Mar 242016

Don’t worry about April showers as we’ve got plenty of indoor ideas for this month (and some outside too for those warmer days).

Barbican Theatre

There’s lots to see at the Barbican in April. The month starts with a wonderful production of The Importance of Being Earnest with The Royal Opera from Tuesday 29 March to Sunday 3 April.

Gerald Barry’s adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest was performed in a concert version in the Barbican Hall and won a Royal Philharmonic Society Award. It subsequently received its first full staging in June 2013 in a production directed by Ramin Gray for The Royal Opera where it enjoyed a sell-out run in the Linbury Studio Theatre. Now this modern-dress production, giddy with cucumber sandwiches, smashed plates and megaphones, returns for a second London run of performances.

Barbican - The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest © Stephen Cummiskey

On Friday 8 and Saturday 9 April, there’s Boy Blue Entertainment – A Night with Boy Blue.

Ten years after Boy Blue’s founders Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy and Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante put hip-hop dance on the theatrical map with Pied Piper, the Barbican Artistic Associate revives selected hits from its Olivier Award-winning production and reveals a succession of slick new sequences as part of this exuberant show.

And at the end of the month there’s Kings of War from 22 April to 1 May. Three rulers in times of crisis, each faced with the life-or-death choice of whether to go to war. Their decision-making is laid bare, exposing the conflict between national concerns and self-interest. Shakespeare’s Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III became modern-day political leaders, all their fates unfolding in this single, radical adaptation.


As 2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death there are lots of events throughout the year. The highlight this month is The Complete Walk organised by The Shakespeare’s Globe to be the centrepiece of London’s celebration of Shakespeare’s life and work.

The Complete Walk

Over the spring weekend of 23- 24 April 2016, the banks of the Thames will come alive with an extraordinary, and completely free, celebration. Starting at 10am on Saturday 23 April, there will be 37 screens along a 2.5 mile route between Westminster and Tower Bridge showing a series of specially-made short films.

The Complete Walk is intended to be an interactive journey through Shakespeare’s life and work with performances from some of the world’s finest actors.

Gala Concert

Also on Saturday 23 April, the Shakespeare400: Anniversary Gala concert is at the Royal Festival Hall. Music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra will be interspersed with readings from the plays that inspired them, with the evening directed by Simon Callow.

British Library

The British Library has a landmark exhibition to take visitors on a journey through the 400 year history of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare in Ten Acts opens on 15 April (and runs until 6 September 2016).

The exhibition showcases over 200 unique and rare items such as the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s hand, an authentic Shakespeare signature, the earliest printed edition of Hamlet from 1603 and Shakespeare’s First Folio.

Rose Playhouse

The Rose Playhouse has one of Shakespeare’s best loved comedies on this month. Much Ado About Nothing is on from 5 to 29 April. Directed by Alex Pearson, this production examines the fragility of love: whether it is young love or an old flame.

Set in June 1945 after the war in Europe is over, Benedick and his younger friend Claudio have returned, eager to lose themselves in partying the summer away. But a very different kind of battle is brewing, and this time their foes are Beatrice and Hero. The two soldiers are clueless when it comes to affairs of the heart, and while the battle of the sexes is fought with words, not bullets, it can be just as brutal.

Tower Bridge

If you visit the high walkways of Tower Bridge this month, do have a look at Art at the Bridge – a showcase of 15 local, female artists with the theme ‘Building Bridges: The Female Perspective’. The exhibition forms a dialogue that reflects upon female perspectives in the community through a range of media. The exhibition is on display until 31 July.


Conceptual Art

If you’d like a reason to visit the other London Tate gallery, Conceptual Art in Britain: 1964 – 1979 is at Tate Britain from 12 April to 2 August 2016.

This exhibition explores a period in British history, where artists abandoned the traditional approach to art and suggested news ways of engaging with the realities of the world beyond the studio. The radical and controversial works took inspiration from real world issues, which led artists to create works that often portrayed themes and issues, from feminism to troubles in Northern Ireland.

This exhibition shows conceptual art within the context of its time. Featured artists include Keith Arnatt, Conrad Atkinson and Victor Burgin.

Keith Arnatt, Art as an Act of Retraction, 1971

Keith Arnatt, Art as an Act of Retraction, 1971. Tate © Keith Arnatt Estate

Pick Me Up

The Pick Me Up Graphic Art Festival returns to Somerset House for the seventh year from 21 April to 2 May 2016. The festival displays all forms of graphic art including illustrations, animation, 3D installations and more from top emerging artists and established industry names.

This year, Pick Me Up will host a retrospective exhibition of works by typographer and printmaker Alan Kitching, featuring over 100 prints, showing his journey from apprentice to world-renowned designer.

Visitors will be able to meet some of the artists, designers and illustrators plus create their own work at hands-on workshops and events that run throughout the 12-day festival.

Goosebumps Alive

From the acclaimed designer of Alice’s Adventures Underground, explore Goosebumps Alive at the Vaults in Waterloo and immerse yourself in pure fear.

On from 6 April to 29 May, this immersive theatre experience is a twisted modern update of the 90’s cult horror series. Equal parts terrifying and riotous, it might just bring back nightmarish childhood memories you wish you had forgotten.

If that sounds too much there’s Goosebumps Kids available too for fun and adventure. Phew!

Goosebumps Alive

Udderbelly Festival

And if you would rather be hanging out in a upside down purple cow that’s OK this month as Southbank Centre’s Udderbelly is back from 7 April (and staying until 17 July 2016).

With a full programme of comedy, circus and family entertainment this is a fun place to hang out. Grab a drink at one of the biggest outdoor bars in London and enjoy delicious food in the pasture, which is completely free to enter.


© Southbank Centre

Even More

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


The Fashion & Textile Museum’s next exhibition opens on 6 May. Missoni Art Colour explores the creative process of Italian fashion house Missoni and the textiles of Ottavio and Rosita Missoni in the context of 20th century fine art.

From 27 May, Above and Beyond is at the National Maritime Museum. Discover the wonder of flight and the marvels of aerospace innovation, design, and technology with this immersive exhibition.

In June 2016, Tate Modern will present the first international retrospective of Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003) since his death. Renowned for his vibrant palette, unique style and bold examination of class and sexuality, Khakhar played a central role in modern Indian art but was also a key international figure in 20th century painting.

And on 18 and 19 June, it’s Open Garden Squares Weekend with 211 gardens taking part this year. This is a unique opportunity to discover and explore some of London’s most fascinating squares, gardens and green spaces – most of which are not normally open to the public.


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 London Travel site and 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.

Mar 242014

I hope you didn’t miss the tip in the March article about the clocks changing. The UK moves to British Summer Time on Sunday 30 March and the clocks go forward one hour. Which means we’re officially in Spring! It’s also Easter this month with Easter Sunday on 20 April 2014. It is actually one of the few days when all large shops must be closed but most museums and attractions will be open.


This April is a fantastic month for sports fans. The first weekend of the month sees the opening of the South Park of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park over in Stratford. The area looked stunning during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and we’re now free to enjoy the parklands, fountains and walkways again. The Lee Valley VeloPark is open, as is the Copper Box Arena and the wonderful London Aquatics Centre which is the best swimming pool I’ve ever been swimming at. Ever.


The ArcelorMittal Orbit also reopens on 5 April 2014 (it’s the tall building you can see in the photo above). Designed by Anish Kapoor, it’s the UK’s tallest sculpture and has two high viewing galleries.

On 6 April it’s time for the annual Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race. This is the 160th Boat Race and is one of the oldest sporting events in the world. It doesn’t happen on the stretch of The Thames near the London Bridge Hotel; it’s further west, between Putney Bridge and Chiswick Bridge. It’s a great excuse to sit by the river, or in one of the parks near the race to watch the large screens for the atmosphere. The race starts at 6pm and these are the best places to watch.

The following weekend is the London Marathon (13 April 2014) and you can see it from near to the London Bridge Hotel as the race goes over Tower Bridge at mile 12 before looping around the Docklands and then continuing along the north bank of the river for the last few miles. Good luck if you are running this year and, if not, enjoy cheering on as a spectator.


With 2014 marking 450 years since the birth of playwright William Shakespeare, you can expect plenty of celebrations – especially on 23 April.

A world tour of Hamlet opens on the bard’s birthday at Shakespeare’s Globe to start the open air theatre’s 2014 season. This production will tour every country in the world over a two-year period.

The Rose Theatre has Richard III on this month, and the Noel Coward Theatre will have Shakespeare in Love from July to October.

If you’d like to see the London locations that were known to Shakespeare, London Walks have tours on Wednesdays at 11am and on Sundays at 2pm that combine Shakespeare’s & Dickens’s London.

23 April is also St George’s Day, the patron saint of England, but we’ll celebrate on 21 April 2014 with the Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square. There will be banqueting seating for 250 between the iconic fountains and plenty of stalls to buy something delicious to eat.



The latest exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, Artists Textiles: Picasso to Warhol (which I mentioned in February), has proven so popular that the museum is opening on Sundays from 6 April 2014. They have a series of free Sunday events available and there’s a map you can pick up at the museum that has a local history tour of Bermondsey Street’s fashion heritage.

There’s also a trainers display at the FTM and on Thursday 3 April there’s a panel discussion on How to Wear Trainers with British tailor Timothy Everest MBE and other fashion industry experts.

Across the road at London Glassblowing, Peter Layton is launching two new glass series – Beach and Tempest – for the Spring Open House from 4 to 13 April.


If you are planning to visit Collect: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects at the Saatchi Gallery from 9 to 12 May, you will also appreciate Gather at London Glassblowing from 25 April to 21 May which will present museum-quality work by the same group of artists exhibited by London Glassblowing at Collect, with the addition of two new names on the glass art scene, Laura McKinley and Elliot Walker.



If you head over to Borough Market, do pop into The Wheatsheaf pub as they have a medieval flagon on display as it was found here during recent railway construction work. It may have been used to serve ale in the Abbot of Waverley’s town house, on the same site as the current pub. The Museum of London have worked out it was made between 1350 and 1440.

Henri Matisse Cut-Outs opens at Tate Modern on 17 April to be the major summer exhibition. And at Tate Britain, sculptor Phyllida Barlow will unveil her largest and most ambitious work for the Tate Britain Commission 2014. It will be on display from 31 March to 2 November 2014.

French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier is celebrated at the Barbican Art Gallery with an exhibition featuring more than 140 of Gaultier’s boundary-pushing designs, including iconic pieces created for Madonna, Kylie Minogue and for the films of Pedro Almodóvar. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk opens on 9 April and runs to 25 August 2014.


Over at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Longitude Punk’d displays steampunk artwork inspired by the technical inventions that were presented to the Board of Longitude between 1714 and 1828. The exhibition opens at Easter and runs until February 2015.

The Houses of Parliament has audio tours available from this month so you don’t have to take a guided tour any more. But if you like guided tours the current offering is being extended with more stops to sit and enjoy the building.

Alan Ayckbourn’s A Small Family Business, a riotous exposure of entrepreneurial greed, returns to the National Theatre on the Southbank where it premiered in 1987. The cast is led by Nigel Lindsay as Jack McCracken. The play opens on 1 April and runs to the end of May 2014.



The London Tweed Run is on 17 May 2014. Do read their Etiquette page which did make me smile. It should be a lot of fun to watch as antique bicycles come out and the dress sense of the participants always adhere to the requirement for gentility and decorum.

Looking further ahead, Tate Britain will have an exhibition of Late Turner paintings opening in September. Once he turned 60 in 1835 there were accusations of madness and senility but this exhibition hopes to show he was just as prolific and just as creative as he travelled more and planned his contentious legacy.

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 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.