Oct 052017
 

Winter Wonderland

The UK’s ultimate Christmas destination returns to Hyde Park for its 11th year on 17 November. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland has free entry and stays for 6 weeks.

There’s the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink and The Magical Ice Kingdom has a ‘Deep Sea Adventure’ theme made completely from snow and ice. The Imperial Ice Stars present Cinderella on Ice and there’s Bar Ice for a cool drink too.

Zippos Circus has daytime shows boasting incredible acrobatic displays and mind-blowing illusion. And the Cirque Berserk evening performances showcase jaw-dropping aerial stunts, contortion, spectacular trapeze and a must-see finale.

Take it easy and admire the view from the iconic Giant Observation Wheel, get some gift shopping done at the Angels Christmas market featuring over 150 chalets and go wild on some rides – including the world’s largest transportable roller coaster, the Munich Looping. Then enjoy food and drink at the Bavarian Village along with free entertainment.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Ghost Tours

A royal palace steeped in history is always a fun place to explore after dark. Hampton Court Palace has Ghost Tours on 5, 12 and 19 November (and a family Ghost Tour on 5 November too).

Attendees will hear chilling tales such as the Tudor royal nurse whose spirit is said to stalk her former apartments, or the mysterious figure ‘Skeletor’ caught on CCTV in the palace in the dead of night.

The tours are nearly two hours long and you’ll even discover Hampton Court’s own species of spider!

ghosts

Cézanne Portraits

If you have any doubts around Cezanne’s genius, simply visit the permanent collection at The Courtauld Gallery and gaze upon his landscapes. In a different take on the impressionist master, the National Portrait Gallery has a new exhibition with over 50 portraits, including works never before seen in the UK. Cézanne Portraits opened on 26 October and runs until 11 February.

Cézanne is widely understood to be one of the most influential artists of the nineteenth century. Generally categorised as a Post-Impressionist, his unique method of building form with colour, and his analytical approach to nature, influenced the art of Cubists, Fauvists, and successive generations of avant-garde artists. Both Matisse and Picasso called Cézanne ‘the father of us all.’

Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair

Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair, 1888-90 by Paul Cézanne.
Copyright: Wilson L. Mead Fund, 1948.54, The Art Institute of Chicago

Lake Keitele

Around the corner at the National Gallery is a free display called Lake Keitele: A Vision of Finland. A leading figure in modern Finnish painting, Akseli Gallen-Kallela was mesmerised by the beauty of the Finnish landscape and returned to Lake Keitele, north of Helsinki, throughout his career.

Open from 15 November 2017 (and on until 4 February 2018), this exhibition reunites all four of the artist’s depictions of the lake, displaying them side by side in the order he painted them; demonstrating the gradual shift of the composition from an observed, naturalistic landscape towards a highly stylised and abstracted image.

Alongside the Lake Keitele paintings are more than a dozen works from international avant-gardes who Gallen-Kallela was in contact with during much of his working life, on loan from public and private Finnish collections.

Lake Keitele

Ferrari: Under The Skin

As I mentioned last month, the Design Museum has a major exhibition opening on 15 November. Ferrari: Under the Skin reveals the fascinating history of the brand and celebrates 70 years of precision design, from the launch of the first Ferrari car to the latest car production.

The exhibition pays tribute to Enzo Ferrari and his passion for racing which ultimately gave rise to the brand. The son of a manufacturer in Modena, he became a racing driver in 1919 and competed for Alfa Romeo. In 1947, Enzo Ferrari launched his own car – a new, complex 12-cylinder engine designed entirely with performance in mind – a bold move in post-war Italy. His cars soon started to win races and attract a clientele of wealthy and famous patrons, which in turn built the reputation for the brand.

This ambitious display brings together early design models, drawings, letters and memorabilia as well as some of the most famous Ferraris to be seen on roads and racing circuits around the world. Together, these artefacts and original documents provide an unprecedented study of automotive design.

Ferrari 166-195 Sport Coupé MM Figurino a colori 13

Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile

Open from 2 November, Impressionists in London French Artists in Exile at Tate Britain focuses on the French artists who sought refuge in London during and after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71).

This is the first large-scale exhibition to map the connections between French and British artists, patrons and art dealers during this traumatic period in French history. The exhibition examines the historical and political context that forced French artists into exile and looks at their engagement with British culture and society as outsiders.

James Tissot and the sculptors Jules Dalou and Edouard Lantéri were among the artists who had a career in Britain. Others, including Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, returned to France after a few months, coming back to England on later occasions to engage with British motifs in more auspicious circumstances.

The exhibition looks at French painters’ keen observations of British culture and social life, which were notably different to the café culture found in Paris. Evocative depictions of figures enjoying London parks such as Pissarro’s Kew Green (1892), that were in stark contrast to formal French gardens where walking on the grass was prohibited. Scenes of regattas fringed with bunting as painted by Alfred Sisley and James Tissot in The Ball on Shipboard (c.1874) is also on display, demonstrating how British social codes and traditions captured the imagination of the Impressionists at the time.

Houses of Parliament, Sunlight Effect

Venus in Fur

David Oakes and Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer stars in this sexually charged West End production of Venus In Fur at Theatre Royal Haymarket. On until 9 December, this is the West End premiere of David Ives’ critically acclaimed Broadway smash hit.

Based on the 1870 novel Venus In Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who inspired the term “masochism”, the play is an intoxicating comedy about desire, fantasy… and an innate love of fur.

When an enigmatic actress called Vanda Jordan turns up unannounced for an audition with director Thomas Novachek, she appears to be absolutely determined to win the leading role in their new play, despite being totally wrong for the part. But it’s when she meets the director in a downtown bar that she really begins to push her case.

Venus in Fur - London

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

If you’re looking for something fun to bring in 2018 the New Year’s Eve: Under the Sea event at the Natural History Museum looks good. Inspired by the arrival of Hope, the blue whale in the newly redeveloped Hintze Hall, you can explore the dinosaurs gallery, tear up the dance floor at the silent disco, try your luck at Musical Bingo or sing along with the crowd for Massaoke (mass-karaoke) before counting down to midnight.

For the first time ever, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Albert Hall present The Nutcracker this Christmas, using state-of-the-art technology to conjure a vivid and magical winter wonderland. This new version of the universally-acclaimed, quintessential Christmas ballet, suitable for all the family, is on from 28 to 31 December 2017.

Winnie The Pooh – Exploring A Classic opens at the V&A on 9 December 2017. See the manuscripts, drawings, letters and photographs that contributed to the creation of this world-famous children’s character. Designed for both children and adults, visitors will be led on a multi-sensory journey to rediscover these classic books.

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

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Aug 172017
 

Kew Gardens

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

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

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

Kew Gardens - Kew The Movies

© RBG Kew

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

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

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

Vintage Summer Steam

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

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

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

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

Vintage Summer Steam

Scythians

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

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

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

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

Scythian rider

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

Drawn in Colour

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

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

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

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

Degas - Ballet Dancers

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

BBC Proms in the Park

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

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

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

Proms In The Park

© Neil Rickard

Jasper Johns

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

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

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

Jasper Johns, Target, 1961.

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

Rachel Whiteread

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

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

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

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

Rachel Whiteread House 1993

Rachel Whiteread House 1993
Photo: Sue Omerod © Rachel Whiteread

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

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

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jul 132017
 

Clarence House

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

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

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

Clarence House

Parliament

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

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

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

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

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

Natural History Museum

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

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

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

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

Humpback whale

© Kerstin Meyer, Getty Images

Wizarding Wardrobes

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

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

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

Wizarding Wardrobes - Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Outdoor Cinema

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

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

Bridget Jones's Baby

Matisse in The Studio

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

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

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

Henri Matisse, The Moorish Screen, 1921.

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

Great British Beer Festival

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

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

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

Clinking beer glasses

Serpentine Boats

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

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

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

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

Solar Shuttle - Serpentine, Hyde Park

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

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

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jun 152017
 

Trafalgar Square Opera

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

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

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

BP Big Screen in Trafalgar Square

Tudor Joust

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

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

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

Tudor Jousting

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

Real Tennis Champions Trophy

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

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

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

The Royal Tennis Court, Hampton Court Palace

copy; Historic Royal Palaces

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

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

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

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

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

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

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

© Adam Davies/RHS

Breathing Colour

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

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

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

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

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius - Design Museum

Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius © Roel van Tour

British Summer Time Open House

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

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

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

BST Hyde Park Open House poster

The Encounter

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

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

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

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

Old Woman Wearing a Ruff and Cap,

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

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

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann

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

Enlightened Princesses

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

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

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

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

Children of George III and Queen Charlotte, Royal Collection Trust

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

Summer Exhibition

Almost 250 years ago, the RA’s founding members agreed to hold an “Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Designs … open to all Artists”, to help finance the training of young artists in the Royal Academy Schools.

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

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

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

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

Eileen Cooper - Till the Morning Comes

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

BBC Proms

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Albert Hall

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

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

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Mar 112017
 

Jurassic Kingdom

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

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

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

Jurassic Kingdom

Secrets of the Underground Open Weekend

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

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

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

London Transport Museum Depot

National Army Museum

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

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

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

National Army Museum

Queer British Art

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

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

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

Bathing 1911 by Duncan Grant 1885-1978

Bathing 1911 Duncan Grant 1885-1978 Purchased 1931 © Tate

The Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square

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

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

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

Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square

Rick Astley

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

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

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

Rick Astley

Gun Salute

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

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

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

Royal Gun Salute

Royal Gun Salute © Royal Parks

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

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

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

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.

Jun 252016
 

Chap Olympiad

What ho! The annual silliness that is The Chap Olympiad returns on Saturday 16 July to Bedford Square in Bloomsbury. It’s a day for dressing in your finery to celebrate ‘Britain’s sporting ineptitude’.

Wonderfully eccentric, the games include cucumber sandwich throwing, umbrella jousting and Martini Knockout Relay.

Entertainment is from midday to 10pm so tickets are really good value for so much fun.

Punk Weekender

Get the 27 bus from Kensington Church Street to Camden for the Roundhouse Punk Weekender on 8-10 July.

Almost 40 years on since the Ramones played their seminal gig at the Roundhouse, the legendary Camden venue explores the subculture’s continued legacy and future with three days of live shows, film and panel discussions, inspired by the theme of ‘what has punk ever done for us?’.

The Roundhouse Punk Weekender includes Youth Man, who head up a bill of ten incredible emerging punk bands, alongside Phill Jupitus and Linton Kwesi Johnson performing punk poetry, plus a documentary-in-progress screening of new interviews with pioneering women who played in punk bands in the 1970s plus much more.

Roundhouse Punk Weekender

Hyde Park Events

British Summer Time Hyde Park has big name music acts such as Tate That and Stevie Wonder this month but there are also free ‘Open House’ events on 4-7 July. On these days you can access the site for free daytime and evening entertainment.

You can watch Wimbledon on the big screen or join in a free ping pong festival. You could learn to play Badminton or even try circus trapeze. There are DJs, music, and open-air movies each day too. Plus there is the Betterview platform offering amazing views of Hyde Park and London’s skyline from 100ft above the ground – again, for free!

Engineering Season

The V&A Engineering Season is on until 6 November and it includes a newly-commissioned installation by experimental architect Achim Menges with Moritz Dörstelmann, structural engineer Jan Knippers and climate engineer Thomas Auer that has been built in the John Madejski Garden.

Elytra Filament Pavilion explores the impact of emerging robotic technologies on architectural design, engineering and making. Inspired by a lightweight construction principle found in nature, the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra, the pavilion forms an undulating canopy of tightly-woven carbon fibre cells created using a novel robotic production process.

The pavilion will grow over the course of the V&A Engineering Season in response to data on structural behaviour and patterns of inhabitation of the garden that will be captured by real-time sensors in its canopy fibres.

Elytra Filament Pavilion at the V&A

Elytra Filament Pavilion at the V&A © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Wildlife Garden

As well as the Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum, there is a Wildlife Garden too. Not always noticed by visitors, it’s accessed from inside the Museum in the Orange Zone, near the Cocoon entrance.

The garden has thousands of types of British fauna and is a wonderfully calm space in a busy attraction.

NHM Wildlife Garden

© Natural History Museum, London

Garden History Tours

There are free Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Tours are one hour long and run from midday and 2pm.

The tours explain the story behind the creation of the Queen Victoria statue and reflect on the beauty of the iconic Gold Gates. The highlight of the tour is exclusive access into the Baroque-inspired Sunken Garden where you can experience a unique view of the palace unseen to most.

The Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace

© Historic Royal Palaces

Dawn of the Photograph

The Science Museum has an exhibition exploring the life and career of the father of photography. Fox Talbot – Dawn of the Photograph is an opportunity to see some of the rarest objects of British photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot’s work in photography for the first time.

The exhibition looks at the birth of photography in Britain within its industrial and social context, and his invention of the negative-positive process which formed the basis of photography around the world for over 150 years, and immortalised him as the father of the medium.

Fox Talbot Trafalgar Square

Nelson’s Column under Construction, Trafalgar Square, 1844

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

There’s an open-air cinema at Kensington Palace in August for four nights.

You can visit the Buckingham Palace State Rooms from 23 July so we’ll talk more about this next month.

And it’s the annual Notting Hill Carnival on 30 and 31 August so get ready for dancing in the streets.

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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.

May 252016
 

We’re celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday this month but that’s just one of the reasons for royal gun salutes in the Royal Parks.

Royal Gun Salutes

On 2 June in Hyde Park the royal gun salute is for Coronation Day, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

On 10 June in Hyde Park the royal gun salute is for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Birthday.

And on 14 June in Green Park (at 12.52pm) the royal gun salute is for the Queen’s Official Birthday.

Royal Gun Salute

Royal Gun Salute © Royal Parks

Swan Lake

For more gentile entertainment, the English National Ballet is performing Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall from 1 to 12 June, with Tchaikovsky’s memorable score played by the English National Ballet Philharmonic.

Derek Dean’s in-the-round production has 60 swans and spectacular lighting transforming the Royal Albert Hall into a magical lake.

English National Ballet Swan Lake

English National Ballet’s Swan Lake at The Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Arnaud Stephenson

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens at The Palace Theatre with preview performances from 7 June.

This is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and has been broken down into two parts – at two separate performances so it is recommended that you book for both part one and part two and watch consecutively.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus struggles with the weight of his family legacy. As past and present fuse, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Harry Potter the Play

London Festival of Architecture

From 1 to 30 June, the annual London Festival of Architecture celebrates London as a global hub of architectural experimentation, practice and debate. This year’s theme is ‘Community’ and there are walks, talks, exhibitions and open studios to encourage festival participants to comment on and propose ideas to improve the city.

skypool

The Hive

At Kew Gardens you can reconnect with nature and venture into the world of pollinators this summer as you experience the world of the honeybee come alive within Wolfgang Buttress’ award-winning, 17 metre high installation, The Hive. Conceived as the centrepiece of the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, The Hive is the first ever British Pavilion to be reused. It opens on 18 June and will remain at Kew until the end of 2017.

The Hive Kew Gardens

The Hive Kew Gardens. Photographer credit: Mark Hadden

Serpentine Pavilion

The Serpentine Architecture Programme expands for 2016, with four Summer Houses joining the Serpentine Pavilion. The Pavilion opens on 10 June and remains until 9 October 2016.

The 16th annual Pavilion, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), is described as an ‘unzipped wall’. In the daytime it has a cafe and free family activities then at night it becomes a space for the Serpentine’s Park Nights programme of works by artists, writers and musicians.

The Summer Houses are inspired by Queen Caroline’s Temple, a classical style summer house built in 1734, close to the Serpentine Gallery.

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Sunset Safari

You can visit ZSL London Zoo on Friday evenings from 3 June to 15 July 2016 for a Sunset Safari.

There are 750 species from around the world housed here and you can see more animal feeding times at night and listen to the zoo’s conservationists, scientists and keepers at a ‘Wild Talk’.

A street food festival means you won’t go hungry, and as the sun finally sets over the Zoo, there’s a peaceful acoustic guitar performance – providing an idyllic end to what promises to be an unforgettable evening.

Sunset Safari

Taste of London

Also in Regent’s Park, Taste of London is on from 15 to 19 June and is a foodie heaven restaurant festival. It’s five days of eating, drinking and entertainment.

You can sample signature small-plate dishes from over 40 of London’s best restaurants, see live demonstrations from well-known chefs, get involved with interactive masterclasses, indulge in tasting sessions and, of course, there’s plenty of gourmet shopping too.

Taste of London

Opera Holland Park

This annual summer programme is a real treat. This month there is a new production of the Italian opera La Bohème on 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 23 and 24 June.

Puccini’s masterpiece of Rodolfo and Mimi’s young love in Paris leads to heartbreak. Don’t expect a dry eye in the audience either.

West End Live

It’s West End Live in Trafalgar Square on 18 and 19 June. This means two days of performances from London’s West End plays and musicals live on the open-air stage, and it’s free for all to see.

It does get busy though so when the full line-up is announced make sure you arrive early to get a good view.

West End Live

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

It’s the famous Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships from 27 June to 10 July. You could join the long queues each day for tickets or know that there are many bars in town showing the tennis so you could sip a Pimm’s in comfort. And don’t forget the strawberries and cream!

The Science Museum is set to explore the invisible revolution of big data when Our Lives in Data opens on 15 July 2016.

Also free at the Science Museum, Beyond the Lab opens on 7 July to look at how members of the public are playing a greater role in scientific research than ever before.

The Natural History Museum has Colour and Vision opening on 15 July. The exhibition tells the evolution of vision and the symbolic importance of colour in the natural world. It includes an iridescent light installation by British artist Liz West on site.

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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.

Mar 252015
 

I hope you remembered the clocks changed in the UK on Sunday 29 March (I reminded you last month) so we’re on British Summer Time. And as Easter arrives at the start of this month we can start thinking about being outside more.

Hampton Court Palace is the place to be the for Easter weekend (3-5 April) as it’s the 500th anniversary. The Palace will open for the three evenings for after hours festivities including pop up bars and live performances of period music. The evening will culminate in a dazzling 25 minute 3D projection onto the Palace’s south façade taking visitors on a kaleidoscopic journey through Hampton Court’s 500 year history. This truly unique event finishes with a spectacular firework display.

Hampton Court Palace

 

Another great excuse to get out and about this month is Shaun in the City: a ewe-nique art trail to find the sculptures of Shaun the Sheep created by artists, celebrities and designers. The sculptures will be auctioned in the summer for charity but the trails are on the website and are free.

shaun

 

As ever, the V&A is spoiling us this month with two new free exhibitions. All of This Belongs To You (14 April to 19 July) looks at the role of public institutions in contemporary life and what it means to be responsible for a national collection.

James Bridle: Five Eyes Image courtesy of V&A

James Bridle: Five Eyes Image courtesy of V&A

What is Luxury? (25 April to 27 September) is a collaboration with the Crafts Council to interrogate ideas of luxury today. It will address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity, before exploring the future of luxury design.

Combs, Hair Highway, Studio Swine, 2014

Combs, Hair Highway, Studio Swine, 2014

The V&A also has many interesting evening talks and events. One that stood out to me this month is Michael Eavis: Glastonbury on Tuesday 21 April. The farmer and founder of the legendary festival will discuss music, politics and the festival history as The V&A has recently acquired the Glastonbury archives which will grow with each new festival.

 

If you take a walk in Hyde Park this month be prepared for it to be noisy on 21 April as we celebrate the Queen’s Birthday with a gun salute at 12pm and another at the Tower of London at 1pm.

Credit: Richard Lea-Hair / Historic Royal Palaces

Credit: Richard Lea-Hair / Historic Royal Palaces

 

Another annual treat is the Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square to celebrate the patron saint of England. This year the fun is on Saturday 25 April, 12-6pm, and everyone is welcome. There’s traditional English food including an English farmers’ market and live demos from leading chefs, plus family activities, music and more.

 

There’s a great weekend planned for 25-26 April at the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton, west London, where you can see treasures from London’s transport past and present. Visitors can take a trip on a moving miniature railway and a heritage bus, hear expert talks and see rare film screenings too. Plus, there’s lots for sale that I can never resist.

LT Depot

 

Back in South Kensington, the Natural History Museum’s Sensational Butterflies (2 April to 13 September) is a tropical butterfly house on the East Lawn where you can walk among hundreds of free-flying butterflies and learn about the science behind these delicate creatures.

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

The V&A has even more to offer in May with a new gallery: Europe 1600-1800. This is actually seven galleries transformed to redisplay the Museum’s unrivalled collection of 17th- and 18th century European art and design.

The V&A also has Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 opening in May, tracing the development of the fashionable white wedding dress and its interpretation by leading couturiers and designers. And continuing the fashion theme, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is opening in June to look at the extremes of footwear from around the globe.

And bring your walking shoes for Walk London’s Spring into Summer free led walks on 30 and 31 May.

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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.