With all the partying and shopping in the run-up to Christmas, it can be easy for the season’s true message to get lost amidst all the pomp. So why not venture to Devonshire Square in the City of London this month for a dose of Christmas revelry while celebrating the spirit of giving.
For those who don’t know, Devonshire Square is a relaxing space on the edge of the City, full of historic Georgian townhouses and converted 18th century warehouses. As well as a host of restaurants, bars, galleries and more, its open courtyard is a hub of activity and entertainment. Among the restaurants on site include Hix City, Marco Pierre White Steak & Alehouse and Cinnamon Kitchen.
At the centre of attention in Devonshire Square this festive season will be the Christmas Wishing Tree, decorated with paper hearts featuring handwritten wishes from those in need. Visitors can read the wishes and pledge to make it come true by writing ‘honoured’ on the hearts. For every wish granted, a floating candle with be lit and released into the fountain in the Western Courtyard on 22 December. The granted wishes will then be given to homeless charity The Connection on Christmas Day.
As well as offering an opportunity for you to do your bit for those less fortunate, there will also be a host of free live entertainment over December.
- Thursday 10 December @ 12.30pm : The High Society Brass Band
Part of an 80-piece marching band, they will be playing popular classical, pop and jazz hits while wearing their Christmas jumpers.
- Monday 14 December @ 6pm : The Constanza Chorus
Local choral society will be singing to raise money for the Help Musicians UK charity
- Tuesday 15 December @ 12.30pm : Tenori
Talented trio of internationally acclaimed opera singers (Alexander Grove, Nicholas Ransley and John Hudson) will be performing.
- Tuesday 22 December @ 12.30pm : Sammie Jay and Wishing Tree Ceremony
The floating candles will be lit for each wish honoured on the Wishing Tree, while singer/songwriter Sammie Jay will rouse the audience will her powerful voice.
- Devonshire Square, EC2M. Nearest stations: Liverpool Street, Aldgate or Aldgate East. For more information, visit the Devonshire Square website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this December, click here.
For a guide to London’s Christmas markets and fairs, click here.
Returning to London this month is the Spitalfields Music Winter Festival 2015, bringing together local and international musicians. Straddling the border of the City of London and the East End, a host of concerts and special events for adults and families will taking be place across E1 over the 12 day festival. While there’ll be plenty of music on offer, there will also be a pop-up dining club, a walking tour, a film screening and interesting talks.
Among the highlights of this year’s festival are The Riot Ensemble – who mix the classics of Bach with world premieres of new music. Led by Serbian-Swedish composer Djuro Zivkovic, the ensemble will also performing a composition by the festival’s youngest composer 10-year-old Marie-Louise Ptohos. 7 December.
Take a lively journey across the Baltics with instrumental group She’Koyokh, bringing together winter music, traditional Eastern European melodies, stomping klezmer music and a puppeteer. 10 December.
For those who like something a bit different, why not visit the House Of Love. Inspired by Angela Carter’s short story The Lady of the House of Love is a special collaboration between choreographer and dancer Ella Robson Guilfoyle and composer and installation artist Mira Calix. 7 December.
If you fancy some fine food with your music, pop-up supper club Disappearing Dining Club is appearing at the festival for one night only. Diners will be treated to a cocktail apéritif and three-course meal in the historic surrounds of Shoreditch Church of St Leonard’s while listening to contemporary singer/songwriter Mara Carlyle and viola player Liam Byrne. 5 December.
For those feeling festive and prefer more traditional music, the Marian Consort is a traditional choir performing Renaissance music inspired by the visitation of shepherds at the nativity. 14 December.
Throughout the festival, keep your eyes peeled for the Rocking Chairs, an installation by Dutch sound artists Strijbos & Van Rijswijk. A modern rocking chair will pop up at various locations around Spitalfields, bringing the listener through a kaleidoscope of sounds, while creating a good selfie opportunity.
- Spitalfields Music Winter Festival runs from 4 – 15 December 2015. Tickets start from £5. Discounts include 25% off for 16-25 year olds, £5 students for best seats available and Tower Hamlet residents can attend for free. For more information and tickets, visit the Spitalfields Music website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
With the advent of September, it means another British summer is drawing to a close. So why not say goodbye to our favourite season at JJ’s Soulshack End Of Summer Festival. For one night only, the festival will be offering live music, circus entertainment, food, drinks and market stalls across two rooms. The event takes place at the Islington Metal Works, a historic venue built in the late 19th century, which was originally used to store horses that pulled London’s trams. During the festival, the venue will place host to a live music room, a magical secret garden and an indoor courtyard complete with a tube carriage cocktail bar and BBQ.
Now in their 6th year of live events, JJ’s Soulshack is run by talented sisters Jessica and Juliette Ashby. Jessica is a circus performer, while Juliette is a singer/songwriter. JJ’s Soulshack originally started out as a musical showcase for both unsigned and signed artists. It’s played host to performers such as double platinum selling soul artist/writer Jon B and Grammy nominated Glenn Lewis as well as Kwabs, Michael Kiwanuka, Laura White, Ade Omotayo and Daniel Walker.
So far on the bill for the festival, there will be entertainment from Jack Tyson Charles, Juliette Ashby, Terri Walker, Amie Jean, Teresa Callan, Jessica Ashby (aka Miss CiCi Steele) and more TBA. Among the market stalls will be Love YaaYaa (unique fashion accessories handmade in the UK and Ghana) and Sun & Moon Holistic (reflexology, holistic facials & homemade products).
- JJ’s SoulShack End of Summer Festival takes place on Sunday 13 September 2015 from 5-11pm. The Islington Metal Works, 7 Torrens Street, Islington, EC1V 1NQ. Nearest station: Angel. Over 18s only. General admission tickets include entrance, 1 drink and 1 BBQ meal (veggie options available) for £20. For tickets, visit Billetto. For more information, check out JJ’s Soulshack’s Facebook page or visit their official website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.
From the end of January for six weeks, the Vault Festival returns to the tunnels below Waterloo station. The unthemed, arts event, which originally started in 2012, features 500 events, including theatre, comedy, music, entertainment, food and drink.
Situated underground at The Vaults, this year’s festival will feature London premieres of radical theatre company Filter’s Macbeth, a new play True Brits from Rich Mason Productions and HighTide Festival Theatre, as well as shows from interactive artists Artful Badger, Red Bastard’s longest ever run and comedian and performance artist Yve Blake.
On Wednesdays and Sundays, a music programme has been curated by Mercury Prize nominee and contemporary folk pioneer Sam Lee’s The Nest Collective. For those looking for some after-hours action on the weekend, there will be late night parties on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays up until 3am. Among the Vault Lates events include The Love & Lightning Valentine’s Ball (13-14 February), Kansas Smitty’s Collective’s speakeasy club (31 January), Jum Jum old school house and garage (30 January), Mardi Gras (20-21 February) and Time Out Presents Filth – a silent disco with a difference (7 February), among others.
For younger arts fans, there is mini Vault over three weekends for families, including a comedy club, Big Fish Little Fish family raving crew with their Magic Under London rave (8 March) and interactive children’s show Albee Vector The Sound Collector.
Vault Festival Director Tim Wilson said: ‘We programme for Lambeth, for London, for the UK and for everyone. We make sure the festival has a pulse of many voices – there are 500 individual events happening at Vault, chosen by mixture of invitation, public submission and charitable competition, so each day has a unique heartbeat… It is now the longest, biggest, broadest-programme, most central performing arts Festival in London, all behind one magical door in Waterloo. It is a madness of superlatives. And you can drop by anytime and discover us, and surprise yourself, for free.’
Tickets range from free to £15. For those unorganised to get tickets in advance, the festival bar is free and will be open nightly for drinks and dancing.
- The Vault Festival runs from 28 January – 8 March 2015 and takes place at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and tickets, visit the Vault Festival website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
There has been a resurgence in burgers in recent years, and as a result, American diners are now popping up in London. Originally dismissed as fast food, American cuisine is now finding favour with foodies. Following the success of their first Chelsea branch, the team behind Honky Tonk opened their second branch by Clapham Common last autumn.
Located moments from Clapham Common tube station, with alfresco seating for the warmer months, Honky Tonk is an American-inspired diner, with exposed brick, plush leather seating and vintage-style artwork, giving it a very New York feel. Although most of the seating is at a regular level, unfortunately our party of five were placed at a high table with bar stools, which wasn’t as comfortable as we would have liked. The first thing that struck us about the restaurant was the noise. Honky Tonk prides itself on its vintage playlist and live music, but the volume could have been just a little lower. We were dining from around 7-8pm ish on a Saturday and could barely hear the person beside us talking. Admittedly, the DJ and musician were good, but it was still too loud. Our party was a mix of 20 and 30somethings and all left in agreement that the volume had lessened our enjoyable experience of the venue somewhat.
Noise and seating aside, everything else about the venue for a positive experience. Our waitress was very attentive and speedy and we gave her a good tip. All anticipating the main meal would be pretty filling, we decided to share a plate of Smashing Nachos (tortilla chips topped with smoked applewood, red Leicester and cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream and tomato salsa), which was swiftly demolished. Not too greasy, the nachos’ good flavour was down to the evident freshness of the ingredients. For our mains, most of our party opted for the Pulled Pork Sandwich (Slow roasted shoulder of outdoor reared pork smothered in barbecue sauce and apple slaw in an onion bun with a side of rosemary fries). My friends said the pork was cooked well, tasted good and was filling. As I’m a pescatarian, I chose the Halloumi Burger (Roasted aubergine, peppers, flat mushroom, lettuce, tomato, homemade burger sauce, grilled halloumi cheese and guacamole) which was really tasty. The halloumi was cooked perfectly so wasn’t too chewy and the burger wasn’t too overloaded so it was possible to actually eat it without making a mess (like some other burgers I have eaten!).
Accompanying our meal we tried some drinks from the short, but sweet cocktail list. The Over Proof Zombie (Triple rum with pineapple and passion fruit) was pretty strong, but fruity and zesty. I also tried the more refreshing USA Elderflower Martini (Hanger vodka with mint with elderflower liqueur) which was really good. The venue is renowned for its milkshakes, which I usually love, but we were strictly drinking alcohol on the night in question as it was a celebration so I didn’t get to sample.
Billed as a bar/restaurant, this is probably not the venue to come to if you want a relaxing meal. While the food is admittedly good and filling, the energetic ambiance means it’s near impossible to have a decent conversation. For those looking for a night out, there’s a fun atmosphere and is open until 2am on weekends so a good place to pop into for a cocktail or two. The food was enjoyable so I’m considering returning, but maybe earlier in the day or a weeknight to see if it’s a bit quieter.
- Honky Tonk, 16a Clapham Common South Side, SW4 7AB. Nearest tube: Clapham Common. For booking and menus, visit the Honky Tonk website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Vintage has never been bigger and with the release of The Great Gatsby movie last year, it appears the roaring ’20s have been… well roaring again. There is now a host of Art Deco and Speakeasy-themed bars in London as entrepreneurs catch on to the soaring popularity of drinkers wishing they were in another time.
Taking the 1920s theme a step further is The Candlelight Club, a touring pop-up nightclub featuring live music, cocktails, dancing and overall ambiance from yesteryear. I had wanted to get tickets for some time, but finally got round to booking them when I was tasked with organising a hen party recently. The Candlelight Club takes place on sporadic dates in various secret London locations – with them only being revealed a few days before the event, so you need to keep an eye on the website for dates.
A group of nine of us booked our £20 tickets quite far in advance and were able to take advantage of the early bird deal. In addition to your entry, there are options to dine or have a table for an extra cost. As expected the dress code was 1920s so lots of fringing, pleats, spaghetti straps, feather boas, long pearls and Mary Jane shoes. Although hen parties – such as our group – are welcome, try to blend in with the theme so no bright pink sashes or inflatable genitalia! We bought our bride a ‘bride to be’ rosette badge which was the same colour as her dress which was a subtle and simple. The venues of The Candlelight Club tend to be different and all the time, and on the night in question we attended, was a stunning building built in the 1920s in West London lit by candlelight.
In addition to the Twenties theme, The Candlelight Club also has a further theme each night – ours was the Excelsior club, a grander version of the usual club with sweeping staircases, waiters in full suits and a grand venue. Leading the entertainment was Champagne Charlie and his Bubbly Boys with dancing by the Bee Knees. We arrived about an hour after opening and missed out on any unreserved tables, but managed to get a few chairs for our group. It was rather quieter than expected at first before the live music started and with many people eating, which left guests soaking in the atmosphere, having costume envy and sampling the vintage-themed cocktails or bubbly. I particularly liked the bubbly being served in coupé champagne glasses, which nestle in your hand a lot easier than regular champagne flutes.
The atmosphere really changed once Champagne Charlie came on stage with his band. His mix of cheeky humour and singing soon got the crowd going. He also came over to our group and teased the bride with some risqué jokes. We were also treated to several performances by the very glamorous Bee Knees dancers. When the band weren’t performing, there was a vintage DJ spinning tracks so you could attempt the Charleston. In between shimmying, we could be found at the bar which was staffed by very dapper and friendly mixologists and barmen.
I can highly recommend Candlelight Club for a unique night out. The entertainment was brilliant and the venue was totally stunning. It was a refreshing change to my usual weekends to step back into the 1920s for the evening.
- The Candlelight Club takes place on various dates in various secret locations. Tickets highly recommended to be booked in advance. Check out the Candlelight Club website for dates and tickets.
For a guide to other 1920s bars and venues in London, click here.
Or if you fancy a trip to the 1950s instead, check out Metro Girl’s review of the Jive Party at the Rivoli Ballroom.
Our British summer is shorter than we would like to be, but we can always guarantee the biggest music acts and DJs in the world will be drawn towards London for a series of open-air gigs and festivals. Here’s a one-stop guide to what’s on and where to get tickets. However, be aware that many will sell out in advance so I would recommend getting your tickets asap.
- 29 – 30 June : Hard Rock Calling
Bruce Springsteen, Alabama Shakes, Kasabian, Klaxons, Paul Wellers and The Black Crowes are among the acts rocking this year’s Hard Rock Calling, which has moved to Queen Elizabeth Park. Tickets start from £51.75. Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford, E20 2ST. Nearest tube: Stratford. For more information, visit the Hard Rock Calling website.
- 5 – 14 July: British Summer Time @ Hyde Park
A festival of music, comedy and theatre at Hyde Park. Includes concerts from Bon Jovi, Bush, Eliza Doolittle, Sir Elton John, Jake Bugg, Jennifer Lopez, JLS, Kaiser Chiefs, Lionel Richie, Paul Young, Stooshe, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, The Saturdays and The Vaccines, among others. Tickets for main stage concerts range from £35 to £95. Hyde Park, W2 2UH. Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge or Marble Arch. For more information and tickets, visit the British Summer Time website.
- 6 July : Carnaby Sound
One day free music festival in Soho’s Carnaby Street. Featuring live music from artists and bands in a wide range on genres. Also includes food stalls, store promotions and activities, complimentary drinks. Nearest tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Carnaby Street website.
- 9 – 14 July : Kew the Music
Six day festival features big names including Paul Weller, Blondie, Leona Lewis and Jools Holland performing at outdoor picnic concerts against the backdrop of the Victorian Temperate House at Kew Gardens. Tickets start from £35.50. Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens), Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Tube: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.
- 11 – 21 July : Summer Series at Somerset House
The open-air concerts in the courtyard of Somerset House returns again in July. Acts include Lianne La Havas, Tom Odell, Jessie Ware, Goldfrapp and Bassment Jaxx. Tickets: £27.50 (not including booking fees). Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA. Nearest tube: Temple or Holborn. For more information, visit the Somerset House website.
- 12 – 14 July : Wireless Festival
Wireless has moved from its previous site in Hyde Park to Queen Elizabeth Park. Acts over the three days include Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Emeli Sande, Rita Ora and Calvin Harris. Although some tickets are sold out, there are some still available. Tickets start from £75 (not including fees). Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford, E20 2ST. Nearest tube: Stratford. For more information, visit the Yahoo! Wireless Festival website.