London New Year’s Day Parade
As I mentioned last month, if you would like a way to welcome in 2018 without the late night revelry head to the London New Year’s Day Parade on 1 January. An annual event since 1987, there are over 8,000 performers involved.
It’s heavily influenced by the big parades in the US so you can expect choreographed cheerleaders and huge inflatables plus dancers, acrobats and floats.
The parade starts from near Green Park tube station at midday and works its way through the streets of central London to reach Parliament Square by 3.30pm. It’s free to watch along the route and good spots include Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall.
Twelfth Night Celebrations
On Sunday 7 January 2018 you can enjoy the Twelfth Night celebrations. It’s a fabulous revival of a traditional festival with the Holly Man arriving by boat, some jovial wassailing, a Mummer’s Play and a procession to the pub. There’s lots more information on their website but all you really need to know is how much fun this is to see.
It’s completely free to watch from outside Shakespeare’s Globe at Bankside and the pub they go to afterwards is the George Inn on Borough High Street. The event is a fabulous mix of ancient Midwinter seasonal customs and contemporary festivity.
Lumiere London is an incredible outdoor nocturnal light festival across central London on 18 to 21 January 2018. Over a million people enjoyed this free spectacular when it was in London in 2016 and this time it’s set to be even bigger.
More than 40 UK and international artists are reimagining London’s iconic architecture and streets both north and south of the River Thames.
Highlights include interactive illuminated singing see-saws in South Molton Street in Mayfair, flamingos flying through Chinatown and Matisse-inspired animation dancing across the façade of the Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly.
Close to London Bridge Hotel, there’s a triptych of work in Leake Street, Waterloo: Ruby, Santiago and Adam: Grey Matters. And OSC-L at the National Theatre sees German digital artist Ulf Langheinrich transform the National Theatre’s fly tower into a luminous monument, glowing along the South Bank’s skyline.
Charles II: Art & Power
The latest exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace is Charles II: Art & Power.
The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 after the turbulence of the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell’s rule led to a resurgence of the arts in England, encouraged by Charles II’s patronage and his love of collecting great works of art to decorate his royal apartments.
The exhibition includes old master paintings, tapestries and silver-gilt furniture, to showcase the beauty and richness of Charles II’s court. I’ve been to see it already and can recommend a visit.
There are often great productions of Shakespeare plays in London (especially at Shakespeare’s Globe and The Rose Playhouse) but this month (from 20 January) you can see Julius Caesar at London’s newest theatre. Bridge Theatre is at Potter’s Field Park, between City Hall and Tower Bridge.
Caesar returns in triumph to Rome and the people pour out of their homes to celebrate. Alarmed by the autocrat’s popularity, the educated élite conspire to bring him down. After his assassination, civil war erupts on the streets of the capital.
Nicholas Hytner’s production is in promenade, thrusting its audience into the street party that greets Caesar’s return, the congress that witnesses his murder, the rally that assembles for his funeral and the chaos that explodes in its wake.
Seating is wrapped around the action, with 250 promenading tickets at £25 available in advance for each performance.
Tower of London
Throughout January you can find out about Medieval Life at the Tower of London. Travel back to 1299 and enter the Palace of King Edward I, Hammer of the Scots, in this live performance drama. Discover a world of chivalrous knights and beautiful ladies, troublesome lords and royal prisoners. There are money problems at home, too, as the King leads his armies off to war.
Join the knights and ladies at the Medieval Palace daily at 11am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 3.30pm.
Or visit on 31 January for the evening Confessions at the Tower of London. On the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’s infamous ‘confession’, hear live storytellers and poets confess their innermost secrets in the atmospheric chapel of St Peter’s ad Vincula. Inspired by the story of Guy Fawkes’s interrogation at the Tower, this intimate performance explores the themes of coercion and free will.
Peter Schaffer’s iconic play had its premiere at the NT in 1979 before being adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. And following a sell-out run last year, Amadeus returns to the National Theatre from 22 January (previewing from 11 January 2018).
Michael Longhurst’s acclaimed production of Peter Shaffer’s iconic play features live orchestral accompaniment by Southbank Sinfonia. Adam Gillen and Lucian Msamati reprise the roles of Mozart and Salieri.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a rowdy young prodigy, arrives in Vienna determined to make a splash. Awestruck by his genius, court composer Antonio Salieri has the power to promote his talent or destroy it. Seized by obsessive jealousy he begins a war with Mozart, with music and, ultimately, with God.
Hayward Gallery is staging the UK’s first major retrospective of Andreas Gursky from 24 January 2018. The German photographer is known for his large-scale, often spectacular pictures that portray emblematic sites and scenes of the global economy and contemporary life. The exhibition features around 60 of the artist’s ground-breaking photographs from his iconic works of the 1980s through to five new works created for the occasion.
This marks the beginning of the Hayward Gallery’s 50th anniversary year and is the first exhibition to take place in the gallery following its two-year refurbishment. For the first time since the original opening, the gallery’s pyramid roof lights will allow natural light into the spaces below.
Rhythm and Reaction
Two Temple Place reopens after its winter closure on 27 January 2018 for the new exhibition, Rhythm & Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain.
Marking 100 years of Jazz reaching Britain, Rhythm & Reaction explores the impact that jazz had on Britons from 1918. Jazz is well-understood as a soundtrack to the interwar years, but its reception was always complex. In Britain, jazz provoked reactions ranging from devotion to abhorrence when first the idea and then the sound of the music entered the consciousness of the British public in the aftermath of the First World War.
While jazz has underscored some key exhibitions on this period in the past decade, Rhythm & Reaction explores the aesthetic and cultural impact of the music on artists and society at large. It examines how Britons encountered jazz and, in particular, how art produced in response to jazz represented or influenced perceptions of the genre.
Drawing on the richness of regional public collections throughout the UK, this exhibition brings together an eclectic range of media from painting, printmaking and cartoons, to moving film, instruments and the all-important sound of jazz.
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 January too.
Opening on 7 February there’s a new free exhibition in The Curve at the Barbican Centre. Yto Barrada is a Moroccan artist and this is her first major London commission. Working across photography, film, sculpture, textile, installation and publications, Barrada explores the subversive tactics and strategies of resistance developed to deal with everything from the mundanities of everyday life to shifts in power and migration.
To coincide with the release of a new album and accompanying concert film, a-ha are back on tour with a MTV Unplugged acoustic show at The O2 on 14 February 2018. They’ve always included some acoustic numbers in their concerts but this will be the first time a whole show has been ‘unplugged’. It sounds like a wonderful way to spend Valentine’s Day and you could easily get a Thames Clipper there to add to the romance.
2018 is the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave all men and some women the right to vote in elections for the first time. There will be lots of national commemoration events throughout the year. The Museum of London has a Votes for Women exhibition opening on 2 February (and running all year). Dedicated to those who campaigned tirelessly for over 50 years to achieve votes for women, the exhibition features iconic objects from the Museum’s vast Suffragette collection, including Emmeline Pankhurst’s hunger strike medal. At the heart of the display is a powerful, newly commissioned film that highlights the personal story of lesser-known Suffragettes and reflects on the contemporary relevance of the militant campaign that continues to inspire, shock and divide opinion.
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 and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.