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Photograph: Time Out
Photograph: Time Out

Book now: Everything you need to know for summer 2021 in London

The city's coming out of lockdown, baby! And that means all your favourite events and venues are coming back. Here's what you can book now

By Kate Lloyd
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If you feel like all your friends have gone in to a booking frenzy right now, you’re not alone. Since the news that London is beginning to open up out of its bleak, bleak lockdown and into a new world of picnics, pubs and possibility, it seems like everyone in the city is logging on to Doodle at the same time, ready to plan their first trip back to Rowan’s. 

But don’t be fooled into booking some mediocre event just because all your mates are going. You aren’t a sheep are you? You’re a glossy sheepdog, and a very handsome one at that.

Instead, come here to us, Time Out. We’re your wisest, oldest friends and we’re here to guide you towards the best that London’s got going on over the next few months. And we’re starting with this list of all the good summer stuff you can book already. 

 

All the good summer stuff you can book already

Van Gogh Alive - The Birmingham Hippodrome. 7 October 2020.
Van Gogh Alive. Photograph Simon Hadley

Head to an immersive Vincent Van Gogh show

News Art

‘Van Gogh Alive’ has been seen in 65 cities worldwide by a combined audience of more than 7 million people. Which is a lot. For its London gig, it’s arriving in the elegant Kensington Gardens for four months from June (a lot posher than poor old Van Gogh got during his lifetime: he lived in the decidedly not elegant Brixton and Kennington). The show promises to be a feast for all the senses, including the sense of wanting to take Instagrammable selfies. Opportunities for this are provided by a sunflower room, and a 3D recreation of Van Gogh’s famous painting of his bedroom.

Royal Opera House
Photograph: Sim Canetty-Clarke

See a live show at the Royal Opera House

News Theatre & Performance

It’s the news that fans of £10 programmes, interval-wine preorders and tiny binoculars have been longing to hear: live opera and dance will be back at London’s epic Royal Opera House in Covent Garden from May 17. The new productions will run concurrently with the ROH’s very popular #OurHouseToYourHouse streaming initiative, which has seen ROH versions of much-loved classics including ‘Peter and the Wolf’, Mozart’s classic opera ‘Così fan tutte’ and Shakespearian ballet ‘The Winter’s Tale’ streamed for free during lockdown.

 

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Photograph: Shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

Bag a spot at Waterworks festival

News Nightlife

Waterworks is a brand new festival, due to arrive in Gunnersbury Park on Sat Sept 25. An electronic music utopia, the event actively has no headliners, it’s just a pick’n’mix of some of the best DJs and artists in the game right now – both locally and internationally. Expect appearances from London nights like Adonis and Body Hammer as well as beloved artists like Craig Richards, Ben UFO, Midland, Moxie, Josey Rebelle, Saoirse, Novelist and loads more.

 

Ally Pally Beer Garden
Photo: Lloyd Winters

Insert yourself into Ally Pally’s huge new beer garden

News City Life

Last year Alexandra Palace briefly opened a truly massive beer garden and the people of London rejoiced. It was 1,500 square feet of open-air ecstasy. Everyone loved it. Then it closed again. Knowing they were on to a good thing, the fine folks at Ally Pally have deigned to reopen it on April 12. There are relatively few details to report yet, apart from the fact it will have a huge pop-up bar, loads of street-food stands and, of course, those wicked views. To be honest, you could open a beer garden on a traffic island this year and we’d probably turn up. We’re that desperate.

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Pub in the Park
Pub in the Park. Photograph: Will Bailey

Go to Pub in the Park… twice

News Eating

Pub on the Park: a London Fields drinking establishment that gets incredibly busy when Wimbledon is on telly. Pub in the Park: a genteel, well-heeled food festival that combines genuinely brilliant chefs with music we’ll charitably describe as ‘pleasant’. But right now, good food combined with any live music whatsoever sounds absolutely amazing, thank you very much. Pub in the Park, the brainchild of Michelin-starred good-vibe machine Tom Kerridge, usually tours all over the UK each summer. This year it’s parking up in London not once but twice. First up is Dulwich (June 26-27) and then a bit later Chiswick (September 3-5).

The Bash Street Kids, 1982, courtesy of the Beano
The Bash Street Kids, 1982, courtesy of the Beano

Visit a gallery show devoted to the Beano

News Art

The Beano (it uncomfortably rebranded to just ‘Beano’ a while back, which for the purposes of this story we will not be acknowledging) is getting a whole show devoted to its legacy, artwork and influence at Somerset House. ‘Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules’ will present the work of some of the comic’s most celebrated artists and writers, including the genius Leo Baxendale, alongside contributions from some big-name contemporary artists, such as the genuinely funny Bedwyr Williams and Hardeep Pandhal, and scabrous YBA Sarah Lucas, to examine the often unacknowledged influence that British comics have had on UK fine art.

 

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Barbican London
Image Kiev Victor/Shutterstock

Get to grips with the Barbican's 2021 programme

News City Life

The art gallery has ‘Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty’ (May 17-Aug 22, tickets available now), the first major UK exhibition of the work of the French artist for more than half a century. In the Curve, Pit and foyer, is ‘Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle’ (Jun 17-Aug 29, tickets available now), documenting the activism of the Brazilian artist. There’s also live music with a new Live from the Barbican concert series, 15 concerts featuring a live stream as well as a socially-distanced live audience when permitted. The line-up includes Paul Weller, Jules Buckley, Moses Boyd, Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason, the 12 Ensemble with Jonny Greenwood and Anna Meredith, George the Poet and Nadine Shah. 

 

Shakespeare’s Globe
Prince Philip was a patron of Shakespeare’s Globe. Photograph: John Wildgoose

Wander down to Shakespeare’s Globe

News Theatre & Performance

It’s really good news to hear that Shakespeare’s Globe is planning to reopen to visitors on April 13, in line with the current government roadmap out of lockdown. Initially, the theatre is just running guided (and appropriately socially distanced) tours of the building and backstage areas, but the Globe is one of London’s better-suited theatrical spaces for performances, since it has outside standing (‘groundling’) areas, and exposed balcony seating. There’s no word yet on when that might happen, although indoor venues such as theatres are able to reopen with suitable measures in place from May 17 (aka ‘Step 3’). The theatre’s Swan restaurant and bar will reopen on April 12 for outdoor dining and drinking.

 

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Photograph: Bar Elba
Photograph: Bar Elba

Have rooftop bottomless brunch at Bar Elba

Known as one of London’s most fun rooftop spots – we called it a ‘party island’ in our review – the fifth floor venue has announced that it’ll be putting on a whole season of boozy meal times throughout the summer. The roof has epic views of the City, so a) you can wave at all the bankers when they’re back in the office on a Saturday and b) there’ll be many, many good opportunities for a decent Instagram.

 

Photograph: Costa det Tottenham
Photograph: Costa det Tottenham

Go on a rager at Costa del Tottenham

News Events & Festivals

If the one thing you absolutely can't wait to return to is The Club then prepare thyself for joy. While you’ll have to wait until June 21 (or later) for actually Dancing Inside Clubs, the outdoor seated clubs we all learned to love in lockdown can relaunch in mid-April. Costa Del Tottenham has announced five parties over the course of the April 16-18 weekend with loads more parties on the way over the summer. 

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Photograph: Jake Davis
Photograph: Jake Davis

See Horse Meat Disco play at Brixton Courtyard

The venue will open from Monday April 12 for a series of socially distanced brunches, BBQs, open deck nights and proper parties. Only Jerkin is still running the street food, and on the bill? Channel One, Or:la, Craig Charles, Crazy P, Ekkah, Genix, Horse Meat Disco, Oliver Smith and Seb Zito with more being confirmed by the day. That should be more than enough to keep us all going until June 21, eh?

 

Photograph: All Points East
Photograph: All Points East

Grab tickets for All Points East or Field Day

Music Music festivals

 

It's been four years since All Points East launched. The Victoria Park festival – the work of the team behind Coachella – usually takes place in May and is known for its hefty line-ups. Kraftwerk 3D, Massive Attack and Tame Impala were on the bill for its 2020 shows before they were sadly cancelled. Now it’s coming back. This year, APE will take place over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Jamie XX, Kano, Slowthai, Little Simz, Arlo Parks, Pa Salieu and Marie Davidson play this Saturday. Then Field Day is taking over the Sunday with some big electronic names. (Think: Bicep, Blessed Madonna and Artwork.) 

 

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Paws At The Palace
Photo: Paws At The Palace

Head to an outdoor dog festival

News Events & Festivals

Dogs are superior beings sent to Earth by aliens to teach humans how to be selfless, loyal and kind. This isn't speculation, it's fact. If you're the sort who requires 'evidence' before they'll believe something, why not make space in your (entirely empty) diary for the All About Dogs Show, happening at Blenheim Palace this July?

 

The Bussey Building
Photo: Rob Greig

Book a table at a brilliant rooftop bar

Bars and pubs

We’ve got the lowdown on exactly which sky-high bars are reopening and will keep you updated as even more places share info on welcoming back customers for a drink to remember. Obviously it's worth booking as early as you can. These places are popular. For any specific safety details, it's worth checking with the venues before you visit. But otherwise, cheers to a spring of getting up on the roof.   

 

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mighty hoopla festival in brockwell park
Photograph: Luke Dyson

Have glitter-fueled fun at Mighty Hoopla

News Music

Organisers have now announced that Mighty Hoopla – which they call ‘the UK’s best pop festival’ (and we’re not arguing!) – will be making a comeback this year as planned, but will be pushing back the party from its usual June date. Expect to see its return to Brixton’s Brockwell Park on Saturday September 4.  

stag
Photograph: The Stag

Book at table at one of London's best beer gardens

Bars and pubs

Hoo. Ray. Pubs have their dates for reopening. On (hopefully) April 12 London's drinking establishments will throw open their outside doors for al fresco drinking (you'll have to wait for May 16 for indoor boozing). As a result, we’ve rounded up London’s best beer gardens that should be taking bookings.

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Les Misérables
Photograph: Johann Persson

See ‘Les Misérables’ (if you haven’t already)

News Theatre & Performance

From May 20, ‘Les Misérables: The Staged Concert’ will be live at the Sondheim Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, featuring the stars of the full London cast Jon Robyns, Bradley Jaden and Lucie Jones. The return of the fully staged show – bells, whistles, hastily erected barricades, etc – is planned for the Sondheim from September 25.

 

Lighterman King’s Cross
The Lighterman. Photograph: Jason Bailey

Bag a spot on a dreamy restaurant terrace

Restaurants

Bring on a spring-summer of alfresco excellence. Whether you’re in the mood for spaghetti in the sun or schnitzel by starlight, our big ol' list should have you covered. Just be sure to book ahead, yeah? A lot of people are going to want to eat, drink and be merry outside. 

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Go to an actual camping music festival

Music Music festivals

Here’s a sentence that – if you’d asked us two weeks ago – we really wouldn’t have expected to be writing. Festivals… They’re back! Since Boris Johnson’s roadmap to normality was announced on February 22, a number of UK festivals have revealed that they’re planning to go ahead this summer. There’s already a diverse mix to choose from – from artsy old timers to London newbies – and we’re sure that over the coming months they’ll be joined by more.

Photograph: Shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

Head to an outdoor bottomless brunch

News Eating

Lockdown might have put bottomless brunching on hold for a few months, but come Phase Two that bleak Fizz Free period will be over and we'll all, once again, be able to spend two hours chomping our way through as much breakfast cuisine as we physically can... So long as we do it outdoors. Luckily, some of London's best brunches can be found at terrace restaurants and rooftop eateries.

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