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How museums are reviving London's nightlife

Written by
Isa Jaward

With London's nightlife taking a series of huge knocks in recent years, Londoners are heading to the city’s museums and galleries to kickstart their weekend instead.

Over the past decade, ‘museum lates’ have become increasingly popular, with spaces such as the V&A, Natural History Museum and Tate galleries attracting thousands to events featuring live music, art installations and plenty of booze.

This week, the Museum of London will host The Museum of Last Parties – an evening of talks, workshops and music paying homage to London’s club culture. Punters can dress up and get down to the sounds of DJs Wayne and Jack Hemingway at the Disco Apocalypse area, hang with dandies and flappers at the Candlelight Club or even take part in an old-fashioned cockney singalong. ‘You tend to get a more discerning crowd at museum events,’ says Wayne Hemingway. ‘I have a massive collection of rare and underground records. If I’m going to DJ, then I want to make sure it’s to a crowd who are open to hearing something that they may not have heard before.’

Natural History Museum

As well as museums offering one-off experiences in familiar locations, perhaps their biggest asset is their ‘free to all’ philosophy. While ticket prices for other venues steadily increase, museums are extending their daily free entry after-hours, bringing more inclusive audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

'London’s nightlife is incredibly diverse – from world-class theatre and dance to clubs,’ says Lauren Parker, senior commissioning curator at the Museum of London. ‘All of these make London a very special place, and museum lates are a complementary part of that.’

Will museums ever replace nightclubs? Maybe not, but they’re undoubtedly integral parts of the cultural and social lives of many Londoners. Thanks to their sociable opening hours and cultural status, these long-standing institutions and their late events are unlikely to face noise complaints or council intervention, and may be a vital element in restoring London’s diminished nightlife.

The Museum of Last Parties is at Museum of London on Fri Nov 4.

Check out the top ten museums in London.

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