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It’s ‘Freedom Day’! Here’s what you should be getting up to

Don’t forget your face mask. All the cool kids will still be wearing them

Written by
Katie McCabe

The contentiously named ‘Freedom Day’ is today. So what does it actually mean? Well, broadly, it marks the date that lockdown restrictions will supposedly come to an end, with a caveat from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that we must proceed with caution, given that ‘this pandemic is not over’. Things, as always, are subject to change, but from Monday July 19 (today), the ‘one metre plus’ social distancing rule will no longer be enforced, the government order to work from home will be scrapped, there will be no cap on the number of people who can meet indoors or out, and the wearing of face coverings in public settings will no longer be legally mandatory (though they are ‘strongly encouraged’, which means – keep wearing them).  

Many are understandably nervous at the thought of zero restrictions, given the recent spread of the Delta variant, and confusion around what ‘Freedom Day’ will actually entail. In Monday July 11’s update, Johnson implied that restrictions could be reinstated in the case of ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as the ‘arrival of a new variant that we haven’t bargained for or budgeted for’.

One of the biggest changes from July 19 is that nightclubs are now officially allowed to reopen for the first time since lockdown began, and festivals will be able to go ahead. It’s also good news for arts venues that are unable survive at reduced capacity, though some have chosen to put safety first and keep social-distancing measures in place. It’s far from a free-for-all, but ‘Freedom Day’ does offer an opportunity to support London’s nightlife, music and theatre venues. Want to get involved? Have a look at some of the best events taking place on Monday July 19 below. Just remember, it’s important to remain cautious, so hold on to your face masks, and be respectful of any individual restrictions venues have in place, so that we can continue to go out and do things when ‘Freedom Day’ has passed. 

Gigs and club nights 

We Dance again Freedom Party at Queen of Hoxton. Free entry, but book in advance. 

The Full Return of Live Music at Oval Space and The Pickle Factory
Live performances from Flamingods, Crows and Talk Show, plus DJ sets from DJ Betamax and DJ L.E.D. The music starts at 00.01am sharp on Monday Jul 19. £16.50

Everybody Dance at Colours Hoxton
Dance from Freedom Day to Night with Mas Que Nada Bros, The Real Escobar and Tommy Tickle. Free entry before 11pm, book in advance.

Ben Walker and Thom Ashworth at Green Notes
A folksy duo in Camden’s cosiest gig venue. £12

High-Vis at Oslo Hackney 
London post-punk outfit High-Vis play their first gig in 1.5 years, with performances from Island of Love and The Hazmats. Free, book in advance

A Night of Motown at The Jazz Cafe
The hits of The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson delivered by a live band. From £16

Rob Corcoran and The Necessary Evils at The Lexington
Acoustic alt-country from a Dublin songman. 

150 Anniversary Concert at The Royal Albert Hall
The RAH presents a new ‘sonic journey’ from film composer David Arnold for its 150th birthday, with special guests Melanie C, Michael Sheen, Nicola Adams, Brian Cox, Claudia Winkleman, Jess Gillam, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Charles Dance, LionHeart, Jemma Redgrave and Helen Pankhurst. From £15. 

Photograph: Cleaner Brighter, ‘Hymn’ at Almeida Theatre
Photograph: Cleaner Brighter, ‘Hymn’ at Almeida Theatre


Hymn at the Almeida Theatre 
Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani star in this drama about male friendship. £tbc, find out more here

Lava at Bush Theatre
A woman embarks on a journey to solve the mystery of her name in this debut play from Benedict Lombe. £10-£20, find out more here

The Two Character Play at Hampstead Theatre
Kate O’Flynn and Zubin Varla star in this relatively obscure Tennessee Williams play. £18-£37 find out more here.  

Bagdad Café at The Old Vic 
Emma Rice reopens the Old Vic with what looks to be a surreal adaptation of Percy Adlon’s 1987 indie filmFrom £10, find out more here

Photograph: Rhod Gilbert, courtesy of Underbelly
Photograph: Rhod Gilbert, courtesy of Underbelly


The Factory at 21 Soho
Watch Olga Koch, Alison Spittle, Josie Long, Erika Ehler and other comedians try out new material on stage. £13.50

Alternative Comedy Memorial Society at Signature Brew Haggerston
Comedy hosts Thom Tuck and John-Luke Roberts promise big laughs in a brewery. £10

Rhod Gilbert: ‘The Book of John’ at Underbelly Cavendish Square
The gravelly voiced Welsh comedian presents his 2019 live show in the Underbelly spiegeltent. From £27.50.  

Photograph: Haydon Perrior
Photograph: Haydon Perrior

Food and booze

Le Bab Old Street 
Kebab renaissance project Le Bab is opening a fourth site on May 17, just in time for a ‘Freedom Day’ pork shawarma. Find out more here

Free pints at Gibney’s
Gibney’s Irish bar is closed on Monday July 19, but they’ll be serving dishing out big frosty glasses of beer and Guinness from Wednesday to Friday (July 21-23) between the hours of 4pm to 6pm in honour of the date. Find out more here

'Druk (Another round) es una apuesta descarada y atrevida de Thomas Vinterberg


From July 19, London’s cinemas will be able to run at full capacity for the first time since 2020. However, some venues have taken the decision to keep social distancing measures in place, more on that here. If you’re planning a Monday trip to the movies, there are some great new July releases to choose from, including ‘Another Round’, ‘Black Widow’, ‘Summer of Soul’ and ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’. That’s right, ‘Space Jam’ has a sequel, a whole 25 years after the first one. The website of the original 1996 film is still going strong, too. 

Curtis Pearl and Jake Church © Robert Gifford
Photograph: Curtis Pearl and Jake Church © Robert Gifford

Art and museum exhibitions 

No Comply at Somerset House 
This exhibition about skateboarding’s influence on photography, film, design and fashion actually opens on Monday July 19. Coincidence? Yep, it is, the date for the show was set months ago, but a good excuse to go all the same. Free, but book in advance

Sophie Tauber-Arp at Tate Modern
See some futuristic art that blurs the boundaries between design, craft, textiles and abstraction. £16

Paula Rego at Tate Britain
Tate Britain’s major retrospective on the British-Portuguese artist features more than 100 pieces, grouped into very different Rego epochs. 

Matthew Barney: ‘Redoubt’ at Hayward Gallery
There’s just two more weeks left to see Matthew Barney’s intense, conceptual solo show. It’s as beautiful as it is confusing, and features a full-length art feature film. Don’t miss it.

What does ‘Freedom Day’ mean for London’s theatres

Feeling hopeful for the festival season? Here are all the best ones happening in London this summer (and autumn). 

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