Out And About: The Best Spring Events In London
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre launches its 2017 season with the dance musical On the Town (from 19 May), directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie. Later in the summer you can also watch two plays inspired by Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities by Matthew Dunster, and Oliver Twist, adapted by Anya Reiss. The season wraps up with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar.
You can also watch theatre under the stars at the iconic Shakespeare’s Globe – a careful reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, which staged Shakespeare’s plays in the 16th century. This month catch Romeo and Juliet, which is directed by the English National Opera’s artistic director, and the comedies Nell Gwynn (2-13 May) and Twelfth Night (from 18 May). If you want to embrace the outdoors, choose standing tickets, which cost just £5.
Later in the year, don’t miss live performances in Battersea Arts Centre’s red-brick open-air courtyard; free shows in The Scoop, an alfresco amphitheatre near Tower Bridge; and outdoor opera at Opera Holland Park.
Food and Drink
The Summerhouse, a canalside venue near Little Venice, serves catch of the day alongside New England clam chowder, seared scallops and rock oysters. Grab a table by the water on its covered terrace, which is heated in case you want to stay late. You could also try its nearby sister restaurant, The Waterway, which has a large wooden deck and garden with parasols, blankets and heaters.
London’s bar scene has alfresco options, too. You can’t go wrong with Rumpus Room, a slick rooftop bar that reopened last month following a renovation. On the 12th floor of Mondrian London, it overlooks the River Thames. If you would rather be closer to nature, check out The Narrowboat, a canalside bar in Islington – you might even spot kayakers. The Crooked Billet, a parkside pub by Wimbledon Common, is another popular option on a sunny day.
In honour of the Chelsea Flower Show, City Cruises has teamed up with the entertainment company All I Want VIP and florist Amie Bone Flowers to launch The Floating Gardens of Westminster, a boat brimming with flowers, a lawn and a three-tier water feature. Hop aboard for a 90-minute cruise with unlimited bubbly, canapés and a DJ (25, 26 & 27 May).
Holland Park’s Kyoto Garden is a hidden Japanese garden with stone lanterns, waterfalls and roaming peacocks. On the other side of town, 20 Fenchurch Street – better known as the Walkie-Talkie – has the capital’s highest public garden. Sky Garden includes lush vegetation, a terrace and 360-degree views of the city. It’s free to visit, but it’s best to book ahead.
The Barbican is famous for theatre and art, but it is also home to the second-biggest conservatory in London. This 2,140 sq m tropical sanctuary contains exotic fish and 1,500 plants, while on Sundays it is a unique setting for afternoon tea. For picnics, why not try Waterlow Park near Highgate Cemetery, or the walled garden in Brockwell Park near Brixton?
Enjoy the sunshine at a festival. Now in its third year, Paddington Covers (from 26 May) is a free festival that sees tributes to Adele, The Beatles, Lionel Richie and The Rolling Stones perform in Norfolk Square Gardens, near Paddington station. DJ duo Freight Train will also play, while kids can enjoy giant bubbles, face painting, balloon making and stilt walkers.
Organiser Marisa Barrocas says: ‘Over 3,000 people attended last year’s events. Each act went down a storm. This year’s theme – rock and pop legends – is inspired by the acts that last year’s audience most engaged with. We can’t wait for Adele [Katie Markham] to return.’
On the other side of town there’s a different flavour at Steel Yard London (27-28 May), an offshoot of Creamfields dance festival, in east London’s Victoria Park. More than 20,000 revellers will pack into a 20m-high metal structure – the largest of its kind in Europe – to dance to tunes mixed by Swedish DJ Eric Prydz and the electronic Swedish duo Axwell and Ingrosso. Expect an epic laser show along with giant 3D holograms and original animation.