“Go down to Kew in lilac-time”, wrote the poet Alfred Noyes, “and you shall wander hand in hand with love in a summer’s wonderland.” He wasn’t kidding. London in the warmer months is intoxicating; it blooms with urban beaches, open-air theatre, outdoor concerts and pop-up beer gardens. It’s a fantastic time to sample what London does best: culture – be it highbrow, lowbrow, mainstream, cult and everything in between. Here are five of the most unmissable:
The Camden Fringe is London’s very own alternative to the Edinburgh Fringe. If you don’t fancy schlepping North of the border, you can enjoy comedy, theatre, poetry, dance and much else besides in venues across North London. There’s something for everyone, from the quirky and edgy to big-draw, established acts, at this four-week festival, now in its eighth year. It’s a fabulous chance to get up close and personal with the cream of the capital’s culture.
Proms in the Park marks the spectacular finale of the world’s largest festival of classical music. Music lovers can head down to Hyde Park to experience the Last Night of the Proms, in all its rousing, flag-waving glory, in the open air – and with added pyrotechnics. Amongst a multitude of acts appearing this year are violin virtuoso, Nigel Kennedy, and rock icon, Bryan Ferry, and the whole shebang will be in the trusted hands of Sir Terry Wogan, who’s presenting the festivities. Take a rug for nestling under the stars, and don’t forget your picnic hamper.
“Carnival”, as it’s known amongst veterans of this London summertime institution held across the August bank holiday weekend, is Europe’s biggest (and, arguably, brightest and best-sounding) street party. The quiet, residential streets of West London are transformed by flamboyantly-costumed dancers, sound systems, soca and calypso musicians, incredible Carribean street food and around a million revellers who flock to join the jamboree.
Portobello Film Festival is the UK’s largest independent film competition and the perfect antidote to a summer spent dodging dodgy holiday blockbusters aimed at the under-fives. And, unlike Cannes or Venice, anyone can enter. What’s more, you can watch for free, so you can play cinephile to your heart’s content. Now famous directors like Shane Meadows and Guy Ritchie made their first big breaks here amongst a packed programme that ranges from comedy to horror, from thriller to romance and from British films to world cinema.
Although by September we’re edging towards autumn, London’s not ready to hibernate just yet. Celebrate the end of an Indian summer by snooping around behind the scenes at some of London’s most iconic buildings. Open House London, an enormously popular festival of architecture celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013, grants visitors unprecedented access to architectural landmarks including the famous Gherkin (aka 30 St Mary Axe), and Tower 42, the first skyscraper in the city of London.
Stuart Leckie is Director of Sales & Marketing at St. Ermin’s Hotel.