Let’s start this month’s suggestions with a great reason to get out exploring the area. Musicity x Low Line launched in June as part of the London Festival of Architecture. Created by Nick Luscombe of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, the project invited musicians and recording artists to give buildings their own soundtrack.
Fifteen new tracks were created for the Low Line along the Victorian railway viaduct, spanning Bankside, London Bridge and Bermondsey. Celebrating the heritage of the railway arches, the Low Line is a new walking destination for south London and this project encourages the exploration of urban spaces through music.
The audio tracks respond to fifteen locations including the Old Union Yard Arches, Borough Market, Bermondsey Street Tunnel, London Bridge Station, Southwark Cathedral and Vinegar Yard. With the free Musicity app each composition can be streamed and downloaded free of charge but only by visiting each location with a smartphone.
Following the success of previous sell-out comedy seasons, the Cutty Sark has the return of its pre-Edinburgh comedy festival. On from 16 June to 28 July 2019, there’s still plenty of laughs for this month.
On 5 July 2019, the double-bill is Pierre Novellie and Garrett Millerick. Pierre performed five-star Edinburgh shows last year, and Garrett’s breakout 2018 show became one of the best-reviewed and most talked about shows of The Edinburgh Festival.
On 7 July, Tony Law and Ian Smith bring the laughs. You’ll recognise Tony from Have I Got News for You, 8 Out of 10 Cats, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. And Ian is bringing his sixth solo show to Cutty Sark Theatre.
On 8 July it’s Tom Houghton and John Robertson and on 14 July you can see Adam Hess and Alice Snedden. On 19 July there’s Phil Wang and Rob Auton and on 20 July there’s Matt Forde and Eleanor Tiernan. 21 July is Fern Brady and Carl Donnelly and Alfie Brown and Andrew O’Neill are on 27 July. The last show is Desiree Burch and Lou Sanders on 28 July.
Another after-hours reason to visit Cutty Sark in July is for the Moon Festival: The Moon Under Water closing party on 26 July 2019. It’s an audio-visual gig, featuring a fusion of music and projected visuals beneath the hull of the Cutty Sark.
National Maritime Museum
To celebrate 50 years since NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed the first humans on the Moon, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is staging The Moon, the UK’s biggest exhibition dedicated to Earth’s nearest celestial neighbour. On from 19 July 2019 to 5 January 2020, this major exhibition explores our evolving relationship with the Moon across history. The exhibition presents a scientific and cultural history encompassing exploration, mythology, art and science.
It includes the earliest drawings of the Moon made using a telescope by Thomas Harriott, from the collection of Lord Egremont, along with key pieces from the Royal Astronomical Society, Victoria and Albert Museum and Science Museum, and the loan of Apollo space programme artefacts from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Royal Museums Greenwich’s own 300-inch map of the Moon by Hugh Percy Wilkins is also being shown to the public for the first time.
And now for something ridiculous but wonderful. Well-dressed eccentrics gather in Bedford Square Gardens once a year for the Chap Olympiad and this year it’s happening on 14 July. It’s rather like a garden party combined with a silly sports day, with participants rewarded for the sports that require the least physical exertion.
You’ll see Umbrella Jousting while on bicycles and the Tea Pursuit which is a bicycle relay race with a cup of tea. The whole day is certainly more about style than effort and the dress code for all is elegant finery and dandy wear.
Zoo Nights is ZSL London Zoo’s after-hours adult adventure on every Friday between 7 June and 26 July 2019. It’s a unique mix of wildlife and city life with explorations for night-owls to embark on and more than 18,000 animals to visit.
New for 2019, art lovers can practise their creative skills at the Wild Workshops: get enthused by emus, inspired by insects and moved by meerkats before creating a mini masterpiece to take home. Discover strange animal facts on the new guided tour, while Birds and the Bees Uncut is back-by-popular-demand with experts helping you unravel the mysteries of sex in the animal kingdom.
When the sun finally sets, listen to chilled-out music and enjoy live acrobatics in the open air Light Lounge, or if you prefer a more acoustic vibe head for Live and Unplugged over at the Zoo’s BUGS House.
Somerset House Summer Series is back from 11 to 21 July 2019. It brings a festival atmosphere to the heart of London and offers a programme of pioneering musicians across a range of genres. It’s a rare chance to see critically acclaimed artists plus some of the best up and coming performers in a spectacular yet intimate setting.
For eleven nights, the magnificent Somerset House courtyard is transformed into the ultimate open-air destination. Highlights include Grammy-nominated five-piece The Internet, modernist supergroup The Good, The Bad and The Queen fronted by Damon Albarn, BBC Sound of 2019 nominee Rosalía, East London’s Nao and the Mercury Prize-shortlisted Sons of Kemet.
The National Theatre’s River Stage Festival is back in July. The annual summer festival on London’s South Bank has leading arts and performance companies celebrating the best of British and international culture.
East London’s cabaret mecca and drag pub The Glory celebrate Pride at the NT on 5-7 July with a tour-de-force weekend of back-to-back shows and parties, including the best of their drag queen contest LIPSYNC1000, plus their drag king battle Man Up.
It’s the Shubbak Festival on 12-14 July, mixing family activities with bands, spoken word and DJ sets. 19-21 July is the National Park City Festival with a line-up dedicated to all things green and wild in celebration of London becoming the world’s first National Park City.
Celebrating their 25th Birthday Frantic Assembly are on 26-28 July with DJs, live music, movement workshops, performances and much more. And 2-4 August is the National Theatre takeover – a joyful party weekend to close the River Stage festival 2019. The National Theatre throws open its doors and lets the creativity spill out bringing you the very best in family theatre, dance, music and more.
Summer by the River
London Bridge City’s Summer by the River is back along the riverside from London Bridge Pier to City Hall and there’s lots going on with a programme of free, summery events until September.
I’m told, this is the largest free outdoor festival in the capital. It’s certainly a great place to get street food or to see free entertainment whether that’s music, film, comedy or theatre. You can also see broadcasts of the summer’s biggest sports too.
Most of the fun takes place at the outdoor amphitheatre, The Scoop, which is set against stunning backdrops of the river Thames and Tower Bridge. Other events are held at Hay’s Galleria and more locations in the area.
Regent Streets Summer Streets is back on 14 July and 21 July (with more dates in August and September). It sees this major shopping street free of all traffic on Sundays; pedestrianised from Oxford Circus all the way to Piccadilly Circus. It is created to encourage visitors to enjoy the festival-style atmosphere in the heart of London, along one of the most iconic streets in the city.
There’s entertainment laid on as well as food and drink offerings, plus shopping offers from the landmark local stores.
Summer at Southbank Centre sees the 17-acre site play host to an array of free events and an abundance of fun and entertainment with a festival atmosphere. The summer-long party by the River Thames has family events as well as performances, film screenings, live music, DJs and a whole host of LGBTQI+ events.
On 5-7 July there’s the return of the New Music Biennial with a weekend of free music, concerts, talks, workshops, installations, pop-ups and late night events. It presents a snapshot of contemporary music in the UK across all genres from classical to world music, jazz, folk, electronic and even music for ice cream vans. Unique to the festival, each work, no longer than 15 minutes long, is performed twice, sandwiched around a Q+A with the composer.
Or come for the outdoor pedal-powered film screenings beside the Thames. Films include Little Shop of Horrors (24 July) and Chicago (31 July), Moulin Rouge (14 August) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (21 August).
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 July too.
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.
From 3 to 11 August, 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.
Europe’s largest street party, Notting Hill Carnival, comes to west London every summer for the August Bank Holiday weekend (25 and 26 August 2019). Sunday is Children’s Day and Monday is the Grand Parade. Expect lots of mobile sound systems as the party goes on after the parade passes.
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.
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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