City of London visitors, workers and residents are spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in the area now that we are settling into a long and hot summer.
There are stacks of things happening around the City of London this month, as more and more workers return to the office. Check out the new public art installations taking over the Square Mile as well as all best theatre shows, exhibitions and festivals which are running throughout August. It’s time to get back into the City, and experience all the best cultural happenings that London has to offer.
OUTDOOR EXHIBITION / Ensemble
Ensemble, Games London’s acclaimed exhibition of Black, Asian and marginalised ethnicity UK video games, returns with an outdoor exhibition in partnership with the City of London. Ensemble showcases BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) UK video games talent and champions game developers from a broad spectrum of roles and a wide variety of backgrounds.
Led by Games London in partnership with the City of London and supported by the British Council and Mayor of London, Ensemble spotlights and showcases eight inspiring stories in the workforce to promote diversity, advocate for new voices, and change perceptions.
27 July – 8 August at Guildhall Yard EC2V 5AE
9 – 31 August | Aldgate Square EC3N 1AF
INTERACTIVE INSTALLATION / DODGE
Anna Meredith, Yinka Ilori and Nick Ryan, have worked together to transform the famous Somerset House courtyard into a kaleidoscope of colour, sound and spectacle. Taking centre stage in the courtyard is a new interactive artwork from Anna Meredith. Bumps Per Minute sees the traditional fairground dodgems ride reinvented into a high-octane interactive sensory experience.
As visitors race their bumper cars around the track, each bump, scratch and jolt is tracked by bespoke wireless technology. The frenetic, random manoeuvres of the cars generate a unique audio-visual composition, resulting in explosive three-minute displays of light and sound across the courtyard approximately once every hour.
15 July until 22 August, tickets from £20
Somerset House, Strand WC2R 1LA
REOPENING / Dr Johnson’s House
A charming 300-year-old townhouse packed full of history, Dr Johnson’s House reopened to visitors earlier this month. Travel back to the eighteenth century while learning about Samuel Johnson, the writer and with who lived and worked at 17 Gough Square while compiling his Dictionary of the English Language in the Garret.
17 Gough Square EC4A 3DE
OUTDOOR INSTALLATION / I Am From Reykjavik
An artist rocks up, builds a shelter and declares herself free. “So in 1965 my mum and dad book a holiday to the Isle of Wight; my mum’s pregnant with me. Dad gets a bit wary and writes to the hotel saying that we’re coloured and would it cause any problems as they don’t want to travel all that way, what with my mum’s condition, to be turned away.
The hotel writes back cancelling the reservation. This time, I’m just rocking up. I’m bringing my own house and my own cups. You’re welcome to come help me build my shack and take tea with me, but I’m coming whether you like it or not.” – Sonia Hughes.
This outdoor live installation is artist Sonia Hughes’ attempt to unwrite that letter, to claim space, to make a declaration of freedom. Setting herself up in the City of London she’ll build a temporary dwelling. We can help or witness. From far away London looks like a shiny glittering melting pot. Let’s see shall we?
6 August, 12pm – 7pm, St Pauls- Carter Lane Gardens (next to the City Information Centre)
7 August, 12pm – 7pm, Aldgate Square
EXHIBITION / Claudia Andujar
Over 200 photographs, an audio-visual installation and a series of drawings by the Yanomami are brought together for the exhibition. They reflect the dual nature of Andujar’s five-decade relationship with them, highlighting her commitment to both art and activism.
Photos from her first six years living with the Yanomami, showing how she grappled with visually interpreting a complex culture, will feature alongside imagery produced during periods of direct activism, as she used her camera and archive as a tool for political change.
At a time when the Yanomami’s territory is threatened and their way of life at risk, due to ongoing illegal mining and the spread of Covid-19, this survey takes on enhanced significance. The exhibition not only presents Andujar’s art but also amplifies the voices and perpetual struggles the Yanomami are facing.
17 June 29 August, tickets £16
Barbican Centre, Silk Street EC2Y 8DS
FESTIVAL / Carnival City
Carnival City, an ode to the Masquerade where sights, sounds and tastes of the Caribbean come to life. This new event, the brainchild of Wendy Cummins from Radiate Festival, is a new addition to the bank holiday weekend in an ‘ode to Carnival’ which we all miss and love.
Carnival City will see Guildhall Yard transformed into a space of colour and life using sustainable and upcycled materials by Nicola J Reid and Funky Ellament along with creatives from Pempeople and Livesey Exchange. There will be a programme of activities focused on Caribbean and Carnival culture for the whole family with sound system music, live performances, food, rum punch festival, masquerade, arts and culture. It’s one not to be missed so why not bring an old costume and ‘play ah mas’.
27 – 30 August, tickets from £10 per day for adults, under 17s weekend pass £8, under 5s and over 70s go free
Guildhall Yard EC2V 5AE
Sadly, because of the pandemic, the Sculpture in the City installations were not updated in 2020. But that’s all changed now. Finally, the Square Mile has a whole new set of public art installations, scattered among the small parks, alley ways and squares in the area.
The guide is also available through the free digital app, Bloomberg Connects and offers a new way to explore Sculpture in the City virtually and in-person. No tour guide is needed here. Learn a little bit about the artist and their art as you wander about their installations.
DANCE / Singing in the Rain
Strictly’s Kevin Clifton, Steps star Faye Tozer, Charlotte Gooch & Cavin Cornwall join song and dance legend Adam Cooper as he reprises the iconic role made so famous by Gene Kelly in Jonathan Church’s critically acclaimed production of Singin’ in the Rain.
A smash-hit at Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End, this irresistibly charming show returns to London in 2021 to make a summer splash! Andrew Wright’s high-energy choreography and Simon Higlett’s set design (including over 14,000 litres of water on stage every night) combine with the charm, romance and wit of one of the world’s best- loved films.
30 July – 5 September, tickets from £15
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue EC1R 4TN
FREE FESTIVAL / Chosen Families with Glamrou
Over three days and nights, this free queer festival will leave you feeling the warm embrace of community. On Friday night, guests are invited to the Southbank Centre’s club night takeover – BYO chosen family. Celebrate the euphoric magic that ensues when different marginalised communities come together and champion each other.
Saturday brings a full day of outdoor music, art, drag, and theatre on the Riverside Terrace before Sunday’s more chilled vibes ensue. For the last day, expect plenty of queer craft, music and storytelling – all helping people feel connected to their own chosen families.
6-9 August, free
Southbank Centre, Riverside Terrace SE1 8XX
THEATRE / Paradise
Kae Tempest, writer, recording artist and performer, has created an epic new take on a Greek legend. Philoctetes, once a celebrated wartime hero, is left a wounded outcast on a desolate island before being suspiciously saved by a young soldier.
The story is about his journey home, full of revenge, pride, glory and betrayal. But there is a slight twist. This is performed by an all-female company, with Lesley Sharp as Philoctetes.
They perform amidst a dramatic wasteland designed by Rae Smith at the National Theatre.
4 August until 11 September, tickets from £38
National Theatre SE1 9PX
DANCE / Black Victorians
This powerful and moving dance performance by Artistic Director and Choreographer Jeanefer Jean-Charles, is inspired by nineteenth century studio photographs of black men, women and children. Exploring a complex, but often forgotten black presence in pre-Windrush Britain, this performance calls attention to previously hidden figures and challenges historical and contemporary perceptions.
Presented in the resonant location of the Guildhall Yard, against the backdrop of London’s historic Guildhall, performances of Black Victorians will be accompanied by an outdoor exhibition of some of the original photographs.
31 August – 2 September, performances at 1pm and 6pm and last 40 mins, free
Guildhall Yard EC2V 5AE
ART / UAL students take over vacant shop units in the City
An innovative partnership between businesses in the Square Mile and the renowned arts school, UAL Wimbledon Arts College, will see this year’s Graduate Showcase ‘take over’ a number of empty retail units. Starting later this month (21 June) students from the Performance Arts course will have their final degree pieces exhibited in sites across the City of London, in the EC Partnership’s tower cluster area and also across Cheapside.
The project activates some of the central London spaces now vacant as a result of the COVID pandemic and its impact on retail and hospitality, providing an attractive welcome for visitors and workers as they start to return to London. It also gives the students a high-profile and easily accessible platform to showcase their skills and expertise. The COVID restrictions have limited the ability for the students to exhibit at the college both last year and this year.
The project was developed by the Cheapside Business Alliance and the EC Partnership – business collectives working to enhance their local areas and drive local economic growth.
The London Landmarks Half Marathon brings together runners, spectators, charities, and community groups from across the UK for an incredible one-of-a-kind event. The event is organised by baby charity, Tommy’s, to help raise funds for the work that they do and for many other good causes. Over £15 million has been raised to date for the charity sector since the event began in 2018.
This year’s race will take place on Sunday 1 August 2021 with 14,500 runners, and will be a time to celebrate and reflect on the landmark moments of 2020 and 2021. As well as passing key landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin and The Royal Courts of Justice, the route will shine a light on the grand, quirky and hidden moments of the last year, with this year’s theme focusing on key workers, lockdown life and unseen acts of kindness.
This year’s route will feature a Memory Mile along Cheapside, to honour those that passed away during the pandemic. Businesses along the Mile will display yellow hearts, rainbows and messages of hope and remembrance in their windows to show their support.
EXHIBITION / Noel Coward: Art & Style
The City of London’s Guildhall Art Gallery is opening back up to the public, kicking things off with the latest exhibition, Noël Coward: Art & Style. The free exhibition, originally scheduled to open in summer 2020 to mark the 100th anniversary of Coward’s West End debut as a playwright, brings a wealth of dazzling visuals and effervescent wit to London as the capital emerges from lockdown.
Until 23 December, free
Guildhall Art Gallery EC2V 5AE