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London events in January

Our guide to the best events, festivals, workshops, exhibitions and things to do throughout January 2020 in London

By Time Out London Things To Do |
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Alan Habbick Photography/ Flickr

January 2020 in London is going to be a belter. Though the festive season is coming to a close and the days are still as dark and chilly as ever, there's tons of fun stuff happening in London throughout the New Year to enjoy. Whether you want to keep warm by a pub fire, dine out at the best new restaurants, take in the best theatre openings this month, start a new hobby or embrace a healthier lifestyle (bye, mince pies) or welcome in the ‘Year of the Rat’ at London's Chinese New Year celebration, which take place in January, we've got you covered for London in January. January is also the month of the New Year's Day Parade through central London, the London Short Film Festival, the London Art Fair, Winter Lights at Canary Wharf and Burns Night. So what are you waiting for?

Hey, and while you’ve got your diary out, remember that it's never too early to start planning for February either.

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar

Our January 2020 highlights

Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square
Photograph: Chinese New Year
Things to do, Festivals

Chinese New Year

Various London locations, London

Get the Year of Rat off to the best start at this annual party. Dragon and lion dancers will kick things off on Charing Cross Road at 10am and then shimmy down to Chinatown.

Things to do

Chinese New Year in London

The Year of the Rat is here in 2020 and, as always, Chinese New Year in London will be one of the most exciting events in January. Here’s what you can expect to see in London.

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Snowdrops
Photograph: Lauren Macaskill
Things to do, Quirky events

Heralding Spring

Chelsea Physic Garden, Chelsea

The unique microclimate at London’s oldest botanical garden allows 120 species of snowdrops to bloom each year. See them all at this week of galactic talks and walks.

Hot gin roof, Sipsmiths
© Simon Brown
Things to do, Food and drink events

Hot Gin Roof

Ham Yard Hotel, Soho

Sure, it’s freezing outside but you can still indulge in some rooftop drinking at this cosy Sipsmith pop-up bar. Sample hot G&Ts, steaming Juleps and reinvented classic cocktails. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Burns Night Remixed
Things to do, Quirky events

Burns Night Remixed

EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney), Dalston

There’s no room for quiet suppers and folk songs at this Robbie Burns race where caller-MC will lead a messy crowd through a turbo-ceilidh set to heavy bass instead of bagpipes. Someone will be giving a tearful ‘address tae a haggis’ to their handbag before the night is out. 

Things to do

Burns Night in London

Raise a wee dram to Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns! From foot-stomping ceilidhs to haggis-fuelled feasts, London's got Burns Night celebrations covered. Take a look at our pick of the best Burns bashes. 

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Photograph: David Spargo
Things to do, Food and drink events

Australia Day Bushfire Appeal

Arch 11, Bethnal Green

A fundraiser par excellence by the sounds of things: take part in competitions and games (yes, including bikini and washboard stomach contests), drink a range of indie Aussie brews, enjoy some top BBQ and baked spuds and listen to a wide range of bands and DJs throughout the day and night, all in a good cause. All proceeds from the £10 entry fee will be sent to the Australian Red Cross, to help those affected by the recent bushfires.

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Photograph: The Actual Reality Arcade
Things to do, Games and hobbies

The Actual Reality Arcade

Former Royal Mail Delivery Office, Nine Elms

Step away from the tangle of controls in your bedroom to dodge lasers, build Tetris walls, shoot aliens and become a Pac-Man IRL at The Actual Reality Arcade, a life-sized interactive classic games arcade. Your knackered thumbs will thank you for it.

Photograph: Suki Dhanda
Things to do, Talks and lectures

Smashing It: Working class Artists Making it Happen

Rich Mix, Shoreditch

There’s a sad dearth of working-class people in creative industries. Hear from people trying to change that, including performance artist Travis Alabanza and writer Sabrina Mahfouz at this evening celebrating silver-spoonless art.

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Photograph: Royal Parks
Things to do, Walks and tours

Hidden Stories of Hyde Park

Hyde Park, Hyde Park

Get acquainted with the secrets of this famous London park with a rare opportunity to explore the Victoria pet cemetery, which is crowded with more than 600 tiny animal gravestones. Morbid!

Things to do, Quirky events

Winter Lights at Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf, Isle of Dogs

The business district is glowing even brighter than usual thanks to the addition of sparkling installations and interactive experiences from international artists. 

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Resolution 2020
Photograph: Chris Herzfeld
Things to do, Festivals

Resolution 2020

The Place, Euston

Dense about contemporary dance? Change that in 2020 with a visit to the UK’s biggest festival of choreography. See shows from emerging dance artists, or throw some shapes of your own at a workshop. 

Photograph: Damien Wootten
Things to do, Exhibitions

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Osterley Park and House, Osterley

Step into the world of Judith Kerr’s wonderful children’s classic at this fiftieth-anniversary exhibition. See Kerr’s childhood drawings, learn about her experience of escaping Germany as Hitler came to power, revisit scenes from the book and tuck into tiger-themed treats. 

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The Duchess of Malfi, Almeida, 2019
Photograph: Marc Brenner
Theatre, Drama

‘The Duchess of Malfi’

Almeida Theatre, Islington
5 out of 5 stars

See the stunning new version of the gory revenge tragedy. Lydia Wilson is phenomenally good as the doomed Duchess.

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Antigone, New Diorama, 2020
Photograph: Ali Wright
Theatre, Drama

‘Antigone’

New Diorama Theatre, Euston
4 out of 5 stars

Intimate two-woman rewrite of the Greek tragedy. It’s a vivid and compassionate take on the classic. 

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Photograph: Steve Dunlop
Things to do, pop-ups

Winter at Skylight Rooftop

Skylight London, Wapping

Winter has returned to east London, more specifically Tobacco Dock in Wapping, where there’s a rooftop ice rink (the only natural one in Europe). The rooftop is lined with igloos and huts, which are mighty cosy. Skate, or spectate while knocking back mugs of mulled wine and feasting on roasted chestnuts. 

Photograph: Valie Export 'Einkreisung' (1976) © the artist / Bildrecht Wien 2019. Image courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Art

‘Valie Export’

Thaddaeus Ropac, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

An eye-opening exhibition about menstruation, childbirth and the fluid of Christ sipped at Eucharist. Go see big, bodily, bloody, feminist sculptures and photos. Feminist art often feels dated, but nothing in this exhibition has that sense to it. 

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Photograph: Paul Gauguin 'Self-Portrait Dedicated to Carrière' (1888 or 1889). Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (1985.64.20) Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Art

‘Gauguin Portraits’

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
4 out of 5 stars

Intimate paintings by an art historical giant. Gauguin was basically a bastard, but his work is so good it makes your skin crawl, but boy could he paint. 

Cirque du Soleil: Luzia, 2019
Photograph: Matt Beard
Theatre, Circuses

Cirque du Soleil: ‘Luzia’

Royal Albert Hall, South Kensington
3 out of 5 stars

Cirque du Soleil is back with a Mexican-themed extravaganza. It’s the most atmospheric Cirque show to hit London aeons.

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Richard III, Shakespeare’s Globe, 2019
Photograph: Marc Brenner
Theatre, Shakespeare

‘Henry VI/Richard III’

Shakespeare's Globe, South Bank
4 out of 5 stars

England goes to pot in Shakespeare’s darkest history plays. This is an epic, hilarious violent journey of Sophie Russell’s Richard. 

Photograph: Anselm Kiefer (2019) © Anselm Kiefer. Image courtesy of White Cube (Theo Christelis)
Art

‘Anselm Kiefer’

White Cube Bermondsey, Bermondsey
4 out of 5 stars

See this show of huge, massive, enormous paintings by a German giant. The big war-ravaged canvases are classic Kiefer – the detritus of the twentieth century laid bare. This is his attempt to find meaning in this increasingly meaningless world. It works seriously well. 

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<meta charset="utf-8" /><p><span>Laura Elphinstone (White Witch) and John Leader (Edmund)</span></p>
Photograph: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg
Theatre, Children's

‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’

Bridge Theatre, Tower Bridge
4 out of 5 stars

A new stage adaptation of CS Lewis’s seminal fantasy novel. This Narnia is a wilderness of pure imagination, unshackled, static and pagan.

Photograph: Hugo Glenndinning
Art

Patrick Staff: ‘On Venus’

Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Hyde Park
4 out of 5 stars

A new exhibition by Patrick Staff. His art is about transformation and gender, but it’s not a celebration. Revealing the brutality of day-to-day queer existence in a crushing society. It’s art that’ll turn your stomach and change your mind, but it’s damn powerful stuff.

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Snowflake, Kiln Theatre, 2019
Photograph: Manuel Harlan
Theatre, Drama

‘Snowflake’

Kiln Theatre, Kilburn
4 out of 5 stars

Mike Bartlett’s Christmas play bout Brexit, sort of. Elliot Levey is brilliantly excruciating as a middle-aged dad stuck in the ’90s. 

Photograph: Nam June Paik 'TV Garden' 1974-7 (2002). Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (Düsseldorf, Germany) © Estate of Nam June Paik
Art

Nam June Paik: ‘The Future is Now’

Tate Modern, Bankside

Nam June Paik predicts how technology influences our lives. This Tate show brings together works made across five-decades by the artist credited with inventing video art.

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Photograph: PA Prints 2008
Museums

‘Mary Quant’

V&A, South Kensington

Go big and go bold at this Mary Quant V&A exhibition. See what fast fashion was like back in the day.

My Brilliant Friend, National Theatre, 2019
Photograph: Marc Brenner
Theatre, Drama

‘My Brilliant Friend’

National Theatre, South Bank
4 out of 5 stars

An epic two-part stage adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. Go see Catherine McCormack’s ferociously brilliant turn as Lisa.

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Samuel Fordham 'I Thought I Would Sit Here and Look Out Over the Fjord for the Last Time' (2018). Image courtesy of the artist and New Contemporaries
Art

Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019

South London Gallery, Camberwell

The annual round-up of undiscovered art talent is back, so here are the ones that might just be the stars of the future.

Bruce Conner, 'Breakaway' (still) 1966. © The Conner Family Trust. Courtesy The Conner Family Trust and Thomas Dane Gallery
Art

Bruce Conner: ‘Breakaway’

Thomas Dane, St James’s
4 out of 5 stars

An artsy take on pop video turned inside out. It’s like the best and worst night of your life simultaneously. 

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Folding book containing a sermon on the Abhidhamma in Shan language, Mueang Lakorn, Thailand, dated 1917
Photograph: British Library Board
Museums

‘Buddhism’

British Library, Euston
4 out of 5 stars

A history of one of the world’s religions. Learn about the Buddha’s journeys and teachings, about life and rebirth, compassion and suffering. 

<meta charset="utf-8" /><p><span>Angus Yellowlees&nbsp;(Simon) and Josh Williams (Joe)</span></p>
Photograph: Michael Wharley
Theatre, Drama

‘Touching the Void’

Duke of York’s Theatre, Covent Garden
4 out of 5 stars

See the stage version of Joe Simpson’s harrowing mountaineering memoir. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for those terrifying climbing sequences. 

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David Bomberg 'In the Hold' (about 1913-14) Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery, 1967 © Tate
Art

‘Young Bomberg and the Old Masters’

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
4 out of 5 stars

A small exhibition of big energy, big vision and big paintings. British artist David Bomberg deserves more love than he currently gets and this miniature exhibition makes a massive case for the importance of free access to great art.

Filippo Albacini (1777-1858), The Wounded Achilles, 1825, marble, Chatsworth House Photograph © The Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
Museums, History

‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

British Museum, Bloomsbury
5 out of 5 stars

With its violence, jealousy, aggression and prideful idiocy, the myth of Troy has remained perpetually relevant and this beautiful exhibition shows us why. It's a huge, ambitious show, but take a deep breath and set an afternoon aside, because it's more than worth your time.

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Photograph: Dora Maar 'Untitled (Main Shell)' Centre Pompidou, MNAM-, Dist. RMN - Grand Palais/Jacques Faujour
Art

‘Dora Maar’

Tate Modern, Bankside
4 out of 5 stars

Tate Modern hosts the UK's first-ever retrospective of this often forgotten female artist. Prolific and varied, yet historically by her sometime lover Pablo Picasso, this exhibition gives her the kudos she deserves.

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© Duffy Archive
Museums

‘Cars: Accelerating the Modern World’

V&A, South Kensington
4 out of 5 stars

A supercharged journey through the history (and future) of automobiles. Go see all types of special cars. From the Latino low-riders of LA to Hitler’s pet project, an olive VW Beetle. It’s going to be a great ride.

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Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen '7th Nov. 2001' Video still © Steve McQueen. Image courtesy of the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery
Art

‘Steve McQueen’

Tate Modern, Bankside

The brilliant Steve McQueen’s ‘Year 3’ is a collection of school photos of almost every Year 3 class in the city. It’s a celebration of this city’s diversity, and its vast variety of races, cultures and backgrounds. This art shows us London now, and it shows us London in the future – wide open, diverse and brilliant. 

Dear Evan Hansen, West End 2019
Photograph: Matthew Murphy
Theatre, Musicals

‘Dear Evan Hansen’

Noël Coward Theatre, Covent Garden
4 out of 5 stars

The Broadway smash about a sensitive teen whose white lie spirals out of control. Go for a teen musical that puts ‘Heathers’ in the shade.

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Scrounger, Finborough Theatre 2020
Photograph: Nick Rutter
Theatre, Drama

‘Scrounger’

Finborough Theatre, Earl’s Court
4 out of 5 stars

A drama from Athena Stevens about an airline trashing her wheelchair. It’s provocative, smart and calls out its liberal audience.

& Juliet, 2019
Photograph: Michael Wharley
Theatre, Musicals

‘& Juliet’

Shaftesbury Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

A brand new West End musical is coming to town and it’s bringing the biggest bangers with it. This sublimely OTT West End musical sees Shakespeare’s Juliet return from the dead and head off on a girls’ trip to Paris.

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<meta charset="utf-8" /><p><span>Zizi Strallen&nbsp;</span></p>
Photograph: Johan Persson
Theatre, Musicals

‘Mary Poppins’

Prince Edward Theatre, Soho
3 out of 5 stars

The original supernanny is back in the West End. It’s everything you could want in a mega-budget musical: memorable songs, dazzling visuals and a nostalgic London. 

Maureen Scott 'Mother and Child at Breaking Point' (1970) .Image courtesy of Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Art

‘The Four Ages of Woman’

Bethlem Gallery and Museum of the Mind, Borough of Bromley
4 out of 5 stars

Art by women about women. And so much more. It’s topical, political, emotional – and well worth the length of the train journey to get there.

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