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September
Photograph: Time Out

London events in September

The best events, exhibitions and all-round great things to do in London in September 2021

Written by
Katie McCabe
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The arrival of September does not mean summer is over. Sure, the leaves might be turning crunchy and the kids are going back to school, but after the year we’ve had, we deserve a little extension. Treat these four weeks like they are the last days of your summer holiday – spend your Saturdays in a lido, your Sundays in a beer garden, or lose entire weekends at the last music festivals of the season. 

From art exhibitions to theatre shows to new openings, we’ve got you covered with the best events and things to do in September in London 2021.

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar.

 

Our September 2021 highlights

Mosey around London’s coolest private buildings
  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • London

Open House London gives city dwellers free access to some of the capital’s architectural wonders that aren’t usually open to the public – from schools and offices to domestic homes and places of worship.

The hugely popular, capital-wide festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion it’ll be championing nine London neighbourhoods and planning a number of special new features including celebrity guest curators, a new book exploring migration and food in London, and new buildings and landscapes never before featured. 

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • South Kensington

The London Design Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2022 with another year of events, exhibitions and installations celebrating some of the world’s best designers and interrogating the boundaries of what design is.

This year’s highlights include an outdoor installation from Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis celebrating the Brutalist form of Centre Point, a baffling but exciting sounding ‘life-sized media platform’ from Sony Design which will play sensorial effects with ‘shifting light, colour and sound’, and ‘Henge’, a project in Greenwich Peninsula inspired by Neolithic stone structures. 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • London

The Totally Thames Festival is back at it again, hosting a bunch of imaginative, river-themed activities at various locations along the riverbank – from Richmond to Barking and Dagenham. This year it’s bringing the very first night-time flotilla to the Thames, exhibiting 200 silk flags outside the National Maritime Museum,  delving into the history of Leamouth Peninsula and launching 330 boats onto the Thames as part of The Great London River Race. 

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • South Bank

There’s not been a really big London revival of ‘The Crucible’ since Yaël Farber’s sturm und drang 2014 Old Vic take, the one from the National Theatre promises to be an ‘urgent new staging’ that will star Brendan Cowell (best known for playing opposite Billie Piper in the Young Vic’s ‘Yerma’) as the play’s troubled hero John Procter, and ‘The Crown’s forever youthful-looking Eric Doherty as Abigail, the ‘possessed’ young woman calling out witchcraft in the small Massachusetts town.

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  • Art
  • Regent’s Park

Frieze Sculpture returns for another year, transforming one of London's prettiest parks into a massive outdoor gallery. This summer, visitors can see artworks by artists including Alicja Kwade, the mega-colourful Ugo Rondinone and the super-playful John Wood and Paul Harrison. Slap on the suncream (or a raincoat) and go soak up some art.

  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • Walthamstow

Organised by a host of London-based South Asian creatives including club night No ID and collective Daytimers, this festival made history when it debuted last September with a line-up exclusively dedicated to South Asian artists, winning a nomination for Best Boutique Festival from DJ Mag in the process. It returns to Uplands Business Park for its third edition with a line-up featuring the likes of Panjabi Hit Squad, D-Malice, Cousins, DJ Mimi and Weirdo Zine playing across six stages, alongside poetry sets, dance performances and even a bit of chess. 

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  • Theatre
  • Circuses
  • London

London’s free outdoor Greenwich + Docklands International Festival is back for 2022 with a line-up dominated by more of the spectacular installations that have been its hallmark since the pandemic took the focus away from straight-up theatre. One of the highlights this year is Stephanie Lüning’s ‘Islands of Foam’ (Sep 3-4), in which torrents of multicoloured foam will surge through the streets of Greenwich. Plus, there’s a huge amount of other stuff beyond that. 

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • South Kensington

One of the stand-outs of the V&A’s 2022 programme, ‘Hallyu! The Korean Wave’, is a large-scale exploration of Korean pop culture and the first of its kind in the UK. Hallyu (meaning Korean Wave) started gaining traction in the 1990s, encompassing Korean music, movies, fashion and online games. The exhibition will take a close look at the explosion of K-Pop bands such as BTS as well as the 2012 ‘Gangnam Style’ craze. 

 

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  • Art
  • Barbican

Carolee Schneemann created some of the most famous works of performance art of the twentieth century – including the genuinely iconic ‘Interior Scroll’ – and is long overdue a proper celebration. The American artist used her interdisciplinary approach to tackle topics like sexual expression, the objectification of women and the violence of war, often using her own body as the main subject. Powerful, influential, important art. 

  • Things to do
  • Hampstead Heath

Wondering where all the intelligent conversations are happening? Get off Twitter and make a beeline for Kenwood House, where writers, artists and those pesky experts will be debating everything from contemporary politics, big data, interiors and arts – basically all the sections you usually find in a copy of FT Weekend. Highlights include a talk on the power and politics of Ukrainian food from Olia Hercules, author Robert Harris on the art of the historical thriller, Bake Off’s Nadiya Hussain on the future of British cooking and Monica Ali on the magic and mystery of families. Notepads at the ready!  

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  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

London’s ‘dirty old river’ is about to look a whole lot snazzier. An illuminated flotilla will float along the Thames at night on Sep 24. Over 150 boats decorated in glistening white lights will process along the waterway from Chelsea to Tower Bridge as part of Totally Thames’s art installation ‘Reflections’ that will make a ‘sparkling nighttime Canaletto scene’, according to organisers.

  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • Acton

Created by the gang behind Percolate and Croatian festival Love International, Waterworks debuted in September 2021 and returns this month. Once again, the line-up is cracking, featuring dance music heavyweights like Ben UFO, Palms Trax, Moxie and Skee Mask, alongside emerging artists like GiGi FM and Yung Singh, plus Club Fitness, Big Dyke Energy, Saoirse, Hannah Holland and plenty more favourites from London’s electronic music scene.

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  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Waterloo

Astonishingly, US playwright Jonathan Spector’s comedy about a liberal school board that falls into acrimony when a student gets mumps and the county health department demands all unvaccinated pupils must quarantine premiered off-Broadway before the pandemic. Now it’s hitting the UK with Oscar-winner Helen Hunt playing board member Suzanne, in what we believe to be her first UK performance. 

  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • Hampstead Heath

Music and philosophy combine at this highbrow but fun festival at Kenwood House. September’s theme is ‘Error and Rennassaince’ and there’s a nicely eclectic programme of thought-provoking discussion and debate from various creative minds, performance, film, comedy, poetry and music, with some big names from a lot of different worlds rubbing shoulders. The line up includes music from Gwenno and Django Django (DJ), comedy from Alfie Brown and ‘Stath Lets Flats’ Sunil Patel, plus talks from Peter Singer, Esther Freud, Paul Mason, David Hare and Amelia Gentleman. 

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  • Art
  • Vauxhall

The naughtiest boy in all of art returns, and this time he’s setting paintings on fire. It’s all part of his latest project, ‘The Currency’, which involved creating 10,000 little primary coloured dot paintings, and 10,000 corresponding NFTs. Collectors then had the option of keeping the NFT and destroying the physical artwork, or vice versa. If you chose NFT, your £20,000 painting is going to be torched, live in the gallery, during the run of this exhibition. Silly? Yes. But offensive? Also yes. 

  • Things to do
  • Chiswick

Presented by Michelin-starred chef and longtime ‘Great British Menu’ judge Tom Kerridge, Pub in the Park is a touring food and music festival that aims to bring a convivial public house atmosphere to the great outdoors with loads of delicious pub grub and equally enticing live performances. Its September stop is Chiswick where top London chefs like Atul Kochhar and Angela Hartnett will be cooking up storm, while a tasty lineup with the likes of Craig David TS5, The Sugar Hill Gang, Beverley Knight, Faithless DJ and Sophie Ellis-Bextor will play on the main stage.

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Hear your fave pods IRL at London Podcast Festival
  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • King’s Cross

The London Podcast Festival returns this September with some of the best podcasting talent from the UK and US hosting shows live from Kings Place. This means you don’t just get to listen to your favourite hosts yabbering way, but you can actually watch them at it as well. Look out for big shows in the audio world like Adam Buxton, Two Twos, Midnight Snack with Michelle Collins, Dane Baptiste Questions Everything, The Guilty Feminist who will be pairing up with Brown Girls Do It Too and A Gay and A NonGay. Your ears are in for a treat. 

  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Seven Dials

The Donmar’s 2022 season has another huge UK premiere of a US smash: ‘The Band’s Visit’. It’s an adaptation of a 2007 Israeli indie flick about a band of Egyptian musicians who cross the border to play for an Arab-Israeli audience but get lost, winding up in a boring desert town where everybody does a lot of learning and growing and generally has a good time. Lo-fi, touching, somewhat weird and offering an incredibly rare platform as a musical with a Middle-Eastern cast, it’s not a big flashy show, but it did charm Broadway and secured that gargantuan haul at the 2018 Tony Awards. This is a brand new UK production from Donmar boss Michael Longhurst.

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  • Film
  • Science fiction
  • London

In what much surely rank as the biggest and most ambitious Secret Cinema experience to date, the immersive moviegoing maestros take their first step into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: The Live Immersive Experience’. As you can probably guess, it’s a screening of James Gunn’s critically acclaimed 2014 sci-fi romp, expanded with an immersive preamble. Presumably, they have faith that it’s going to be a particularly epic one, as on this occasion you actually have the option to buy tickets that don’t include a screening of the film. 

  • Art
  • Chalk Farm

Combining anime, videogames, sci-fi and aspects of traditional spiritual belief, Chinese artist LuYang's new exhibition promises to be a technological, immersive wonderland. All based around their digital avatar DOKU, this exhibition will feature a series of video works as well as an arcade section where visitors will be able to play a videogame version of the project.

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Hackney Wick

The title tells you that you’re getting a version of Anton Chekhov’s immortal play ‘The Cherry Orchard’ – and the title is right! What it doesn’t tell you is that Vinay Patel’s all-Asian cast adaptation of ‘The Cherry Orchard’ is a sci-fi set in space. It follows the crew of Captain Ramesh’s spaceship – all of whom were born on said vessel, as were their parents, and their parents before them – as they finally happen across a habitable planet to colonise, in what should be the culmination of their generations-long quest for a new home. But not everyone wants to leave the ship. The combination of Russian melancholy and science fiction feels very, very Yard Theatre.

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Covent Garden

First shown at The Almeida, ‘The Doctor’ is now on the West End. What starts out as a fairly straightforward examination of medical ethics, very loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 'Professor Bernhardi' turns into a whole mass of other issues; identity politics, media witch hunts, the way institutions protect themselves against criticism. Juliet Stevenson reprises her role of Ruth Wolff, a white female senior clinician who refuses to allow a Catholic priest to see a 14-year-old girl who's dying after a botched abortion. 

This is 'talky' theatre, 'ideas' theatre; the kind where intense debates play out over long stretching-out scenes. 

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  • Art
  • Bankside

This major retrospective of the Slovakian artist’s work concentrates on her output from the 1960s onwards when she first started making plaster sculptures by pouring the liquid into rubber balloons. She would then shape it either by hand or by submerging it in water, resulting in a series of beautifully delicate works that look like egg shells, spiders’ webs or birds’ nests. Summary: gorgeous, one-of-a-kind art by an artist deserving greater recognition. 

  • Things to do
  • London

Get to know London’s very own arty biennial. This year’s theme is ‘In the House of my Love’ looking at the many meanings of homemaking. Taking place in a cluster of locations in the borough there’ll be 12 artists’ projects to explore over the summer. Look out for Katarzyna Perlak’s traditional Polish paper chandeliers hanging in St Matthew’s Church in Willesden and a former fish and chip shop in Kilburn transformed into a Jamaican takeaway diving into the dancehall’s golden era. 

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  • Things to do
  • South Bank

Witness an epic meeting of two great creative minds. Edward Enninful, the editor-in-chief of British Vogue, will be celebrating the publication of his memoir, ‘A Visible Man’, by chatting about the book, his career and much more with writer, director and actor Michaela Coel. Enninful will be candidly tracing his journey as a Black, gay, working-class refugee into the exclusive world of fashion and finding a home in fashion. This is not one to miss. 

  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • Camberwell

Pioneering London nightlife collective Pxssy Palace is here with a new London festival in Burgess Park, Peckham. It bills itself as an international celebration of Queerness within music and club culture, spotlighting the best global and homegrown Queer, Trans, Non-binary, Black, Indigenous and POC talent around. If reputation is anything to go by, this is going to be a good one. 

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  • Music
  • Music

The most famous classical music concert series on the planet. This year it’s celebrating its 150th anniversary with 84 concerts over 57 days with over 3,000 musicians. This year the event will see the return of international orchestras and feature a large-scale repertoire not heard at the festival since 2019.

Highlights in September include: The Dream Prom,a storytelling spectacle transforming the Royal Albert Hall into a series of dreamscape projections and live music (Sep 1); a Prom from Chineke! – Europe’s first majority Black and ethnically diverse orchestra (Sep 2); Handel and Philip Glass in a spectacle that fuses music, dance, video and haute couture at Printworks (Sep 3); the Berliner Philharmoniker (Sep 4) and the legendary Last Night of the Proms (Sep 10). 

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