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50 fantastic things to do in London this bank holiday weekend

By Stephanie Hartman

Put down that Post-It and step away from the computer as the bank holiday weekend is fast approaching and it's going to be flippin' fabulous! Carnival is obviously high on the agenda for many Londoners, but if you're after something a little more chilled then the city has that covered too. Feast on finger lickin' good chicken at Mother Clucker's new residency, go to a laid-back music festival at Forty Hall Farm, or catch an outdoor screening with Nomad cinema. Here's everything you need for a blissful long weekend!

Things to do 

Natural History Museum Late, Brompton, TONIGHT, free. A monthly late opening of the museum and temporary exhibitions, with free entry to the Central Hall and Images of Nature gallery.

London Bridge Live Arts, various locations, Fri-Sun, free. Enjoy London Bridge's loveliest venues and public spaces with the help of this annual arts festival, which will fill them with free workshops, talks, installations, performances and trails themed around 'exchange'.

Slides and Scoops, Kids Adventure Play Hackney, Sat, free. London has some top notch adventure playgrounds, but grown-ups aren't usually allowed to play on them. But this is your chance to fly down slides, climb up towers, play in a sandpit and take command of a pirate ship, because Yelp are taking over Kids Adventure Play Hackney and asking for ID on the door.

Hackney Downs Free Festival, Hackney Downs Park, Sat, free. Street food, booze and musical joy in the great outdoors from the guys behind the Star of Hackney pub.

Livestock, Forty Hall Farm, Sat, £15, £5 3-16s, free under-threes; £10/£5 adv. Twenty musical acts will provide the entertainment in this pretty organic farm, and there'll be bars, food stalls and children's entertainment, too.

Curious?, various locations, Sat-Sun, free. If knowledge is power London's going to come out of the bank-holiday weekend with a lot more oomph than it went in with, because this family-friendly festival is aiming to teach us all a thing or two.

Woman Up!, Conway Hall, Sat-Sun, £3-6. This two-day festival of talks will open discussions about what it's like to be a woman today, talking about taboo topics and asking questions about issues that are all too often ignored.

The Great Taste of Honey Festival West London, The Apiary, Mon, free. It's the time of year when bee-keepers' lives get even stickier, and to celebrate honey harvest the Twickenham and Thames Valley Bee-keepers' Association are holding this afternoon bee-related talks and activities.

Neighbour Day at The Cat's Back, East Putney, Mon, free. This friendly Putney boozer has decided that Bank Holiday Monday should be bring-your-neighbour-to-the-pub day, and to help prevent any awkwardness should you manage it they're throwing a party.

Bloom, Horniman Museum, all weekend, free. The Horniman's recently redeveloped Natural History Gallery houses this display of work by artist and academic, Edward Chell. The 40 painted panels on show are inspired by plants within the Horniman Gardens as well as rare books in the archive written by 19th century British naturalist and early photographer, Anna Atkins.

…or check out more events happening in London this weekend.


The Owls Are Not What They Seem





Eating and drinking

Spanish Fiesta Tasting, Village Underground, TONIGHT, £30. Virgin Wines want to show off their Spanish bottles, so they're throwing a party. Tickets include the chance to taste any of the 80 wines on offer and a portion of food from both Jamon Jamon (who make a great paella) and Gonzalo's Kitchen (try the croquetas).

Full Moon Dinner Party, Regent's Canal at Islington, Fri-Sat, £40. Climb aboard The Floating Showroom for a three-course dinner themed around the moon. Use a telescope to watch the night sky, participate in a floating candle ceremony, try a tarot card reading and do some UV body painting. 

The Owls Are Not What They Seem, secret London location, Fri-Sat, £65, £50 previews, £5 bar only. This must be where pies go where they die. It will certainly be where hungry Twin Peaks fans are going to die and go to heaven, as immersive supperclub magicians Lemonade and Laughing Gas have teamed up with food design pros Blanch & Shock to create a three-course dinner party in tribute to the surreal worlds of David Lynch.

Forza Win Bank Holiday Weekender, Peckham, Fri-Sat, Mon, £40-£50. Forza Win will be cooking a whole cow this weekend, giving hungry visitors the chance to devour prime cuts, burgers, hanger steaks and more. 

Free From Festival, The Boiler House, Mon, £3.50. If your dietary requirements mean you spend a noticeable portion of your time squinting at ingredients lists this food festival will be a breath of risk-free fresh air. A whole host of exhibitors will be on hand to introduce alternative ingredients for those intolerant to dairy, gluten or sugar.

Mother Clucker at The Cat and Mutton, South Hackney, all weekend. Fried chicken is always a treat, but Mother Clucker cook up fried chicken so delicious that you'll still be dreaming of it come breakfast the next day.

August Bank Holiday Cider Festival & Hog Roast, The Water Poet, all weekend. If you're not feeling up to heading west for the August bank holiday's main carnival this festival celebrating all things cider is a much gentler excuse for daytime drinking. 

…or check out the latest restaurant reviews.







Richard Herring – The 12 Shows of Herring, Leicester Square Theatre, Fri-Sat, £15. Richard Herring is taking a stand. The 'Herring' half of 'Lee and Herring' and podcasting innovator is sick of forking out thousands of pounds to perform at Edinburgh Fringe Festival every year, so this summer he's choosing instead to gig in London, his home city.

Iliza Shlesinger – Freezing Hot, Soho Theatre, Fri-Sat, £20, £17.50 concs. The caustic Texan offers up strong opinions on dating, pop culture and the state of her nation with an unapologetic, come-get-some attitude.

King Gong, Comedy Store, Mon, £8, £5 concs. This monthly show revives the original Comedy Store way of getting ineffective performers off the stage. Newish comics do their stuff until the gongmeister and executioner tells them to stop.

…or check out all the critics’ choice comedy shows.






Live music

Notting Hill Carnival, Notting Hill, Sun-Mon, free. Europe’s biggest street party fills the streets of west London over August bank holiday. For information on the Notting Hill Carnival parade route, travel information, safety and security and lots more, read our full guide to Notting Hill Carnival 2015.

TV On The Radio, Roundhouse, Sun-Mon, £22.50. Brooklyn-based genre-busters TVOTR bring their delightfully eclectic and fiercely intelligent strain of experimental indie to London for a very welcome show at the Roundhouse.

…or take a look at all the live music events in London this weekend.







Trouble Vision Carnival Warm-Up, Corsica Studios, TONIGHT, £12.50. The TV crew return for their ace annual Carnival warm-up to their usual warehouse-styled nest in Elephant & Castle.

Special Request with Slimzee, Bar A Bar, TONIGHT, £4. Rinse FM architect and pirate radio kingpin Slimzee steps up to rep the old-school, with rising underground hotshot Mr Mitch repping the newer sound of grime, all for a bargain price.

Gin and Juice Carnival Party, Proud Camden, TONIGHT, £12.50. Bass-loving party crew Gin and Juice swap the juniper liquor for Red Stripe in the name of a Carnival special. The G&J all-stars will be behind the decks, belting out dancehall, bashment, soca, raggae and tropical treats.

Dalston Summer Block Party, The Nest, TONIGHT, £7-£10. Old-school garage galore from Heartless Crew's Fonti and Mighty Moe, plus fellow UKG stalwart Wookie and the party-starting Shorebitch crew.

Bank Holiday at Summer Tales, Fri-Sun. Summer Tales stay open on a Sunday for the first time to celebrate the long weekend. Expect good music and carnival inspired grub.

Norman Jay presents Good Times Goes East, St John-at-Hackney Church, Sat, £15. Funk and soul maestro Norman Jay is known for his connection to west London, where he's held countless Good Times parties and Carnival bashes. But this year he's royally mixing things up and going east – all the way to the beautiful st John-at-Hackney church.

Boombox Carnival Special, The Horse & Groom, Sat, £3. Ex-Portishead DJ Andy Smith unleashes his funky Boombox party for a Carnival special. It's a vinyl-only affair, and tunes will span hip hop, disco, boogie, early house and reggae, of course.

Solar Indoor and Outdoor Day Party, The Old Baths and Cr8 Galleries, Sat, £5, free before 5pm. Fed up of dancing in dark, dingy dens? Well then, get the hell outside at this daytime party. Appropriately named Solar, you can (hopefully) soak up the sun at this alfresco daytime bash while dancing to DJs spinning house and deep disco.

Deadly Rhythm Carnival After Party, Bussey Building, Sun, £10-£12. Low-key high impact party crew Deadly Rhythm are sticking to their south London roots and hosting their Carnival after party in Peckham's Bussey Building.

Gilles Peterson... Up on the Roof, Prince of Wales, Sun-Mon, £15. Global beats guru and broadcaster Gilles Peterson returns to the series of summer parties that hosts brilliant party DJs atop the terrace of Brixton venue the Prince of Wales.

…or see all the parties planned this weekend.


Straight Outta Compton






BFI Summer Love Weekend: 'Badlands', British Museum, TONIGHT, £15. The BFI gets us warmed up for its forthcoming Love season with a weekend of outdoor screenings in the British Museum courtyard.

Last Resort, Deptford Cinema, TONIGHT, £5. A great excuse to check out the ultra-cool, DIY Deptford Cinema. In this compassionate, low-key British drama, Tanya and son Artiom arrive at Stansted airport from Moscow but don't get past immigration.

The Nomad: 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', Bushey Park, Sat, £7.50–£30. The perfect film for an outdoor screening – if you’re extra lucky, aliens will come and sweep you away half-way through.

Film4 Frightfest: 'Hawk the Slayer', Vue West End, Sun, £13.25. Somewhere in the mists of time (or dry ice to you and me), Hawk the Slayer roamed a land of painted backdrops, cardboard castles, and gauze-infested forests, fighting Evil and bringing Peace. His team: a dwarf, an elf, a giant and a witch who can turn a useful trick or two.

Grave of the Fireflies, Prince Charles Cinema, Mon, £7.50, £5 concs. This heartbreaking masterpiece from Studio Ghibli opens with the image of a 12-year-old boy, Seita, begging on the streets, his head sinking between his bony knees, and a single line of voiceover: ‘September 21, 1945… that was the night I died.’ 

Or at the cinema...

Straight Outta Compton ★★★☆☆ Audience advisory: this enjoyable but authorised biopic of rap legends NWA contains clichés and avoids hard truths.

45 Years ★★★★★ Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play a couple dealing with the past in this powerful, brilliant British drama.

American Ultra Yet another secret agent movie- but this one has enough of an inventive twist to keep us interested. 

…or see all of the latest releases.







Captain Showoff!, The Scoop, Fri-Sun, free. The free open air theatre show's at the Scoop are family adaptations of Roman texts.

Our House, Union Theatre, Fri-Sun, £20, £17 concs. A raucous, fun production of Tim Firth's Camden-set Madness musical.

Thoroughly Modern Millie, Landor Theatre, Fri-Sun, £22, £20 concs. Matthew Iliffe’s production of this 2002 musical about the roaring ‘20s offers a burst of sleek hair bobs, jazzy steps and swinging flapper dresses.

…or see our theatre critics’ choices.






This week's best new art

Henry Taylor, Carlos/Ishikawa, Fri-Sat, free. The Los Angeles-based artist known for his portraits that capture all walks of his community from art scene movers and shakers to drug addicts, presents a new series of works made this summer, while using the gallery as his studio.

Concrete Fictions, New Art Projects, Fri-Sat, free. Kadie Salmon curates this show of four artists including herself, about the construction of fictional scenarios. Using photography, painting, sculpture and performance, each artist approaches the theme from very different perspectives.

Dineo Seshee Bopape: slow -co- ruption, Hayward Gallery, Sat-Sun, free. As part of Southbank Centre’s ‘Africa Utopia’ festival, the emerging South African artist presents experimental videos alongside site-specific sculptures for her first London solo.

Mike Tsang: South Bank Stories, Unicorn Theatre, Sat, Mon, free. Here, photographer and oral historian Mike Tsang presents his portrait of the South Bank area through photographic portraits and written interview with 10 local workers along with archival imagery.


…or see all London art reviews.

And finally

Win... one of 50 pairs of tickets to Comedy Central’s Friendsfest or a private helicopter flight for you and five friends

Grab... £20 tickets to a silent disco at the Natural History Museum on Friday October 9

Book... these gigs while you still can

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