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61 super things to do in London this May

By Stephanie Hartman

Shake off that bank holiday hangover and get ready to take on a brand new month! May has got it all going on thanks to rooftop bars springing up left, right and centre, a Whisky Weekender, an annual puppet festival in Covent Garden, a fun-packed Craft Week, and a handful of fresh art exhibitions ready and waiting for your peepers. Have a perfect month with the list of joy that follows. 


May 2: Christie’s Lates Brush up on your Mandarin and focus your mind with a bit of tai chi at this evening preview of the ‘Christie’s Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles’ auction.

May 3: Collage Club x Lunar HQ Swap pencils for scissors and a wealth of beautiful papers and magazines in this monthly collage workshop for anyone keen to flex their creative muscles and get making without having to produce perfectly proportioned, boring drawings.

May 3-7: London Craft Week This week-long festival, now in its third year, celebrates craftsmen beavering away in all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies across London.

May 4: Comedy for Depression Comedians including Felicity Ward, Suzi Ruffell and Luisa Omielan will come together for a night of live comedy to raise money for mental health charity Mind.

May 5-7: Cheap Cuts Doc Film Fest The UK’s only free festival dedicated to documentary shorts returns for a three-day run packed with 40 film screenings, plus workshops and panel discussions all held in The Cinema Museum.

May 5: V&A Lates Hear photographer Richard Corman, who has worked with the likes of Basquiat, Robert De Niro and Nelson Mandela, through to everyday people, talk about his most recent project ‘Madonna66’.

May 6: Festival Embassy x Eat Your Own Ears The House of St Barnabas’s Festival Embassy is back and this time they’re collaborating with Eat Your Own Ears for an evening of dazzling acoustic music set in a gothic chapel.

May 6-7: Peckham Salvage Yard Get your busy hands on vintage threads, twee ceramics, atomic-era electricals and antique luggage at this south London fair from the good people behind Hackney Flea Market. 

May 8 – Jun 8: Heal’s 100 See a curated selection of 100 designer pieces sold at Heal’s from the 1950s to the present day, to mark the store’s 100th birthday.

May 10 – Oct 1: Neverland London This Thameside urban beach is BYOB, and perfect for lazy summer days in Fulham. The place will be decked out with street-food vendors, swings, summer flowers, free-to-use deckchairs and truckloads of sand.

May 12-14: Balance Festival A three-day celebration of food, fitness, wellbeing and travel. Watch demos in the live cooking theatre, stock up on ingredients in the market, then break a sweat in fitness workshops.

May 14: Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival The annual Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival (which celebrates its 42nd anniversary in 2017), brings together Punch and Judy professors from around the country for a day of jolly old-fashioned fun.

May 23-25: Clerkenwell Design Week This highly regarded design festival is now in its eighth year and once again offering street spectacles, discussions, open studios and workshops.

May 23-26: RHS Chelsea Flower Show Highlights for 2017 include Jack Dunckley’s ‘The Bermuda Triangle’, a garden styled as an active volcano and the ‘RHS Greening Grey Britain’ garden, a green space set in an urban context of high-rise and apartment developments.

May 24 – Oct 15: California This exhibition at the Design Museum charts 50 years of innovation in California – from LSD in the countercultural ’60s to the tech revolution of Silicon Valley.

May 26 – Oct 29: Brixton Beach London might not have Cuba’s fleets of classic cars or choice of cool Panama hats, but this summer, Brixton is trying to bring a little Havana life to SW9 with its urban rooftop beach.


The Ned
© Simon Brown


The Ned This cool-looking new five-star hotel comes from a collaboration between the Soho House Group and the Sydell Group. The space is huge – more than 320,000 square feet – and there are eight restaurants, which are open to the public.

Sisu Rooftop Bar A rooftop space set to have a Scandinavian theme – ‘sisu’ is a Finnish term that roughly represents resilience and courage. Move over, hygge.

Chin Chin Labs Soho Gorge on a range of ridiculously tempting treats, including new signatures such as the sugar-free Miracle Cone.

The Clifton Ben and Ed Robson, the brothers behind Boopshi’s in Fitzrovia, are to thank for the reopening of an old local pub in St John’s Wood.

Red Rooster Marcus Samuelsson’s New York joint makes its way to Curtain Road.

Xu An upmarket Taiwanese restaurant from the team behind Bao.

From May 19: Frank’s Café re-opening Londoners will once again make the annual pilgrimage to this Peckham multi-storey car park for a Campari on the roof. 

From May 24: Pergola Paddington Central Expect grub from burger titans Patty & Bun; dumpling dons Mamalan; East Coast-style Mexican/American diner DF / Mexico; vegan salad and juice types Raw Press; and Decatur, purveyors of New Orleans-style soul food.


May 5-6: Pelican Canteen Settle in for a five-course Malaysian meal at the second instalment of the Pelican Canteen supper club, with dishes inspired by the travels of the Pelican’s two enthusiastic founders.

May 6-7: The London Cheese Project Try not to drool as you browse these stands of caerphilly selected cheesemongers and street-food vendors at this festival of fromage in Camden.

May 12-13: Brooklyn Brewery Mash Present Beer Mansion Brooklyn Brewery is taking its Mash Tour series to Dalston. Instead of a bland business centre filled with ales, they’ve designed a ‘Beer Mansion’ where each room will be designed around a specific craft brew.

May 12-14: The London Whisky Weekender The London Whisky Weekender returns for the fourth year running to dedicate time and love to that king of liquors – whisky.


May 3-6: Three Comrades Sovremennik Theatre is embarking on a season of three West End shows from acclaimed Russian director Galina Volchek. It opens with ‘Three Comrades’, a story of three mechanics struggling to get by in Germany in 1928.

May 6 – Jun 24: Woyzeck ‘Star Wars’ actor John Boyega returns to the stage in a gritty tragedy.

May 6 – Jul 1: Life of Galileo Joe Wright directs Brecht’s story of a scientific visionary.

May 9 – Sep 2: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour The National Theatre of Scotland’s raucous production finally makes it to London.

May 18 – Aug 5: Twelfth Night This production of Shakespeare’s greatest mistaken-identity comedy looks to be the final Shakespeare play Emma Rice will direct at the Globe, possibly ever.

May 19 – Jul 1: On the Town Leonard Bernstein’s timeless musical tribute to New York City.

May 25 – Jun 24: Killology Gary Owen’s new play asks if torture can be justified as entertainment.

Until Jun 17: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Lenny Henry stars as on-the-up gangster Arturo Ui in Brecht’s classic political satire.

Until Aug 19: Angels in America The centrepiece of the National Theatre’s 2017 programming is this jaw-dropping revival of Tony Kushner’s two-play epic about the Aids epidemic: ‘Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes’.

Until Oct 7: The Ferryman Sam Mendes directs the long-awaited new play from Jez ‘Jerusalem’ Butterworth.


New releases:

Lady Macbeth The period drama gets violent in this tale of a teenage girl who is married off to a wealthy landowner.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 The spacefaring band of outlaws are back in this fast, funny but frustratingly disjointed sequel.

Heal the Living This remarkable French drama follows a human heart from a horrific accident to a transplant operation.


Peckham Rye Music Festival
© Sebastian Barros

May 4: Joe Goddard Hot Chip and The 2 Bears’ Joe Goddard always has a ton of projects on the go, so it’s easy to forget he’s also a stellar DJ. He’ll be spinning anything from bass and house to indie. 

May 5: Brixton Old Skool Garage Rooftop Party Garage, hip hop and R&B across three floors and two roof terraces, with DJs including Mike Skinner, Theon Bower, Ollie RantCherelle, Usher Lavelle and J Rust.

May 6: Heard It Through The Grapevine #3 A celebration of Motown Records at Moth Club, Hackney. Expect to hear Michael Jackson, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Rick James, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and more.

May 7: Dalston Roof Park x Bloop Deep, emotive house and techno from Cleveland, Nikos, Dean Mir, The Troubadour and Harbinger Kurt.

May 12: Maximo Park The alt-rock veterans deliver their high-energy hits including Our Velocity, The National Health, Midnight On The Hill and more.

May 12-14: Peckham Rye Music Festival We all know Peckham loves a party, so it’s no surprise that this ace, under-the-radar weekender is returning to south London after launching last year.

May 13: Soul II Soul Jazzie B and his classic soul-jazz collective bring their infectious, sun-struck funk, house and reggae riddims to the stage.

May 19: Metronomy With a shiny, rounded live line-up – with drummer Anna Prior laying down the beats at the back – Metronomy perform songs from their latest album ‘Love Letters’ at a big gig in London.

May 24: Angel Olsen When otherworldly Chicago singer Angel Olsen isn’t playing with Emmett Kelly’s experimental folk-rock band The Cairo Gang, she's a bewitching folk songwriter in her own right.

May 24: Broken Social Scene Indie-rock from the Canadian collective, formed by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning and can vary from six to 19 members.

May 28: Gala This May bank holiday gathering in Brockwell Park is as much a food event as a confetti-filled music festival.

May 28: The South London Soul Train Bank Holiday Special A holiday party with funk, soul, disco and hip hop on three levels.

May 30-31: Mac DeMarco Wearily romantic, chorus-heavy jams, tied together by disaffected drawl and hazy lyrics.

May 31: Badbadnotgood This young trio found fame by covering the songs of hip hop troupe Odd Future in a cool jazz style, eventually collaborating with Tyler, The Creator himself.


Alberto Giacometti

May 6-28: Prix Pictet 2017 The seventh edition of what’s arguably one of the most illustrious prizes in photography will circle around the theme of ‘space’ – the 12 shortlisted photographers all deal with this subject in varying ways.

May 10 – Sep 10: Alberto Giacometti Fifty years after showing his work for the first time, Tate is delivering a large-scale retrospective of the Italian artist.

May 11 – Jul 7: David Mach: Incoming Turner Prize-nominated Mach will be creating one of his gargantuan newspaper installations, the first of its kind in 15 years.

May 19 – Jun 17: Joel Shapiro Work by the American artist who’s best known for his delicate, interconnected box sculptures.

May 25 – Aug 13: Beyond the Great Wave Four years on from displaying his iconic work ‘The Great Wave’, the British Museum is once again turning its attention to master ukiyo-e painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).

May 29 – Jun 4: Block Universe The annual dance and performance returns for 2017 across a number of institutions including the Royal Academy and Somerset House.


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