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Photograph: © David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts
Photograph: © David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts

Unmissable events in London this autumn

Chilling out at home won’t be an option this autumn when London’s plays, exhibitions and concerts are this good

By Things To Do Editors, Andrzej Lukowski and Eddy Frankel
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The recent news of a London curfew for bars and restaurants is, admittedly, a massive downer. But there is a sliver of hope for your future nights out: the 10pm kick-out time does not apply to the city’s theatres, cinemas, and concert halls, so you can still tell bedtime to fuck off by putting on your mask and going on a (socially distanced) culture binge. 

Ready to scoff your way through a whole year’s worth of art, music and theatre? Treat yourself: you deserve it. Join the queue as we serve up a buffet of delicious unmissable highlights in London this autumn. 

Want more? Find out what else is happening in September, October, and November 2020. 

The best things to do in London this autumn

Photograph: Courtesy of the Jazz Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy of the Jazz Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy of the Jazz Cafe

Hear some actual live music

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. For a start, St Martin-in-the-Fields is hosting a series of socially distanced classical music concerts. There’s some Bach, Messiaen, Mozart and Copland on September 26, with more solo and orchestral performances throughout the season. Wigmore Hall is currently operating at 10 percent capacity but that hasn’t stopped it from programming more than a hundred concerts running through to December. And the Jazz Cafe is back! Now as a seated-only venue, but with all the soulful, bluesy, Afrobeattastic vibes you could hope for. 

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Dante's In Furlough, The Vaults, 2020
Dante's In Furlough, The Vaults, 2020
Photo by The Vaults

Get involved with some immersive theatre

Theatre Experimental

If immersive shows sound like a terrible idea at the moment, au contraire. Wandering around a controlled environment in a small group probably brings you in contact with fewer strangers than popping to Aldi. Leading the way is a reimagined, socially distanced take on long-running hit ‘The Great Gatsby’, back with us from October 1 at its dedicated venue Gatsby’s Mansion. The Vaults throws open its gates for ‘Dante’s In-Furlough’ (October 15-December 30), a trip through the circles of hell with a lockdown twist. Or if you’re itching to hear some live music, then visit new venue Lockdown Town (October 2-December 30), where you can explore five immersive environments, each with its own soundtrack, from ’50s rock ’n’ roll right back to, er, the music of the last global pandemic in 1918. 

southbank centre empty during London’s lockdown
southbank centre empty during London’s lockdown
Photograph: Sandor Szmutko / Shutterstock

Have a night out at the Southbank Centre (but not really)

News Theatre & Performance

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 – which runs until December 30 – will broadcast the Royal Festival Hall to the wider world, with most viewable by purchasing a ticket to watch a live stream, and a number of the concerts aired on BBC Radio 3. It’s a typically sprawling programme but there’s an emphasis on diversity, with 16 of the 57 orchestral pieces by composers of colour, plus a talk from Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. Inside Out runs from Sep 17-30 Dec. Find out more on the Southbank Centre website.

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Rejoice in the continued existence of ‘The Mousetrap’

Theatre West End St Martin’s Theatre, Seven Dials

You’d have been forgiven for thinking lockdown might finish off Agatha Christie’s absurdly long-running murder mystery. Far, far from it: ‘The Mousetrap’ is the first, and very likely only, ‘straight’ West End play to make a comeback for the social-distancing era, in a fully safety-compliant production that the producers cheerfully admit will definitely lose money. They love ‘The Mousetrap’ that much. The old girl’s unkillable. St Martin’s Theatre. From Oct 23. £19.52-£99. Book here

London at its autumnal best...

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