Nov 092017
 

Royal Albert Hall

For the first time ever, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Albert Hall present The Nutcracker using state-of-the-art technology to conjure a vivid and magical winter wonderland.

The Royal Albert Hall’s specially-adapted version blends the best of the old and the new. The innovative production uses 75kg of artificial snow for a magical transformation scene, along with ground-breaking new projections from the award-winning 59 Productions (An American in Paris, National Theatre’s War Horse, London 2012’s opening ceremony).

There are seven performances of this new version of the universally-acclaimed, quintessential Christmas ballet, suitable for all the family, from 28 to 31 December 2017.

Royal Albert Hall - Nutcracker

 

Also on this month, rock legend Robert Plant returns for his first Royal Albert Hall show in four years. The electrifying former Led Zeppelin vocalist, now an accomplished solo performer, is performing songs from his latest album, Carry Fire, along with hits and rarities, at his one-off Hall date on Friday 8 December.

Special guests include Lakeman, Albanian cellist Redi Hasa, and Chrissie Hynde, who duets with Plant on Bluebirds Over The Mountain, written by rockabilly legend Ersel Hickey and later recorded by both Richie Valens and The Beach Boys.

And Christmas with Katherine Jenkins on 18 December is a wonderful way to get that festive feeling.

Chiswick House

The landscaped grounds of Chickwick House are again host to a Magical Lantern Festival. On from 24 November 2017 to 1 January 2018, this year has a Christmas theme. There are life-size and larger-than-life lanterns from ‘Santa and his reindeers’ to a large-scale recreation of an ‘Ancient City from the Song Dynasty’.

As well as the lantern trail, there’s plenty of food and drink and a Santa’s Grotto if you need to check if you’re on the naughty or nice list.

Magical Lantern Festival - Chiswick House

Queen’s Gallery

The Queen’s Gallery’s new exhibition is Charles ll: Art and Power on from 8 December 2017 to 13 May 2018. It looks at the resurgence of art, under Charles’s patronage after the austere Cromwellian era.

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the court of Charles II became the centre for the patronage of leading artists and the collecting of great works of art. This served not only as decoration for the royal apartments but also as a means of glorifying the restored monarchy and reinforcing the position of Charles II as the rightful king.

The exhibition shows the rich material world of Charles II’s court and the role of the arts in the re-establishment of the Stuart monarchy.

John Michael Wright, Charles II, c.1676

John Michael Wright, Charles II, c.1676.
Royal Collection Trust/(c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Hyde Park

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 race.

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 100-yard 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

British Museum

Living with gods peoples, places and worlds beyond is at the British Museum from 2 November 2017 to 8 April 2018. Belief is a key aspect of human behaviour and the exhibition notes not only the mystical and sociological aspects of this but also the innate neurological and psychological triggers.

There is no known culture in the world or in history without religious beliefs. What sustains this worldwide phenomenon? The answer to this question is usually set out in terms of what people believe. By contrast, this exhibition explores the practice and expression of religious beliefs in the lives of individuals and communities around the world and through time. It also touches on the benefits and risks of these behaviours in terms of co-existence and conflict in societies such as 17th–18th-century Japan, China and the Soviet Union, as well as modern Europe.

The British Museum has taken a new, experiential and innovative approach to the design of this exhibition. It incorporates the sounds, music and silence associated with religious practice, with moments of surprise, achieved with atmospheric lighting effects.

Wonder toad. China, late 1800s –early 1900s. Homes and businesses in China often have images of the three-legged toad that has a third foot on the end of its tail. With coins placed in their mouths, they bring wealth and happiness.

Wonder toad. China, late 1800s–early 1900s. Homes and businesses in China often have images of the three-legged toad that has a third foot on the end of its tail. With coins placed in their mouths, they bring wealth and happiness.© Religionskundliche Sammlung der Universität Marburg, Germany

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is welcoming in the holiday season with a series of Christmas-themed entertainment and activities, from carolling in the courtyards to a special Elizabethan Christmas.

Visitors can take a spin on the ice at the Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink (24 November 2017 to 7 January 2018), where the palace’s Tudor facade provides a suitably magnificent backdrop to this magical riverside setting.

The BBC Good Food Show Festive Feast returns for another year on 8-10 December, setting mouths watering with over 50 stalls featuring handpicked producers, all filling the palace’s historic courtyards. Tickets are included in palace admission or choose a Festive Feast Twilight Shopping ticket for just £5 for 4-7pm access to Base Court and Clock Court only.

It won’t just be delicious treats filling the air either, with the Christmas Music Weekend (16 and 17 December) promising traditional carols and sacred hymns within the walls of the Great Hall. Performed on traditional instruments just like those used at the court of Elizabeth I, this special event offers a wonderful mix of traditions old and new.

And on 22 and 23 December (and 27 December to 1 January), visitors can also be treated to an Elizabethan Christmas, with Tudor-style courtyard entertainment, live period music and dance conjuring up the Christmas of 1592 with Elizabeth I and her court. The Tudor Queen herself will even be in residence for the celebrations.

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is also suitably dressed for the occasion this month with a Victorian Christmas theme running throughout the palace from 1 December. Complete with stunning lanterns, a gorgeous 25ft Christmas tree and a display of illuminated Victorian scenes, the Palace always looks amazing at this time of year.

On 3, 10 and 17 December there are free festive Under the Christmas Tree family activities to experience the excitement of Queen Victoria’s Christmas.

And there is live music in the Queen’s State Apartments between Christmas and New Year, filling the palace with the sound of traditional festive music.

Christmas at Kensington Palace

A view of Kensington Palace decorated for Christmas celebrations, east front. In the foreground is a marble statue of Queen Victoria at the time of her accession. The statue was commissioned by the residents of Kensington to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Installed here in 1893, the statue was sculpted by Victoria’s fourth daughter Princess Louise. © Historic Royal Palaces

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Cirque du Soleil returns to the Royal Albert Hall in the near year with its OVO show. On from 7 January to 4 March 2018, the show is a colourful carnival of crazy crickets, amazing ants and flexible fleas. Crawling with fun, this show is a non-stop riot of energy and movement featuring many of Cirque du Soleil’s mind-blowing signature acts including a stunning 14m high flying trapeze act, the biggest of its kind.

If you enjoy the Charles II exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery this month (see above), why not find out more about his father? Charles I: King and Collector is at the Royal Academy from 27 January to 15 April 2018. During his reign, Charles I (1600-1649) acquired and commissioned exceptional masterpieces from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. After he was executed in 1649, the collection was sold and dispersed across Europe. Although many works were retrieved by Charles II during the Restoration, others now form the core of collections such as the Musée du Louvre and the Museo Nacional del Prado. This exhibition reunites around 150 of the most important works for the first time since the seventeenth century, providing an unprecedented opportunity to experience the collection that changed the appreciation of art in England.

Opening on 3 February 2018, the V&A has the first ever exhibition to explore the design and cultural impact of the ocean liner on an international scale. Ocean Liners: Speed & Style explores all aspects of these mighty vessels, from the ground-breaking engineering, architecture and interiors to the fashion and lifestyle aboard.

————————————————————————————————

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

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

Oct 232016
 

Fireworks

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

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

fireworks

You Say You Want a Revolution

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

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

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

You Sat You Want a Revolution

South Africa – The Art of a Nation

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

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

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

ox-shaped-snuffbox South Africa - British Museum

Portrait of the Artist

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

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

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

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

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

Dreamgirls

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

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

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

Dreamgirls

Royal Albert Hall

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

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

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

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

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall © David Iliff

Design Museum

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

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

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

Design Museum

Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line

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

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

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

British Library maps

Paul Nash

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

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

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

Paul Nash - Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935 ©Tate

Paul Nash – Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935 ©Tate

Hampton Court Palace

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

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

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

Regent Street Motor Show

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

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

Regent Street Motor Show

 

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

————————————————————————————————

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.

Apr 252016
 

May is a marvellous time to be in London as we get more blue skies and that wonderful Spring light that makes everything shine.

Vogue 100

This month is the last chance to see Vogue 100: A Century of Style at the National Portrait Gallery as it ends on 22 May 2016.

British Vogue was founded in 1916 and this exhibition showcases the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by the iconic magazine. Over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections are on display together for the first time to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.

The Beatles, by Peter Laurie, 1964.

The Beatles, by Peter Laurie, 1964. Copyright: The Condé Nast Publications Ltd


 

The V&A

There are always many good reasons to visit The V&A in South Kensington.

The latest major exhibition is Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear which opened on 16 April (and runs until 5 February 2017). It looks at the evolution of underwear design from the 18th-century to the present day, and addresses the practicalities of underwear and its role in the fashionable wardrobe whilst noting its sensual appeal.

There are over 200 examples of underwear for men and women on display, highlighting the enduring themes of innovation and luxury. From the custom-made, such as a rare example of home-made ‘stays’ worn by a working woman in England in the 18th-century, to pieces by current designers including Stella McCartney, Rigby & Peller and Paul Smith, the exhibition explores the relationship between underwear and fashion, and the notion of the ideal body.

 

Monday to Friday pants

Monday to Friday pants.
Credit: cheekfrills, 2015

 

Also at the V&A right now, Botticelli Reimagined is on until 3 July 2016. This exhibition explores the variety of ways artists and designers from the PreRaphaelites to the present have responded to the artistic legacy of Sandro Botticelli (1445- 1510).

This is the largest Botticelli exhibition in Britain since 1930, and includes around 50 original works by Botticelli from great collections across the world shown alongside more recent masterpieces of art and design including work by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, René Magritte, Elsa Schiaparelli, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.

La La Ghirlandata, Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1873. London, Guildhall Library & Art Gallery

La La Ghirlandata, Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1873. London, Guildhall Library & Art Gallery

 

The Royal Albert Hall

There’s lots of great music at the Royal Albert Hall this month.

On 20 May UK punk legends The Damned are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a special performance. True pioneers, the band are famed for being the first punk band from the UK to release a single, New Rose, in 1976, an album, Damned Damned Damned, in 1977, as well as being the first to tour the United States. This show is going to sell out.

Also this month, on 9 May, OMD are performing their classic 1980s albums Architecture and Morality and Dazzle Ships at the Royal Albert Hall – both albums to be performed in their entirety.

On 12 May, Ralph McTell, known for the iconic Streets of London, has decided to let his audience nominate the songs that will be performed on the night.

There’s some classic prog rock with Yes on 10 May, and Iggy Pop is on 13 May. Iggy Pop will have the supergroup album lineup of Josh Homme and Dean Fertita from Queens Of The Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys’ drummer Matt Helders.

The Manic Street Preachers are on 16-17 May and Josh Groban is on 18 May. What a month for good music, eh?

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall © David Iliff

 

Hampton Court Palace

To celebrate the 300th anniversary of the palace gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, a rare collection of drawings are on display for the first time. The Empress and the Gardener is on until 4 September.

The exhibition explores the famous English gardener’s surprising influence on the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great, who was passionate about all things English and created English palaces and gardens in St Petersburg.

The exhibition brings together a collection of watercolours painted by Brown’s draughtsman, John Spyers, which provide a fascinating insight into how Hampton Court Palace’s gardens looked during George III’s reign. Sold to Catherine the Great for 1,000 roubles, these evocative drawings are a remarkable record of Brown’s tenure as Chief Gardener at Hampton Court in the 18th century, and have returned to the palace for the first time since their rediscovery at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in 2002.

There are also contemporary portraits of Capability Brown and Empress Catherine on display and several pieces of the famous ‘Green Frog’ dinner service, a triumph of British design created for the Empress by Wedgwood.

If you are visiting with family the new Magic Garden also looks like a lot of fun. Both the exhibition and garden are included in palace admission.

Pic: Richard Lea-Hair Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

Pic: Richard Lea-Hair. Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk

 

Butterflies

The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace has a display of Maria Merian’s Butterflies on until 9 October 2016. This remarkable woman spent two years living in Suriname in South America, in 1699-1701, to study animals and insects, exploring the life-cycle of the insects which was relatively unknown at the time.

The exhibition tells Merian’s story through her works in the Royal Collection, acquired by George III. Over 300 years since they were made, these are some of the finest images of the natural world ever produced showing brilliant partially printed and hand painted works.

Also on display at The Queen’s Gallery is Scottish Artists 1750 – 1900: From Caledonia to the Continent and your admission covers both exhibitions.

Branch of an unidentified tree with the Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterly, 1702-03

Branch of an unidentified tree with the Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterly, 1702-03. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016


 

State Opening of Parliament

Here’s a great opportunity to see the Queen in London during her 90th birthday year. It’s the State Opening of Parliament on 18 May and you can see the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in a horse-drawn coach between Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament).

The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and, as Head of State, it is The Queen’s duty to formally open each new session of Parliament. It is the only regular occasion when the three constituent parts of Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – meet.

Watch for the Queen on The Mall and Whitehall and in Parliament Square; here’s the timetable.

We can’t go inside to watch but it is broadcast live on BBC television.

State Opening of Parliament - The Queen

State Opening of Parliament. © UK Parliament

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Reconnect with nature this summer at Kew Gardens as you experience the world of the honeybee come alive within the award-winning 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, and will be unveiled in June 2016.

It’s Open Garden Squares Weekend on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 June 2016. One tickets gets you entrance to 211 gardens and an unique opportunity to discover and explore some of London’s most fascinating squares, gardens and green spaces – most of which are not normally open to the public.

The Hampton Court Palace Festival 2016 has big name acts on from 8 to 23 June in Henry VIII’s Tudor courtyard. Confirmed acts include Tom Jones, George Benson, Van Morrison and Anastacia.

And there’s Summer Garden Nights at Hampton Court Palace on 28, 29, 30 June in the new Magic Garden as acclaimed historians, gardeners and writers explore why our imaginations are compelled by the idyllic vision of the garden.

————————————————————————————————

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.

Feb 262016
 

March means springtime and what a wonderful time to be in London. We’ve got Mothering Sunday on 6 March, St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square on Sunday 13 March and Easter celebrations at the end of the month. And yet I’ve found even more activities to recommend to you to enjoy March in London.

Women’s History Month

To celebrate Women’s History Month, the Houses of Parliament is running a series of free events in Portcullis House this month. There are talks and film screenings throughout the month as part of their Suffragette Season which also includes some special tours.

Suffragette Season at the Houses of Parliament

Hampton Court Palace

The gardens at Hampton Court Palace are going to be featured more this year. It’s Florimania on 3-6 March. This is lovely treat for the Mother’s Day weekend as flower displays, inspired by the palace gardens, are added to the State Apartments.

From 18 March, Encounters With The Past brings the palace to life with characters from the palace’s past. Do look out for Shakespeare rehearsing with his King’s Men Company.

And then at the end of the month, at Easter, an imaginative new garden for families, designed by Chelsea award winning landscape architect Robert Myers – The Magic Garden – will open in King Henry VIII’s former Tiltyard, where the elaborate spectacle of Tudor tournaments once played out. Inspired by tales from the palace’s history, this is an immersive world, populated by mythical beasts (including a 25m dragon!) It’s all about discovery and exploration, with towers to besiege, battlements to storm, and a secret grotto too.

Pond Garden, Hampton Court Palace © HRP

Pond Garden, Hampton Court Palace © HRP

Kew Palace

And yet another palace worth noting this month is Kew Palace as it reopens on 23 March after it’s winter closure. Kew Palace is at Kew Gardens so a visit can be part of a full day out.

The Palace was home to King George III and his family in the early 1800’s, and a visit makes an interesting addition to a day in the famous botanical gardens.

Credit: Nigel Iskander/HRP/newsteam.co.uk

Credit: Nigel Iskander/HRP/newsteam.co.uk

Queen’s Gallery

The new exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery opens on 18 March. Scottish Artists 1750-1900: from Caledonia to the Continent displays paintings, drawings and miniatures collected by monarchs from George III to Queen Victoria.

George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822, the first by a reigning British monarch for nearly two centuries, offered a major opportunity for royal patronage. This exhibitions tells the story of royal patronage and the importance and influence of artists whose work was shaped by the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Sir David Wilkie, The Entrance of George IV to Holyroodhouse, 1822-30

Sir David Wilkie, The Entrance of George IV to Holyroodhouse, 1822-30

Land of the Lions

Keeping that royal theme, the king of the jungle gets a new home at ZSL London Zoo this month. Land of the Lions opens on Friday 25 March (in time for the busy Easter weekend). This multi-million pound space is home to a pride of endangered Asiatic lions. As visitors enter the crumbling ruin of an amphitheatre-style Lion Temple, the majestic big cats will roam just metres away, separated only by fine wires.

London Zoo is in Regent’s Park and is easy to reach from Kensington House Hotel. Simply walk across to the other side of Kensington Gardens and you can catch the 274 bus all the way to the zoo.

Male Asiatic lion, India

Image © Raj Amin

Motown The Musical

It’s time for some excellent evening entertainment so how about Motown the Musical? Already a success on Broadway, this musical charts the story of Berry Gordy who founded the famous record label.

This will have you dancing in the aisles at the Shaftesbury Theatre!

Motown the Musical

Immortal Tango

From the best music to the best dance show in town. Immortal Tango is on at the Peacock Theatre from 1 to 19 March, Immortal Tango brings alive the glamour of vintage Hollywood in a new dance spectacular. Brimming with smouldering dance moves, sultry energy and authentic Argentinian tango. Cornejo, internationally-renowned dancer, and partner Gisela Galeassi lead an outstanding cast of world tango champions, accompanied by a live band playing the sensual rhythm of Buenos Aires.

Immortal Tango

© Gustavo Piola

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

The Tate Britain Commission 2016 is Pablo Bronstein. From 26 April to 9 October, he will create a site-specific work in response to the imposing Duveen galleries which sit at the heart of gallery.

Underwear takes centre stage at the V&A with Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear on from 16 April to 5 February 2017. This exhibition addresses the practicalities of underwear and its role in the fashionable wardrobe whilst highlighting its sensual, sexual appeal.

For family fun, Sensational Butterflies returns to the East Lawn at the Natural History Museum from 2 April to 13 September. Inside the temporary tropical butterfly house you can see caterpillars, chrysalises and many butterflies.

And the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea hosts the first international exhibition on the Rolling Stones. Exhibitionism takes over the entire two floors of the gallery from 5 April to 4 September 2016.

————————————————————————————————

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.

Feb 272015
 

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

Albert Memorial

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

© Natural History Museum, London

© Natural History Museum, London

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery. © Laura Porter

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery. © Laura Porter

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Clocks Change

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

© Laura Porter

© Laura Porter

 

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

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

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

————————————————————————————————

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.