22 unmissable events in London this autumn

Hibernation's just not an option when autumn's offerings are this good

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The shorter days and colder evenings have got 'night in front of the TV' written all over them. But if you can tear yourself away from your DVD box-set and central-heated surroundings, there are some seriously good happenings kicking off in London this autumn. September serves up the likes of Open House Weekend and Greenwich Comedy Festival, and October sees the annual Freize Art Fair pop up and the secrets of Sherlock Holmes unravel…

  • Totally Thames

    Mon Sep 1 – Tue Sep 30. Various Thames-side locations

    The ever-popular Thames Festival returns for another year, this time with a new name: Totally Thames. Rounding off (a pretty ropey) summer in the capital, the water-side festival takes place across the whole of September in 2014, and is sure to make waves with its mix of arts festivals, community events, regattas, river races, foreshore archaeology and environmental activities.

    See our guide to this year's Totally Thames festival

  • iTunes Festival

    Mon Sep 1 - Tue Sep 30. Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8EH

    Every year the lovely people at iTunes treat us Londoners to a seriously good series of free gigs, and this year they’ve gone and done it again. The ever-popular iTunes Festival rolls into town for its eighth run this September, bringing 30 nights of superb music to Camden's Roundhouse. It’s the perfect venue in which to catch international pop gods like Pharrell and Kylie, rising stars such as Kiesza and leftfield legends such as Beck.

    Check out our guide to this year's iTunes Festival

  • Colourscape Music Festival

    Sat Sep 13 - Sun Sep 21. Clapham Common, Windmill Drive, SW4 9DE

    The closest thing to being swallowed by a scene from 'Yellow Submarine', Colourscape Music Festival takes place on Clapham Common and this year celebrates its twenty-fifth birthday. Visitors don coloured capes before venturing into an enormous labyrinth of neon tunnels, exploring nearly an acre of rainbow tubes lit up by the surrounding sunlight. This year's musical commission, 'Pied Piper' (taking place Sun Sep 21), will involve a journey through the maze in the company of a children's choir.

    Read more about Colourscape Music Festival

  • London Design Festival

    Sat Sep 13 – Sun Sep 21. Various London venues

    This multi-event, multi-venue, nine-day festival takes place across the whole of the capital this September, but the V&A will act as a central hub for this year's London Design Festival, hosting talks, events and exhibitions. One of the key shows for 2014 is the intriguing 'Wish List', which is a showcase of the work of ten up-and-coming and ten established designers, who were each asked to create something they've always wanted, but have never been able to find.

    See our guide to this year's London Design Festival

  • Ming: 50 Years that Changed China

    Thu Sep 18 - Mon Jan 5 2015. British Museum, 44 Great Russell St, WC1B 3DG

    The notion of China as a global superpower is nothing new, as this blockbuster in the British Museum's new Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery will show, but during the five decades of the Ming Dynasty (1400-1450) China was the only such global player. The country's creativity and level of engagement with the outside world was unparalleled at this time, with gifts sent everywhere from Kyoto to Iran, Mecca to Mogadishu. This exhibition will draw together some of the world's most beautiful objects to explain how China became the country it is today.

    Read more about Ming: 50 Years that Changed China

  • Astronomy Photographer of the Year

    Thu Sep 18 - Sun Feb 1 2015. Royal Observatory, Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ

    A record number of entrants were received for the sixth year of this stunning, world-renowned photography competition. The winning out-of-this-world submissions will appear in the free exhibition at The Royal Observatory once announced on September 17. ‘Astronomy Photographer of the Year’ features both professional and amateur images in four categories: Earth and Space, Our Solar System, Deep Space and Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year for the under-16s.

    Read more about Astronomy Photographer of the Year

  • Open House Weekend

    Sat Sep 20 - Sun Sep 21. Various London venues

    The annual Open House Weekend, which this year takes place on Saturday September 20 and Sunday September 21, gives Londoners the chance to explore behind the closed doors of some of the capital's biggest, most renowned and most secret venues. This year, us plebs can snoop around The Gherkin, City Hall and HM Treasury, plus explore a mezzanine treehouse, a fairy-tale hut and a Grade II listed former Victorian butcher's shop.

    See our guide to this year's Open House Weekend

  • Intoxication Season at Kew Gardens

    Sat Sep 20 - Sun Oct 12. Kew Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, TW9 3AB

    Mind-altering substances hold a special fascination for many people – and what could be better than having the botanical experts to explain them? This autumn's Intoxication Season at Kew will explore everything from the opium poppy to coffee, alcohol and tobacco, with the same substance at one moment seen as medicine, another as poison. Food experimentalists Bompas & Parr will be hosting a Plant Connoisseurs' Club in the Secluded Glasshouse, where participants are invited to try unusual plants, plus there will be the chance to learn about notorious plants in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, and four weekend workshops focus in turn on the subjects alcohol, cannabis, coffee and magic mushrooms.

    Read more about Intoxication Season at Kew Gardens

  • Gingerline Jubilee

    Wed Sep 24 - Fri Oct 31. A secret London location

    This raucous and secretive supperclub is abandoning tradition for a new project, Gingerline Jubilee, about which we know little except that it will take place somewhere on the Jubilee line rather than its original namesake, the Overground. We do also know that guests will be texted clues before the event, which they'll have to solve to work out where their dinner will be served. We suggest you buy a ticket for your most switched-on friend or you might not eat. Those who do successfully seek out their supper will be treated to unusual entertainment, plenty of fun and some very good food.

    Read more about Gingerline Jubilee

  • Greenwich Comedy Festival

    Wed Sep 24 - Sun Sep 28. National Maritime Museum, Romney Rd, SE10 9NF

    Following a few ups and downs last year, the superb Greenwich Comedy Festival (possibly our favourite London comedy fest) is back with a bang for 2014, setting up camp in the grounds of the beautiful National Maritime Museum. Spectacular all-headline bills in the big- and little-top tents take place throughout the week-long event, with names including Stewart Lee, Ardal O’Hanlon, Milton Jones, Stewart Francis and many more heading to SE10.

    Read more about Greenwich Comedy Festival

  • Malaysia Night

    Fri Sep 26. Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN

    Trafalgar Square will give itself over to Malaysia Night later this September, hosting a night market that will introduce Londoners to the culinary delights of the country. Visitors will be able to see, smell and sample treats from the area from a variety of traditional producers. More than 20 of the UK's best Malaysian eateries will be offering up authentic dishes, including satay, laksa and nasi goreng. Once you've found your new favourite dish, discover the tricks that make it so tasty in live cookery demonstrations.

    Read more about Malaysia Night

     

  • London Tattoo Convention

    Fri Sep 26 - Mon Sep 29. Tobacco Dock, 50 Porters Walk, E1W 2SF

    This annual body art festival celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and an impressive line-up of over 340 international tattooists are confirmed to join the celebrations. Alongside the showcase of decorated skin, The Voodoo Crypt will provide live music and a bar, and there'll be cabaret shows and performances from the likes of top AC/DC tribute rockers Hells Bells and firebreathing dance troupe The Fuel Girls. Hot stuff.

    Read more about London Tattoo Convention

  • The Art of the Brick

    Fri Sep 26 - Sun Jan 4 2015. Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, E1 6QL

    It's quite likely that you spent hours playing with Lego as a child, and it's also quite likely that you wish you'd continued that hobby. Former corporate lawyer-turned-master of tiny bricks Nathan Sawaya did just that and his touring show 'The Art of the Brick' has visited Asia, America and Australia and is now making its way to Brick Lane (where else?) for its UK debut. Sawaya's colourful large-scale sculptures include recreations of famous artworks such as Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo as well as many original pieces including a six-metre long T-Rex skeleton constructed from over 80,000 bricks.

    Read more about The Art of the Brick

  • Pearly Kings Harvest Festival

    Sun Sep 28. Guildhall Yard, Gresham St, EC2V 5AE

    Glistening pearls, donkeys, shirehorses and traditional songs… no, this isn't a gypsy wedding: the Pearly King and Queen Harvest Festival is back in town. As the last Sunday of September rolls around, it's time for Guildhall Yard to welcome the cockney masses for a shindig Dick van Dyke would give his right arm to muscle in on. The annual event features traditional English entertainment including maypole dancing, Morris dancers and a marching band.

    Read more about Pearly Kings Harvest Festival

  • Turner Prize 2014

    Tue Sep 30 - Sun Jan 4 2015. Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG

    After travelling to Derry-Londonderry last year, modern art’s biggest prize returns to London this autumn with four more hopeful artists all vying for the coveted Turner Prize. This year’s jury includes Stefan Kalmar of Artists Space, New York; Helen Legg of Spike Island, Bristol and Sarah McCrory of Glasgow International Festival, who all have the difficult honour of selecting a worthy winner from the a line-up of Duncan Campbell, Ciara Phillips, James Richards and Tris Vonna-Michell.

    Read more about the Turner Prize 2014

  • London Literature Festival

    Tue Sep 30 - Mon Oct 13. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX

    This autumn, the London Literature Festival brings together an international line-up of world-class poets, authors and speakers to celebrate the power of words and their ability to transform lives. This year's liberty-themed festival focusses on the topics of justice, freedom and democracy. Highlights include poet Alice Oswald's premier of 'Tithonus-46 Minutes in the Life of Dawn'; a piece by experimental musicians Gavin Bryars and Richard Strange celebrating the centenary of William S Burroughs’ birth, and readings and talks from the likes of Stephen Fry, John Cooper Clarke, Kate Tempest (pictured above) and Martin Parr.

    Read more about London Literature Festival

  • The Big Draw

    Wed Oct 1 - Sun Nov 2. Various London venues

    This month-long event gives Londoners of all ages the opportunity to discover, or rediscover to, the pleasure of drawing and features hundreds of events, many of which are free to attend at venues countrywide. This year's theme is 'It's Our World', with workshops designed to encourage participants to consider the environment and its sustainability. In London, the likes of Rich Mix, The Royal Mews, Keats House and the V&A Museum of Childhood will be holding sketching classes, 3D 'drawing' workshops and events that explore science through art.

    Read more about The Big Draw

  • Sherlock Holmes

    Fri Oct 17 - Sun Apr 12 2015. Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN

    One of the most famous Londoners ever, Sherlock Holmes is the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of London, which will explore exactly who the pipe-smoking sleuth is and why Arthur Conan Doyle's late-Victorian creation endures to this day. Exhibits on show will include original Holmes manuscripts, a nineteenth-century portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the very coat and dressing gown worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC's 'Sherlock'. Benny himself will not be on show at the exhibition, unfortunately.

    Read more about Sherlock Holmes

  • Frieze Art Fair

    Thu Oct 16 - Sun Oct 19. Regent's Park, Chester Rd, NW1 4NR

    The biggest contemporary festival in London’s art calendar hits its twelfth year this October. After a cut-down on galleries (still over 150, however) and a redesign, last year's Frieze offered a better, less overwhelming visitor experience, and with 2013 setting the bar high with the daily-changing Frieze Projects and American artist Jennifer Rubell’s ‘Portrait of the Artist’ (which you could climb inside!), we expect 2014's Frieze to be one of autumn's most unmissable events.

    See our guide to Frieze Art Fair 2014

  • Glow Neon Fun Run

    Fri Oct 17. Mile End Stadium, 190 Burdett Road, E3 4HL

    This fundraising run for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) sounds more like a party than a challenge, with participants being splattered by neon 'glo-water' cannons as they walk, run or shimmy their way along the 3km east London route. For the full rave effect, DJs and UV lights will add to the excitement, and a glow zone at the end of will of course ensure that there's plenty of time for a selfie before you rush to the nearest shower.

    Read more about Glow Neon Fun Run

  • Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Fri Oct 24 - Tue Mar 31 2015. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD

    Celebrating a whopping fiftieth year in action, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition returns to the Natural History Museum with images of the most extraordinary and stunning species on the planet. The competition is bigger than ever, with over 40,000 submissions in 2014 by both professional and amateur photographers.

    Read more about Wildlife Photographer of the Year

  • Halloween

    Fri Oct 31. Various London venues

    If you're going to celebrate Halloween (Friday October 31) this year, we suggest you go all out. There are a shed-load of spine-tingling and skin-crawling events taking place in the capital in celebration, including ghoulish storytelling at the National Maritime Museum, a creepy climb up The BT Tower and a spooky trail at Lauderdale House for the little ones. If you're a fan of fancy dress, head down to your local costume shop and prepare to scare at one of the capital's best Halloween parties. Be sure to plan in advance – an Easter Bunny suit just won't cut it at this time of year.

    See our guide to Halloween in London

Totally Thames

Mon Sep 1 – Tue Sep 30. Various Thames-side locations

The ever-popular Thames Festival returns for another year, this time with a new name: Totally Thames. Rounding off (a pretty ropey) summer in the capital, the water-side festival takes place across the whole of September in 2014, and is sure to make waves with its mix of arts festivals, community events, regattas, river races, foreshore archaeology and environmental activities.

See our guide to this year's Totally Thames festival


Looking for more autumn fun in London?

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See our London events calendar

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