Get us in your inbox

Search
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 bouncing back. Here’s what you can book now

Written by
Kate Lloyd
&
Katie McCabe
Advertising

If you feel like all your friends have gone into 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

  • Music
  • Music

Yam Carnival, a new festival celebrating Black culture created by the team behind Afro Nation, was meant to debut in Clapham in 2020, but didn’t go ahead, for reasons we don’t have to explain. One of the headline acts this year is Nigerian-American megastar singer Davido, whose song ‘Fem’ evolved into something of a protest anthem for the EndSars protest movement. Also featured in the BIG FONT on the Yam Carnival poster are Kehlani, Femi Kuti (yes, that’s the eldest son of Fela) and American DJ Honey Dijon. In less big font but still worth your attention: they’ve only gone and booked Princess Nokia. And just this week east London rap group NSG were added to the Yam Carnival mix. It’ll be a ground-shaking mix of afrobeat, dancehall, hip hop and R&B, and they’ve promised that the food trucks will be worth your attention too. 

When is it? Aug 28. Where is it? Clapham Common. Find out more here

Let’s be honest: urban beaches are in no way as good as real beaches. We’re not going to stand here and try and kid of you of that. There’s no sea to swim in. There’s very limited access to high-quality fish and chips. It’s very unlikely you can go surfing at one. That being said... it’s 2021, a year in which such simple pleasures as getting a haircut or going to the pub have become spine-tinglingly thrilling. On that scale urban beaches rank as extremely good fun. They have sand, they have cocktails, they often have beach parties and they sometimes (when we’re lucky) get a bit of sun. We’re not going to turn our noses up at any of that right now, so we’ve rounded up the most decent ones in the city. 

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • City Life

Have you ever looked at the iridescent colours on the wings of a butterfly and thought: ‘how can I recreate that?’ Well, there is a way, and it involves a new technology called Pure Structural Colour, a method developed by scientific researchers at Lifescaped lab that can synthetically produce any shade of colour in its most vivid form using transparent materials. The technology is at the centre of Kew Gardens’ upcoming exhibition ‘Naturally Brilliant Colour’ which will feature artworks created using Pure Structural Colour. The curators at Kew aren’t holding back, and are making some big promises for the show, including a chance to see the ‘brightest colours ever to have been created’. Go big or go home, we guess.

When is it? Daily until Sep 26Where is it? Kew Gardens. Book tickets here.

  • Theatre
  • Theatre & Performance

As the name suggests, Arcola Outside is an outdoor bar and performance space built from reclaimed materials located just off the Arcola theatre’s Ashwin Street home. Although the intention is to use the original building again, Outside will initially relocate all of the Arcola’s public functions alfresco, with a big old canopy allowing it to stay open all year round. It is due to be fully open at the end of June with the launch of Today I’m Wiser, a long-running festival of theatre and art that will stretch into November: highlights include queer romcom ‘Sunnymead Court’, a visit from comedian and writer Mark Thomas with his new show ‘Seriously Annoying’, and a new adaptation of classic comedy ‘The Game of Love and Chance’.

When is it? Until November. Where is it? Arcola Outside, Ashwin St. Find out more here

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Londoners have always loved beer gardens. But now, more than ever before, our social lives rely on beer gardens. That’s why it’s music to our ears that the city has a shiny new one and it’s the biggest in town (sorry, Ally Pally). Set over 4,000 square feet, Between the Bridges is opening on the South Bank on May 27. As well as loads of space for alfresco boozing, you can expect sustenance from some street food-faves including vegan wizards Club Mexicana, Latin-inspired fare from El Pollote, cheesy carbs from The Cheese Wheel and patties from Burger and Beyond. 

When is it? Event dates vary, find the schedule hereWhere is it? Queen’s Walk, South Bank. Find out more here.

  • Nightlife
  • Nightlife

You know that Joni Mitchell song about paving paradise to put up a parking lot? (‘You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’ etc). Well, in Hackney Wick, the exact opposite is happening – an alfresco paradise has popped up IN a parking lot. The space was the car park at Hackney venue HWK, which opened up as an events space last summer. Now, it has a new name: The Lot. New for this year, the venue now has a custom-built sound system, which will come in handy for its weekly programme of ace DJs. 

When is it? Open daily. Where is it? 29 White Post Ln, E9. Find out more here

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • City Life

You can expect all of your favourite classic museum late activities like interactive poetry sessions, quizzes, panel talks and drinking lukewarm wine from disposable cups at this regular series. Plus, each session is themed around hot topics like London’s lost rivers and the history of the Thames Tunnel. The museum says that all events will be socially distanced. They kick off from mid-May and will run every couple of weeks, from 6.30pm until 9pm.

When is it? Dates vary. Where is it? London Transport Museum. Tickets cost £10-£12. Book tickets here

  • Art
  • 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.

When is it? Until Sep 26. Where is it? Kensington Gardens. Book your tickets here

Advertising
  • Theatre
  • 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.

When is it? Dates vary. Where is it? Royal Opera House. Find out more here

  • Things to do
  • 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.

When is it? Open daily. Where is it? Alexandra Palace. Find out more here

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • 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 to 27) and then a bit later, Chiswick (September 3 to 5).

Where is it? Dulwich Park and Chiswick House. When is it? Jun 26-28 and Sep 3-5. Find out more here

  • Art
  • 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.

When is it? Oct 21-Mar 6. Where is it? Somerset House. Find out more here

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • 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. 

When is it? Open daily. Where is it? Ashley Rd, N19. Find out more here

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The art gallery has ‘Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty’ (May 17 to August 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’ (June 17 to August 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.

When is it? Open daily. Where is it? Silk St, Barbican, EC2Y. Find out more here

Advertising
  • Theatre
  • 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.

When is it? Open daily. Where is it? 21 New Globe Walk, SE1. Book your tickets here.  

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 mealtimes 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.

When is it? Open daily. Where is it? Rooftop Mercury House, Waterloo, SE1. Find out more here.

Advertising

The venue’s open for a series of socially distanced brunches, barbecues, 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. 

When is it? Dates vary. Where is it? 261 Brixton Rd, Myatts Field South, SW9. Find out more here

  • 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.)

When is it? All Points East: Aug 27, 28, 30. Field Day: Aug 29. Where is it? Victoria Park. Find out more here

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • 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 you’ll believe something, why not make space in your (entirely empty) diary for the All About Dogs Show, happening at Blenheim Palace this July?

When is it? Jul 3-4. Where is it? Blenheim Palace. Find out more here

  • 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.   

 

Advertising
  • Music
  • 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.  

When is it? Sep 4. Where is it? Brockwell Park. Find out more here.

Advertising
  • Theatre
  • 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.

When is it? The Sondheim. Where is it? Sep 5. Find out more here 

Advertising
  • 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.

  • Restaurants
  • 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.

Recommended
    You may also like
      Best selling Time Out Offers
        Advertising