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Night at the museum: a weekend festival takes over London’s leading institutions

By Rosemary Waugh

Forty London museums and galleries are being taken over for a mix of late-night gigs, tarot readings and DJ sets. How many can you make in one night?

London, meet Emerge, a brand new festival that’s breaking down the doors of more than 40 iconic museums and galleries for a brilliant programme of lates spanning 11 boroughs (Fri Sep 27-Sat Sep 28) . You’ll only need one ticket per night whatever you choose, whether that’s an Ady Suleiman gig at the Horniman, gothic fairytales at Strawberry Hill House or poetry in a former convent. Queues are inevitable, and with miles separating some of these venues, you’ll need to plan your night wisely. Put on your plimsolls, you have a lot of ground to cover… 


Ice Sound Bath at London Canal Museum

Cool off with an arctic dip in the sonic soundscape of Tom White. The electronic musician layers sound samples from an ice factory and the waterways of London to create a chilling immersive experience. The cleverest part is how it references the Victorian ice business, which transported boatloads of frozen stuff along the canals. Ice, ice, baby. London Canal Museum. Tube: King’s Cross. 6pm. Can’t make it Friday? This one is on the Saturday too! 

Number One London House of Scandal at Apsley House

Slip on some silk stockings and ramp up the face powder, we’re on our way to Regency England. Held at Apsley House, former home of the Duke of Wellington, this party takes you back to when pamphleteers were the Twittersphere and the servants knew your darkest secrets. It’s basically dress-up for adults but we’re okay with that. Apsley House. Tube: Hyde Park Corner. 6pm.

Ady Suleiman

Late Night Music at the Horniman Museum

Treat yourself to a little night music as two neo-soul heavyweights play some intimate sets on the Horniman Museum’s bandstand. First up is south London singer-songwriter Poppy Ajudha who counts Barack Obama as one of her fans, followed by headliner Ady Suleiman with his trippy mix of R&B, jazz, soul and funk. Stick around for the afterparty where you can throw shapes next to the Music Gallery’s nearly eight-foot-high tuba. Horniman Museum. Forest Hill Overground. 6pm.

Body & Mind Late at Dulwich Picture Gallery

One of the quieter pieces of the Emerge schedule, this night of body positivity and mental health events at the Dulwich Picture Gallery will feature performances from experimental dancers like Alice Bonazzi and a drop-in life drawing class. Life models will share their personal body-acceptance stories while you get sketching. Dulwich Picture Gallery. West Dulwich rail. 7pm.

Banqueting House

In Future at Banqueting House

If you end up running from venue to venue, recharge with the honey-smooth sounds of Greentea Peng at Banqueting House. Fall under the spell of the south London musician while hanging around in this swish building, the only remaining bit of the original Palace of Whitehall. The night, which also has performances by A2 and Kasien, is curated by rapper Flohio. Plus: the clue’s in the name to sort tomorrow’s hangover. Tube: Embankment. 9pm.


Here-Now-Us at Nunnery Gallery

Make space in your schedule for the multi-talented Sanah Ahsan, spoken-word poet and trainee clinical psychologist. The rising star won the 2019 Outspoken Prize for Performance Poetry and is active in community projects tackling Islamophobia. There will also be a performance from trio Benin City. Nunnery Gallery. Tube: Bow Rd. 5pm. 

It Starts with You at Houses of Parliament

The running of parliament has been, erm, rather big news lately. This is a chance to step inside the halls of Westminster after-hours. You’ll be able to nosy around the Commons and the Lords, grab a drink in Westminster Hall, then chat politics with strangers. Keep it clean… Houses of Parliament. Tube: Westminster. 6pm.

Natural History Museum

Jungle DJ set at Natural History Museum

Welcome to the jungle. Sorry, not the jungle. Just ‘Jungle’. The Mercury Music Prize-nominated duo, J and T, stage a DJ set at the Natural History Museum, allowing you the chance to party up close with the prehistoric beasts. And thanks with Luke Jerram’s huge lunar installation ‘Museum of the Moon’, you can also take a breather staring up at the big old lump of cheese in the sky. Natural History Museum. Tube South Kensington. 9.30pm.

Jewish Museum London x Vagina Museum Late

Watch comedian Candi Gigi’s one-woman show about a sexually repressed Jewish woman from Borehamwood who dreams of stardom over awkward Friday night dinners. Stay for a pop-up exhibition from the Vagina Museum, a parody of the phallocentric nature of so many UK museums. The Jewish Museum. Tube: Camden Town. 6pm. 


Strawberry Hill House

Fairytale Gothic Night Garden at Strawberry Hill House

Create your own midsummer dream of a night out with a wander around the lit-up pleasure garden of Strawberry Hill House. To be honest, its grounds are pretty magical in their natural state anyway, but you’ll get to delve into its grottos and follies while meeting tarot card readers, harlequins and clairvoyants. They’ve already predicted we’ll be there. Strawberry Hill House. Strawberry Hill rail. 7pm.

Emerge Festival runs at various locations across London Fri Sep 27-Sat Sep 28. £25 (day). £30-£40 (weekend). Find out more here

Can’t make that weekend? Don’t worry, you can find regular museum lates in London here


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