Laura Porter

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.

Oct 232016
 

Fireworks

The month arrives with a bang as we celebrate a foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament over 400 years ago. The annual celebrations mean fantastic fireworks displays and there’s one worth knowing about on Thursday 3 November at Wimbledon Park.

There are two themed performances with fireworks set to music at 6.45pm ‘Magic’ (more suitable for young children) and 8.30pm ‘All Around the World’. The evening entertainment also includes a funfair, refreshments and stalls open until 10pm.

fireworks

You Say You Want a Revolution

You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70 is the latest blockbuster exhibition at the V&A. It examines the optimism, ideals and aspirations of the late 1960s, expressed through music, fashion, film, design and political activism, and their relevance to contemporary life. The exhibition investigates the upheaval, the explosive sense of freedom, and the legal changes that took place resulting in a fundamental shift in the mindset of the Western world.

As you would hope, the exhibition has fantastic music from the era. Visitors wear special headphones that adjust what you hear based on your position in the room to provide the soundtrack to what you are looking at.

Highlights include a moon rock on loan from NASA; a rare Apple 1 computer; an Ossie Clark costume for Mick Jagger; shards from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar; and the suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the cover of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ plus handwritten lyrics for ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by the Beatles.

You Sat You Want a Revolution

South Africa – The Art of a Nation

Discover the history of South Africa through art in the new British Museum special exhibition. South Africa – The Art of a Nation opened on 27 October and runs until 26 February 2017. See the history of a nation from a new perspective and celebrate the diverse art created by the many peoples who have helped shape South Africa’s story.

The exhibition covers a 100,000-year journey starting with examples of early rock art – some of the oldest art in the world. There’s 800-year-old gold sculptures, powerful anti-apartheid pieces plus cutting-edge contemporary works.

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds ends this month at the British Museum (on 27 November) and is also well worth seeing. It tells the story of two lost cities of ancient Egypt that were submerged under the sea for over a thousand years and only recently rediscovered.

ox-shaped-snuffbox South Africa - British Museum

Portrait of the Artist

Opening on 4 November at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Portrait of the Artist is the first exhibition to focus on images of artists from within the Royal Collection. The exhibition includes over 150 objects, including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative arts ranging in date from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century.

There are, of course, self-portraits by world-renowned artists including Rembrandt, Rubens, Artemisia Gentileschi, Lucian Freud and David Hockney but also images of artists by their friends, relatives and pupils, including the most reliable surviving likeness of Leonardo da Vinci by his student, Francesco Melzi.

The role of monarchs in commissioning, collecting and displaying portraits of artists is discussed, as is the changing status of the artist over the centuries.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, c.1627-8

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, c.1627-8

Dreamgirls

It’s taken 35 years for the award winning musical Dreamgirls to come to London but it’s opening this month at the Savoy Theatre. From 19 November you can see Amber Riley (from Glee) in the lead role as Effie White.

Dreamgirls transports you to a revolutionary time in American music history and charts the tumultuous journey of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called ‘The Dreams’. They learn the hard lesson that show business is as tough as it is fabulous.

This new production is directed and choreographed by the hugely successful, Tony® and Olivier award-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Something Rotten!) and features the classic songs ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘I Am Changing’ and ‘One Night Only’.

Dreamgirls

Royal Albert Hall

As ever, the Royal Albert Hall has an eclectic mix of musical events on this month.

Legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon returns to the Royal Albert Hall on 7 and 8 November with his new album Stranger to Stranger (June 2016).

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presents Symphonic Rock on 23 November. It’s a night of classic rock anthems and hit songs with a spectacular light show to accompany the iconic music of: Queen, Coldplay, Bon Jovi, The Beatles, Elbow, Tina Turner, Adele, Meat Loaf, Led Zeppelin and many more.

On 25 and 26 November you can see Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. Multi-platinum recording artist Jools Holland is bringing two nights of jazz and blues to the Royal Albert Hall. Special guests make this the greatest boogie-woogie party in town.

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall © David Iliff

Design Museum

The Design Museum was based near Tower Bridge until earlier this year but reopens in its new Kensington home this month. The former Commonwealth Institute building on Kensington High Street opens as the Design Museum on 24 November 2016.

There are eleven new installations by a selection of the world’s most innovative and thought-provoking designers and architects working today in the opening exhibition: fear and love – reactions to a complex world.

These newly commissioned works explore a spectrum of issues that define our time, including networked sexuality, sentient robots, slow fashion and settled nomads. The exhibition shows how design is deeply connected not just to commerce and culture but to urgent underlying issues – issues that inspire fear and love. This is a multidisciplinary and global exhibition that aims to capture the mood of the present and establish the Design Museum as the home of design debate.

Design Museum

Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line

The British Library’s major Autumn exhibition explores the tumultuous history of the 20th century through maps, drawing on powerful, intriguing and surprising examples from the British Library’s world-class cartography collections and beyond.

Opening on 4 November, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line includes a selection of Ministry of Defence maps, on public display for the first time, which were used as part of official college exams in the 1950s and 1960s. These fascinating maps show fictional scenarios such as a nuclear explosion fall-out in Scotland and southern England reimagined as a battlefield, reflecting the political uncertainties of the 20th century.

The exhibition also uncovers the fascinating story of how maps became everyday objects for the first time in the 20th century. From the London A-Z, created out of a need for newcomers to navigate the city conveniently thanks to a wave of mass immigration in the early 20th century, to lesser-known political pocket atlases like the ‘Plebs Atlas’ and the huge influence of maps like Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood which introduced millions of children to the concept of cartography for the first time.

British Library maps

Paul Nash

Uncover the surreal and mystical side of English landscapes through one of the most distinctive British painters as Tate Britain has the largest presentation of Paul Nash’s work for a generation. The Paul Nash exhibition opened on 26 October and runs until 5 March 2017.

Paul Nash was fascinated with Britain’s ancient past and spent time in southern England exploring the downs and coastal areas. Equally inspired by the equinox and the phases of the moon, he used all these influences in his work, interpreting his environment according to a unique, personal mythology, evolving throughout his career.

As well as Nash’s imaginative response to the natural world, this exhibition is the first to examine Nash’s position at the centre of developments in British modernism and his dialogues with international artists as one of the leading figures in British surrealism.

Paul Nash - Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935 ©Tate

Paul Nash – Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935 ©Tate

Hampton Court Palace

There are some very good reasons to visit Hampton Court Palace this month. The Hampton Court Ice Rink opens on 18 November, and remains until 8 January 2017. You can glide around Hampton Court’s famous ice rink, with the palace’s iconic Tudor facade providing a suitably magnificent backdrop to this magical riverside setting.

There are also some interesting talks this month. On 10 November it’s At Home with the Royal Tudors where you can join joint chief curator Tracy Borman as she reveals the intimate secrets of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and more.

And on 21 November it’s Henry VIII’s Six Wives when you can go behind the scenes with joint chief curator Lucy Worsley in her latest BBC series Henry VIII’s Six Wives. Explore a unique approach to drama and history, and unravel key moments in the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives.

Regent Street Motor Show

The iconic Regent Street Motor Show is a showcase of 125 years of motoring including veteran, vintage, classic, and modern-day cars. This year it’s on Saturday 5 November and Regent Street is traffic-free from 10.30am to 4pm. It’s free to visit, family-friendly, and loved by car enthusiasts and shoppers alike.

Many of the veteran cars taking part in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run on Sunday 6 November are on display together with some of the pioneering motor cars of the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

Regent Street Motor Show

 

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

A new production celebrating the 20th anniversary of Rent the Musical is coming to St James Theatre from 8 December to 28 January 2017. Jonathan Larson’s fantastic Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical follows the personal struggles of a group of friends in 1980s New York.

The National Gallery bring us the first UK exhibition to focus on Australian impressionism, a significant and distinctive movement, little known compared with the European movement. Australia’s Impressionists opens on 7 December. Showcasing Australia’s four major exponents of Impressionism – Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, and John Russell – the exhibition comprises some forty loans, many never previously shown in the UK.

And pantomime season is coming which means family-friendly theatre fun. We have Christmas classics such as Cinderella at the Palladium which will feature great casting such as Paul O’Grady as the wicked stepmother from 10 December.

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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.

Sep 262016
 

Picasso Portraits

Opening on 6 October at the National Portrait Gallery (and on until 5 February 2017), Picasso Portraits includes over 75 portraits by the artist in all media, ranging from well-known masterpieces to works that have never been shown in Britain before.

This is the first major exhibition of portraits by Picasso in twenty years and all phases of the artist’s career are represented. From the realist portraits of his boyhood to the more gestural canvases of his old age.

Because Picasso did not work to commission and depicted people in his intimate circle, he enjoyed exceptional freedom as a portraitist. The exhibition includes a group of revealing self-portraits as well as portraits and caricatures of Picasso’s friends, lovers, wives and children.

Woman in a Hat (Olga) by Pablo Picasso, 1935

Woman in a Hat (Olga) by Pablo Picasso, 1935; Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art moderne (Copyright: Succession Picasso/DACS London, 2016 Photo: Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Rights reserved)

 

Turner Prize 2016

The Turner Prize 2016 exhibition opened at Tate Britain on 27 September (and runs until 2 January 2017). It is one of the world’s most acclaimed contemporary art awards, and aims to promote public debate around new developments in contemporary British art.

The four shortlisted artists are Michael Dean, Anthea Hamilton, Helen Marten and Josephine Pryde. The exhibition showcases their work, with the winner announced on 5 December 2016.

Turner Prize 2016

Michael Dean, Sic Glyphs, 2016 © The Artist, courtesy of Herald St, London Josephine Pryde, Für Mich 2, 2014 © The Artist, courtesy Simon Lee Gallery, London Helen Marten, Night-blooming genera, 2015 (detail) © The Artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ Anthea Hamilton, Project for Door (After Gaetano Pesce), 2015 © The Artist

 

School of Rock – The Musical

Based on the 2003 cult movie, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony-nominated School of Rock – The Musical opens at the New London Theatre on 24 October.

The show follows the adventures of Dewey Finn, a failed wannabe rocker, as he impersonates a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school to get some money. Once he hears that the children of Horace Green are superbly musically talented, he decides to form his own band – the School of Rock.

He turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. While teaching these pint-sized prodigies what it means to truly rock, Dewey falls for the school’s beautiful but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within.

Featuring an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater, including songs such as “You’re in the Band”, “In the End of Time” and “Teacher’s Pet”.

School of Rock Musical

NFL on Regent Street

Back by popular demand, NFL returns to Regent Street on Saturday 1 October for another blockbuster free event. Regent Street is closed to traffic between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus to make way for all the fun. Look out for mini pitches, cheerleaders, live entertainment, special appearances from NFL players and the much-loved parade.

The London dates for the NFL International Series 2016 are:

Sunday 2 October: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (Wembley Stadium)
Sunday 23 October: New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams (Twickenham Stadium)
Sunday 30 October: Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals (Wembley Stadium)

NFL on Regent Street

Albert Memorial Tours

The stunning Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, opposite the Royal Albert Hall, is fascinating. It’s a memorial to Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who was so influential in changing this area to become London’s cultural quarter.

The best way to really get to know it is to join a guided tour as you can then go inside the railings and get a closer look at the Frieze of Parnassus and other fine details of the greatest monument of the Victorian era.

The tours are on the first Sunday of the month (March to December) at 2pm and 3pm. Tours are about 45 minutes and you don’t need to book in advance.

Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial. Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-by-SA 3.0.

Royal Albert Hall Tours

There are a variety of tours available at this remarkable building. I once enjoyed a family tour with a costumed actor and was amazing how much there was to discover. Photography is permitted on tours and all tours offer you a discount in the cafe and gift shop too.

The Secret History Tour gets you backstage gossip, ghost tales and more, and the Inside Out Architecture Tour is a tour of both inside and outside of the building.

The Grand Tour takes you around this impressive Victorian building for the amazing views, including from the Royal Retiring Room, and the Afternoon Tea Tour gives you the Grand Tour followed by an elegant afternoon tea in the Verdi restaurant.

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall © David Iliff

Chocolate Week

10 to 16 October is Chocolate Week. It’s the UK’s biggest chocolate celebration and culminates in The Chocolate Show at Olympia National Hall on 14-16 October.

The Chocolate Show is a celebration of chocolate in all its forms – bars, truffles, cakes, desserts, ice cream, baking, cocktails, sculptures and more. As well as the most delectable chocolate treats on offer, there are celebrity chef demonstrations, workshops, tastings and masterclasses.

Don’t miss the amazing chocolate fashion show at 5pm each day with a stunning collection of couture chocolate dresses designed by top chocolatiers and fashion designers.

Chocolate Show Fashion Show

London Film Festival

The 60th BFI London Film Festival is on from 5 to 16 October showing 245 features films and 144 shorts. This is Britain’s leading film event and one of the world’s best and most established film festivals. The Festival will screen a total of 193 fiction and 52 documentary features, including 18 World Premieres, 8 International Premieres, 39 European Premieres.

Headline Galas are presented at the Odeon Leicester Square on each evening of the 12 day festival. And Festival visitors can enjoy a brand new cinema experience with Competition and Strand Galas presented at the new (temporary) Embankment Garden Cinema, in the beautiful Victoria Embankment Gardens.

This year’s festival includes an agenda-setting Symposium event that heralds the BFI’s Black Star project, the UK’s biggest ever season of film and television dedicated to celebrating the range, versatility and power of black actors coming in late October. Films within the Festival programme will amplify the season, while the Symposium will ask searching questions about the continued under-representation of black actors on screen, probing why opportunities for black actors in the US and the UK remain limited and aiming to drive forward a progressive agenda by spotlighting and exploring key issues for the film industry.

BFI London Film Festival

 

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

The British Library’s major Autumn exhibition explores the tumultuous history of the 20th century through maps, drawing on powerful, intriguing and surprising examples from the British Library’s world-class cartography collections and beyond. Maps and the 20th Century opens on 4 November and runs to 1 March 2017.

From 26 November to 2 January, you can experience a magical Victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace, the childhood home of Queen Victoria. The palace will be dressed for the occasion, and there’ll be live Christmas themed musical performances and the chance to take part in a drop-in lantern-making workshop. (Included in palace admission.)

The National Theatre’s landmark production of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls returns to the West End next month. On at the Playhouse Theatre from 4 November to 4 February, this classic thriller is about an unwelcome guests at The Birlings house as Inspector Goole interrupts their dinner party to investigate the death of a young woman.

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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.

Aug 212016
 

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism opens at the Royal Academy on 24 September (and runs until 2 January 2017). It’s the first major exhibition of the art movement in the UK for almost 60 years. There are over 150 paintings, sculptures and photographs on display from the most acclaimed American artists of the movement including Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

Water of the Flowery Mill

Water of the Flowery Mill, 1944. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
(c) ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016
Digital image (c) 2016. The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence

Pride and Prejudice

You can see Jane Austen’s acclaimed romantic comedy, Pride and Prejudice, at The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park from 2 to 17 September. Mr and Mrs Bennet are played by the Olivier Award-winning Matthew Kelly (Of Mice and Men, Educating Rita, Waiting for Godot) and Felicity Montagu (Alan Partridge, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Durrells) so you know this is going to be good.

Pride and Prejudice

Silent Cinema

Also in Regent’s Park, there’s Silent Outdoor Cinema on at London Zoo from 6 to 10 September, in the evenings.

Aired on a huge screen in the heart of the Zoo, the cinema appears to be completely silent, with the film broadcast via FM radio headsets, which means the late night flicks won’t keep the animals up past their bedtime.

Guests will be taken on a pre-movie twilight tour around specially-chosen enclosures before settling down to see the open-air screening.

Silent Cinema London Zoo

The Libertine

For more evening entertainment, Dominic Cooper returns to the stage to play the notorious Earl of Rochester in this major revival of The Libertine, for 10 weeks only at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

On from 22 September, the Stephen Jeffreys’ play, later made into a film, tells the true story of hedonistic John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester – a charismatic poet, playwright and cad with a legendary appetite for excess. It’s a wild romp through 1670s London with plenty of wit too.

The Libertine

A Curious Turn

A Curious Turn is a new exhibition in Chelsea featuring 30 pieces of extraordinary automata. The show previews at Habitat’s Platform Gallery as part of London Design Festival before a national tour.

A Curious Turn presents automata by leading makers of the last 40 years that range from the humorous to the macabre and from the playful to the satirical. Works on show take a look at key automata makers such as Rowland Emmett, famous for creating the elaborate inventions of Caractacus Potts in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

Visitors will be able to turn, push and crank to see many of the pieces in action, while other pieces will have films to show them in motion. A Curious Turn is on display from 15 September to 2 October.

Mule Make Mule. Tim Lewis, 2010

Mule Make Mule. Tim Lewis, 2010. © Tim Lewis, Courtesy Flowers Gallery London & New York

London Design Festival at the V&A

The London Design Festival is across London from 17 to 25 September. LDF has partnered again with The V&A to bring a series of exciting installations.

Green Room is monumental and was conceived by a watchmaker. You can see it at staircase G on Level 6.

Liquid Marble can be seen in the Norfolk House Music Room, Britain 1500-1760, Room, 52b, Level 2. It’s jet black polished marble and doesn’t move but the light reflections make it feel like the sea.

And Istanbul-based architecture firm Tabanlıoğlu Architects have brought Sabahattin Ali’s classic 1943 novel Madonna in a Fur Coat to life with Beloved on the bridge over the V&A’s Medieval & Renaissance galleries.

London Design Festival at the V&A

Sunken Cities

Sunken Cities opened in May at the British Museum and is getting excellent reviews. The exhibition is on until 27 November.

Submerged under the sea for over a thousand years, two lost cities of ancient Egypt were recently rediscovered. Their story is told for the first time in this unmissable exhibitio, where deep connections between ancient Egypt and Greece are revealed.

Sunken Cities British Museum

Requiem

And for an uproarious night out this looks like a must. Three choirs come together to combine 300 voices to perform Verdi’s choral masterpiece in the majestic setting of the Royal Albert Hall. Requiem is on Saturday 24 September.

Royal Albert Hall - Verdi Requiem

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Opening on 24 October, get your air guitar ready to rock out at the School of Rock the Musical, on at the New London Theatre.

Uncover the surreal and mystical side of English landscapes through one of the most distinctive British painters. A Paul Nash exhibition opens at Tate Britain on 24 October.

And explore the influence of one of art’s most infamous and revolutionary figures when Beyond Caravaggio opens at the National Gallery on 12 October.

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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 212016
 

Open-Air Cinema at Kensington Palace

With the longer summer days, watching a movie outside in the evening is really enjoyable. The Luna Cinema returns to Kensington Palace for four nights of classic films from 2 to 5 August.

You can choose from the Spectre, The Breakfast ClubFour Weddings and a Funeral or Some Like it Hot. Tickets must be booked in advance and there’s food and drink available.

Luna Cinema

The Entertainer

Kenneth Branagh is practically taking over the Garrick Theatre for a whole year, with a series of five different plays. The fifth offering is John Osborne’s modern classic The Entertainer, opening on 20 August (and on until 12 November 2016).

Set against the backdrop of post-war Britain, the play conjures the seedy glamour of the old music halls for an explosive examination of public masks and private torment.

Rob Ashford directs Kenneth Branagh as the unforgettable Archie Rice with a cast including Phil Dunster, Jonah Hauer-King, Crispin Letts, Sophie McShera and Greta Scacchi.

Do note, John Hurt will no longer be appearing in The Entertainer following medical advice.

The Entertainer Garrick Theatre

The Proms

The 122nd BBC Proms started on 15 July and continues until 10 September. It’s an annual season of classical music made more accessible with affordable prices and an informal atmosphere.

The main venue is the wonderful Royal Albert Hall but a new feature this year is to have concerts in four other unique and unusual London settings, from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Camden Roundhouse, to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich and a large car park in Peckham, south London.

To help you get in the carnival spirit as the Rio Olympics unfold this summer there’s music from Latin America, including the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Symphony Orchestra.

BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall

© Chris Christodoulou

Notting Hill Carnival

Speaking of carnivals, Britain’s biggest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival is on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 August.

Sunday is Children’s Day which doesn’t mean it’s only for kids; it’s just a bit more family friendly on the first day. There’s still a carnival parade with lots of music and dancing.

On Monday it’s the Grand Finale Parade with 60 bands and incredible costumes. There’s also 38 sound systems on side streets from the carnival route to keep the party going.

On both days you can expect huge crowds, loud whistles, big smiles and the best jerk chicken.

Notting Hill Carnival

© VisitBritain / Jon Spaull

V&A

There’s always something marvellous at the V&A and highlights this month include a display of Beatrix Potter’s London, on from 28 July 2016 to 28 April 2017, to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter this year.

The display explores how the children’s author and illustrator was influenced by the cultural life of her birthplace. Although Potter is often associated with the sweeping landscapes of Scotland and the Lake District depicted in her illustrations, she spent most of her life at her family home at 2 Bolton Gardens in London, about 20 minutes walk from the V&A.

Potter was a frequent visitor to the South Kensington museums, including the V&A where she sketched items from the collection. This display brings together artworks, original sketches and Potter’s earliest published works to look at the inspirational role London played throughout her career.

View from 2 Bolton Gardens by Beatrix Potter

View from 2 Bolton Gardens by Beatrix Potter (1882)
© V&A with kind permission of Frederick Warne & Co

Also at the V&A, this month is the last chance to see Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York as the display ends on 31 August.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Olivier Awards this year, you can see the extraordinary range of craft and collaboration that goes into creating award-winning plays, musicals and productions in the West End of London and New York’s Broadway.

The display is an immersive theatrical experience taking visitors from the stage, to the design workshops and through the history of the awards to the red carpet. You can see costumes, designs, models, photographs, archival production material, film and awards from productions such as The Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line and Wolf Hall.

And there’s a related evening event on Friday 19 August, as Christian Holder is discussing his experience of working in both theatre industries. Holder was a leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in New York during the 1970s and later designed costumes for ballet and celebrities including Tina Turner. He is now based in London where as a child he attended the Corona Academy Stage School, acted in British television, and danced with his father’s company, Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers.

The Mechanics of Genius

More than just an artist, Leonardo da Vinci was an incredible inventor too. Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius is on at the Science Museum until 4 September.

He created a remarkable body of mechanical drawings that showed a radical approach to the challenges of flight, manufacturing and war. The exhibition includes 39 historical models of Leonardo’s inventions including flying machines, diving equipment and weapons, plus modern examples of bio-inspired robotics, aviation and materials technology.

Great British Beer Festival

The annual Great British Beer Festival is back on 9-13 August at London Olympia with over 900 tipples on offer from real ales, fruit beers and ciders, to stouts, bitters and international beers. The exhibition hall is basically one big giant pub, staffed by people who are both passionate about their beer and capable of recommending the perfect drink for connoisseurs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

It’s not a ‘get drunk quick’ event but an opportunity to try a huge variety of beers, plus it’s free entry for accompanied under 18s with a family area upstairs.

Great British Beer Festival

Houses of Parliament Tours

While the Houses of Parliament are open on Saturdays throughout the year, during the summer we can visit on weekdays too. It’s best to book ahead for Houses of Parliament tours as they are popular.

You can choose between guided tours or self-guided audio tours. Both options allow you to see the Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, plus the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and more. The tours start and end in Westminster Hall – the historic chamber which witnessed the State trials of Guy Fawkes and Charles I.

Houses of Parliament

Buckingham Palace

The summer opening of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms includes a special exhibition Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe.

Dresses worn by The Queen for two of the most significant occasions in Her Majesty’s life will be seen together for the first time ever from 23 July to 2 October 2016.

The wedding dress worn by Princess Elizabeth for her marriage to The Duke of Edinburgh on 20 November 1947, and The Queen’s Coronation dress, both designed by the great British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell (1901–1979), will be wonderful additions to a visit to this magnificent palace.

I’ve got a special tip for you too. This photo shows The White Room and the Queen can access her private rooms through here but can you see the door? It’s very well hidden as the mirror on the left, and the cabinet in front of it, can swing open to allow her retreat unobtrusively.

Buckingham Palace

© Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

You’ve got until 11 September to see the eighth year of Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum.
Follow chomping caterpillars turning into beautiful butterflies and along the way discover fascinating facts about one of our planet’s most amazing life cycles.

Opening on 10 September at the V&A, You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70 is a major exhibition examining the optimism, ideals and aspirations of the late 1960s, expressed through music, fashion, film, design and political activism, and their relevance to contemporary life.

For one night only on 25 September, Science Uncovered is your chance to discover more about the latest research, meet scientists, and enjoy a drink in the grand setting of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall.

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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 sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.