Laura Porter

Aug 172017
 

Kew Gardens

Here are a couple of great reasons to go to Kew Gardens this month.

It’s not the end of the summer open-air film opportunities in London yet as Kew the Movies outdoor cinema festival is back. On 6 September you can see Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and on 7 September it’s time to sing-a-long to Grease.

Do note, there’s no seating so you’ll be relaxing on the grass but you don’t need to bring a picnic as food and drink is available.

Kew Gardens - Kew The Movies

© RBG Kew

Or come in the daytime to admire the Gardens as Sculpt at Kew is on from 18 September to 15 October. There are more than 70 sculptures displayed across the Gardens making it a wonderful excuse to stroll and explore.

The artworks are by over 30 renowned British and international artists and include stunning figurative, abstract and modern sculptures in a range of media including ceramics, bronze, glass and woodwork.

And, as an added bonus, all of these original works of contemporary art are available to buy.

Vintage Summer Steam

I’ve done this and can assure you Vintage Summer Steam really is a lot of fun. On 9 and 10 September, passengers can enjoy journeys evocative of the early 20th century when the Metropolitan No. 1 steam locomotive and the 1938 art deco Tube stock train run on the Metropolitan line between Amersham and Harrow-on-the-Hill.

The heritage vehicles also include Steam Locomotive No. 9466, two class 20 diesel locomotives, and the 1950s ex British Rail coaches resplendent in their new London Transport red livery.

Costumed characters bring the history of past travel to life at Amersham station. And there is also a pop-up vintage tea experience for day trippers who purchase a tea room ticket.

On Saturday 9 September The Susie Qs, a 1940s close-harmony trio are singing Andrew’s Sisters classics and performing the dance moves to match. And on Sunday 10 September passengers can take a free heritage bus ride from Amersham Station to Amersham Old Town for the town’s annual Heritage Day where there is live bands, market stalls and a children’s area and fairground.

Vintage Summer Steam

Scythians

Opening on 14 September at the British Museum, Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia explores the story of the Scythians – nomadic tribes and masters of mounted warfare, who flourished between 900 and 200 BC. Their influence was felt all over Central Asia – from China to the northern Black Sea.

For centuries all trace of their culture was lost – buried beneath the ice – but discoveries of ancient tombs have unearthed a wealth of Scythian treasures that are revealing the truth about these people’s lives.

The Scythians were exceptional horsemen and warriors, and feared adversaries and neighbours of the ancient Greeks, Assyrians and Persians. This exhibition tells their story through exciting archaeological discoveries and perfectly preserved objects frozen in time.

If, like me, you know little about this area of history, the British Museum have written this helpful article to introduce the Scythians.

Scythian rider

Scythian rider. gold plaque depicting a Scythian rider with a spear in his right hand; Gold; Second half of the fourth century BC; Kul’ Oba.© The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, 2017. Photo: V Terebenin.

Drawn in Colour

Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell is a free exhibition at the National Gallery. Opening on 20 September (and on until April 2018), this is a rare opportunity to see stunning paintings, pastels, and drawings by leading French Impressionist Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834–1917).

The Burrell Collection in Glasgow holds one of the greatest collections of Degas’s works in the world. Rarely seen in public, this exhibition marks the first time the group of pastels has been shown outside of Scotland, since they were acquired at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Burrell’s thirteen pastels, three drawings, and four oil paintings, are exhibited alongside a selection of oil paintings and pastels from the National Gallery’s own Degas collection, as well as loans from other collections which relate thematically or stylistically to the Burrell works.

The exhibition marks the centenary of the artist’s death on 27 September 1917, and is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest creative figures of French art.

Degas - Ballet Dancers

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas – Ballet Dancers (about 1890-1900).
© The National Gallery, London

BBC Proms in the Park

The Proms are on at the Royal Albert Hall until Saturday 9 September when there is the popular (but already sold-out) Last Night of the Proms. A wonderful way to still enjoy this finale event is at the BBC Proms in the Park in Hyde Park.

There are big screen link-ups to the performances at the Royal Albert Hall plus live concerts too. It’s not all classical music here as legendary singer-songwriter and The Kinks frontman, Sir Ray Davies is the headline act.

Sir Ray is joined by leading soloists including bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, singer and actress Elaine Paige and 1970’s sensation Gilbert O’Sullivan. Steps and Texas bring the pop songs, and the early evening entertainment also includes a performance from the cast of Five Guys Named Moe.

Proms In The Park

© Neil Rickard

Jasper Johns

Considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Jasper Johns is featured in a major exhibition at The Royal Academy from 23 September to 10 December. This landmark exhibition of this Honorary Royal Academician brings together his paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings to explore his unconventional and experimental approach.

This is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s work to be held in the UK in 40 years. Over 150 works including sculpture, drawings and prints are on display, together with new work from the artist.

The exhibition span over 60 years from his early career, right up to the present time, bringing together artworks that rarely travel from international private and public collections.

Jasper Johns, Target, 1961.

Jasper Johns, Target, 1961. Encaustic and collage on canvas. 167.6 x 167.6 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago c Jasper Johns / VAGA, New York / DACS, London. Photo: c 2017. The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY / Scala, Florence

Rachel Whiteread

Tate Britain has a major exhibition of work by Rachel Whiteread to celebrate her position as one of the UK’s most highly respected sculptors. From 12 September 2017 to 4 February 2018, we can see both large and small scale scultpures in the range of materials characteristically used by the artist – plaster, resin, rubber, concrete and metal.

This is the most substantial showing of Whiteread’s works from her 30 year career and includes new work not previously exhibited. The exhibition also has drawings and documentation of the public projects that have punctuated her career including House (1993-4) which existed for only a few months before its controversial destruction, and helped win Whiteread the Turner Prize in 1993.

Large-scale pieces include Untitled (Book Corridors) 1997-8 and Untitled (Room 101) 2003 – a cast of the room at the BBC’s broadcasting House thought to be the model for Room 101 in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four. And some of the smaller sculptures include casts in different materials and colours from architectural features such as floors, doors and windows to domestic objects such as tables, boxes and a selection of Torsos, Whiteread’s casts of hot water bottles.

Another highlight of the exhibition is Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995 – an installation of 100 resin casts of the underside of chairs – shown in Tate Britain’s Duveen galleries.

Rachel Whiteread House 1993

Rachel Whiteread House 1993
Photo: Sue Omerod © Rachel Whiteread

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the September 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

To mark the UK-India Year of Culture 2017-18, and celebrate the vibrant cultural history of the two countries, the Science Museum has the Illuminating India Season from 4 October 2017 to 19 March 2018. There will be two exhibitions celebrating the rich culture and history of innovation in India. One is an ambitious and unprecedented survey of photography in India from the emergence of the medium in the 19th century to the present day. The other highlights India’s long tradition of scientific thought from the ancient past to now.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic opens at the British Library on 20 October to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Presenting a thrilling display of wizarding books, manuscripts and magical objects alongside centuries-old British Library treasures, this is about as close to the Hogwarts library as we’re ever likely to get.

Together the V&A and the Royal Opera House present a landmark exhibition exploring a vivid story of opera from its origins in late-Renaissance Italy to the present day. Opera: Passion, Power and Politics opens at the V&A on 30 September. Told through the lens of seven premieres in seven European cities, this immersive exhibition takes you on a journey through nearly 400 years, culminating in the international explosion of opera in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

Jul 132017
 

Clarence House

Throughout August we have the opportunity to go inside Clarence House, the official residence of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla).

Clarence House was built for the future King William IV while he was the Duke of Clarence, hence its name. It is one of the last remaining aristocratic townhouses in London.

Visitors are able to see the five rooms on the ground floor where official engagements are undertaken by Their Royal Highnesses. A guide accompanies all visitors and the tour is just £10. There are also more exclusive tours available (£35) that include the Cornwall Room where 22 of The Prince of Wales’s watercolours are hung. Those tours conclude with a glass of Champagne and a view of the garden.

Clarence House

Parliament

Parliament and the First World War is a new, free exhibition in Parliament’s historic Westminster Hall. Running until 28 September 2017, the exhibition enables visitors to explore documents, paintings and objects which demonstrate the profound changes in Parliament and democracy that occurred during the war years.

A poignant addition to the exhibition is a light projection of the names of those recorded on the First World War memorials in Parliament. These names include the 46 Parliamentarians and 26 Parliamentary staff killed in service.

Entry to the exhibition is free of charge and you can visit Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm (last entry 5:30pm). Access is via the Cromwell Green Entrance. Visitors booked on tours of the Palace of Westminster will have access to the exhibition too.

Women workers at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, July 1917

Women workers at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, July 1917. Photograph by Horace Nicholls. © IWM (Q 30040) With permission of the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by Imperial War Museums

Natural History Museum

It’s definitely worth visiting the Natural History Museum this month as there have been some big changes. The most striking is the transformed Hintze Hall – the large space you enter from the main entrance.

The dinosaur cast (Dippy the diplodocus) has gone and since 14 July it has been replaced by a gigantic 25.2-metre blue whale skeleton (real this time) suspended from the ceiling. The ‘wonder bays’ in the hall have ten other star specimens including the skeleton of an American mastodon that went extinct 13,000 years ago.

To complement these changes, the new exhibition, Whales: Beneath the surface, also opened on 14 July. More than 100 specimens from the Museum’s research collection have been brought out from behind the scenes for the first time to show the huge diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Complete skeletons reveal the secret to swimming like a whale, and skulls, flippers and jaw bones uncover how they move, breathe, feed and sense their surroundings. It’s an immersive experience where you can see how some whales, dolphins and porpoises sense their prey using sound.

Humpback whale

© Kerstin Meyer, Getty Images

Wizarding Wardrobes

During the ten years of filming, more than 25,000 unique items of clothing were created for the Harry Potter filmss. Warner Bros Studio Tour is showcasing some of the best never-before-seen costumes from the magical film series with Wizarding Wardrobes on from 21 July to 4 September.

Visitors can see the whole process from initial designs to the finished costumes, as well as learning how new clothes were made to look centuries old or battle-worn through the art of costume distressing.

Hundreds of unique wizard hats were created for Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley and these are on display at the Studio Tour. And there is the opportunity to step inside Professor Slughorn’s armchair suit used as a disguise to evade capture by Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Wizarding Wardrobes - Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Outdoor Cinema

The immaculate gardens of Kensington Palace make for the ultimate setting for a night of cinema under the stars. The lawn of the Orangery, with its beautiful formal gardens, this summer plays host to some classic cinema, including Bridget Jones’ Baby, The Goonies, Moulin Rouge and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

On from 8 to 11 August, tickets are on sale now. You can pre-order blankets and backrests and there is hot food available each evening. Or treat yourself to a Premium Ticket and have a two course pre-film dining experience at the Orangery Restaurant, a complimentary glass of prosecco and a premium position to enjoy the movie while relaxing in a Director’s chair.

Bridget Jones's Baby

Matisse in The Studio

Matisse In The Studio opens at The Royal Academy of Arts on 5 August. It takes us into the studio of one of the world’s most popular artists, exploring his prized possessions and artistic process.

Henri Matisse’s studio had an eclectic collection from across world: Buddhist statuary from Thailand, Bamana figures from Mali, plus furniture and textiles from North Africa. Rarely of material value, these objects were nonetheless precious. Offering points of departure to which he could return again and again, they appear in his work in different guises and across spans of decades, reinvented afresh in each new setting.

This exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal collection, as well as the paintings, sculptures and drawings it inspired. Seen together, they reveal how Matisse’s vision of rich and masterful energy first stemmed from the collage of patterns and rhythms which he found in the world of objects.

Henri Matisse, The Moorish Screen, 1921.

Henri Matisse, The Moorish Screen, 1921. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bequest of Lisa Norris Elkins, 1950. Photo © Philadelphia Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

Great British Beer Festival

The 40th anniversary of The Great British Beer Festival is on at London Olympia from 8 to 12 August (and for the first time they are including English wines too!)

This is the biggest beer festival in Britain and the Exhibition Hall becomes one big pub. But it is not all about boozing for the sake of it as everyone here is passionate about their beer and capable of recommending the perfect drink for connoisseurs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

Over 900 drinks are on offer from real ales, fruit beers and ciders, to stouts, bitters and international beers. And there are also pub snacks, pub games and competitions.

Clinking beer glasses

Serpentine Boats

This is the perfect month to enjoy boating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. There is a fleet of rowing and pedal boats which are a lot of fun with friends as each boat holds up to 6 people. Boats are available daily until sundown.

Or why not try the UK’s first Solarshuttle? It glides silently across the lake powered only by the sun and can carry up to 40 passengers. The SolarShuttle has two extra Ship’s Wheels so that children (or adults!) can enjoy trying their hand at being a Captain for the trip.

The SolarShuttle travels between the Diana, Princess Of Wales Memorial Fountain, which is on the south side of the Serpentine, to the Boat House on the northern edge of the lake near the Dell restaurant. The service runs every half hour or so from midday to dusk.

Update: The Solar Shuttle has some technical difficulties so may not be running this summer. Looks like the rowing and pedal boats will be the best choice!

Solar Shuttle - Serpentine, Hyde Park

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the August 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Presented by Kirstie Allsopp, The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace is all about appreciating the beauty of handmade, and learning the skills to become a maker. On from 15 to 17 September, there will be the chance to learn how to make something from scratch or up-cycle an old piece of furniture, with the fair promising to make life that little more beautiful.

Celebrate the finale of two months of BBC Proms classical concerts with the BBC Proms in the Park in Hyde Park on 9 September. As well as the live music there are fireworks and plenty of excuses to sing along.

Opening on 12 September at Tate Britain is a major exhibition of the work of Rachel Whiteread to celebrate her position as one of the UK’s most highly respected sculptors. Bringing together large and small scale sculptures in the range of materials characteristically used by the artist – plaster, resin, rubber, concrete and metal – it will be the most substantial showing of Whiteread’s work to date and include new work not previously exhibited.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

Jun 152017
 

Trafalgar Square Opera

There are two opportunities to enjoy world class opera in Trafalgar Square for free this month. A big screen goes up for the live outdoor relays from the Royal Opera House on 4 and 14 July. Do arrive early as there are likely to be security checks.

On Tuesday 4 July, at 7pm, you can see La Traviata and on Friday 14 July, at 7.30pm, you can see Turandot. To help you enjoy these performances, the Royal Opera House has free digital programmes available to download.

And as screenings are happening across the UK, there are competitions for those at the events to enter on the night.

BP Big Screen in Trafalgar Square

Tudor Joust

Throughout the day on 15 and 16 July, the grounds of Hampton Court Palace will once again ring out with the sound of charging horses hooves and the clash of cold metal, as for one weekend only King Henry VIII and his court take up residence for that most Tudor of royal sports: the Tudor Joust.

Recreating all the pomp and ceremony of lavish court entertainment, visitors can be immersed in the sights, smells and sounds of the Tudor court. It’s all brought to life with displays of sword fighting, courtly games and music.

Young visitors can try on pieces of armour and we can all cheer on the rival knights as they compete for glory. All the fun is included with palace admission.

Tudor Jousting

Credit : Steve Woods / newsteam.co.uk/HRP

Real Tennis Champions Trophy

Also at Hampton Court Palace, The Real Tennis Champions Trophy is on 11 to 16 July. It’s a new annual international Real Tennis event celebrating Henry VIII’s favourite sport. The tournament brings together the world’s top players on the palace’s historic Royal Tennis Court. So if you didn’t manage to get tickets to Wimbledon this is the place for tennis fans to be.

Real Tennis is an ancient game played by kings of Europe, most famously by Henry VIII. The game today still embraces its history and intrigue yet is practised by dedicated professional athletes of great skill. Pros from America, Australia, France and the UK will grace the competition court and provide inspiration and entertainment.

This world ranking tournament is being played in a new format that reduces the size of the draw to the world’s top 8 players. This means there is exciting sporting action at every stage within the amazing backdrop of Hampton Court Palace.

The Royal Tennis Court, Hampton Court Palace

copy; Historic Royal Palaces

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

And here’s yet another reason to come to Hampton Court, this time for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on 4 to 9 July. Held in the grounds of the Palace, this the world’s largest flower show.

As well as the large Show Gardens, new for this year are the ‘Gardens for a Changing World’ empowering gardeners to meet the challenges we face in our ever-changing, uncertain world.

The Floral Marquee has more than 98 specialist nurseries, and more plants and flowers are sold per square metre at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show than anywhere else in the UK.

Wildlife is a key theme at this year’s show to raise awareness of the UK’s declining wildlife population. The tropical Butterfly Dome returns this year filled with thousands of exotic butterflies, surrounded by a wildflower meadow, accompanied by nectar-rich plants for our native butterflies, and caterpillar food plants such as nettles, grasses and heather.

It’s a wonderful day out and can easily be combined with a visit to the Palace, if you have the stamina.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

© Adam Davies/RHS

Breathing Colour

Breathing Colour by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, is an installation-based exhibition at the Design Museum. The exhibition aims to encourage us to take a deeper look at the way colour behaves, exploring shapes, materials, shadows and reflections.

We see the world in colour but rarely do we appreciate how colour shapes what we see. Drawing on 15 years of research, through a series of phenomenological studies and experiences, the exhibition makes us question one of the most elemental aspects of design.

A series of newly commissioned installations explore the effects that light conditions have on our perceptions of colour and form. The exhibition is divided into separate spaces that simulate daylight conditions at specific times of the day: morning, noon and evening. These three phases explore the impact of changing daylight on our perception of colour. Each installation includes a series of three-dimensional objects as well as textiles, some of which are hand-woven while others are produced on industrial looms.

Breathing Colour opened on 28 June and is on until 24 September 2017.

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius - Design Museum

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius © Roel van Tour

British Summer Time Open House

British Summer Time Hyde Park means big name shows in the royal park from 30 June to 9 July. Phil Collins, Green Day, Justin Bieber, Kings of Leon and The Killers are the headline acts.

But on the days there aren’t shows there’s British Summer Time’s Open House and the fun is completely free. There is four days of free entry and summer activities in Hyde Park on 3, 4, 5, 7 July.

There are outdoor movie nights, tennis screenings live from Wimbledon, street food stalls from all over the world, pop up bars, free live music and theatre, Major League Baseball and more!

BST Hyde Park Open House poster

The Encounter

The National Portrait Gallery has its first exhibition of old master European portrait drawings this summer. The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt opens on 13 July (and runs until 22 October 2017). It includes works by some of the outstanding masters of the Renaissance and Baroque, many rarely seen and some not displayed for decades.

There are fifty drawings from Britain’s finest collections by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, Rubens and Rembrandt, and including eight portraits by Holbein from the Royal Collection.

The exhibition came about as a result of the Gallery’s continuing interest in exploring the practice of making portraits in a variety of media throughout history. The exhibition explores what the study of European portrait drawing can tell us about artistic practice and the process of sitting.

By including a display of the types of drawing tools and media used – from metalpoint to coloured chalks – and considering the individuals depicted in these often intimate portraits, many of whom remain unidentified, the exhibition shows how these artists moved away from the use of medieval pattern-books as source materials, to study the figure, and the face, from life.

Old Woman Wearing a Ruff and Cap,

Old Woman Wearing a Ruff and Cap, attributed to Jacob Jordaens, c.1625-40. National Galleries of Scotland (D1683). David Laing Bequest to the Royal Scottish Academy transferred 1910.

Also at the National Portrait Gallery is the 38th BP Portrait Award 2017. (It was included in the June recommendations.) On from 22 June to 24 September 2017, the Award continues to be an unmissable highlight of the annual art calendar. The shortlisted portraits, all featuring female sitters, were selected from 2,580 entries from 87 countries.

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann © Thomas Ehretsmann (Shortlist for BP Portrait Award 2017)

Enlightened Princesses

As well as Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace (which we recommended when it opened in February), there’s also Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World which opened on 22 June (and runs to 12 November 2017).

The exhibition features the lives of three German princesses who married into the British royal family. Their wide-ranging interests placed them at the very heart of the enlightenment underway in 18th century Britain.

From advocating the latest scientific and medical advancements to their involvement in charity work these remarkable women all played a role in shaping ideas of a national identity.

The exhibition brings together for the first time at the Palace almost 200 objects owned by the princesses. Personal possessions such as Charlotte’s hand-embroidered needlework pocketbook and pastels of the royal children are displayed alongside artworks and fine ceramics commissioned from some of the greatest artists and craftsmen of their day.

Children of George III and Queen Charlotte, Royal Collection Trust

Children of George III and Queen Charlotte, Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Summer Exhibition

Almost 250 years ago, 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 Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition is the largest open contemporary art exhibition in the world. The exhibition attracts around 12,000 entrants every year from established, emerging and unknown artists.

Expect to find a panorama of over 1,200 artworks in all media from painting, printmaking, film and photography to sculpture, architectural works and performance art. Visitors can collect a catalogue when they enter and put in a bid for any works they like.

Don’t miss work by internationally renowned artists Tomoaki Suzuki, Mark Wallinger and Sean Scully RA, as well as submissions by new Royal Academicians including Gilbert & George and David Adjaye. Other highlights include Yinka Shonibare RA’s six metre high colourful wind sculpture in the RA Courtyard, and Farshid Moussavi RA’s unique focus on construction coordination drawings in the Architecture Gallery.

The Summer Exhibition opened on 13 June and is on until 20 August 2017. If you visit on a Friday evening you can join a free introductory tour at 7pm, weekly until 18 August.

Eileen Cooper - Till the Morning Comes

Eileen Cooper OBE RA: Till the Morning Comes.
© Eileen Cooper. Photography: Justin Piperger

BBC Proms

The BBC Proms returns to the Royal Albert Hall in 2017 for its 123rd season from 14 July to 9 September.

The Proms is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts which make up the world’s largest and longest-running music festival. This year there are almost 90 concerts, including 30 premieres, over two months, in venues across London. Other venues this year include Cadogan Hall, Southwark Cathedral, Wilton’s Music Hall, the Tanks at Tate Modern, and Bold Tendencies’ car park.

This season of informal concerts aims to bring the finest classical music to as many people as possible at affordable prices. Around 500 standing (Promming) tickets are available to buy on the door before each concert for under £10 each.

Enjoy a series of jazz and soul music concerts, one of the focuses of the festival this year, which celebrate the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and more. Celebrate the birthdays of renowned composers including Monteverdi’s 450th, John Williams’ 85th, John Adams’ 70th and Philip Glass’ 80th, as well as the 300th anniversary of the premiere of Handel’s Water Music, with special performances dedicated to their works.

Being so close to the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington House Hotel has an exclusive package on offer throughout the 2017 Proms. Rates start from £138 per room and include a complimentary bottle of Cava for the evening and breakfast in the morning.

Royal Albert Hall

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the July 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

This summer Kew Gardens will be transformed into the perfect outdoor cinema set against the backdrop of Kew Palace. Kew the Movies has screenings of classic films Ghostbusters, Pulp Fiction and Grease (sing-a-long). The open air screenings take place on 30 August, 6 and 7 September 2017.

Also in collaboration with Luna Cinema, Kensington Palace has outdoor cinema on 8, 9, 10 and 11 August. The immaculate gardens of Kensington Palace make for the ultimate setting for a night of cinema under the stars. The lawn of the Orangery, with its beautiful formal gardens, will play host to some classic cinema including Bridget Jones’ Baby, The Goonies, Moulin Rouge and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

And Matisse In The Studio opens at The Royal Academy on 5 August. This summer exhibition will take us into the studio of one of the world’s most popular artists, exploring his prized possessions and artistic process.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

May 082017
 

Zoo Nights

Every Friday this month you can enjoy an after-hours adventure at London Zoo. Zoo Nights is for over 18s only so you can also take in fun tours and talks with grown-up themes: mating, death and the gruesome bits!

Test your knowledge in Zooniversity Challenge or become an eco-detective in an interactive, forensic trail that shines a light on the illegal wildlife trade. And along the way you’ll meet street entertainers and stilt walkers too.

Street food vendors will have dishes from around the globe, and the pop-up watering holes will keep you refreshed.

Zoo Nights - ZSL London Zoo

© ZSL London Zoo

Taste of London

Another reason to head to Regent’s Park is for Taste of London on 14-18 June. A highlight of the summer foodie calendar, it’s five days of eating, drinking and live entertainment.

Taste of London showcases the capital’s best restaurants, top chefs and leading food and drink brands. Restaurants serve taster-size signature dishes, world-class chefs offer live cooking demonstrations and there are interactive masterclasses and shopping opportunities with more than 200 food and drink purveyors in attendance.

Taste London

Pink Floyd

To mark 50 years since the band released their first single Arnold Layne, and over 200 million record sales later, this is the first major international retrospective of Pink Floyd.

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains is on at the V&A until 1 October 2017. It’s  an immersive, multi-sensory and theatrical journey chronicling the music, iconic visuals and staging of the band, from the underground psychedelic scene in 1960s London to today.

Over 350 objects are featured including album sleeve artwork, posters and stage props.

David Gilmour playing the Black Strat in 1973/4

Pink Floyd circa 1972-75 by Jill Furmanovsky

Grayson Perry

Opening at the Serpentine Gallery on 8 June, Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! is a major exhibition of his latest work. Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003, was elected a Royal Academician in 2012, received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List in 2013, and in 2015 became a Trustee of the British Museum and Chancellor of the University of Arts London.

Perry’s subject matter is drawn from his childhood and his life as a transvestite, as well as wider social issues ranging from class and politics to sex and religion. The artworks on display touch on themes including popularity and art, masculinity and the current social landscape.

Grayson Perry, Puff Piece, 2017

Grayson Perry, Puff Piece, 2017 © Grayson Perry Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London (photography Angus Mill)

Neon Workshop

This looks like a wonderful one-off event. Museum Makers: Illuminate London is a beginner-friendly neon workshop at the London Transport Museum on Thursday 22 June 2017.

The plan is to make your own neon style artwork inspired by the London skyline, architecture and landmarks. All materials and tuition plus a colourful cocktail and goody bag are included.

Do note, this workshop uses electro-luminescent wire, a safe battery-powered alternative to traditional glass and gas neon.

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Back for its twentieth year, Open Garden Squares Weekend is a well-loved annual event. Its a fabulous opportunity to visit over 200 private and little-known gardens across London. Taking place on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June, the Weekend includes a programme of tours, walks, talks and cycle rides.

Gardens taking part range from the historic and traditional to the new and experimental. They include roof gardens, wildlife gardens, community allotments, corporate places and diminutive, secret spaces, as well as gardens in schools, churches and shops.

When you select a garden on the website it offers helpful suggestions of other gardens nearby making it easy to plan a really enjoyable weekend.

Kings Bench Walk, Inner Temple Garden

Inner Temple Garden, © Barbara-Neumann

Lady Day

For this month’s theatre recommendation, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill brings the extraordinary story of Billie Holliday’s life to Wyndham’s Theatre. Starring the six-time Tony Award winner, Broadway star Audra McDonald makes her West End debut as the legendary jazz icon.

Hear the personal stories of Holiday’s loves and losses through a turbulent but extraordinary life. And lose yourself in some of the most inspiring and moving songs ever written including God Bless the Child, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Strange Fruit, Crazy He Calls Me and Taint Nobody’s Biz-ness.

The strictly limited season runs from 17 June to 9 September. Do be aware this production contains strong language and themes of an adult nature.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill

Giovanni da Rimini

The National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square, has Giovanni da Rimini: An Early 14th Century Masterpiece Reunited from 14 June to 8 October 2017. The exhibition showcases a recent purchase of an exquisite piece by this master, alongside a pairing piece loaned from Rome and works from his contemporaries.

With artwork on display from several exceptional ivory plaques to a collection of Italian Trecento paintings, this exhibition highlights the extraordinary quality of da Rimini’s painting and illuminates a key moment in the history of art, when emphasis on observation and realism was born.

Giovanni da Rimini - Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints, 1300-1305

Giovanni da Rimini – Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints, 1300-1305. © The National Gallery, London

BP Portrait Award

Also in Trafalgar Square, The BP Portrait Award opens at the National Portrait Gallery on 22 June (and runs until 24 September). 2017 marks the Portrait Award’s 38th year at the National Portrait Gallery. This highly successful annual event is aimed at encouraging artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work.

Selected from 2,580 entries by artists from 87 countries around the world, the BP Portrait Award 2017 represents the very best in contemporary portrait painting.

The three portraits in the running for the First Prize are Double Portrait, by French painter and illustrator, Thomas Ehretsmann, depicting his pregnant wife Caroline (see below); Breech! by Suffolk based artist, Benjamin Sullivan, which captures his wife Virginia breastfeeding their eight month old daughter; and Emma, Antony Williams’s portrait of model turned friend, Emma Bruce, completed in his studio in Chertsey. The prize winners will be announced on 20 June 2017.

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann. © Thomas Ehretsmann

Phil Collins

And the last recommendation is walking distance from the Kensington House Hotel. Phil Collins is on at the Royal Albert Hall from 4 to 9 June with his Not Yet Dead tour.

With 100 million record sales to his name, more UK top 40 singles than any other artist of the 1980s, and Number 1 albums the world over, Phil Collins is one of the most successful artists of his generation.

The tour is named after his autobiography, published last year, and these five nights are his first live dates in 10 years.

Collins is also headlining a night at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park on 30 June.

Phil Collins

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the June 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity is at Leighton House Museum from 7 July to 29 October 2017. The exhibition explores Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s fascination with the representation of domestic life in antiquity and how this interest related to his own domestic circumstances expressed through the two remarkable studio-houses that he created in St John’s Wood, north London, together with his wife Laura and daughters.

On 14 July a major new exhibition opens at the Natural History Museum. Whales: Beneath the Surface is the family exhibition that complements the blue whale skeleton taking centre stage in the Museum’s Hintze Hall this summer. More than 100 specimens from the Museum’s research collection will be brought out from behind-the-scenes for the first time to show the huge diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

And The National Portrait Gallery is to stage its first exhibition of old master European portrait drawings this summer. The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt (13 July – 22 October 2017), will include works by some of the outstanding masters of the Renaissance and Baroque, many rarely seen, and some not displayed for decades.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

Apr 122017
 

Sensational Butterflies

The Natural History Museum has Sensational Butterflies back on the East Lawn (in front of the museum) for the ninth year. This is definitely an immersive exhibition as you get to walk through the tropical butterfly house.

Butterflies species found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, Africa and Asia fly freely, and you can see chomping caterpillars plus glistening (and hatching) chrysalises.

The exhibition is inspired by the Museum’s world-leading butterfly and moth collection of more than 10 million specimens assembled over 200 years. The collection is used by scientists around the world studying the diversity of the species and how they are affected by environmental changes.

Sensational Butterflies is on until 17 September.

Sensational Butterflies

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Playing the Fool

Hampton Court Palace is always a good day out but go on Tuesday 23 May and you can stay for an evening talk. Playing the Fool is part of the palace’s Power and Performance season.

‘Natural fools’ were prized as entertainers and had favour and authority with the king. In this after-hours talk with historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, uncover how the ‘foolish things of the world’ had the power to confound the wise and learned at court, and the unique access afforded to Henry VIII’s court jester Will Somers.

Pic: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

California – designing freedom

Opening on 24 May at the Design Museum, California – designing freedom explores how “designed in California” expresses a distinctive approach to design and life.

While California’s mid-century modernism is well documented, this is the first exhibition to examine the state’s current global reach. Picking up the story in the 1960s, the exhibition charts the journey from the counterculture to Silicon Valley’s tech culture.

Its central idea is that California has pioneered tools of personal liberation, from LSD to skateboards and iPhones. This ambitious survey brings together political posters, personal computers and self-driving cars but also looks beyond hardware to explore how user interface designers in the Bay Area are shaping some of our most common daily experiences. The exhibition reveals how this culture of design and technology has made us all Californians.

Design Museum: California

© Spectacles, Snap Inc.

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

From 25 May (to 13 August), the British Museum has an exhibition of one of Japan’s greatest artists. Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave explores the artistic journey through the last 30 years of Katsushika Hokusai’s life, when he produced some of his most famous masterpieces.

Prints and paintings are are on loan from across the world making this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these works together.

Artworks include intimate domestic scenes that capture fleeting moments in private lives, plus exquisite depictions of flora and fauna display an innate skill in representing the natural world. The artist’s imagination is given full rein in the portrayal of supernatural creatures such as ghosts and deities. Through all of these works, explore Hokusai’s personal beliefs and gain a fascinating insight into the artist’s spiritual and artistic quest in his later years.

Hokusai - Great Wave

Bluebells

The bluebells in the conservation area at Kew Gardens are in full bloom in May and make for a stunning day out.

What’s more, the Great Broad Walk Borders, whose installation was completed in 2016, will be at peak bloom between late May and September. It is Europe’s longest double herbaceous border stretching 320m and has around 30,000 plants full of vibrant summer colour.

Bluebells at Kew

© RBG Kew

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This is the last full month of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the West End at it leaves The Gielgud Theatre on 3 June 2017.

The Olivier and Tony Award®-winning play was adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling book by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott. It is the recipient of a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design – more Oliviers than any other single play in the history of the West End.

The show tells the story of 15 year old Christopher Boone, who has an extraordinary brain; and is exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He sets out to solve a mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog, but his detective work takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.

Ticket are priced from £18 (100 seats at £18 for every performance) also with an allocation of £15 Day Seats available for every performance from the Gielgud Theatre box office from 10am.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, National Theatre London
Gielgud Theatre, Cast 2016/2017

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

The V&A has the first ever UK exhibition exploring the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his continuing influence on modern fashion. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion opens on 27 May and is a must-visit for any fashion enthusiasts as it includes never before seen couture gowns from this influential Spanish designer.

The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris. On display are over 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which have never been on public display before.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion focuses on the latter part of Balenciaga’s long career in the 1950s and 1960s, arguably one of his most creative periods. It was during these years that he not only dressed some of the most renowned women of the time, but also introduced revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress – all of which remain style staples today.

Elise Daniels with street performers, suit by Balenciaga, Le Marais, Paris, 1948. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation

Chelsea Fringe

While tickets for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are near impossible to get, The Chelsea Fringe features a wonderful mix of horticultural happenings and celebrations across London.

Back for its sixth year, the Festival is on from 20 May to 4 June.

The Fringe is all about harnessing and spreading some of the excitement and energy that fizzes around gardens and gardening at this time of year. Its events encompass everything from grassroots community garden projects to avant-garde art installations. There’s a Musical Garden Party, London’s first floating park, a dog show, art, perfume, picnics and more.

Selfie to Self-Expression

Selfie to Self-Expression is at The Saatchi Gallery until 30 May and looks at this worldwide cultural phenomenon. This is the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from the old masters to the present day, and celebrates the truly creative potential of a form of expression often derided for its inanity.

The show highlights the emerging role of the mobile phone as an artistic medium for self-expression by commissioning ten exciting young British photographers to create new works using Huawei’s newest breakthrough dual lens smartphones co-engineered with Leica. There was also an international competition for the most creative selfies to be included in the exhibition.

Selfie to Self Expression

© Saatchi Gallery

Restless Shadow

Restless Shadow: Dickens the Campaigner is the next exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum opening on 9 May. It explore Dickens’s work as an investigative journalist and campaigner, looking at his epic walks into all corners of London and the causes and injustices he brought to his massive audience.

He campaigned on behalf of many charities, several of which are still going today. This exhibition throws light on Dickens’s uncelebrated other career and some of the key pieces of his journalism.

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the May 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

After the roaring success of Wolfgang Buttress’ stunning Hive installation last summer – a beacon for the importance of bee health – summer 2017 will see the unveiling of the world’s largest Insect Hotel at Kew Gardens.

Next month also sees Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! open at the Serpentine Gallery. The wonderfully flamboyant ceramic artist reminds us why he is one of the greatest artists of our time.

And the Hampton Court Palace Festival means amazing concerts at this royal palace. This year’s performers include Michael Ball, Bryan Ferry, Van Morrison and Will Young in the 25th anniversary of this iconic summer festival.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

Mar 112017
 

Jurassic Kingdom

You can meet dinosaurs in Osterley Park this month! Jurassic Kingdom is the first outdoor dinosaur experience of its kind in the UK with animatronic dinosaurs blending into the paths, ponds, gardens and greenery.

Diplodocus heads poke 16 metres above the ground amongst the tree canopy as Triceratops escort their young through the bushes beneath. The ear-piercing screeches of the Pterosaurus will alert visitors to the danger in the skies above and guests must be wary of the spitting defence of the Pachycephalousaurus, in case he lurks around the next corner.

From 1 to 17 April you can see 30 dinosaur models and installations including the ‘King of the Tyrant Lizards’ – the Tyrannosaurus Rex, standing 18 metres from head to tail.

Jurassic Kingdom

Secrets of the Underground Open Weekend

On 22 and 23 April, the London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton has a special Secrets of the Underground Open Weekend exploring the secrets and hidden spaces of the London Underground.

It’s a wonderful place that is only open for these special weekends so do make the most of it. There’s a programme of talks and interactive displays to hear from the experts. Then take a ride on a miniature railway, have a closer look at tunnelling ephemera and join a tour of the art and poster collection.

Enjoy some time travel inside old tube carriages, and don’t miss the scenic ride on a heritage bus around west London.

London Transport Museum Depot

National Army Museum

The National Army Museum in Chelsea has been closed for a three-year £23.75 million re-development project but reopens on 30 March 2017. Aiming to be a bridge between the British Army and society the Museum will encourage greater public engagement with ideas of defence and security, both past and present.

It’s been a radical transformation to maximise access to, and engagement with, the Collection. There are now five new galleries, with over 2,500 objects, laid out over four floors – Soldier, Army, Battle, Society and Insight. There is also a 500m2 temporary exhibition space.

The cafe looks even better than before, and there are free 20-minute welcome tours at 11am and 2pm every day.

National Army Museum

Queer British Art

As it’s the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Britain so we can expect LGBT issues to feature more this year. Queer British Art is at Tate Britain from 5 April (to 1 October 2017) and is the first major exhibition in Britain on this subject. Some of the works in the show are intensely personal while others spoke to a wider public, helping to forge a sense of community.

The exhibition includes major figures, such as Oscar Wilde, and features works by Simeon Solomon, John Singer Sargent, Gluck, Ethel Sands, Dora Carrington, Keith Vaughan, David Hockney and Francis Bacon, alongside ephemera and personal photographs. Themes explored in the exhibition include coded desires amongst the Pre-Raphaelites, representations of and by women who defied convention (including Virginia Woolf), and love and lust in sixties Soho.

A highlight is a section focusing on the Bloomsbury set and their contemporaries – an artistic group famous for their bohemian attitude towards sexuality. The room includes intimate paintings of lovers, scenes of the homes artists shared with their partners and large commissions by artists such as Duncan Grant and Ethel Walker.

Bathing 1911 by Duncan Grant 1885-1978

Bathing 1911 Duncan Grant 1885-1978 Purchased 1931 © Tate

The Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square

Easter brings a four-day holiday weekend for 14-17 April. On Good Friday you can see the annual performance of The Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square by the Wintershall Players.

Returning for the eighth year, the performance includes a cast of more than 100 actors and volunteers in costume, as well as horses, donkeys and doves.

There are two 90-minute live performances of the biblical story at 12pm and 3.15pm. These free events are very popular so there are big screens to ensure all can follow the action. Do note, The Passion of Jesus includes a realistic interpretation of the crucifixion.

Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square

Rick Astley

Pop icon and multi-million selling artist Rick Astley is performing at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 13 April.

While he made his name in the 1980s with ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, this tour features new work from his eighth studio album, 50.

It’s Astley’s first studio album in more than 10 years and there’s still a strong desire from the public to see him perform live.

Rick Astley

Gun Salute

Does this happen for your birthday? On 21 April there’s a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park to mark the Queen’s 91st birthday (her real one, not the official one as that’s in June).

The salute is fired by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and is usually at midday. It happens in the north-eastern corner of the park, close to Speaker’s Corner.

There’s also another gun salute one hour later at the Tower of London. Do be aware, these gun salutes are incredibly loud.

Royal Gun Salute

Royal Gun Salute © Royal Parks

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the April 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Opening on 24 May, California – designing freedom is at the Design Museum exploring how “designed in California” expresses a distinctive approach to design and life, from skateboards to iPhones.

The British Museum has Hokusai – beyond the Great Wave from 25 May looking at the work of one of Japan’s greatest artists. The exhibition will be an artistic journey through the last 30 years of Hokusai’s life, when he produced some of his most famous masterpieces.

And The Queen’s Gallery has Canaletto & the Art of Venice from 19 May. The Royal Collection contains the world’s finest group of paintings, drawings and prints by Venice’s most famous view-painter, Canaletto (1697-1768), so this will be a ‘must see’.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

Feb 092017
 

Russell Howard

The month starts off with lots of laughs at the Royal Albert Hall. Russell Howard Round the World Live Tour is on 1-10 March. This ten day booking is the longest ever consecutive run of dates by a single comedian at the venue.

TV host of Russell Howard’s Good News, and considered one of the best-selling acts in British stand-up, Russell Howard returns to the live stage for the first time in three years with his biggest global tour to date.

Russell Howard

Design Museum

Imagine Moscow; Architecture, Propaganda, Revolution opens at the Design Museum on 15 March (and runs to 3 June 2017). Marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this exhibition explores Moscow as it was imagined by a bold new generation of architects and designers in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Drawing on rarely seen material, Imagine Moscow presents an idealistic vision of the Soviet capital that was never realised. Large-scale architectural drawings are supported by artwork, propaganda and publications from the period.

Each of the eight projects presented in the exhibition introduce a theme relevant to life and ideology in the Soviet Union: collectivisation, urban planning, aviation, communication, industrialisation, communal living and recreation.

Taken together, these unbuilt projects suggest an alternative reality for the city, offering a unique insight into the culture of the time.

Design Museum: imagine moscow: architecture, propaganda, revolution

Royal Academy

The Royal Academy has America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s on from 25 February to 4 June 2017.

The devastating impact of the Great Depression, brought about by the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and followed by the Dust Bowl, caused America to enter the 1930s in flux. Over the next decade, the consequences of economic insecurity and social hardship, fuelled by mass urbanisation, industrialisation and immigration, reverberated throughout the country, as it struggled to rebuild. Artists endeavoured to capture these rapid changes, seeking to redefine American identity in their work, inadvertently creating a debate over what would become the national art form.

The show has 45 iconic works from Pollock, O’Keeffe and Hopper among others, and American Gothic by Grant Wood which has never before left America. It explores post-crash America in flux, with rapid social change and financial insecurities through what is being billed as a ‘once in a generation’ exhibition.

American Gothic


Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930. The Art Institute of Chicago, friends of American Art Collection, 1930.934

National Gallery

While two excellent exhibitions close this month – Paul Nash at Tate Britain and Australia’s Impressionists at the National Gallery – another blockbuster opens.

Michelangelo & Sebastiano opens at The National Gallery on 15 March, and runs to 25 June 2017.

This major exhibition focuses on the extraordinary artistic relationship between Sebastiano del Piombo (about 1485–1547) and Michelangelo (1475–1564) from the 1510s through to the 1540s. In addition to covering their great collaborative projects, the exhibition includes works preceding their meeting, in part to better demonstrate the originality of their joint creations.

Their views on religious themes, how they worked together and how it helped both artists develop their own painting styles is explored.

Sebastiano del Piombo The Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist and a Donor, 1517

Sebastiano del Piombo
The Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist and a Donor, 1517
© The National Gallery, London

National Portrait Gallery

There are two new exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery this month. Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask opens on 9 March (and runs to 29 May 2017), and Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends opens on 23 March (and runs to 18 June 2017).

The first pairs the works of contemporary artist Gillian Wearing with the innovative early twentieth century photographer Claude Cahun. Both of them share a fascination with the self-portrait and use the self-image, through the medium of photography. While they were born seventy years apart, they share similar themes around gender, identity, masquerade and performance.

I am in training don't kiss me by Claude Cahun

I am in training don’t kiss me by Claude Cahun c. 1927; Copyright: Jersey Heritage

The second is devoted to the portraits of the British painter Howard Hodgkin. This important aspect of Hodgkin’s work has been largely overlooked because his work appears abstract.

With over 55 works from collections around the world and dating from 1949 to the present, the exhibition shows the development of Hodgkin’s portraits. The exhibition traces the evolution of the artist’s visual language and his engagement with a range of friends and others within the artist’s circle. Peter Blake, Stephen Buckley, Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Philip King, R.B.Kitaj and Richard Smith are among the many leading artists portrayed.

St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day is, of course, on 17 March but the London St Patrick’s Day parade is on Sunday 19 March. Building up to the big day there are free walking tours on 17, 18, and also on 19 March.

The parade goes from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square where there’s a festival atmosphere for the rest of the day. The main stage has comedians, music and performances, and around the Square there will be plenty of street food stalls so you can stay all day.

Amy Winehouse

It’s worth heading up to Camden this month as the Jewish Museum has Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait opening on 16 March (and on until 24 September 2017). I saw this exhibition when it was first staged here in 2013 and can definitely recommend it.

Get to know the real Amy Winehouse through her personal belongings, from family photographs to fashion. Items on display reflect Amy’s love for her family, London and more.

The exhibition is accompanied by a new Amy-themed street art trail which leads to the newly-commissioned installation ‘Love Is A Losing Game’ by renowned street artist Pegasus. The street art tours and installation are only available until 4 June but do seem like an excellent way to complement the exhibition.

Amy Winehouse

42nd Street

Broadway’s biggest show is coming to the West End’s biggest stage this month. 42nd Street previews at Theatre Royal Drury Lane from 20 March. You know the iconic songs already such as We’re in the Money and I Only Have Eyes For You.

42nd Street is the song and dance, American dream fable of Broadway. Young Peggy Sawyer is fresh off the bus from small-town America and just another face in the chorus line on Broadway’s newest show. But when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy might just have the shot at stardom she’s always dreamed of…

Grammy Award winner Sheena Easton joins an all singing, high-kicking cast as Dorothy Brock with Tom Lister as Julian Marsh and Clare Halse as Peggy Sawyer.

42nd Street

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the March 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

With the arrival of spring, the Moomins will be coming out of hibernation and visiting Kew Gardens for all sorts of mischief and fun. See them at Kew’s Easter Festival from 1 to 17 April.

The National Army Museum in Chelsea is reopening on 30 March after a three-year redevelopment project. The site has been reconfigured to have five new galleries and a temporary exhibition space.

From April to October you can hire a pedal boat on the Serpentine. For those who want the views without the exertion there’s also the UK’s first Solarshuttle, that glides silently across the lake powered only by the sun.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

Jan 142017
 

Russian Revolution Art

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, at the Royal Academy of Arts, looks at the revolutionary art breaking boundaries until Stalin’s clampdown in 1932.

Marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this exhibition charts the formative years of Soviet Russia through its diverse and brilliantly original art. From pioneers of abstraction such as Kandinsky and Malevich to the highly individual work of Chagall the artworks include painting, photography, sculpture, film-making and graphic design, as well as everyday objects.

The exhibitions opens on 11 February and is on until 17 April 2017.

Boris Mikailovich Kustodiev, Bolshevik, 1920
State Tretyakov Gallery. Photo (c) State Tretyakov Gallery

David Hockney

Tate Britain has a major retrospective of one of Britain’s greatest living artists. The David Hockney exhibition opens on 9 February, and is on until 29 May 2017.

It’s a comprehensive show bringing together 60 years of painting, video, sketches and photography for an unprecedented overview of the artist’s work to date.

As the artist approaches his 80th birthday, this exhibition traces the development from his prodigious appearance on the public stage as a student in 1961, through to his iconic works of the 1960s and 1970s, and on to his recent success at the Royal Academy and beyond.

David Hockney Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971

David Hockney Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971 Private Collection. © David Hockney.
Photo credit: Aart Gallery of New South Wales/Jenni Carter

The Girls

The story that inspired the film Calendar Girls is now a new British musical at the Phoenix Theatre. The Girls is Gary Barlow’s musical adaptation of the film featuring lyrics and a book by the film’s original screenwriter Tim Firth.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have been friends for 25 years. With Take That, Gary has written and co-written 14 number one singles, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a six times Ivor Novello Award winner. Tim has won the Olivier Award and UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical, and the British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Film for Calendar Girls.

The Girls is inspired by the real life story of a Yorkshire village Women’s Institute group who decide to fundraise for a local hospital, in memory of their husbands, by posing for a raunchy-but-tasteful nude calendar. Inadvertently, the group become media sensations, and the story follows the close friendships, and strained personal lives, within the group.

The show opened on 28 January and is booking until 22 April 2017.

Calendar Girls

Photo credit: John Swannell

Palace Pub Quiz

Banqueting House is having a fun and fast-paced Palace Pub Quiz on Friday 3 February, 6-9.30pm. Tables are arranged for 8 team members but if your group is smaller they’ll make sure you have a full team by linking up with others.

Banqueting Hall has the beautiful ceiling painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens so do look up while you have your knowledged tested on current affairs, sport, art, food, film, and, of course, history.

wine glass

Lockwood Kipling

This free exhibition at the V&A focuses on the father of Rudyard Kipling, the renowned author. Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London is on until 2 April and explores the life and work of Lockwood Kipling (1837–1911), an artist, teacher, curator and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Born in Yorkshire in 1837, he was inspired by a visit to the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park where he saw Indian objects that were later purchased as part of the founding collections of the V&A. In the early 1860s, Kipling joined the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was then known) producing terracotta decorative panels for the new V&A buildings. His own likeness can still be seen in a mosaic decoration overlooking the Museum’s John Madejski garden, showing a procession led by the V&A’s first director Henry Cole.

Kipling left London for India in 1865, spending ten years in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) to teach before moving to Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, as Principal of the new Mayo School of Art (today Pakistan’s National College of Arts) and curator of the adjoining museum.

During this time craft traditions were in decline and Kipling travelled to observe, collect and record these skills. Kipling’s portrait drawings of craftsmen and cotton workers are on show in this exhibition, with objects matching their activities presented alongside.

The exhibition also includes pieces relating to the Arts and Crafts movement such as a piano decorated by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones played by Lockwood Kipling’s wife, Alice Macdonald, and also a large panel that she embroidered for Red House, the home of Arts and Crafts campaigner William Morris.

The Great Exhibition, India no. 4, by Joseph Nash

The Great Exhibition, India no. 4, by Joseph Nash (1851).
Credit: Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Magical Lantern Festival

Head to Chiswick House Gardens to see the wonderful Magical Lantern Festival that opened on 19 January and is only on until 26 February 2017 (Thursday-Sunday only).

Celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Rooster, the festival has stunning, over-sized, illuminated outdoor installations around the theme ‘Explore The Silk Road’ that begins with a 15-metre wide lantern of London’s Houses of Parliament.

The entertainment area adds another dimension to the experience with an international range of food and beverage vendors, festival merchandise, a 30-metre synthetic ice-rink, 3D lantern photo opportunities, virtual reality gaming experience, Chinese bamboo lantern riddles and a mini funfair and games.

Magical Lantern Festival

© Magical Lantern Festival

Diana: Her Fashion Story

Diana: Her Fashion Story opens on 24 February at Kensington Palace, her home for over 15 years. The exhibition traces the evolution of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances, to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life.

Twenty years on from her death, this new exhibition celebrates her life bringing together an extraordinary collection of garments, ranging from the glamorous evening gowns worn on engagements in the 1980s, to the chic Catherine Walker suits that made up Diana’s ‘working wardrobe’ in the 1990s.

Exhibition highlights include the pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Diana’s engagement portrait by Lord Snowdon in 1981, and Victor Edelstein’s iconic ink blue velvet gown, famously worn at the White House when the Princess danced with John Travolta.

Whilst in residence at Kensington Palace, the Princess admired the changing floral displays in the historic Sunken Garden and would often stop to talk to the gardeners who care for it. A temporary White Garden has been planted around the Sunken Garden for spring and summer 2017.

Princess Diana and John Travolta

Eerie Evening Tours

Also at Kensington Palace, come back for one of the Eerie Evening Tours on 3, 10, 17 and 24 February.

When all the gates are locked and the lights are out, is the palace truly asleep? Explore the weird and wonderful world of Victorian spiritualism and the 19th century obsession with life after death. Be guided through the shadowy state apartments to relive the sorrow of heartbroken Kings and frustrated future Queens.

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the February 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Kew Palace is currently closed for winter so we can look forward to it reopening for spring (by the end of March) which is, of course, also a wonderful time of year to explore the spring flowers at Kew Gardens.

The American Dream: Pop to the Present opens at the British Museum in March, showcasing for the first time the museum’s outstanding collection of American prints from the 1960s through this turbulent time in the country’s history.

And book now to see David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho at the Wyndhams Theatre. Described as savagely funny and truly filthy, this play sounds like a ‘must see’.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

Dec 182016
 

Hogwarts in the Snow

While you aren’t guaranteed snow in London during the winter you can see some magical snow at the Warner Bros Studio Tour. This is where the Harry Potter movies were filmed and Hogwarts in the Snow is the annual event where the rooms are decorated for Christmas, and the huge Hogwarts castle model is covered in snow.

On until 29 January 2017, you can see the Great Hall tables laid for a festive feast, and real Christmas cards the children in the films made and sent to each other. And when you head outside to see the triple decker Knight bus it really snows!

I’ve visited this winter and loved it. You must book in advance as there’s always limited availability.

Hogwarts in the Snow

© Warner Bros Studio Tour

London Art Fair

The 29th London Art Fair marks the beginning of the art world year, featuring museum-quality Modern British art alongside contemporary work from today’s leading artists. It’s on from 18 to 22 January 2017 at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

The contemporary artworks cover the period from the early 20th century to the present day, and the Fair features over one hundred carefully selected galleries from the UK and overseas.

Emerging artists are also featured alongside contemporary photography. The Fair is great for collectors but also for art enthusiasts as there is a programme of talks and interactive events running throughout the week.

London Art Fair

© London Art Fair

Amaluna

Cirque du Soleil has been wowing London audiences with jaw-dropping and daring circus shows at the Royal Albert Hall since 1996. Following the success of the 2016 premiere, Cirque du Soleil  – Amaluna is returning to the Royal Albert Hall from 12 January to 26 February 2017.

The show is over 2 hours long and tells the tale of castaway romance and the obstacles that true love presents, filled with spectacular performances.

The production is a celebration of love and a tribute to the work and voice of women, with female performers making up the band and the majority of the cast.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil

Flaming June

Leighton House Museum has the Flaming June: The Making of an Icon exhibition on until 2 April 2017. This stunning painting has returned to the artist’s home for this short visit from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico.

Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896), was one of the pre-eminent artists of his day. President of the Royal Academy from 1878 to 1896, he achieved great fame and influence as a figurehead for art in late Victorian society.

You can stand in Leighton’s studio where the painting was created and see further works submitted by Leighton to the Academy in 1895.

Leighton was already unwell with the heart condition that would kill him at the time he made this last Academy submission. The assembled pictures represent his last statement as an artist and allow a reappraisal of his achievements.

Flaming June Frederic Leighton, 1895 ©Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

Flaming June Frederic Leighton, 1895 ©Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

The Kite Runner

Based on Khaled Hosseini’s international best-selling novel, The Kite Runner is on at Wyndham’s Theatre until 11 March 2017.

It’s a beautiful afternoon in Kabul and everybody is enjoying a kite flying tournament. But when a terrible incident takes place two childhood friends are torn apart and Afghanistan plunges into of war.

This stage production tells the powerful story of a friendship which spans cultures and continents, and allows one man to confront his past and find redemption.

The Kite Runner

La Traviata

Joyce El-Khoury, Ekaterina Bakanova and Corinne Winters lead three excellent casts in Richard Eyre’s much-loved production of Verdi’s most famous opera. La Traviata is on at the Royal Opera House from 16 January to 1 February 2017.

Richard Eyre’s classic production conveys the indulgent social whirl of 19th-century Paris, and provides a vivid setting for Verdi’s emotional score. The role of courtesan Violetta (the ‘fallen woman’ of the title) is one of Verdi’s most complex and enduring characters – and one of his most beloved.

The basic story is: Alfredo and Violetta fall in love, but Alfredo’s father, Giorgio, disapproves. Giorgio convinces Violetta to leave Alfredo, yet he doesn’t know that Violetta is very ill. Alfredo is distraught and doesn’t understand why she’s left him, but on her deathbed Giorgio tells Alfredo what he did and Alfredo can be with Violetta as she dies.

La Traviata

Venera Gimadieva and Saimir Pirgu in La traviata © ROH 2016. Photo by Tristram Kenton

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is on 28 January but in London we have the celebrations on Sunday 29 January 2017 from 10am to 6pm. The dragon and lions parade is the biggest in Europe and there’s entertainment in Trafalgar Square all afternoon.

Plus, as I mentioned last month, there is a Magical Lantern Festival on in Chiswick to celebrate Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster too.

Chinese New Year London

Winter Wanders

I also mentioned last month, the Winter Wanders are happening on 28 and 29 January 2017.

These are free guided walks across London which give you a wonderful reason to get out and enjoy the city. Some walks are just an hour and some take all day. The guides do an excellent job in making urban exploration enjoyable.

Winter Wanders

© Walk London

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the January 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Opening on 24 February 2017, Diana: Her Fashion Story traces the evolution of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances, to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life. Twenty years on from her death, this new exhibition and temporary garden celebrating her life will be opened at Kensington Palace, her home for over 15 years.

The world’s most extensive retrospective of the work of David Hockney opens at Tate Britain on 9 February offering an unprecedented overview of the artist’s work to date. As the artist approaches his 80th birthday, this exhibition will celebrate his achievement across painting, drawing, print, photography and video.

Robots opens at the Science Museum on 8 February and features a unique collection of over 100 robots. From a 16th-century mechanical monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research labs, this exhibition enables visitors to discover the cultural, historical and technological context of humanoid robots.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.

Nov 232016
 

It’s the season to be jolly so we’ve got lots of fun ideas for the end of the year.

Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew is a fabulous mile long illuminated trail through the Gardens for a magical after dark experience.

This year there are also three artworks: a glittering Crystal Tree dripping with giant illuminated crystals, twelve enormous yet delicate colour-changing reeds rising high into the night sky, and seventy five pulsating crystal flowers scattered across the ground creating a shimmering crystal lawn.

The popular Tunnel of Lights is animated by 63,000 pixels creating patterns and pictures to a well-known Christmas soundtrack, and the Kew Christmas Karaoke Juke Box means the whole family can have a Christmas sing along.

The scented Fire Garden is perfect to warm up on a cold evening before the spectacular finale at the Palm House Pond sees an explosion of brightly coloured laser beams, streams of light and flickering orbs that dance in time to much-loved Christmas classics. Christmas at Kew is open from 23 November 2016 to 2 January 2017.

Christmas at Kew

© RBG Kew

Winter Wonderland

In central London, Winter Wonderland is back at Hyde Park for its 10th year. There are six weeks of festive fun from 18 November 2016 to 2 January 2017 and entry is free.

You can just go for a walk to soak up the atmosphere with the bright lights and Christmas tunes or stop for a drink at the Bavarian Village. The Christmas markets are great for gift shopping and there are thrill rides including The Munich Looping, the world’s largest transportable roller coaster.

It’s worth booking ahead for the attractions, especially on weekends when it guarantees you beat the queues. You can try ice skating or book tickets to see the professionals in The Nutcracker on Ice. Walk through The Magical Ice Kingdom (literally created from ice and snow) or head to Bar Ice where even the glasses are made of ice. And the best place to warm up – and to be entertained – is the Zippos Circus megadome where its always warm inside. Youngsters will love the morning Sooty Christmas Show, and the afternoon Zippos Christmas Show is great for everyone. The real thrill seekers should book for the evening Cirque Berserk where the stunts will amaze.

Winter Wonderland

Victorian Christmas

Kensington Palace, the childhood home of Queen Victoria, is dressed for a Victorian Christmas from 26 November 2016 to 2 January 2017. Included in palace admission there are live Christmas themed musical performances and the chance to take part in a drop-in lantern-making workshop.

Musical entertainment is from The Prince Regent’s Band, formed to explore the wealth of historic chamber music for brass and wind instruments from a period roughly defined as between the French Revolution of 1785 and the end of First World War in 1918.

They will be performing Christmas carols that were popular in Victorian times, played entirely on 19th century brass instruments, and the band will take time between carols to tell you both about the carols they’re performing and the instruments themselves.

Kensington Palace at Christmas

© Historic Royal Palaces

Hampton Court Palace

At another Historic Royal Palace in London, Hampton Court Palace is having an Elizabethan Christmas from 21 to 23 December and 27 December to 1 January. Travel back in time to Elizabethan England and the Tudor court in 1592 as Hampton Court Palace celebrates the festive season in royal style. Queen Elizabeth I is in attendance with her court, promising live drama, historic cookery and musical performance.

If the festive season means indulging in a feast the BBC Good Food Festive Fayre is at Hampton Court Palace from 9 to 11 December. From the best local and British produce to Christmas-themed music and carolling, the weekend offers culinary delights, all set against the stunning backdrop of the palace’s historic Tudor courtyards. (Entrance is included in palace admission.)

And if all you want to do is sing at this time of year why not join one of Hampton Court’s annual carol singing evenings and get into the festive spirit in truly palatial surroundings? Carol Singing is on 18, 19, 21, 22, 23 December and 5 January. (Book tickets in advance.)

Hampton Court Palace at Christmas

© Historic Royal Palaces

Royal Albert Hall

From 30 November to 4 December, tennis greats bring their skills and loads of fun to the Champions Tennis tournament at the Royal Albert Hall. Grand Slam Champions, former World No.1s and national icons return to the Hall for a dazzling display of high quality tennis and entertainment.

Players include two-time US Open Champion Pat Rafter, seven-time Grand Slam Champion John McEnroe, British fan favourite Tim Henman and former British Number 1 Greg Rusedski.

And from 13 to 24 December it’s the Royal Albert Hall Christmas Festival with lots of festive concerts, including Carols by Candlelight on 23 and 24 December.

Royal Albert Hall at Christmas

Rent

A new production celebrating the 20th anniversary of RENT the Musical opens at the St James Theatre on 8 December (and is on until 28 January 2017).

Inspired by Puccini’s classic opera La Boheme, RENT features unforgettable music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson including the much-loved songs Seasons of Love, Take Me or Leave Me and La Vie Boheme. Winner of four Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and the hugely prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it ran on Broadway for an astonishing 12 years.

This landmark musical tells the story of a group of impoverished young artist friends struggling to survive in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of 1980s Bohemian excess.

Rent the Musical

Australian Impressionism

The National Gallery has the first UK exhibition to focus on Australian Impressionism, a significant and distinctive movement, little known compared with the European movement. The exhibition is on from 7 December 2016 to 26 March 2017, and showcases four innovative Australian Impressionist artists, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, and John Russell.

Roberts, Streeton, and Conder came to epitomise a growing sense of national identity, yet Russell, by contrast, was an Australian expatriate who spent almost his entire career in France, building friendships with Van Gogh, Monet, and Matisse.

Golden Summer, Eaglemont, 1889

Golden Summer, Eaglemont, 1889 by Arthur Streeton
© National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Lazarus

Written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh, Lazarus is the musical sequel to the cult classic film The Man Who Fell to Earth. On at the King’s Cross Theatre until 22 January 2017, the show originally premiered off-Broadway in the final weeks of Bowie’s life. Michael C Hall, best known for his role as the moonlighting serial killer in Dexter, and Michael Esper (A Beautiful Mind) reprise their roles from the original New York production.

Lazarus focuses on Thomas Newton, as he remains still on Earth – a ‘man’ unable to die, his head soaked in cheap gin and haunted by a past love. The story follows Newton during the course of a few days where the arrival of another lost soul might finally set him free. Lazarus is predictably abstract but compelling, and a must-watch for Bowie fans. The soundtrack is a goldmine of 70s Bowie hits, plus a few tracks penned solely for the stage show.

Lazarus the Musical

Ladybird Books

The Charles Dickens Museum is celebrating the classic Ladybird children’s books with an exhibition of The Ladybird Life of Dickens: An Illustrated Adventure on from 30 November 2016 to 16 April 2017.

Visitors can see 24 original illustrations that English artist John Kenney (who also illustrated Thomas the Tank Engine) produced for the 1965 Ladybird book on Dickens. The accompanying words came from English author and playwright L. du Garde Peach for the book, An Adventure in History: Charles Dickens. Du Garde Peach classifies Dickens as a storyteller who drew upon ‘the events of his life, and the characters whom he knew’ to people his books and create his stories.

As the exhibition opens, Dickens’s Bloomsbury townhouse is dressed for a beautiful celebration of a Victorian Christmas; the historic rooms into which Dickens moved with his growing family in 1837 will be filled with the atmosphere of a 19th-century London Christmas.

Christmas at the Charles Dickens Museum runs from 30 November 2016 until 8 January 2017. Among this year’s highlights are atmospheric candlelit evenings, late nights and tours of the House, captivating performances of A Christmas Carol and a whole day of celebration on Christmas Eve.

Charles Dickens - A Ladybird Book

Peter Pan Cup

If you’re staying at the Kensington House Hotel this Christmas you’ll be able to take a Christmas Day morning stroll to the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park to watch the annual Serpentine Swimming Club Peter Pan Cup races.

Swimmers have met in London’s Hyde Park on Christmas morning since 1864 to compete in the Christmas Day swim. It became the Peter Pan Cup in 1904 when author J.M. Barrie donated the cup in the same year his Peter Pan play appeared on the London stage.

You can’t join in though as The Peter Pan Cup is only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who have qualified during the season. Do be aware, the water is usually below 4C (40F) in the winter and I’ve even seen them have to break the ice just to get in.

The race on 25 December starts at 9am and takes place on the south bank of the lake. Spectators are always welcome as everyone needs some encouragement on a chilly day.

Peter Pan Swimming Cup

© Serpentine Swimming Club

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

The Natural History Museum Ice Rink is open until 8 January 2017 on the Museum’s East Lawn. It’s a lovely location, especially in the evening when the museum makes a wonderful backdrop. The ice rink stays open until at least 10pm each day making it great destination even after the museum has closed.

The Cafe Bar is available for non-skaters too and there’s a viewing platform to look down on your friends doing their Torvill and Dean (or Bambi) impressions. It’s a good place to warm up after skating with a delicious hot chocolate too.

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the December 2016 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London opens at the V&A on 14 January 2017. This is the first exhibition exploring the life and work of Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911), an artist, teacher, curator and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. Lockwood Kipling was a social campaigner for the preservation of Indian crafts, a craftsman whose terracotta panels can still be seen on the exterior of the V&A and was an illustrator of books by his son, the renowned writer Rudyard Kipling.

The Winter Wanders are free led walks across London on 28 & 29 January 2017. It’s a wonderful excuse to get outside and leave the winter hibernation behind.

And the Magical Lantern Festival returns to Chiswick House Gardens on 19 January 2017 with light sculptures and other attractions to mark the end of Chinese New Year, including a 15-metre illuminated sculpture of the Houses of Parliament. The theme for 2017 is the Silk Road, with Europe, Asia, Arabia, Egypt, Persia, India and Ancient China all represented. Centre stage will be a full-size replica of the ship that Chinese Admiral Zheng used on his trade explorations.

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Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

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.