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Things To Do in May
Photograph: Louise Mason / Shutterstock

London events in May

London will be gearing up for summer in May 2022, so make the most of it at a music festival, rooftop bar or must-see exhibition.

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Time Out London Things To Do
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May: a month of extra days off work, creeping warmth and pre-summer excitement. It’s one of London’s finest, and it’s right around the corner.

Spend the next few days getting much-needed Vitamin D on the terrace of one of London's rooftop bars or in a pretty park. Rock out at one of the year’s first music festivals. Elevate your endorphins at an exercise class. Check out one of the summer’s must-see exhibitions.

And – of course – be sure to make the most of the bank holidays with mini-breaks to somewhere outside of London. Here’s our guide to the best events, parties, pop-ups and things to do in May 2022 in London. You’re in for one sweet, sweet month.

Live your best life at a music festival

  • Music
  • New Cross

This month-long gig and event programme celebrates the radical musicians of Lewisham’s past, present and future. Highlights include a vogue ball with Turner Prize nominees Black Obsidian Sound System, an evening of genre-fluid music curated by revered local musician Charles Hayward, and a bank holiday reggae roast at vibrant Lewisham boozer the Fox & Forkin. Meanwhile, Linton Kwesi Johnson’s incredibly powerful poem ‘New Craas Massahkah’ will be presented as an audio installation on the site of The New Cross Fire Memorial Stone in Fordham Park.

  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • Tulse Hill

Wide Awake bills itself as south London's answer to leftfield indie, post-punk, electronica, techno and jazz. And going by its 2022 line-up, it's definitely hitting the spot. For the first time in the festival's short history, there will be two days of programming – with Bicep playing a live set to headline the Friday and Primal Scream topping the bill on Saturday. Caribou, Leon Vynehall, Loraine James, and Call Super have also been announced for Friday. Saturday will host Floating Points, Fat White Family, Overmono, Billy Nomates and many, many more. 

 

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  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • Hertfordshire

With a line-up showcasing some of the best queer clubnights and electronic music DJs from London and further afield, Flesh is a brand-new, two-day queer festival taking place on the outskirts of London this May. The first festival of its kind in the UK, it combines two days of queer dance music with the opportunity to camp overnight within a lush woodland space near St Albans, a 25-minute journey from King’s Cross. The line-up features established artists like Jaguar, LSDXOXO, Ellen Allien, Object Blue and Juliana Huxtable, collectives including Adonis, Inferno, Pxssy Palace, Misery and Big Dyke Energy, and a host of emerging DJs such as Wax Wings, Hannah Holland, Angel D’Lite and allyXPRESS (one of the cover stars of Time Out’s Pride Issue last year!). There’ll also be a sober activity tent featuring a packed programme of workshops and talks, as well as food stalls, pop-up shops and a play tent for those wishing to experience the festival ’in a more intimate way’. This might well be the hottest new ticket in town.

  • Music
  • Reggae and dancehall
  • Herne Hill

This one-day south London festival celebrates the best in reggae, dancehall and Afrobeats, spotlighting the importance of Caribbean and African music on British culture. There will be Caribbean street food vendors in collab with Black Eats LDN, serving up everything from mouth-watering jerk chicken to fried plantains, as well as a jam-packed music line-up still to be revealed. 

We'll be updating this page with more information as it is announced. 

Enjoy a tipple at a drinks festival

  • Things to do
  • Food and drink events
  • Wapping

There’s wine, and then there’s real wine. If you’re keen to find out what ‘real wine’ actually is (and there’s a high chance it’s not the stuff you chugged in the park as a teenager)‚ check out the Real Wine Fair. This huge celebration of independent vine growers is making a triumphant return to the capital for 2022, bringing together more than 160 organic, biodynamic and natural winemakers. You’ll be able to attend guest talks, seminars and masterclasses, visit an on-site wine shop and chomp on treats from top-quality street food stalls. Oh, and obviously you’ll have the opportunity to sample all of the weird, wonderful, and down-right delicious artisan wines from all over the world. Cheers to that!

Tickets cost £25 on the door. 

  • Things to do
  • Food and drink events
  • Fulham

An extravaganza of wine, food, live music and entertainment will be taking over Fulham Palace for three days in May. Headline producers include Maison Mirabeau and Léoube, with more than 30 more wine producers around the world making the line-up. Expect a gastronomic feasting experience accompanied by fine wine.

Tempt your tastebuds at a food festival

  • Things to do
  • Wimbledon

Presented by Michelin-starred chef and longtime ‘Great British Menu’ judge Tom Kerridge, this touring food and music festival features a whopping 150 different dishes, making it the largest menu crisscrossing the UK this summer. But it’s not just going for size over substance; top chefs like Atul Kochhar and Angela Hartnett are taking part alongside a bunch of London foodie favourites including Hoppers, Cue Point and the Princess of Shoreditch.

They’re just a few of the 39 restaurants taking part in the nine-stop tour over the summer, which calls in at three different London locations: Wimbledon from 27-29 May, Dulwich from 24-26 June, and Chiswick from 2-4 September.

As its name suggests, it aims to bring a convivial public house atmosphere to the great outdoors with loads of delicious pub grub and equally enticing live performances. Top music acts booked across the London dates include Craig David, Sister Sledge, Soul II Soul Soundsystem, Basement Jaxx and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, but be sure to double-check exactly who’s playing on each day before you book. 

Check out some world-class theatre

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Waterloo

Well this sounds wildly provocative. Eight years ago, Mike Bartlett had his big stage breakthrough with ‘King Charles III’, a jaw-droppingly audacious verse drama that imagined Prince Charles causing a constitutional crisis upon his ascent to the throne. Now Bartlett reunites with director Rupert Goold for ‘The 47th’, a ‘viciously funny’ verse play imagining of the 2024 US election campaign.

There’s no real specific clue to the plot beyond the fact that it follows the 2024 elections, and the casting: Bertie Carvel will follow up his recent turn as Rupert Murdoch by playing the arguably even more monstrous Donald Trump; Lydia Wilson – brilliant in ‘King Charles III’ as Kate Middleton – will play Ivanka Trump; and US actor Tamara Tunie will take on the role of Kamala Harris. It’s being co-produced by Sonia Friedman, and you strongly suspect a West End transfer is already in the offing.

  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Bloomsbury

Ah wella wella… it’s back! When it premiered in 1971, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s musical ‘Grease’ looked fondly back on the ’50s from barely more than a decade’s distance. Now the show – which of course went on to become a globe-swallowing film in 1978 – is so iconic as to practically define our view of ’50s American high schools as awash with greasers, muscle cars and squeaky-voiced girls wearing pink. It pretty much gets revived every couple of decades or so – the last time was back in 2007, off the back of the talent show ‘Grease is the Word’.

Now it returns for 2022 in a brand-new production from Nikolai Foster, with choreography by Arlene Philips. We’re promised a different side to ‘Grease’ than the last, play-it-safe revival, with a grittier edge and songs and script from the original production restored. But don’t go expecting a terrifyingly avant-garde reinvention. The songs that were added for the film – ‘Grease’, ‘You’re the One that I Want’, ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ – will all remain.

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Covent Garden

Perhaps surprisingly, there hasn’t been a major London revival of Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Glass Menagerie’ since John Tiffany’s dreamy 2017 take, although that’s largely because the pandemic robbed us of Ivo van Hove’s Isabelle Huppert-starring version, which was due to come to the Barbican in 2020 and certainly isn’t any time soon, if ever.

But 2022 should give us an exciting looking new edition, as Jeremy Herrin directs the magnificent Amy Adams – six times Oscar nominee, and six times robbed – as she makes her London stage debut in the role of Amanda Wingate, the monstrous southern matriarch – based on Williams’ own mother – whose suffocating love leaves her children Laura and Tom deeply emotionally scarred.

Expand your horizons at a fascinating talk

  • Things to do
  • Seven Dials

TED hosts its first-ever event in Soho, with confirmed speakers including art historian, author and curator Aindrea Emelife, computational biologist and autism advocate Dr Camilla Pang, and BBC podcaster, writer and journalist Danny Robins. Check the website for the full line-up for this all-day event.

  • Things to do
  • Angel

If you're addicted to podcasts, have a podcast, or just dream of starting your own, this one's for you. The Podcast Show is a new international festival for podcasting that brings together some of the biggest players in the biz, like Audible, Acast, BBC Sounds and Spotify, alongside some of the best creators out there, including Fearne Cotton and My Dad Wrote A Porno.

There are also tons of chances to learn more about podcasting, with 150 in-person panels and sessions to choose from, plus masterclasses with industry figures, and 350 speakers. Sounds like a perfect way for aspiring podcasters and fans alike to turn up the volume on their passion. 

Check out a major new exhibition

  • Art
  • Millbank

She's exploded sheds and trampled French horns, and in the process, Cornelia Parker has become one of the most mesmerising, instantly recognisable British artists working today. This major retrospective will include loads of breathtaking installations, all dealing with issues of violence, ecology, history and human rights – and also her apparent hatred for garden furniture.

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  • Art
  • Bloomsbury

Combining ancient sculpture, sacred artifacts and contemporary art from six continents, this exhibition explores the global history of female spiritual beings. We're talking demons, spirits, saints, fairies and everything in between. From satanic consorts to gods of death, this show is an exploration of the enduring power of female spirituality throughout history.

Pick up something fancy for your house

  • Shopping
  • Covent Garden

This is no ordinary flea market. To raise money for the theatrical charity Acting for Others, a variety of top West End shows will set up stalls selling signed posters, themed merch and all kinds of collectibles, plus special items for auction. You’ll also get the chance to take selfies with a host of West End stars and take part in a theatrical tombola. The last West End Flea Market (in 2019) raised more than £26,000 in a single morning, so this follow-up event will be pulling out all the stops to beat it. It takes place on the morning of 21 May, with exact timings to be announced shortly. 

Get in touch with nature

  • Sport and fitness
  • Lee Valley

The UK’s largest outdoor fitness festival returns to Hackney in May, with a three-day programme of activities that’ll help you work up a nice sweat. As usual there’ll be plenty of free fitness classes taking place on the Marshes, plus a free-entry 5k race for those who have made smashing Couch to 5k their new year’s resolution. It all leads up to the Hackney Half on the Sunday, with the 21km route winding its way around the borough through crowds of cheering spectators.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Each year, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show sees garden lovers flock to SW3 to get their annual fix of horticultural goodness. There’s always much chatter about the most spectacular floral displays, but one of the gardens at this year’s show has been designed to spark debate of a different kind: about racial and climate injustice. 

Titled Hands Off Mangrove by Grow2Know, the garden is inspired by the story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of activists who were arrested and persecuted by the police in 1970 following raids on the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill. The subsequent trial saw all nine defendants acquitted, with the judge describing ‘evidence of racial hatred’ in the Metropolitan Police. Steve McQueen made a film about it, ‘Mangrove’, which was part of his ‘Small Axe’ anthology series that screened on the BBC in 2020. 

Another inspiration for the garden is the deforestation of mangroves around the world. In its centre will be a four-metre-tall sculpture with nine bare roots, each recognising a Mangrove Nine defendant, surrounded by various lush species, including edible plants like beetroot, peppers, rocket and tomatoes. The crushed concrete path that runs through the garden represents the challenges and threats of racism, poverty and violence in 1970s Notting Hill and today. 

Hands off Mangrove by Grow2Know will be presented at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show from May 24-28. Tickets are on sale now

 

Enjoy an utterly unique immersive experience

  • Theatre
  • Theatre & Performance

Ever dreamt of being Lara Croft? Or just being in close proximity to her? Either way, you’re in luck: a new ‘Tomb Raider’-inspired immersive event is coming to Camden’s Stables Market in February next year, offering you an action-packed chance to help save the world. The makers have got seriously impressive credentials, having masterminded mega-hit ‘The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience’, which Time Out’s reviewer gave a whopping five stars. They’ll invite guests to join teams of eight to escape a sinking ship, discover an ancient tomb, solve puzzles galore, and interact with live actors from the ‘Tomb Raider’ franchise. Frankly, it all sounds pretty fierce.

‘Tomb Raider: The LIVE Experience’ is on at Camden’s Stables Market from May 3, 2022: tickets here.

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