The weekend is approaching and you're strapped for cash. It's a familiar scenario, but our guide to free things to do in London this weekend will ensure that your Friday, Saturday and Sunday all go off with a bang, without using up all your bucks.
And if that's got you in the mood for events and activities, get planning further ahead with our events calendar.
RECOMMENDED: Save even more pennies with our guide to cheap London.
With live theatre, music and DJs, free fitness and dance classes, cult film screenings from Nightspot Cinema and 'Massaoke' (aka mass karaoke) London Bridge's summer festival is a whopping three-month cross-venue party for all budgets. Visit the London Bridge City Summer Festival website for line-up announcements.
The Southbank Centre's having quite the love-in this summer with the return of their Festival of Love – a summery collection of installations, activities, pop-ups and performances that celebrate humankind's most overwhelming emotion. This year, it falls inside the Nordic Matters programme - and very likely the big wedding weekend will be back for the August bank holiday.
The National Theatre's River Stage returns to the South Bank for Summer 2017, with another bustling line-up of free live music, dance, performance, workshops and family fun. Weekend evenings will see a varied programme of entertainment take place in front of the theatre, including takeovers from East London's The Glory, WOMAD, HOME Manchester and Rambert.
The Jerwood Makers Open returns for 2017, and this year the prize celebrates its seventh anniversary. The Jerwood Charitable Foundation has commissioned five emerging makers working within contemporary applied arts who team technical skills with intellectual adventure, to create a brand new body of work each. This year's artists are Sam Bakewell, Marcin Rusak, Laura Youngson Coll, Juli Bolaños-Durman and Jessica Harrison.
Have some (legal) fun in a former carpark at Skylight, a rooftop playground in Tobacco Dock. Alongside the usual plethora of cocktails and street food, there are petanque courts, lawn bowls and three croquet lawns available to book for half-hour or one-hour slots, from £15. And you thought millenials were only into digital gaming: this year, it's all about those lawn sports.
It’s hard to come away from a Picasso exhibition without thinking that he was a total bastard: a selfish, arrogant, mercurial, lascivious, lecherous, horny, misogynistic bastard. But there’s a brutish and near overwhelming animal magnetism to him and his work that draws you in and makes you fall madly in love, even though you know you shouldn’t. He makes foolish jilted lovers of all of us. That primal animality is front and centre in this beautifully put together and lovingly researched show focussing on his lifelong obsession with bulls, matadors and minotaurs. The half-man/half-beast creature is a symbol of Pablo himself. It represents raw, physical violence and sexuality, it’s a cypher for the artist as demi-god. The walls in the first gallery are draped with green curtains, the lights are low, it’s half way between a funeral home and your granny’s house. There are artworks everywhere. The drawings and prints are a treat. There are minotaurs with perfectly sculpted muscles, their genitals flapping in the wind as they save women from perilous situations. One series finds hairy beasts groping at sleeping women, or passionately humping away at them. There are simple, stark line drawings and complex crosshatched sketches. In all of these, Pablo is a powerful sexual animal, a saviour of women, a god amongst men. It’s brilliant, but absolutely and totally gross at the same time. There are gorgeous paintings here too – many of them great. There’s a stunning image of a sleep
Ashley Bickerton is like a friend who’s just come back from travelling around Asia for six months and literally won’t stop talking about it and showing you pictures down the pub. Except the pictures aren’t irritating iPhone photos of a beach he dropped some wicked acid on, it’s a whole goddamn body of fine art. But that’s a little unfair: it’s actually only half that bad. Because before he moved to Bali to become an eco-art hippy intent on creating art that makes me wish I didn’t have eyes, Bickerton was actually pretty brilliant. Busting out of ’80s New York alongside his buddy Jeff Koons (part of what got called the Neo Geo movement), his early work was full of simple ideas about consumerism, identity and pop culture, all executed with humour, precision and a super neat aesthetic. The ‘paintings’ from that era here jut boxily out of the walls. They’re assemblages covered in handles and sheeting, screwed in place with industrial fittings. They’re like emergency equipment from cruise ships, or massive black box recorders. One has a digital counter displaying the work’s current estimated value, another features silhouettes of toilets and the word ‘ab-strakt’, there’s even a modern update of one of his early ‘self-portraits’ through brand logos. It’s all crisp, clean and clear, covered in logos and the stench of capitalism. Other works here are massive hulking impenetrable lifeboats, a framed cowboy outfit or Armani suit at their centre. There are bomb-proof boxes of seeds
Nine artists and collections have been brought together for this show, which looks at the thorny subject of Soviet history, and how it constantly rewrites itself.
There’s something special about a tapestry, something traditional, a tangible aura of history. It’s as if the act of creating an image by slowly and meticulously weaving countless threads together is somehow more permanent, more holy, than just slapping a bunch of paint on a canvas. And that’s kind of true: tapestries have been used for centuries as ‘nomadic murals’ for royalty, movable canvases filled with symbolism and iconography. Now, Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili has gone the woven way, and is unveiling ‘The Caged Bird’s Song’ this week at the National Gallery – a huge, complex work, filled with nods to classical mythology. It Ofili first painted a watercolour image then worked closely with the Dovecot Tapestry Studio to create this vibrant, multi-layered wall rug (official art historical term for a tapestry, there), which will go on permanent display in Clothworkers’ Hall in the City once the National’s done with it. Apparently, it’s very tricky to turn a watercolour into a tapestry, but that’s not your problem, because it’s clearly much easier to look at than it was to make.
‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ said a wise uncle to his superhero nephew once. It’s a sentiment that hovers around Grayson Perry’s exhibition. Granted, Perry’s own alter ego wears lipstick and gingham rather than a mask and spandex, but the artist/transvestite/unlikely national treasure feels just as much the reluctant hero. This show is intended as a meditation on the role of popularity in art, but if it does anything, it highlights there’s little difference between one ‘P’ word and the other. It was Perry’s ceramic pots that threw him into the mainstream's limelight, but here you’ll also find tapestries, woodcuts, assemblages and custom-made motorbikes and skateboards. Those who deride him for glibly milking the zeitgeist (middle-aged broadsheet critics for the most part) won’t be converted here. Nationalist politics, art-world bickering, the class divide, austerity Britain – Perry casts his net far and wide, with a wry frown and his tongue in cheek. Curiously, it’s the bleaker moments that resonate most. Those who’ve read his book ‘The Descent of Man’ will know he views traditional masculinity as a ticking time bomb of rising suicide rates, domestic abuse and online misogyny; in one woodcut, it’s depicted as a snarling beast with humongous bollocks whose innards are labelled with words like ‘logical’, ‘rational’ and ‘important.’ Another piece, a savage takedown of the institution of marriage, features two miserable-looking wooden spouses encased in an ai
Kiwi artist Thompson turns his attention to US race relations in this new exhibition. He's worked with Diamond Reynolds, an African-American woman who recorded the fatal shooting of her partner by the police on Facebook Live last year. Their collaborative film is intended as an alternate 'sister-image' to that widely circulated and overtly politicised footage.
Whoever said the Square Mile is purely the domain of bankers and stockbrokers? The seventh edition of this urban sculpture trail will bring a dose of high culture to the City from June 27. It's quite a blokey line-up this year; look out for work by shark-pickling troublemaker Damien Hirst and American schlock merchant Paul McCarthy. You'll find a handy map of the trail here.
Do you like free jazz? No, not that kind of free jazz – we mean the opportunity to catch some of the best and most envelope-pushing jazz acts from London and beyond, gratis. Canary Wharf Jazz Festival is bringing top performers including Riot Jazz Brass Band, Wild Card, Melt Yourself Down, Mammal Hands and Poppy Ajudha to Canada Square Park to bring some life to all those shiny towers full of money. See the full line up and find out more here.
Discover more free stuff to do in the capital
The American frozen yoghurt franchise ventures over to the UK with this spot in Westfield Stratford City. Located on the ground floor concourse, this branch of Pinkberry provides ice cold treats to take away. The fro yo comes in various flavours with epic toppings, including marshmallow, fresh fruit, pretzels and Cinnamon Grahams. Alternatively, there are smoothies on offer.