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.

Jul 272015
 

South Kensington Museums

As always, there’s lots going on at the South Kensington Museums this month.

At the Natural History Museum it’s the last month to see the 50th year of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition as it closes on 30 August. You can see the extraordinary work of talented professionals and gifted amateur photographers from around the globe.

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea has a live reef, a virtual dive and more than 200 strange and beautiful specimens. The exhibition closes on 13 September.

And Sensational Butterflies, on the East Lawn, is the opportunity to enter a tropical butterfly house and see caterpillars and butterflies flying freely. This also closes on 13 September.

© Natural History Museum, London

© Natural History Museum, London

Across the road at The V&AFacing History: Contemporary Portraiture features a variety of portraits by contemporary artists and photographers, from Grayson Perry to Gavin Turk. The exhibition is on from 27 July to 24 April 2016 and shows how artists have adapted historical or conventional modes of portraiture such as silhouettes, portrait miniatures, medals, Old Master paintings, and death masks, as well as passport photographs, ID cards and election campaign posters.

What is Luxury? is the major exhibition this month and looks at how luxury is made and it’s controversy.

And around the corner at The Science Museum there’s a summer of fun with lots of family activities including building a magic lantern and taking part in a real scientific experiment. In the Cravings gallery you can find out if your head or your stomach controls what you eat. And in the Information Age gallery you can see the computer on which Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, plus he’s there (in a virtual form) to explain how it works.

And the museum is staying open later – until 7pm – from 25 July to 30 August.

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Kensington Palace

Even without buying a ticket to visit the Palace you could join a free Garden History Tours that gives exclusive access to the Sunken Garden. Or you could visit the gardens in the evening for some open-air cinema. And if you’ve brought the family – and remember, kids always go free at Kensington Palace – you could join Queen Caroline’s Garden Party on 21-23 August and complete a series of challenges to transform yourself into the perfect Georgian courtier.

© Historyc Royal Palaces

© Historic Royal Palaces

Also, in Kensington, The Proms have started at Royal Albert Hall and go on until 12 September.

London Landmarks

Buckingham Palace State Rooms are open to visitors from 25 July to 27 September. This year the theme is ‘A Royal Welcome’ and we get to enter the Palace through the Grand Entrance for the first time. The Australian State Coach is on display at the Grand Entrance Portico and inside we’ll see how the Palace prepares for formal occasions. Look out for the knighting stool and a sword used to confer knighthoods on display, plus the red leather seating-planner.

The Ballroom at Buckingham Palace set up for a State Banquet. Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

The Ballroom at Buckingham Palace set up for a State Banquet.
Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

St Paul’s Cathedral is worth visiting all year round but there are a couple of special days this month as they are allowing photography inside the Cathedral on Monday 3 August and Monday 17 August. Usually photography is banned to maintain a sense of calm for a place of worship but for these special days you are free to snap away to your heart’s content.

Food and Drink

The biggest pub in the world is back this month at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia from 11 to 15 August. You can try over 900 real ales, ciders, perries and international beers but it’s probably best not to try them all on the same day.

Hampton Court Palace has the BBC Good Food Festival from 29 to 31 August – the Bank Holiday weekend. You can meet producers, watch demonstrations and enjoy the live music too making this a lovely choice for all ages.

The South Front of Hampton Court Palace shows off the Baroque style, designed by Christopher Wren, which replaced an earlier Tudor building erected for Henry V111. Two visitors walk up through the Privy Garden from the direction of the river Thames. Pic: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

The South Front of Hampton Court Palace shows off the Baroque style, designed by Christopher Wren. Photographer: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

To End The Month

More ideas to end the month include the Regency Weekend at Apsley House on 29 and 30 August where you can join in etiquette lessons and find out all about dressing, and dancing, the Regency way.

And, of course, there’s the Notting Hill Carnival on 30 and 31 August for amazing costumes in the parades and lots of Caribbean food, drink and music to keep you feeling tropical whatever the weather.

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the August 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

LOOKING AHEAD

A six metre high ceramic installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford will be displayed in the Museum’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries from 8 September to 1 November 2015.

On 18 September, the Science Museum will open its doors to a ground-breaking exhibition, Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age.

And The Royal Academy will present a landmark exhibition of the Honorary RA, Ai Weiwei from 19 September to 13 December. As the first significant British survey of his artistic output, the exhibition will include major works spanning Ai Weiwei’s career, as well as including new work by the artist.

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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 the About.com London Travel site 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.

Feb 272015
 

Spring is coming and London’s parks are looking wonderful as the blossom appears. Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are always fantastic and this month sees the return of the guided tours of the Albert Memorial. These tours give you exclusive access inside the memorial railings, so you can appreciate up close the craftsmanship and the bravura marble carving of the Parnassus frieze comprising 169 figures of renowned poets, musicians, painters, sculptors and architects.

Albert Memorial

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

Sunday 1 March is the first tour of the year and more follow on the first Sunday of the month. Tours are at 2pm and 3pm and last 45-50 minutes.

 

The major spring exhibition we’ve all been waiting for at The V&A is Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty opening on 14 March (and running until 19 July 2015).

Duck feather dress created by Alexander McQueen.  Date: The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009-10. Model: Magdalena Frackowiak represented by dna model management New York, Image: firstVIEW

Duck feather dress created by Alexander McQueen. Date: The Horn of Plenty, A/W 2009-10

This is the first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe and will showcase McQueen’s visionary body of work. Spanning his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection, McQueen’s designs will be presented with the dramatic staging and sense of spectacle synonymous with his runway shows.

The original version of Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2011 was organised by the Costume Institute and became one of the Museum’s top 10 most visited exhibitions.

 

The V&A also has some interesting evening talks this month including Margaret Atwood: Fashion and Fiction on Friday 13 March. Margaret Atwood is an internationally acclaimed author and also a dressmaker who has been photographed by Vogue. Atwood has always attributed great significance to dress in her novels, including The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Blind Assassin. In this talk she discusses her lifelong passion for clothes with broadcast journalist Rosie Goldsmith.

On Friday 20 March Yinka Shonibare MBE reflects on his work and talks about his studio project space. Yinka Shonibare is one of Britain’s most well-known contemporary artists whose work ranges from film and photography to sculpture and major installations, such as his ship in a bottle commission in Trafalgar Square in 2010-12. In this talk he discusses his early paintings, his use of costume, photography and performance, and his most recent series of public sculptures.

 

Over at the Natural History Museum, Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea opens on 27 March (and runs until 13 September 2015).

© Natural History Museum, London

© Natural History Museum, London

Coral reefs grow in the shallow waters of the tropics and are home to almost a quarter of all living species in the sea. While they only make up around 0.1% of the Earth’s surface more than 500 million people depend on coral reefs for their livelihood.

The exhibition includes a live reef, a virtual dive and more than 200 specimens such as corals, fish and fossils allowing us to explore the richness of life on these busy, bustling cities of the sea.

 

Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden opens at The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace on 20 March (and runs until 11 October 2015).

Studio of Marco Ricci, A View of the Cascade, Bushey Park Water Gardens, c.1715  Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014.

Studio of Marco Ricci, A View of the Cascade, Bushey Park Water Gardens, c.1715
Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014.

Whether a sacred sanctuary, a place for scientific study, a haven for the solitary thinker or a space for pure enjoyment and delight, gardens are where mankind and nature meet. This exhibition explores the many ways in which the garden has been celebrated in art through over 150 paintings, drawings, books, manuscripts and decorative arts from the Royal Collection, including some of the earliest and rarest surviving records of gardens and plants. The enduring appeal for artists from the 16th to the early 20th century, includes work by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Carl Fabergé.

 

For a more light-hearted day out the St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is on Sunday 15 March. The Parade leaves Green Park and heads off along Piccadilly at midday and travels to Trafalgar Square for fun all afternoon with live Irish music, plenty of Guinness and lots of smiles.

 

It’s also Mother’s Day in the UK on Sunday 15 March so you might want to think about booking afternoon tea and the Kensington Palace Orangery is very special, as well as well-priced.

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery. © Laura Porter

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery. © Laura Porter

 

If you are looking to buy something special in London The BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair is on from 18 to 24 March at The Duke of York Square in Chelsea, SW3. Nearly 100 art and antique dealers exhibit at this fair making it wonderful to see even if you are not thinking about purchasing.

 

And my last recommendation is Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy at the British Library which opens on Friday 13 March (and runs until 1 September 2015). The British Library is the custodian of two original Magna Carta manuscripts and this year marks the 800th anniversary of this charter.

King John hunting,[Miniature only] King John hunting a stag with hounds. Originally published/produced in England; 14th century. © British Library

King John hunting,[Miniature only] King John hunting a stag with hounds.
Originally published/produced in England; 14th century. © British Library

When granted by King John in 1215, Magna Carta was a practical solution to a political crisis, but in the centuries since it has become a potent symbol of liberty and the rule of law. This exhibition takes us on a journey from its medieval origins to the modern uses of Magna Carta.

Also on display will be Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten text of the Declaration of Independence, an original copy of the US Bill of Rights, together with other key documents and artifacts.

 

Clocks Change

Don’t forget, the clocks go forward one hour in the UK (and across Europe) to move to British Summer Time (BST) at 1am on the last Sunday in March so this year the date is Sunday 29 March.

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

 

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the March 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Easter is 3-6 April this year and there will be lots of celebrations – mostly involving eating copious amounts of chocolate.

At Hampton Court Palace they are starting the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the palace with impressive evening parties on 3, 4 and 5 April. Over the Easter weekend you can see a state of the art 3D film projection onto the Palace’s south facade that will take a kaleidoscopic journey through the building’s history, re-modelling and life of the palace in four ‘movements’. The Palace will be dressed for a celebration, with carriages from different eras parked outside the famous Tudor gatehouse.

On 27 AprilWhat is Luxury? opens at the V&A presenting exceptional examples of contemporary design and craftsmanship alongside conceptual projects. From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, over 100 objects will address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.

Sensational Butterflies opens at the Natural History Museum’s East Lawn on 2 April. Visitors can walk among hundreds of free-flying butterflies at this family-friendly exhibition.

And on 2 May a new gallery opens at the V&A: Europe 1600-1800. Seven galleries are being transformed for the redisplay of the Museum’s unrivalled collection of 17th- and 18th century European art and design.

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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 the About.com London Travel site 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.