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Guide to London’s Christmas markets and fairs 2013

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Christmas in Covent Garden

Christmas markets and fairs have steadily been growing in popularity every year and this year sees even more than ever. As people move away from big brands in the hope of buying original or homemade presents for their loved ones, many are turning to markets and fairs for their Christmas shopping lists. For the organised among us, some fairs are taking place in November, with plenty in December for some last-minuters [yes dads, I’m looking at you ;-)]. As well as providing a more relaxed way of shopping than high streets and malls, these events also give you encouragement when it comes to getting into the Christmas spirit.

This guide is for the 2013 markets – click here for the 2015 guide

Long-term Christmas markets

  • 15 November – 24 December : Christmas Market at Southbank

The German-style market returns to the Southbank as vendors sell food, drink and gifts along the Thames. Wooden huts pop-up alongside the Thames in front of the Southbank Centre. Free entry. While you’re there, you could pop along and have a skate under the London Eye. Nearest tube: Waterloo or Embankment. For more information, visit the Southbank Centre website.

  • 22 November – 5 January 2014 : Traditional German Christmas Market at Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland features a fun fair, food, drink, circus and an ice rink in Hyde Park over the festive period and includes a German market selling gifts too. Free entry. Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner. For more information, visit the Winter Wonderland website.

  • 28 November – 23 December : Boutique Christmas Market and Christmas Village at Kew Gardens

A Christmas market and village will be open nightly alongside Kew’s illuminated trail. Free entry to the market and village, although will cost to enter the trail. Traditional wooden chalets will sell food, drink and gifts, while visitors can listen to live nightly carols. There’s also a Santa’s Woodland Grotto with the chance to meet the man himself, as well as ride a Victorian carousel. Kews Gardens, Brentford Gate, Kew, TW9 3AB. Nearest tube: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • 28 November – 22 December : Christmas Shopping at the Barbican

The Barbican’s foyers will be transformed into a Christmas shopping extravaganza with independent stalls and toy shops. Free entry. 12-8pm. Barbican Centre, Silk St, EC2Y 8DS. Nearest tube: Barbican or Moorgate. For more information, visit the Barbican website.

One-off or short-term Christmas fairs

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Tis the season for mince pies

  • 21 – 24 November : Taste Of Christmas

Sister event to the hugely popular Taste Of London event which celebrates food. Four day festival in Wapping offers tastings, demonstrations, masterclasses and food theatre with Michel Roux Jnr, Mark Hix, Gizzi Erskine, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall among those giving their tips. Prices start from £23.65 (advance) or £26 (on door). Tobacco Dock, 50 Porters Walk, Wapping, E1W 2SF. Nearest tube: Wapping (overground). For more information, visit the Taste of Christmas website.

  • 24 November : Grand Festive Fair at Dulwich College

Christmas fair in the grounds of historic Dulwich College in South London featuring food, gifts, raffle, games, cafe and Santa Claus. 11am-4pm. Dulwich College, Dulwich Common, SE21 7LD. Nearest train: West Dulwich. For more information, check out the Grand Festive Fair Twitter page.

  • 24 November : Hampstead Christmas Festival

As well as stalls serving gifts, food and drink, there will also be a fairground, Santa’s Grotto, reindeer, face-painting, free screening of Up at the Everyman Cinema, circus acts and performances from Mica Paris, Mitch Winehouse, Culture Club’s John Moss and Bjorn Again. Free. 12-5pm. High Street, Hampstead, NW3. Nearest tube: Hampstead. For more information, visit the Hampstead Christmas Festival’s Facebook page.

  • 27 – 28 November : Red Cross London Christmas Fair at Kensington Town Hall

Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry will open this year’s Christmas Fair, in aid of the Red Cross. Includes over 70 stalls and the chance to enter competitions to win great prizes. Tickets £20 (for preview evening on 27 November, featuring drinks and canapés for all guests) or £5 on the door (£4 online) on public day (28 November). Kensington Town Hall, Hornton St, W8 7NX. Nearest tube: High Street Kensington. For more information, visit the Red Cross website.

  • 30 November : Riverford Christmas Fair

Riverford Organic Farms are hosting their Christmas fair at the Cecil Sharp House. Featuring food producers hosting their own stalls and cooking demos with Guy Watson and Kirsty Hale and children’s activities. Tickets: £6. Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, Camden, NW1 7AY. Nearest tube: Camden Town. For more information, visit the Riverford website.

  • 30 November : Tottenham Christmas Market

Stalls, food, DJ and the turning on the Christmas lights. On the east side of Tottenham Green. Free. 12-6pm. Tottenham Green, N15. Nearest tube: Seven Sisters. For more information, visit Haringey Council website.

  • 30 November – 1 December : Christmas Fair at Chelsea Psychic Garden

Two day festival at London’s oldest Botanical garden. Stallholders will be selling garden paraphernalia, unique jewellery, cashmere clothing, Ceramics, food, and leather goods, amongst others, in heated marquees. Guides will be available to show guests the gardens. Breakfast, lunch and mulled wine will also be on sale. Entry £5, friends of CPG free, Under 16s free. 10am-4pm. Chelsea Psychic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HS. Nearest tube: Sloane Square. For more information, visit the Chelsea Psychic Garden website.

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Every which way: Endless Stair by the Tate Modern

A different kind of street art: Painter on Hungerford Bridge

Street art has been gaining a newfound respect in recent years thanks to the likes of Banksy and Stik. However, of course there is another kind of ‘street art’… as in someone on the street creating art. While crossing Hungerford Bridge today, I spotted an artist painting the London Eye and Southbank. I rarely see artists creating work outside these days so it was a pleasant surprise to see a painter in action. Hope he was pleased with the finished article…

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

A painter on Hungerford Bridge studying the London Eye

London Wonderground 2013: Alfresco fun, cabaret and circus comes to the Southbank

Alchemy Festival 2013: Bringing the sub-continent to the Southbank

Where’s the party at? Guide to New Year’s Eve 2012 celebrations in London

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Cheers! London will be full of popping champagne corks

2012 has been a year for celebrations – the Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympics and Paralympics… so why not finish 2012 on a high note and party one last time. Although increasing amounts of friends are staying in for New Year because they find it ‘doesn’t live up to the hype’, I personally have always gone out and done something different every year and always had a good time. I try to start the night with moderate to low expectations and keep an open mind… perhaps that’s my secret to having a string of brilliant New Year’s Eves for the past decade.

So obviously there are 100s of New Year’s Eve events on in London and I don’t have the time or inclination to list them all – I do have a full-time job after all! But if you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a few parties that caught my eye. Whatever you do, hope you have a Happy New Year!

If you’re looking for parties to see in 2015, click here for the latest guide.

Central London

  • New Year’s Eve firework display over the River Thames

Thousands expected to take to the north and south of the River to watch the free fireworks display near the London Eye. Wrap up warm and bring a flask of mulled wine! There will be a lot of congestion or potential closures of some tube stations around the Southbank so check with TFL before you travel. For more information, visit the website.

  • NYE Stand -Up Show – The Comedy Store

Start your night off with some comedy from Pete Johansson, Imran Yusuf, Paul Tonkinson, Curtis Walker, Stefano Paolini and The Boy With Tape On His Face. After you’ve laughed yourself silly, there will a DJ spinning tracks after for some dancing. Show starts at 8pm. Tickets: £55. The Comedy Store, 1a Oxendon Street, London SW1Y 4EE. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Comedy Store website.

  • Vintage New Year’s Eve Party – Royal Festival Hall

The team behind the Vintage Festival (Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway) put on a glamorous extravaganza of live bands and DJs spread across pop-up nightclubs, bars and beauty parlours. Music and looks from across the decades, including 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Around midnight, some of the action will move to one of the balconies for a great vista of the New Year’s Eve fireworks over the Thames. Tickets: £80 in advance. Starts 7pm onwards. Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. Nearest tube: Waterloo. For more information, visit the Southbank Centre website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl

London’s skyline will be lit up with a pyrotechnical display

  • Winter Prom Party – The Refinery

London Grooves host the Winter Prom Party at this Southwark venue, playing Commercial RnB, 90s Old Skool, Funky House and Club Classics. Tickets: £25 (going up to £30 after 24th Dec). Times: 9.30pm-3am. The Refinery, 110 Southwark Street, London SE1 0TF. Nearest tube: Southwark. For more information, visit the London Groove website.

  • 1920s Flapper Glamour New Year’s Eve Party – Dirty Martini

1920s-themed party at the Mayfair branch of Dirty Martini. Fancy dress is encouraged with a complimentary prosecco cocktail on offer for  those who arrive before 9pm. Tickets £20. Times: 8pm-3am. Dirty Martini, 10c Hanover Square, London W1S 1JH. Nearest tube: Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Dirty Martini website.

  • New Year’s Eve – Bounce

Food, drink and… ping pong is a great choice for someone looking for something a bit different. Located at the new ping pong bar in Holborn, tickets include stone-baked pizzas, canapes, DJs and free ping pong all night. Tickets: £40. Doors open 8pm. Bounce, 121 Holborn, London EC1N 2TD. Nearest tube: Chanchery Lane. For more information, visit Bounce’s website.

East London

  • Belle Epoque’s Circus Party, New Year’s Eve Extravaganza – Village Underground
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Tunes: What music will help you see in the new year?

Be welcomed into the ‘sensational, sequinned and often shady world of the circus’, featuring music, DJs from across the decades, dance routines and acrobatics. Fancy dress encouraged. Tickets: £41.80 (inc booking fee). Times: 9pm-3am (acrobats start @ 10pm). Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, London EC2A 3PQ. Nearest tube: Old Street or Shoreditch High Street (overland). For more information, visit the Belle Epoque website.

  • Mat Horne presents Session NYE – Queen of Hoxton

Party featuring a rooftop silent disco with sounds from Mat Horne, Babyshambles, The Milk, Ryan Paul, Maddox and others. Times 8pm-4am. Tickets: £20 (+booking fee). Queen of Hoxton, 1 Curtain Road, Hoxton, London EC2A 3JX. Nearest tube: Shoreditch High Street (overland). For more information, visit the Queen of Hoxton website.

South London

  • Defected In The House New Year’s Eve Party – Electric Brixton

Iconic house label Defected will be hosting 10 hours of some of the world’s finest underground house DJs, including Dennis Ferrer, Deetron, Noir, Copyright, Simon Dunmore and Sam Divine. Tickets start from £40 (+booking fee). Time: 9pm-7am. Electric Brixton (formerly The Fridge), 1 Town Hall Parade, Brixton, London SW2 1RJ. Nearest tube: Brixton. For more information, visit Electric Brixton’s website.

  • New Year’s Eve Party of comedy and clubbing – Clapham Grand

The Clapham Grand is offering three packages depending on what whets your appetite – comedy or club or both. Early birds wanting a laugh can see the comedy show featuring Live at The Apollo star Sara Pascoe, British Comedy Award nominee John Moloney and brilliant Canadian comic Glenn Wool from 7pm. Alternatively those who just want to dance can arrive from 10pm onwards for the club, featuring club classics and commercial dance all night, and a performance from Robbie Craig with Woman Trouble. At midnight there will be a live link-up with Big Ben, balloon drop and party canons. Tickets start from (club only) £15, (comedy only) £25 or (comedy and club package) £40. Venue closes at 4am. Clapham Grand, 21-25 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1TT. Nearest train: Clapham Junction. For more information, visit the Clapham Grand website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Vintage fun: Several venues in the capital are hosting fancy dress bashes, including 1920s parties

North London

  • Secret Agents’ Ball – The Driver

From the team behind the Bond Ball, the Secret Agents’ Ball will be full of James Bonds, Austin Powers, and Bond girls partying across three rooms. Fancy dress is encouraged. As well as a drinks reception, there is also an option for dinner beforehand. DJs will be spinning house, electro and disco, while guests can try their hand at poker at the casino. Tickets: £20-£30 in advance. Time: 9pm-5am. The Driver, 2-4 Wharfdale Road, King’s Cross, London N1 9RY. Nearest tube: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information, visit The Driver’s website.

  •  Shake – The Electric Ballroom

Music: Dance, indie, electro, pop from the 70s, 80s and 90s and feel good anthems. Dress code: Smart and sexy. 9pm-4am. Advance tickets £20 (not inc. booking fee), £25 on the door. Electric Ballroom, 184 Camden High Street, London NW1 8QP. Nearest tube: Camden Town. For more information and tickets visit Electric Ballroom’s website.

West London

  • Blagclub NHG New Year’s Eve – Blagclub Notting Hill Gate

Intimate party with DJs playing a mix of party styles and classics. Tickets: £10 in advance (+booking fee). Blagclub, 1st floor, 68 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3HT. Nearest tube: Notting Hill Gate. For more information, visit the Blagclub website.

For daytime activities around London on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, check out the MOAMG blog post on What’s on this Winter: Fun things around London this December.

Ooh la la! Crazy Horse cabaret comes to London with Forever Crazy

© Forever Crazy 2012

Are you ready to go crazy? Paris cabaret Crazy Horse comes to London in Forever Crazy
© Forever Crazy 2012

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Light up my life: The venue sets the mood with neon-lighting
and luxurious chairs

Le Crazy Horse is a legendary nightspot in Paris, with tourists and locals alike flocking to the nude cabaret. The club was started in 1951 by Alain Bernardin with the premise of deliberating hiring females dancers who are indistinguishable in height and breast size. Following decades of entertaining people in Paris, the club has come to London in a new production, Forever Crazy.

West End impresario Harvey Goldsmith has wisely spotted a gap in the market for some male and female-friendly adult entertainment by opening a pop-up version of the club on London’s Southbank this autumn. While many women wouldn’t feel comfortable in lap-dancing clubs, Crazy Horse is very female-friendly. The dancers are far from the EE-cup, surgically enhanced women we associate with other seedier establishments. They are sexy, classy with plenty of personality. The 10-strong cast have similar svelte figures with an impressive Christian Louboutin collection – prompting both body and shoe envy amongst myself and my fellow female audience members.

© Forever Crazy 2012

Shoe envy… and leg envy: The dancers wear Christian Louboutin heels during the show
© Forever Crazy 2012

Forever Crazy takes place in a temporary venue just opposite the National Theatre. As you walk in, you are instantly transported to the heady nightlife of Paris with the velvet curtains, neon-lighting and framed photos giving a hint of what’s to come. Going through to the bar, you are greeted by chandeliers, chaise longues and cheeky images setting the mood for the luxury and sexiness on its way. The actual stage area is an intimate space – with tables at the front for those able to pay a bit more, with a semi-circle of seating for everyone else. The venue’s size means everyone has a good view of the action. The show has become one of the hottest spots in town with a celebrity clientele. On the night I visited, I spotted Kelly Brook, Thom Evans, Leigh Francis (aka Keith Lemon), Professor Green and Millie Mackintosh in the audience. Just like a cabaret club, you are able to drink a bottle of wine or bubbly while enjoying the entertainment.

When the lights went down it was super-dark – but this soon makes sense due to the stunning lighting and special effects used during the production. The show is opened with a London twist, with the cast marching on stage dressed as royal horse guards for ‘God Save Our Bareskins’… with slightly less clothing than we would see outside Buckingham Palace of course! The show consisted of different segments of either solo or group performances, combining  dance, seduction, singing and a cheeky sense of humour. While some were original pieces from the Paris club, some have been specially conceived for the show.

© Forever Crazy 2012

Cheeky: The dancers deliberately have similar builds and shapes © Forever Crazy 2012

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Intimate: The pop-up venue is plush and intimate, so the audience members can relax
with a bottle of wine while being entertained

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Well, yes… it is sexy indeed!

The two-hour show is strictly for over 18s due to the nudity and saucy jokes – the ‘Up And Over It’ segment depicting a couple arguing after a hedonistic night out is particularly hilarious, but obviously not suitable for young eyes. I particularly enjoyed ‘Chain Gang’, where a dancer dressed as a caged animal showed off her flexibility in a feisty and fast-paced segment and ‘Crisis? What Crisis!’, a fitting tribute to the City in this time of austerity and financial uncertainty. Unsurprisingly, the stock goes up as the dancer strips off!

While the dancers are often nude during the show, it’s thanks to the lighting and trickery you don’t ever see them truly naked. While the cast are stunning and talented, the nature of the production means women in the audience aren’t left feeling awkward, more likely inspired. I personally felt the need to hit the gym after seeing their rock hard abs and toned legs. The spectacle had enough variety and change of pace to keep the audience on their toes during the show. I can thoroughly recommend Crazy Horse as spectacular and entertaining night out for those who want something a little different from the usual West End theatre or dinner with friends.

  • Forever Crazy is on at London’s Southbank from now until December 2012. For more information and tickets, visit Forever Crazy’s website. Tickets start from £35.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Pop-up: Forever Crazy is on at London’s Soutbank until December 2012

Viva La Fiesta: Gallery of this year’s Thames Festival

One is wondering what to do… Last-minute guide to Diamond Jubilee Weekend

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Buckingham Palace will be heavily featured in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations

So yes… the weather isn’t going to be as good as we hoped this Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend. But London is a city of all weathers and we’ll be on the world’s stage again this weekend when we celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.

Even if you’re not much of a royalist, the opportunity for the country to come together and party in the streets doesn’t happen very often (lets face it, we’re not likely to win the Euro or World Cup anytime soon… #spokenlikeatruepessimist)…© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl

As we’re back in a recession… again… what better way to forget Europe’s economic doom and groom and celebrate what’s good about Britain – and goodness knows, spending a few quid on some bunting or a bottle of Pimms will help the economy.

I’ve never had a strong opinion for or against the Royal Family, but I appreciate their value to our tourism industry. I remember how their image plummeted following the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and now 15 years later, they seem to be riding a new wave of popularity, helped in spades by Prince William and his glossy-haired bride Catherine.

So with the weekend officially starting already, here’s some ideas of what’s going on in town if you’re still stuck about what to do (and that haven’t sold out)

  • Thames Jubilee Pageant – Sunday 3rd June

Over 1,000 boats will sail down the Thames, starting from Battersea Bridge around 2pm and ending at Tower Bridge at 6pm. The Queen herself be on the royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, embarking near Albert Bridge.

The flotilla will cover seven miles of river, with large viewing screens dispersed along the river banks so everyone can see. Police are recommending spectators arrive no later than 2pm. For more information and maps to print off visit the official Thames Jubilee Pageant website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Head to the Thames to watch the Flotilla

  • Jubilee Family Festival – Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd June

For those with young children, somewhere not involving packed crowds standing in close proximity fighting for a glimpse of the royals is probably a good idea. Sainsbury’s has organised a two-day festival in Hyde Park, including live music and entertainment from Britain and across the Commonwealth. Celebrities including Myleene Klass, Jon Culshaw, Kara Tointon and Strictly dancers will be taking part. Although many tickets have already been sold, there will be limited tickets on the gate, which opens at 10:30am and closes at 7pm. Visit the Jubilee Family Festival website for more information.

  • Bellenden Big Lunch (Peckham) – Sunday 3rd June

Free street party on Bellenden Street in Peckham where the road’s boutiques, art galleries, shops, cafes and pubs will be opening their doors with lots of events. The road is closed off to cars with tables in the middle for eating and drinking.  Visit the Facebook page for more information.

  • Piccadilly Big Jubilee Lunch – Sunday 3rd June

Piccadilly will be closed off to vehicle traffic for the first time its history with some of the road’s most famous establishments hosting various events. BAFTA will be giving people the chance to walk the red carpet, The Cavendish London will be making a hog roast, The Ritz’s resident band will be playing, and loads more food and entertainment. Visit the Big Jubilee Lunch website for more information.© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl

  • Street Party @ Water Poet (Spitalfields) – Monday 4th June

There’s nothing like an East End knees-up. The Water Poet near Liverpool Street is hosting a street party with food, drinks and dancing. In the evening there will be a live screening of the Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace. Visit the Water Poet’s website for more information.

  • Queen’s Jubilee Carriage Procession – Tuesday 5th June

At around 2:20pm, the Queen and the royal family will ride in a formal carriage procession from the Palace Of Westminster to Buckingham Palace following a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral and lunch earlier. They will travel along Whitehall and The Mall, before gathering on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at around 3:30pm. The Royal Family’s appearance on the balcony will culminate with a RAF flypast and a gun salute.

  • Jubilee Garden Party @ Dulwich Picture Gallery – Tuesday 5th June

A party in the grounds of the 19th century gallery with canapes and sparkling wine. There will be short tours by the curator and a performance of Fifties songs by soprano Alexandra Carter. Tickets £18. Visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s website for more information.

  • World Street Food Festival – Sat 2nd – Tues 5th June

It may be the Queen’s weekend, but one of the best things about London is our multi-cultural residents and cuisines from around the world. Market stalls with different world cuisines will be set up in Southbank Centre Square on London’s Southbank. Visit the World Street Food Festival’s website.

Whatever you do, enjoy the weekend and don’t forget to check the TFL website. There’s going to be some road and tube station closure so be prepared. Happy Jubilee Weekend!© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl