Coming to London this winter and spring is a special, immersive art experience. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam’s hit attraction Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience will run in the capital for nearly four months. Launching on the South Bank on 7 February 2020, the interactive and multi-sensory experience will allow art lovers to step into the legendary Dutch painter’s world. It recreates van Gogh’s life through his own words thanks to the Van Gogh Museum’s research and the artist’s personal correspondence.
The experience will open on the South Bank in the borough of Lambeth – the same borough where van Gogh resided for about a year in 1873-74 in Hackford Road, Brixton. It aims to bring van Gogh’s original works to audiences around the world who cannot see them in the Van Gogh Museum. Visitors will be treated to a fully-automated, audio-guide experience, where they can enjoy stunning projections and interactive installations. People can stand on Vincent’s doorstep or sit on his bed in the state-of-the-art set work. Follow his life story from his childhood in the Netherlands to his Paris studios; from the inspiring Arles countryside to the St. Rémy asylum, and finally, the sombre wheat field where he shot himself in July 1890, before dying of his injuries two days later.
The popular experience comes to the UK following 2019 tour stops in South Korea and Spain, where it attracted 400,000 visitors. Along with London, the Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience will also stop in Lisbon, Portugal this year.
- Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience runs from 7 February – 21 May 2020. At 99 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PP. Nearest stations: Waterloo, Waterloo East or Embankment. Open Sun-Wed 10am-6pm, Thu-Sat 10am-10pm. Tickets: Standard box office Mon-Fri £19, Sat-Sun £21. Advance online – Mon-Fri £18, Sat-Sun £20. Concessions available for students, children and the elderly. For tickets and more information, visit MeetVincent.com.
For a guide to what’s on in London in January 2020, click here.
Classic seafood, lawn games, cocktails and craft beer at the Applebee’s Fish summer pop-up at South Bank
The capital may be inland, but us city slickers can still enjoy a slice of ‘London-on-sea’ by the River Thames. When it comes to the British seaside, many of us associate it with the quintessential fish and chips. This summer, Applebee’s Fish are bringing a special pop-up to the banks of the river. Over four months, the Applebee’s Fish pop-up will offer delicious seafood, a champagne and oyster bar, craft beer and cocktails, entertainment and a games sandpit. Launching on 14 June 2019, Applesbee’s will be located on the South Bank next to the Underbelly Festival.
With views of the capital’s skyline and the river, visitors will be able to check out the expansive space, incorporating a casual drinking and dining area, along with space to play. Imagine a pergola made of rope and wood, with plants, deckchairs and the scent of fresh seafood.
On the menu will be typical seaside favourites such as the iconic British meal fish and chips, featuring sustainably-sourced cod with a light beer batter. Or if you’re looking for something else, try panko prawns on a cucumber, coriander and mint salad finished with homemade kimchi mayonnaise; seabass ceviche; tuna & salmon tartare and the classic chip butty. For a treat, enjoy rock oysters, supplied by Mersea Island’s Richard Hayward at Borough Market. Guests can knock back an oyster with a shot of Bloody Mary, Champagne and shallot; or tequila with chili and lime.
Meanwhile, when you’re feeling thirsty, there will be a range of drinks available, including Champagne, craft beers from the Harbour Brewery in Cornwall and cocktails including Aperol Spritz and Negroni. Wine lovers can enjoy Goring Sparkling Wine from the South Downs or Champagne Collet from the continent.
Applebee’s Fish is a family-run fish restaurant in Borough Market dating back to 1998. Originally set up as a fish stall, it soon evolved into a popular restaurant. They pride themselves on providing top quality fresh and sustainable fish.
- Applebee’s Fish pop-up will be located on Queen’s Walk (under Hungerford Bridge), Lambeth, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. Open 14 June – 15 September 2019. For more information, visit the Applebees Fish website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
Calling all art lovers – the Roy’s People Art Fair is returning to London this spring and is set to be the biggest yet. This bi-annual show provides an alternative platform for artists to show and sell their work. The spring edition of the fair will be taking place at Bargehouse in the Oxo Tower Wharf from 4-7 April 2019.
Roy’s People Art Fair differs from other art fairs as it aims to provide accessibility and community within the art world. The event is artist-led and affordable so artists aren’t seeing their sales dented by rental fees and big corporations taking a cut. Visitors will be able to meet and buy art direct from the 85 artists taking part in a relaxed ‘non gallery’ atmosphere.
During the fair, there will also be live painting, creative workshops, live music, and interactive installations, including a unique installation in the entrance hall by urban artist My Dog Sighs and goody bags worth over £100.
Roy’s People Art Fair was created by artists Roy Tyson and Samuel Peacock. Roy originally started the fair after his own experiences applying and exhibiting at art fairs. He teamed up with Sam to unite their knowledge to bring the fairs to the next level. They aim to work closely with the artists in the run-up to the fair to make sure the event is a successful experience for all participating.
- The Roy’s People Art Fair is running from 4-7 April 2019. Open Thur 5pm–8.30pm, Fri 2pm-8pm, Sat 12pm–6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. Tickets: Free on the website. At Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, South Bank, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Waterloo, Blackfriars or Southwark. For more information and to register for a ticket, visit the Roy’s People Art Fair website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in April, click here.
Coming to the Underbelly Festival Southbank for the end of the season is a tantalising and thrilling show. Combining cabaret, circus and performance in a dark and daring show from the Black Cat Cabaret. The company will be coming to the Spiegeltent to première their most ambitious show yet, Black Cat: Bohemia.
Opening on 22 August, the show will feature jaw-dropping acrobatics and toe-tapping music as the 12-strong troupe showcase their impressive skills. The production sees the smart and sexy cast bring the spirit of Bohemias past, from Montmartre to Weimar Berlin, from the Hotel Chelsea to the ’80s Blitz Kids, to the 21st century Southbank.
Among the dazzling performers will be flame-haired singer and host Miss Frisky (Frisky & Mannish); aerial daredevil Katharine Arnold; acrobatic duo Charlotte & Nicolas (Cirque du Soleil, Limbo); cyr wheel maestro Jo Moss; tumbler Leon Fagbemi (La Soirée); aerial feline LJ Marles; and burlesque goddess Missy Fatale.
- The Black Cat Cabaret is performing Bohemia at the Underbelly Festival from 22 August – 30 September 2018. At Jubilee Gardens, Belvedere Road South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. Performances at 7.15pm (Tues-Sat) and 9.15pm (Sat only). Tickets from £19. For tickets and further information, visit the Black Cat Cabaret website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in August, click here.
Brits just can’t enough of Spanish culture, with an estimated 18million of us visiting the Mediterranean country last year. However, this May, you won’t have to wait until your holidays to sample the best of Spain’s entertainment and cuisine.
The second May bank holiday will see Feria de Londres bringing the spirit of Andalusia to the capital. Bernie Spain Gardens on London’s picturesque South Bank will host a three-day long celebration of food, drink, music and dance. As you may know, Andalusia is one of the most popular regions of Spain, featuring resorts and cities such as Seville, Málaga, Marbella and Granada. Feria de Londres is inspired by southern Spain’s spring fairs, which date back to the Middle Ages.
During the festival, entertainers will dazzle in their striking, colourful traditional costumes as they sing, dance and play. Among the entertainment will be flamenco dancers, live bands and DJs. There will be the chance to show off your moves in Sevillana dance lessons to flamenco rhythm workshops. Meanwhile, families can get involved with child-friendly activities, such as face-painting, hair styling, arts and crafts.
Of course, no Spanish festival wouldn’t be complete without their fabulous cuisine. Visitors can tuck into delicious tapas, paella, Iberico ham and much more. Some of Spain’s top food experts and producers will be on hand, offering tastings and samples. When it comes to drink, the famous Tio Pepe will be hosting sherry masterclasses, as well as offering the traditional Andalusian cocktail, the Tio Pepe Rebujito. Guests can also enjoy a range of Spanish tipples, including Iberian beers and regional wines.
- Feria de Londres takes place on 25-27 May 2018. At Bernie Spain Gardens, South Bank, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Blackfriars, Southwark, Waterloo East or Waterloo. Open Fri 25 4pm-9pm, Sat 26 12pm-9pm, Sun 27 12pm-8pm. Free entry. For more information, visit the Feria de Londres website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in May, click here.
Bringing a bit of sauce to this summer’s Underbelly Festival is The Black Cat Cabaret. The Parisian-inspired show will be at the pop-up venue on London’s South Bank from 20 May 2017 throughout the season.
The dark and daring cabaret extravaganza will be reviving the spirit of vintage Mortmartre at the Underbelly’s Spiegeltent. Guests will be wowed by the high-kicking showgirls, jaw-dropping acrobats, comic street singers, a fire-breathing siren and daredevil aerialists. Compered by the fabulous Dusty Limits, a talented array of performers will take to the stage, including absinthe-addled artistes, flame-haired courtesans and bittersweet comic chanteuses. Expect to be entertained with a combination of high skills circus, original music and choreography.
This summer marks the fourth year the Black Cat Cabaret have wowed the Underbelly (previously known as Udderbelly) crowd. This year’s run will feature the BCC’s original ‘after-hours Montmartre’ show for the first time since 2014. As well as Underbelly, the BCC have also appeared at a host of London’s top nightspots including Café de Paris, Hotel Café Royal, the Hippodrome Casino, and the former Pigalle Club. The show will also be pitching up at Live At Zédel in Piccadilly with their more intimate ‘Salon des Artistes’ dinner and show.
- The Black Cat Cabaret will be at the Underbelly Festival once a month from 20 May – 22 September 2017. At Jubilee Gardens, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. Tickets from £22.50. Over 18s only. For more information, visit the Black Cat website. Tickets can be purchased on the Underbelly website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in June, click here.
Headlining this summer’s London Wonderground is Scotch & Soda, a fusion of circus and jazz. The show takes place in the atmospheric Spiegeltent, which really gives a fringe festival vibe. The production features Ben Walsh and the Crusty Suitcase Band, who provide the music while Company 2’s acrobats perform death-defying feats.
At the heart of the show is The Crusty Suitcase band, who perform a sort of hillbilly jazz on a mix of traditional and quirky instruments. Company 2 is an ensemble of Australian circus artists who previously brought the hugely successful show Cantina to Wonderground in 2012. The band and acrobats have taken on characters inspired by the Australian outback and historical circus acts. While the other characters weren’t so clear to me, Mozes is suitably bizarre and eccentric as The Bush Stranger, who kick starts the laughter by flashing the audience, while whizzing around in his clog-style roller-skates.
The premise of the show is a hillybilly, Victoriana get-together over a few drinks and music with the ‘party tricks’ on a whole different level to what we’ve seen before. The tricks start on a small scale with Chelsea McGuffin walking a ‘tightrope’ made of champagne bottles, before building in size and grandeur. There were many moments during the show when I held my breath in anxiety as the performers were suspended from the trapeze or balancing precariously on a huge pile of boxes. I was awed by the strength of the acrobats as the female performers supported the weight of Mozes hanging off them on the trapeze or David Carberry carrying two acrobats on his shoulders while cycling. An interlude from the fast-paced action with a bird act was cute, but a bit underwhelming in comparison to the rest of the show.
Overall, the 70 minute show flew by thanks to musicians and circus artists, who complemented each other well and had a great sense of camaraderie that spread to the audience. The show certainly livened me up on a Friday evening after a long and tiring week at work. Whether or not you’re a circus aficionado, few couldn’t fail to be won over by Scotch & Soda’s cheeky, energetic and skilful brand of music and mastery.
- Scotch & Soda is on at London Wonderground in Jubilee Gardens until 2 August 2015. Nearest station: Waterloo. Tuesday to Sunday 7.30pm, Sunday matinees 4pm, No performances on Mondays or 14 June, 15 June, 16 June, 17 June, 14 July and 28 July. Tickets: £12.50. Suitable for ages 12+. To book phone: 0844 545 82820844 545 8282 or visit www.londonwonderground.co.uk or www.southbankcentre.co.uk.
- London Wonderground runs at Jubilee Gardens from 7 May until 27 September 2015
It’s nearly that time of year again – when the Southbank becomes a hotbed of international entertainment at pop-up venue London Wonderground. The festival will be returning to Jubilee Gardens for the fourth year in a row with its heady mix of circus, cabaret, booze, food and fairground rides.
Headlining this year’s entertainment is the critically-acclaimed production of Scotch & Soda. Imagine a group of friends get together and after a few drinks, decide to show off their party tricks. Jazz fusion group Ben Walsh’s Crusty Suitcase Band has teamed up with some of Australia’s top acrobats to create a boozy mix of cabaret and circus. With talented stars from previous productions such as Cantina, La Clique, Cirque and Tom Tom Crew, there will be gravity-defying tricks and beatnik soul galore.
Following hit runs in Sydney and Edinburgh, Wonderground marks the first time Scotch & Soda are coming to the capital. The production will run six nights a week from 14 May until early August, with Sunday matinees.
- Scotch & Soda is on at London Wonderground in Jubilee Gardens from 14 May – 2 August 2015. Nearest station: Waterloo. Tuesday to Sunday 7.30pm, Sunday matinees 4pm, No performances on Monday or 2 June, 14 June, 15 June, 16 June, 17 June, 14 July and 28 July. Tickets: £12.50. Suitable for ages 12+. To book phone: 0844 545 8282 or visit www.londonwonderground.co.uk or www.southbankcentre.co.uk.
- London Wonderground runs at Jubilee Gardens from 7 May until 27 September 2015.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
For Metro Girl’s post on a previous London Wonderground, click here.
The South Bank is one of London’s most heavily tourist-populated areas, thanks to the London Eye, London Dungeon, Aquarium and view of the Houses of Parliament to name but a few. Those who have lived in London a long time, know this is a relatively recent phenomena, having really kicked off with the opening of the London Eye by the southern shores of the Thames in 2000. Prior to the 1950s – when the Royal Festival Hall was built for the Festival Of Britain – the South Bank was a place of industry, which has long since gone.
Standing on the south side of Westminster Bridge, just by the pedestrianised steps leading down to the front of County Hall, is a proud-looking stone lion. Tens of thousands of people – predominantly tourists – walk over Westminster Bridge every day to get a selfie of themselves with Big Ben behind or to board the London Eye for a 360 degree vista of the capital and many not even notice him. He stands tall at 12 feet at a width of 13 feet, weighing an impressive 13 tonnes.
While the grey-coloured lion looks very comfortable against the backdrop of the similarly coloured County Hall building, his origins weren’t quite so low-key. This sculpture was originally red and belonged to the Red Lion Brewery, an imposing great building on the site of the Royal Festival Hall. The brewery was designed by Francis Edwards and built between 1836–7 for owner James Goding. The site spread south of Belvedere Road after Goding acquired land for stables and warehouses as his beer empire expanded. Our current lion was one of two red ones which stood at the brewery – a great emblem for the beer brand. What makes these lions special is they are made of Coade stone – a type of stoneware made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, named after its creator Eleanor Coade (1733-1821). Coade’s Artificial Stone Company stood not far away on Westminster Bridge Road.
The red lions stood on the site for nearly 100 years until the brewery was damaged in a fire in 1931. The semi-ruined building was briefly used as storage for waste paper before lying derelict for years before it was demolished in 1949 to make way for the Royal Festival Hall. Apparently King George VI (1895-1952) rather liked our lion and encouraged city planners to find a new home for him. The lion was then moved to Station Approach outside Waterloo railway station, but that home didn’t last long either when the station was later expanded.
Finally, in 1966, the lion was restored to his original Coade Stone grey colour and placed on a plinth outside County Hall, where he remains today. During his final move, the name of the noted sculptor William F Woodington (1806-1893) was found engraved on one of the paws, along with the date 24 May 1837. He is now Grade II-listed by English Heritage. As for his twin, the other lion is now painted gold and stands at the Rowland Hill Memorial Gate at Twickenham Stadium 12 miles away. (For a photo of the Twickenham lion, click here).
- The South Bank Lion stands on the south east corner of Westminster Bridge. Nearest station: Waterloo or Westminster.
For the history of the nearby 19th century swan benches and the Albert Embankment, click here.
For more of Metro Girl’s London history posts, click here.
The London Dungeon is a stalwart on the city’s tourism attractions and has long been on visitors’ places to see list during their trip. Now located near the London Eye and the Houses Of Parliament on the Southbank after decades down the river at Tooley Street in London Bridge, the new Dungeon has been reinvented as a scarier and more immersive experience for customers.
Having grown up in London, I visited the original Dungeon back in the ’80s when I was pretty young so my memory of it is pretty hazy. I had been intrigued to return as an adult to the new and improved Dungeon, so recently paid a visit with some family members ranging in age from 20s to 60s. Immediately upon entering the attraction at County Hall, you are plunged into near darkness, setting the scene for the creepy goings on. The tickets are time-slotted as you move through the experience as a large group. Stepping back in time centuries before, you are treated to the sights, sounds – and sometimes smells – of old London, through the Medieval, Georgian and Victorian periods. Essentially a history lesson brought to life, the Dungeon focuses on the most grim aspects of the capital’s past, such as its diseases, serial killers and cruel capital punishment methods.
The Dungeon is a walk-through attraction featuring a combination of special effects, live actors and rides to demonstrate the horrors of London. As we moved from the different zones, there was constantly a tension in the air and we found ourselves on edge, trying to prepare for something to suddenly jump out at us. Despite our attempts to pre-empt, we inevitably did end up screaming or yelping a few times with fear. As the audience, we were invited to participate in history, with my godmother being handed a note to deliver to a 17th century soldier hiding out in the basement of the Houses Of Parliament waiting for Guy Fawkes. I have to applaud the cast of live actors who appeared as executioners, victims and serial killers along the way. After a saucy introduction by Mrs Lovett in her pie shop, we had a particularly creepy experience in the pitch black barber shop as Sweeney Todd pondered over his next victim while we sat in chairs. Of course, no trip down London’s horror lane would be complete without Jack The Ripper, which was explained over several different rooms, including a meeting with one of his potential victims and a visit to the Ten Bells pub – where two of his victims were regulars. In the Victorian period of the Dungeons, we also ended up in court where several visitors ended up going on trial for a variety of bizarre cases. For me, this was the funniest part of the experience, with the crowd laughing our head off and the innuendos by the actors (which will go totally over the head of younger visitors so need to worry parents!).
For me personally, the rides were my favourite part of the Dungeon. The first ride was Henry’s Wrath, a fast-moving boat ride along ‘the Thames’ to the Tower for execution, which was incredibly dark and somewhat confusing as I didn’t know quite was going on and what direction we were travelling in. Jack The Ripper’s Whitechapel Labyrinth – essentially a hall of mirrors – was particularly good – it was confusing, disorienting and eventually left the whole group feeling helpless when we couldn’t find a way out (temporarily of course!). Drop Dead – a dark plunge ride which sees you drop three storeys – was a thrilling climax to the Dungeon experience.
Although it could be easily dismissed as a scary attraction for horror fans, history buffs will also find plenty to interest them as it lifts the facts and figures out of the text-book into reality. Overall, I did enjoy the experience. The actors and rides were brilliant and I couldn’t believe the sheer size of the attraction. As well as trying to scare you, the actors also provided plenty of humour to counteract the heebie-jeebies. My only negative was I would have preferred our group to be a bit smaller. I think families and teenagers will particularly enjoy the Dungeons and would definitely recommend it to visitors with an interest in the dark side of life.
- London Dungeon is located at Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube/train: Waterloo or Westminster. Tickets start from £17.50 for adults or £15.94 for children, cheaper if booked online in advance. Opening times vary. For more information and tickets, visit the official London Dungeon website.
For a review of the nearby London Eye, click here.