Jan 142017
 

Russian Revolution Art

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, at the Royal Academy of Arts, looks at the revolutionary art breaking boundaries until Stalin’s clampdown in 1932.

Marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this exhibition charts the formative years of Soviet Russia through its diverse and brilliantly original art. From pioneers of abstraction such as Kandinsky and Malevich to the highly individual work of Chagall the artworks include painting, photography, sculpture, film-making and graphic design, as well as everyday objects.

The exhibitions opens on 11 February and is on until 17 April 2017.

Boris Mikailovich Kustodiev, Bolshevik, 1920
State Tretyakov Gallery. Photo (c) State Tretyakov Gallery

David Hockney

Tate Britain has a major retrospective of one of Britain’s greatest living artists. The David Hockney exhibition opens on 9 February, and is on until 29 May 2017.

It’s a comprehensive show bringing together 60 years of painting, video, sketches and photography for an unprecedented overview of the artist’s work to date.

As the artist approaches his 80th birthday, this exhibition traces the development from his prodigious appearance on the public stage as a student in 1961, through to his iconic works of the 1960s and 1970s, and on to his recent success at the Royal Academy and beyond.

David Hockney Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971

David Hockney Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971 Private Collection. © David Hockney.
Photo credit: Aart Gallery of New South Wales/Jenni Carter

The Girls

The story that inspired the film Calendar Girls is now a new British musical at the Phoenix Theatre. The Girls is Gary Barlow’s musical adaptation of the film featuring lyrics and a book by the film’s original screenwriter Tim Firth.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have been friends for 25 years. With Take That, Gary has written and co-written 14 number one singles, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a six times Ivor Novello Award winner. Tim has won the Olivier Award and UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical, and the British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Film for Calendar Girls.

The Girls is inspired by the real life story of a Yorkshire village Women’s Institute group who decide to fundraise for a local hospital, in memory of their husbands, by posing for a raunchy-but-tasteful nude calendar. Inadvertently, the group become media sensations, and the story follows the close friendships, and strained personal lives, within the group.

The show opened on 28 January and is booking until 22 April 2017.

Calendar Girls

Photo credit: John Swannell

Palace Pub Quiz

Banqueting House is having a fun and fast-paced Palace Pub Quiz on Friday 3 February, 6-9.30pm. Tables are arranged for 8 team members but if your group is smaller they’ll make sure you have a full team by linking up with others.

Banqueting Hall has the beautiful ceiling painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens so do look up while you have your knowledged tested on current affairs, sport, art, food, film, and, of course, history.

wine glass

Lockwood Kipling

This free exhibition at the V&A focuses on the father of Rudyard Kipling, the renowned author. Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London is on until 2 April and explores the life and work of Lockwood Kipling (1837–1911), an artist, teacher, curator and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Born in Yorkshire in 1837, he was inspired by a visit to the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park where he saw Indian objects that were later purchased as part of the founding collections of the V&A. In the early 1860s, Kipling joined the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was then known) producing terracotta decorative panels for the new V&A buildings. His own likeness can still be seen in a mosaic decoration overlooking the Museum’s John Madejski garden, showing a procession led by the V&A’s first director Henry Cole.

Kipling left London for India in 1865, spending ten years in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) to teach before moving to Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, as Principal of the new Mayo School of Art (today Pakistan’s National College of Arts) and curator of the adjoining museum.

During this time craft traditions were in decline and Kipling travelled to observe, collect and record these skills. Kipling’s portrait drawings of craftsmen and cotton workers are on show in this exhibition, with objects matching their activities presented alongside.

The exhibition also includes pieces relating to the Arts and Crafts movement such as a piano decorated by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones played by Lockwood Kipling’s wife, Alice Macdonald, and also a large panel that she embroidered for Red House, the home of Arts and Crafts campaigner William Morris.

The Great Exhibition, India no. 4, by Joseph Nash

The Great Exhibition, India no. 4, by Joseph Nash (1851).
Credit: Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Magical Lantern Festival

Head to Chiswick House Gardens to see the wonderful Magical Lantern Festival that opened on 19 January and is only on until 26 February 2017 (Thursday-Sunday only).

Celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Rooster, the festival has stunning, over-sized, illuminated outdoor installations around the theme ‘Explore The Silk Road’ that begins with a 15-metre wide lantern of London’s Houses of Parliament.

The entertainment area adds another dimension to the experience with an international range of food and beverage vendors, festival merchandise, a 30-metre synthetic ice-rink, 3D lantern photo opportunities, virtual reality gaming experience, Chinese bamboo lantern riddles and a mini funfair and games.

Magical Lantern Festival

© Magical Lantern Festival

Diana: Her Fashion Story

Diana: Her Fashion Story opens on 24 February at Kensington Palace, her home for over 15 years. The exhibition 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 celebrates her life bringing together an extraordinary collection of garments, ranging from the glamorous evening gowns worn on engagements in the 1980s, to the chic Catherine Walker suits that made up Diana’s ‘working wardrobe’ in the 1990s.

Exhibition highlights include the pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Diana’s engagement portrait by Lord Snowdon in 1981, and Victor Edelstein’s iconic ink blue velvet gown, famously worn at the White House when the Princess danced with John Travolta.

Whilst in residence at Kensington Palace, the Princess admired the changing floral displays in the historic Sunken Garden and would often stop to talk to the gardeners who care for it. A temporary White Garden has been planted around the Sunken Garden for spring and summer 2017.

Princess Diana and John Travolta

Eerie Evening Tours

Also at Kensington Palace, come back for one of the Eerie Evening Tours on 3, 10, 17 and 24 February.

When all the gates are locked and the lights are out, is the palace truly asleep? Explore the weird and wonderful world of Victorian spiritualism and the 19th century obsession with life after death. Be guided through the shadowy state apartments to relive the sorrow of heartbroken Kings and frustrated future Queens.

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Kew Palace is currently closed for winter so we can look forward to it reopening for spring (by the end of March) which is, of course, also a wonderful time of year to explore the spring flowers at Kew Gardens.

The American Dream: Pop to the Present opens at the British Museum in March, showcasing for the first time the museum’s outstanding collection of American prints from the 1960s through this turbulent time in the country’s history.

And book now to see David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho at the Wyndhams Theatre. Described as savagely funny and truly filthy, this play sounds like 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.

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.

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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 212016
 

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism opens at the Royal Academy on 24 September (and runs until 2 January 2017). It’s the first major exhibition of the art movement in the UK for almost 60 years. There are over 150 paintings, sculptures and photographs on display from the most acclaimed American artists of the movement including Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

Water of the Flowery Mill

Water of the Flowery Mill, 1944. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
(c) ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016
Digital image (c) 2016. The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence

Pride and Prejudice

You can see Jane Austen’s acclaimed romantic comedy, Pride and Prejudice, at The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park from 2 to 17 September. Mr and Mrs Bennet are played by the Olivier Award-winning Matthew Kelly (Of Mice and Men, Educating Rita, Waiting for Godot) and Felicity Montagu (Alan Partridge, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Durrells) so you know this is going to be good.

Pride and Prejudice

Silent Cinema

Also in Regent’s Park, there’s Silent Outdoor Cinema on at London Zoo from 6 to 10 September, in the evenings.

Aired on a huge screen in the heart of the Zoo, the cinema appears to be completely silent, with the film broadcast via FM radio headsets, which means the late night flicks won’t keep the animals up past their bedtime.

Guests will be taken on a pre-movie twilight tour around specially-chosen enclosures before settling down to see the open-air screening.

Silent Cinema London Zoo

The Libertine

For more evening entertainment, Dominic Cooper returns to the stage to play the notorious Earl of Rochester in this major revival of The Libertine, for 10 weeks only at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

On from 22 September, the Stephen Jeffreys’ play, later made into a film, tells the true story of hedonistic John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester – a charismatic poet, playwright and cad with a legendary appetite for excess. It’s a wild romp through 1670s London with plenty of wit too.

The Libertine

A Curious Turn

A Curious Turn is a new exhibition in Chelsea featuring 30 pieces of extraordinary automata. The show previews at Habitat’s Platform Gallery as part of London Design Festival before a national tour.

A Curious Turn presents automata by leading makers of the last 40 years that range from the humorous to the macabre and from the playful to the satirical. Works on show take a look at key automata makers such as Rowland Emmett, famous for creating the elaborate inventions of Caractacus Potts in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

Visitors will be able to turn, push and crank to see many of the pieces in action, while other pieces will have films to show them in motion. A Curious Turn is on display from 15 September to 2 October.

Mule Make Mule. Tim Lewis, 2010

Mule Make Mule. Tim Lewis, 2010. © Tim Lewis, Courtesy Flowers Gallery London & New York

London Design Festival at the V&A

The London Design Festival is across London from 17 to 25 September. LDF has partnered again with The V&A to bring a series of exciting installations.

Green Room is monumental and was conceived by a watchmaker. You can see it at staircase G on Level 6.

Liquid Marble can be seen in the Norfolk House Music Room, Britain 1500-1760, Room, 52b, Level 2. It’s jet black polished marble and doesn’t move but the light reflections make it feel like the sea.

And Istanbul-based architecture firm Tabanlıoğlu Architects have brought Sabahattin Ali’s classic 1943 novel Madonna in a Fur Coat to life with Beloved on the bridge over the V&A’s Medieval & Renaissance galleries.

London Design Festival at the V&A

Sunken Cities

Sunken Cities opened in May at the British Museum and is getting excellent reviews. The exhibition is on until 27 November.

Submerged under the sea for over a thousand years, two lost cities of ancient Egypt were recently rediscovered. Their story is told for the first time in this unmissable exhibitio, where deep connections between ancient Egypt and Greece are revealed.

Sunken Cities British Museum

Requiem

And for an uproarious night out this looks like a must. Three choirs come together to combine 300 voices to perform Verdi’s choral masterpiece in the majestic setting of the Royal Albert Hall. Requiem is on Saturday 24 September.

Royal Albert Hall - Verdi Requiem

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Opening on 24 October, get your air guitar ready to rock out at the School of Rock the Musical, on at the New London Theatre.

Uncover the surreal and mystical side of English landscapes through one of the most distinctive British painters. A Paul Nash exhibition opens at Tate Britain on 24 October.

And explore the influence of one of art’s most infamous and revolutionary figures when Beyond Caravaggio opens at the National Gallery on 12 October.

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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 212016
 

Open-Air Cinema at Kensington Palace

With the longer summer days, watching a movie outside in the evening is really enjoyable. The Luna Cinema returns to Kensington Palace for four nights of classic films from 2 to 5 August.

You can choose from the Spectre, The Breakfast ClubFour Weddings and a Funeral or Some Like it Hot. Tickets must be booked in advance and there’s food and drink available.

Luna Cinema

The Entertainer

Kenneth Branagh is practically taking over the Garrick Theatre for a whole year, with a series of five different plays. The fifth offering is John Osborne’s modern classic The Entertainer, opening on 20 August (and on until 12 November 2016).

Set against the backdrop of post-war Britain, the play conjures the seedy glamour of the old music halls for an explosive examination of public masks and private torment.

Rob Ashford directs Kenneth Branagh as the unforgettable Archie Rice with a cast including Phil Dunster, Jonah Hauer-King, Crispin Letts, Sophie McShera and Greta Scacchi.

Do note, John Hurt will no longer be appearing in The Entertainer following medical advice.

The Entertainer Garrick Theatre

The Proms

The 122nd BBC Proms started on 15 July and continues until 10 September. It’s an annual season of classical music made more accessible with affordable prices and an informal atmosphere.

The main venue is the wonderful Royal Albert Hall but a new feature this year is to have concerts in four other unique and unusual London settings, from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Camden Roundhouse, to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich and a large car park in Peckham, south London.

To help you get in the carnival spirit as the Rio Olympics unfold this summer there’s music from Latin America, including the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Symphony Orchestra.

BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall

© Chris Christodoulou

Notting Hill Carnival

Speaking of carnivals, Britain’s biggest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival is on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 August.

Sunday is Children’s Day which doesn’t mean it’s only for kids; it’s just a bit more family friendly on the first day. There’s still a carnival parade with lots of music and dancing.

On Monday it’s the Grand Finale Parade with 60 bands and incredible costumes. There’s also 38 sound systems on side streets from the carnival route to keep the party going.

On both days you can expect huge crowds, loud whistles, big smiles and the best jerk chicken.

Notting Hill Carnival

© VisitBritain / Jon Spaull

V&A

There’s always something marvellous at the V&A and highlights this month include a display of Beatrix Potter’s London, on from 28 July 2016 to 28 April 2017, to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter this year.

The display explores how the children’s author and illustrator was influenced by the cultural life of her birthplace. Although Potter is often associated with the sweeping landscapes of Scotland and the Lake District depicted in her illustrations, she spent most of her life at her family home at 2 Bolton Gardens in London, about 20 minutes walk from the V&A.

Potter was a frequent visitor to the South Kensington museums, including the V&A where she sketched items from the collection. This display brings together artworks, original sketches and Potter’s earliest published works to look at the inspirational role London played throughout her career.

View from 2 Bolton Gardens by Beatrix Potter

View from 2 Bolton Gardens by Beatrix Potter (1882)
© V&A with kind permission of Frederick Warne & Co

Also at the V&A, this month is the last chance to see Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York as the display ends on 31 August.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Olivier Awards this year, you can see the extraordinary range of craft and collaboration that goes into creating award-winning plays, musicals and productions in the West End of London and New York’s Broadway.

The display is an immersive theatrical experience taking visitors from the stage, to the design workshops and through the history of the awards to the red carpet. You can see costumes, designs, models, photographs, archival production material, film and awards from productions such as The Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line and Wolf Hall.

And there’s a related evening event on Friday 19 August, as Christian Holder is discussing his experience of working in both theatre industries. Holder was a leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in New York during the 1970s and later designed costumes for ballet and celebrities including Tina Turner. He is now based in London where as a child he attended the Corona Academy Stage School, acted in British television, and danced with his father’s company, Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers.

The Mechanics of Genius

More than just an artist, Leonardo da Vinci was an incredible inventor too. Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius is on at the Science Museum until 4 September.

He created a remarkable body of mechanical drawings that showed a radical approach to the challenges of flight, manufacturing and war. The exhibition includes 39 historical models of Leonardo’s inventions including flying machines, diving equipment and weapons, plus modern examples of bio-inspired robotics, aviation and materials technology.

Great British Beer Festival

The annual Great British Beer Festival is back on 9-13 August at London Olympia with over 900 tipples on offer from real ales, fruit beers and ciders, to stouts, bitters and international beers. The exhibition hall is basically one big giant pub, staffed by people who are both passionate about their beer and capable of recommending the perfect drink for connoisseurs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

It’s not a ‘get drunk quick’ event but an opportunity to try a huge variety of beers, plus it’s free entry for accompanied under 18s with a family area upstairs.

Great British Beer Festival

Houses of Parliament Tours

While the Houses of Parliament are open on Saturdays throughout the year, during the summer we can visit on weekdays too. It’s best to book ahead for Houses of Parliament tours as they are popular.

You can choose between guided tours or self-guided audio tours. Both options allow you to see the Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, plus the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and more. The tours start and end in Westminster Hall – the historic chamber which witnessed the State trials of Guy Fawkes and Charles I.

Houses of Parliament

Buckingham Palace

The summer opening of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms includes a special exhibition Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe.

Dresses worn by The Queen for two of the most significant occasions in Her Majesty’s life will be seen together for the first time ever from 23 July to 2 October 2016.

The wedding dress worn by Princess Elizabeth for her marriage to The Duke of Edinburgh on 20 November 1947, and The Queen’s Coronation dress, both designed by the great British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell (1901–1979), will be wonderful additions to a visit to this magnificent palace.

I’ve got a special tip for you too. This photo shows The White Room and the Queen can access her private rooms through here but can you see the door? It’s very well hidden as the mirror on the left, and the cabinet in front of it, can swing open to allow her retreat unobtrusively.

Buckingham Palace

© Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

You’ve got until 11 September to see the eighth year of Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum.
Follow chomping caterpillars turning into beautiful butterflies and along the way discover fascinating facts about one of our planet’s most amazing life cycles.

Opening on 10 September at the V&A, You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70 is a major exhibition examining the optimism, ideals and aspirations of the late 1960s, expressed through music, fashion, film, design and political activism, and their relevance to contemporary life.

For one night only on 25 September, Science Uncovered is your chance to discover more about the latest research, meet scientists, and enjoy a drink in the grand setting of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall.

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

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Jul 112016
 

BeFunky-Collage-Large

The 18th May marked the start of the Engineering Season at the V&A and this auspicious occasion was marked with the unveiling of the new installation, Elytra Filament Pavilion. The pavilion is the outcome of four years of ground-breaking research on the integration of architecture, engineering and biomimicry principles. The project explores how biological fibre systems can be transferred to architecture. The 200m² pavilion structure is inspired by lightweight construction principles found in nature – the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra.

Elytra Filament Pavilion is one of the highlights of the V&A’s first ever Engineering Season, which is curated by Maria Nicanor and Zofia Trafas White of the Museum’s Design, Architecture and Digital department. The season is complemented by the exhibition Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design, which opens on 18th June, as well as a series of other displays, events and digital initiatives dedicated to global engineering design. The V&A Engineering Season highlights the importance of engineering in our daily lives and considers engineers as the ‘unsung heroes’ of design, who play a vital and creative role in the creation of our built environment.

The Elytra Filament Pavilion can be seen in the John Madejski Garden at the Victoria & Albert Museum until the 6th November 2016 and – best of all – it’s free!

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

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.

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.

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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.

Apr 192016
 

BeFunky-Collage

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear is a new exhibition, which opens tomorrow 16th April at the V&A, and tells the story of underwear design from the 18th century to the present day, considering the practical and personal, sensory and fashionable and exploring underwear’s roles of protecting and enhancing the body.

On display are more than 200 examples of underwear for men and women, highlighting the enduring themes of innovation and luxury. This exhibition explores the intimate relationship between underwear and fashion and its role in moulding the body to a fashionable ideal. Underwear is sometimes controversial, sparking debates about health and hygiene, body image and stereotyping. Its cut, fit, fabric and decoration reflect changing attitudes to gender, sex and morality; shifting notions of public and private; and innovations in fabric technology and design.

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear will be held at The Victoria and Albert Museum from 16th April 2016 – 12 March 2017.  Tickets are on sale now cost £12 with concessions available. V&A Members go free. Advance booking is advised – this can be done in person at the V&A; online at www.vam.ac.uk/undressed; or by calling 0800 912 6961 (booking fee applies).

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

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Contributor: Alexandra Pinhorn – Photographs by various photographers – credits as follows: Courtesy of the Hans Schleger Estate; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove; Sebastian Faena, Model: Eniko Mihalik;© Jennie Baptise.

Nov 262015
 

There’s no need to hibernate in London in December as there’s simply too much going on. Wrap up warm and get out and enjoy the capital while it sparkles.

Kensington Palace

There’s a wonderful series of talks and debates at Kensington Palace and this month has Victoriana: Panto and Performance on Saturday 5 December at 11am-12.30pm. It’s called a ‘Brunchtime Lecture’ and tickets include a glass of bucks fizz and entry to Kensington Palace.

Kate Howard, historian and Creative Director for the UK’s oldest professional costumed historical interpretation company, Past Pleasures Ltd, will be the speaker and will bring to life tales of cross-dressing actors and backstage shenanigans in an era that brought entertainment to the masses.

The Cupola Room at Kensington Palace, London

The Cupola Room at Kensington Palace. © Historic Royal Palaces

Albert Memorial Tour

As the last blog post on here was all about the Albert Memorial I thought it would be good to highlight the Albert Memorial Tour on Sunday 6 December. The 45 minute tours start at 2pm and 3pm, and gives you access inside the memorial railings. Do note there are no tours in January or February.

Albert Memorial

© Sue Lowry

Winter Wonderland

Even though I included it last month, Winter Wonderland has so much going on it deserves another mention. It’s not just ice skating and a fun fair as there’s the popular Giant Observation Wheel and Zippos Circus too. Some people go just for the shopping and others go for the food and drink. And as it’s free entry you can visit as often as you like right up to 3 January 2016.

Winter Wonderland Ice Rink

Royal Albert Hall

I also mentioned last month, Champions Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall. From Wednesday 2 December to Sunday 6 December you can see big name players compete in this end of season finale. There’s Tim Henman, Pat Cash, John McEnroe and many more battling it out on the stage in both singles and doubles matches.

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall, © David Iliff

Plus, The London International Horse Show is back at Olympia on 15 to 21 December. Consider it an ‘equestrian Christmas party’ with big names in show jumping competing alongside the Household Cavalry, and there’s the Shetland Pony Grand National too.

The V&A

There’s always a reason to visit South Kensington’s Victoria and Albert Museum and this month sees the reopening of the Europe galleries. From 9 December we can see the final phase of the museum’s ongoing redevelopment programme to complete the restoration of the entire front wing of the Museum.

There are 1,100 objects on display across seven gallery spaces covering 17th- and 18th-century European art and design.

And another part of the V&A India Festival opened recently: Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection. This ticketed exhibition has spectacular objects from a single private collection. There’s traditional and contemporary Indian jewellery, and a look at the influence that India had on avant-garde European jewellery made by Cartier and other leading houses. The exhibition is on until 28 March 2016.

Royal Academy

This landmark exhibition of works by Honorary Royal Academician Ai Weiwei at The Royal Academy closes on 13 December so if you’ve not yet been it’s definitely worth considering for this month.

Although Ai is one of China’s leading contemporary artists, his work has not been seen extensively in Britain. The exhibition includes significant works from 1993 onwards, the date that marks Ai Weiwei’s return to China following more than a decade living in New York. Ai Weiwei has created new, site-specific installations and interventions throughout the Royal Academy’s spaces.

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Caochangdi, Beijing, taken in April 2015.

Chelsea Physic Garden

If you’ve still got some shopping to do consider going to the Chelsea Physic Garden Festive Shopping Days as there are seasonal discounts in the shop and it’s free to visit the Garden too. On 1–4 and 6–11 December the gift shop and cafe are open 10am to 4pm.

Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden. Image credit: Charlie Hopkinson

Merry Christmas!

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Lumiere London is on 14 to 17 January and it’s the biggest ever light festival in London. See iconic architecture transformed with 3D projections, interactive installations and other extraordinary light works.

There are more interesting Brunchtime Lectures coming up at Kensington Palace in the new year. On 16 January 2016 it’s Victoriana: Drinking and Dining, and on 13 February (an alternative Valentine’s weekend idea?) there’s Victoriana: Science and Séance.

And the Orchid Festival opens inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens on 6 February and runs until 6 March. There will be late evening openings too.

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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.

Oct 282015
 

Even though it’s not December, Christmas really does start this month with the Christmas lights going on across town and the festive fun beginning. It’s not all about shopping so here are my recommendations for November in London.

Bonfire Night

With absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, my first recommendation is for the annual pyrotechnic entertainment that is Bonfire Night. As a way of remembering an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament over 400 years ago we have fireworks on 5 November and the nearest weekend. You can make a night of it and go to one of the organised displays across London or just look up and enjoy the “oohs” and “ahhs”.

fireworks

The Harrods Festival of Christmas

To really get you in the mood for the festivities ahead, Harrods has a weekend festival on 7 and 8 November. Father Christmas arrives to take up residence in the grotto and families are invited to join in the fun in Hans Crescent over the weekend and discover beautiful trees and decorations, festive characters and entertainment for the children. Peter Pumpernickel and his troupe of all-singing, all-dancing mice will be there and other special guests.

The Christmas windows will be unveiled too and the Once Upon a Christmas Fair theme means puppets and a stage in each window with lots of little extra treats to notice.

It can get really busy on Brompton Road during November and December when the store is open so if you’re not shopping I recommend going to see the windows late in the evening.

Ice Skating

The annual winter ice rinks open this month and two to consider are the Natural History Museum Ice Rink and Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink.

The Natural History Museum Ice Rink opens on 29 October so you can skate throughout the whole of November until 10pm each night. It’s a lovely venue when the museum is illuminated in the evening and hot chocolate or mulled wine in the cafe bar is a good way to warm up afterwards.

Over at Hampton Court Palace, the ice rink opens on 20 November and is another beautiful location.

ice skating

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

There’s ice skating here but that’s not the half of it. There’s the giant observation wheel, Santa Land, the Bavarian Village and the Magical Ice Kingdom too. And my favourite is Zippos Circus which has popular daytime shows for the family and Cirque Berserk in the evening for the thrill seekers.

It’s free to visit Winter Wonderland and it’s open from 20 November.

Winter Wonderland

London Jazz Festival

It’s the 23rd EFG London Jazz Festival on 13 to 22 November. It’s held across various locations including the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Shakespeare’s Globe and Ronnie Scott’s.

There are over 300 gigs during the festival and the highlight for me is rapper and actor Ice-T with trumpeter Ron McCurdy in a 21st century realisation of Langston Hughes’ jazz poem Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz.

There are also film screenings and special talks that take an in-depth look at different jazz styles and performers.

Spirit of Christmas Fair

If you’ve got to start the Christmas shopping this month this is a wonderful place to begin. The Spirit of Christmas Fair is at Olympia from 2 to 8 November.

The exhibitors cover stylish gifts for all of the family (and maybe a few for you as well). You can get everything you need to make your home elegant and welcoming over the winter season, plus plenty of tasty treats too.

Spirit of Christmas Fair

Christmas at Kew

Later this month Christmas at Kew brings us evening openings with seasonal illuminations. From 25 November (until 2 January) you can visit Kew after dark to experience the new winter trail.

The one-mile sparkling path winds its way through the world-famous botanic gardens with dancing illuminated fountains and glowing waterside reflections, a Choir of Holly Bushes, Tunnel of Lights and scented Fire Garden. Plus vintage rides, Christmas gifts and traditional festive fare.

Christmas at Kew

V&A Japanese Art Gallery

The Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art is reopening on 4 November after a full redisplay and refurbishment.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has been collecting Japanese art since it was founded in 1852. The 400 pieces on display include Hello Kitty! kitchen pieces and an ensemble from Issey Miyake’s A/W 2015 collection. But it’s not all contemporary as the gallery illustrates the extraordinary craftsmanship and artistic wealth of Japan from about the 6th century up to the present day.

V&A Japanese Gallery

‘OO-IX’ Sculpture by Hayashi Shigeki (2013)
© Hayashi Shigeki and Yufuku Gallery. Photograph copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A also has some interesting evening events this month including internationally renowned shoe designer Manolo Blahnik in conversation with fashion writer Gianluca Longo on Friday 6 November. Combining this with a visit to the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition makes a lot of sense.

On Tuesday 24 November there’s an evening talk with Sandy Powell, the Oscar and BAFTA winning costume designer. She has worked on both historical and contemporary projects and her many films include Shakespeare in Love, The Young Victoria, The Wolf of Wall Street, and most recently, Carol.

And this month’s ‘Friday Late‘ is on Friday 27 November. The theme is ‘Made in India’ and the evening opening will include underground music and digitally designed, Indian-inspired textiles on display.

The Queen’s Gallery

The next exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace – Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer – looks particularly worth seeing. Opening on 13 November, this is a chance to see 28 of the finest 17th and 18th-century Dutch paintings in the Royal Collection, including Vermeer’s ‘The Music Lesson’ (seen here).

The Dutch artists of the 17th century painted ordinary people doing everyday things. They offer us a glimpse into the rumbustious life of village taverns and peasant cottages, and the quiet domesticity of courtyards and parlours.

Vermeer - The Music Lesson

Johannes Vermeer, ‘Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman or ‘The Music Lesson”, 1662-5
Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015

Elf the Musical

If you’re still feeling ‘bah humbug’ this is the show to get you in the Christmas swing. Elf the Musical opens on 5 November at the Dominion Theatre for just 10 weeks. Ben Forster, Kimberley Walsh, Joe McGann and Jessica Martin star in the London premiere of Elf, based on the 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell. Elf is the tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole.

Elf the Musical

Even More

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Of course, December has even more Christmas fun, including the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lights being switched on in the evening on Thursday 3 December, and A Victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace.

Sporting possibilities include The London International Horse Show at Olympia. Big names in the show jumping world gather to compete alongside the Household Cavalry and the Shetland Pony Grand National. And Champions Tennis is on at the Royal Albert Hall too.

Foodies should head to Hampton Court Palace for the BBC Good Food Festival Christmas Fayre on 4-6 December.

And the new Europe 1600-1815 gallery opens at the V&A on 9 December 2015 with a redisplay of 1,100 objects from the Museum’s collection of 17th- and 18th-century European art and design, completing the restoration of the entire front wing of the Museum.

————————————————————————————————

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.