This is always a summer highlight. While the Queen is away, we can visit the Buckingham Palace State Rooms from 20 July to 20 September 2019. The special exhibition this year is ‘Queen Victoria’s Palace’ to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria. It tells the story of how the young monarch turned an unloved royal residence into the centre of the social, cultural and official life of the country.
Queen Victoria ascended to the throne on 20 June 1837, aged 18. Just three weeks into her reign, she moved into Buckingham Palace, despite the building being incomplete and many of the rooms undecorated and unfurnished. The Palace had been empty for seven years following the death of Victoria’s uncle, George IV, who had commissioned at great expense the conversion of Buckingham House into a Palace to the designs of John Nash.
The exhibition has objects from the Royal Collection on display and an immersive experience in the Palace’s Ballroom to enable visitors to imagine the space as Victoria and Albert would have known it. This should be a wonderful insight into the headquarters of the Monarchy, a rallying point for national celebrations and a family home.
Bank of England Museum
A new exhibition opens at the Bank of England Museum on 22 July 2019 marking the 325th anniversary of the Bank of England. 325 Years, 325 Objects features 325 assorted objects from the depths of the Bank including earliest notes, art/design work, Roman relics, 19th-century forgeries, staff dexterity tests from the 1980s and even a Cold War radiation calculator from 1959/60 – used to estimate the effects of a nuclear attack.
Brought together, these objects tell the story of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. The exhibition is an absorbing presentation of world and social history from a genuinely unique perspective. Far from a predictable chronological trawl through history, it is a lively display of significant, surprising, beautiful and unusual items that have tales to tell.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is a newly-commissioned floral banknote sculpture by artist Justine Smith. It takes the form of an arrangement of wild British flowers – bindweed, wild cherry, dog roses and hazel branches – all made from a combination of previously circulated (now unfit) £50 notes and uncirculated £50 test notes. The delicate, red floral arrangement is presented in a silver water jug, dating from 1694, the year of the Bank’s foundation.
Cutty Sark in Greenwich is celebrating her 150th anniversary so there are lots of fun events throughout the year. (I visited recently.) On Friday evenings throughout the month, there is ‘Summer Sailing on the Cutty Sark’ with headline DJs and live music. (Don’t worry, she doesn’t go on the water at all.)
On 2 August the headliner is Norman Jay MBE, one of the most respected and accomplished DJs in Britain. He kick-starts the Summer Sailing series at Cutty Sark showcasing the best of UK club culture. Guests can enjoy a glass of fizz on the top deck in the summer evening sun and dance down below the ship.
On 16 August BBC Radio 6 Music’s Huey Morgan headlines and on 23 August it’s DJ Yoda. The Summer Sailing season ends on 30 August with BBC Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney.
Chihuly Nights starts at Kew Gardens from 15 August 2019. On Thursdays to Saturdays until 26 October, these exclusive evening events offer a rare experience of Kew Gardens at sundown, complemented by Chihuly’s illuminated artworks.
Over 33 nights, visitors can experience the exquisite artworks set against the backdrop of one of London’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. A specially curated soundtrack responds to artworks, including improvised live performances from internationally acclaimed musicians.
As the sun goes down, the lights come up, and if timed just right, visitors can watch the sun set over Kew’s iconic landscape and see Chihuly’s artwork begin to glow under the evening sky. The resplendent Temperate House and Waterlily House will form atmospheric indoor settings, and the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art will be open for visitors to explore artwork from Chihuly’s 50-year career.
Somerset House has announced the return of the ultimate open-air cinema experience Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House this August. The 2019 line-up features Black Panther, Clueless, God’s Own Country and This is England. And there’s a new range of seating options including Bean Bags and Director’s Chairs.
Over the course of a fortnight, Film4 Summer Screen brings the best of cinema on London’s largest outdoor screen. Film lovers can come together at this stunning London landmark. There are weekend double bills and on Thursday 8 August there is the opening night premiere of Pain and Glory introduced by legendary Spanish Director Pedro Almodóvar.
From 3 to 11 August 2019, Nile Rodgers is taking over Southbank Centre with his unique creative vision for the Meltdown Festival. Over nine days and across the stages of the Royal Festival Hall, newly reopened brutalist masterpieces the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, and the remainder of Southbank Centre’s cultural quarter on the banks of the River Thames, Rodgers is presenting a hand-picked line-up of show-stopping music, art and free events, in what will undoubtedly be the funkiest festival of the year.
As well as the fantastic concerts, enjoy Disco Wonderland on the River Terrace on Saturday 3 August where you dance for hours for free.
Houses of Parliament
When the MPs head off on their summer holidays, we can explore the Houses of Parliament on weekdays as well as Saturdays. From 30 July to 31 August 2019, there are guided tours and self-guided audio tours available so you can see the Commons Chamber and the Lords Chamber, follow in the footsteps of the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament and be inspired by Westminster Hall which is almost 1000 years old. And in Westminster Hall, there’s a free exhibition. Parliament and Peterloo explores the political and social background to the Peterloo massacre and Parliament’s reaction to it.
Make your visit even more special by including afternoon tea at the Palace of Westminster. In a Thames-side room in the House of Lords you can enjoy a three-tier silver cake stand laden with all the delights this special meal offers.
London Bridge City
Summer by the River is back riverside from London Bridge to Tower Bridge. There are live music and theatre performances, art displays, great street food and open-air cinema.
If you would like even more ideas for this month, do have a look at last month’s recommendations as many are still valid for August too.
Tower of London Food Festival is in the Tower of London’s dry moat on 12-15 September 2019. Packed with the tastiest street food stalls and artisan food producers, you can enjoy live cookery demos in The Kitchen, plus family fun and live music. Entry is included in palace admission.
From 21 September 2019, the Royal Academy of Arts is presenting a solo exhibition of the internationally acclaimed British sculptor Antony Gormley. The exhibition will bring together both existing and specially conceived new works for the occasion, from drawings and sculptures to experiential environments, that will take on the RA’s Main Galleries across all 13 rooms.
First came the musical. Then the movies. And now Mamma Mia! The Party opens at The O2 from 19 September, previewing from 29 August 2019.
And Totally Thames is back from 1 to 30 September 2019 for a month-long season of arts, cultural and river events throughout the 42-mile stretch of the Thames in London.
Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on Twitter as @AboutLondon, on Instagram as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.
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