Category Archives: Entertainment

Check out film, music, dance or theatre in London.

Fine dining, drinks and drama as immersive experience ‘The Murdér Express’ returns

Enjoy an evening of immersive theatre along with a four-course meal and cocktails.

Pedley Street Carriage Shot © Funicular Productions

Dine and drama on board The Murdér Express

With many Londoners starved of theatre and foodie experiences in recent months, why not combine both as the capital’s fabulous immersive production returns this October. Climb onboard ‘The Murdér Express’, a luxury rail service making its maiden journey from London to the fictional town of Murdér in France. A 19th century train carriage is the setting for an evening of food, drink and drama.

Enjoy a four-course feast

Guests are invited in their ‘bubbles’ up to six to arrive at Pedley Street Station, where they can refresh ahead of their trip at the Seven Sins Bar. As the train chugs into motion, passengers of ‘The Murdér Express’ will be joined by East End Costermong Frank, music hall star Tilley, widow Vera and antique dealer Cliff, as some strange scenes unfold. Visitors can relax in a plush booth as they are served a four-course meal designed by MasterChef 2017 finalist Louisa Ellis.

Funicular Productions, the team behind the experience, have implemented plenty of Covid-19 safety precautions to keep diners and staff feeling comfortable in their surroundings. There are temperature checks, reduced capacity, Perspex screens, sanitiser stations, staff wearing PPE, with guests asked to follow social distancing guidelines. The set menu features a meat, vegetarian or vegan options.

  • ‘The Murdér Express’ runs from 2 October 2020 – 31 January 2021. Tickets: From £60. Located at 63 Pedley Street, E1 5FB. Nearest stations: Bethnal Green, Shoreditch High Street or Whitechapel. For more information and tickets, visit Funicular Productions.

Find out what’s on in London in October 2020 here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in October 2020

St Augustine church tower autumn © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

Although lockdown rules are constantly in flux and subject to change, London’s attractions, exhibitions and festivals have been gradually returning (albeit adapted to be Covid-19 safe as the pandemic continues). While physical events are continuing in adapted ways and for smaller attendees, many festivals are going online this year so you can experience the fun from the safety of your home. This month, there is Black History Month and Halloween, so expect to see many events inspired by these annual celebrations. October has plenty of boozy events on, including a month-long London Cocktail Week, Oktoberfest, Rum Week and The Whisky Show. Half-term is taking place towards the end of the month, so no doubt parents will be looking for some safe activities to entertain the kids.

Events, dates and rules are subject to change or last-minute cancellations, so always make sure you keep up to date with the relevant websites to avoid disappointment. Many events require or suggest booking in advance as they have reduced and limited availability.

Look out for the 🐻 for family-friendly activities.

Look out for the computer symbol 💻 for online events.

  • 30 September – 8 October : London Craft Week

Week long event celebrating British and international designers, makers, brands and galleries. Various events (physical and virtual) on around town, including art tours, talks, fairs, installations, walking tours, demonstrations, open studios, craft trails, wine flights and more. For more information, visit the London Craft Week website. 💻

  • 1 – 11 October : Kensington & Chelsea Art Week

A celebration of culture in the exclusive Zone 1 neighbourhoods, including exhibitions, workshops, talks, public art displays and more. At various venues in the district, including The Muse Gallery, Museum of Brands, Goldfinger Factory, Serena Morton Gallery. Find out more on the Art Week website.

  • 1 – 31 October : London Cocktail Week

This year’s ‘week’ is extended to a whole month to give London’s bar scene a much-needed boost. Hundreds of bars across the capital will be taking part, offering £6 special LCW cocktail week concoctions for those with a wristband. There will also be self-guided bar crawls, masterclasses, bar takeovers, pop-ups and cocktail dinners. Sadly, the cocktail village won’t be open this year due to the pandemic. Tickets: £15 (valid for entire month). For more information, visit the London Cocktail Week website.

  • 1 – 31 October : London Restaurant Festival

Support London’s amazing restaurant industry by sitting down to a fine meal or foodie experience. Enjoy small-scale in-restaurant experiences, Chef’s tables, feasts-at-home, drinks masterclasses, tasting menus and foodie masterclasses. For more information, visit the London Restaurant Festival website. 💻

  • 1 – 31 October : Mayfair Sculpture Trail

Existing Mayfair artworks will be joined by new installations for one month only. Walk along the iconic streets of Mayfair and spot creations by Lawrence Holofcener, Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, Patrick O’Reilly and Manolo Valder, among others. You can also download accompany audio commentary on Smartify. Free. For more information, visit the Mayfair Art Weekend website. 🐻

  • 2 – 9 October : Whisky Show – Virtual Show

This year’s whisky event is going online, bringing together whisky connoisseurs with the distillers of their favourite and yet-to-be-discovered brands. You can order tasting packs in advance to taste with the virtual tasting sessions, as well as attend workshops, demos, talks and meet the brands. Tickets: £20. For more information, visit the Whisky Show website. 💻

  • 2 October – 31 January 2021 : Dub London – Bassline of a City

A new exhibition explores dub reggae and its influence on the capital. Open Mon-Fri 11.30am-3.30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. Free entry, but book a time slot in advance. Museum Of London, 150 London Wall, Barbican, City of London, EC2Y 5HN. Nearest stations: Moorgate or Barbican. For more information, visit the Museum of London website.

  • 2 October – 31 January 2021 : The Murder Express

Enjoy an immersive fine dining experience on board a 19th century train carriage. Enjoy a four-course meal cooked by a Masterchef finalist, while sipping on cocktails and watching a murder mystery unfold. Times vary. Tickets: From £60. Located at 63 Pedley Street, E1 5FB. Nearest stations: Bethnal Green, Shoreditch High Street or Whitechapel. For more information, visit Funicular Productions. Check out Metro Girl’s post for details.

  • Now until 3 October : The Drive In

Drive-in cinema offers film screenings and live experiences (e.g. musical performances, theatre, etc) in Enfield. With refreshments available, social distancing guidelines and the audio beamed in through your car stereo. Tickets: One car £35. The Drive In, Troubadour Meridian Water Harbet Road, Enfield, N18 3QQ. For tickets and more information, visit The Drive In website. 🐻

  • 3 – 4 October : Fun Palaces Weekend

Fun for the family through online and in-person experiences, artworks and workshops exploring arts, science, craft, technology, heritage and sports. At libraries and other venues. For more information, visit the Fun Palaces Weekend website. 🐻💻

  • 3, 10, 17 and 24 October : The Official Camden Oktoberfest

Celebrate Oktoberfest in a socially-distanced festival of beers on Saturdays in October. Featuring live music, DJs, German meat and plenty of beer. Entry in timed sessions (12pm-4.30pm or 5.30pm-10pm). Tickets: From £20.00. Electric Ballroom, 184 Camden High Street, NW1 8BP. Nearest station: Camden Town. For more information, visit the Camden Oktoberfest website. Read the rest of this entry

Ultimate London Quiz Part 2 | Questions and answers about the capital

Test your knowledge of London and its history in your next virtual pub quiz with these questions and answers.

St Pauls © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020Earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic, Metro Girl published its first Ultimate London Quiz. It proved popular with many readers, so here’s a sequel! Although lockdown has eased, many people are still sheltering at home so quizzes can provide an opportunity for entertaining and socialising.

Next time you’re hosting a Zoom, Hangouts or House Party video quiz with your friends and family, why not test them on their knowledge of London?

Here’s a specially selected 20 questions and answers on the capital, If you don’t know all the answers, hopefully you may learn something new instead.

This second London quiz covers a wide range of trivia and history, from Roman Londinium, to Victorian train stations to The Shard.

London quiz questions

Q1) Britain’s oldest door can be found in which religious building in London?

Q2) Which English monarch brought in the rule that the Tower of London’s ravens should be protected?

Q3) Which London department store has a weathervane on the roof depicting The Mayflower?

Q4) What is the capital’s oldest mainline train station in zone one?

Q5) How many times has London hosted the Olympic Games?

Q6)  What year did the Romans found Londinium? A) AD72, B) 10BC or C) AD43.

Q7) Which European country donates a Christmas tree to the City of Westminster every year?

Q8) The Buxton Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens (beside the Houses of Parliament) commemorates which important law?

Q9) Which famous talk show host was born at Highgate tube station?

Q10) Which Soho street is named after a Charles Dickens character?

Q11) How many Premier League football teams are there in London?

Q12) Who was the first monarch to live in Buckingham Palace?

Q13) Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital in which London attraction/building?

Q14) Great Ormond Street Hospital hold the rights to which famous children’s book?

Q15) What London street is famous for its medical clinics?

Q16) What is the shortest line on the London Underground network?

Q17) Six people climbed The Shard in 2013 to protest in the name of which charity?

Q18) What London park hosts a temporary pavilion every summer?

Q19) What do you call the Royal Navy equivalent of the Chelsea Pensioners?

Q20) Brunel’s Thames Tunnel connected the south London district of Rotherhithe with which East London district?

Read the rest of this entry

London’s outdoor and drive-in cinemas | Summer Autumn 2020 guide

Details of outdoor and drive-in cinemas in and around London, including ticket prices, locations and more

This summer, our social lives have been changed beyond all recognition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the lockdown is gradually easing in stages, going to the cinema is a more complex activity as we practice social distancing. However, film fans missing their big screen experience can now book a ticket for one of London’s outdoor or drive-in cinemas, there’s even a floating film experience for those interested in hiring a boat. For those with a car and don’t mind travelling a bit further, there are also drive-ins appearing outside the capital in the home counties. Some cinemas are even extending their usual summer season until late October.

Key: 🧘 Seated viewings only (you may need to bring a blanket/cushion)

🚗 Can only attend in a car

  • 3 – 19 July : Celestial Drive-In Cinema

Boasting London’s largest LED screen, Celestial Cinema are screening classic and modern favourites for drive-in audiences. Food and drink available. Daytime and evening screenings available. Tickets start from £29.50 for one car with two people. Flamingo Park, Sidcup By-Pass Road, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6HL. For more information, visit the Celestial Cinema website. 🚗

  • 4 July – 23 September : The Drive In

A new drive-in cinema offers film screenings and live experiences (e.g. musical performances, theatre, etc) in Enfield. With refreshments available, social distancing guidelines and the audio beamed in through your car stereo. Tickets: One car £35. The Drive In, Troubadour Meridian Water Harbet Road, Enfield, N18 3QQ. For tickets and more information, visit The Drive In website. 🚗

  • 4 July – 31 October : Rooftop Film Club presents Drive In Film Club

This summer, the Rooftop Film Club are launching a drive-in experience for those with cars while their usual rooftop experience is on hold. Food and drink will be available, delivered to your car by roller-skating servers. Daytime and evening screenings available. Tickets: One vehicle £27.50-£29 (depending on screening time). Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, N22 7AY. For more information, visit the Rooftop Film Club website. 🚗

  • 5 July – 20 September : Sunset Cinema

Enjoy a US-style, vintage drive-in experience. Food and drink available to pre-order, as well as on the night. Movies include Rocketman, Dirty Dancing, La La Land, Mamma Mia!, Grease, Knives Out, Back To The Future, and more. Tickets: £50 (1 car and 2 passengers), £15 for each additional passenger. Twyford Avenue Sports Ground, Twyford Avenue, Acton, W3 9QA. For more information, visit the Sunset Cinema website. 🚗

  • 5 July – 31 August : The Drive-In (from Secret Cinema and Goodwood)

Enjoy a drive in experience in Chichester, West Sussex (80 miles from London). The famous Goodwood Motor Circuit is teaming up with Secret Cinema and Häagen-Dazs to host screenings of classics and family favourites, such as Toy Story, Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing, The Incredibles and more. Tickets: £50-£57.50 (1 car and up to 5 passengers). Discounts available for NHS workers. Goodwood Motor Circuit, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0PX. For more information, visit the Secret Cinema website. 🚗

  • 6 – 12 July and 16 – 21 September : @TheDriveIn

Suzuki presents @TheDriveIn is a new experience offering film screenings, as well as stand-up comedy, bingo and silent car discos. The experience will be travelling around UK cities, but will be making stops in London at Circus Field in Blackheath (6-12 July) and Pudding Mill Lane car park in Stratford (16-21 September). Tickets: £38.50 (per car). For more information, visit the @TheDriveIn website. 🚗

  • 21 July – 10 October : Luna Cinema

Luna Cinema are hosting their usual outdoor summer screens, as well as drive-in experiences for those Londoners who are fortunate enough to have a car. Among the venues for their pop-up alfresco screenings include Morden Hall Park, Hampton Court Palace, Tooting Bec Common, Dulwich Park, Brockwell Lido, Marble Hill, Wimbledon Park, Wandsworth Park, Chiswick House & Gardens, Gunnersby Park, Walpole Park, Holland Park, Kensington Park, Regents Park, Kenwood House, Alexandra Palace, Old Royal Naval College (Greenwich), Danson House, Swanley Park, Royal Hospital Chelsea, Victoria Tower Gardens, Victoria Embankment Gardens. Meanwhile, the Luna Drive in Cinema will be popping up at Allianz Park in Hendon and Printworks in Rotherhithe. Films include a mix of classic and newer releases. Tickets: Adults £16-£18, Children £13.50. Drive-in tickets: £29.50-£39.50 (depending on car size, capacity and position to screen). For more information on the Luna’s outdoor cinema, visit their website, or for the drive-in cinema, click here. 🚗🧘

  • 21 August – 20 September : Summer Showtime on the Coaling Jetty @ Battersea Power Station

Arclight Cinema and The Turbine Theatre are teaming up to present film screenings (and other entertainment) on its Coaling Jetty by Battersea Power Station. Screening a range of classic and more recent releases. Tickets range from £27-£45 for pallets and pitches. The Coaling Jetty, Battersea Power Station, SW11 8AB. Nearest stations: Battersea Park, Queenstown Road Battersea or Sloane Square. For booking, visit the Arclight Cinema website. 🧘

  • 2 – 27 September : Openaire Float-In Cinema

A pop-up cinema with a difference! Enjoy a classic or recent popular film while sitting in a boat or a deckchair by the canal. You can pick up a GoBoat from Little Venice and enjoy a trip down the canal to Paddington, or grab a waterside deckchair. Tickets: Boat hire + up to 6 people £215 or deckchair £16.50pp. Paddington Basin Canal (by Merchant Square), Paddington, W2 1AS. Nearest station: Edgware Road or Paddington. For booking and more information, visit the Openaire website. 🧘⛵️ 

  • 29 July – 30 August : Free Range Film Club CANCELLED

Roaming outdoor cinema travels to three (and more to come) alfresco spaces around the capital, showcasing new and classic films. Bring a blanket (no furniture) and you will be given an allocated space, socially distanced from others for your safety. Street food and licensed bar available. Tickets: £20 (+ booking fee). For more information on the Free Range Film Club, visit their website

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Scenes in the Square: Meet icons of cinema on Leicester Square’s art trail

Five days of cultural festivities at the Ealing Music and Film Festival 2020

The Ealing Music & Film Festival returns in 2020

The hit Ealing Music & Film Festival returns to west London for 2020 with five-days of entertainment. Now in its eighth year, this annual cultural festival lights up gloomy February with an eclectic mix of theatre, music, film and more. From 12-16 February, a host of venues across the West London district hosts workshops, screenings, concerts, plays and more for all ages.

The EMFF kicks off with a lunchtime concert by woodwind ensemble The Thorne Trio at St Mary’s Church in South Ealing, followed by an afternoon immersive performance by the UWL’s London College of Music’s Headspace Project, concluded with a screening of Nino Oxilia’s Faustian classic Rapsodia Satanica (1915) accompanied by alternative soundtracks composed by LCM students.

The festival continues with a wide selection of entertainment to suit different tastes, including award-winning choir Tenebrae; a UWL production of the play Enron; the Ealing Youth Orchestra; the Ealing Symphony Orchestra and Opera Holland Park Un Ballo in Maschera. Among the workshops on offer include percussion and vlogging (both on 15 Feb). Meanwhile, for those in the mood for some romance – or not – on Valentine’s Day, watch a screening of classic love story Brief Encounter or rock opera Tommy.

  • Ealing Music and Film Festival is on from 12 – 16 February 2020. Venues include Weston Hall, St Barnabas, William Barry Theatre and Lawrence Hall. Nearest stations: Ealing Broadway, Ealing Common or South Ealing. Tickets range from free to £25. For booking, visit the Ealing Music & Film website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in February, click here.

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Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds – The Immersive Experience review

A Martian watches over the steam-punk pub at Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds Experience

I’m a fan of immersive theatre and virtual reality experiences and had previously visited DotDotLondon’s first outing Somnai in spring 2018. When I heard they had created an immersive experience of Jeff Wayne’s musical adaptation of The War of the Worlds, I was very intrigued. I vaguely knew the rough plotline of the original H.G. Wells’ novel from the 1890s which inspired Wayne’s album. I went along recently with a group of friends. While waiting for our time slot, we took a seat under a Martian in the steam-punk themed pub and restaurant, with sensational newspaper headlines and sinister changing paintings around us giving a hint of what’s to come.

At the beginning of our experience, we were taken to a ravaged room and were introduced to the characters of George Herbert and his fiancée Carrie projected as holograms. After describing the scene of the Martian invasion of 1898, we heard the familiar beats of Wayne’s theme song as our journey began. We were taken to a Victorian observatory and introduced to Ogilvy, the astronomer. Looking through the vintage telescopes, we spy a mysterious green light coming towards the Earth. It isn’t long before ‘something’ has crash-landed in Woking and Ogilvy appears to be burned alive in front of us by a ray beam – an effective, but quite horrifying bit of special effects. The scene really gets your heart racing and sets you up ready to flee.

Sensational headlines

The experience lasts 110 minutes and features a mix of virtual reality, holograms, pyrotechnics and immersive theatre. You’ll need to be active and be prepared to hide under a table, crawl through a tunnel and slide your way through tight spaces. You get to wear a virtual reality camera on about four occasions, including a haphazard boat trip escaping the Martians (complete with real water splashes!) and a balloon ride. Occasionally, the VR headset could be a bit glitchy, but it certainly transported you to another space. One VR scene in a confessional booth was a little scary, so much so I kept bending down and hiding, prompting an unseen staff member to encourage me to stand up! Seeing some of the men in my group transformed into Victorian women in the VR set was particularly humorous. Along the way, you have many encounters with castmembers in character, with one giving me some money to bribe a boatman, which was a successful transaction! One of the most memorable moments was crouching under a table in a shaking room in the pitch black, anticipating some awful creature about to come into the room. Halfway through your journey you get to stop off in the Red Weed Bar for a cocktail. Read the rest of this entry

The Invitation from the Secret Theatre Project: An immersive evening of murder mystery and intrigue

The Invitation by Secret Theatre Project launches in January
© Jeremy Rice

The new decade is kicking off with a new immersive theatre show from Secret Theatre Project. The theatre collective, which was founded by Richard Crawford in 2008, has travelled the world with their unique site-specific immersive experiences. Following their recent sold-out run in Hong Kong, the Secret Theatre Project are launching their new production, The Invitation, in January 2020.

The Invitation is an immersive theatrical experience with the offer of an add-on dining option. Launching on 28 January, guests will be invited to a masquerade party in a five-star hotel in east London. Participants will wear disguises as they spend the evening in a world of action, murder and intrigue.

The action takes place at the fictional Masquerade Palace in the Edwardian Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. Once purchasing a ticket, guests are given a password and a set of instructions. The show is only on for 10 weeks and is expected to be a sought-after ticket.

  • Secret Theatre Project presents The Invitation from 28 January – 5 April 2020. At the Masquerade Palace (Bethnal Green Town Hall), 8 Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, E2 9NF. Nearest station: Bethnal Green or Cambridge Heath. Tickets: £39.00-£109.99. For more information, visit the Secret Theatre Project website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in January 2020

Find out what events, art exhibitions and festivals are on in London this month.

Winterfest @ Wembley Park
© Jordan Laboucane

Welcome to 2020! It’s a brand new decade! All the busy schedules and heavy spending of December, no doubt many Londoners are feeling broke and tired. Fortunately, there are plenty of free events on around London to lift you out of the January blues. Expect light shows, art exhibitions, travel shows, and immersive experiences.

Look out for 🐻 for family-friendly activities.

Guide to Burns’ Night celebrations in London.

There’s also some of London’s outdoor ice-rinks and winter terraces still open.

  • 1 January : New Year’s Day Parade

Hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to gather to watch 10,000 performers from around the world. Starts from Piccadilly’s Berkeley Street at 12pm, ending at Parliament Square at 3.30pm. Free. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus, Westminster or Charing Cross. For more information, visit the Parade website. 🐻

  • Now until 3 January : Winterfest

A new immersive light festival comes to Wembley Park. Featuring huge light and sound installations, an LED Christmas tree, live bands, community choirs, DJs, and the hit West End production of Fame coming to the new Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre. Free admission. Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest stations: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post for further details. 🐻

  • 5 January : Twelfth Night Celebration

Theatre company the Lions Part host their annual celebration of the new year, ‘mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity’ in the Bankside area of London. From 2pm. Free. Outside Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, SE1 9DT. Nearest stations: Blackfriars, London Bridge or Southwark. For more information, visit the Lions Part website. 🐻

  • Now until 5 January : Winter Wonderland

The south east corner of Hyde Park is transformed into a festive fair with rides, food and drink stalls, ice rink, Zippos Christmas Circus, Cirque Berserk, The Sooty Christmas Show, The Magical Ice Kingdom and more. Open 10am-10pm daily. Free to enter. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner, Victoria, Knightsbridge or Marble Arch. For more information, visit the Winter Wonderland website. 🐻

  • Now until 5 January : Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson brings his interactive installations to the Tate. Times vary. Tickets: £18 (free for members). Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG. Nearest station: Blackfriars. For more information and tickets, visit the Tate Modern website. Check out Metro Girl’s review of the exhibition. 🐻

  • Now until 5 January : Christmas at Kew

A one-mile glittering trail which weaves its way through Kew Gardens with stunning sights lit up upon the way. There will also be Santa at the North Pole Village, a Tunnel of Light, the singing Holly Bushes, a light dance show, vintage rides, festive food and drinks. 5pm-10pm. Tickets (advance): Adults from £18, Children from £11, Under 4 free. Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens), Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website. 🐻

  • Now until 5 January : Christmas In Leicester Square

The West End’s famous square will feature a Christmas market, while a Spiegeltent will play host shows including Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel, La Clique, the Showstoppers’ Christmas Show, Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass and more. Free entry to Leicester Square, but tickets required for the Spiegeltent. Leicester Square, WC2H. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Christmas In Leicester Square website. 🐻

The Snowman trail

  • Now until 5 January : Walking with The Snowman

Follow an art trail around the London Bridge district. Twelve Snowmen have been customised by 12 different artists, each inspired by a verse from the 12 Days of Christmas. Free. At London Bridge City, SE1 2DB. Nearest station: London Bridge. To download a map of the sculptures, visit the Walking with The Snowman website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post to find out more. 🐻

  • 8 January – 2 February : London International Mime Festival

Festival at various events across London including performances of physical theatre, dance, circus, puppetry and live art. Workshops also available. Tickets range from £10-£45. Venues include the Shoreditch Town Hall, Soho Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, Barbican, Wilton’s Music Hall, The Puppet Barge, Southbank Centre and more. For more information, visit the Mime London website.

  • 8 January – 16 February : Light Festival @ Battersea Power Station

Battersea’s first ever light festival features four installations from international artists. Free. Circus West Village, Battersea Power Station, Battersea, SW11 8AH. Nearest stations: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road Battersea. For more information, visit the Battersea Power Station website. 🐻

  • 10 – 19 January : London Short Film Festival

Ten day festival celebrating the best in short film-making at venues across the capital, including the BFI South Bank, Curzon Soho, the ICA, Regent Street Cinema, Rich Mix, the Pickle Factory and the Rio Cinema. For more information, visit the London Short Film Festival website. Read the rest of this entry

Hoxton Hall | Step inside one of the East End’s surviving Victorian music halls

Hoxton Hall has been entertaining Londoners for over 150 years

Long before TV and cinemas captivated Brits, music halls were a popular form of entertainment. Starting in the 1830s, music halls originally began cropping up in taverns and coffee houses. Landlords started putting on a variety of entertainment for the punters, along with providing them with food and drink. By the 1850s, these variety shows had become so popular, many theatres and pubs were knocked down and replaced with music halls. Hoxton had several popular music halls, including The Eagle on Shepherdess Walk and the Britannia Theatre on Hoxton Street, both of which no longer exist today. At the peak of the entertainment genre’s popularity, there were an estimated 375 music halls in the capital. Performers such as Marie Lloyd, Dan Leno and Little Tich became household names and were in high demand by music halls owners to top their bills.

Hoxton Hall railings © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The original railings

Although most Victorian music halls are long gone, there is one that is still being used for entertainment today. Hoxton Hall in Hoxton Road was originally erected by builder James Mortimer in 1863. The building followed the traditional music hall design, with balconies on three sides overlooking the stage and open floor. Today, the galleries of seating feature the original iron railings and are supported by cast iron columns. Although more modest in size than many music halls at the time, Hoxton Hall is unique for being purpose-built as a music hall as many were converted from pubs. Originally, Mortimer gave his own name to the building – Mortimer Hall – which opened on 7 November 1863. On the opening night bill were singers and conjurers. However, Mortimer didn’t want his hall to just entertain, he also wanted to educate locals with lectures. Unfortunately for Mortimer, his education program wasn’t quite so popular and by 1865 the building was being used by a waste paper merchant.

In 1866, music hall manager James McDonald Jnr bought Mortimer Hall and renamed it McDonald’s Music Hall. He knew what the people of London wanted and offered affordable entertainment for the working classes, including music, circus and performing dogs. Business was booming and McDonald was able to extend the hall in 1867, raising the ceiling and adding a new upper balcony. However, by 1871, McDonald lost his license following police complaints so it was sold. The subsequent owners applied for a new license in 1876, but were refused.

Two tiers of seating overlooking the stage and ground floor

Philanthropist William Isaac Palmer (1824–1893) bought the hall in 1879 for the use of the Blue Ribbon Gospel Temperance Mission, a sobriety movement. Today, Palmer is honoured with the Palmer Room at the hall. The building became home to the Girls Guild for Good Life, a group founded by Sarah Rae, wife of the secretary of the Blue Ribbon Temperance Society. In contrast to its bawdry music hall origins, the hall was being used to educate working class girls with cooking, dressmaking and elocution classes in a bid to warn them away from the ‘sinful’ hobbies of gambling and drinking. The hall was also used for talks and events to encourage temperance by the Blue Ribbon Mission. Read the rest of this entry