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London’s museum lates are going virtual this Friday

Tate and the Natural History Museum have created live-streamed versions of their famous after-hours events

Written by
Katie McCabe

Ah museum ‘lates’, remember them? The one night a month where we were given permission to amble through the Natural History Museum after 9pm and have drunken conversations with a Tasmanian tiger through a glass cabinet. At Tate Lates, you could be at a Turbine Hall DJ set one minute and watching experimental video art the next. At their best, lates are a chance for up-and-coming London artists to really take over gallery and museum spaces and make them their own. But the one thing they always bring is crowds, huge queue-generating crowds, which, for obvious reasons, can’t happen right now. 

Now that we are months, rather than weeks into lockdown, galleries have found a way to bring those after-hours events to us. Like many of the art exhibitions that were forced to close in March, Friday lates are going virtual. Well, two of them anyway. 

Friday May 29 will be the first Uniqlo Tate Lates: Night In, an evening of online talks, workshops and curated playlists that will be split into two channels. On one stream, you can watch Tate Modern’s director Frances Morris in conversation with Kara Walker, creator of the ‘Kara Walker: Fons Americanus’ sculpture which is still standing in the closed Turbine Hall. Later in the evening Morris will be chatting with Wolfgang Tillmans about the 2020Solidarity project, which has seen 50 artists design individual posters to raise money for struggling music venues and indie spaces. There’ll also be a DIY zine-making workshop with Riot Soup Collective and a bit of guided meditation thrown into the mix. You can digitally ‘walk’ to another Tate Late room by switching to the second stream to hear some lockdown poetry from Raymond Antrobus and Anthony Anaxagorou, and a playlist from NTS Radio set to visuals from Wolfgang Tillmans. 

Over in South Kensington, the Natural History Museum has Friday late plans on the same night. At 7.30pm, the museum’s scientists will gather for online panel talk The Needs of the Many to discuss social animals, herd mentality and collective nouns. We’re not the only creatures that rely on each other to survive. (Did you know a collection of rattlesnakes is called a rhumba? Now you do!) After that, it’s a good old-fashioned lockdown trope: an online quiz. Though this one sounds quite fun: The Herding Arms will be 45 minutes of trivia about the ‘societies, collectives and gangs’ of the animal world. Imagine the team names. There is no stopping those puns.

If you really want to create the Friday late experience from home, place all the most expensive items you own on a tall shelf, and nervously hover around them while clutching a glass of warm white wine. Almost as good as the real thing! 

It’s not just events going digital. Voma, a virtual museum created especially for lockdown, is due to open in June

More concerned about movies than galleries? Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas are scheduled to reopen in July.

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