Once a magnet for the twentieth-century’s most intellectual and influential minds, Bloomsbury has more recently had to settle for the status of mere academic powerhouse and global centre of publishing. This week, for the eighth year in a row, the area expects to welcome 50,000 visitors to more than 200 cultural events celebrating its past and present – all of them free. Among the packed programme, look out for drop-in family drawing sessions at the Cartoon Museum, a talk with Iain Sinclair and Phil Cohen on creativity in Bloomsbury at Senate House, and some 30 history and architecture walking tours which reveal more about this once-genteel pocket of London. See below for our five hottest highlights.
The Madness of the Modern City: Will Self in Conversation
Author Will Self reads from his 2012 Man Booker shortlisted ‘Umbrella’ and joins Dr Nick Shepley of UCL’s English Department to unpack the fraught relationship between modern urban life and madness.
Senate House. 6.30-8pm. Wed Oct 16.
Tim Rice Masterclass on Musicals
Arch-lyricist Sir Tim Rice (‘Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’) discusses his career and takes a look ahead to his first entirely new work in 13 years, ‘From Here to Eternity’, which is premiering in London later this month. Here’s hoping he spontaneously breaks into song.
Bloomsbury Hotel. 6-7pm. Thu Oct 17.
The Store Street Shindig
Perhaps down to the copious presence of booze – or maybe it’s the Ping Pong Thunderdome – this Store Street Shindig is the most aggressively unintellectual event of the whole festival. Paint a keg, throw a keg, stop by the real ale festival, then try not to pass out in the children’s storytelling tent.
Store St. Noon-5pm. Sat Oct 19.
Russell Square Weekend
Spread out over two days, the festival finale ticks some random boxes: insect-bite inspired dance performance, face-painting for adults in a converted ice-cream van and a lecture on the future of toilets and the history of poo. Too weird? Try the SOAS World Music Stage or the local craft market instead.
Russell Square. Sat Oct 19 10am-7pm; Sun Oct 20 10am-5.30pm.
For a bit of an adrenaline rush, how about having a bash at parkour, an athletic discipline based around free and efficient movement through urban space? The School of Advanced Study, University of London is leading a series of interactive workshops. And don't forget to head into Senate House to see a photography exhibition by leading parkour photographer Andy Day and athletes from Parkour Generations.
Senate House car park. Noon-4pm. Sun Oct 20.