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.
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.
Colourscape Music Festival
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.
London Design Festival
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.
Ming: 50 Years that Changed China
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.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year
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.
Open House Weekend
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.
Intoxication Season at Kew Gardens
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.
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.
Greenwich Comedy Festival
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.
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.
London Tattoo Convention
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.
The Art of the Brick
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.
Pearly Kings Harvest Festival
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.
Turner Prize 2014
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.
London Literature Festival
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.
The Big Draw
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.
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.
Frieze Art Fair
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.
Glow Neon Fun Run
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.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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.
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.
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…