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Photograph: Time Out
Photograph: Time Out

August events in London

Prepare yourself for a spectacular month with our selection of the best events, exhibitions and things to do in London during August 2021

By Time Out London Things To Do and Katie McCabe
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August in London is synonymous with one thing: Notting Hill Carnival. Earlier this year, we got the sad news that the event will not be taking place on the streets for 2021, though there are alternative plans afoot (more on that very soon). We may not be able to spill out onto the streets of Ladbroke Grove with a pocket full of Red Stripe, but all is not lost for August in London. For one thing, there’s been a summer festival roll over. 

In normal circumstances (whatever that means, it’s been a minute) All Points East and Field Day happen in late May/early June, but this year both festivals will be sharing the muddy grass of Victoria Park over the August Bank Holiday weekend (Field Day, which is on Sunday August 29, is sold out, but there are still tickets going for APE). And those aren’t the only big hitters for the Bank Holiday: brand new festival Yam Carnival will be taking over Clapham Common on the Saturday, with Davido and Kehlani headlining.    

Not up for a major music festival just yet? Not a problem. Throw on a facemask and go and see some art. August is typically a dead month for art exhibitions in London, but a lot of great new shows launched in July, including an enormous Paula Rego retrospective at Tate Britain, so consider this month your chance to catch up. If it’s theatre you’re after, make your way south for the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, where artist Dan Acher will be recreating the Northern Lights over the skies of Greenwich and Woolwich. 

Weather wise, temps are expected to stick around 23° for the beginning of August. As you’d expect from the early twenties, things are looking erratic, unpredictable and a little cloudy, but there should be just enough sun to go around for you to have some London lido swims, and lazy days in the city’s parks. And after the great beer garden booking wars of April, this sunny month is a chance to fall back in love with the simple pleasure of drinking pints at a picnic table. 

August is a month for long holidays, a time for winding down, lying around and discovering that mint Cornettos are just as delicious as you remember. But it’s also a time for making memories, so make the most of your days off with the help of our Big List of things to do in August in London 2021.

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar

Our August 2021 highlights

Davido at Afro Nation
Davido at Afro Nation
Photograph: Davido at Afro Nation

1. Make some noise at Yam Carnival

News Music

Yam Carnival, a new festival celebrating Black culture created by the team behind Afronation, was meant to debut in Clapham in 2020, but didn’t go ahead, for reasons we don’t have to explain. But it’s all systems go for August Bank Holiday weekend 2021. Featured in the BIG FONT on the Yam Carnival poster are Davido, Kehlani, Femi Kuti (yes, that’s the eldest son of Fela) and American DJ Honey Dijon. 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. Book your ticket here

Wait, there’s more. Here are all the best music festivals taking place in London this summer and beyond.

Photograph: All Points East
Photograph: All Points East
Photograph: All Points East

2. Grab a ticket for All Points East

News Events & Festivals

Miraculously, there are still some tickets going for APE’s August Bank Holiday fest in Victoria Park despite its hefty line-up with Jamie XX, Kano, Little Simz, Jorja Smith and Bombay Bicycle Club. The set-up is a little different this year. All Points East will take place the Friday, Saturday and Monday of the August Bank Holiday, with the Sunday reserved for Field Day, an entirely separate festival in the same park. 

Want more? These are the best music festivals in the UK this year

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people looking at a hot sauce stall
people looking at a hot sauce stall
Photograph: Hot Sauce Society

3. Put some fire in your belly at Peckham’s hot sauce festival

News Eating

Featuring more than 40 different makers of the spicy stuff, Hot Sauce Society is a two-day celebration of the king of condiments. Taking over Peckham’s Copeland Park, the August weekender will also welcome a number of street-food traders, including barbecue chicken wing slingers Only Jerkin’, Indian-inspired vegan eats from En Root, tacos from Dos Mas and a special guest appearance from Dishoom, which will also be bringing its Dishoom IPA to soothe any overstimulated taste buds.  

When is it? Aug 21-22. Where is it? Copeland Park. Find out more here

Borealis, GDIF 2021
Borealis, GDIF 2021
Photo by David Solm

4. See the Northern Lights at Greenwich + Docklands International Festival

News Theatre & Performance

The Greenwich + Docklands International Festival is returning for a bumper end-of-summer edition with big, bold, mostly free outdoor events. The full line-up has just been announced and it’s pretty damn spectacular. Most audacious is surely ‘Borealis’, Swiss artist Dan Acher’s recreation of the Northern Lights over Greenwich and Woolwich – we’re not exactly sure how he does this but it involves lasers and stuff and sounds amazing: it’ll run from 8.30pm-10pm in the skies above Greenwich August 7 to September 5, and then Woolwich September 9 to 11.

When is it? Aug 27-Sept 11. Where is it? Various events across Greenwich, the City of London, Canary Wharf, Thamesmead and the Royal Docks. 

Find more outdoor theatre in London this summer

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'Singin' in the Rain' at Sadler's Wells
'Singin' in the Rain' at Sadler's Wells
Photograph: 'Singin' in the Rain' at Sadler's Wells

5. Book to see a golden age musical

Theatre Musicals

There are a hell of a lot of musicals running in London at any given time, from decades-long classics like ‘Les Miserables and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ to short run fringe obscurities. But August will see the arrival of some golden-age gems like ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘Carousel’, which all open in the capital within a week of each other. Remember, the oldies are goldies for a reason. 

Not into musicals? Find some great August theatre shows that involve no singing whatsoever

Paula Rego The Dance 1988 . Tate © Paula Reg
Paula Rego The Dance 1988 . Tate © Paula Reg
Paula Rego The Dance 1988 . Tate © Paula Reg

6. Experience the brutally honest painting of Paula Rego

Art Tate Britain, Millbank

A good retrospective exhibit should take you on a sort of ‘This Is Your Life’ journey through an artist’s work, and that’s exactly what you have here, a huge display of more than a hundred pieces, grouped into very different Paula Rego epochs. The Tate Britain exhibition of this renowned British-Portuguese artist is far from her first solo show, but it is the biggest of her 60-year career. 

When is it? Until Oct 24. Where is it? Tate Britain. Book your ticket here

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Skate Show
Skate Show
Photo: Katie Edwards

7. Check out this free exhibition about skateboarding

News City Life

Somerset House is dedicating a whole exhibition to skateboarding’s impact on British culture. ‘No Comply’ (which will be free to check out) focuses on the subculture’s huge influence in the UK, featuring photography, film, fashion, design and archive objects, as well as fantastic stories from the skateboarding community.

When is it? Until Sep 19. Where is it? Somerset House. Find out more here

 

Photograph: Joy Inside Our Tears, 2021, Harold Offeh
Photograph: Joy Inside Our Tears, 2021, Harold Offeh
Photograph: Joy Inside Our Tears, 2021, Harold Offeh

8. Experience ‘Joy’ and ‘Tranquility’ at the Wellcome

News Art

Part of the Wellcome Collection’s ‘On Happiness’ season, ‘Tranquility’ is a new show that will explore all things cool, calm and collected. Along with its sister exhibition, ‘Joy’, it’s part of a season of free events that will question how to rebuild happiness during a time of major political and social change. After the year we’ve all had, it feels like a good time to explore the meaning of ‘chill’ itself. 

When is it? ‘Tranquility’, until Jan 2022, and ‘Joy’, until 27 Feb 2022. Where is it? Wellcome Collection. Find out more here.

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empty National Gallery during London lockdwon
empty National Gallery during London lockdwon
Photograph: Any Parsons

9. Go to an outdoor art class in Trafalgar Square

News Art

Twenty life-size replicas of the nation’s favourite paintings (including Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and John Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’) are going on display in Trafalgar Square in August as part of the National Gallery’s late-summer outdoor celebration of art, ‘Inside Out’. You might be thinking ‘Hold on, can’t I just go see the originals right there, inside the National Gallery, for free?’ and you’d be right, of course, but we’re sure the NG has its reasons. Alongside the exhibition, there will be free daily outdoor art classes in the square. 

When is it? Aug 3-Sep 2. Where is it? Trafalgar Square. Find out more here.

Want art, but don't care if it's outdoors? Here are the best exhibitions in London right now.

Hampton Pool
Hampton Pool
Photo: Hampton Pool

10. Find your nearest lido

Things to do

Don’t quote us on this, but it looks like August is going to be on the sunny side, so a few lido trips are definitely in order. London has some great outdoor swimming options, but our desire to paddle around under a sunny sky does mean that it’s important to book ahead if you want your open-air swim fix. So no rocking up to try your luck. Whether you’re looking for alternative ways to get fit, family-friendly fun or a body of water to lounge around next to, take your pick from our list of London’s best lidos and outdoor swimming pools.

RECOMMENDED: the best swimming pools in London.

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1076.1983
1076.1983
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art,© 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild - Kunst, Bonn

11. Get to know Sophie Taeuber-Arp at Tate Modern

Art Tate Modern, Bankside

Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp didn’t blur boundaries, she just lived her life like they didn’t exist. The borders between art, design, craft, textiles, architecture and any other creative endeavour the modernist turned her attention to were just semantics to her. This Tate Modern restrospective of Taeuber-Arp’s work is a chance to explore her genuinely-radical art in one go. 

When is it? Until Oct 17. Where is it? Tate Modern. Book your tickets here

Walthamstow fountain
Walthamstow fountain
Photo by Jenna Selby

12. Keep the kids entertained over the summer holidays

News Kids

If you have kids, godchildren, or an exhausted sibling who desperately needs you to entertain their child during the long, long school holidays, we’re here to help. Our writer has gathered 15 brilliant new things to do with kids over the summer break in London. Cool off in a giant fountain at Waltham Forest Town Hall, draw all over the walls at the Tate Turbine Hall without getting in any trouble and take your dinosaur-obsessed child to the Jurrasic Encounter dino experience at Grovelands Park. 

Need more ideas? Here are 101 things to do in London with kids.

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Le Gateau Chocolat in Bagdad Cafe at The Old Vic by Steve Tanner
Le Gateau Chocolat in Bagdad Cafe at The Old Vic by Steve Tanner
Photograph: Le Gateau Chocolat in Bagdad Cafe at The Old Vic by Steve Tanner

13. Don’t miss ‘Bagdad Cafe’ at the Old Vic

Theatre Drama Old Vic, Waterloo

The first ‘proper’ Old Vic show back in front of a live audience is the always-magnificent Emma Rice’s interpretation of this classic 1987 indie film about two women who forge a friendship in an obscure, desolate diner on Route 66. Its impressive cast features seasoned London performer Le Gateau Chocolat.

When is it? Until Aug 28. Where is it? The Old Vic. Book your ticket here

Pavillion Cafe Victoria Park
Pavillion Cafe Victoria Park
Photograph: Alys Tomlinson

14. Cool off at one of these chill London restaurants

News Eating

Despite the inevitable August heat, we still all need to eat. But maybe a sticky leather restaurant banquette seat into which your sweat will pool mercilessly around your clammy arse isn’t quite ‘the vibe’. So instead of staying in with a nowt but a bowl of ice-cubes and a frozen towel for company, we’ve got together a list of the seven coolest restaurants in London – places where you can eat, drink and be breezy.

Want more? Here’s where to go when London is just too damn hot.

 

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London Wonderground
London Wonderground
Photograph: London Wonderground

15. Visit the Udderbelly at London Wonderground

Things to do Performances London Wonderground, West Brompton

Underbelly’s upside-down cow tent has moved to Earl’s Court for a summer of circus, cabaret and comedy. One of the main acts this year is 360 All Stars, a high-octane show with acrobats, break-dancers, beatboxers, a basketball freestyler and a BMX rider. Not your bag? Go and see an improvised Jane Austen novel with ‘Austentatious’ or experience an ultra-extravagant drag night at ‘TuckShop Live: Kings vs Queens’. 

When is it? Until Sep 26. Where is it? Empress Place, Earl’s Court. Find out more here

Bernie Dieter’s Berlin Underground
Bernie Dieter’s Berlin Underground
Photograph: Courtesy of Underbelly

16. Venture into an underground cabaret club

German artist Bernie Dieter is part of the vanguard of the London cabaret scene. She’s come a long way from the 2010s, when she could be found delivering debauched ballads in quiet East End bars. Now the ‘Queen of Weimar Punk’ has got her very own touring show, ‘Bernie Dieter’s Berlin Underground’, featuring a ‘cast of misfits’ performing in a sexy underground comedy circus. If you’ve never been to a cabaret club night before, you’re in safe hands with Bernie (unless you’re in the front row when she starts talking to the crowd – then you’re fucked).

When is it? Until Aug 29. Where is it? Underbelly, Cavendish Square. Book your tickets here

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Seafood platter
Seafood platter
Photograph: Eric Kleinberg/The Seafood Bar

17. Eat at these restaurants where you’ll feel like you’re on holiday

News Eating

Amber list this, green list that… going on holiday is possible right now, but it’s mainly just a massive faff. So instead of crossing your fingers and booking a flight that might not happen, why not have a holiday experience a little closer to home with these five London restaurants that give you all of the holiday vibes, with none of the holiday bother? 

Want more? Follow our ultimate guide to London’s best restaurants.

Hymn, Almeida, 2021, Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani
Hymn, Almeida, 2021, Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani
Photo by Cleaner Brighter

18. Book a ticket to ‘Hymn’ at the Almeida

Theatre Drama Almeida Theatre, Islington

Lolita Chakrabarti’s ‘Hymn’ was originally supposed to run at the Almeida at the start of 2021 – and it did, just to an online-only audience after the third lockdown scuppered the original plans. Now, hopefully, a live audience will get to see Adrian Lester’s Benny and Danny Sapani’s Gil, in a drama about male platonic friendship that follows two unhappy strangers who meet at a funeral and go on to form a troubled bond. Blanche McIntyre directs, her second show for the Almeida after the incendiary ‘The Writer’. 

When is it? Jul 26-Aug 13. Where is it? Almeida Theatre. Book your tickets here

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: ‘The Fortress of Königstein from the North’, Bernardo Bellotto, about 1756-8 © The National Gallery, London
: ‘The Fortress of Königstein from the North’, Bernardo Bellotto, about 1756-8 © The National Gallery, London
Photograph: ‘The Fortress of Königstein from the North’, Bernardo Bellotto, about 1756-8 © The National Gallery, London

19. Travel to Dresden via the paintings of Bernardo Bellotto

News Art

Bernardo Bellotto’s five views of a hillside city south of Dresden are brought together here for a monumental, panoramic, dramatically visual experience. This was the Italian landscape painter at the absolute peak of his powers, and each work is a bold, eye-tingling, ambitious statement of his talent. 

When is it? Until Oct 31. Where is it? The National Gallery. Find out more here

Late-night bars and pubs
Late-night bars and pubs
Photograph: Time Out/Luke O'Brien

20. Make the most of the summer nights at these after-hours bars

Bars and pubs

There’s no night tube right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have after-hours fun in London. To help you avoid the hapless post-midnight plod around town looking for more liquor, consult our list of late-night bars and pubs in London that rounds up all the capital’s drinking spots that stay open into the wee small hours, arranged by closing time. There’s even a couple that never close at all. Cocktail hour can be any hour in London.

RECOMMENDED: The 50 best cocktail bars in London.

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Lavender fields Kentish Lavender
Lavender fields Kentish Lavender
Photograph: Kentish Lavender

21. Explore lavender fields in and around London

Things to do

It may be known for its sleepy scent and soothing properties, but there’s nothing dozy about the explosion of colour – an astonishing crop of mauves and indigos – happening right now in London’s lavender fields.  Lavender season peaks in August. For those wanting to lay their eyes and nose on this year’s epic bloom, here’s a list of the best spots. 

22. See an affordable concert at the BBC Proms

The Proms are finally be returning to the Royal Albert Hall with a live audience. There are 52 concerts planned over 44 days with the usual offerings of Mahler, Beethoven and Mozart, but there are some stand outs too, like this jazz concert from British saxophonist Nubya Garcia. There are also four ‘mystery’ proms, which will be revealed at a later date. The pricing remains accessible (there are seated tickets from £7.50 and Promming day tickets at £6), but the main difference this year is that all attenting will need to show proof of their Covid status. Can’t make it? You can catch every prom on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds. 

When is it? Jul 30-Sep 11. Where is it? The Royal Albert Hall. Find out more here.  

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23. Try out one of London’s prettiest walks

Things to do Walks and tours

Think you completed all the best London walks over lockdown? Well, maybe you did. It’s all there was to do. But now you can go and enjoy them out of pure choice. Track down sculptures all over the city for The Line art walk or follow a disused railroad to Highgate on the Parkland Walk (and reward yourself with a pint at the Boogaloo when you emerge at the other side). 

Prefer life on two wheels? Try these London bike rides

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Bussey Rooftop Bar, Peckham
Bussey Rooftop Bar, Peckham
Photograph: Bussey Rooftop Bar

25. Have a cocktail in the sky at London’s best rooftop bars

Bars and pubs

Londoners love a rooftop bar. They’re the best places to escape the claustrophobic heat of the city and they provide a brilliant skyline backdrop for drinking – especially at sundown. And now, we love them even more. Outdoor spaces have been deemed the safest for socialising. Here are the sky-high bars taking bookings this summer.

Find out what's happening in September
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