May is a see-saw of a month: hot and fiery in parts and wet and wild in others. The parks are starting to groan with sun-worshippers, the pubs are spilling out onto pavements, and I’ve even seen the odd sandal make an appearance (albeit paired up with a backup brolly). May isn’t just about bank holidays, wisteria hysteria and rhododendron rapture. London has a spring in its step with some capital exhibitions, fairs, classical music, theatre and outdoor opera, garden-gazing, and plenty of events for the kids too. So without further ado, here’s the best of London events in May.
Art and Exhibitions
The Victoria and Albert Museum is busy this month. Kicking off on the 13th May is the Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains. It’s the first international retrospective for this iconic band, an immersive exhibition showcasing Pink Floyd’s unique music and powerful imagery within the context of the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. From 13 May to 01 Oct 2017.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is also doing what it does so well and loved by fashionistas the world over: a new couture show. This month, it’s Spanish designer Balenciaga’s turn as the fashion house marks its 100th anniversary. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will feature a collection of 100 garments and 20 hats together with sketches and photographs. From 27 May 2017 to 18 February 2018.
Somerset House is hosting the third Photo London photography fair with over 98 exhibitors attending this year. The program will include talks, exhibitions, book signings, tours and awards. 18 to 21 May.
If it’s art you seek, the Affordable Art Fair is back in Hampstead from 11 to 14 May, and in Dulwich, 200 artists will be opening their doors to the public at The Dulwich Festival.
Don’t miss these other great art exhibitions on in May: Queer British Art at the Tate and Selfies at the Saatchi Gallery.
It’s a one day only pop-up event, but it promises to be the coolest ticket in May: Häagen-Dazs have teamed up with design gurus Bompas and Parr to create a multi-sensory ice cream and photography event. Guests are invited to lick and slurp their way around the icy exhibition, sip a Häagen-Dazs cocktail matched to ice-cream canapés and enter a photography competition. The winner will have their face re-created into a Häagen-Dazs ice cream bar. My Extraordinary Life is on Friday 19 May at Noho Studios, 46 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7QA. £10 per person.
The Great Outdoors
You can still catch the rhododendrons and azaleas of the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park (you really want to do this at least once in your London life).
Over in Chelsea, you can wander around the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show from the 23 to 27 May. On Friday, you can combine your show ticket with some Ronnie Scott’s jazz magic, as singer Claire Martin takes to the stage (select Friday 23 May and then choose the Jazz package).
If you can’t stomach the crowds in Chelsea, why don’t you head over to Lambeth Palace. The celestial 12th century gardens are open on the first Friday of each month. Until 1 September.
In Fulham, life’s a tropical beach from 10 May to 3 October at Neverland. The sandy, Thames-side pop-up resort comes complete with palm trees, beach huts and day beds, shops and food stalls. I’ve even heard a rumour that raclette will be served. Yum.
Opera and Classical Music
Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century, has its own classical music program. On May 9, the Spring Outcry Ensemble concert includes Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Strauss.
The baritone Christopher Maltman is at back at the Wigmore Hall on the 31st May, and Nicholas Hytner’s production of Verdi’s Don Carlo opens at The Royal Opera House on Friday 12 May. As Opera Holland Park prepares to open for its summer repertoire, you could join the creative team over a glass of wine and sample a short performance from one of its 2017 singers (free of charge). Or for a heftier £100, you could go to the opera Holland Park Prelude at Leighton House, enjoy wine and canapés, and meet and listen to singers from each of the 2017 productions.
What’s on Stage
I’m looking forward to some great stage-craft this month. ’ll be loving it up with my first Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe (on until 9 July) and tucking into Trevor Nunn’s version of Love in Idleness with Anthony Head (on until 1 July).
I went to see Nell Gwynn at the Globe this week having already seen it last year (then with Gemma Arterton). Well, what a treat that was! Laura Pitt-Pulford is brilliantly funny in the title role, there’s some superb writing from Jessica Swale and deft direction from Christopher Luscombe. Go and see it if you haven’t already!
Stage doyens Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman will be waving theatrical wands in Lettice and Lovage, a revival of Peter Shaffer’s award-winning comedy. It’s also directed by busy Trevor Nunn.
Kids in London
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is back in the Waterloo Vaults from 13 May to 3 September. As Alice goes missing, it’s up to your whippersnappers to find her in this immersive experience for 5 to 10-year-olds.
For budding historians, you might want a lesson in British Horrible Histories at Hampton Court this May, a one-hour outdoor production.
Over in St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden (also known as the Actor’s Church) is the Covent Garden Fayre. Puppeteers from all over the country will be performing throughout the 14 May. Admission is free.