Yep, it's February already. Which means that January is finally out the way and London begins brightening up – just a little – thanks to a batch of events and celebrations. Get loved-up or celebrate being single on Valentine's Day, flip-out during Pancake Day and treat the kids (and maybe yourself too) during half-term.
Here are our February 2018 highlights, which should give you plenty of inspiration to fill any day or night of the month – or all of them, if you're up for a challenge.
RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar.
Our February 2018 highlights
The tough childhood of a poor Miami kid is the subject of Barry Jenkins's powerful and moving indie portrait of African-American life. Quiet, sullen Chiron – initially played by Alex Hibbert – is a bullied ten-year-old, scared and uncertain about the world. The film follows Chiron's life, and the character is subsequently played by two more actors as he grows up. It makes for a haunting, incredible film.
Frying pans at the ready! Shrove Tuesday marks the last day before Lent, traditionally a period of abstinence, associated with clearing your cupboards of things like sugar, fat and eggs. Check out our favourite pancake-based celebrations in London – easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Eccentrically but handsomely decorated, this stylish Ladbroke Grove spot serves up ultra-contemporary cooking with flair. Just how contemporary are we talking? Try sweet potato ice cream on a bed of popcorn and sheep's yoghurt, or perhaps the roast octopus with turnip, tahini and radicchio – then there's the chocolate cremeux with artichoke ice cream and toasted wild rice. Elegant stuff, and well worth treating yourself to.
This anarchic-yet-tender German comedy is a moving, often hilarious portrait of a father-daughter relationship. Ageing father Winfried, who loves practical jokes, visits his daughter Inès while she's on secondment in Bucharest. It's not long before Winfried is appearing everywhere that Inès goes, showcasing his usual quirky gags. It all makes for a hugely original, hilarious and completely surprising film.
Fear not, Potter fans: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is an absolute hoot, a joyous, big-hearted, ludicrously incident-packed and magic-heavy romp that has to stand as one of the most unrelentingly entertaining things to hit the West End. Writer Jack Thorne, director John Tiffany and a world-class team have played a blinder.
The silent disco phenomenon reaches new heights at these exclusive Time Out events. Pick your channel and choose your side as three DJs battle it out over separate wireless channels, playing the best in pop, rock and party classics, while you dance the night away at 1,000ft. The View from The Shard is the visitor attraction at the top of Western Europe's tallest building, The Shard. With unparalleled, panoramic views, it offers visitors a unique perspective on the capital.
Improv gets a bad rap in this country, but anyone who dismisses the genre clearly hasn't seen Austentatious. This highly impressive troupe perform a completely improvised Jane Austen novel, complete with period dress and cello accompaniment, with marvellous results. Made up of Andrew Murray, Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Joseph Morpurgo, Cariad Lloyd, Graham Dickson and Rachel Parris, they're all hugely talented performers, able to keep the gag rate high and the made-up story rolicking along. Tremendous fun.
Not just a cool something-for-everyone market, West Norwood Feast is also a worthwhile local enterprise. Space-makers – the regeneration group behind Brixton Village – came up with the idea to give a boost to a forgotten borough. There’s Retro Village, serving up vintage fashion and homewares; Artisan’s Hub, with live craft sessions and workshops; Fresh ‘n’Green, the food and garden produce bit; and Food Fair – bulging with street nosh. It’s a cracking operation.
Proof that Moriarty was always cooler than Sherlock: where Benedict Cumberbatch 'gave' his Hamlet in the summer of 2015 at the vast Barbican, his screen nemesis Andrew Scott will take on the part of Shakespeare's doomed Danish prince in the tiny, hip Almeida. If it's become de rigeur for every major male actor – and a few women too – to take on Hamlet, then the same is true for every great director.
From the pale pink Emanuel blouse she wore for her engagement portrait to the blue velvet gown she wore at the White House to dance with John Travolta, this new exhibition about Princess Diana's wardrobe charts the image-crafting and sartorial choices throughout her life in the limelight.
Free events this February
Putting a spotlight on the health of the River Thames, artist Jason Bruges’ light installation will shine one of three patterns on to the Sea Containers at Mondrian London based on whether the water quality is good, average or poor according to that day’s Thames data reading. The lights will be a permanent fixture every evening from dusk until midnight, letting us know if the river’s health is improving or declining. The data will also be tweeted on via the @ThamesPulse account and a billboard will show readings on real time. The lights will be switched on for the first on March 16 at 6.30pm.The project was devised by MEC UK to help raise awareness about the condition of the Thames and to support charity Thames21 in its mission to protect London’s rivers.
Art exhibitions this February
Twenty-three years down the line, it's easy to forget how Rachel Whiteread shocked audiences with her Turner Prize entry 'House': the concrete cast of the interior of a Victorian house in Mile End. But it won her the prize – she was the first woman to do so – and since then, Whiteread has risen to become one of the most influential figures of the art establishment. She'll always be chiefly for making casts of negative spaces, but her work stretches beyond that – this long-overdue retrospective should flesh out a highly accomplished career.
He's never captured public imagination quite like his contemporaries Gauguin and van Gogh – but Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was the real daddy of post-impressionism. His innovative way of modelling form with colour and geometric shapes lay out the path for cubism, fauvism and all of the modern art that was to follow. He's best known for his landscapes of the Provençal countryside, but this show brings together his portraits, including paintings of his wife, uncle and himself.
Fifteenth-century Flemish artist Jan van Eyck was as much a technical pioneer as he was an artistic genius, mastering illusionistic space in his exquisitely constructed paintings. Five centuries later, his masterwork 'The Arnolfini Portrait' inspired a new wave of artists: the Pre-Raphaelites, a circle of Victorian bad boys who championed his draughtsmanship and symbolism.
This show looks at an often overlooked chapter in the impressionist story: when the Franco-Prussion war broke out in 1870, many French artists fled across the Channel to London. Here, they met a wave of enthusiastic contemporaries and patrons, and a new era of symbiosis between English and French art began.
Amadeo Modigliani's star burned bright and fast. The Italian artist died from tubercular meningitis at the tragic age of 35, but in the years leading up to that he was a well-known – if not financially successful – player in the vibrant Parisian art scene. The elongated figures of his paintings and sculptures are unmistakeable: sensual, elegant, and now gathered together for his largest UK retrospective to date.
Aside from being the only English monarch to ever suffer the indignity of having their head chopped off, Charles I (1600-49) was also an avid art collector. He bought and commissioned work by some of his age's greatest artists, including Rubens, Titian and van Dyck. Although it's long been scattered across the globe, this exhibition will bring together over 90 pieces from Charlie Boy's illustrious collection.
Black-and-white painting has a long history, but rarely gets looked at as a tradition in its own right. The NG should put paid to that, with an exhibition that traces monochrome painting from grisaille works of the Middle Ages to pieces by contemporary artists like Gerhard Richter.
You know how people say that you can tell God is cruel because he lets things like famine and disease and war happen? Well here’s something else you can tell about God: he’s got terrible taste in art, because he lets Bill Viola make videos for his cathedrals. ‘Mary’ is his second (second!) permanent (permanent!!!) video work in St. Paul’s Cathedral. I asked a member of staff what ‘permanent’ means and was told: ‘Something like 300 years’. Lord have mercy. The first work, ‘Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water)’ was unveiled in 2014, and sits in the opposite corner to this new companion piece of permanent (seriously, like, permanent) religious video art. Let me take you through the work. It starts with a shaven-headed woman – playing Mary, mother of Jesus – breastfeeding a baby Christ as a timelapse of Los Angeles speeds by on a CGI background. Urgh. Then, it cuts to a river running through a red rock canyon. Mary, a different one this time, walks through the water. Then she stands on a mountaintop, sits in front of a fire in the snow, walks through a field and, well, yadda yadda yadda. Images of cracked salt flats, forests and riverbeds get collaged together, all moving in super slo-mo, ultra HD. Then – pow! – black and white shots of piles of dead fish. There’s a metaphor at play for Mary as grieving mother of the world. Then it cuts to Mary cradling the dead body of an adult Jesus, tears streaming down her face in the ruins of a church. The whole thing slowly fades to grainy
Oh, Hayward: we have missed you these past two years. Luckily, when the Southbank institution finally reopens in early 2018 after an extensive refurb, it will kick things off with a bang in the form of the first ever UK retrospective of German photographer Andreas Gursky. His sweeping, large-format images of modernity – Parisian apartment blocks, landfills, factory floors – continue to astound and dazzle.
Find great things to do all year round
A Chelsea cocktail bar and nightclub, right on the King's Road. The design comes from Martin Brudnizki so it looks like the kind of place suiting the glamorous Chelsea crowd. Regular DJ sets keep the party going into the early hours. The small-plates food menu ranges from arancini, pork belly skewers to lobster and potato may tacos, octopus skewers with leeks and paprika, and deep-fried kataifi prawns. A cheeseboard served with honey and grapes is available, too. The drinks list focuses on cocktails, with their own Midnight in JuJu (pear vodka, blackberries, apple juice and berry liqueur) alongside mai tais, mojitos and a Giant Pornstar to share. Champagne cocktails - made with Veuve Cliquot - are also on offer, alongside a range of champagnes by the bottle.
Venue says: “Happy hour on special cocktails created by the some of the best mixologists in London, weeknights until 10pm!”