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.

Dec 182016
 

Hogwarts in the Snow

While you aren’t guaranteed snow in London during the winter you can see some magical snow at the Warner Bros Studio Tour. This is where the Harry Potter movies were filmed and Hogwarts in the Snow is the annual event where the rooms are decorated for Christmas, and the huge Hogwarts castle model is covered in snow.

On until 29 January 2017, you can see the Great Hall tables laid for a festive feast, and real Christmas cards the children in the films made and sent to each other. And when you head outside to see the triple decker Knight bus it really snows!

I’ve visited this winter and loved it. You must book in advance as there’s always limited availability.

Hogwarts in the Snow

© Warner Bros Studio Tour

London Art Fair

The 29th London Art Fair marks the beginning of the art world year, featuring museum-quality Modern British art alongside contemporary work from today’s leading artists. It’s on from 18 to 22 January 2017 at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

The contemporary artworks cover the period from the early 20th century to the present day, and the Fair features over one hundred carefully selected galleries from the UK and overseas.

Emerging artists are also featured alongside contemporary photography. The Fair is great for collectors but also for art enthusiasts as there is a programme of talks and interactive events running throughout the week.

London Art Fair

© London Art Fair

Amaluna

Cirque du Soleil has been wowing London audiences with jaw-dropping and daring circus shows at the Royal Albert Hall since 1996. Following the success of the 2016 premiere, Cirque du Soleil  – Amaluna is returning to the Royal Albert Hall from 12 January to 26 February 2017.

The show is over 2 hours long and tells the tale of castaway romance and the obstacles that true love presents, filled with spectacular performances.

The production is a celebration of love and a tribute to the work and voice of women, with female performers making up the band and the majority of the cast.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil

Flaming June

Leighton House Museum has the Flaming June: The Making of an Icon exhibition on until 2 April 2017. This stunning painting has returned to the artist’s home for this short visit from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico.

Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896), was one of the pre-eminent artists of his day. President of the Royal Academy from 1878 to 1896, he achieved great fame and influence as a figurehead for art in late Victorian society.

You can stand in Leighton’s studio where the painting was created and see further works submitted by Leighton to the Academy in 1895.

Leighton was already unwell with the heart condition that would kill him at the time he made this last Academy submission. The assembled pictures represent his last statement as an artist and allow a reappraisal of his achievements.

Flaming June Frederic Leighton, 1895 ©Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

Flaming June Frederic Leighton, 1895 ©Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

The Kite Runner

Based on Khaled Hosseini’s international best-selling novel, The Kite Runner is on at Wyndham’s Theatre until 11 March 2017.

It’s a beautiful afternoon in Kabul and everybody is enjoying a kite flying tournament. But when a terrible incident takes place two childhood friends are torn apart and Afghanistan plunges into of war.

This stage production tells the powerful story of a friendship which spans cultures and continents, and allows one man to confront his past and find redemption.

The Kite Runner

La Traviata

Joyce El-Khoury, Ekaterina Bakanova and Corinne Winters lead three excellent casts in Richard Eyre’s much-loved production of Verdi’s most famous opera. La Traviata is on at the Royal Opera House from 16 January to 1 February 2017.

Richard Eyre’s classic production conveys the indulgent social whirl of 19th-century Paris, and provides a vivid setting for Verdi’s emotional score. The role of courtesan Violetta (the ‘fallen woman’ of the title) is one of Verdi’s most complex and enduring characters – and one of his most beloved.

The basic story is: Alfredo and Violetta fall in love, but Alfredo’s father, Giorgio, disapproves. Giorgio convinces Violetta to leave Alfredo, yet he doesn’t know that Violetta is very ill. Alfredo is distraught and doesn’t understand why she’s left him, but on her deathbed Giorgio tells Alfredo what he did and Alfredo can be with Violetta as she dies.

La Traviata

Venera Gimadieva and Saimir Pirgu in La traviata © ROH 2016. Photo by Tristram Kenton

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is on 28 January but in London we have the celebrations on Sunday 29 January 2017 from 10am to 6pm. The dragon and lions parade is the biggest in Europe and there’s entertainment in Trafalgar Square all afternoon.

Plus, as I mentioned last month, there is a Magical Lantern Festival on in Chiswick to celebrate Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster too.

Chinese New Year London

Winter Wanders

I also mentioned last month, the Winter Wanders are happening on 28 and 29 January 2017.

These are free guided walks across London which give you a wonderful reason to get out and enjoy the city. Some walks are just an hour and some take all day. The guides do an excellent job in making urban exploration enjoyable.

Winter Wanders

© Walk London

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Opening on 24 February 2017, Diana: Her Fashion Story traces the evolution of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances, to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life. Twenty years on from her death, this new exhibition and temporary garden celebrating her life will be opened at Kensington Palace, her home for over 15 years.

The world’s most extensive retrospective of the work of David Hockney opens at Tate Britain on 9 February offering an unprecedented overview of the artist’s work to date. As the artist approaches his 80th birthday, this exhibition will celebrate his achievement across painting, drawing, print, photography and video.

Robots opens at the Science Museum on 8 February and features a unique collection of over 100 robots. From a 16th-century mechanical monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research labs, this exhibition enables visitors to discover the cultural, historical and technological context of humanoid robots.

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

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

Dec 272015
 

Happy new Year! Don’t worry if you think London may be cold this month as we’ve got lots of indoor ideas to keep you warm and happy.

Hogwarts in the Snow

We don’t often get snow in London so if you want to be guaranteed to see some this month I recommend going to the Warner Bros Studio Tour to see Hogwarts in the Snow which is on until the end of January. The filming location for the Harry Potter movies is transformed for the winter with the most iconic sets decorated for festive scenes.

The Hogwarts castle model is covered in hand-sprinkled snow, this time made from a combination of granulated paper and grains of salt – chosen because it clumps like real snowflakes and catches the light like ice. Visitors are able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light.

Hogwarts in the snow
 

La Traviata

The Royal Opera House has La Traviata on from 16 January until 19 March 2016.

Verdi’s tragic opera of a Parisian courtesan who sacrifices all for love is vividly told in Richard Eyre’s production, with three world-class casts led by Venera Gimadieva, Maria Agresta and Nicole Cabell.

The Royal Opera House is a beautiful venue and is Britain’s leading opera house. It’s a large venue, with over 2,000 seats, but is designed so that wherever you sit you get an unobstructed view and excellent acoustics too.

Do go early so you can stop at The Amphitheatre Bar, inside the Royal Opera House, as it has views over the stunning Victorian Floral Hall – now used for afternoon tea but was used to sell exotic flowers when Covent Garden was a flower market. Or, if it’s warm enough, you could sit out on the terrace overlooking Covent Garden Piazza which is excellent for people watching.

La Traviata

© Catherine Ashmore, courtesy of Royal Opera House


 

Eddie Izzard

Nearly three years after launching his epic circumnavigation of the globe, Eddie Izzard – comedian, actor, marathon runner and sometime escapologist – will celebrate his unofficial comedy world record of performing in 28 countries (and in four languages) – from Moscow to the Hollywood Bowl – when he heads back home for a four week residency at The Palace Theatre. Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure Reloaded is at The Palace Theatre from 18 January to 13 February 2016.

Eddie Izzard
 

Goodnight Mr Tim

It’s the 35th anniversary of Michelle Magorian’s wonderfully uplifting tale and it is brought to life in this excellent stage adaptation. Goodnight Mister Tom is at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 20 February 2016.

Set during the dangerous build up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mister Tom follows young William Beech, who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and forges a remarkable and heart-warming friendship with the elderly recluse, Tom Oakley, played by David Troughton. All is perfect until William is suddenly summoned by his mother back to London.

Goodnight Mister Tom

Cirque Du Soleil

The Royal Albert Hall has a treat to offer with the brand new Cirque du Soleil show Amaluna which opens on Saturday 16 January (and runs until Sunday 6 March 2016).

Cirque du Soleil has been wowing London audiences with jaw-dropping and daring circus shows at the Royal Albert Hall since 1996. For their 20th year, the production is Amaluna and it has never before been seen in the UK. It’s a celebration of love and a tribute to the work and voice of women, with female performers making up the majority of the cast, and all eight members of the band also women.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil
 

Celts

Celts: Art and Identity at The British Museum closes at the end of this month. This is the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity from 2,500 years ago to today.

There are Iron Age objects on display from London and from across Europe that explore contemporary Celtic influences. A Liberty tea set and even a modern football shirt tell a constantly evolving British and Irish story.

 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

The original cast of the West End’s hit comedy The Play That Goes Wrong are back this winter in J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. Peter Pan Goes Wrong is on until 31 January 2016. It’s a lot of fun to see the members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society battle against technical hitches, flying mishaps and cast disputes.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

 

Even More

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

 

LOOKING AHEAD

The National Portrait Gallery has a major exhibition celebrating 100 years of cutting-edge fashion, beauty and portrait photography opening in February 2016. Vogue 100: A Century of Style showcases the remarkable range of photography that has been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916, with over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections being brought together for the first time to tell the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.

On for one month, from 6 February 2016, is the Orchid Festival 2016 – A Carnival of Tropical Colour at Kew Gardens in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

I’m a big fan of Zippos Circus and they are bringing their Cirque Berserk! theatre show to The Peacock Theatre from 8 to 24 February.

And the Science Museum’s next major exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius opens on 10 February 2016.

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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 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.