Let me start by making a promise to you: there isn’t a hint of wisteria hysteria, not a sprinkling of magnolia madness nor any bloomin’ blossom of any kind in my Londoness Loves. So, let’s get on with the fun stuff: here’s my guide to the top things to do in London in May.
London’s biggest waterway festival gets underway in Little Venice with a boating pageant, stalls, live music and activities for the kids. There might be a Morris Dancer or two. 4 to 6 May.
Measha Brueggergosman – Barbican
If you haven’t heard of she whose surname is impossible to spell, she’s a multi-award winning Canadian soprano, and she’s ab fabulous. Her repertoire on the 8 May includes Ravel, Debussy, Duparc and Bolcom. Not to be missed, I say.
The Dulwich Festival returns with its annual celebration of art, music, theatre, literature and walks. The festival includes the Artists’ Open House weekends when over 200 artists invite the public into their studios and homes. 10 to 19 May.
Lehman Trilogy – Piccadilly Theatre
If you missed this at the National Theatre, now’s your chance. You can read my review here. Opens 11 May.
Barnes Children’s Festival
London’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival kicks off on the 11 May. Guest speakers include Judith Kerr, Lauren Child and Jessie Burton. Various locations in Barnes, More details here.
Museum of the Moon – Natural History Museum
Luke Jerram’s Moon has been on a lunar tour since 2016, lighting up spaces from Bilbao to Beijing. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, it will be soaring above the Jerwood Gallery in the Natural History Museum. It features detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, ambient moonlight and an evolving soundscape. Opens 17 May.
Global Dickens – Dickens Museum
A new exhibition at the Dickens Museum explores Dickens’s travels and travel writing and the global impact of his books and characters. Among the exhibits is the copy of David Copperfield that went to the Antarctic on the 1910 Scott expedition and was read aloud every night by the Northern Party, as well as Dickens’s travelling bag and holiday souvenirs. Global Dickens opens 14 May.
Starry Messenger – Wyndham’s Theatre
I last saw Matthew Broderick on Broadway in the utterly brilliant The Producers, and I can’t wait for another helping in The Starry Messenger. Broderick makes his West End debut together with Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern on 16 May, in a play written by Manchester by the Sea’s Kenneth Lonergan. The question is, is SJP moving over to London to hang out with her hubbie during the 13-week run?
Secret Rivers – Museum of London (Docklands)
This exhibition will use a mixture of archaeology and art to uncover the lesser-known histories of rivers such as the Thames as well as exploring the stories of the some of our lost rivers: the Fleet, Tyburn and Westbourne. Opens 24 May.
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing -Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace
Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, this exhibition brings together more than 200 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection, forming the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in over 65 years. Opens 24 May.
Victoria: Woman and Crown & Victoria: A Royal Childhood – Kensington Palace
Explore Queen Victoria’s private life behind her carefully-managed public image in two major new exhibitions. Created to mark the 200th anniversary of Victoria’s birth, these will examine her childhood and how she balanced her role as a wife and mother with that of a Queen of an expanding empire. Opens 24 May.
Following a major restoration project, Fulham Palace will be officially reopening on 25 May with a brand new museum, a restored Tudor courtyard and an expanded collection of historically significant plants. On 26 May, the Palace will host a Free Tudor Fun Day where visitors will be encouraged to dress up, make music, create a May crown and keep their eyes peeled for Katherine of Aragon who may be making an appearance!
Sven Ratzke – Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel.
Cabaret singer Sven Ratzke presents a special evening of his unique interpretations of David Bowie songs in his new show Where Are We Now. Accompanied by pianist, Christian Pabst, expect to hear classics such as Heroes, Rock ‘n Roll Suicide and Let’s Dance, alongside original songs in the tradition and style of Bowie. 30 May to 1 June. Book tickets here.
If the weather spoils your outdoor fun plans, why not head over to the Whittard Tea Bar in Covent Garden for a hot cuppa and a tea masterclass? I was invited to sample some loose leaves, talk about the history of tea and learn all sorts of fun facts during a 90-minute Masterclass. Whittards stock 108 teas, 18 coffees and 18 hot chocolates, so you won’t go home thirsty. You’ll leave knowing how to create the perfect brew (which takes three minutes of stewing, not the 13.5-second British average). I won’t be looking at tea bags the same again.
An introductory Tea Workshop is free and you can book by calling 020 724 03532. The Tea Masterclass, run by the Tea Experience Manager, is £20 per person. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Both available at the Regent Street St. James and Covent Garden branches.
OK, I lied. Will you forgive me if I make one small flowery mention? This is, after all, the month of le muguet, or the Lily of the Valley. In France, it’s tradition for families to pick or buy some muguet on the first day of May and offer these willowy bouquets to their loved ones. Joyeux May, alors!