Guide to what’s on in London and the Paralympics in August/September 2012
Having spent pretty much my whole life in London, I’ve noticed a real change in seasons in the past five years especially. Having gone through some very warm September and Octobers (compared to the same cooler months in my childhood), I decided sometime ago that I consider September a summer month. Our weather is so changeable these days, I don’t even think we really have structured, proper seasons anymore.
I’m not the only one who has noticed. Now festival and event organisers have been moving annual events from May or June to September because there tends to be better weather. So with this is mind, there’s still another five or six weeks left of ‘summer’ in London – and of course the Paralympics starting next week – so here’s a guide to what’s on.
London Paralympics 2012
If you want to try your luck and get tickets, they are significantly cheaper than the Olympic tickets – try buying online here. However, there isn’t as many free Paralympics games to watch unfortunately – the cycle road races are taking place at Brands Hatch.
29 August – 9 September – BT London Live
Watch the Paralympics on the big screen at BT London Live in Trafalgar Square, open every day from 11am until 10pm. There will also be live music between 1pm and 7pm every day. Attendees will also have the chance to try out Paralympic sports such as wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
- Sunday 9 September – Paralympic Marathon
The Men’s and Women’s Marathon both take place today, starting and ending at The Mall via the City of London. Some athletes will compete with wheelchairs or throwing frames, some with prostheses or with guidance from a sighted companion. The Men’s Marathon T12 (athletes with a visual impairment) and T46 (athletes with a loss of limb or limb deficiency) will start at 8am and the Men’s and Women’s Marathon T54 (wheelchair racers) will start at 11:30am.
- 29 August – 9 September – Big Screen at Potters Fields Park and The Scoop
Watch the games on a big screen at Potters Fields Park on the south bank of the Thames, in between Tower Bridge and City Hall. Nearby is The Scoop amphitheatre, with free music, theatre and films available to all. Visit The Scoop’s website for more info.
- Monday 10 September – Team GB Parade
Giving the public a chance to cheer for and celebrate with the athletes of both the Olympics and Paralympics Games as they parade from Mansion House in the City of London (1:30pm), past St Paul’s Cathedral, The Strand, Trafalgar Square and ending in The Mall (The latter being ticketed entry for Olympic volunteers, armed forces and athletes’ support staff and families). Up to 800 Olympic and Paralympic athletes with ride on up to 21 floats, taking up to 13 minutes to pass any given point along the way.
- On now until 9 September – Games Mascots Wenlock and Mandeville Discovery Tours
Wenlock – the official mascot of the Olympics – and Mandeville – the official mascot of the Paralympics – have been hanging out on the streets of London since July. The Mayor Of London’s office have put together six walking routes in London with different designs of Wenlock and Mandeville highlighting history and culture of the surrounding area. Go to the MOLpresents website to find maps, or see how many you can spot by yourself. Fun activity for adults and children alike. Check out my blog entry on some of the ones I’ve spotted around time.
- On now until 9 September – Paralympic Photo Opportunities
The Paralympic symbol – Agitos – is already illuminated on the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and on Tower Bridge until 15 September.
Every night (8pm-midnight) during the Paralympics, images from the Games from 1948 until present day will be projected on the Houses of Parliament. The shows will last 9 minutes and start every 15 minutes (See YouTube video below for a sneak preview).
London’s famous bridges will be lit up in dazzling light displays every night of the Paralympic Games. My tip is go for dinner or drinks at one of the many restaurants or bars spanning the Southbank between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge then walk off your dinner while checking out the bridges.
What’s On In London
- Now until 30 September – Priceless London Wonderground
Mastercard has organised a fair, entertainment and cabaret extravaganza in Jubilee Gardens, near the foot of the London Eye and by the Southbank Centre. It includes rides, cabaret, children’s show, comedy, burlesque and alfresco drinking. Open all day untill 11pm every night. Free to get in, but entry fee for attractions and rides. Nearest tube or train: Waterloo or short walk over the River from Embankment or Westminster.
- Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September – Thames Festival
Two day free festival coinciding with the end of Paralympics. Celebrating both London and the multi-cultural melting pot that makes our city so unique. There’s a host of events on including a Night Carnival of 1,500 dancers on Blackfriars Bridge and Victoria Embankment, the Kids’ Choir at The Scoop, Barge-Driving Races and a fireworks show. Visit the Thames Festival website to find out more.
- Sunday 9 September – Bandstand Marathon
On Sunday 9 September, over 500 bandstands across the country will host free musical performances. Visit the Bandstand Marathon website for more details.
- Saturday 15th September – The Great River Race 2012
Annual boat marathon along the River Thames, starting at Millwall Riverside at 10:30am and finishing at Ham House, Richmond. Anything goes with the type of boats, including Hawaiian war canoes, Chinese dragon boats, whalers and Irish curraghs.
- Now until Sunday 16th September – Andy Warhol: The Portfolios at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
A special exhibition of Andy Warhol’s paintings is on at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London. I visited it earlier this summer, check out my blog entry for more information. Nearest train station: West Dulwich or North Dulwich.
- Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd September – Open House London
This annual event is hugely popular and sees buildings that are not normally open to the public, throw open their doors for just two days. Many buildings are strictly ticket only and you need to apply for a ballot to gain entry. Check out the Open House London website for more information.
- Now until end of September – Daylesford Pop-Up Cafe on Selfridges’ Rooftop
As part of the Oxford Street store’s Big British Bang celebration, Selfridges have opened their rooftop this summer with a crazy golf course (which finishes 2 September) and a pop-up cafe run by the team from Daylesford organic farm in Gloucs (until end of September). Six stories high, you can enjoy Afternoon Tea or Pimm’s with cake in the afternoon or evening sunset. Check out my blog post on my visit to the cafe.
- Saturday 22nd September – The Great Gorilla Run 2012
Runners dress up as gorillas for this 7km run, which raises awareness of the dwindling population of these amazing creatures. If you want to take part, you must register (£80, but includes your own gorilla costume to keep!). However, those who want to watch, can see the action along the Southbank and across Tower Bridge.
- Sunday 30th September – Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival
Pearly Kings and Queens are an iconic part of London culture, who aren’t seen around the capital as much as they used to. Unsurprisingly, they are likely to be the main attraction at the festival at Guildhall, which also includes traditional entertainment, a parade and a Harvest Festival service. Starts at Guildhall Yard at 1pm, before the service at St-Mary-Le-Bow Church at 3pm. Nearest tube to Guildhall: St Paul’s or Bank. Find out more information on the Pearly Society website.