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Maltby Street Market, Bermondsey
Photograph: Tavi IonescuMaltby Street Market, Bermondsey

Free things to do in London this weekend

Make the most of your free time without breaking the bank, thanks to our round-up of free things to do at the weekend

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Things To Do Editors
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Don't let your cash flow, or lack of it, get in the way of having a banging weekend. Read our guide to free things to do in London this weekend and you can make sure that your Friday, Saturday and Sunday go off with a bang, without eating up your bucks. After all, the best things in life are free. 

If that's whetted your appetite for events and cultural happenings in London, get planning further ahead by having a gander over our events calendar.

RECOMMENDED: Save even more dosh by taking a look at our guide to cheap London.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • Chalk Farm

In video games, you can be whoever you want to be. By day, you might be Tim from accounts, but once you get home, you’re an ancient assassin, a Norse god, an orc or an elite Marine. You can create an avatar, you can choose a new body, a new nose, a new gender.  Chinese artist LuYang uses those ideas of bodily and spiritual freedom to explore themes of life, death, Buddhism and philosophy, all through the hyper-intense lens of anime, sci fi and gaming.  The main video finds the artist’s avatar Doku moving through various states of perception and existence, flying over hills covered with the ex-bodies of the reincarnated, dancing in hell, floating in space, their body crystallising and exploding into nothingness. A voice questions the meaning of the self, the body, of good and bad, physical and immaterial. LuYang is forcing you to consider your body, your selfhood, how you’ve lived, how you’ll die. It’s brilliant, complex, powerful, over the top, a bit silly, and genuinely moving. All around it are videos of Doku as heaven and hell engaged in a very po-faced but also very funny dance battle, creating a new god in the process, Other videos find LuYang’s avatars brandishing severed heads, dancing covered in skulls, shooting lasers out of their bodies, rendered in crisp, eye-searing, psychedelic, HD, video game perfection. It’s all LuYang using the aesthetics and language of anime and gaming to explore life and death. It’s an overwhelming sensory environment. But the backroom has

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
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  • Bethnal Green

Something dark is happening under the Westway, and it’s all Nana Wolke’s doing. The young Slovenian artist convened a gathering, inviting cabbies and performers to a north Kensington underpass. She filmed the proceedings, but the screen in this show faces the wall, it’s unwatchable, leaving her paintings as the only real documents of what happened. These are deeply voyeuristic images of private rituals in an underpass, a place of steamed up car windows, shivering with sensual potential. A woman’s hand lies on her lap in one painting, a huge engagement ring glistening on her finger. In another, fat bald men mill around in football shirts, waiting for something unseen to kick off. There are paintings of a man’s stiff, starched shirt collar, an empty parking lot, a row of black cabs, another of the rear bumper of a car, its tow bar a protruding tittering euphemism. What has happened here? What's about to happen?  Wolke has created dark, blue-bathed paintings of night time eeriness. It’s like JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ if everyone in it was a cabbie from Wapping called Dave. On the one hand it feels like art about private spaces, about being able to express yourself in a city where you’re never alone, never not being watched, never able to stand still. But on the other, there’s a filthy underbelly being scratched here, a pervasive, grimy sense of threat and sleaze that leaves you feeling grubby, tense and very uncomfortable.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
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  • Mayfair

A bunch of lads getting pissed in Soho isn’t unusual, it happens every day. But the boozed-up fellas in the photo as you walk into this gallery aren’t your average louts, they’re some of the most important British painters of the modern era: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews, all chowing down, lighting up and getting the drinks in at Wheeler’s restaurant in 1963. They were friends, drinking buddies and colleagues in art. The works in this exhibition show how they painted each other, themselves, their city and their world, carving four different paths through the artistic landscape of twentieth-century London art. There are some stunning Bacons here. The triptych studies are gorgeous, especially the three visions of Henrietta Moraes as a mound of twisted flesh and jet-black hair. His image of Freud is all blurred, swirling chaos; John Hewett is pure abstract psychedelia. These little works are intimate, intense. The bigger works, including a splashy, splodgy reclining Freud, are more restrained, calmer. If Bacon is all inner turmoil, heaving flesh and psychological intensity, then Freud is all skin, surface and full-frontal reality. His works are so much lighter and physically attractive than Bacon’s. He looms over his sitters, reducing them down to folds of skin and shellshocked eyes. His portrait of petty criminal Ted is an act of total domination, but his portrait of Moraes is all flat, light, foreboding sensuality. Chowing down, lighting up a

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Hyde Park

Everything is connected in Kamala Ibrahim Ishag’s world: connected and fractured and pixelated.  In the 1970s, the Sudanese painter was part of a movement called the crystalists who saw the universe as a crystal cube, its component parts all shifting depending on your perspective. It’s a far out point of view that she soon left behind, but the interconnectedness of all things still courses through this show of work from throughout her career.  Her early work is filled with dark, twisted, sombre faces, their teeth bared, their features blurred and elongated. They seem to emerge out of some gloom, like they’re materialising out of thin air, out of the night sky. A series of paintings shows faces seen through glass prisms, creating new angles, new shapes, distorting and distending human subjects, like a world of Francis Bacon ice cubes. These are dark, weird, gorgeous things, nodding to traditional east African ceremonies but shot through with the influence of Western painters.  Faces then start to appear not out of the gloom, but out of nature. More recent paintings swirl with grasses and bark and leaves and mud, visages coalescing on tree trunks and foliage. It’s a display of spiritual one-ness that feels hopeful and optimistic. I prefer the darker, earlier works, but it’s all connected, isn’t it? It has to be, because everything is.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
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  • Bloomsbury

Joseph Yaeger’s work feels like it has seeped out of some gloomy, murky, unknowable past, like his paintings have just barely coagulated into reality. It’s all fragmented, hazy, stuck in a fugue-state of lost memory and pixelated nostalgia. The young London-based American artist paints found imagery and snippets of films with washed-out realism, but all totally removed from context, cropped-in too tight, distorted and twisted. A hand offers you a pill as you walk in – but it’s not some hallucinogenic to help you trip to wonderland, it’s more like a downer, a hit of Xanax to ease you through the rest of the show.  What comes next is a world of woozy, half-remembered snapshots of hands and eyes and faces. Dennis Hopper holds two phones up to his head, a man is reflected in a woman’s sunglasses, a mirror reflects a woman’s face in front of a man’s. It’s Gerhard Richter-like, scratched and faded. The doubling and reflection continue upstairs: a man peers through bifocal glasses, a woman’s eyes are shielded by a huge male hand. Vision is mediated, manipulated, controlled.  And because it’s obvious that at least some of these scenes come from films, though you can never place which ones, you’re left with this incredibly uncomfortable, disconcerting sensation: an unplaceable déja vu, memories you know are yours but you can’t quite unlock, thoughts on the tip of your tongue, never quite tripping off. You recognise what you’re seeing but can’t figure out where from, so you’re left utt

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
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  • Fitzrovia

In the 1990s, while the UK was being lectured by the YBAs that art was cool and naughty and full of drunk people (something everyone in the artworld already knew, apart from the bit about it being cool or naughty), there was a whole load of artists plugging away, doing their thing and not worrying too much about what the Daily Star thought about sharks or Myra Hindley. Painters like John Hoyland and Frank Bowling doggedly pursued their craft of big, splashy, gestural canvases. Now those artists are getting a long-overdue reappraisal.   Clyde Hopkins certainly fits into this group well. This show at Castor gallery (which has boldly moved from Deptford to Fitzrovia) consists of a dozen works from the late ’80s and early ’90s. They’re a curious but overall effective mix of intensity and floaty whimsy, often on the same canvas. You can almost see Hopkins – who was also head of painting at Winchester and Chelsea art schools – hiding his light under a bushel. His is a very English kind of abstraction: there is depth, darkness, a muted sadness and humour. ‘May and Dagwood’ and ‘Flattered by the Bee’s Attention’ (surely the most Cardiacs-like title ever applied to a non-Cardiacs work) feature what quickly becomes clear as a Hopkins trademark: delicate collage-like details almost cruelly interrupted by crashing black lines, like an itinerant pisshead spoiling a family picnic. Sometimes, his work tantalizes you to see figuration. Which bit of ‘Seagulls, Brian Sewell, Kicking etc’ is t

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
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  • Euston

This substantial – and free – exhibition uses its tight focus, the eye, to examine a great big heap of provoking ideas and quirky, fascinating things. It’s about how we see: physically, artistically, historically, medically and spiritually. It also glances at experience of becoming blind– lyrically, via an ethereally beautiful new VR artwork describing a writer’s loss of sight and cultivation of an inner eye. We start with striking examples of the all-seeing eye: from a precious ancient Egyptian amulet Eye of Horus, to folkier but no less striking Ojos de Dios, Mexican ‘gods eyes’ woven from bright colourful wool. It’s fun to ramble through the curiosities, glimpsing eye symbols being used to ward off evil and illness. A stunning modern version of a magical robe gleams, and is pieced from hundreds of individual squares like armour, each inscribed with the symbol of a deadly virus like Corona.  The show brilliantly illuminates the medical history and anthropology of vision and the eye The medical science section has equally striking stuff: like a superbly calibrated contraption for measuring eyesight and lens thickness that looks like a steampunk torture device, and fascinating paraphernalia surrounding writer Aldous Huxley and the American specialist who claimed to cure his extreme short-sightedness via patent 'eye exercises'.  I loved the mini-history of eyewear, starting with ancient inuit snow goggles. More glam are the green-lensed 'Goldoni glasses', probably named after

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Fitzrovia

Ever wanted to become so entwined with someone that you become one person? Rats know all about that desire. There’s the cryptid myth of the Rat King, a mass of rats whose tails have become knotted together, creating one giant, many-headed, dreaded, inseparable (and dead) mega-rat. Now that’s love, that’s togetherness. You enter young English artist Jenkin Van Zyl’s installation through a giant silver inflatable rat’s mouth, winding your way along a corridor that acts as its guts, before you get spat out into your very own room at a love hotel. The beds are made and the medicine cabinets are stocked, so you settle in, pull the covers up and watch Van Zyl’s dizzying, hectic film. It shows rat-human hybrids – all sharp teeth and bare-bummed eroticism – losing themselves in increasingly impossible, improbable competitions; they cuddle, hold hands, draw each other. The masked referees barely allow them any rest, constantly pushing them to go further, get closer, to lose themselves in love and movement. It culminates in a wild dance battle, with one character somehow being crowned the winner and limping their way home.  In its mutant animal surrealism, Jenkin Van Zyl’s film nods to Matthew Barney’s ‘Cremaster’ cycle, in its dystopian, post-apocalypticism it references classic 1980s films like ‘Brazil’ and ‘Threads’. It’s dense with references to queer club culture, dance marathons and hedonistic abandon. The film is over-long and indulgent, but the installation as a whole still wo

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
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  • Trafalgar Square

Turner on tour: it’s like lads on tour but with considerably more monumental landscape painting than the average trip to Magaluf. The tour of the title is twofold: firstly, the paintings in this small free exhibition have been loaned to the National Gallery by the Frick collection in New York, returning home to London for the first time in over 100 years. Secondly, they’re basically JMW’s holiday snaps, two gorgeous visions of ports in Dieppe and Cologne.  They’re massive, ludicrously imposing paintings. Turner saw ports as bustling sites of history and trade, heaving with centuries-old activity, ancient architecture, modern hustlers and a constant flow of goods and ideas.  Dieppe is busy, a hectic maelstrom of masts peeking out of polluted waters. The city closes the harbour in, surrounding it with infinite columns and windows and roofs, all shimmering around the bustle. It's Turner trying to wedge himself into the canon of great European painters with bolshy arrogance, big gestures, sweeping scale Just one boat dominates Cologne, sat on a sandy foreshore, packed with people. A church spire looms behind, in the distance some hills roll. It’s calmer, more sedate than the other work. These are aggressively showy paintings. They’re Turner trying to wedge himself into the canon of great European painters with bolshy arrogance, big gestures, sweeping scale.  They don’t really work up close: the perspective gets twisted when you’re too near, everything gets elongated and morphed.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Mayfair

You should always talk to flowers. Not to help them grow or anything, but because they might just talk back.  The flowers in Jonathan Baldock’s new exhibition are more likely to do that than most, because they’re not just plants, they’re almost human. His installation is filled with ceramic sunflowers and pots and petals. Mouths and eyes and hands appear out of the pistils and stems, grasping fingers, wagging tongues, flapping lips. They’re sunny, obscene, funny, weird things.  But they’re not surreal for surrealism’s sake. Baldock’s hybrid human/flower garden is a tribute to his mother, who didn’t just raise him, but taught him many of the crafts he uses in his art now. Across all the technicolour vegetation of the exhibition, you get to follow the ups and downs, annoyances and loves of a mother-son relationship, the closeness, the tenderness, the tension. In the back gallery, a giant sunflower – the mother to all the smaller ones in the show, maybe – peers out of the wall, its roots flopping all over the floor, its eyes bulging and intense, always there, always watching, like a mother is supposed to do.  With his work’s folk-y, handmade quality mixing with contemporary aesthetics and his tenderly personal approach, Baldock proves that art doesn’t always have to be about big concepts of beauty or grief, or about subverting the gaze or questioning the nature of looking or any of that bollocks. Sometimes it can just be about how much you love your mum. I’ve never been massivel

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