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Richmond Park
Photograph: Charlie Pinder

London events in October

Your guide to the best stuff to do, see, eat and drink across London during October

By Time Out London Things To Do, Alexandra Sims and Angela Hui
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The evenings are getting darker, the leaves are getting crunchy and everything tastes of pumpkin spice... it must be October. The Halloween parties might be a little smaller this year but that’s no reason to hibernate indoors. October in London means autumn is here and full of fun things to do. If you’re up for a fright, scare yourself silly with our guide to spooky London. October is packed with new openings, including the long awaited ‘Artemisia’ exhibition at the National Gallery, so get a load of our guide to the best events, things to do and cultural happenings throughout October 2020.

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar

Our October event highlights 2020

Halloween costumes in London: Chucky
Halloween costumes in London: Chucky
All images shot in The London Bridge Experience & Tombs, photo Rob Greig

Halloween in London

Things to do

When the days are a-darkenin’, we’ve started walking face-first into spider webs again and the shops are expecting an imminent order of pumpkin-related merchandise, it can only mean one thing: Halloween, Thursday October 31 2020, is almost upon us. Dust off your witch’s hat, rinse those vampire fangs and start honing your prosthetic-application skills. Nothing can possibly be scarier than the past eight months, but we’re willing to try... 

Alicia Garza
Alicia Garza
Photograph: Alicia Garza/Southbank Centre

Inside Out

Things to do Online, London

Great news: the Southbank Centre is reopening! Less great news: you can’t go in! Instead, the shows in its Inside Out season of music and literature will broadcast the Royal Festival Hall to the wider world, with most viewable by purchasing a ticket to watch a live stream. This month book tickets to hear Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza, Claudia Rankine, Dr Nicola Rollock, Kae Tempest, Dawn French, Arundhati Roy and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in your living room. 

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Secret 7"

Things to do Exhibitions Now Gallery, Greenwich Peninsula

Have you ever bought an unlabelled record and thought ‘this is a BIG find, I bet it’s the first pressing of that Metallica album that’s worth loads’. Then you lower the needle, and it’s a ‘Classic Rock Anthems’ mix? We’ve been there. At the Secret 7" charity record sale, you won’t know which song lives in the vinyl grooves until you’ve parted with your money, but it’s worth the gamble. You’ll be going home with one of seven tracks, it could be Aretha Franklin’s ‘One Step Ahead’, or maybe Miles Davis’s ‘Miles Runs the Voodoo Down’ (‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ did not make the cut). Most importantly, there’s a chance its sleeve is a one-of-a-kind artwork made by a big-name artist. Lubaina Himid and Anish Kapoor have both contributed designs to raise money for Help Refugees. And even if you don’t get the seven-inch you were hoping for, there’s still an exhibition of 700 sleeves to see for free.

London cocktail week 2020
London cocktail week 2020
Photograph: London Cocktail Week

London Cocktail Week

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Various, London

With London’s best watering holes facing their most challenging year, London Cocktail Week is hoping to throw them something of a lifeline – by extending the LCW celebrations so they last for a whole month. Think of it as Eat Out to Help Out, but for bars.  

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I Am Curious, Orange, 1988
I Am Curious, Orange, 1988
Photograph: Michael Clark & Company with The Fall

Michael Clark: ‘Cosmic Dancer’

Art Barbican Hall, Barbican

If anyone really has managed to dance themselves right out the womb, it’s probably Michael Clark. This show is a comprehensive sweep through the maverick dancer and choreographer’s career, which he spent mashing up post-punk with classical ballet. See Clark’s original style through film, photography, paintings and sculptures, alongside his legendary collaborations with cult icons like Leigh Bowery, Sarah Lucas, The Fall and Wolfgang Tillmans. 

01 Installation view of Summer Exhibition 2019, Royal Academy of Arts, London.
01 Installation view of Summer Exhibition 2019, Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Photograph: Royal Academy of Arts / David Parry

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

3 out of 5 stars
Art Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair

Bit late for the Summer Exhibition, isn’t it? Yes, but calling the Royal Academy’s annual open-submission mega-show the ‘Autumn Exhibition’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. So it’s the same thing we get every summer – floor-to-ceiling art by greats and unknowns alike, plus all those little stickers on the walls – only a few months later thanks to the year that is 2020. This year it’s coordinated by artistic duo Jane and Louise Wilson RA and includes new works by Tracey Emin, Rebecca Horn, Anselm Kiefer, Julian Schnabel, Gillian Wearing and Ai Weiwei.

 

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Forbidden Forest
Forbidden Forest
Photograph: Pop Up Screens

Forbidden Forest Cinema

Things to do Film events Copeland Park, Peckham

By now, we’re so starved of cinematic sustenance that we’d even pay to watch ‘Hocus Pocus’ on the big screen instead of the usual order of Halloween business: snoozing while it plays on BBC Two for the billionth time. You’ll find it screening at Forbidden Forest Cinema, an ‘eerie woodland’ installation from Pop-Up Screens next to Peckham’s Bussey Building. If you can’t face another trip to Salem, Massachusetts, it’s also screening ‘The Lost Boys’, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and that terrifying Halloween classic… ‘Moana’!?

‘Nine Lives’

5 out of 5 stars
Theatre Drama Bridge Theatre, Tower Bridge

Playwright Zodwa Nyoni’s family moved from Zimbabwe to England in the late ’90s and she spent her adolescence applying for UK residency. It’s no wonder then that her one-man monologue following Ishmael (Lladel Bryant), a gay Zimbabwean asylum seeker dispersed to Leeds while he awaits a decision on his case, cuts straight through the inflamed tabloid headlines that often frame the conversation about immigration. Written in 2016 for Leeds Playhouse, it remains as relevant today as it did four years ago. It’s a stark, sparse piece that urges, above all, kindness – something we could all do with more of right now.

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Peter Dazeley

Wigmore Hall Autumn Concert Series

5 out of 5 stars
Music Music venues Marylebone

Wigmore Hall is currently operating at 10 percent capacity but that hasn’t stopped it from programming more than a hundred concerts. Performances include operatic showcases, evenings with string-quartets, pianists, and even lutists!

Venue says Wigmore Hall Autumn Series | All concerts in the series livestreamed free of charge - enjoy world-class performances at home

Beat the Devil, Bridge Theatre, 2020
Beat the Devil, Bridge Theatre, 2020
Manuel Harlan

‘Beat the Devil’ with Ralph Fiennes

Theatre Drama Bridge Theatre, Tower Bridge

Nick Hytner’s shiny theatre next to Tower Bridge is emerging from lockdown with an equally shiny selection of star-studded monologues. Directed by Hytner and written by David Hare, ‘Beat the Devil’ has none other than Ralph Fiennes playing the celebrated playwright. Hare contracted Covid-19 early on in the pandemic; this show is a deep dive into his experience of the illness. Hare previously described the government’s response to the pandemic as worse than the handling of the Suez crisis or the Iraq war, so the tone of this soliloquy isn’t hard to imagine.

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St Martin in the Field
St Martin in the Field
Photograph: Javier Martinez/Unsplash

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 pogo shirtless in some sweaty basement with a hundred other drunks when there’s a bloody pandemic – but that doesn’t mean that there’s no live music. St Martin-in-the-Fields is hosting a series of socially distanced classical music concerts. There’ll be solo and orchestral performances taking place throughout the month. 

Installation view of Bruce Nauman at Tate Modern featuring Anthro/Socio (Rin de Sp inning) 1992 . Photograph by Tate Photography (Matt Greenwood). Artwork (c) Bruce Nauman / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020
Installation view of Bruce Nauman at Tate Modern featuring Anthro/Socio (Rin de Sp inning) 1992 . Photograph by Tate Photography (Matt Greenwood). Artwork (c) Bruce Nauman / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020
Installation view of Bruce Nauman at Tate Modern featuring Anthro/Socio (Rin de Sp inning) 1992 . Photograph by Tate Photography (Matt Greenwood). Artwork (c) Bruce Nauman / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020

Bruce Nauman

Art Contemporary art Tate Modern, Bankside

One of Bruce Nauman’s works is called ‘Clown Torture’. That’s all you need to know about the pivotal, ultra-influential American artist, who’s finally got a seriously big Tate show. Go to see neons, installations, films and the aforementioned clown torture.

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London Wetland Centre
London Wetland Centre
Photograph: London Wetland Centre

Wetlands Unravelled

Things to do London Wetland Centre, Barnes

Not to be confused with the manicured Walthamstow Wetlands, this outdoor art exhibition is taking place in the reedbeds of the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes. The one with the otters. To mark its twentieth anniversary, the centre is carefully placing sculptures and sound installations among the watery habitat that you can view from a distance. Look out for Alec Stevens’s ‘That Sinking Feeling’, little houses that protrude from the lagoon, reminding us of rising water levels, while the ducks swim around them without a care in the world. 

Lockdown Town, One Night Records, 2020
Lockdown Town, One Night Records, 2020
Photo by Nobby Clark

‘Lockdown Town’

Theatre Interactive One Night Records, Southwark

Ah: live music, my old friend! Most London gig venues are not in any way suited to distancing, and things like touring are extravagantly impractical at present. ‘Lockdown Town’ is a theatrical gig experience that manages to work around these problems offering five bands in five rooms, each of whom plays a three-ish song set to the multiple small audiences each playing tunes in line with the retro-Americana concept of the show. It’s basically the central London equivalent of staggering around the fringier tents at Wilderness for two hours, and if that sounds fun, and you dig retro Americana, you’ll have a blast. 

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'Figure (Sarvabuddhadakini). Na-ro-mkhah-spyod-ma' (19th century) © The Trustees of the British Museum

Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution

Museums British Museum, Bloomsbury

Clear all the images of a naked Sting from your mind, because the British Museum’s new exhibition is all about uncovering the truth behind the beautiful, esoteric Eastern philosophical movement. Expect centuries’ worth of stunning objects, prints and paintings.

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