For those visiting London over the long May Day bank holiday weekend, the city has a whole host of events, exhibitions and extracurricular activities to keep you, your friends and the family members entertained. Now all we need is the Great British weather systems to play along…
One way to discover a new area or a new city altogether is to get completely lost in it. The people behind “In the Hidden City” aim to do just that with their Cryptic Covent Caper. You will be set the challenge of finding your way around Covent Garden and the West End, via a series of cryptic text messages instructing you on how to reach your next destination. The directions will steer you towards hidden works of art, sneaky little shops, creepy crypts and breathtaking rooftop views. Thirteen-or-so clues later, you’ll find yourselves duly rewarded at one of London’s friendly local pubs, celebrating or commiserating, depending on whether you chose to solve the mystery as a team or indulged your competitive streak by going head-to-head with other groups. Each trail has between 8 and 22 clues and lasts from two to four hours; once you’ve signed up you can play within 28 days, Monday to Saturday 10am-3pm, Sunday 11am-2pm. Nailed the Covent Garden version? Why not seize any of the other capital-friendly challenges or set a rematch in York, Brighton or Manchester!
If you’re still suffering the effect of the clocks going forwards and staggering through the days in a sleep-deprived haze, you might want to do some research on S.A.D. First though, you can head to the London Coffee Festival in buzzy Brick Lane. Celebrating the city’s vibrant coffee scene, more than 22,000 visitors are expected to put their addictions on hold for the time it takes one of the award-winning baristas to brew them up their perfect cup of Joe, from among a selection of over 250 artisan coffee outlets. To save your stomach lining and waylay the wall-bouncing that will inevitably hit at some point, there will also be a raft of gourmet food stalls, interactive workshops, coffee-based cocktails, live music, DJs, art exhibitions and much more besides. The festival kicks off its public events on Friday May 1 with an evening session (5-8pm) and the ‘Espresso Martini Launch Party’ (8-10pm), followed by ticketed Brunch, Lunch and Tea-time sessions for the remaining days.
From the 23rd of April to the 4th of May, Somerset House within the Embankment Galleries is showcasing Pick Me Up, the sixth annual incarnation of its celebration of graphic artists and their creations. Exhibitions will feature drawings and prints by artists, groups and galleries from the world over, as well as interactive stands and demonstrations on the Pick Me Up Platform to teach those interested more, or provide an introduction to the basics of the genre. Of course, many of the artists involved are well-established and widely known, but there will also be brand new emerging talents on hand to explain how they got started and discuss their working processes and techniques, from screen-printing to animation to paper craft. Original pieces produced throughout the festival, plus limited edition prints and accessories, will be available for purchase with prices ranging between £5 and £200.
A unique highlight for 2015 will be the UK premiere of the thought-provoking documentary Made You Look, which gives a rare and candid insight into some of the UK’s top creative talent at work and at play in a hyper-digital age.
Head to Warwick Avenue beside the dreamy Little Venice from May 2nd to 4th and be swept up in the annual Canalway Cavalcade. The pretty waterways running through here will be even more colourful than usual for this year’s May bank holiday weekend, as around 130 boats will be moored along the stretch of the Grand Union Canal between Blomfield Road, Warwick Avenue and Warwick Crescent, dressed up to the nines and ready for their photo-calls. Expect boatloads of very British fun and games, including Morris dancers, a real ale tent, street food stalls, live music, children's activities and of course the view of all those colourful boats bobbing for your attention.
Starting on May the 2nd, The Alice Look will be on display at the ever-exquisite Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of what remains one of the UK’s best-loved works of fiction. The star of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is as sharply dressed as she is resourceful across this display of rare-edition costumes, dress designs and inspirational photographs. In addition to showcasing the character's original look, the exhibits will include modern interpretations such as Annie Liebowitz's photos for US Vogue and music videos from Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne and Aerosmith. Watch Alice’s look evolve with her age and see the various international takes on her character’s wardrobe, from a Swahili Alice's local Kanga to the French-Provençal sundress and sandals version, it’s a fascinating overview of a truly global heroine.
The quasi-cultish UK theatre group 1927 has come up with a sensational production of Golem, which after a sell-out run at the Young Vic has transferred to the West End and will run from April 14th to the 22nd of May. Described by The Times as ‘Funny, unsettling, unforgettable’ and ‘the most original production in London’ by the Sunday Express, Golem uses incredible animation artists, enchanting live music and the incredible performance itself to explore one of the great questions of our modern world - namely, to what point do we still have control over the technology we’ve invited into our lives, and how far has it begun to control us? With a conspicuous onus on the smart-phone incursion into our generations’ lives, the Golems here masquerade as lumpen, barely-disguised iPhones given free reign over their owners’ lives and decision-making processes and interactions… all too scarily but happily comedic effect.
These are just some ideas for starters, but the capital has thousands of other celebrations planned for the May Bank Holiday. Plus, did we mention wonderful, world-class parks, miles of magical canal waterways, a great big beautiful river to cycle alongside…and the super comfortable, ever-welcoming Amba Hotel Charing Cross to rest your happy souls in?