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London, view from the shard

27 London events (and new openings) to get excited about in 2020

Well done, you’ve made it to the new year with only a faint residual hangover holding you back. Now, let us help you make 2020 memorable

By Isabelle Aron, Bobby Palmer, Kate Lloyd and Anya Meyerowitz
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We might no longer be getting Crossrail this year (surprise!), but 2020 promises big things for London: music festivals under motorways (seriously), unforgettable theatre and more art exhibitions than you can shake an HB pencil at. 

We’ve rounded up the most exciting events and goings-on to bring you the only guide to the year you’ll need this year. From Brent becoming the new London Borough of Culture in January through to the Royal Albert Hall’s concert performance of ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’ in December, with London's first Trans+ Pride and the much-anticipated reopening of The Geffrye Museum sandwiched in between.

We can’t predict the weather, sadly, but we can promise a perpetually sunny outlook when it comes to London’s cultural climate this year. 

RECOMMENDED: 101 best things to do in London

London events in 2020

Barbican Centre
@ Kiev Victor/Shutterstock.com

1. The Barbican launches a big new season

The Barbican launches a big new season Dig into some whopping topics at the Barbican’s year-long programme ‘Inside Out’, which explores the relationship between our lives and creativity. Highlights include boundary-breaking exhibition ‘Masculinities: Liberation through Photography’. If your new year’s resolution is to be more cultured, you’ll be set.

Nearest tube: Barbican. Throughout 2020. Prices vary.

Arena Takeover, Brent
Photograph: Jason Hawkes

2. Brent becomes the new Borough of Culture

Last year, Waltham Forest had the honour of being the first ever London Borough of Culture – this year, it’s Brent’s time. If you’re unfamiliar with the northwest borough, it spans Wembley, Kensal Green and Brent Park and is the birth place of Zadie Smith. The year-long programme includes an opening celebration in Wembley Park featuring 100 dancers and largescale projections. Now that’s Brentertainment. 

Various locations.

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Goods Way is a new food market coming to Kings Cross
Photograph: Goods Way

3. King’s Cross gets a handsome food hall

If you’ve been thinking, ‘London could really do with a street food market,’ you’ve probably not being paying much attention for the last few years. That said, Goods Way, in King’s Cross, avoids being overkill by virtue of its New Orleansinspired interior alone. Expect Breddos Tacos and The Duck Truck on the roster.

11 Goods Way. Nearest tube: King’s Cross. Opens winter 2020.

4. The bakery-wine bar hybrid of drunk dreams arrives

While you might have been cruelly snubbed by Harry and Meghan’s wedding invitation list, you can still have your cake and eat it courtesy of star baker Claire Ptak. The maestro behind the royal wedding cake honed her craft on Broadway Market, and is now bringing her Violet brand to the corner of Mare Street. Violet Corner will offer two floors of freshly baked goodness, and feature a wine bar.

121-123 Mare St. Nearest tube: Hackney Central Overground. Opens Jan 2020.

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Stracci with gorgonzola and onions at Padella
Andy Parsons

5. A new Padella arrives...

Restaurants Italian Shoreditch

Following the success of its critically-acclaimed restaurant in Borough, fresh pasta specialists Padella are opening their second branch in Shoreditch. Opening in late-February 2020 for lunch and dinner seven days a week, owners Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda are also moving Padella's existing bakery to the new site. Expect the menu to feature the restaurant's usual high-quality but affordable dishes, perhaps classic hits like pici cacio e pepe or pappardelle with beef shin ragu. 

Phipp Street, EC2A. February.

100 best restaurants in london, hoppers
© John Carey

6. ...And another Hoppers

Restaurants Sri Lankan King’s Cross

If 2019 was the year of queueing for restaurants, 2020 is the year of queueing for even more restaurants. That’s because we’re getting another branch of much-loved Sri Lankan restaurant Hoppers. The restaurant’s heading to King’s Cross.

Pancras Square, N1C 4AG. February.

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7. ‘Far Away’ is suddenly very close

Few storytellers dig into abuses of power better than Caryl Churchill. So it’s big news that ‘Far Away’, potentially the winner of the hotly contested title of ‘best Caryl Churchill play’, is coming to London this year. It’s an examination of the brutalities of war that escalates wildly to a global, interspecies conflict on a surreal scale with everything from animals to gravity taking part.

Donmar Warehouse. Nearest tube: Covent Garden. Feb 6-Mar 2 8. £10-£40.

London's best craft beer, Beavertown Gamma Ray
© Rob Greig

8. London get's a themepark for hopheads

As soon as the weather warms up a little, you might want to head to Beavertown’s enormous Beaverworld complex, which sits right on the edge of the river Lea. As the name suggests, the brewery’s new HQ is basically a theme park for hopheads. If all goes to plan, expect it to open in March. Oh, and don’t quote us on the whole ‘no queues’ thing.

102 E Duck Lees Ln. March. 

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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

9. London gets a massive Steve McQueen retrospective

It’s easy to find yourself getting jealous of Steve McQueen. The Turner Prize-winning artist is adept in photography, sculpture and film, which helped a bit when he dipped out of the art world to direct ‘12 Years a Slave’ and, you know, win an Oscar. If you can hold back your envy, you’ll be rewarded at Tate Modern with an exhibition of McQueen’s works across two decades, from his early Super 8 film ‘Exodus’ to the more recent ‘End Credits’, a tribute to black civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

Tate Modern. Nearest tube: Southwark. Feb 13-May 11.

BFI Southbank

10. Tilda Swinton season arrives

She’s played a Dickensian great aunt, a zombie-fighting mortician, a superhero sorcerer and an immortal vampire – and that was just last year. Now one of the UK’s most versatile film stars can add a BFI retrospective to her list of accomplishments, with the South Bank cinema hosting a Swinton-centric season. 

BFI Southbank. Nearest tube: Waterloo. March. Prices vary.

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© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc/Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

11. The world’s most famous cans come to London

In between pop art of slebs, this new Andy Warhol show features portraits of black and Latinx drag queens and trans women, which are on display for the first time in 30 years. And yes, those iconic Campbell’s soup tins will be in the mix too.

Tate Modern. Nearest tube: Southwark. £22. Mar 12-Sep 6.

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13. Kraftwerk headlines All Points East

Last year, we were given a hint about one of the All Points East bill: a band celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. We thought: ‘rock dinosaur’. Turns out it’s actually German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk, who, in 1970, started a European love affair with synthesisers that would lead to techno and electro. 

All Points East. Victoria Park. Homerton Overground. May 29. £65.

14. Expect a party under the M4

Junction 2 treads a fine line between booking awesome names from the electronic underground (think Honey Dijon), while also being a BIG affair. Witness the main stage, for example, which sits directly under the M4.

Boston Manor Park. Nearest tube: Arnos Grove. Jun 5-6. Prices vary.

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15. The V&A gets curiouser

The V&A has spent years knocking it out of the park with immersive exhibitions on surprisingly specific subjects. Expect this to continue with its in-depth celebration of Lewis Carroll’s trippy classic, ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

V&A. Nearest tube: South Kensington. From Jun 27. Prices vary.

Best buildings in London: Hayward Gallery
© Thinglass

16. The Hayward takes an oral look at art

Appreciating art isn’t just about looking at paintings and nodding earnestly, as ‘Reverb: Sound into Art’ at the Hayward Gallery proves. The summer show will feature work from 14 artists who use sound as their primary medium – whether that’s music, noise or silence. You can expect to see installations that respond to the gallery’s brutalist architecture, too (what does concrete sound like anyway?). 

Hayward Gallery. Nearest tube: Waterloo. Jun 24-Sep 6. Prices TBC.

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Chase & Status, main stage, Lovebox 2017
© Max Miechowski

17. Tyler, The Creator triumphantly returns

Following the release of his critically acclaimed genre-bending fifth album ‘Igor’ last year, a Tyler, The Creator headline show anywhere would be a big deal. The fact that this is the US rapper’s first festival appearance since he was banned from the country by Theresa May (yes, really) makes it even more attendance-worthy. Catch him at Lovebox in July, assuming he makes it through customs. 

Gunnersbury Park. Nearest tube: Acton Town. Jun 12-14. From £72.50.

London has the planet’s most  popular pitch ‘Hundreds of years ago, performers would have just walked up to Covent Garden. Nowadays, artists audition for 40-minute timeslots,and the different  pitches are allocated at the start  of the day by a draw.’  Ev
Photograph: Andy Parsons

18. Your next favourite drinking spot lands in London

Over in New York, the Nomad hotel bar is known for its high-end pub grub, its 007-does-Wild-West styling and, most importantly, its fantastical cocktails. Now the hotel’s opening in Covent Garden. Early renders show ninteenth-century architecture, shrubbery and velvet. As for the drinks? You’ll have to wait and see.

Nomad. Nearest tube: Covent Garden. Opens summer.

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Little Mix
© Elliot Morgan

19. Little Mix headline BST Hyde Park

Not content with a Glasto appearance and a slew of questionable Hackney and Brixton references in ‘London Boy’, freshly minted anglophile Taylor Swift will be heading back to her new favourite city to play BST Hyde Park. Swifty fans will no doubt be thrilled to hear that Little Mix are headlining another day of the festival, with support from Rita Ora and Kesha.

Hyde Park. July 3-12

New_GeffryeMuseum_BR_17.jpg
Ben Rowe

20. The Geffrye reopens

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone? Such is the case with Hoxton’s Geffrye Museum. It closed for an £18 million do-over in 2018. Now it’s reopening as the Museum of the Home with double the gallery space. Here’s hoping the quirky living room time tunnel has survived.

Geffrye Almshouses. Hoxton Overground. Reopens summer.

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Pokemon Go
Niantic

21. London fills with Pokémon

Forget the Tokyo Olympics. The real sporting highlight of year is the Pokémon World Championships. In its first iteration outside the US, trainers from Cinnabar Island to Vermilion City will compete in London.

Location TBC. August.

22. London’s gets its first mural festival

It’s easy to become complacent about a lot of the stuff painted on London’s walls (largely because a lot of it is quite bad). But some of it is brilliant and it’s time it was celebrated. Which is exactly what will happen at the London Mural Festival. More than 100 artists like Mr Doodle and Camille Walala will be creating large-scale paintings.

Various venues. Sep 1-13. Prices TBC.

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Man with rainbow flag at Pride London
© Max Gor

23. Trans+ Pride protests for the safety of trans people

Thousands of Londoners made history last year when they headed to Piccadilly Circus as part of the city’s first Trans+ Pride. Now the event’s becoming annual, promising to remain an act of protest and speak out for safety and equality of trans people in London, as other Pride events become more corporate. The team are crowdfunding to ensure they are able to make it inclusive.

Venue TBC. Sep 12. Free.

Royal Academy of Arts Statue and exterior
Royal Academy of Arts

24. Everyone’s favourite performance artist comes to the RA

Imagine the situation: you’re trying to squeeze through a doorway but there’s a naked man on one side of you and a naked woman on the other. Whaddya do? That’s one of the pieces that will be recreated at the Royal Academy’s Marina Abramović exhibition, which features work spanning the artist’s whole career.

Royal Academy. Nearest tube: Green Park. Sep 26-Dec 8. Prices TBC.

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Royal Albert Hall 2019
Photograph: Shutterstock

25. The Force heads to the Royal Albert Hall

If you hate choosing between highbrow culture and science-fiction blockbusters, this one’s for you. The Royal Albert Hall hosts a concert performance of ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’. That means you can get all your Ewok kicks on the big screen, while the score is played live by the London Symphony Orchestra in the pit below.

Royal Albert Hall. Nearest tube: South Kensington. Oct 23-25. From £37.

Tate Modern

26. Turner’s turning up

Good old Will Turner’s now one of the most canonical British artists. Back during the Industrial Revolution? He was a radical, capturing inventions with fresh style. See him in a new light in ‘Turner’s Modern World’.

Tate Britain. Nearest tube: Westminster. Oct 28-Mar 7 2021. Prices TBC.

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Frozen Broadway
© Deen van Meer

27. Frozen hits the West End

Theatre Musicals Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Covent Garden

In the autumn of 2020 extremely venerable Theatre Royal Drury Lane will emerge from over a year of lavish upgrade and restoration works to play host to what is surely set to be the biggest show of the year: Michael Grandage’s musical adaptation of Disney’s ‘Frozen’, aka the most successful animated film of all time. Grandage’s lavish take has been running on Broadway for a while now, and the general feeling is that while it doesn’t do anything to reinvent the wheel, it absolutely does enough to transport fans of the film back to their beloved Arendelle and the complicated relationship between sisters Elsa and Anna (the former being possessed of powers over ice and snow, lest we forget). As with the film, the songs are by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and yes, that does include that song, with remarkable restraint only included once.  There are no official dates yet, but it has been declared that it will open in ‘autumn 2020’. And there’s one bit of casting now announced: musical theatre actress Samantha Barks will play frosty antagonist Elsa. Tickets will go on sale to the general public March 6 2020, but if you sign up at frozenthemusical.co.uk before January 12 2020 you’ll be eligible for priority booking, which will open at the end of January.

Theatre Royal Drury Lane. 28 Nov 2020.

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