As London heads into July (oh sun, where art thou?) you’ll be pleased to know there will be plenty of things to keep you out of mischief. And as yours truly will be on holiday later this month, the usual Londoness Loves round-up is a bumper issue which includes some of the best things to do in London this July and August. Wishing you all a fabulous summer with this guide to the best exhibition, theatre, opera, classical music and events happening this July and August 2021 in London.
Things to do in London this July and August
Pick of the Month
If ever there was a time to visit Windsor Castle, now is it. You can beat the queues with timed admission (one of the few perks of the pandemic) and enjoy a roam around some of the world’s most magnificent state rooms. The 1000-year-old castle is also playing host to a new exhibition commemorating Britain’s longest-serving consort, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. You can practically touch the Prince’s Coronation Robe and Coronet, and you might even be tempted to sit in his Chair of Estate (but please don’t!) The displays include a selection of gifts presented to Prince Philip during state visits and other engagements. These include a wine cooler in the shape of a giant grasshopper as well as some funky howdy cowboy boots. Make sure you pop your head into the new café, located in Edmund III’s medieval Undercroft, and don’t forget to visit the glorious St George’s Chapel. Prince Philip: A Celebration is included with admission to the palace. Book here.
Art and Exhibition
The Charles Dickens Museum celebrates one of Dickens’ greatest tales with a new exhibition, More! Oliver Twist, Dickens and Stories of the City. Explore the characters, events, places and personal tales that inspired and shaped the novel that made Charles Dickens a household name across the world. Exhibits include a page from Dickens’s original handwritten manuscript, unseen letters from Dickens and the earliest sketches of Fagin. Also on display for the first time are the previously-unseen lockets exchanged by Dickens and his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth, each containing locks of their hair. To accompany the exhibition, the museum has created a free self-guided walking tour which charts the Oliver Twist connections on the surrounding streets. 30 June to 17 October 2021. Book here.
Paddington: The Story of a Bear opens at the British Library on 9 July, celebrating one of the world’s most beloved fictional bears, over 60 years on from when he was first published. The family-friendly exhibition will feature over 50 books, documents, film clips and original artworks. On until 31 October. Book here.
Visit Kew Palace for a brand new display exploring the story of the King George III and his treatment at Kew during his periods of mental and physical ill health. The exhibition will consider the real man behind the much-peddled “madness” myth and celebrate the little-known achievements of this famous monarch. Included with admission to Kew Gardens. More information here.
This year’s London Art Week will be held in a dual format, with exhibitions taking place on a digital platform as well as in galleries across Mayfair, St James’s, Richmond, Holland Park, Kensington, Bloomsbury and Soho. This is your chance to wander around London’s finest art galleries and see some once-in-a-lifetime (and often jaw-dropping) art. Feel free to pitch up to most galleries but it’s worth checking individual websites as some operate a Covid appointment system. London Art Week has also launched a satellite showcase in a Cromwell Place, the recently-opened exhibition space in South Kensington. 2 to 16 July. More information here.
Paula Rego opens at Tate Modern this month with an exhibition which will tell the story of this artist’s remarkable life. Featuring over 100 works including collage, paintings, large-scale pastels, drawings and etchings, the exhibition will span Rego’s early work from the 1950s to her richly layered, staged scenes from the 2000s.
Did you know about the art gallery tucked away inside the Wellington Arch? Neither did I until this week. Quadriga Gallery is hosting Consequences of Play a new series of epic paintings by British artist Daniel Crews-Chubb. The works are inspired by London’s iconic Wellington Arch, the Duke of Wellington’s grand Apsley House as well as Peter Paul Rubens’ painting. On until 30 March 2022.
Enjoy a walk and a picnic in the garden at Buckingham Palace. For the first time, visitors will be able to picnic on one of the sweeping lawns after exploring the garden. Wander down the 156-metre Herbaceous Border, see the plane trees planted by and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and take in the views of the island and its beehives across the 3.5-acre lake. Other features include the Rose Garden, the summer house and the wildflower meadow.
Climb the 25-metre Marble Arch Mound and experience 360-degrees views down Oxford Street and into Hyde Park. On your way down visit the café, shop and exhibition space. 26 July to 9 January 2022. Book here.
Enjoy a cocktail and embark on a 90-minute audio, visual and sensory experience with Lex Tempus. Sashay into smoky Chicago for the golden age of jazz, followed by a visit to New York and Madison Square Garden for an appointment with the Kings of Soul. Finish off in San Francisco with a Disco Queens concert at Golden Gate Bridge Park. Book here.
GDIF, London’s outdoor theatre and performing arts festival, is taking place from 27 August to 11 September across Royal Greenwich, the City of London, Canary Wharf, Thamesmead and the Royal Docks. You may not be able to travel to Scandinavia to see the Northern Lights but you can catch the next best thing in London with Dan Acher’s ‘Borealis’ Watch for free in Greenwich from August 27 to September 5 at 8.30pm, and in Woolwich from September 9 to 11 at 8.30pm. More information here.
Totally Thames is returning with a wide-ranging programme of events celebrating the culture, history and environment of the River Thames, all of which will be made available online alongside in person events. More information here.
Opera and Classical Music
Enjoy some of the best names in classical, jazz, contemporary and electronica with Up Close and Musical, a selection of concerts taking place in the delightful Fidelio Orchestra Café. Join the Musical’s Artistic Director, violist Shiry Rashkovsky, and get to know the artists through personally curated concerts over coffee, wine or dinner. Book here.
If you haven’t been to the Great Hall at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, now is your chance. Join City Music Foundation’s Michael Foyle and Maksim Stsura for a selection of Beethoven Sonatas to celebrate 251 years of Beethoven’s with exactly 251 tickets available for the audience to purchase. July 21. Book here. (It’s also a good excuse to check out the spectacular Hogarth staircase which leads to the Great Hall.)
The BBC Proms kicks off on 30 July from its home at the Royal Albert Hall. Featuring 52 concerts over 44 days, the Proms will also be live on BBC Radio 3 throughout the musical festival. Book tickets here.
Over at the Royal Opera House, the excellent Covent Garden Legends and Landmarks Tours are back. Step back into history and discover some of the legends of London’s Covent Garden. Book here.
The Fulham Fest is a two-day chamber music festival running between August 5 to 7. Featuring standard repertoire favourites as well as new and electronic music, you can enjoy the diverse range of concerts in St John’s Church in Fulham. Book here.
Combine world-class music, delicious food and an atmospheric private garden in Streatham, and you get Secret Garden Concerts. This season’s line-up includes our favourite restaurant critic cum jazz piano maestro, Jay Rayner, chamber orchestra London Concertante, the Brodsky Quartet, jazz musicians Jason Rebello, Tim Garland and the Sam Leak Trio, the Pip Utton Theatre Company, pop star Nerina Pallot and comedians Sara Pascoe and Angela Barnes. The concert ticket costs £45 or it’s £85 with dinner.
Enjoy one of three classical music concerts in St John the Baptist Church with a new series by the High Barnet Chamber Music Festival. The programme includes music by Schubert, Saint-Saëns, Mahler, Schumann and Bach. Under 25s go free. Book here.
Out of Towners
Waterperry Opera Festival returns with a ten-day open-air festival this August. This year’s programme includes Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, performed on the lawn, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel in the atmospheric Waterperry woodland, and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf performed by the lily pond. Rebecca Meltzer’s dramatization of Jonathan Dove’s Ariel will return to the Mary Rose Garden. Book here.
Staying in Oxfordshire, enjoy a picnic and a performance with Vache Baroque Opera. This year’s line-up includes Handel’s Acis and Galatea (with British soprano Rowan Pierce), readings from Milton’s Paradise poems, cantatas by Bach and an avant-garde meets Baroque dance show. Book here.
Sutton Foster and Robert Lindsay are joined by Felicity Kendal in a major new production of Cole Porter and P. G. Wodehouse’s classic golden age musical: Anything Goes. On at the Barbican from 23 July to 17 October. Book tickets here.
Lily Allen stars in A Ghost Story at the Noel Coward Theatre, an edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller from award-winning writer Danny Robins and directed by Matthew Dunster. Book here.
Daniel Mays and David Thewlis star in Harold Pinter’s darkly funny, insidiously menacing The Dumb Waiter at The Old Vic Theatre (but you’ll be watching this one from home). Book here.
The Browning Version starring Kenneth Branagh opens at Riverside Studios on 5 August. I’m not a big fan of Branagh the actor, but I am of Branagh the director, so fingers crossed he pulls off this Terence Rattigan classic. Book here.
Pack a picnic and head over to Regent’s Park and the Open Air Theatre this summer. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel opens on 31 July and for the young at heart, a new spellbinding adventure, Dragons and Mythical Beasts, opens on 13 August. Book here.