Jan 112017
 

The Curve Piccadilly Lights Land Securities

The historic advertising hoardings of Piccadilly Circus are going dark this January for the longest amount of time since World War II. Come the Autumn, we will see the current screens replaced with Europe’s largest single digital screen, which will retain its renowned curved shape, surface area and its ability to have a patchwork appearance. With a greater than 4K resolution display, Piccadilly Lights (as they are called by owners Land Securities) will have one of the highest resolution LED displays of this size in the world, capable of live video streaming, lifestyle updates and real time social media feeds – a modern marketeer’s dream.

Piccadilly Circus courtesy of London Bridge Hotel's Postcard Archive

Piccadilly Lights have only previously gone dark during WWII and for special occasions such as Earth Hour and the deaths of Winston Churchill in 1965 and Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.  Advertising has long been featured on the facades of buildings at Piccadilly Circus as it’s always been one of London’s major thoroughfares. 1908 saw the first electric sign appearing and Perrier and Bovril were the brand pioneers thus illuminated.

Piccadilly Circus courtesy of London Bridge Hotel's Postcard Archive

So popular was this method of promotion that the hoardings spread over far more buildings than they do today and covered The London Pavilion, first lit by incandescent light bulbs, then neon lights, before moving onto digital and LED displays.

Piccadilly Circus courtesy of London Bridge Hotel's Postcard Archive

So where did the name Piccadilly come from? Apparently, it’s named for a tailor from 1626 – one Robert Baker – whose shop sold piccadills or piccadillies (a kind of stiff collar) hence Piccadilly. The circus part denotes a circular traffic junction and was created in 1819 at the junction with Regent Street and for a time, was known as Regent’s Circus. It lost its circular form in 1886 with the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue.

 

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

The Curve image, courtesy of Land Securities. The postcard imagery courtesy of London Bridge Hotel’s Postcard Archive.

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.

Dec 142016
 

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On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords a leaping,
Nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.

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.

Nov 222016
 

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Think twinkling Christmas lights and decorations, ice bars, Club Nights, Champagne & Truffles packages – in fact all types of après-ski. There’s even Penguin Clubs for kiddies and skate schools!  Here’s the key ice skating rinks in London and surrounding areas this season:

Tower of London Ice Rink, London, EC3N 4AB (nearest tube is Tower Hill) – open until Tuesday 3rd January 2017 – adults from GBP13.50.

Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA (nearest tubes are Temple or Covent Garden) – open until Sunday 15th January 2017 – tickets from GBP7.50

Canary Wharf Ice Rink, Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5AB (nearest tube is Canary Wharf) – open until Saturday 25th February 2017 – early bird tickets from GBP9.95

Broadgate Ice Rink, Exchange Square, London, EC2A 2BQ (nearest tube is Liverpool Street)  – open until Thursday 2nd February 2017 – adult GBP13.00

Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD (nearest tube is South Kensington) – open until Sunday 8th January 2017 – adult from GBP12.65

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH (nearest tube is Marble Arch or Hyde Park Corner) – open until Monday 2nd January 2017 – adults from GBP10.50

STOP PRESS: There is a new trend taking over London this winter – Curling! Sliders Rooftop Curling is at Roof East and is open until Friday 23rd December. A 40-minute slot costs £12.50 per person (minimum four people).

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.

Oct 132016
 

you-say-you-want-a-revolution-records-and-rebels-1966-1970

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 70 is a new major exhibition from the V&A, that will explore the era-defining significance and impact of the late 1960s upon life today. From global civil rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, consumerism, computing, communality to neoliberalist politics, the world we live in has been vitally influenced by five revolutionary years 1966 – 70.  It 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.

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 70 will open at the Victoria & Albert Museum this Saturday and will run until 26th February. Tickets are £16 with V&A members going free. Advance booking advised; visit the V&A in person; online at vam.ac.uk/revolution; or by calling 0800 912 6961 (booking fee applies).

The displays will show the creative, social and legal outputs of revolutionary new ways of living. They will include underground magazines from Oz to the International Times; a shopping list written behind barricades during the 1968 Paris student riots; a moon rock on loan from NASA alongside the space suit worn by William Anders, who took the defining ‘Earthrise’ photograph on the Apollo 8 mission; a rare Apple 1 computer; an Ossie Clark costume for Mick Jagger; original artworks by Richard Hamilton; shards from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar; the suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and handwritten lyrics for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by the Beatles.

Our top tip is to visit the V&A Museum in the morning before the crowds. That way, you can treat yourself to a delicious lunch or afternoon tea after viewing your preferred exhibits!

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 70 will explore the way that youth culture catalysed an optimistic idealism, motivating people to come together and question established power structures across every area of society. More than 350 objects encompassing photography, posters, literature, music, design, film, fashion, artefacts, and performance that defined the counterculture will illustrate the way that a whole generation shook off the confines of the past and their parents, radically revolutionising the way they lived their lives.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

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.

Sep 192016
 

VA-Tommy-Cooper-Large

Great news for comedy fans as the Victoria & Albert Museum acquires Tommy Cooper archive of jokes and props but sadly no fez!

The collection, which will open to the public in the autumn in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Galleries, is the largest collection of its kind tracing the life and legacy of the much-loved British comedian Tommy Cooper (1921 – 1984).

The Tommy Cooper Collection comprises over 116 boxes of archive material and 24 props and posters charting the career of the outwardly shambolic magician and comedian known for his trademark fez, flustered face, bungling stage persona and razor-sharp comedy. The collection also includes Cooper’s writings, some jotted down on backs of posters and shirt packaging cardboard, as well as documents relating to the inner workings of his career, such as contracts; stage props, Cooper’s infamous ‘Head Twister’ illusion; details of early auditions at the BBC and engagements; a folio notebook full of his gags; personal correspondence; posters; theatre programmes and merchandise charting his career spanning almost forty years. 

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

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.