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34 perfect things to do over the bank holiday weekend

By Stephanie Hartman

It’s bank holiday, baby! Grab your buds and head to Alexandra Palace for a two-day bonanza of food and booze, Brockwell Park for Gala festival or House of Vans tonight if you fancy skating your way into the weekend. Make the most of it with the list below!


Joel Shapiro, 'Really Blue (after all), 2016. Photo: Todora Photography LLC.

Joel Shapiro, Pace Burlington Gardens, Fri-Sat, free. Maybe the most striking thing about Joel Shapiro’s exhibition is how you end up anthropomorphising each piece of work – despite the fact they’re basically just bits of painted plywood. Look at that bolshy red one over there, you think. 

Ann Craven: Animals 1999-2017, Southard Reid, Fri-Sat, free. Ann Craven’s show is an adorable menagerie of cutesy animal paintings: soft-eyed pandas, kittens playing in the grass, deer in meadows. They are ultra-saccharine, obscenely chintzy and a bit bloody awful. But there’s more to it.

Wayne Thiebaud: 1962 to 2017, White Cube Mason’s Yard, Fri-Sat, free. Many long years before the phrase ‘food porn’ was invented, Wayne Thiebaud had already made an artistic career out of it. The Californian artist also paints portraits and landscapes – but it’s his still-lives of cakes, pies, candy and deli counters that earned him fame.

Horror, Peacock Theatre, Fri-Sun, £15-£32. Spine-tingling, generically unclassifiable theatre tribute to the world of horror movies.

Spike is 60: Malcolm X + Panel Discussion, Picturehouse Central, Sun, £8. Mark the birthday of sexagenarian director Spike Lee by taking in civil rights biopic ‘Malcolm X’, starring Denzel Washington.

‘The Tin Drum’, Curzon Soho, Sun, £15. Sumptuously shot and designed, Volker Schlöndorff's respectful film of Günter Grass’s epic novel is an impressively literal adaptation. 

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, British Museum, all weekend, £12. The Great Wave – a woodblock image – was printed in its thousands, making a star out of Katsushika Hokusai. It’s a gorgeous little picture, a swirling maelstrom kaleidoscoping around the tranquil mountain as boats crash and clatter in the waves.


Green Man presents Courtyard

Girls To The Front, Lock Tavern, TONIGHT, free. Residents and guests supply pop, punk, indie, rock and retro tracks from female performers including Courtney Love, Bat for Lashes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and many more.

Green Man presents Courtyard, Lewis Cubitt Square, Fri-Sun, £10-£20. Loveable Welsh music festival Green Man is bringing the best of its homeland’s beer and cider to King’s Cross for this weekend of food, booze and music.

Swans, Roundhouse, Sat, £28. A white-knuckle evening of sonic catharsis with Michael Gira’s cult rockers.

StrEATLife, Alexandra Palace, Sat-Sun, free. Packed in the middle of its name like a big beef patty is the key to this festival. Yes, StrEATLife is all about food (and craft beer). 

Eat Grub, San Daniele Del Friuli, Sun, £33. Patience young Grasshopper, the Eat Grub supper club is returning with five courses of insect-based dishes and cocktails. Two ticks and it’ll be back in north London.


Modern Masculinity, Vout-O-Reenees, TONIGHT, £7. Spend what would have been John Wayne’s 110th birthday at this merciless takedown of the male archetype for a night of drag, poetry and comedy cabaret.

Room, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Fri-Sat, £8-£26. An unlikely but powerful stage adaptation – with songs! – of Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel.

NT’s Bank Holiday Terrace Re-launch Weekend, Netil House, Fri-Sun, free. Three days of late night fun with cocktails, smoked meats and a BBQ filling the terrace with the scents of summer. 

Bechdel Test Fest: ‘Ginger & Rosa’ + Q&A, Curzon Aldgate, Sat, £15. This screening of Sally Potter’s intimate coming-of-age story follows a short film – ‘Little Soldier’, directed by Potter collaborator Stella Corradi – and a Q&A with Corradi and star Zawe Ashton.

LG’s Paper-thin Home Instagram Workshop, Old Spitafields Market, Sun, free. Join paper-cutting whizz Paperboyo, who’s been breaking the internet with pictures of his 2D creations, for a special two-hour workshop teaching Londoners how to transform the capital’s landmarks with their own paper props.

Close-Up on Stanley Kubrick: ‘Spartacus’, Close-Up Film Centre, Sun, £10, £8 concs. Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar-winning sandal saga – about a Roman slave revolt lead by Kirk Douglas’s eponymous folklore hero – has aged amazingly well. 

Free From Festival, Old Spitafields Market, Mon, £10. If your dietary requirements mean you spend a noticeable portion of your time squinting at ingredients lists this food festival will be a chance to let loose. 


Sk8 Fry-Days, House of Vans, TONIGHT, free. If you spent your adolescence skidding down public steps on a skateboard, you might want to pay a visit to underground skater haven House of Vans for Sk8 Fry-Days.

Tessellate 4th Birthday, Corsica Studios, TONIGHT, £12.50. House and techno across two rooms courtesy of Harri & Domenic, Tessellate, and more.

ESG, Electric Brixton, TONIGHT, £24. Influential New York funk pioneers whose sound is centred on a funky bass and pop-flavoured guitar.

Love Carnival, Bussey Building, TONIGHT, £5-£7. Tropical beats and dancehall vibes from Geko Jones, Galletas Calientes, MC Fedzilla, Cal Jader, Selecta Mad Max and Oddscene.

Woyzeck, Old Vic, Fri-Sat, Mon, £12-£60. Oh mother! John Boyega returns to the stage in a very Freudian take on the timeless tragedy.

DIY Art Market, Copeland Gallery, Sat, free. Feast your eyes and get your hands on an eclectic array of artworks and original items including zines, ceramics and illustrations from 60 of London’s emerging artists and independent publishers at this one-day market.

Borough Market Goes Tango, Borough Market, Sat, free. Channel your inner Morticia and Gomez for a fierce evening of tango as Three Crown Square in Borough Market becomes an Argentinian dancefloor.

Feria de Londres, Potters Fields Park, Sat-Sun, free. Andalusia is coming to the banks of the Thames for a May Bank Holiday weekend festival full of tapas, Spanish beer, wine, sherry tastings and unique masterclasses. 

Gala, Brockwell Park, Sun, from £40. This May bank holiday gathering in Brockwell Park is as much a food event as a confetti-filled music festival. 

The South London Soul Train Bank Holiday Special, Bussey Building, Sun, prices vary. A holiday party with funk, soul, disco and hip hop on three levels. 


Belgravia in Bloom, various Belgravia locations, Fri-Sat, free. Belgravia is being taken over by a floral fiesta as businesses across the Westminster district drape themselves with blooms in displays inspired by iconic children’s books.

Chelsea Fringe, various venues, all weekend, prices vary. This three-week festival encompasses a huge selection of horticultural events, which are largely volunteer-run and free.


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