Category Archives: Entertainment

Celebrate National Tea Day with a tea dance at St Katharine Docks

© St Katharine Docks

Celebrate National Tea Day with a tea dance at St Katharine Docks

Brits’ love affair with tea looks unlikely to be slowing down any time soon. So it’s probably no surprise to hear there’s an annual National Tea Day this April (apologies if it’s an important part of your calendar already…).

This year, St Katharine Docks will be hosting a celebration of the mighty cuppa with a tea dance. Following the success of their first tea dance last year, the Docks will be marking National Tea Day, which coincides with the Queen’s 91st birthday. The Ragroof Players will be hosting two tea dances, featuring vintage music from the 1920s to the 1950s, glamorous costumes and stunning dance displays. People of all ages and abilities are invited to join in one of the two-hour participatory tea dances.

Meanwhile, Tom’s Kitchen will be serving Canton tea and homemade lemonade accompanied by a selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes for those feeling peckish between 12-7pm. The Friday World Food Market will also be on site with stalls serving foods with a British twist from 11am-3pm.

  • The National Tea Day Tea Dance is on 21 April 2017, with tea dances taking place at 12-2pm and 5-7pm. At St Katharine Docks, 50 St Katharine’s Way, E1W 1LA. Nearest station: Tower Hill or Tower Gateway. For more information, visit the St Kats website.

For a guide to what else is on in London, click here.

To find out about the history of St Katharine Docks, click here.

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Granada Tooting: A neo-renaissance cinema masquerading as a bingo hall

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The interior of Gala Bingo Club in Tooting – formerly the Granada Cinema

In cinemas’ heyday in the early half of the 20th century, there were film theatres on every high street, often several on the same road. However, in recent decades, a host of cinemas have been bulldozed or converted into bingo halls, churches and even pubs. However, while one such venue is no longer screening movies, the stunning, original interiors have been largely preserved.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The grand entrance features four Corinthian style pillars

In the heart of Tooting stands a very grand branch of Gala Bingo. Located on Mitcham Road, Gala is residing in the former Granada Tooting, a Grade I listed, Art Deco cinema. Although bingo players are welcome to visit during game-playing hours, I joined a guided tour early one Sunday morning during Open House London for a more in-depth look and to find out about the history.

The cinema was originally built as one of a chain, owned by Essex-born media baron Sidney Bernstein (1899-1993) and his younger brother Cecil (1904-1981). After his eldest sibling Selim was killed during World War I in 1915, as next in line Sidney inherited the family business following the death of his property tycoon father Alexander (1870-1922). The business included several music halls and the Empire group of ‘Kinemas’ in Ilford, Plumstead, East Ham, West Ham and Willesden. Together, Sidney and Cecil established the Granada Cinema chain – named after the Spanish city of Granada after the former had been there on holiday. Granada is home to the stunning Alhambra complex, so the name would have sounded very exotic to the average early 20th century Brit, most of whom would have never been abroad. Sidney wanted people to be drawn to the cinema itself, rather than the film, and thought of his businesses as temples of entertainment. Although his initial ‘Kinemas’ were converted music halls and theatres, his first purpose-built cinema was the Granada Dover, which opened in January 1930 (it was demolished in 2014). Read the rest of this entry

Guide to what’s on in London in March 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Spring is in the air!

Spring is here… allegedly! The temperatures are rising – just a bit – and the nights are getting lighter. With the advent of March, London starts to come alive with a lot more festivals and events on around town. There’s also a host of film, food and drinking festivals if that whets your whistle.

For a guide to what’s on in London over the Easter holidays, click here.

  • 1 – 5 March : Cinema Made In Italy

Film festival of the newest features from Italy at the Ciné Lumière, featuring screenings and Q&As including 7 Minutes, Ears, Pericles The Black, The Confessions, In Guerra Per Amore, Slam, Pawn Streets, Vangelo and I Was A Dreamer. Tickets: Adults £12, Children £10. Ciné Lumière, 17 Queensbury Place, SW7 2DT. Nearest station: South Kensington. For more information, visit the Ciné Lumière website.

  • 1 March – 3 September : The Art Of The Brick – DC Super Heroes

Lego artist Nathan Sawaya has created an exhibition of Lego sculptures of Super Heroes and Villains including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Joker and Harley Quinn. Open Sun-Wed 10am-6pm, Thurs 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-7pm. Tickets: Adults £16.50, Children £11. The exhibition is in a temporary structure on the corner of Upper Ground and Cornwall Road, South Bank, SE1 9PP. Nearest station: Waterloo. For booking, visit the Art Of The Brick website. For a review of the previous Art Of The Brick exhibition, click here.

  • 3 March – 7 May : The Iris @ Now Gallery

A new art installation from artist Rebecca Louise Law, featuring 10,000 fresh irises suspended from the ceiling. Open Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm. Free entry. NOW Gallery, The Gateway Pavilions, Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, Greenwich, SE10 0SQ. Nearest station: North Greenwich. For more information, visit the NOW Gallery website.

  • Now until 5 March : Orchid Festival

An orchid display is coming to the Princess of Wales Conservatory for four weeks, with this year being inspired by India. The sea of colour from one of the world’s most stunning flowers will certainly brighten up a dull winter’s day. General entrance tickets to Kew Gardens includes orchid exhibition: £8 adults or £2.50 children. Kew Gardens, Brentford Gate, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • Now until 5 March : Vault Festival

Six week arts festival in the tunnels beneath Waterloo across three venues, five bars and a restaurant. Entertainment includes live music, theatre, film, dance, comedy and late-night parties. Open Wed-Sun. Ticket prices vary, although venue entry is free. The Vaults, Arch 233, 10 Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo and Lambeth North. For booking, visit the Vault Festival website. For highlights, check out Metro Girl’s blog post on this year’s festival.

  • 5 – 12 March : French Fest @ Live At Zedel

An eight day celebration of French culture, featuring music, opera, theatre and comedy in French or English or both. Dining options also available. Live At Zedel takes place at Crazy Coqs or Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Brasserie Zedel website.

  • 7 – 12 March : Women Of The World Festival

A festival of talks, debates, music, film and comedy celebrating women. Gillian Anderson, Sandi Toksvig, Catherine Mayer, Nilüfer Yanya, Reni Eddo-Lodge, among the featured names. Events range from free to £30 or many included with day pass £22. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking, visit the Southbank Centre website.

  • 8 – 10 March : London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) North London host a beer and cider festival. As well as over 150 beers, ciders and perries to choose from, there is also food, tombola and ‘shut the box’. Opening times vary. Tickets: £4 (£3 for CAMRA members), but free during Wed and Thur lunchtime openings. Camden Centre, Bidborough Street, WC1H  AU. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information visit the CAMRA North London website.

  • 9 – 12 March : Affordable Art Fair @ Battersea Park

For those among us who aren’t loaded, this event is a chance for people to buy a unique piece of art or photography for their homes at an affordable price. There is over 100 galleries, with pieces for sale ranging for £40 to £4,000. Tickets: £10-£12 in advance, more on the door. Battersea Evolution, Battersea, SW11 4NJ. Nearest station: Battersea Park or short bus ride from Sloane Square tube. For more information, visit the Affordable Art Fair website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The Art Of The Brick Lego art returns to London with a superhero theme

  • 9 March – 18 June : American Dream – Pop To The Present

Look back over 60 years of the world superpower with prints from American artists including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu. Tickets: Adults £16.50, Children under 16 free (w/ a paying adult). British Museum, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC1B 3DG. Nearest station: Holborn or Tottenham Court Road. For more information, visit the American Dream Exhibition website. Read the rest of this entry

Guide to what’s on in London in February 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Magical Lantern Festival

Gloomy January is over so by now you’ve hopefully got used to the cold weather and your finances have recovered after the festive season. With winter in full swing, February gets a little injection of colour (well, pink and red) in the middle of the month with the saccharine fest that is Valentine’s Day (more on that in another blog post!). There’s also half-term holidays so no doubt parents will be looking for things to occupy their little ones. Here’s a guide to what’s on in London this February.

For a guide to Valentine’s Day events, click here.

  • Now until 2 February : Broadgate Ice

Temporary ice rink at Broadgate Circle in the City of London is open for over three months. There is also a rinkside bar and street food stalls. Open 10am-10pm. Session times last 1 hour. Adults £13.50, Children £9.50. Broadgate Ice Rink, Exchange Square, Broadgate, EC2A 2BQ. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit Broadgate’s website.

  • 2 – 5 February : Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show

Presented by The Times, the Holiday and Travel show is full of inspiration for your next adventure or holiday. As well as lots of travel companies, there is photography masterclasses, health advice and meet the experts. Open 10am-5.30pm. Tickets: £11 in advance, Under 12s free when accompanied by paying adult. Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information and tickets, visit the Destinations – Holiday & Travel Show website.

  • 3 – 4 February : London Remixed Festival

A two day celebration of emerging talents from the worlds of ghetto funk, drum and bass, reggae, anarchic hoedown, Latin breaks, brass band hip hop, electro-Afro music, Balkan beats, blues remix, electro swing, tropical bass, Ethiopian dub, DMC scratch masters +and more. Open: Fri 8pm-1am, Sat 8pm-4am. Tickets: £8-£15. Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6LA. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. For more information, visit the London Remixed Festival website.

  • Now until 4 FebruaryLondon 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 £9.50-£29. Venues include the Barbican, Jacksons Lane, Platform Theatre, Soho Theatre, Southbank Centre, Shoreditch Town Hall and The Peacock. For more information, visit the London International Mime Festival website.

  • Now until 4 February : Amaluna by Cirque du Soleil

The newest touring production from the Cirque, a spectacular re-telling of The Tempest. Tickets range from £20-£115. Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP. Nearest stations: South Kensington, Knightsbridge or High Street Kensington. For more information and booking, visit the Cirque Du Soleil website.

  • 4 – 5 February : Fare Healthy

Feel good festival of food, exercise and wellbeing. Featuring Deliciously Ella, Skye Gyngell, Anna Jones, Natasha Corrett, Martin Morales, Dale Pinnock, Madeleine Shaw, Melanie Sykes, James Duigan, Gaby Roslin and many more. 9.30am-6pm. Tickets: £25. Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6QL. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For tickets, visit the Fare Healthy website. Read the rest of this entry

Valentine’s Day 2017: Guide to what’s on in London for lovers and singles

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014Is it that time already? Christmas feels like yesterday, and now it’s time to splash the cash again on that special person in your life. Or perhaps you’re single and dread this time of year? With Valentine’s Day taking place midweek this year, there’s a host of themed events taking place on both weekends either side of the date. If you’re happily single or looking for love, then there’s also plenty of anti-Valentine’s events on around town too.

For a guide what else is on in London in February, click here.

  • Valentine’s Masked Ball of the Full Moon (10 February)

A masked ball featuring four stages, three immersive realms and a huge cast of performers. Including walzer-meister Troylus Searll, London Gay Symphony Orchestra, Electric Swing Circus, DJ Rockit Riyad, Chivaree Circus, Morpheus’ Masseuses, the Blue Moon Cabaret featuring Benjamin Louche, Ungewinster, Syban V, Lolo Brow, Cynth Icon and Sacha Dieu, hot tub movies, and food. Dress code: Surrealist, fairy tale, futurist, lace, Mardi Gras, Venice Carnival, tribal and animals. Masks optional. 9pm-4am. Tickets: From £15. Coronet Theatre, 28 New Kent Road, SE1 6TJ. Nearest station: Elephant & Castle. For more information and tickets, visit A Curious Invitation website.

  • Valentine’s Candlelit Late @ Sir John Soane’s Museum (10 February)

Late-night opening of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, the former home of the 19th century architect, which is full of his sculptures, painting and antiquities. Also including two complimentary cocktails and some more surprises. 6.30-9.30pm. £30. Sir John’s Soane Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn, WC2A 3BP. Nearest station: Holborn. For more information, visit the Sir John’s Soane Museum website.

  • Galactic Love (10 and 11 February)

Feral (aka The Artful Badger) are hosting another amorous adventure in The Vaults below Waterloo station for both singles and couples. As part of The Vault Festival, there will be live bands, DJs, FERAL performers, dating games, face painting, stalls, games, treats and more across the tunnels. Fancy dress code: ‘Tron Toads, Rocket Man Racoon, Binary Star Bear, Moon Monkey, Planetary Pet, Spaceflight Fox, Intergalactic Insect, Frisky Fighter Pilot, El-Wire Weasel, Pluto Pop Star, Astronaut Aardvark, Amorous Alien, Starfleet Stork, Interspecies couple, Barbarella Bear, or any galactic creature.’ From 10.30pm-3am. Tickets start from £16 (early bird) or £22 (advance). The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information, visit The Vault Festival website. For Metro Girl’s blog post on The Vault Festival’s highlights, click here.

  • Valentine’s Day @ Aquum (10 – 14 February)

Enjoy a romantic foodie feast for two at Clapham bar and restaurant Aquum. Featuring eight meze sharing plates, a starry-eyed sharing dessert, and a complimentary bottle of Prosecco. Dishes include Pork Rib Eye Steak, Lemon-Oregano Chicken, and Greek-style Fries (veggie option also available). £27.50pp. Aquum, 68-70 Clapham High Street, Clapham, SW4 7UL. Nearest stations: Clapham North, Clapham High Street or Clapham Common. For more information, visit the Aquum website. For Metro Girl’s review of Aquum, click here.

  • Shaggers: Valentine’s Special (11 February)

For those with a naughty sense of humour, head for some stand-up comedy on the subject of sex. 7-9pm. Tickets: £15. Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Place, Chinatown, WC2H 7BX. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For booking, visit the Leicester Square Theatre website.

  • Valentine’s Events @ Keats’ House (11 – 12 February)

A series of Valentine’s events at the stunning house where poet John Keats fell in love with Fanny Brawne, who inspired his most romantic verses. Late night opening on Sat 11 Feb from 6.30pm-9pm, Afternoon Poems: Love Is… on Sun 12 Feb from 2-3pm and Valentine’s Guided Tour: ‘Love is my religion’ on Sun 12 Feb at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Ticket prices vary. Keats’ House, 10 Keats Grove, Hampstead, NW3 2RR. Nearest station: Hampstead Heath or Hampstead. For more information, visit the City of London website.

  • Film & Fizz at One Aldwych (12 and 14 February)

Enjoy a three-course dinner at Indigo, a glass of Champagne Lallier and watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the hotel’s private screening room. Sun 12 screening @ 4.30pm, Tues 14 @ 6.30pm. Tickets: Dinner, drinks & film: £55pp. One Aldwych Hotel, 1 Aldwych, WC2B 4BZ. Nearest station: Charing Cross or Temple. For more information, visit the One Aldwych website.

  • Making Love in the Queen’s House (14 February)

Enjoy a Prosecco afternoon tea while listening to the love stories of the royals who lived in the stunning 17th century Queen’s House in Greenwich. 2-4.30pm. Tickets: £25 (£22 members). Queen’s House, Romney Road, Greenwich, SE10 9NF. Nearest station: Maze Hill, Cutty Sark (DLR) or Greenwich. For booking, visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

  • Black Cat Cabaret / Joey Arias at Live @ Zedel (14 February)

Live At Zedel at the Crazy Coqs are presenting two shows for lovers. The Black Cat Cabaret will be performing their Salon des Artistes show at 7pm, featuring comic song, live music, showmanship and burlesque. Tickets: £35 (show only), £52.75 (show and three-course meal at Brasserie Zedel). The second show of the night will be New York based cabaret singer and drag artist Joey Arias with his Valentine’s special Love Bites at 9pm. Tickets: £18. Crazy Coqs, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Brasserie Zedel website. For a review of a show at Zedel, click here.

  • Sing-a-long Moulin Rouge! (14 February)

Watch and sing-a-long at a screening of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! 8.30pm. Tickets: £16. Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Place, Chinatown, WC2H 7BY. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For more information and booking, visit the Prince Charles Cinema website. Read the rest of this entry

Vault Festival 2017: Music, theatre, film, comedy, parties and more at London’s fringe festival

© Will Hazel

The Vault Festival kicks off in Waterloo from 25 January – 5 March 2017.
© Will Hazel

Returning to Waterloo this winter is the biggest Vault Festival to date. Now in its fifth year, the six-week long fringe event will be expanding to two further local venues in addition to its home beneath Waterloo station. There’s something for everyone with music, theatre, film, comedy, parties, food, drinking and more.

Among the highlights of the festival, will be the chance to step into Jay Gatsby’s world in an immersive theatrical experience of The Great Gatsby.  Meanwhile, Superbolt Theatre return to the Vault Festival with two productions; their 2016 hit The Jurassic Parks, a hilarious spin on Spielberg’s blockbuster, and Mars Actually, a physical and funny vision of life on the red planet.

Turning circus on its head is Becoming Shades, a reimagining of the myth of Persephone using live music, aerial acrobatics, fire, dance and mime. The thought-provoking Thought To Flesh is a theatrical investigation into motor neuron disease (MND) using spoken word, multi-media and movement interpretation.

Vault Festival © Will Hazel

Head to The Vaults every weekend for the late-night parties
© Will Hazel

Meanwhile, movie fans will be able to enjoy the Vault’s Film Festival, featuring 20 different screenings. Among the premiers include dark_net staring Johnny Vegas and Love Comes Later, starring Sarita Choudhury (Homeland). There will also be a special screening of Red from award-winning director Branko Tomovic, a crime thriller about illegal backstreet surgery.

For party animals, the Vaults will be hosting late-night revelry every weekend, including the Galactic Love Valentine’s Ball, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), The Nudge’s Great Gatsby Party, as well as the festival’s opening and closing parties presented by Time Out London.

Aside from the entertainment, there are plenty of opportunities for drinking and eating. The Balkano Kitchen will be serving dishes inspired by chef Martin H Shaw’s travels in Eastern Europe. There will be five bars across the three venues, with two themed bars presented in collaboration with Meantime beer and Campari. One of the more intriguing drinking spots will be The Neath, an immersive, subterranean members bar for the supernatural produced and curated by the team behind The Crystal Maze.

  • The Vaults Festival takes place from 25 January – 5 March 2017 at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN and Network Theatre, 246a Lower Road, Waterloo, SE1 8SJ. Nearest station: Waterloo. Shows will also be on at Morley College, 61 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7HT. Nearest station: Lambeth North (open from mid-Feb). For more information and tickets, visit The Vault Festival website.

For a guide to what else is on in March, click here.

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Brighten up gloomy February at the Ealing Music and Film Festival 2017

© Philip Taylor

The Tippett Quartet will be performing at the Ealing Music and Film Festival in February
© Philip Taylor

Brightening up gloomy February is the Ealing Music and Film Festival 2017. Returning to the West London suburb for the fifth year, the festival’s theme is Ealing’s cultural heart. The five-day event will bring together world talents and home-grown artists performing a range of genres from across three centuries at venues across Ealing.

© Chris O'Donovan

The Tenebrae Choir will be performing with the English Chamber Orchestra and conductor Nigel Short
© Chris O’Donovan

Classical fans will be entertained by the world’s most recorded chamber orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, who are teaming up with the Tenebrae Choir and conductor Nigel Short, to perform Allegri Miserere, Mozart Clarinet Concerto and Mozart Requiem on 9 February. Meanwhile, a day later, the Ealing Youth Orchestra and conductor Leon Gee will perform Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 with soloist Martin James Bartlett and Mahler Symphony No.1.

For those who like the blues, The Ealing Club presents The Blues Band’s Paul Jones and Dave Kelly at the iconic Red Room venue, where the Rolling Stones famously played in the ’60s. Other musical acts include pianist and Head of Classical Performance at the London College of Music, Emilie Capulet with a free lunchtime piano recital and the Tippett Quartet and Festival Artistic Director, composer and conductor Julian Gallant will be giving a public concert on 12 February.

Film aficionados will enjoy the concert by Ealing Symphony Orchestra and conductor John Gibbons as they perform iconic scores from movies with Ealing connections. Meanwhile, there will be a screening of David Cronenberg’s Spider (2002) starring Ralph Fiennes, Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson and Lynn Redgrave, in partnership with Classic Cinema Club Ealing. Playing on the area’s cinematic history, there will be a guided location walk and film screening of historical comedy drama Pride (2014) at the ‘Island Triangle’ in North Acton on 11 February.

  • The Ealing Music and Film Festival takes place from 8 – 12 February 2017. Events range from free to £30. Venues include the University of West London, Church of St Barnabas, The Red Room (formerly The Ealing Club), St Mary’s Church and The Collective Old Oak. For more information and booking, visit the festival website.

For a guide to what else is on in London in February, click here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in January 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Amaluna, the new production by Cirque du Soleil, is on at the Royal Albert Hall

Happy New Year! January tends to be a bit of an anti-climax after all the fun of December. We’re all feeling lighter in our pockets, our bills are bulkier than usual and the weather’s not helping to lift our spirits either. Fortunately, there’s plenty going on around town – many of it free – to lift us out of the winter doldrums. Here’s a guide to what’s on in London this January.

For a guide to Valentine’s Day events, click here.

  • 1 January : New Year’s Day Parade

Hundreds of thousands of spectators will line the streets of London 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 2 January : Winter Wonderland

The south east corner of Hyde Park is transformed into a Christmas fair with rides, food and drink stalls, ice rink, Zippos Christmas Circus and Cirque Berserk – an alternative circus show. It’s free to enter, but of course the aforementioned will cost. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner, Victoria, Knightsbridge or Marble Arch. For more information, visit the Winter Wonderland website. Read about Metro Girl’s previous visit to Winter Wonderland.

  • Now until 2 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, vintage rides, festive food and drinks. 5-10pm. Tickets (advance): Adults £16-£18, Children £10-£12. Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens), Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • 6 – 15 January : London Boat Show

Boats of all shapes and sizes on show at ExCel in Docklands. Open 10am-6pm (late nights Thurs until 8pm). Tickets: Adult £15-£20, Children 15 years and under free with a paying adult. ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Custom House (DLR). For more information and to book tickets, visit the London Boat Show website.

  • 6 – 15 January : London Short Film Festival

Ten day festival celebrating the best in short film-making at venues across the capital, including the ICA, Ace Hotel, Round Chapel, Oval Space, Hackney Attic, and Hackney Picturehouse. For more information, visit the London Short Film Festival website.

  • 7 – 8 January : Vegan Life Live

Two day festival celebrating and exploring the vegan lifestyle. Open Sat 7 10am-6pm, Open Sun 8 10am-5pm. Tickets start from £10. The West Hall, Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, N22 7AY. Nearest station: Alexandra Palace. For more information, visit the Vegan Life Live website.

  • Now until 8 January : Christmas in Leicester Square

The West End’s famous square features a Christmas market. A Spiegeltent will play host to La Soiree‘s variety show, starring The English Gents, Acantha Lang, Hamish McCann, Denis Lock and Ursula Martinez. Free entry to Leicester Square, but tickets required for Spiegeltent. Leicester Square, WC2H. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square.

  • 8 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. Read the rest of this entry

House of Q @ Crazy Coqs: Cabaret, magic and burlesque at the West End’s intimate nightspot

House Of Q © Tigz Rice Studios 2016. http://www.tigzrice.com

House Of Q (L-R: Illusionist Neil Kelso, showgirl Felicity Furore and singer Mercury)
© Tigz Rice Studios 2016

While it looks like a chic French brasserie from street level, Zedel in Piccadilly is actually a multi-function venue, offering entertainment, dining and drinking. I’ve been a fan of Bar Americain at Zedel since I first discovered it last year and have been charmed by the Art Deco interiors. Halfway downstairs to the basement level – which features Bar Americain and Brasserie Zedel’s main dining room – is an intimate little club called the Crazy Coqs.

Earlier this year, the venue launches its Live at Zedel series, comprising a series of talks, performance and other entertainment across Crazy Coqs and Brasserie Zedel. Last week, I was invited to check out the House Of Q – a cabaret and variety act at the Crazy Coqs. Stepping inside, the CC (as I’m calling it) is a cosy little nightspot with a vintage style, black and white interiors. Small tables, individual lighting and curved chairs face the intimate stage. The menu features a mix of wines, bubbles, cocktails and a few bar snacks, such as chips, deep fried prawns and pork belly if you’re feeling peckish.

House Of Q perform monthly at the Crazy Coqs with their unique mix of magic, burlesque and music. The ‘House’ is comprised of singer Mercury, showgirl Felicity Furore and illusionist Neil Kelso. Each of the three acts have their own distinct personalities and talents. Felicity is confident and sexy, Mercury is the host with the most, but isn’t afraid to show his vulnerable side, while Neil initially comes across as bashful, before his quirkiness and humour shines through. Despite the limited space and props, the trio move seamlessly from one different segment to the next. Being in such a venue, it’s no surprise to see there is some audience participation, with guests invited to take part in magic tricks. While, admittedly the acts are very different, there’s certainly something for everyone and it’s not just for your typical cabaret fans. On the night in question, there were many big groups of friends celebrating birthdays or Christmas. Mercury veered off a traditional cabaret songbook with his own musical offering about life as a barista – a witty and humorous take on life behind the counter catering to the whim of London’s demanding coffee drinkers. By the end of the show, we left feeling humoured, entertained and slightly tipsy thanks to their delicious cocktails. The House of Q are preparing a new show for 2017, so I definitely recommend checking them out.

  • Live At Zedel takes place at Crazy Coqs, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Brasserie Zedel website.

For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.

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Beyond The Waterfall review: Travel to another world in a surreal cocktail experience

© Marcus Peel

Beyond The Waterfall is a surreal experience, combining entertainment, cocktails and fantasy
© Marcus Peel

Many of you have probably heard of Bompas & Parr, the food and drink wizards who have created a series of sensory, taste experiences. I visited their Alcoholic Architecture – a room full of inhalable alcohol in Borough Market earlier this year and was looking forward to visiting subsequent projects. When I heard about their special Christmas experience – Beyond The Waterfall – I knew it was right up my street. It combines an immersive theatrical experience and cocktails so I was eager to take part.

This week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to their special preview night. Beyond The Waterfall is located in the plush The Village area of Westfield London – surrounded by designer shops. The fact they have managed to turn what I presume was a standard retail unit into a magical land is pretty impressive. Standing outside the front door, we were treated to a glimpse of what to expect as we peered through the windows to see the gloomy and misty lagoon. Upon entering, we were greeted by who I would describe as glamorous nautical advisers, giving us warnings of what to expect and tokens to exchange later for fantastical concoctions.

The first part of the journey was across a 20 metre lagoon – yes, they have actually created a huge water feature in a shopping centre. We boarded small, individual boats and made our way up the lagoon – with varying degrees of success in terms of speed and direction, depending on your paddling skills! Fortunately, there are strategically placed seafarers along the way to guide or push you in the right direction – which is ultimately ‘beyond the waterfall’. Don’t worry, you won’t get wet (unless you want to!), as waterproof ponchos and a large umbrella for the actual waterfall part are provided.

Beyond The Waterfall © Marcus Peel

Journey through a lagoon and Beyond The Waterfall
© Marcus Peel

A quick pit stop with a wise man gives you an insight into the faraway world you have travelled to and the chance to show off your drinking skills as you down your first cocktail – an interesting brown liquid in a bottle. Finally, we ended up in the hidden cavern – a mythical cocktail bar staffed by mermen and the very fabulous host Ruby. After being greeted with some welcome punch, we settled down to peruse the menu and mingle with the mermen, who entertained us with their various talents. The cocktail menu has been inspired by the sea and features unusual ingredients such as undersea botanicals, real gunpowder and rare ambergris. I ended up enjoying a Shipwreck Sour (Shipwreck cider brandy, Coral Calvados, Creme de Peche, lemon juice, shipwreck bitters and egg white), which was frothy and sweet.

Overall, we had a really fun experience. My friend and I embraced the spirit of the event and enjoyed the various flavours of alcohol we tried. The staff and entertainers we encountered along the way certainly brought a sense of adventure and theatrics so we felt a world away from the bustling shops of Westfield outside. The event has been so popular, further dates are likely to get added, so I really recommend keeping an eye out for more tickets.

  • Beyond The Waterfall runs from 9 – 23 December 2016. At The Village, Westfield London, Ariel Way, White City, W12 7GF. Nearest station: Shepherd’s Bush, White City or Shepherd’s Bush Market. Open 4-10pm. Tickets are time-slotted and last 60 minutes. Tickets: £15 (includes 2 drink tokens). For tickets, visit Westfield London website.

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