13 very cool cultural things to go out and do in London this autumn

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Hollie Richardson
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From Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads coming to the theatre stage to The Design Museum’s immersive dance music exhibition, here are the cultural events around London to get in your diary this autumn.

Nearly six months after we first went into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new version of the normality we used to live in is finally starting to establish itself. Restaurants, offices, cinemas and shops have found safe ways of reopening and people have been able to take some time away from everything with a staycation

But one industry that people are still seriously concerned about is the arts. How exactly can live performances, event spaces and galleries provide social distancing measures for large crowds of visitors and audiences? It’s something that many teams are still trying to navigate before reopening – if they manage to survive until then.

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Dame Judi Dench has expressed her doubts over the theatres she’s performed in throughout her career reopening again in her lifetime. Many pantomimes – which bring in a lot of money for theatres – have also been cancelled. Lockdown forced the iconic Edinburgh Fringe Festival to take everything online this year. And some art exhibitions have been delayed until next year, including the Alice in Wonderland show at the V&A.

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However, a light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, as various cultural events are now starting to reopen across London. As the industry needs our help more than ever, it’s the perfect opportunity to distract ourselves from pandemic stress, absorb some culture and support the spaces that have always inspired and delighted us.

From theatre performances to immersive art exhibitions, here are 13 cultural events you can experience in London this autumn. 

Best cultural things to do in London this autumn

  • Live from the Barbican

    Emmy the Great
    Live from the Barbican: Emmy the Great is performing.

    The Barbican today has just announced its line-up for Live from the Barbican: a new autumn concert series that will play to a live audience in Barbican Hall.

    It runs from 4 October to 13 December 2020, and features an eclectic mix of artists across different genres. This includes performances by London Symphony Orchestra, The Divine Comedy, Emmy the Great, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Nubya Garcia. 

    If you can’t make it in person, the events are also being streamed globally online. Tickets are £20 for live audiences and £12.50 to access the livestreams.

  • Tantra: From Enlightenment to Revolution

    Tantra: From Enlightenment to Revolution at British Museum.

    Explore the radical force of Tantra that transformed the religious, cultural and political landscape of India and beyond. Centering on the power of divine feminine energy, Tantra inspired the dramatic rise of goddess worship in medieval India and continues to influence contemporary feminist thought and artistic practice.

    The British Museum exhibition showcases extraordinary objects from India, Nepal, Tibet, Japan and the UK, from the seventh century AD to the present, and includes masterpieces of sculpture, painting, prints and ritual objects.

  • London Mural Festival

    London Mural Festival
    London Mural Festival is taking place throughout September.

    Running throughout September, London Mural Festival sets out to use the city as a vast canvas for a minimum of 50 new large-scale murals painted by over 150 artists. 

    The weekends during the festival will celebrate creative communities across the capital, while introducing a new way for people to experience one of the world’s biggest art movements.

    The festival will showcase work from artists including Camille Walala, Dale Grimshaw, Marija Tiurina, Gary Stranger, Mr. Cenz, Mad C Pref, Zabou and Seb Lester. 

    A map of the murals will be uploaded and updated on the London Mural Festival from 14 September.

  • Talking Heads

    Talking Heads at Bridge Theatre in London.
    Talking Heads at Bridge Theatre in London.

    When we first went into lockdown, the BBC reacted quickly by filming a new series of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues. Beloved actors including Maxine Peake, Jodie Comer, Imelda Staunton and Rochenda Sandall all starred in the half-hour episodes, and were praised by viewers and critics alike.

    Now, eight of the actors are bringing double-bill performances to the stage at Bridge Theatre, which are running between September and October. 

  • Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers

    Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers is at The Design Museum.

    Miss dancing into the early hours on those big nights out? Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers might just put a smile on your face.

    Held at The Design Museum, the exhibition will transport you through the people, art, design, technology and photography that have been shaping the electronic music landscape.

    Celebrate 50 years of legendary group Kraftwerk with their 3D show, then step into the visual world of The Chemical Brothers for one of their legendary live shows. 

  • Jesus Christ Superstar

    Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.
    Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.

    Musical fans, there is still a way to sing along to live shows in 2020. Jesus Christ Superstar is running at the beautiful Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. And if you can’t get you’re hands one of the audience tickets, you can grab a £20 ticket to watch a live stream of the performance on a big screen in the theatre’s fairy-light decorated grounds. 

  • Leila Alaoui: Rite of Passage

    Leila Alaoui
    Leila Alaoui: Rite of Passage at Somerset House.

    Leila Alaoui: Rite of Passage is the first major UK retrospective of the celebrated photographer who tragically died from a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso while working on a women’s rights campaign. 

    Acclaimed for capturing the unseen stories of individuals and communities displaced by conflict and unrest, Alaoui’s photography offers an intimate portrait into the rich cultural identities and resilience of societies facing uncertain realities.

    Tickets are free and the exhibition is running between 11 October 2020 and 28 February 2021.

  • Andy Warhol

    Andy Warhol at Tate Modern.
    Andy Warhol at Tate Modern.

    Andy Warhol needs no introduction, but Tate Modern’s exhibition gives fans a new look at the extraordinary life and work of the pop art superstar. In fact, it’s the first Warhol exhibition at the gallery for almost 20 years.

     As well as his iconic pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s soup cans, it includes works never seen before in the UK. 25 works from his Ladies and Gentlemen series – portraits of Black and Latinx drag queens and trans women – are also being shown for the first time in 30 years.

    The exhibition has just been extended until 15 November 2020. 

  • Everyday Heroes

    Everyday Heroes at Southbank Centre.
    Everyday Heroes at Southbank Centre.

    Taking place across Southbank Centre, Everyday Heroes is an outdoor exhibition that celebrates the contributions that key workers and frontline staff have made during the pandemic.

    It features more than 40 portraits of some of the entirely ordinary but also utterly remarkable people – among them health workers, bus drivers, faith workers and shop assistants – who have helped to keep this country going during the crisis, often working in extremely challenging circumstances and putting their own personal safety at risk.

    It is running until 7 November 2020. 

  • Sleepless

    Sleepless: A Musical Romance
    Sleepless: A Musical Romance at Wembley Park Theatre.

    Calling all Sleepless In Seattle fans: a musical version of your favourite romcom is playing at London’s Wembley Park Theatre.

    It of course follows the story of a man who has still not come to terms with his wife death. His eight-year-old son soon forces him to call a national radio talk show, with the hopes of finding him a companion.

    Sadly, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are not reprising their roles (boo!). But Jay McGuiness, Kimberley Walsh and Daniel Casey star as Sam, Annie and Walter respectively in the stage adaptation.

  • Artemisia

    Artemisia at The National Gallery.

    In 17th-century Europe, at a time when female artists were not easily accepted, Artemisia challenged conventions and defied expectations to become a successful artist and one of the greatest storytellers of her time.

    She painted subjects that were traditionally the preserve of male artists and for the male gaze; transforming meek maidservants into courageous conspirators and victims into survivors.

    The first major exhibition of Artemisia’s work in the UK will be held at The National Gallery between 3 October 2020 to 24 January 2021.

  • Gauguin and the Impressionists

    Gauguin and the Impressionists
    Gauguin and the Impressionists at the Royal Academy of Art.

    This exhibition is a unique opportunity to view the Ordrupgaard Collection – a treasure trove of important Impressionist works. It showcases 60 of the collection’s works by painters such as Manet, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Morisot, Degas and Gauguin, many of which have never been seen in the UK.

    The exhibition runs at the Royal Academy of Art until 18 October 2020.

  • The Great Gatsby

    Great Gatsby at Immersive London.
    Great Gatsby at Immersive London.

    Jay Gatsby invites you to one of his infamous large parties. Re-imagined and re-set to meet Covid-19 secure guidelines, the champagne flows and as the drama unfolds the man himself will be the perfect host. As invites go, this is the hottest in town, and you’ll get to mingle with your favourite characters (at a safe distance, of course).

    The immersive performances will restart from 1 October, so make sure you’re on the guest list. Oh and remember to put on your 1920s fancy dress. 

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Images: various event and space providers