Springtime in London is wonderful and this month we have theatre and architecture exhibitions, plus fun at the Tower of London and the start of season focusing on London at night.


Southbank Centre’s multi-arts festival Alchemy returns for its ninth year from Friday 4 to Monday 7 May 2018. The event celebrates and showcases the creativity and dynamic cultural connections between South Asia and the UK.

Exploring arts and culture, this festival presents some of the most innovative creative contemporary artists. Alchemy 2018 is focusing on new and inspiring work from British-based, South Asian emerging and established artists; celebrating exciting works from artists across theatre, dance, music, comedy and literature.

Over 50% of the Alchemy programme is free allowing audiences to experience an array of performance, dance, music and workshops.

Alchemy Festival

© Ben Wilson Photography 2017


On until the end of June 2018, there’s a free exhibition in the Lyttelton Lounge at the National Theatre to mark the Old Vic’s 200th birthday.

Located on The Cut, just south of the river in Lambeth, The Old Vic first opened its doors in 1818. In 1963 the National Theatre was established and spent its first 13 years at The Old Vic.

Led by Sir Laurence Olivier, the National Theatre established a company of young and emerging actors, playwrights, designers and movement directors who would go on to have a significant impact not only on British theatre but on the development of 20th century theatre as a whole. The 13-year period at The Old Vic witnessed productions of new writing, the creation of innovative stage designs and a dynamic approach to theatre-making.

The National Theatre at The Old Vic 1963-1976 celebrates the early years of the National Theatre at The Old Vic in its bicentenary year and highlights an extraordinary and innovative period in British theatre history.

The National Theatre and The Old Vic have commissioned sound artist Jesc Bunyard to create a new sound artwork. Inspired by archive materials from this time, this conveys the dramatic history whilst providing a soundtrack to the exhibition.

Old Vic Theatre

Photo by Chris Arthur


This extraordinary exhibition at the National Gallery allows us to see the ‘Father of Impressionism’ in an entirely new way. Monet and Architecture is the first exhibition devoted to Claude Monet’s relationship with architecture and is on until 29 July 2018.

Comprising more than seventy paintings, the exhibition spans Monet’s long career from its beginnings in the mid-1860s to the public display of his Venice paintings in 1912. From his compositions of villages and picturesque settings, through his exploration of the modern city, the exhibition also features London landmarks including the Houses of Parliament and Waterloo Bridge.

The Douanier's Cottage, 1882

Claude Monet – The Douanier’s Cottage, 1882


In an unprecedented collaboration, three major London galleries – the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, and National Gallery – have three distinct exhibitions with the artist Tacita Dean.

Tacita Dean: Portrait is at the National Portrait Gallery until 28 May 2018. This exhibition focuses on portraiture primarily through the medium of 16mm film. It is the first in the Gallery’s history to be devoted to the medium of film, and also reveals the artist’s own longstanding and personal interest in portraiture as a genre.

Tacita Dean: Landscape is at the Royal Academy of Arts until 12 August 2018. This is the first exhibition to be held in the new Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries at the RA, following its transformative redevelopment. It was the likes of the Royal Academicians Constable, Gainsborough and Turner who championed the genre of landscape painting. The exhibition explores landscape in its broadest sense, from botany to cosmography, travel to weather.

Tacita Dean: Still Life is at the National Gallery until 28 May 2018. It presents an innovative exploration of the genre through Dean’s lens as one of its leading contemporary practitioners. Guided by her own understanding of still life and its influence on her practice, the artist has curated a diverse selection of works, ranging from 17th-century paintings to recently completed pieces in a variety of mediums, either by the artist herself or by her contemporaries. There is also be a new film diptych made by Dean, especially for this exhibition.

Tacita Dean photographed in her studio In Los Angeles, October 2015 testing New 55 instant film.

Tacita Dean photographed in her studio In Los Angeles, October 2015 testing New 55 instant film. Copyright: 2015 Jim McHugh / Los Angeles


In May, the Tower of London launches an exciting summer season of live performances exploring Anne Boleyn’s last seventeen days in the Tower from her imprisonment, through to her trial and execution. Arrest and Last Days of Anne Boleyn is on from 6 May to 27 August. This 40-minute live performance will be staged twice per day.

The Tower also welcomes the award-winning writer, artist and performer, Inua Ellams as its Poet in Residence for 2018. In collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces, Ellams is curating a series of poetry, spoken word and performance events called Confessions at the Tower; mixing re-imagined historic records with real confessions from some of the country’s most exciting contemporary poets.

Confessions at the Tower


For the first time, Tate Modern tells the intertwined stories of these art mediums. On from 2 May to 14 October 2018, Shape of Light: Photography and Abstract Art is the first major exhibition to explore the relationship between photography and abstract art, spanning the century from the 1910s to the present day.

It brings to life the innovation and originality of photographers over this period and shows how they responded and contributed to the development of abstraction. Key photographs are brought together from pioneers including Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz and contemporary artists which are shown alongside abstract paintings, sculptures and installations in abstract art, from Joan Miró to Bridget Riley.

​Antony Cairns, LDN5_051 2017

Antony Cairns, LDN5_051 2017 © Courtesy of the artist Antony Cairns


Opening on 11 May (and running until 11 November 2018), London Nights is a major photography exhibition at the Museum of London.

The show takes visitors on a dramatic, nocturnal study of the capital. 200 photos and film clips from the 19th century to the present day focus on the city after dark. The exhibition is divided into three themes: ‘London Illuminated’ includes moonlight, lowlight and streetlight, ‘Dark Matters’ looks at the mysterious and dark side of the city’s nightlife and ‘Switch On… Switch Off…’ explores how people interact with the night through work, rest and play.

And the Barbican is hosting a London Nights Film Season to explore London’s nocturnal life through the cinematographer’s lens.

Trafalgar Square and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The floodlit church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and part of the National Gallery seen from the south side of Trafalgar Square. A photograph by George Reid who photographed the streets and buildings of London, and the activities in them, in the 1920's and 1930's. This photograph appeared in Volume 3 of Reid's 'Views of Westminster and London'.

Trafalgar Square and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The floodlit church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and part of the National Gallery seen from the south side of Trafalgar Square. A photograph by George Reid who photographed the streets and buildings of London, and the activities in them, in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This photograph appeared in Volume 3 of Reid’s ‘Views of Westminster and London’.


Even More

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 May too.


Open Garden Squares Weekend is on  9 & 10 June 2018. This year, the garden of Number 10 Downing Street will join over 200 unique and special gardens opening for London’s biggest garden-visiting weekend.

The curator of Southbank Centre’s 25th Meltdown Festival is The Cure‘s Robert Smith. It’s all happening from 15 to 24 June and the line-up looks fantastic as there will be performances by The Libertines, Manic Street Preachers, Nine Inch Nails, Placebo, The Psychedelic Furs and lots more.

Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament is in Westminster Hall (Houses of Parliament) from 27 June. This exhibition tells the story of Parliament, women and the vote from c.1800 to present day, and marks 100 years of the vote for all men and some women in 1918.

Also opening next month is the Royal Academy of Art’s 250th anniversary Summer Exhibition. The RA’s founding members agreed to hold an “Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Designs … open to all Artists”, to help finance the training of young artists in the Royal Academy Schools. The Summer Exhibition is still an annual event and is the largest open submission exhibition in the world.


Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. 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 maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.

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