Last updated on January 13th, 2023
Beat the January blues with some fun cultural goings-on this month, kicking off with the New Year’ Parade which is back after a two year Covid hiatus. Get your January diaries out and start planning with my guide to some of the best cultural things to do in London this month including art exhibitions, theatre, events, opera and music. Happy 2023 to you all!
Londoness Loves: Cultural things to do in London this January 2023
Free things to do in London this January
London’s New Year’s Day Parade is back and it’s totally free! Hundreds of thousands will join in the miles of free standing zones along the route. More than 8,000 performers representing 20 nations will fill the West End with culture, colour, entertainment and music. Locations include Piccadilly, Regents Street, St James’s, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. It is recommended you arrive by 11am to secure a good place.More details here.
A free-to-enter exhibition celebrates the life and work of a relatively unknown artist, George Westren, who became the unlikely subject of a viral news story in 1922. Westren, a relatively unknown artist living in a tiny housing association flat in Spitalfields had sadly died in July 2021 during the Covid lockdown. A year later, a neighbour stepped in to prevent George’s portfolio of intricate op art drawings from being destroyed by a home clearance firm. The artwork went viral on Twitter, where Westren’s story – of humble beginnings, homelessness, addiction and eventual salvation through art – touched hundreds of thousands of people. George Westren: On the straight and narrow, 6 to 25 January at the Saatchi Gallery.
Enjoy some free music in the glorious Paul Hamlyn Hall at the Royal Opera House on 13 and 27 January at 1pm. Free and unticketed but subject to capacity.
The Canary Wharf Lights Festival is back for its seventh year. The Winter Lights festival is the largest of its kind in London, transforming Canary Wharf with over 20 stunning installations. The spectacle showcases light art and interactive installations by innovative light artists across the globe with some new commissions alongside pieces never before seen in the UK. 18 to 28 January.
London Art and Exhibition this January
A landmark exhibition at the Royal Academy will present a visual narrative of the history of Spanish culture, bringing together outstanding works from Spain and colonial Latin America, from antiquity to the early 20th century. Spain and the Hispanic World will reflect the great diversity of cultural and religious influences, from Celtic, Islamic, Christian and Jewish to American, African and Asian, that have shaped and enriched Spanish culture across four millennia. 21 January to 10 April. Book here.
London Art Fair returns to the Business Design Centre this month, a global line-up of over 100 modern and contemporary galleries. 18 to 22 January. Book tickets here.
David Hockney is creating the launch show for Lightroom — a four-storey-high space in King’s Cross equipped with the latest digital projection and audio technology. Hockney will use the venue to take the audience on a personal journey through his art, featuring iconic paintings alongside some rarely seen pieces and some newly created work. David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) is on from 25 January to 23 April. Book here. Note: this opening of this exhibition has now been postponed to 22 February instead.
London Opera and Classical Music this January
Tim Albery’s spectacular theatrical production of Tannhäuser features a star-studded cast including Stefan Vinke, Lise Davidsen, Gerald Finley, and former Jette Parker Artist Ekaterina Gubanova. Alexander Soddy and Sebastian Weigle conduct Wagner’s all-encompassing score. 29 January to 16 February. Book here.
Joshua Bell and the world-famous Academy of St Martin in the Fields will perform a glittering evening showcasing Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Schumann’s Second Symphony at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. 26 January. Book here.
Check out the line-up of performances from the London Philharmonic Orchestra this January including two concerts conducted by Edward Gardner.
Admired not only as a pianist but also as a composer and writer, the recently knighted Sir Stephen Hough’s talents as a songwriter are celebrated in a Wigmore Hall programme, with varied song cycles set to verses by Rainer Maria Rilke, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde and Lady Antonia Fraser. 2 January. Book here.
London Theatre and Stage this month
The absolutely brilliant Lehman Trilogy returns to London this January. Directed by Sam Mendes, the 2023 production runs from 24 January to 20 May at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Read my review from the National Theatre’s 2018 production.
Lemons Lemons Lemons starring Aidan Turner and Jemma Coleman opens at the Harold Pinter Theatre, a tender and funny romantic comedy about what we say, how we say it, and what happens when we can’t say anything anymore. 18 January to 18 March. Book here.
The Unfriend with Frances Barber as Elsa, Amanda Abbington as Debbie and Reece Shearsmith as Peter (photo Manuel Harlan)
Reece Shearsmith, Amanda Abbington and Frances Barber star in Steven Moffatt’s dark comedy, The Unfriend. Following a sold-out run at Chichester Festival, the play is directed by Mark Gatiss and runs until April 16. This marks the first collaboration for Moffatt and Gatiss following their award-winning TV work on Sherlock and Dracula. Book here.
Best-selling author Zadie Smith’s The Wife of Willesden makes her playwriting debut, transporting Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath to 21st century North West London. Directed by Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham, you are invited to take your seat at the bar, order a pint or two, and listen to this bawdy comedy up close and personal. The Kiln Theatre auditorium will be transformed into a local London pub, complete with pub tables in the stalls. On to 11 February. Book here.
Book Ahead Theatre
Alan Turing The Musical made its debut at the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe with a completely sold-out run. This new musical about the secretive life of Alan Turing comes to the King’s Head Theatre in February. Many aspects of Turing’s life are told using the historic letters that he wrote to friends, family and colleagues, with the songs taking artistic licence to convey what Alan may have been feeling at the time. Book here.
London Events this January
Head over to St Martin in the Fields for a sound and light experience by artist Peter Walker and Luxmurialis. Installations will take visitors around the whole of St Martin’s site and show a journey through space, to see galaxies emerge and a chance to explore humanities ambition to adventure beyond. Space, The Universe, and Everything is on from 31 January to 4 February. Book here.
Ian Shaw returns to the stage at Pizza Express Dean Street, presenting a season of collaborations from the international world of jazz, soul, pop, new song-writing and beyond. The line-up includes popular old pairings (Claire Martin, Liane Carroll) exciting young singer-songwriters Daisy Chute and Matt Kent and the world premiere of Ian’s brand new album. 22 to 30 January. Book here.
Enjoy a magical tour of the Royal Opera House building and backstage areas themed around The Sleeping Beauty. Before the tour, visitors will be treated to a delicious Lilac Fairy Tea or Champagne High Tea in the splendour of the gilded Crush Room. Ages: 12 plus. Book here.
Join a six-week online evening course with Guildhall School which will see you form your very own theatre book club with a different play text each week and an opportunity to discuss and explore it with your group, course tutor and industry professionals. Six different texts are examined each week, and a guest speaker from the Film, TV and Theatre industry will join the session to discuss these. Visiting speakers include Luke Thallon, Stefan Adegbola, Oscar Batterham, Amber James and Henry Pettigrew. 25 January to 01 March 2023. Deadline to book: 5pm, Friday 20 January. More information.
Out of Towners
Published in 1815, Emma was the last of Jane Austen’s novels to be published during her lifetime. The author sent one of 12 special presentation copies of the novel to her friend Anne Sharp, who was governess to her brother Edward Knight’s children at Godmersham Park. See one of these very special editions of the book with its handwritten message ‘From the author’ inside, along with Anne Sharp’s own signature during a special preview evening at Chawton House. The rarity of this edition led to it becoming the most expensive of the author’s works ever sold, reaching £375,000 in 2022. It was generously placed on long-term loan to Chawton House by its new owner, and has never before been displayed. Drinks and canapes will be served from 6pm by the fire in the Great Hall, followed by a guided viewing in two parts led by a member of the curatorial team. 29 January. Book here.