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.

————————————————————————————————

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.

————————————————————————————————

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 252016
 

The last month of winter can mean a few sprinkles of snow in London but nothing to stop you from enjoying the city. Here are some of the best things to do to enjoy February in London.

Magical Lantern Festival

Light festivals are proving to be incredibly popular in London and this one looks like a ‘must see’. From 3 February to 6 March, Chiswick House Gardens has more than 50 giant illuminated creations including a 10m-high recreation of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven and an 8m Imperial Palace, plus a lit-up life-size London bus and a phone box lantern.

You can also see life-sized flamingos, zebras, kangaroos and elephants nestled among the trees — a nod to the history of Chiswick House Garden, where former owner, the sixth Duke of Devonshire, kept these exotic beasts in its expansive gardens.

The event runs in the evening from 5pm to 8.45pm. The Magical Lantern Festival marks Chinese New Year, the year of the monkey.

magical lantern festival

Chinese New Year

We’re welcoming the Year of the Monkey with Chinese New Year celebrations in London on Sunday 14 February. The parade starts at 10.15am and goes from Trafalgar Square to nearby Chinatown with ten lion teams performing along the short route. There are displays in Trafalgar Square and Chinatown for the rest of the day.

Cirque Berserk

To see some “Wowzer, how do they do that?!” performances you need to see Cirque Berserk at The Peacock Theatre from 8 to 24 February. This is real circus made for theatre and includes the world’s most dangerous circus act – the legendary motorcycle ‘Globe of Terror’. That’s up to four motorcyclists inside a metal sphere cage riding at up to 60mph!

Cirque Berserk

Monet to Matisse

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is at Royal Academy of Arts from 30 January to 20 April. It’s not just the two great painters mentioned in the title who are feature in this exhibition though. This landmark exhibition examines the role gardens played in the evolution of art from the early 1860s through to the 1920s. Expect to see works by Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Klimt, Van Gogh and more.

Monet Waterlillies

Claude Monet, 1914-1915, oil on canvas, Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund. Photo (c) Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon

Pre-Raphaelites on Paper

Moving from painting to drawing, at the stunning Leighton House in Kensington, Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection opens on 12 February (and runs until 29 May 2016).

Illustrating the broad evolution of draughtsmanship and the new appreciation for the art of drawing that emerged during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901, the selection of artworks ranges from preparatory sketches to highly finished drawings intended as works of art in themselves.

Highlights are the works of the foremost Pre-Raphaelite artists, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as exceptional drawings by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Simeon Solomon, George Frederic Watts, and Frederic Leighton himself.

Dickensian

Here’s another good reason to visit the Charles Dickens Museum. From 19 January to 17 April 2016, the new BBC Drama series Dickensian has brought behind the scenes costumes and props to the most Dickensian house in London. As you enter each room there will be additions from the TV series helping to build the atmosphere and to get to know the characters.

More reasons to visit this month include The Housemaid’s Tour on Sunday 21 February, and The Museum by Candlelight on Wednesday 24 February.

Dickensian

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art

From 17 February to 22 May 2016, The National Gallery has Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art.

Described as the last painter of the Grand Style and the first of the modern masters, Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) was the pre-eminent French artist of the first half of the 19th century – complex, contradictory, a rebel, and an outsider. Few artists had more of a profound and lasting influence on his contemporaries and future generations.

This exhibitions looks not only at Delacroix’s fantastic Romantic masterpieces but also how his work influenced the Impressionists and beyond.

Olive Trees Vincent Van Gogh

Olive Trees, Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

Vogue 100: A Century of Style

It’s the centenary of Vogue magazine and this exhibition showcases the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916. Vogue 100: A Century of Style is at the National Portrait Gallery from 11 February to 22 May 2016.

There are over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections on display to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.

 

Also, available to see this month at the National Portrait Gallery is a major display of personal items, original manuscripts and works of art to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre. The display opens on 22 February and runs until 14 August 2016. It explores the author’s life, creative development and professional success.

Fashion Rules: Restyled

From 11 February, the Fashion Rules exhibition at Kensington Palace reopens with a new focus on different periods in the wardrobes of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, expanding our glimpse into the era-defining style choices of these three royal women.

From the ‘New Look’ glamour of Princess Margaret in the 1950s, the elegance of HM The Queen in the 1960s and 1970s, and the tailored drama of outfits created for Diana, Princess of Wales in the early 1990s, the display continues to explore how these women navigated the fashion ‘rules’ defined by their royal duties in unique style.

Fashion Rules, Kensington Palace

Another reason to visit Kensington Palace this month is for the Victoriana: Science and Séance event on 13 February. You can find out how science, religion, fanaticism and the supernatural co-existed and what this meant for morality, beliefs and culture in Victorian society. Tickets includes a glass of Bucks Fizz and entry to Kensington Palace.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Easter is slightly earlier this year so we’re being celebrating in March (Easter Sunday is 27 March 2016).

It’s the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon on 20 March that includes road routes and Thames river paths.

And Kew Palace reopens at Kew Gardens on 24 March where you can see The Royal Kitchens and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage too.

————————————————————————————————

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 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.