victoria Embankment.

V&A Italian Cast Court

For some indoor culture during these colder days, the Victoria and Albert Museum is free and always worth a visit. The Weston Cast Court has been refurbished and reopens on 29 November.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Italian Cast Court features over 60 of the V&A’s finest 19th-century reproductions of important Italian Renaissance monuments. It includes some of the largest objects in the V&A’s collection, including the five metre high cast of Michelangelo’s David (c.1856), the set of electrotype doors cast from the Gates of Paradise at Florence Cathedral (c.1867) measuring over seven and a half metres in height and a plaster cast of a pulpit from Pisa Cathedral by Giovanni Pisano (c.1865).

For an enjoyable reason to stay longer at the V&A, on Tuesday 18 November, 6.30-7.30pm, Michael Palin is discussing the third volume from his diaries: Travelling to Work. Do book in advance.

Christmas is Coming

lights

Although we’re not in December you will see signs all over London that Christmas is coming soon. The Christmas lights are switched on across the West End during early to mid November and the ice rinks arrive at the same time.

LOOKING AHEAD

Book now for the latest theatrical adaptation of E. Nesbit’s classic novel, The Railway Children, at a new theatre space in King’s Cross from 16 December. I saw this a few years ago when it was at Waterloo Station and it’s a wonderful show. There’s a real steam train involved and I defy anyone do not shed a tear when Bobbie cries “Daddy, my daddy!” at the end.

If you’d like the opportunity to explore a disused tube station, tours of Aldwych station are available from 22 January to 15 February 2015. Booking opened on 27 October so get in quick as these tours are very popular.

Sep 252014
 

While there is still plenty going on around Bankside for the Merge Festival (ends 19 October 2014) don’t forget to see Alex Chinnock’s Miner on the Moon which was created for the 2013 festival and is an upside down house by Blackfriars Bridge which I mentioned back in January.

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

 

The Big Draw is on all month and there are lots of events across the country. Near to London Bridge Hotel, this talk at The Menier Gallery looks good and this vintage fashion drawing workshop at the Fashion & Textile Museum looks great too (although it is for 12-16 year olds).

 

If the darker evenings make you feel like heading to the cinema, the BFI London Film Festival is on from 8 to 19 October and has 248 films on offer. Or check out some of the events or festival menus for the London Restaurant Festival on from 8 to 27 October.

London Restaurant Festival illustration

 

 

NATURE

There are a couple of interesting events happening on Saturday 11 October at London Zoo and WWT London. London Zoo has a History and Architect Day and the London Wetland Centre has an introduction to bird watching day.

 

Another good way to support ZSL London Zoo’s conservation work is Roar With Laughter – a night of comedy on 17 October at the Apollo Theatre in Hammersmith.

 

TRADITION

London’s Pearly Kings and Queens are always a treat to see and they are having their Harvest Festival at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden on Sunday 12 October. They are outside the church from 10am and are always happy to say hello. The church service is at 11am.

PearlyKing

 

MAJOR AUTUMN EXHIBITIONS

As I mentioned in September, the major autumn exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is Anarchy and Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy 1860-1960 and it opens on 16 October 2014 (and ends on 11 January 2015).

William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. © National Portrait Gallery, London

William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884. © National Portrait Gallery, London

I’m also looking forward to seeing the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London which opens on 17 October 2014 (and ends on 12 April 2015). This is the first major exhibition devoted to the world’s greatest detective in 60 years.

 

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

London Cocktail Week is on from 6 to 12 October and The Quarter Bar & Lounge is taking part. Once you’ve bought your festival wristband you can enjoy the signature cocktail for just £4.

If you enjoy free speech and sharing intellectual discussion the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican Centre on 18 and 19 October looks particularly good. It’s an annual event and encourages high level, thought-provoking debate.

Head down to Greenwich, to the National Maritime Museum, on Thursday 23 October (6.30-7.30pm) where The Virtue of Coffee will be discussed. Admission includes entry to the Ships, Clock & Stars exhibition.

If you are looking to buy something unique, Made London on 24-26 October is well worth seeing as it is one of the top selling events for designer makers in Europe.

On Sunday 26 October October Plenty is happening on Bankside and is one of the great quirky London traditions. It’s the annual Autumn harvest celebration and includes a procession and an outdoor play. Borough Market’s Apple Day is on the same day so it’s fun to attend both.

OctoberPlenty

 

Don’t forget, the clocks go back on the last Sunday of October so we gain an extra hour in bed on Sunday 26 October.

timeFlies

 

LOOKING AHEAD

As there’s a new Paddington Bear film coming out soon, fifty Paddington statues will be placed across London close to museums, parks, shops and key cultural and landmark hotspots. The Paddington Trail will be available from 4 November to 30 December.

The the big event for November in The City is the Lord Mayor’s Show which will be on 8 November with the usual wonderful procession of floats.

 

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.

Jul 252014
 

July was an amazing month for sporting fans with the Tour de France coming to London, as well as the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and the World Cup.

For more sporting memories head to the Museum of London where a new gallery opens in the courtyard on 25 July called Designing a Moment: The London 2012 Cauldron. This new pavilion was built by the same technical team behind the London 2012 Cauldron and is the first permanent addition to the museum since 2010.

© Heatherwick Studio

© Heatherwick Studio

The gallery includes two huge sections of the Cauldron – including the original steel stems and test versions of the copper elements. Combined they are some of the largest objects the museum has ever acquired. One section presents the Cauldron in an upright position, as it was for the majority of both Games. The other is the Cauldron in an open formation, as if frozen at that climactic defining moment of the opening Olympic ceremony. Yeah, I expect it’s going to be quite emotional seeing this one but I’m looking forward to it.

The big cycle race this month is Prudential Ride London – a two-day festival of cycling on 9 & 10 August. On the Saturday there’s an eight-mile traffic-free cycle around London and on the Sunday a race from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a 100-mile challenge. There will be large screens to watch the action in Green Park and on The Mall, and there will be festivals in Wimbledon and Hampton Wick in west London.

PrudentialRide

 

There are many reasons to go to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this summer – and not only for the fountains which seem to keep many families entertained all day.

fountains

The Great British Carnival on Sunday 27 July is a day of dance, music and performances from midday with a grand finale at 8.30-9.30pm of The Carnival of the Animals: a magical twilight crescendo of costumed performers, 300 dancers, giant carnivalesque creatures and extraordinary illumination.

Shademakers Horses

 

And it’s National Paralympic Day on 30 August so the QE Olympic Park will be the place to see Paralympics GB medallists in the London Aquatics Centre, plus international athletes competing in Boccia, Goalball and Wheelchair Basketball at the Copper Box Arena. There will also be loads of free, family-friendly entertainment plus the Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival with deaf and disabled artists performing street theatre, dance, live music, and much more.

 

If you have the kids with you, and it is school holiday time, Eltham Palace has activities for young explorers every Sunday to Tuesday throughout the month. Events range from Awesome Archaeology, to the Ugly Bug Safari, plus a Knights & Princesses Academy. I’ll admit, I’m tempted myself.

IMG_7568

 

As this month is the centenary of the start of World War One there is a suggestion to turn our lights out at 10pm in the UK on 4 August as a time to reflect. Another interesting project is The Letter to The Unknown Soldier at Platform One at Paddington Station where the statue is reading a letter and we’re all invited to write to him. But the biggie in London is the reopening of the Imperial War Museum with new First World War galleries as well as the new objects in the redesigned and larger atrium. (My review.)

IWM

 

Another centenary celebration is at ZSL London Zoo during the Little Creatures Family Festival from Friday 29 to Sunday 31 August as it was 100 years ago that Winnie the bear arrived at the zoo. The black bear was a mascot for the Canadian regiment and was given to London Zoo at the start of World War One. The author A.A. Milne often brought his son, Christopher Robin, as the young boy really loved the bear.

Winnie the bear and Christopher Robin. © ZSL London Zoo

Winnie the bear and Christopher Robin. © ZSL London Zoo

 

The Geffrye Museum in east London is celebrating its centenary this month and the tri-centenary of the opening of the almshouses for the poor and elderly. It’s a museum of English domestic interiors and has period room-sets to admire from the 17th century to today. The summer events will be indoors and out as they have period gardens too, and there’s lots of fun planned including a free family day on Sunday 17 August.

 

As this is now truly summer time it’s good to plan more outdoor time and the Books About Town trails are fun for all ages. Fifty benches have been placed around London – grouped into four trail areas – designed by local artists and famous names to celebrate London’s literary heritage. Enjoy finding the benches, or simply sitting in the sunshine to read a good book. There are events happening at the benches throughout the summer. For example, the That’s Not My… bench has a photo booth on Wednesday 6 August. The benches are staying until 15 September and will then be auctioned for charity.

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 11.36.34

Planning Ahead

If the Londinium grilled rib eye steak makes you salivate you’ll want to know about Meatopia on 6 & 7 September. And if you want to feel more connected to the famous Thames river that divides London, Totally Thames is a festival running throughout the whole of September.

 

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 @AboutLondonand on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.

Dec 312013
 
Twelfthnightprocession

As the festive decorations start to come down in London it doesn’t mean the fun is gone as there’s always plenty to do in London.

New Year’s Day Parade

NYDPcheerleader

© NewsPics Ltd

We start the new year with the New Year’s Day Parade on 1 January which sets off from near Green Park station at 11.45am and reaches Parliament Square (Westminster station) around 3pm. There’s a ‘swinging 60s’ theme for 2014 and it’s likely to be bigger and louder than ever with marching bands, cheerleaders, floats and performers entertaining the huge crowds along the 2.2 mile route.

Twelfth Night Festival

© Laura Porter

Nearer to London Bridge Hotel, and much more quirky, there’s an annual celebration on Sunday 5 January 2014, from 2.30pm, for the Twelfth Night to mark the end of Christmas and to welcome in the new year. It’s one of those traditional ancient customs that you might think was now lost but thankfully this is an annual free festival that takes place whatever the weather.

Outside Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, the Holly Man arrives by boat along the River Thames. There’s a Mummer’s play and cakes given out to find the King Bean and Queen Pea who then lead a procession to the George Inn on Borough High Street for storytelling and more dancing.

Ice Skating

If you’re still feeling energetic, the last day for the Tower of London Ice Rink is Sunday 5 January 2014 and it’s open until 10pm.

Or walk along the South Bank to the London Eye’s Ice Rink, called Eyeskate, as it also has its final day on 5 January and the last skate session is at 9pm.

Upside Down House

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

If you do find yourself strolling along the South Bank, towards Waterloo, do have a quick look at 20 Blackfriars Road (just by the south side of Blackfriars Bridge). Artist Alex Chinneck has created a facade of an upside down house, called Miner on the Moon, as an art installation on a disused site. It will remain here as public artwork for up to 3 years.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Opens

Back to Bankside, while the Shakespeare’s Globe doesn’t have performances in January – but it is a good time to visit for the exhibition and tour of the theatre – the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse opens on 9 January 2014. This new playhouse provides indoor space for winter performances but the Jacobean ambience won’t be lost as the handmade oak structure will be lit by hundreds of candles during performances. The first production is The Duchess of Amalfi with Gemma Arterton in the lead role.

The Rose Theatre

RoseTheatre

© Laura Porter

Shakespeare’s plays were also performed at another nearby theatre that is not so well known. The Rose Theatre was built in 1587 for Philip Henslowe and was only the fifth purpose-built theater in London. There’s only one performance planned for this month, on the evening of 20 January 2014, when you can see The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats.

The Rose is really still an indoor archaeological site and is open every Saturday so you can find out more.

Bermondsey Street

LondonGlassblowing1

© Laura Porter

Once a street of traditional industries, especially the leather trade, Bermondsey Street is now a conservation area and much of its architectural character has been preserved. The independent shops, cafes and restaurants here make it an enjoyable place for a stroll and I recommend visiting London Glassblowing, at no.62-66, as a perfect way to warm up on a cold winter’s day. Incredibly, the workshop is at the back of the studio so you can watch glass delights being created before checking out the sale from 8 to 25 January 2014.

Just across the road is a bright orange building that houses the Fashion & Textiles Museum (FTM). It was started in 2003 by British designer Zandra Rhodes and is the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to contemporary fashion. The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon ends on 11 January and Artist Textiles – Picasso to Warhol opens on 31 January 2014.

Winter Wanders

Walking is a great way to explore London and Walk London have over 30 free led walks planned for 25 and 26 January 2014.

Behind The Scenes Tour of Tower Bridge

TowerBridge

© Laura Porter

On weekends throughout January, February and March 2014 there are special Tower Bridge Engineering Tours available taking you to areas of the bridge usually out of bounds. Booking ahead is essential as these tours are always popular.

Buckingham Palace State Rooms Tour

The Grand Staircase, Buckingham Palace Photographer: Derry Moore, © The Royal Collection 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The Grand Staircase, Buckingham Palace
Photographer: Derry Moore, © The Royal Collection 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Another unusual opportunity is the chance to visit the Buckingham Palace state rooms as this is the first time they have opened to the public in the winter. The Queen is away at Sandringham so they’ve laid on something very special for visitors as you’ll get a guided tour and a glass of Champagne, plus a souvenir guidebook and a 20% discount in the shop. The tours are on selected dates until 2 February 2014 (including New Year’s Day).

Ice Sculptures

It takes less than 15 minutes to reach Canary Wharf from London Bridge so you might like to visit for the annual London Ice Sculpting Festival which starts on Friday 10 January 2014 and ends on the Sunday (12 January). It’s completely free to watch and you’ll see teams from around the world competing to create wonders from blocks of ice.

NBA Global Games London 2014

On Thursday 16 January, head to The O2 in North Greenwich for a regular season NBA game between the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets. I know nothing about basketball but I’m told this is a big thing so book ahead.

Borough Market

Back nearer to the London Bridge Hotel, Borough Market is always worth visiting and the glass Market Hall that opened in summer 2013 is also the home of the demonstration kitchen every Thursday and Friday at 12-2pm. This is where chefs are invited to showcase products from the market in a cookery demonstration and members of the public get to taste their creations.

Cheapside Hoard

Emerald, diamond and enamel Salamander brooch © Museum of London

Emerald, diamond and enamel Salamander brooch
© Museum of London

The Cheapside Hoard exhibition at the Museum of London has tight security as it’s displaying priceless treasure of late 16th and early 17th century jewels and gemstones that were discovered 100 years ago in a cellar on Cheapside, near St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s definitely worth seeing and Sunday 26 January 2014 is ‘Pay What You Can’ day so a good time to try a paid-for exhibition at the museum. There’s also a free contemporary jewellery exhibition on too called Made in London.

Phew! And everyone tells you January is a quiet month in London. Enjoy!

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.