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Andrea Heribanova/ Flickr

London events in November

Your comprehensive guide to the best events, pop-ups and things to do in London this November

By Things To Do Editors and Alexandra Sims
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Little did we know at the beginning of the year that life still wouldn’t be back to normal, but here we are. And despite our new normal surroundings, November in London is still brimming with plenty of events and things to do. See out the beginning of winter in some of the capital's best pubsBonfire Night may be basically cancelled this year, but November in London is also the month of when the festive season really starts to get going. Hyde Park’s beloved Winter Wonderland may not be taking place this year, but the equally wonderful festive classic Christmas at Kew is still going ahead as are the annual city-wide Christmas lights and festive markets

Here’s your guide to the best events and things to do, online and off, in November in London 2020. 

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar. 

Our November 2020 highlights

Christmas at Kew 2017
Christmas at Kew 2017
Photograph: Kew

Christmas at Kew

News City Life

Kew Gardens’ Christmas trail is the flashing neon light at the end of the long, dark tunnel we call 2020. It’s been confirmed that the mega-popular (ie, book in good time) illuminated path through the darkened gardens will be returning this November. The new Christmas trail at Kew gives visitors a chance to see the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens under twinkling illuminations and the ever-so-comforting glow of Christmas neon.

 

EFG London Jazz Festival
EFG London Jazz Festival
Photograph: Tatiana Gorilovsky

EFG London Jazz Festival

News Music

Skronking saxes, busy hi-hats, walking basslines and, yes, even a bit of scat singing: jazz truly has it all. And to our delight, this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival is a goer! With a mixture of performances streaming digitally and honest-to-God live gigs, it’ll feature more than 100 shows across the ten days. Look out for Time Out-approved luminaries like Shabaka Hutchings, Cleveland Watkiss, Jason Yarde and Gaika. Bebop, post-bop, hard bops. All the bops!

 

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Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studio Tour
Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studio Tour
© Joseph Conway

Hogwarts in the Snow

5 out of 5 stars
Things to do Walks and tours Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, Hertfordshire

The Harry Potter studio tour is getting a festive makeover once more for Christmas. See the Great Hall covered in wreaths and garlands and dotted with snow-covered Christmas trees, with turkeys and burning Christmas puddings laid out on the table. The Gryffindor Common Room will be dressed with handmade Christmas cards created by the cast members during production, while the Hogwarts model will be covered in a layer of glistening snow and the cobbled stones and magical shop fronts of Diagon Alley will be draped in layers of filmmaking snow. Wrap up warm! Personalised knitted jumpers optional. 

Adam Kay
Adam Kay
© Idil Sukan

'Adam Kay: This Is Going To Hurt'

4 out of 5 stars
Comedy Musical Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

This live version of Adam Kay’s hugely successful book about his time as a junior doctor in the NHS was due to run in the West End earlier this year, but got derailed for ‘obvious reasons’. However, it has the distinction of being the piece that will formally reopen Theatreland to audiences, with its three week socially distanced run serving as a trial for a wider reopening of the Apollo Theatre.

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Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum
Photograph: Courtesy of the Natural History Museum

Ice skating in London

Things to do Ice skating

Don’t listen to the hearsay. Christmas is not cancelled. There will still be Christmas lights, there will still be seasonal music played two months too early, and there will be skating, damn it, even if it’s on a sparsely populated, socially distanced rink. Whether you can pirouette like Torvill and Dean or just slip around like Bambi, there’s a rink for everyone. Skaters gonna skate! 

C-o-n-t-a-c-t, 2020
C-o-n-t-a-c-t, 2020
Photo by Pamela Raith

‘C-o-n-t-a-c-t’

Theatre Outdoor theatres Monument, City of London

This headphones-based outdoor show by Samuel Sené and Gabrielle Jourdain was a hit this summer in its native France and has gone on to be something of a post-lockdown smash over here. It’s a perambulatory show in which the masked, socially distanced audience follows the performers across Monument, City and Greenwich locations, listening to their pre-recorded words and thoughts via an app downloaded beforehand. An extremely agreeable way to spend 50 minutes getting reacquainted with some of London’s most dramatic spots.

Note that in all cases the ‘venues’ are just approximate start points and are not affiliated to the show itself.

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Pergola transformed into Miracle on Kingdom Street
Pergola transformed into Miracle on Kingdom Street
Photograph: Pergola

Pergola: ‘Miracle on Kingdom Street’

News Events & Festivals

The team behind Paddington hangout Pergola is transforming its pretty outdoor space into a winter wonderland in time for the festive period complete with a grand Alpine hall decorated with a forest of 200 fir trees and eight cosy lodges. Hot toddies – from mulled wine to boozy hot chocolate – will be available and four pop-up restaurants will serve dishes inspired by the Alps. You bet that means fondue!

Overflow, Sadler’s Wells 2020
Overflow, Sadler’s Wells 2020
Photograph: Johan Persson

Sadler’s Wells: ‘Social DisDancing’

News Theatre & Performance

London’s home of dance is back in action with a brand-new, socially distanced season of dance. The main attraction is ‘An Evening with English National Ballet’ (November 19 to 21), which consists of five new works from Arielle Smith, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant, Yuri Possokhov and Stina Quagebeur. Next up, this month Alexander Whitley’s high-tech show ‘Overflow’. It runs November 27 and 28.

 

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chemical brothers, design museum electronic exhibition
chemical brothers, design museum electronic exhibition
Photograph: Luke Dyson

‘Electronic: Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers’

News Events & Festivals

With this expansive exhibition charting the history of electronic dance music, The Design Museum has accidentally produced the most prescient show for lockdown times. In parts, it’s a tribute to ravers who turned face masks into fashion, at a time when every visitor will (hopefully) be wearing one.  

miracle pop-up at the henrietta hotel
miracle pop-up at the henrietta hotel
Photograph: Addie Chinn

Miracle

News Drinking

If Christmas for you is all about the tinsel, you should probably pay Miracle a visit. The very visual pop-up bar is back for thr third year at Covent Garden’s Henrietta Hotel full of gaudy decorations inspired by a retro, ’70s Christmas at home. The drinks, as usual, will be as big a talking point, with cocktails to fit the theme, designed by Experimental Cocktail Club – including a mulled-wine-heavy Bad Santa and drinks loaded with winter spices, like the Fruit-Cake Flip.

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The Ballad of Corona V, The Big House, 2020
The Ballad of Corona V, The Big House, 2020
Photo by The Big House

'The Ballad of Corona V'

Theatre Drama The Big House, De Beauvoir

Working with young people who’ve had experience of the care system, Big House theatre company was never going to let a pandemic stop it. Indeed, it’s grasped the bull by its horns with ‘The Ballad of Corona V’, a darkly comic drama about the ’rona performed by a cast of 19. Written by David Watson, it appears to be is a perambulatory affair, in which audiences travel through the scenes in groups no bigger than six.

@TheDriveIn
@TheDriveIn
Photograph: @TheDriveIn

@TheDriveIn: Christmas cinema

News Film

Thought drive-in cinema was a warm-weather-only deal? Think again. @TheDriveIn is sticking some tinsel on this summer’s screening phenomenon and reinventing it for the chillier months. Expect all the Christmas favourites like ‘Love Actually’, ‘Elf’, ‘Home Alone’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

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The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
Photograph: Helen Maybanks

'The Great Gatsby'

3 out of 5 stars
Theatre Off-West End Gatsby's Mansion, Mayfair

From relatively humble beginnings at the 2017 Vaults Festival, The Guild of Misrule’s adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novella has become the longest-running immersive theatre show in London. It’s effectively a big party, albeit one that now adheres to social distancing guidelines. The bar sells a truly lethal Old Fashioned, there’s bags of time to just hang out and chat with your support bubble, and the plot bits are more akin to a series of party games where the audience is divided into groups and taken away for small encounters with characters from the show.

Christmas lights in London

Things to do

November is the month when London gets transformed into the sparkliest, blingiest, most festive place on earth with the switching on of Christmas lights all over town. There's nothing like the sparkle of London Christmas lights to give the city an instant festive makeover. 

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Death of England: Delroy, National Theatre, 2020
Death of England: Delroy, National Theatre, 2020
Photo by National Theatre

'Death of England: Delroy'

Theatre Drama National Theatre, South Bank

The National Theatre is back! Or at least, one of its three theatres is, with greatly reduced capacity. Nonetheless, after keeping us sane with weekly YouTube screenings over lockdown it’s wonderful to have the IRL venue back in action, staging this timely examination of Black Englishness. Playwrights Roy Williams and Clint Dyer began writing this sort-of-sequel to last year’s ‘Death of England’ back in March. The Dyer-directed play will star Michael Balogun as the eponymous Black best friend to Michael, the deeply conflicted, self-destructive protagonist played by Rafe Spall in the first play. 

Christmas markets and fairs

Shopping Markets and fairs

Looking for gift inspiration? Look no further than London's Christmas markets and fairs, which start to pop up all over town from mid-November. Among a raft of special festive events you'll find foodie gifts, hand-crafted pressies and usually a bit of glühwein to help you get into that merry spirit.

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Andy Warhol 'Marilyn Diptych' (1962) Tate © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

Andy Warhol review

Art Tate Modern, Bankside

Sometimes, when you stand in front of a painting, it’s like being in the presence of a celebrity. This show is full of those celebrities. Stacks of soup cans, piles of boxes of Brillo pads, dozens of Marilyns, repeated Elvises. You already know these works by Andy Warhol. They’re so famous that it’s hard to remember what any of them means, or even what Andy Warhol means. And this show wants to change that, presenting Warhol as a political, experimental, neurotic, sexual being. Not just some art myth, but something way more relatable: a human.

The Last Five Years, Southwark Playhouse, 2020
The Last Five Years, Southwark Playhouse, 2020
Photograph: PAMELA RAITH

‘The Last Five Years’

Theatre Musicals Southwark Playhouse, Elephant & Castle

This fine musical two-hander triumphantly returns to Southwark Playhouse six months after it was taken off by lockdown, with the addition of some quite ingenious perspex dividers set up between different groups in the reduced-capacity audience. Jason Robert Brown’s 2001 smash recounts the five-year relationship of couple Cathy and Jamie. It comes with a bit of a concept: his songs chart the relationship chronologically; her songs in reverse. It’s the very definition of bittersweet, a glorious wall of sound and feeling, and definitely one of the most enjoyable things you can do while wedged inside a see-through plastic box. 

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george michael
george michael
Dawn Mellor's Studies of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley (1984-85) Courtesy of the artist

Brent Biennial

News Art

We’ve got Venice, São Paulo and Berlin, and now Brent is throwing a biennale to mark its year as London Borough of Culture. Twenty-three projects will fill unusual spaces like barbers, laundrettes, libraries and billboards across the borough for the occasion, including a nine-metre-high mural by British artist Dawn Mellor of Brent-born George Michael. Wham!

GHBoy, Charing Cross Theatre, 2020
GHBoy, Charing Cross Theatre, 2020
Photo by GHBoy

'GHBoy'

Theatre Drama Charing Cross Theatre, Covent Garden

The Charing Cross Theatre is the latest London venue to spring back to life, reopening as a socially-distanced 105-seater with ‘GHBoy’ a debut play by Paul Harvard, directed by Jon Pashley. Addressing ‘misconceptions around gay culture and promiscuity’, it follows Robert, an east London party boy trapped in a spiral of substance abuse and infidelity, who really just wants to settle down with his boyfriend.

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Artemisia Gentileschi 'Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria' (about 1615-17) © The National Gallery, London

‘Artemisia’

Art National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

The daughter of famed painter Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia learned how to paint in his workshop before being apprenticed to Agostino Tassi, who raped her at the age of 17. Artemisia dedicated the rest of her life to painting men being beheaded by strong women, finding huge success in the process with big, bold, brilliantly ambitious paintings, all soap opera dramatism, big clashes of light and dark. She could hold her own against most of the best of her era. 

hot house for london design festival
hot house for london design festival
Photograph: Studio Weave

‘The Hothouse’ 

News Events & Festivals

Back in the 1930s, the Lea Valley corridor had the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world. Playing on that nugget of horticultural history, design company Studio Weave has decided to grow real crops like oranges, quinoa and pomegranate inside a big glasshouse installation in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It’s not some pretty take-your-granny garden centre, though; it’s meant to be a comment on climate change. At the rate the world’s temperature is increasing, all the exotic fruits in The Hothouse could be grown in the UK by 2050. Suddenly that guava isn’t looking so tasty.

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Atrium of IWM London with the artwork "History of Bombs" by Ai Wei Wei.
Atrium of IWM London with the artwork "History of Bombs" by Ai Wei Wei.
Photograph: © IWM

Ai Weiwei: History of Bombs

Art Imperial War Museum, Lambeth

Artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, takes over the Imperial War Museum's huge atrium with a new site-specific artwork. Although the title focuses on conflict, the work itself considers human migration as a result of war and the impact of politics on the individual. The artwork is part of the museum's 'Refugees' season.

re:connect Concert Series

Things to do Concerts St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square

Gigs are not easy in the era of social distancing – you can’t exactly do shirtless moshing when there’s a pandemic – but that doesn’t mean that there’s no live music. St Martin-in-the-Fields is hosting a series of socially distanced, themed classical music concerts every other Saturday until Christmas, with each concert then available to view on a pay-per-view basis online after. On Nov 7 Philippe Sands presents ‘Love and Justice’, a unique account of the post-war daily life of senior Nazi fugitive Otto Wächter, while the night-themed concert on Nov 21 features Mozart’s ‘Gran Partita’.

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Introductions: Early Embodiment from A Countervailing Theory, (2019) © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Image courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Toyin Ojih Odutola: ‘A Countervailing Theory’

Art Barbican Centre, Barbican

Drawing, for Toyin Ojih Odutola, is a form of storytelling. These new works, exhibited around the 90-metre sweep of the Barbican Curve, form part of an epic series relaying an imagined ancient myth. The artist uses pencil, pastel, ballpoint pen and charcoal to create the mega-sized portraits that are as delicate as they are beautiful. 

Stephen Tompkinson  as Frank. Jessica Johnson as Rita
Stephen Tompkinson  as Frank. Jessica Johnson as Rita
Photo by Nobby Clark

'Educating Rita'

Theatre Drama Rose Theatre Kingston, Kingston

Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson star in this production of Willy Russell's timeless two-hander about a jaded tutor whose life is turned around by an unorthodox news student named Rita. After performing a memorable summer season at Cornwall’s stunning outdoor Minack Theatre as one of the first productions on a UK stage post-lockdown, it’s taking a lengthy, slightly ad-hoc tour around the UK, the centrepiece of which is this two-week stand at the Rose Theatre Kingston.

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Titian 'Rape of Europa' (1562) © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

‘Titian: Love, Desire, Death’

Art National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

The Renaissance master’s works are reunited in full here for the first time since the 1500s. The seven huge paintings here tell stories from Greek myth – ‘Diana and Actaeon’, ‘Venus and Adonis’, ‘The Rape of Europa’ – with heaving passion and lyrical intensity. At a time when painting was dominated by religious themes and visual restraint, these free-flowing works were a shock to the system.

Tracey Emin 'It - didnt stop - I didnt stop' (2019) © HV-studio Courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch

Art Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair

Emin – perhaps unsurprisingly – is a long-term fan of the Norweigan Expressionist. In 1988, she created a film work titled ‘For Edvard Munch and All My Dead Children’. Emin’s recent artworks have been pretty much brilliant across the board, and this exhibition will show how Munch has long been an inspiration to her. 

Find out what's happening in December
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