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Enchanted Eltham: A magical sound and light show at the historic Eltham Palace

Guide to what’s on in London in December 2019

Find out what beer and cocktail festivals, art exhibitions and festive events are on in London this December.
Christmas © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

It’s December! When it comes to events on around town, you can be guaranteed most of them will have a festive feel. At this time of year, a host of venues are hosting festivals and activities for both children and adults to enjoy as a family. Fans of Friends, Stranger Things or The Wolf Of Wall Street will also have a chance to live for real with special immersive experiences.

For a guide to London’s Christmas markets and fairs, click here.

To find out where London’s Christmas pantomimes, ballets and shows are on, click here.

Discover London’s winter terraces, and Christmas cocktails menus.

  • Now until 1 December : London Illustration Fair

Three-day event celebrating illustration, featuring artist-led stands, talks, workshops, music, DJs, live signings. Fri-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 11am-6pm. Entry: £10 in advance, £12.50 on the door, Children under 12 free. Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bankside, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Blackfriars or Waterloo. For more information, visit the London Illustration Fair website.

  • Now until 1 December : William Blake’s ‘Ancient of Days’ projection

William Blake’s ambition of having his art exhibited on churches is realised as his masterpiece ‘Ancient of Days’ is projected on the dome of St Paul’s to mark his 262nd birthday. 4.30pm-9pm. Free. St Paul’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Churchyard, City of London, EC4M 8AD (best vantage point from the Millennium Bridge). Nearest station: St Paul’s or Mansion House. See Metro Girl’s blog post for photos and video.

  • Now until 1 December : Architecture of London

Exhibition of 400 years of London architecture. Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-4pm. Tickets: Adults £10, concs £7. Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, City of London, EC2V 5AE. Nearest station: St Paul’s, Bank or Moorgate. For more information, visit the City of London.gov website.

  • Now until 1 December : Enchanted Woodland

Follow an illuminated trail through the gardens and arboretum of Syon Park. Lighting will transform the trees, plants and lake. Hot food and drinks available for sale. Open Fri-Sun, entry times every 20 minutes from 5pm-7.40pm. Tickets: Adults £10 (Fri), £12 (Sat-Sun), Children £5. Syon Park, London Road, Brentford, TW8 8JF. Nearest station: Syon Lane. For more information, visit the Enchanted Woodland website.

  • 1 December – 25 January 2020 : Big Screen on the Ice

Watch your favourite movie on ice while cosying up with blankets and hot toddies. Screening on Saturday and Sunday evenings at 5pm (family films)or 8pm (adults films). Tickets: Ice skating + film (no seats) – Adults £12, Children £11. Ice skating + film (with seating) – Adults from £16, Children from £13. Skate hire £2.50. QUEENS, 17 Queensway, W2 4PQ. Nearest stations: Queensway or Bayswater. For tickets, visit the Big Screen on the Ice website. or the QUEENS website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post for more information.

  • Now until 3 December : Antony Gormley @ RA

One of the Britain’s most famous living artists displays a series of large-scale artworks in this interactive exhibition. Open daily 10am-6pm, late opening on Fri until 8pm. Tickets: £18-£22. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Royal Academy of Arts website. Check out Metro Girl’s review of the exhibition.

  • 3 – 7 December : Pig’s Ear Beer And Cider Festival

Annual beer festival in conjunction with CAMRA, featuring over 230 real ales plus ciders, perries and bottled beers, food stalls and unique festival brews. Opening hours TBC. Tickets: (check the website). Round Chapel, Glenarm Road, Hackney, E5 0LY. Nearest station: Hackney Downs or Hackney Central. For more information, visit the Pig’s Ear website.

  • 4 December : Christmas Lights Walk @ Baker Street Quarter

Explore the light installations of the Baker Street Quarter, telling the story of famous people and places from the district. 6pm. Free. Meet at 55 Baker Street, Marylebone, W1U 7DA. Nearest station: Baker Street or Marylebone. For more information, visit the Baker Street Quarter website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post on this year’s lights.

  • 5 December : Marylebone Lane Christmas Shopping Evening

A festive evening of live music, activities, workshop, a free cocktail at the 108 Brasserie and exclusive discounts at the area’s retailers. 5pm-8pm. Free. Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, NW1. Nearest station: Bond Street. For more information, visit the Marylebone Village website.

  • 5 December : Tower Bridge & the Thames on Film

Late-night opening of Tower Bridge, featuring an illustrated talk by British Film Institute curator Simon McCallum presenting clips from the BFI National Archive’s collection of footage about London, with a particular focus the Thames. Arrive at 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Tickets: £20pp (includes a welcome drink and a return ticket to visit Tower Bridge within 12 months). Tower Bridge Learning Space, Tower Bridge, Tower Bridge Road, SE1 2UP. Nearest stations: Tower Hill, Tower Gateway or London Bridge. For booking, visit the Tower Bridge website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post on the 125th anniversary of Tower Bridge.

  • 5 December : Imperial Lates – Winter Wonderlab

Evening of science and engineering, with live demos, workshops, interactive experiments and inspiring talks. Accompanied with drinks from the bar and liquid nitrogen ice cream. 6pm-9pm. Free. Imperial College London (Main Entrance), Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2AZ. Nearest station: South Kensington. For tickets, visit Eventbrite.

Enchanted Eltham lights up the grounds of Eltham Palace

  • 5 – 22 December : Enchanted Eltham

Late-night opening of Eltham Palace sees the Tudor and Art Deco buildings and gardens dazzle in a show of light, colour and sound. Follow the trail around the gardens. Also including fairground rides and hot food and drink on offer, including a roasting marshmallow pit. 4.30pm-9pm on Thu-Sun only. Tickets: Adults £12-£14, Children 5-15 yrs £7.50-£9.50. Eltham Palace, Court Yard, Eltham, SE9 5QE. Nearest station: Eltham or Mottingham. For more information, visit the English Heritage website. See Metro Girl’s blog post for photos.

  • 6 December : London Christmas Beer Festival

Craft beer festival, featuring winter brews from Beavertown Brewery, The Kernel Brewery, Mikkeller HQ, Beer Merchants Tap (Belgian Specials), The Gipsy Hill Brewing Co., Brick Brewery SE15, and Partizan Brewing. Open Fri 12pm–8pm, Sat-Sun 12pm–6pm. Free entry. Canopy Market, West Handyside Canopy, 1 Wharf Road, N1C 4BZ. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

  • 6 – 8 December : Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre

Festive food event in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, featuring shopping, live music, mulled wine, seasonal demos, tastings, choirs and more. Tickets: Adults £21.30, Children £10.70. Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey KT8 9AU. Nearest station: Hampton Court (36 minutes from Waterloo). For more information and tickets, visit the HRP Food Festivals website.

  • 7 December : The Great Christmas Pudding Race

Watch or take part in the annual Great Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden, which sees participants dressing up and raising money for Cancer Research UK. From 11am. Free for spectators. Covent Garden Piazza, WC1. Nearest station: Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charing Cross or Embankment. For more information and details on entering, visit the Great Christmas Pudding Race website.

  • 7 December : The Film Fair

Shopping fair for film buffs, with stalls selling movie and TV memorabilia, such as DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, books, magazines, posters, stills, autograohs, T-shirts, cards, collectables. This month’s fair’s theme is Hammer Horrror, with cult stars Madeleine Smith, Pauline Peart, Judy Matheson, Damien Thomas and poster artist Graham Humphreys meeting fans. 10am-4pm. Entry: Adults £5, Children £3. Electric Ballroom, 184 Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 8QP. Nearest station: Camden Town. For more information, visit the Midnight Media website.

  • 7 December : Woolwich Winter Warmer

One-day of Christmas festivities, featuring live music, street performers, Santa Claus, an illuminated parade and Christmas shopping at the market. 12pm-6pm. Free. General Gordon Square and the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, SE18. Nearest station: Woolwich Arsenal. For more information, visit the Facebook page.

  • 7 December : Stepping into Tomorrow presents a Mexican Christmas

Pop-up mezcal bar Dona invite DJ Stepping Into Tomorrow for a night of beats, mezcal cocktails and a curated selection of beers and wine. 8pm-4am. Free before 10pm, £5 after. Doña Bar, 92 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7NY. Nearest station: Rectory Road. For tickets, visit Resident Advisor.

  • 8 – 24 December : Havering Christmas Land

A Christmas lights trail, Santa’s Grotto, hot food and drink, entertainment and money raised for to MIND. 5pm-9pm. Entry: £2.50pp. Harrow Lodge Park, Hornchurch, RM12 4PL. Nearest station: Elm Park. For more information, visit the Facebook page.

  • 11 December : An Evening Of Cheese @ Borough Market

A celebration of cheese with over 20 cheesemongers offering menus, recommendations and tastings. 6pm-8pm. Free entry. Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information, visit the Borough Market website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post for more information.

  • 11 – 13 December : Christmas Puds & Trees Market @ Cowcross Yards

Three days of festive food and drink and London’s first ever ‘Christmas Pudding Tree’ at London’s newest street food destination. Wander through the urban forest and check out the many street food vendors, before picking a pudding from the tree. 4.30pm-7.30pm. Free entry. Cowcross Yards, 9-13 Cowcross Street, Farringdon, EC1M 6DR. Nearest station: Farringdon. For more information, visit the Cowcross Yards’ website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

A 1920s cocktail & prosecco festival takes place at St Mary’s Church in Marylebone

  • 13 December : Speakeasy Gin, Bourbon & Cocktail Festival

Step back to the 1920s at this immersive, cocktail festival. Dress code: 1920s glamour. 6.30pm-10.30pm. Tickets: Standard £15.50, Diamond Club: £38.00. St Mary’s, Wyndham Place, York Street, Marylebone, W1H 1PQ. Nearest station: Edgware Road, Marylebone or Baker Street. For more information, visit the Speakeasy Festival website.

  • 13 – 15 December : Forest Uprising

Forest Uprising is the finale of Waltham Forest’s year as the first-ever London Borough of Culture. Over three days in December, an illuminated installation of tree-like structures will grow into a beautiful urban winter garden… 6pm-9pm. Free. Leyton Sports Ground, 485 High Road, Leyton, E10 6PY. Nearest station: Leyton Midland Road. For more information, visit the Waltham Forest website.

  • 14 December : Prosecco Festival

Festival of prosecco, featuring over 40 types of Prosecco and fizz, live festive band, Italian street food, dancing, and more. 12pm-4.30pm and 6pm-10.30m. Tickets: £15.50-£38.00. St Mary’s, Wyndham Place, Marylebone, W1H 1PQ. Nearest station: Edgware Road, Marylebone or Baker Street. For tickets, visit the Prosecco Festival website.

  • 14 December : House of Illustration Christmas Fair

Dozens of illustrators will be selling their wares at a cosy indoor fair. You can also enjoy entry to the current exhibitions as well. 11am–5pm. Free entry. The Crossing, Central St Martin’s, King’s Cross, NC1 4AA. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit the House of Illustration website.

  • 15 and 22 December : Christmas Singalongs @ Skylight London

Winter rooftop destination Skylight are hosting Christmas singalong sessions led by Richard Swan – Founder and Director of London City Voices Choir. Guests can also enjoy other festive games, as well as usual choice of street food, hot cocktails and ice skating. 2pm-5.30pm. Tickets: £5-£55. Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell (DLR/TFL Rail) or Wapping. For more information, visit the DesignMyNight website.

  • 16 – 22 December : Olympia Horse Show

The world’s biggest equestrian party, featuring displays, dressage, extreme diving and more. Times vary. Tickets range from £28 to £77. Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For tickets, visit the Olympia Horse Show website.

  • Now until 21 December : FriendsFestive

A festive edition of the hugely-popular Friendsfest as the show celebrates its 25th anniversary year. Tour the set, dress up as Monica or Joey, visit the Armadillo’s Grotto, and enjoy festive food and drink. Open 11am-10pm. Tickets: £32 (includes a glass of mulled wine). The Old Truman Brewery, 83 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, E1 6QR. Nearest stations: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For more information, visit the FriendsFestive website. Check out Metro Girl’s review.

  • 21 – 22 December : Frost Fair Festival

Weekend of festivities recreating the famous Frost Fairs on the Thames of the past. Featuring interactive games and workshops, performances and arts and crafts. 12pm-4pm. Free. Museum Of London Docklands, West India Quay, No.1 Warehouse, Hertsmere Road, E14 4AL. Nearest station: Canary Wharf or West India Quay. For more information, visit the Museum of London Docklands website.

  • Now until 24 December : The Magic of Christmas @ London Zoo

London Zoo are hosting a series of festive events alongside the usual animal enclosures. Meet Santa, watch Christmas films, and more. Open 10am-4pm. Ticket prices vary depending on activities. London Zoo, Regent’s Park, Marylebone, NW1 4RY. Nearest station: Regent’s Park or Camden Town. For booking, visit the ZSL website.

  • 26 December – 5 January 2020 : Disney On Ice – 100 Years of Magic

Some of your favourite Disney characters take to the ice for a show for all the family. Show times vary. Tickets: £33-£43. The O2, Peninsula Square, Greenwich, SE10 0DX. Nearest station: North Greenwich. For more information, visit the Disney UK website.

  • Now until 31 December : A Christmas Carol – An Immersive Dining Experience

Enjoy an immersive, re-telling of Charles Dickens’ classic tale along with a three-course festive feast. Times: 7.15pm-9.15pm. Tickets: £64.50-£71.50. Immersive LDN, 56 Davies Street, Mayfair, W1K 5HR. Nearest station: Marble Arch. For tickets, visit DesignMyNight.

The Sonic Runway will be one of the installations during Winterfest
© Jordan Laboucane

  • Now until 3 January 2020 : 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. At 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.

  • Now until 5 January 2020 : 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 2020 : 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, 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 2020 : 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. 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..

  • Now until 5 January 2020 : 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 2020 : Christmas In Leicester Square

The West End’s famous square will feature a Christmas market and Santa’s Grotto. 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 Santa’s Grotto and the Spiegeltent. Leicester Square, WC2H. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Christmas In Leicester Square website.

  • Now until 6 January 2020 : Winter Night Garden @ Backyard Cinema

Backyard Cinema’s new permanent home has been transformed into a magical festive garden for its new winter cinematic experience. Walk through a magical wardrobe and travel through a mysterious kingdom to reach the big screen, which will be showing festive favourites and new releases. Tickets from £18.99. Backyard Cinema’s Capital Studios, 13 Wandsworth Plain, Wandsworth, SW18 1ET. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town.For more information and booking, visit Backyard Cinema’s website.

  • Now until 11 January 2020 : Chromotherapy Christmas

An interactive light and sound show, inspired by the ancient healing concept of Chromotherapy. 4pm-10pm. Free. Eccleston Yard, (off Eccleston Place), Belgravia, SW1W 9AZ. Nearest station: Victoria. For more information, visit the Mayfair & Belgravia website.

  • Now until 12 January 2020 : Windrush – Portrait of a Generation

Photography exhibition by Jim Grover exploring the lives and history of the Windrush generation – Caribbean migrants who moved to Britain in the 1940s-1960s. Free. Arnhem Foyer, Fairfield Halls, Park Lane, Croydon, CR9 1DG. Nearest station: East Croydon. For more information, visit the Fairfield Halls website.

  • Now until 15 January 2020 : Aladdin and the Feast of Wonders

Darling & Edge return to The Vaults with an immersive, adult pantomime, dining experience. Doors open 6.30pm, Show starts 7.30pm. Tickets from £30. The Vaults (entrance via Leake Street tunnel), Launcelot Street, Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For tickets, visit The Vaults website. Check out Metro Girl’s review of Darling & Edge’s 2017 production Beauty And The Feast.

Your Uncertain Shadow by Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern

  • Now until 18 January 2020 : Poetic Abstration

A new solo exhibition from Shanghai-based artist Li Lei. A series of academic forums and talks in collaboration with the Royal Drawing School and Unicorn Publishing will also be taking place. Open Mon-Fri 10am-6.30pm, Sat 11am-2pm. 3812 Gallery, 21 Ryder Street, St. James’s, SW1Y 6PX. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the 3812 Gallery website.

  • Now until 19 January 2020 : The Immersive Wolf Of Wall Street

Enjoy a taste of ’90s high-flying Wall Street hedonism with an immersive theatre production, adapted from the hit film. Expect a restaurant, bars, supercars and more. Over 18s only. Dress code: 90s American office attire. Times vary. Tickets: £58-£100. 5-15 Sun Street, City of London, EC2M 2PT. Nearest station: Moorgate or Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Immersive Wolf website.

  • Now until 23 February 2020 : Secret Cinema presents Stranger Things

Step into the Upside Down as Secret Cinema bring this ’80s sci-fi horror to live for an immersive, cinematic experience. Times vary. Tickets: £52-£120. At a secret east London location to be revealed to ticket holders. For more information and tickets, visit the Secret Cinema website.

  • Now until 31 March 2020 : Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds – The Immersive Experience

A new immersive experience from DotDotLondon. Inspired by the classic story, travel back in time to Victorian London and the Martian invasion of 1898. Experience immersive theatre, virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms and other cutting-edge technology. Times vary. Tickets: £39.50-£84.50. The Old Metal Exchange, 56 Leadenhall Street, City of London, EC3A 2BJ. Nearest station: Aldgate or Fenchurch Street. For more information and booking, visit DotDotLondon. Check out Metro Girl’s review of the DotDotLondon’s previous experience Somnai.

  • Now until 3 May 2020 : Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, an exhibition features over 150 priceless treasures from the boy King. Opening hours vary. Tickets: Adult: £28.50/ £24.50. Children: £19.50/£16.50. Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 4RY. Nearest station: Sloane Square. For tickets, visit the Saatchi Gallery website.

  • Now until June 2020 : Sculpture In The City 2019/2020

Free public art exhibition, bringing contemporary pieces to the streets and spaces of the City of London. Free. At various sites around the Square Mile. Nearest stations: Fenchurch Street, Monument or Liverpool Street. For more information and a map of the artworks, visit the Sculpture in the City website. Check out Metro Girl’s gallery of the 2019/2020 exhibition.

For a guide to London’s outdoor ice rinks this festive season, click here.

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Antony Gormley review: Artist pushes the boundaries of the Royal Academy with his huge sculptures

Matrix III is one of the highlights of the Antony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

Antony Gormley is one of Britain’s most famous living artists, with his sculpture career dating back 45 years. He tends to focus his creations on the human form – usually his own – with his latest exhibition attempting to raise our awareness of the bodies we inhabit.

'Body' and 'Fruit' by Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy of Arts

‘Body’ and ‘Fruit’

The artist’s new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts has taken over 13 rooms, with Gormley molding and adapting the Georgian rooms to fit his large-scale installations. The Academy has had to get some of the rooms water-proofed and reinforced to support the weight of some of the pieces. The exhibition features work throughout the decades, including his rarely-seen, early pieces from the 1970s. Also on display are many of his sketchbooks so you can see the progression from idea to fruition as a physical sculpture.

Before even entering Burlington House, you could be forgiven for nearly tripping over the first Gormley piece – ‘Iron Baby’ (1999) – in the courtyard. The sculpture is a newborn baby curled up in a ball, apparently inspired by the artist’s daughter. A contrasting piece – the strength of its iron with the vulnerability we usually associated with newborns.

From the beginning of the exhibition, Gormley’s presence is everywhere. ‘Slabworks’ is a series of metal figures that many would associate with the artist due to the prominence of similar pieces across the country. The shapes lie, stand and sit in various directions and contortions. Nearby is ‘Mother’s Pride’, a recent recreation of an old piece made out of white bread. A man’s (presumably Gormley’s) silhouette has been eaten out of the bread, with the natural expiration of the material displaying an evident reason why it had to be recreated for this year’s exhibition. Read the rest of this entry

Tracing the footsteps of those who came before us: Family History Day at the Migration Museum

Family History Day with the Migration Museum
(My Grandparents’ Shop, 1913 ® Stephen Sedley)

Are you interested in your family history but don’t know where to start? Well, this autumn, the Migration Museum in London is offering visitors insights and opportunities to delve into their ancestry. On 2 November, a day-long event will feature workshops, talks, and meetings with experts to help you delve into your origins. The Migration Museum’s Family History Day will offer activities, talks and assistance from experts from the National Trust, the National Archives and London Metropolitan Archives.

There will be talks from TV star Robert Rinder, who delved into his own family’s past on BBC show Who Do You Think You Are?. Robert Kershaw from the National Archives will explain how its records can be searched and interpreted. Else Churchill from the Society of Genealogists will also be showing how you can search your family’s 20th century history, which can often be more difficult due to sealed records. Meanwhile, Robert Winder – author of Bloody Foreigners – shows how to put historical context into our personal family stories.

Throughout the day, there will also be a photograph dating with a National Trust expert, family history workshop, a chance to search for relatives who fought in WWI and WWII, an installation highlighting the history of black Britons with the Black Cultural Archives, and the chance to speak to war veterans.

Robyn Kasozi, Head of Public Engagement at the Migration Museum, enthused: “Our Family History Day aims to empower people to delve into their past and uncover their family’s migration stories, both within the UK and beyond its borders.”

  • Migration Museum’s Family History Day is on 2 November 2019. At the Migration Museum at The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7AG. Nearest stations: Vauxhall, Lambeth North, Westminster or Waterloo. Open: 10.30am–4.30pm. Tickets: £5 (includes entry to all exhibitions). Book online at the Migration Museum website.

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

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What’s on in London this Halloween and Day of the Dead 2019

Find out what fairs, club nights, film screenings, late-night museum openings and other Halloween activities are on in October and November, including half-term fun.

Pumpkins Halloween © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019Get ready for the scariest season of the year! As well as Halloween, there has been a rise in popularity of Day of the Dead festivities from Mexico.

This year, Halloween comes after the half-term holidays, so plenty of London attractions are kick-starting their spooky events early. If you’re a parent, there’s plenty of Halloween events on during the daytime and early evening.

Here’s Metro Girl’s guide to the best daytime and nighttime – for both children or adults – Halloween and Day of the Dead activities on in the capital this October and early November.

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

Daytime jitters

  • 27 September – 10 November : Dark Arts @ Warner Bros Studio Tour

Dark Arts returns to the Harry Potter experience for the Halloween season. The Great Hall is full of 100 floating pumpkins, while the table features a Halloween feast on red apples, pumpkins and cauldrons of lollipops. Watch a live duel between the Death Eaters. Tickets: Adults £45, Children £37. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LR. Nearest station: Watford (then a shuttle bus to studios). For more information, visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour website.

  • 1 – 31 October : The Home of Halloween @ London Dungeon

One of London’s most ghoulish destinations offers a Halloween experience. Meet some of London’s most notorious characters such as Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd, The Plague Doctor and The Torturer, watch an exclusive Halloween show and enjoy the rides. Tickets: Adults £30, Children £24. London Dungeon, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo or Embankment. For more information and booking, visit the London Dungeon website.

  • 19 – 27 October : Halloween @ London Zoo

A week of fiendish fun at London Zoo, featuring Grim Keeper tours, creepy crafts, spooky animals and more. Open 10am-5pm. Activities are free with entry to zoo. Entrance tickets: Adults £27.00, Child £17.55 (cheaper online). London Zoo, Regent’s Park, Marylebone, NW1 4RY. Nearest station: Regent’s Park or Camden Town. For booking, visit the ZSL website.

  • 19 – 27 October : Spooky Cats @ the London Museum of Water & Steam

Listen to a cat story every weekday at 11am, make your own cat craft, explore our Splash Cat trail, find the Museum’s hidden cats. Children in cat costumes enter for free. Tickets: Adults £12.50, Children £5.50. London Museum of Water & Steam, Kew Bridge Road, Brentford, TW8 0EF. Nearest station: Kew Bridge. For more information, visit the London Museum of Water & Steam website.

  • 19 – 27 October : Halloween @ Battersea Power Station

A host of Halloween family activities are taking place over the half-term holidays, including Halloween scavenger hunt, eerie ear-making workship, pumpkin carving, Wicked Witches and Wizard Worshop. Dates and times vary for each activity. Free. Battersea Power Station, 188 Kirtling Street, Nine Elms, SW8 5BN. Nearest station: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road Battersea. For more information, visit the Battersea Power Station website.

  • 19 October – 3 November : Ascarium @ London Aquarium

A Halloween experience at Sea Life London with the Sea Witch asking visitors to help unlock her treasure chest. Tickets start from £21 (online), £26 (on the day). Sea Life London Aquarium, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, South Bank, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information, visit the Sea Life website.

  • 19 – 23 October : Pumpkin Carving @ Morden Hall Park

Carve your own pumpkin at the National Trust grounds and property of Morden Hall Park. Children must be supervised by an adult. 11am-4pm. Small pumpkin £4, medium pumpkin £5. Stableyard, Morden Hall Park, Morden Hall Road, Morden, SM4 5JD. Nearest station: Morden or Phipps Bridge (Tramlink). For more information and opening times, visit the National Trust website. For Metro Girl’s blog post about Morden Hall Park, click here.

  • 21 October – 3 November : No Tricks Just Treats – Halloween @ London Designer Outlet

A host of events and activities will be taking place over half-term and Halloween, including complimentary face-painting, ghoulish actors, film screenings @ Cineworld, and a replica of the Ghostbusters Cadillac (1-3 Nov) to pose alongside for photos. Times vary. London Designer Outlet, Wembley Park Boulevard, Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest station: Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the London Designer Outlet website.

  • 22 October : Family Day: Halloween @ Benjamin Franklin House

A spooky family day with spooky 18th century stories told by Polly Hewson and gruesome games and crafts for 5-11 year olds. 4pm-5.30pm. Free, but advanced booking recommend. Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, Westminster, WC2N 5NG. Nearest stations: Charing Cross or Embankment. For more information, visit the Benjamin Franklin House website.

  • 23 – 31 October : Spooky Storytime @ London Eye

Families will love the Halloween experience on the London Eye. Enjoy fast-track entry and step into a capsule for a 30-minute rotation while listening to spooky stories and leave with a Hotel Chocolat goodie bag. Tickets: £35 (adult and child combi). London Eye, Jubilee Gardens, South Bank, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo, Westminster or Embankment. For tickets, visit the London Eye website.

  • 24 October – 1 November : Spooktacular Kids Tour

Let your children see the sights of a capital with a 45 minute bus tour of the capital with live guided commentary for chidren. Departs at 4pm. Tickets: Adults £15, Children (5-15) £8. For more information and departure points, visit the Original Tour website.

  • 26 – 27 October : Horniman Halloween Fair

A Halloween fair for the whole family, featuring creepy crawlies, Halloween trail, spooky storytelling, arts and crafts stalls, and food stalls. 10.30am-4.30pm. Free. Horniman Museum & Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ. Nearest station: Forest Hill. For more information, visit the Horniman Museum website.

  • 26 October – 3 November : Halloween @ Ham House

Scare yourself silly on a family ghost tour of the 17th century house, which is said to have 15 different ghosts. Ages 7+. Tours from 6pm. Tickets: Adults £15, Children £15. Ham House & Gardens, Ham Street, Ham, TW10 7RS. Nearest station: Richmond Station. For more information, visit the National Trust website.

  • 28 October – 3 November : Halloween @ Backyard Cinema

Travel through the Winter Night Garden to watch one of your favourite Halloween films at Backyard Cinema’s new permanent home in Wandsworth. Films include Beetlejuice, Scream, Shaun of the Dead, Hocus Pocus, Casper, The Witches and more. Matinees and evening screenings. Full bar and street food stalls available. Tickets: Adults £18.99, Children £9.50. Capital Studios, 13 Wandsworth Plain, Wandsworth, SW18 1ET. Nearest station: Wandsworth Town. For booking, visit the Backyard Cinema website.


Things that go bump in the night

  • 26 September – 10 November : Journey to the Underworld

An immersive, theatrical dining experience on a luxury train carriage on a journey to the Underworld. Featuring a four-course meal and interactions with characters. Time slots vary. Tickets: £57-£60. Pedley Street Station, Arch 63, Pedley Street, Bethnal Green, E1 5BW. Nearest station: Bethnal Green. For more information and tickets, visit the Funincular Productions website.

Switch up your Halloween routine and mark Day of the Dead

  • 8 October – 2 November : London Horror Festival

Festival of live horror performance including cabaret, film screenings, Zombie weekends, midnight performances and a short horror play competition. Ticket prices vary. Most events take place at the Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, Islington, EC1V 4NJ. Nearest station: Angel; or Pleasance, Carpenters Mews, North Road, Islington, N7 9EF. Nearest station: Caledonian Road. For more information, visit the London Horror Festival website.

  • 18 October : Halloween Late @ London Dungeon

After-hours fun for adults-only, featuring a darker experience and drinks. Over 18s only. Arrival from 7pm-9pm. Tickets: £29. London Dungeon, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo or Embankment. For more information and booking, visit the London Dungeon website. For Metro Girl’s review of the London Dungeon, click here.

  • 19 October : Festival of the Dead

Mexican-style festival comes to Limehouse. Expect full pageantry, giant skull processions, acrobats, dancers, decorative art, amazing costumes, confetti, CO2, light shows, live music and DJs. 9pm-2am. Tickets: £29.59. Troxy, 490 Commercial Road, Limehouse, E1 0HX. Nearest station: Limehouse. For more information, visit the Troxy website. Read the rest of this entry

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams review: Go crazy for couture at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Exploring eight decades of Dior and the man himself at this stylish exhibition.

Christian Dior Couture © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Early Dior designs, including the red Ulysse coat (right) from 1952

Without a doubt, Christian Dior is one of the most important designers in women’s fashion. Launching his label in 1947, he transformed ladieswear with the ‘New Look’, among many more stunning designs. I’ve visited several fashion exhibitions in the past, but my ultimate design house to see was Christian Dior. As you may have read, the tickets were a huge hit and sold out immediately, prompting the V&A to extend opening hours. A friend and I managed to get tickets recently to a late Sunday evening opening and ending up spending about three and a half hours in fashion heaven.

The exhibition not only explores the story of the man himself and his path to establishing the worldwide brand, but also follows his successors, including Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and the current creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. While there is something very ‘Dior’ throughout the company’s fashions, each designer has their own signature look they bring to their label.

The entrance to the exhibition was Parisian-esque with the classic Bar Suit given centre stage

A Gianfranco Ferre Allyson Ensemble from 1990

Designer of Dreams starts with the French designer’s early life, growing up in a wealthy family and residing in Paris and Normandy. A display shows artefacts from the young Dior’s youth and creative beginnings, from running an art gallery to becoming an apprentice to fashion designer Robert Piguet. With Europe recovering from World War II, women were tired and weary of wartime fashion so were ripe for Dior’s ‘New Look’. Establishing his eponoymous fashion label in 1946, he stood out for giving women shape and silhouettes – a contrast to the boxy, plain designs which were synonymous at the time. One of the first designs you see in the exhibition is the iconic ‘New Look’: the Bar Suit and Hat, a silk, wool and taffeta ensemble of a structured jacket and full skirt. Being a fan of Netflix’s The Crown and its fashions, it was great to see the silk, couture gown designed for Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday portrait in 1951.

The initial rooms of Designer of Dreams were focused on Dior’s realm at his label, with gorgeous dress upon gorgeous dress. The lighting and layout was very effective at highlighting the detail and complementing the aesthetic of the fashions. Following the designer’s death at just 52 in 1957, his young protégée Yves Saint Laurent was appointed artistic director at the tender age of 21. While trying to keep that signature Dior look, YSL embraced a more softer and wearable style. However, YSL didn’t stay long at Dior and moved on in 1960 after just six collections. As a result, there is an understandably small amount of YSL creations in the exhibition. Read the rest of this entry

Review: Visiting the Tower of London with a Context Travel tour

Exploring the history of the Tower on a three-hour semi-private tour.

Tower of London © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

One of London’s most historic and important sights – the Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the capital’s most iconic sights. It’s been standing on the fringes of the City, looming over the River Thames, for over 1,000 years. With such an amazing heritage, the layers of history within the Tower walls can be overwhelming for a visitor. I previously visited the Tower of London as a teenager and didn’t really absorb the stories of the complex as I knew I would as an adult. Over the Easter Weekend, I paid a long-awaited return to the Tower on a semi-private tour with Context Travel.

Context Travel is a specialist walking tour company, which offers private, semi-private and custom tours in over 50 cities worldwide. Aiming to put tourist sights ‘in context’, the tours are hosted by experts in their field, giving you an in-depth knowledge while taking you off-the-beaten track to find hidden places and details. Context Travel semi-private tours are in small groups, which immediately appealed to me because I’m not a fan of sharing my travel/tourist experiences (even in my hometown of London!) with a huge group of people.

Tower of London Tour © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The White Tower is over 1,000 years old

Tower of London Tour © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

One of the Tower Guards on duty

My three-hour tour started on a sunny Sunday morning so the weather was on our side. Myself and two other participants met our guide Lesley outside Tower Hill station and headed straight to the entrance of the complex. The immediate bonus of visiting on a group tour I noticed was being able to bypass the long queue and we were within the tower walls within no time.

We swiftly passed through the Middle Tower and crossed the now-dry moat before passing under the Byward Tower for our first stop on the tour. Looking at the complex, I would find it hard to identify the ages of the different parts. However, Lesley shared her great knowledge of each buildings’ history, which King (or Queen) was responsible for its building and how their use had evolved over time.

Before delving deeper into the various sections, Lesley suggested we head straight to the Jewel House to visit the world-famous Crown Jewels. As guides aren’t allowed to accompany tour groups inside during busy periods, Lesley gave us easy-to-remember pointers on what to focus on inside. Covering 800 years of the British monarchy, the Jewel House contains some truly amazing sights and spectacular examples of wealth. I recognised many crowns and other regalia and vestments I had seen worn by Queen Elizabeth II over the decades. It was great to see them in the flesh so to speak – albeit surrounded by heavy security.
Read the rest of this entry

Guide to what’s on in London in March 2019

Find out what’s on in London in March 2019, including festivals, St Patrick’s Day celebrations and more.

tulips spring

Spring is on its way

Spring is apparently here… although we know there’s always a strong chance of changeable weather. With the days getting longer and warmer, Londoners can expect to see more festivals and events taking place across the capital in March. This month sees a selection of big events, including International Women’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and Mother’s Day.

  • 28 February – 3 March : The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show

Haberdashery festival featuring hundreds of workshops, demonstrations, interactive features and 200 exhibitors selling specialist craft supplies. Open Thu-Sat: 10am-5.30pm, Sun: 10am-5pm. Tickets: Adults £14, Children £6. Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the Knitting & Stitching Show website.

  • 2 – 3 March : London Film And Comic Con Spring

A Spring edition of the hugely popular London Film and Comic Con. The chance to meet your favourite stars including George Lazenby, Robert Englund, John Simm, Joseph Marcell, Sylvester McCoy, Karyn Parsons, Colin Baker, Charles Dance, Lucy Davis, Peter Mayhew and many more. Tickets: Adults £18 (Sat), £16 (Sun); Children £12 (Sat), £10 (Sun). Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information, visit the London Film & Comic Con website.

  • 4 – 10 March : International Women’s Day @ Seven Dials

A week of events, offers and promotions celebrating women at the stores and businesses of Seven Dials supporting this year’s theme of #balanceforbetter. Highlights include a live podcast, hub featuring activities and events, film club, pop-up shops, panel discussions and more. At venues and stores around Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Covent Garden. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website.

  • 4 – 15 March : Russian Maslenitsa

The Russian sun festival, featuring a host of events including Maslenitsa doll making workshops, Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs exhibition, culinary extravaganza, Shrovetide celebration for families with music, dancing and games and the Maslenitsa Celebration Concert. Venues include Concert Hall St John Smith Square, Russian Culture Centre, The Queen’s Gallery, Zima restaurant and Pushkin House. For more information, visit the Maslenitsa website.

  • 7 March : International Women’s Day takeover @ Nine Lives

Neighbourhood cocktail bar Nine Lives hosts a female takeover on the eve of International Women’s Day. Artist Trinity Tristan will be creating a breast print artwork, Jenna Ba from Bulleit Bourbon and Kate Jackson from Ketel One will be mixing special cocktails, while DJ Vanille will be spinning on the decks. Nine Lives, 8 Holyrood Street, London Bridge, SE1 2EL. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information, visit the Nine Lives website. For Metro Girl’s review of Nine Lives, click here.

  • 7 – 10 March : Affordable Art Fair @ Battersea Park

A chance for people to buy a unique piece of art or photography for their homes at an affordable price. There are over 100 galleries, with pieces for sale ranging from £100 to £6,000. Tickets: £8-£25 in advance, more on the door. Battersea Evolution, Battersea Park, 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 2017

The Affordable Art Fair returns to Battersea

  • 7 – 30 March : Crystal Palace International Film Festival

Tenth anniversary of the CPIFF, featuring shorts and feature-length screenings, animation night, premieres, horror/sci-fi night, and documentary night. Tickets: £8-£22. At various venues including Everyman Crystal Palace, PictureHouse West Norwood, Stanley Halls & Anerley Town Hall. Nearest stations: Crystal Palace, Norwood Junction and West Norwood. For more information, visit the CPIFF website.

  • 8 – 9 March : Women Of The World Festival

A festival of talks, debates, music, film and comedy celebrating women. Angela Davis, Naomi Klein, Lady Sanity, Jo Brand, Chidera Eggerue and Catherine Mayer among the featured names. Events range from free to £25, while or many included with day pass £30, two-day pass £55, three-day pass £80. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking, visit the Southbank Centre website.

  • 8 – 10 March : Move It

The world’s biggest dance event featuring performances, classes, workshops, shopping, and talks by experts from all genres, including Aston Merrygold with BASE Studios, Italia Conti, Khronos Agoria – The Brit School, English National Ballet, Neil & Katya Jones and more. Tickets: Adults from £19, Children from £15 (multiple day passes available). ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, Docklands, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Prince Regent (DLR). For more information, visit the Move It website.

  • 8 – 10 March : Glamour Beauty Festival

Glamour magazine hosts a three-day celebration of beauty, including big beauty brands, treatments, talks, goodie bags and more. Celebrity guests include Maisie Williams, Maya Jama, Laura Whitmore, Mollie King, Rylan Clark-Neal, Katherine Ryan, Pixiwoo, Megan Barton Hanson, Georgia Toffolo and more. Open Fri 5pm-9pm, Sat & Sun 9.30am-6.30pm. Tickets: £49-£80. Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 4RY. Nearest station: Sloane Square. For tickets, visit Eventbrite.

  • 9 – 10 March : Vegan Life Live

Two day festival celebrating and exploring the vegan lifestyle, featuring clothing, cosmetics and food stands, talks, live music, cookery demonstrations, workshops and Q&A sessions. Open Sat 9 10am-6pm, Open Sun 10 10am-5pm. Tickets start from £12 (under 16s free). 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 9 March : Qu Leilei – Echoes

A solo exhibition from Qu Leilei at the newest branch of the international 3812 Gallery. The show features pieces in water and ink, the ancient medium for painting and calligraphy in Chinese culture. Mon–Sat 10am-6.30pm. 3812 Gallery, 21 Ryder Street, St James’s, SW1Y 6PX. Nearest station: Green Park. For more information, visit the 3812 gallery website.

  • 10 – 15 March : London Design Week

Interior design festival featuring over 100 events, including talks, demonstrations, showrooms, installations, food and drink. Open 9.30am-5.30pm. Free entry, but register in advance. Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, SW10 0XE. Nearest station: Imperial Wharf. For more information, visit the London Design Week website. Read the rest of this entry

Room to Breathe exhibition review: Exploring the journey from new arrival to finding ‘home’ @ Migration Museum

Migration Room To Breathe © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Room To Breathe is a new exhibition at the Migration Museum

The Migration Museum has been open since 2016 and explores how the movement of people has shaped the capital over history. Although a hot topic of conversation in the media, it’s far from new, as migration in and out of London and the UK as a whole has been going on for centuries. This month, the Migration Museum launched their newest exhibition Room To Breathe, which runs until summer 2019. I went along to the recent launch to check it out.

Migration Room To Breathe © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The exhibition humanises a group often depicted as simple numbers

Room To Breathe is the museum’s most interactive exhibition yet, offering an immersive journey through a migrant’s experiences, from arrival to settling in to (hopefully) finding somewhere they can call ‘home’. It explores the very different reasons people arrive in the UK, from escaping war, to seeking new opportunities, to love and family.

To those who may have visited before, the museum galleries have been transformed into a home, with a series of rooms featuring interactive learning tools. You start in the ‘Home Office’, an overwhelming place full of files, depicting how new arrivals are often seen as numbers on paperwork categorised into a section.

You then progress into a bedroom, a classroom, a kitchen with interactive screens, audio, and objects bringing these people to life. Over 100 migrants who arrived in Britain from the early 20th century until the present day have shared their stories for the exhibition. Many are hidden within the exhibition in drawers, cupboards or magazines so you are invited to rummage around and explore. People including war refugees, international NHS workers and Windrush migrants have revealed their personal histories. As a daughter of Irish migrants, I found some of the Irish stories particularly relevant. As many migrants can attest, pining for familiar foods or a favourite snack from home can bring a lot of comfort. I spotted a box of Barry’s Tea in the kitchen which made me smile. Whenever I visit family in Ireland, I always make sure I buy a box of Barry’s Tea for my mother, who insists it’s better than Twinings or Yorkshire Gold.

With many migrants often being demonised by society or the media, this exhibition delves deeper as it humanises them and turns them from numbers into living, breathing human beings. As well as educating and inspiring, there will also be a programme of events throughout the exhibition, including performances, workshops, cookery classes and storytelling.

  • Room To Breathe is on from 1 November 2018 – 28 July 2019. At the Migration Museum @ The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, Lambeth, SE1 7AG. Nearest station: Vauxhall, Westminster or Lambeth North. Open Thu 12pm-8pm, Fri-Sun 12pm-6pm. Free admission. For more information, visit the Migration Museum website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in April 2019, click here.

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The Poppies return to London as the Weeping Window comes to the Imperial War Museum