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Alexandra Sims

Alexandra Sims

Alexandra Sims is Time Out's former London Deputy Events Editor.

Articles (55)

London events in June

London events in June

June in London is filled with a sense of excitement. It’s that ‘school’s out!’ feeling, until you remember that you left school years ago, and ‘summer holidays’ don’t really exist for adults. Shame.  June is also the start of summer in London, which means the capital’s beer gardens are at their prime, the city parks are at their prettiest, the open-air theatre season gets into full swing and eating alfresco is on the cards at some of London’s best restaurants. Plus, expect to see long queues in south west London as tennis fans line up to bag a place at the epic Wimbledon championships.  June in London also means its time for London Sundance Film Festival, the Roundhouse’s poetry festival The Last Word and Open Square Gardens. So mark them all off in your calendar and prepare to have a ball fit for a queen.   RECOMMENDED: Plan a great summer with our guide to London’s best music fests Get ahead of the pack and start planning your perfect July in London. 

The 8 best cycling routes in the UK for a beautiful ride

The 8 best cycling routes in the UK for a beautiful ride

Riding a bike is not only good for you and the planet, it’s also a thrilling way to explore new places, and some of the UK’s most spectacular spots are best accessed on two wheels. From canal paths and famous city landmarks to rural routes and isolated vistas, the country’s traffic-free cycle network means you can ditch your car and feel the breeze.  Sure, you might work up a bit of a sweat every now and then, but that’s very much part of the fun. There are nooks and crannies all over the place just waiting to explored, so whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or totally new to the bike game, we’ve got you covered. These are the eight best cycling routes in the UK. RECOMMENDED:🚞The most breathtaking hikes in the UK🌤️The best places to visit in the UK🏄The best extreme outdoor activity breaks in the UK🏝️The most beautiful islands in the UK

London’s best pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms

London’s best pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms

Want to get more involved with your food than just mere peeling, chopping and cooking? Head to a pick-your-own farm in and around London to get as close as you can get to the process without growing your fruit and vegetables yourself. Core picking season is May to August, but the produce available depends on the season. Go along in June to fill a punnet with gleaming strawberries, delight in sunflowers in August, or gather autumnal apples, pumpkins and squashes in September – the choice is yours! London is surrounded by farms with acres of PYO fields to keep you busy all summer. Heading into the fields and getting picking isn’t just a great day trip (although it definitely is that, too) – it’s also a brilliant way of boosting your sustainability, cutting out all that extra plastic packaging at the supermarket. Plus, you’ll be able to snap a ton of stunning selfies and keep the kids occupied. REMEMBER: Check the farm’s website beforehand to find out what produce is available, as crop seasons change from year to year. And no eating while you pick. Keep all your juicy finds in their punnets for weighing up. RECOMMENDED: Outdoor London

The best lavender fields in and around London

The best lavender fields in and around London

Can you sense it? A sudden sweet, herbal scent in the air? An oncoming shock of purple spreading in patches across London? It can only be lavender season. Immerse yourself in a purple haze this summer by visiting one of London’s fragrant lavender gardens, or head out of town on a day trip to find sweeping fields of the stuff. Lavender season usually runs from June to September, peaking in August, and there are plenty of opportunities to lay your eyes – and nose – on the stuff. Kennington Park, Kew Gardens and Vauxhall Park are top London destinations for lavender and there are farms dedicated to the mauve blooms just outside the capital, in Kent, Surrey and Hertfordshire. Got the bug for a wholesome, sweet-smelling day out? why not pay a visit to some of the blooming, beautiful farms across the UK.  RECOMMENDED: The best things to do outdoors in London.

The 20 coolest, prettiest and quirkiest seaside towns in the UK

The 20 coolest, prettiest and quirkiest seaside towns in the UK

The UK really does boast quite a lot of coastline – we’re an island, after all – and seeing every little lighthouse, cliff collection, sweeping bay and dramatic headland would be no walk on the beach. That’s not even all our coasts have to offer.  Our shores are decorated with a vast number of marvellous coastal settlements, from the characterful fishing villages of Wales and the upmarket enclaves of Cornwall to the pulsing party towns of the Sussex coast. Leave those clichés of soggy chips, rainy weather and nasty seagulls at home – our handpicked roundup of the country’s coolest and prettiest seaside towns includes knock-out restaurants and cutting-edge museums, as well as plenty of sandy walks for the sunniest days of the year. Without further ado, here are the UK’s very best seaside towns. RECOMMENDED:🌊The best outdoor swimmming pools in the UK🏖️The most amazing hidden beaches in the UK🐟The best fish and chips shops in the UK🌤️The best places to visit in the UK

The 10 most beautiful wild swimming spots in the UK

The 10 most beautiful wild swimming spots in the UK

In the UK, wild swimming seems to be having a bit of a moment. More people than ever are stripping off and diving into the nation’s chilly rivers and lakes – and, tbqh, we’re absolutely here for it. Whether you’re doing it for fitness and wellbeing or just a cheeky thrill, wild swimming is bloomin’ great. And the UK certainly isn’t short of fabulous places to take a natural dip. From plunge pools and tidal lagoons to remote rivers and shimmering lochs, this country is full of amazing spots to splash about with abandon. Ready? Here are our favourite places to go wild swimming (safely and legally, of course) in the UK. Please note: Wild swimming can be dangerous. It’s best to avoid taking the plunge if you’re not a strong, experienced swimmer. Please check for potential hazards before you swim. Please be mindful of the people who live locally, check whether car parks and toilets are open before you set off, and do not leave litter. RECOMMENDED:🌊The best outdoor swimmming pools in the UK🏊The best heated pools in the UK🌤️The best places to visit in the UK 🏖️The most amazing hidden beaches in the UK

The 15 best places to see bluebells across the UK

The 15 best places to see bluebells across the UK

British springtime always serves up some dazzling floral treats. From elegant branches of lilac wisteria to heavenly scented lavender fields, there are plenty of flowers worth seeking out across these shores. And one of the country’s favourites wild blooms? The bluebell.  Every April sees a gorgeous carpet of cobalt emerge across Britain. It takes several years for the bulbs of this protected species to start to bloom and the flowers generally only last a few weeks, but that just makes it all the more magical. Ancient monastic land in Devon, woodland clearings in London, surreal Scottish landscapes and Welsh coastal cliffs all become homes to the elusive wildflower. So, ready to track down some of the beautiful flowers? Here are the best places to see bluebells in the UK. RECOMMENDED:🌸The best places in the UK to see cherry blossom🌿The best places in the UK to see wildflowers🏰The most stunning castles in the UK

The Boat Race 202:4 everything you need to know

The Boat Race 202:4 everything you need to know

Ready for some renowned riparian entertainment? Get yourself Thamesside to see academic titans Oxford and Cambridge battle it out once again in an oar-some rowing race on the river. On Saturday March 30 2024, over 300,000 people are expected to line the banks to glimpse all the action, but if you’re like the majority of them as well as the sporting spectacle you’re also there for the chance to have an all-day booze fest. Whether you’re a diehard supporter or a fairweather fan, here’s our guide to everything you need to know about the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race 2024, so you can at least sound like rowing pro whilst sipping your sauvignon. While you’re in this part of town, here are the best things to do in west London. 

The 16 best seaside towns to visit near London

The 16 best seaside towns to visit near London

When the sun shines, unimaginative Londoners head straight to the nearest beer garden or patch of grass to soak up some rays. But with a little planning, it’s perfectly easy to slink off a little further afield and upgrade your patch in the park to a seaside deckchair.  The UK’s wild and sweeping coastline is peppered with pretty little towns – some of which are surprisingly close to London. Don’t be fooled by the small stature of these seaside spots – they’re packed with plenty of things to do, see, eat, drink and explore. Here are the best seaside towns near London: they’re kitsch, cool and perfect for flip-flopping your way through a day of salty, sandy fun. Plus, the coast's arty renaissance means that many of them boast galleries galore for rainy day exploring.  And for adventures further afield, check out our comprehensive guide to the UK’s best and coolest seaside towns. RECOMMENDED: The best beaches near London

The 10 best places to see cherry blossom in the UK

The 10 best places to see cherry blossom in the UK

Though our endless grey winters can make us forget how enchanting the UK can be, springtime crops up every year to remind us, and it’s just around the corner. And among the most exciting natural awakenings of the new season is the eruption of cherry blossoms.  Head outside to one of these lovely spots for some (much needed) vitamin D, and you’ll be blessed with glowing tree-lined walks and a sprinkling of pastel pink confetti – good for the soul, and the Instagram feed. April is the most vibrant month for these displays, but they’ll be in bloom from March to May, so check out our roundup of the best places to walk among cherry blossoms in the UK. RECOMMENDED:🌺The best places to see wildflowers in the UK🌿The best places in the UK to see wisteria💙The UK’s top spots for bluebells🌤️The best places to visit in the UK

The 21 best things to do in Iceland

The 21 best things to do in Iceland

Imagine a world where the Northern Lights, the Northern Lights, are a cherry on top? That’s Iceland. Full of steaming geothermal pools, smouldering volcanoes and unique museums, the best things to do here are out of this world. Reykjavik remains one of the most enchanting capital cities on the planet and is a fantastic base to explore the rest of the country. Sure, Iceland is weird, but that is sort of the point, and the best way to make the most of this place is to let it wash over you. You’re going to fall in love with Iceland.  RECOMMENDED:🍴 The best restaurants in Reykjavik🏨 The best hotels in Iceland🏘️ The best Airbnbs in Iceland At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines. 

The 12 best things to do in Hull

The 12 best things to do in Hull

This East Yorkshire port city, surrounded by the Humber Estuary and suburban towns, sits in an isolated spot—but don't write it off just yet: the best things to do in Hull will thoroughly entertain you. The town's reign as UK City of Culture 2017, along with millions of pounds of investment, has given Hull a fresh lease on life, sweeping away any assumptions of it as a post-industrial, forgotten place. The accolade didn’t just catalyze the arrival of a tonne of great new arts events, it also highlighted the city's best and most enduring qualities. This is a coastal town with a fascinating history (the English civil war started here), a shining literary heritage (Larkin, Stevie Smith, Andrew Marvell and Andrew Motion all have connections to Hull), a thriving music scene, quirky independent shops, eccentric pubs and an abundance of locally rooted art. Write it off at your peril. Now, g’on have a skeg. RECOMMENDED:📍 The best things to do in England📍 The best things to do in the UK

Listings and reviews (20)

How to Build a Girl

How to Build a Girl

3 out of 5 stars

Growing up is hard to do, especially when you’re friendless, skint and sharing a bedroom with your brother in a crowded council house in Wolverhampton. This is where we find 16-year-old Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein) in this warm-hearted coming-of-age comedy. Whipsmart and dreamy, Johanna has read every book in her local library in an attempt to escape her West Midlands surroundings and turns to pictures of her heroes – Julie Andrews, Sylvia Plath, Jo March – who come to life on her wall, for advice.  The film is adapted from journalist and author Caitlin Moran’s 2014 semi-autobiographical bestseller, and Johanna is loosely based on Moran’s own teenage self. That much-craved escape comes when she’s plucked from regional obscurity and flung into the macho, hedonistic world of ’90s music journalism after sending in an eccentric review of the ‘Annie’ soundtrack to the ultracool Disc & Music Echo (or D&ME).  Overnight, Johanna reinvents herself as the red-haired, Doc Martens-wearing journo Dolly Wilde, who navigates the classism and sexism thrown at her by ‘crossing over to the dark side’. Her scornful, scathing alter ego begins spewing out acerbic reviews and revelling in her newfound decadent lifestyle, estranging her family in the process.  Adapted by Moran herself, the film retains the book’s insightful naughtiness, subtle period details and fizzing one-liners. Johanna’s put-down to her snobbish, Oxford-educated lover: ‘I'm not your bit of rough, you’re my bit of posh’,

Museum of Neoliberalism

Museum of Neoliberalism

4 out of 5 stars

Whatever you take away from the Museum of Neoliberalism, you definitely won’t forget the display ‘Bottle of Amazon employee urine’. According to the museum, it came from a worker in one of the company’s fulfilment centres who passed up a toilet break in order not to fall behind on work targets. It’s just one of the ways this place confronts you with how modern economic structures have trickled down into people’s everyday lives.  Tucked between a laundrette and a hairdressers in an unassuming post-war shopping centre in Lewisham, the museum explains its purpose in a window sign: ‘to look back on neoliberalism, what it has done to our world; and what might lie beyond it’. Turns out, it’s quite scary stuff.  The exhibition, which begins with a display setting out the main players of twentieth-century neoliberalism, has been created by satirical artist Darren Cullen and Gavin Grindon, a lecturer at the University of Essex who curated parts of Banksy’s Dismaland.  Like the suspects board of a detective on the edge, it’s covered in a criss-cross of red string connecting  images of Margaret Thatcher, George W Bush, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Boris Johnson.  You’re then exposed to the ways capitalism has seeped into our lives, from Scouts badges embroidered with oil company logos to a replica of the cladding and insulation at Grenfell Tower.  Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s hard not to be moved. The museum admits that it ‘may seem dispiriting’, but it’ll stoke a fire

Choose Love

Choose Love

’Tis the season to be a capitalist consumer, but if scuffles at the tills over Black Friday bargains give you chills, spend discount day at this special shop where the aim is to leave empty-handed. Set up by Help Refugees, Choose Love is the world’s only shop selling real gifts for refugees. Inside you’ll find shelves filled with emergency blankets, children’s shoes and mobile phone credit. Once you’ve bought what you can, the products are distributed by one of more than 80 projects that the humanitarian aid organisation works with around the world. The shop is split into three areas, each containing things that refugees need at different stages of their journeys. In the ‘Arrival’ section you’ll find warm clothing and food; ‘Shelter’ is filled with tents and sleeping bags; ‘Future’ holds education supplies, LGBTQ+ support and mental health care. Items on sale start at £3, or if you’re feeling altruistic, you can buy special collections of gifts like the Bundle of Hope which pays for mental health care, adult learning and women’s support. If you like, you can buy the entire contents of the shop. This is the third year Choose Love has popped up in London in the run-up to Christmas. In 2018 a huge queue snaked outside the entrance. What better way to stick two fingers up at the Black Friday frenzy and do some good instead. 

Neon light-making workshop

Neon light-making workshop

The dazzling world of neon light-making isn’t as glamorous as I’d hoped. There are some risks involved: three, if you’re counting, which I am. According to our neon pro Julia Bickerstaff, the list includes ‘electrocuting yourself, burning yourself and cutting yourself’, and she’s had all of the above. Along with artist Richard Wheater, Julia teaches the only neon light-making class in the UK, and today, they’ve brought their Yorkshire-based operation to London. Once we’ve been warned of stray shards and molten glass, Richard gives us the lowdown on neon’s history, which goes right back to the 1890s, when two British scientists discovered the gases that create the bright lights. We get to work sketching out our own light designs, and I opt for a River Thames-shaped squiggle, which will be created using a glass tube. To shape the tubes, we lower the them into an 800C flame. It gets so hot and supple I can bend it like a slack hosepipe. As I bend, I also have to blow into the glass using a rubber pipe to stop it from kinking, which is much harder than it looks. Julia takes over, expertly manipulating the stiff glass rods into our designs and sealing electrodes on to the ends. Next comes the gas. I choose to fill my squiggle with icy blue Xenon. Richard wires it onto one of their special machines and my design lies there like Frankenstein’s Monster, waiting to be filled with light. Suddenly, gas comes whizzing out of a silver cylinder and into my squiggle, lighting it up with

Lark & Berry Piercing Studio

Lark & Berry Piercing Studio

Just down the road from the Wallace Collection in elegant Marylebone, Lark & Berry is as far removed from a stereotypical piercing parlour as you could imagine. The jewellery brand’s shop is a light, bright space with royal blue accents and clean glass cases scattered with shiny rings and necklaces. The company specialises in sustainable women’s trinkets using precious metals. They’re also set with cultured diamonds - that’s stones which are laboratory-grown and don’t carry the environmental, political and societal problems associated with diamond mines. You won’t find any chunky ball rings usually associated with first piercings here. Pick from their 14K gold piercing collection, which they say has been developed with an expert body piercer to minimise scarring. There’s a pretty array of hoops and labrets to choose from all in deep golds and glistening silvers and encrusted with diamonds in different colours, shapes and sizes. The in-store piercing studio is hidden away at the back of the shop. At the moment it’s just open on Saturdays and manned by experienced piercers from well-known parlours across London. Don’t expect the breadth of piercings usually available in dedicated parlours. My request for an orbital is denied, however, there are still a nice number of cartilage and lobe options. I settle for a conch instead with a dainty gold band lined with tiny, sparkling gems. If heading to a tattoo parlour feels intimidating, or you want to wear pretty jewellery rather t

Ninth Life

Ninth Life

4 out of 5 stars

Disco music is blaring, drag queens are dancing and a magician is juggling for a whooping crowd. It must be Saturday night in, er, Catford. Despite being home to some cracking pubs, the south east London area isn’t known for after-dark revelry, let alone circus-inspired parties. And following the closure of Little Nan’s Broadway Theatre Saloon last year, things looked bleak for nightlife here. But now, Brighton’s Laine Pub Company has worked its magic (and its magicians) on one of Lewisham’s oldest pubs, The Black Horse & Harrow, a drinking den since the eighteenth century left closed and neglected. A cross between The Mighty Hoopla and an immersive gallery, the labyrinthine Ninth Life is an homage to festival culture with artistic director (yes, a pub with a head of creative) Dr Claire MacNeill drafting in talent from the likes of Boomtown and Wilderness to kit out the space. The exterior is covered in pop art-style graffiti while inside, the bar’s panelling has been swapped for giant crayons. A ‘Cabinet of Curiosity’ lets you peek at silly, mini works by local artists and there’s even an escape room on the upper floors. The zaniness continues outside to a large beer garden with roaming performers. My friend and I opted for pints of Gipsy Hill’s Hepcat paired with jackfruit tacos, before moving on to gin doubles, by then twirling away to a funk and soul set. It was 2am when we left – laughing, sweaty and covered in glitter. Who knew Saturday nights in Catford could be such m

Horizon Insects LTD

Horizon Insects LTD

When I imagined visiting an insect farm, a semi-detached house on a quiet, leafy street in Ealing wasn’t what I had in mind. But thousands of mealworms and crickets are grown in this suburban spot every week, at London’s first and only edible insect farm. I’m greeted at the door by Tiziana Di Costanzo, co-founder of Horizon Insects, who leads me into her kitchen to join five other bug novices for a farm tour and insect cookery class. Tiziana began the niche family business when her son started cultivating insects for a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award project. Things have since expanded, as the house now has a purpose-built insect lodge in the garden. We put on white lab coats and hairnets before heading in. The smell – a rancid hamster cage twang – hits you first and there’s a cacophony of cricket chirps in the air. Scores of plastic storage containers are stacked on wooden shelves, each containing a group of Tiziana’s insect charges. We meet worms at each stage of their growth phase – from microscopic entities to thick tubular creatures pulsing over scraps of fruit. This is no eccentric side hustle, though. Tiziana has hit on a big sustainable food movement. Insects, she tells us, not only contain more zinc, calcium and magnesium than beef, they can be farmed using  little space and feed on food waste. Speaking of food – it’s time to turn the grubs into grub. Tiziana helps us make a three-course feast of fried cricket tacos, burgers filled with blanched mealworms and a cake ba

The Viewing

The Viewing

Getting on the London property ladder is like chasing a unicorn-shaped pipe dream. Rents are high, deposits are higher and gentrification means even the fringes of the M25 are unattainable. This is the climate ‘The Viewing’ – a nine-room immersive experience occupying the upper floors of Catford’s Ninth Life pub – cleverly plays with. Entering the boozer on a busy Friday night, I head for a mock estate agents called ‘Morgan Turnkey’, which is squeezed next to the bar and plastered with pictures of dodgy listings – there’s a bedroom full of creepy china dolls and a kitchen with a shower next to the oven. Here I meet Larry, a slimy estate agent full of glib phrases and oily charm, who greets me as an eager first-time buyer looking to view a flat above the pub. I’m given a form to fill in – asking how many bedrooms I’m looking for as well as my favourite song and my pet’s name – and a hard hat, before being whisked upstairs with my group to view the newly refurbed real estate. As we look around, it emerges that Billy, a builder working on the site, has gone missing. Following a series of clues that lead us from the drab world of property-viewing into a labyrinth of psychedelically decorated, Lewis Carroll-esque rooms, it’s our job to find the lost contractor by collecting a trail of keys he’s left behind. Part immersive theatre show, part escape room, ‘The Viewing’ is full of madcap characters who help you perform physical tasks and solve bizarre puzzles (all with a fun perso

Adanami Bookstore

Adanami Bookstore

Don’t be fooled by the sign saying ‘De-Luxe Cleaning’, or the food joint that greets you at the entrance. Carry on to the back of this tiny Soho shop and down the stairs to a little secondhand Japanese bookshop hidden in the basement where you can rummage through affordable Japanese-language manga, novels, DVDs and old-school posters. 

Gringotts Wizarding Bank

Gringotts Wizarding Bank

Magic’s been a-brewing at the Warner Bros Studios. After the arrival of the spider-filled Forbidden Forest and a gleaming Hogwarts Express, it’s now the turn of Gringotts’ goblins to slytherin to action at Leavesden’s Harry Potter studio tour. In the attraction’s biggest expansion to date, visitors can now walk through a perfect replica of Gringotts Wizarding Bank. The bombastic banking hall has been designed and built by many of the film’s original crew and it’s packed with wooden desks loaded with inkwells and quills, piles of galleons, sickles and knuts, towering marble pillars and huge crystal chandeliers. There are special displays explaining how the monied goblins were brought to life for the films. Each of the prosthetic masks took weeks to create, with every hair individually inserted and every vein carefully handpainted. You’ll find props here that haven’t been seen since filming of the magical franchise ended in 2010, including the eye-popping Lestrange vault where you can try your luck at spotting the Sword of Gryffindor and Helga Hufflepuff’s cup hidden among 38,000 pieces of rubberised wizarding treasures. But it’s when you reach the dust and rubble-filled set of the destroyed banking hall from ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ that you’ll get seriously spellbound by a life-size (and very realistic) Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon. The all-new Wizarding Bank is a permanent 16,500 sq ft expansion to the existing tour. And while the miserly Gringotts goblins m

Villages

Villages

4 out of 5 stars

Although this independent brewery has only been producing pints for a year and a half, it has already established itself as a craft beer fixture in Deptford. Brothers Archie and Louis Village set it up at the end of 2016 in one of Resolution Way’s railway arches, where they make a core range alongside small batches of experimental and seasonal brews. Its taproom is open Friday evenings and all day Saturday and Sunday, following plenty of pressure from regulars. It has the kind of sleek Scandi stylings that seem popular among London microbreweries, with concrete floors, woodchip furniture, naked light bulbs and potted succulents peppered about. Cosy communal tables surrounded by huge beer vats and a cute bar with one of the brewery’s trademark illustrations hanging above (these appear in pastel colours on Villages cans) endow the space with a welcoming quirkiness. When we visited on a warm Saturday night, the place was filled with friendly chatter and soft flurries of background jazz. A bubbly barmaid humoured our rowdy group, especially when we got overexcited at the sight of a prosecco tap. As well as glasses of fizz, we ordered (cheap) pints of Whistle – Villages’ tasty, citrusy pilsner – and Rodeo pale ale, a smooth, sweet drink with floral flavours. We nursed them on the wooden benches outside and revelled in the buzz of Resolution Way which, partly thanks to Villages, has become a hotspot for eating and drinking in Deptford. Nearly every area of London boasts its own mic

Floating Pocket Park

Floating Pocket Park

Connect with nature while bobbing on top of the Grand Union Canal at London’s first floating public park, launching as part of the Chelsea Fringe. Not only will it feature open lawns, Tibetan cherry trees, decked platforms and walkways over the water (aka perfect pooh sticks potential), it also has a ‘no humans’ zone for wild fowl and is made from recycled material.

News (591)

Black-owned bookshops in London you can currently buy from

Black-owned bookshops in London you can currently buy from

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, so many of us took to checking our privilege and getting better educated on the extent of systemic and entrenched racism. One of the best ways to embrace learning about Black history and culture, and to continue to engage with these vital stories, is by reading works of literature, or non-fiction, written from the perspective of Black people. And it's vital that we continue to do this well into the future. Just this week, lots of women in London called for more support for Black-owned hair shops after a black woman was ‘strangled’ by a shop worker in Peckham. The lack of safety protesters feel they have in public spaces is a testament to the fact we need to be constantly educating ourselves.  Black history is also a prominent theme in our collective national history — this year marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush generation. You can hear some of the stories of the people who were part of it here.   Enter London’s fantastic roster of Black-owned bookshops. Some have been publishing and selling books by Black writers for more than half a century, and others have opened more recently in order to diversify children’s literature. Some of these shops have online catalogues as well as branches to visit in person, so feel free to also have a browse of their websites.  Books of Africa This south London publisher produces Africa-orientated literature, including essays, history, novels and children’s books, i

Independent London shops delivering Christmas decorations to your home

Independent London shops delivering Christmas decorations to your home

The owners of independent stores across London are beavering away packaging online orders. Whether you’re after traditional decorations, sleek modern embellishments or Joe Exotic baubles, these indie shops have decorations to suit your taste.  After Noah View this post on Instagram A post shared by After Noah (@afternoah) on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:27pm PDT Christmas is the only time of year when it’s acceptable to be impossibly twee, and this little family-run shop on Upper Street has quaint Christmas decorations in abundance. Finish off your tree with a furry panda or squirrel hanging or a felt penguin wrapped in a wool scarf.   Blåbär If we end up being cooped up in our flats this Christmas, better make it hygge: the Danish concept that, roughly translated, means feeling cosy. This Putney shop is fully embracing all things Nordic this Christmas, with golden baubles, soft, scented candles and intricate paper decorations.  Botanique View this post on Instagram A post shared by Alice Howard (@botaniqueworkshop) on Nov 6, 2020 at 12:51am PST You’ve had your fill of DIY meal kits, now get stuck into a DIY wreath kit from this rustic florist and gift shop on Exmouth Market. Like all the products here, it’s been handcrafted and hand-selected by owner Alice and will make your front door look like it could be in Elle Decoration. Choosing Keeping View this post on Instagram A post shared by Choosing Keep

This is London’s definitive foosball bar

This is London’s definitive foosball bar

It’s a heady, enticing cocktail: nostalgic table-top games, football and retro arcade thrills. Ladies and gentlemen, may we introduce you to Foosball Club, a dedicated gaming hub featuring four championship-grade table-football tables. There are also three old-school arcade machines to keep you occupied while you’re waiting for your turn to pull kick.  If you’re a serious foosball player, the north London bar will give you a chance to play in the same conditions as in an international tournament and learn new moves and trick shots via informative wall-mounted screens. While the promise of craft beer and pizza being on hand means there's something for everyone, even if your knowledge of the game stems solely from watching ‘Friends’ repeats.  There is a total of four foosball zones, which each one accommodating up to eight people. This means you can have four players at the table, with another four sat nearby, eagerly spectating, waiting for their turn. Zones can be booked for two, three or four hours. With places like Café Kick in Clerkenwell and Bar Kick in Shoreditch reducing the number of tables available, London’s lively foosball community has been desperate for new place to call home. They’ve definitely found it with Foosball Club.   Foosball Club is 203 Holloway Rd, N7 8DL on Sep 30. Two-hour and four-hour slots are priced at £20 and £40 respectively. Book online here.  More new openings: A new theatre is opening in Camberwell next month.  An entire barge of cheese is dr

The Colindale street that changed an actor's life

The Colindale street that changed an actor's life

I was on Heywood Avenue when I got the call from Rada telling me I’d got into drama school. I’d decided I was going to go to university and get a proper job. At the last minute, I had an epiphany while I was in a school play and decided I wanted to be an actor.  I didn’t have enough money to apply to drama schools. You’re supposed to apply to six or seven and we only had enough money to apply to two. This was in 1998, when only 17 boys out of the 2,000 who applied each year would get in, and only one of those boys would be Black. All the odds were against me. When I got the call saying I’d got in, while I was walking around the Grahame Park estate, it was surreal. I thought: Wow, my entire life is going to change.  That was a huge moment, but so much of my life has played out on the streets of north-west London, because that’s where I spent most of my life growing up. As a mixed Black African and white British person, I loved growing up in a place where there’s such a cornucopia of cultures, be it Caribbean, West African, Somalian or white British. It’s not the flashiest part of London, but it has the richest mix of cultures and people.  O-T Fagbenle is in 'Black Widow', opening in cinemas July 9. Hype Dish: Bancone's silk handkerchiefs and confit eggs yolk £38 for that? London's most expensive breakfasts 

Are holidays in Scotland allowed?

Are holidays in Scotland allowed?

All over the world, travel rules and border restrictions have been in constant flux for the past year. That means many people may well be deciding to swerve overseas trips altogether in 2021.  Even within the UK, travel anywhere has been of the cards since the beginning of the year. Now, as the country’s third national lockdown gradually lifts, domestic holidays are set to be phased in again. Eyeing up a trip to the Highlands? Here’s everything you need to know about when travel to Scotland may restart. Can I travel from England to Scotland? After months spent under the third national lockdown, the UK’s restrictions have been relaxed and overnight stays in self-catered accommodation (including Airbnbs and campsites) are now allowed. However, Scotland’s roadmap out of lockdown will play out a little differently. The Scottish government has confirmed that travel into Scotland from England and Wales will be possible from April 26. This is the same date that other parts of the Scottish economy will open up too, including shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. It’s not confirmed whether travel from Northern Ireland will be possible from this date, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised a review is planned for when journeys to Northern Ireland and the Republic will be allowed.  Unlike England, Scotland will re-enter a tiered system, with each area placed into a certain level depending on factors including local infection rates. The level an area is in will determine what v

Here are the best places to see bluebells in London

Here are the best places to see bluebells in London

Between April and May, the elusive bluebell comes out to play, creating a carpet of cobalt across the country. Here are the best places to catch them in London. Don’t wait around, these guys don’t stay in bloom for long. Just remember, no picking them – the native flowers are a protected species. NORTH Hampstead Heath The sprawling 791-acre heath is patchwork of woodland and meadow where shadier spots, like Lime Avenue Bank, sprout the jewel blue flowers each spring. Hampstead Heath. Gospel Oak Overground. Highgate Wood   City of London Corporation/Cindy Blaney   In 1916 the Natural History Society said bluebells were almost extinct in this ancient wood but they weren’t giving up without a fight; today they carpet it in a deep blue mass. Highgate Wood. Highgate.   Gutteridge Wood   London Wildlife Trust   This ancient oak woodland brims with brilliant bluebells in spring and is a year-round haven for wildlife and wildflowers. Gutteridge Wood. Ruislip Gardens. WEST Osterley Park   National Trust Images John Millar   Osterley is one of the last surviving country estates in London and the woods in its sprawling grounds are a bit of a bluebell utopia. Osterley Park and House. Osterley. Kew Gardens Nestled at the back of the botanic gardens, the grounds of Queen Charlotte’s eighteenth-century thatched cottage has one of London’s most impressive bluebell woods. It’s massive, and parts of it are almost 300 years old. Just look at it! Kew Gardens. Kew Gardens. £15.50 adults.

Can we visit Wales right now?

Can we visit Wales right now?

Across the world, travel rules and border restrictions have been changing constantly over the past year. That means many of us may well be deciding to swerve overseas trips altogether in 2021. Within the UK, domestic trips are being gradually reintroduced across the country after being banned under the third national lockdown. With many of us looking for a change of scene now travel restrictions are being relaxed, Wales is high on the list for many people’s post-lockdown staycations – so here’s everything you need to know about when travel to the country may restart. Can I travel from England to Wales? After complying with the ‘stay-at-home’ order for months under the third national lockdown, the UK’s restrictions have been relaxed and overnight stays in self-catered accommodation (including Airbnbs and campsites) are allowed from April 12. Under Wales’s latest roadmap out of lockdown, restrictions on travelling in and out of Wales from elsewhere in the UK will be lifted on April 12. This means travellers from outside Wales can enter the country and rent out self-contained holiday lets, as long as they remain in their household.  Photograph: Shutterstock Can I go on holiday within Wales? Wales relaxed its lockdown rules more quickly than the UK government’s suggested roadmap and let locals travel anywhere in Wales from March 27. Self-contained holiday accommodation is also open, provided people remain within their households when staying overnight. However, outdoor attract

These are the UK’s most lusted-after Airbnbs for 2021

These are the UK’s most lusted-after Airbnbs for 2021

After a gloomy winter spent in lockdown, we (and everyone else) are dreaming of holidays. In the heady days before the word ‘lockdown’ had even passed our lips, we’d think nothing of jetting off for a European city break or heading on far-flung adventures abroad. But fast-forward a year, and, thanks to the risks and restrictions of travelling overseas this year, it seems we’ve set our sights closer to home. Airbnb has released its list of the Airbnbs that most UK travellers have added to their wish-lists for 2021. In previous years, the number one slot has gone to a sun-soaked Grecian cave or a Swiss Family Robinson-style treehouse in the Balian jungle. But in 2021? The most lusted-after getaway is, er, ‘The Pigsty’ in Winchester. In fact, unlike most years, all the homes most frequently bookmarked by British travellers are in the UK – with tucked-away rural retreats dominating the list. As a quick reminder, under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, overnight stays will be allowed in England from April 12. That’s when self-catered accommodation including Airbnbs will be allowed to start operating again. Travel rules within Scotland will lift on April 26, with travellers from elsewhere allowed to visit soon after. In Wales, self-catering stays are due to open up by Easter, with travel from outside the country allowed soon after. So it’s not long until your wish-list can turn into reality. But you’d better get booking… Here’s the full list of the UK’s most ‘wish-listed’ p

‘Dragatha Christie’ starring Monét X Change and Courtney Act is coming to London

‘Dragatha Christie’ starring Monét X Change and Courtney Act is coming to London

It’s been a whole year since we were blessed with the viral sensation that was Wagatha Christie, and frankly, we’re ready for more tea to be spilled. It’s good news then, that the Garrick Theatre will be giving us our fix of sass and suspicion by staging a drag queen murder mystery this Christmas. Yes, Dragatha Christie is here.   In a West End first, Australian drag superstar Courtney Act – who appeared on the sixth season of RuPaul's Drag Race – will star alongside the winner of season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Monét X Change. The show is called ‘Death Drop: A Dragatha Christie Murder-Mystery’, and it promises to have ‘more twists and turns than a drag queens wig’.   Photograph: Courtney Act The mystery, written by drag queen Holly Stars, will take us back to the early nineties with Courtney Act playing an ’80s pop sensation and Monét X Change an American weather girl. They find themselves on Tuck Island, where queens start mysteriously sashaying away. Think Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, but with filthy puns, lip-synching, and a whole lot of vogueing thrown in.  It’s been created by TuckShop, the UK’s only drag-specialist theatre production company, which brought an all-drag pantomime of ‘Cinderella’ to Trafalgar Studios last year. This play will also have an all-drag cast with big names in the drag world like Kemah Bob, LoUis CYfer, Anna Phylactic and Vinegar Strokes involved, too.  The show will add some sparkle to the West End’s first-ever socially-dis

When will shops reopen in London?

When will shops reopen in London?

In just a few weeks the way we shop has changed out of all recognition. Most Londoners have now experienced a socially distanced supermarket trip with long queues outside, one-way routes along the aisles, hand sanitiser by the trolleys and perspex screens in front of cashiers. Shops – both big and small – selling essentials through lockdown have adapted swiftly in these extraordinary circumstances. However, shops selling non-essentials have faced an uncertain future.  According to the government’s roadmap document, ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, published on May 11, the intention was to open non-essential retail outlets from June 1. Now, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pushed that date back a fortnight to Monday June 15. He has also provided more detailed information about what kind of businesses will be allowed to open again and when.  First of all, it’s worth pointing out that any further easing of lockdown – including the reopening of shops – is contingent upon a continuing fall in the infection reproduction R rate, a decline in new cases and adequate PPE being available for staff. If these conditions are met, here’s what we know about the retail landscape after June 15. Outdoor markets (and, for some reason car showrooms) are allowed to reopen from June 1. Presumably because they are the environments most able to impose social distancing (and who’s buying a new car right now anyway?). Some Ikeas are also planning to open on June 1. High-street chains – including Marks & Spencer,

How to donate clothes to charity right now

How to donate clothes to charity right now

If you still have any of that new year energy left, a lockdown clearout may be on the cards. But what to do with all the clutter you want to offload?  Like all non-essential retail, charity shops across the country are closed at the moment until lockdown restrictions ease. However, thanks to platforms like Depop and eBay, many charity shops are continuing to trade online with some still accepting donations, albeit in alternative ways.  British Heart Foundation – one of the first charity shops to embrace online trading – is asking people to send items via its freepost donation service. All you need to do is head to its website to download and print off a unique label, attach it to the envelope, parcel or box you’ve put your bits and bobs in, and then take your packaged donation to a Collect+ drop-off point from where it will be distributed. You can find your nearest collection location on the website. A similar scheme is being used by Sense. While the Salvation Army’s shops are closed, people can use its donation banks to drop off their items. Other clothing banks across the city may also be open over lockdown. Recycle Now’s website can help you find your nearest facility, but do check with your local authority before visiting as there may be closures and opening times may be different over lockdown.  Most charity shops, including Oxfam, are asking people to hold on to donations until they reopen. While shops are shuttered, organisations including Love Not Landfill and the Cha

Walk through a swathe of ancient woodland in the middle of Zone 3

Walk through a swathe of ancient woodland in the middle of Zone 3

Welcome to our new series, One Good Thing to Do Today. It’s a guide to little things you can actually do in lockdown London that will provide bits of light in these dark times. Today, Alexandra Sims on a favourite London walk. If, like me, you grew up in the countryside, you’ll know the familiar ache to be among the calm serenity of nature whenever London starts to feel like a rat race – easier said than done within the bounds of the M25. Luckily, I have a perfect escape route right on my doorstep. Sydenham Hill Wood in south-east London is one of the last swathes of the ancient Great North Wood that used to stretch all the way from Croydon to the Thames. There are only a few patches of it left and this one, nestled in between Dulwich, Forest Hill and Crystal Palace, feels like an isolated, rural escape right in the middle of Zone 3. As soon as you step into the thick patch of trees, the road noise stops, the light is dim under the canopy of thick leaves overhead and any sense that you might be in one of the biggest cities in the world is lost among the gnarled tree limbs and thick undergrowth, much of which have been here for thousands of years. On every visit you’ll find something new to take your mind off life’s anxieties, like clumps of weird, colourful fungi in autumn, bats swooping through the trees in summer and the remains of a Victorian folly covered in snow in winter. Whenever I need a change of scene, I know Sydenham Hill Wood is there to scoop me up and transport