31 Things to Do in London: May 2021

Roll on 17 May when indoor dining reopens and we’re afforded yet more – dare we say it – ‘post-Covid’ freedoms. From huge exhibitions to intimate dining events and bottomless afternoon tea to drive-in cinema, here’s The Resident’s pick of the best things to do in London in May 2021…  

Lead image: The Hatter’s Tea Party at The Egerton House Hotel (photo courtesy of venue)

1 Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street at the Design Museum, Kensington
18 May-24 October
The humble sneaker – or ‘trainer’, if you prefer – is the subject of the blockbuster exhibition reopening the Design Museum this month. From sneakers originally designed for specific athletic activities such as the Converse All Star Chuck Taylor, the Puma Disc, and Nike Alpha fly Next%, to their cultural resonance across the globe, the exhibition examines how the shoe became the cultural symbol of our times. Take a journey through the design process behind some of the most technically inventive shoes of today, see the adidas ‘FutureCraft.Strung’ shoe-making robot, learn about Satoshi, a brand using blockchain certification, see the world’s first biologically active shoes, developed for Puma, and relive legendary collaborations from the Air Jordan to Yeezy x adidas. Tickets £12.
224-238 Kensington High Street W8 6AG; designmuseum.org

2 NGS Open Gardens, Muswell Hill
2 May
Featured on Channel 4’s All Gardens Great and Small, 5 St Regis Close in Muswell Hill garden is a cornucopia of sensual delights. As well as an Oriental tea house overlooking a wildlife-friendly pond with carp, there’s a baroque temple, pagodas, a Raku-tiled mirrored wall concealing a plant nursery, a pottery and even a ‘Liberace terrace’ complete with candelabra. In terms of flora, you’ll find a beautiful weeping willow and abundant planting including neatly edged borders full of tulips and forget-me-nots, container plants, cotinus coggygria, wisteria and succulents. 2pm-6pm. Adults £4, kids free. Also open 20 June & 25 July.
5 St Regis Close, Alexandra Park Road, Muswell Hill N10 2DE; ngs.org.uk

3 Hackney Vegan Village
1-2 May
Hackney Vegan Village returns this bank holiday weekend in collaboration with Plant Based Events. Located at Bohemia Place Markets opposite Hackney Central station, you’ll find some of London’s top vegan street food and artisan traders in sustainably-made clothing, gifts and skincare, as well as craft beer, cocktails, gifts, music and more. Covid-19 health and safety measures in place, the themed bars are open for takeaway and the event is pet and family friendly. 11am-6pm. Entry is free but you’ll need to reserve a ticket (and a £2 donation is welcome).
Bohemia Place E8 1DU; bohemiaplacemarket.com

4 London Original Print Week, various locations
1-8 May
London Original Print Week offers a Print Tour across London galleries and studio over the bank holiday and following week. In Mayfair and St James’s, you’ll find a Robert Rauschenberg show at Bastian Gallery, a Matisse exhibition at Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Georg Baselitz at Cristea Roberts, Lucy Sparrow at Lyndsey Ingram and mixed shows at Marlborough Graphics. Elsewhere, Paupers Press in Shoreditch is teaming up with Pratt Contemporary to hold an open studio showing the print presses in action; Advanced Graphics in Kennington welcome visitors to view Anthony Frost’s new prints; King’s Cross Pangolin London celebrates its new representation of the estate of St Ives artist Breon O’Casey; and Karsten Schubert in Soho is showing Bridget Riley and Alison Wilding.

5 Skylight Canalside featuring KERB, Wapping
1 May-7 August
Skylight Canalside featuring KERB launches this bank holiday weekend, running every Saturday throughout the summer until 7 August. The new collaboration offers some of London’s finest street food across the Grade I-listed warehouses and cobbled lanes of Tobacco Dock’s ground-level Quayside area. Located waterside beneath the two ‘pirate’ ships, the new addition to east London’s eating and drinking scene is a great alfresco setting for Covid-conscious catch-ups. Two new KERB food trucks will park up each month, with Neapolitan-style pizzas by Fundi and Italian-inspired burgers by Tongue and Cheek up first. Tables of six are available to book on Saturdays throughout the summer, until 7 August. Tables are £10 to secure for a two-hour-45-minute session, starting at 12pm, 3pm and 6pm.
Tobacco Dock, Wapping Lane Entrance E1W 2SF; skylightlondon.com

6 Seven Dials Unplugged
1, 22 & 29 May
Seven Dials Unplugged launched on 17 April for seven weeks of live music on Saturdays. Seven up-and-coming UK-based artists will play acoustic sets in the area’s iconic streets in an initiative to support performers heavily affected by COVID-19. Discover the pop-up performances in the West End village during select Saturdays between 2pm and 7pm up until 26 June. Performances will take place simultaneously in a number of different outdoor locations throughout the intertwined streets, encouraging music fans to move about rather than crowd around one performer. Each set will last 15 minutes. Timed road closures and additional outdoor seating for many restaurants and cafes mean that the iconic Seven Dials district will make a great alfresco destination this spring/summer.

7 West End Musical Drive In, Enfield
Until 29 May
West End Musical Drive In – West End stars, direct to your cars – takes place every Saturday in May (1, 8, 15, 22 & 29 May). The perfect pitstop on the roadmap out of lockdown, it’s a great experience for theatre fans, where you can sing and dance along with your favourite stage stars as they belt their way through the musical canon. Previous Drive In performers include Kerry Ellis, Rachel Tucker, John Owen-Jones and Layton Williams. Contact-free delivery services will be available for food and drink. Tickets from £65 per car. Doors open at 1.45pm. Starts at 2.30pm.
The Drive In, Troubadour Meridian Water, Harbet Road N18 3QQ; westendmusicaldrivein.co.uk

8 Drive In Cinema at Alexandra Palace & Brent Cross
Until 31 May
Rooftop Cinema’s Drive In Cinema is back at Alexandra Palace and on bank holiday weekend the drive-in stalwarts will be showing Black Panther (1 May, 5pm), Fight Club (1 May, 8.30pm) and three dog-friendly screenings on Sunday 2 May. There’s Scoob at 2pm, Ratatouille at 5pm and Isle of Dogs at 8.15pm. On bank holiday Monday it’s The Lion King at 3.15pm, 10 Things I Hate About You at 6pm and Minari at 8.45pm. Over at their Brent Cross site, it’s 80s weekend, with screenings of The Princess Bride (1 May, 5pm), Do the Right Thing (1 May, 8pm), An American Tail (2 May, 2pm), Back to the Future (2 May, 5pm) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (2 May, 8pm). On bank holiday Monday it’s The Avengers at 2.30pm, Clueless at 6pm and The Guardians of the Galaxy at 8.30pm.

9 Roof East, Stratford
From 12 April
London’s biggest outdoor playground – the 30,000sq ft Roof East in Stratford – is back for summer. Located atop a Stratford multi-storey car park (like all the best bars!), you can play bowls at the new East London Bowls Club, mini-golf on the new-look Birdies course and practice your swing in the Sluggers Batting Cages. The bar serves wine, craft beers, softies and specially crafted cocktails (it’s a great spot for sundowners), as well as street food from the vendors – Cheeky Burger and East Side Pizza (from 12 April) and Kolkati (opening in May). Throughout the summer, Roof East will announce even more games and events, including Rooftop Yoga and Rooftop Film Club from May. Walk-ins accepted but as capacity is limited you’re advised to book. Open until the end of September 2021 from Thurs-Sun (currently), then Tues-Sun from 17 May.
7 & 8 Stratford Multi Storey Car Park, Great Eastern Road E15 1BB; roofeast.com

10 Fulham Beach Club, Fulham
From 12 April
Fulham Beach Club is back! Taking inspiration from the tropics, where beach meets jungle, Fulham Beach is a vibrant indoor/outdoor space that transports guests to a colourful summer paradise. A sandy beach, days beds, shacks, street food and a well-stocked bar set the scene for boozy brunches, special events and general summer loafing at this unique Thames-side venue. Look out for the weekly drag bingo and bank holiday parties.
364 Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham SW6 2TY; neverlandlondon.com

11 Russell Tovey’s Tour of King’s Cross
From 27 April

A tour of the rich cultural history of King’s Cross with actor and art aficionado Russell Tovey is not something we had anticipated being ‘a thing’, but we’re game! Alas, he won’t actually be there in person, but his 45-minute audio guide will take you from the smoky heart of Victorian industry and London’s underground clubbing heyday, to today’s contemporary, vibrant hotspot. In King’s Cross: Art + Culture Tour, Tovey takes you through the world-class art installations, famous architecture and rich cultural history of the area. Did you know that the warrior Queen Boudicca’s final battle with the legions of Rome, ending the resistance to Roman rule in Britain, supposedly took place at Battle Bridge Road in King’s Cross? Let Tovey tell you all about it… The free tour can be accessed via an online app.

12 Jimmy’s BBQ Club, South Bank
From 3 May
Jimmy Garcia is back ruling the roost in South Bank this summer with the very charming and convivial BBQ Club, popping up riverside between the Royal Festival Hall and BFI. Book a cabana for four to six people for the ultimate BBQ experience, where you’ll cook six courses on your very own table-top Big Green Egg BBQ, as chefs prepare and guide you through each course. You can also book a Garden Patch to enjoy summer lawn games, craft G&Ts, cocktails, rosé and BBQ Club street food, or just grab something from the walk-up BBQ street food kitchen (open 12pm-10pm daily).
Queens Walk, Southbank Centre SE1 8XX; jimmyspopup.com/the-bbq-club

13 The Return of London at The St Martin in the Fields Crypt Gallery
1 May-31 July
A brand new commemorative printed map has been created by the celebrated artist-cartographer Adam Dant to mark the 300th anniversary of the first foundation stone being laid at the Church of St Martin in the Fields. Unveiled for the first time at The St Martin in the Fields Crypt Gallery, The Novel Map of the Parish of St Martin in the Fields forms the exciting centrepiece for an exhibition of the artist’s lively depictions of London public spaces. The Return of London is also part a wider series of activities celebrating the ‘reanimation’ of the capital, with the church of St Martin in the Fields at it’s heart. Running daily from1-8 May, 12pm-5pm, then every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday as part of The London Original Print Fair. Tickets are free and bookings can be made here.
Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square WC2N 4JH; stmartin-in-the-fields.org

14 Rooftop Film Club, Peckham & Stratford
18 May-28 June
The Rooftop Film Club returns to the roof of Peckham’s iconic Bussey Building from 21 May, with a line up of brilliant films ranging from Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing to Sound of Metal, Queen and Slim and Spirited Away. Screenings kick off at Rooftop’s sister venue, Roof East in Stratford, from 18 May, running till 13 June with the likes of The Great Gatsby, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, and The Big Lebowski. Get yourself there early to soak in the spectacular views and bag yourself some drinks and street food. All seating is unreserved and the venue uses wireless headphones, which can be collected on arrival along with a blanket at the Box Office. Note that start-times are approximate and will vary according to the sunset.

15 Case of the Hung Parliament, an Online Immersive Sherlock Adventure
Until 16 May
The Olivier-nominated creators of Alice’s Adventures Underground, Les Enfant Terribles, have teamed up with virtual reality company LIVR to present an immersive online adventure that blurs the lines between theatre, gaming, escape room and board game. The Case of the Hung Parliament invites audiences alongside live actors to follow in the footsteps of the great detective himself in an immersive experience incorporating 360°, multi-sensory technology. The Home Secretary, The Foreign Secretary and the Lord Chamberlain, have all been found hanging in their own chambers. Each victim died on their birthday, and on that day had received a card with a mysterious quote written in it. But what does this mean? And can you solve the case before the murderer strikes again? Public shows £15pp, private shows £90 for up to six players.

16 Bottomless Champagne Afternoon Tea at The Rubens at the Palace Hotel, Westminster
From 17 May
Bottomless champagne is a rare find indeed, but The Rubens at the Palace Hotel is offering just that with their new tipsy afternoon tea offering. Head for the Palace Lounge, which overlooks the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace, for a Bottomless Champagne Afternoon Tea featuring mouth-watering pastries inspired by Her Majesty the Queen and influenced by the House of Windsor. Enjoy the likes of the Crown Jewel (an Earl Grey-infused mousse with Yuzu chocolate), Jam Penny (almonds, raspberry jam, raspberry whip, raspberry chocolate) and Seasonal Rubens Éclair. Savouries include a Coronation chicken finger sandwich (but of course) with toasted almonds. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free alternatives are available. £60pp. Click here to book.
39 Buckingham Palace Road, Westminster SW1W 0PS; rubenshotel.com

17 The Hatter’s Tea Party at The Egerton House Hotel, Kensington
From 17 May
This new afternoon tea from Egerton House hotel looks phenomenal. Inspired by the timeless classic Alice in Wonderland, and the unforgettable Mad Hatter, comes this fun, frivolous tea party featuring treats like the Queen of Hearts (a homemade raspberry jam tart with almond crumble), Pearl of Oysters (a white chocolate Lanson Champagne truffle), Plum Pudding (vanilla posset with stewed plums), and Eat Me (a chocolate cake with a rich buttercream icing). Sandwiches include H Forman’s smoked salmon, free-range egg mayonnaise, Blythburgh roast ham and English mustard, cucumber and cream cheese, and coronation chicken. Priced £52pp or £68 with champagne. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and kids options are available. You can also enjoy a picnic version to go for £55pp, or £125pp with butler service.
17-19 Egerton Terrace, Kensington SW3 2BX; egertonhousehotel.com

18 Bloomberg New Contemporaries at South London Gallery, Camberwell
19 May-6 June
Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2021 finally opens this month, showcasing the work of 36 emerging artists from UK art schools and alternative education programmes. The exhibition is supported by New Contemporaries’ specially created digital platform, made in collaboration with Hato Press and the selected artists, presenting the artworks alongside newly commissioned audio responses and contributions by UK-based curators and writers. Some of the themes addressed by this year’s selected artists include Identity Politics and Art Education, Dislocation and Home and Cyber Identities.
65-67 Peckham Road, Camberwell SE5 8UH; southlondongallery.org

19 Terra Nexus, South Bank
19 May-30 June 
Terra Nexus is an immersive experience featuring a labyrinth of 18 interconnected artist worlds reflecting on the human relationship with the biosphere. Produced by Proposition Studios, the experience first opened in Peckham last autumn, and has now been reconstructed and expanded with three new installations in artist studios overlooking the Thames. The installations explore the necessity of living soil, the perpetual migration of species, the cascading threat of impending extinctions, ways to reconnect with nature, conflict arising from depleted resources, the future of cities and how humans will live within them.
Proposition Studios, 60-72 Upper Ground SE1 9LT; propositionstudios.com

20 Unearthed: Photography’s Roots at Dulwich Picture Gallery
19 May-30 August
Dulwich Picture Gallery reopens with its first major photography exhibition, Unearthed, exploring the history of photography from the 1840s to today. The exhibition traces the rich history of the medium through depictions of nature, with over 100 works by 41 leading international artists. As well as revealing the fascinating technical processes and narratives behind these images, the exhibition will showcase innovations in photography by key figures like William Henry Fox Talbot, Imogen Cunningham and the English gardener, Charles Jones. Jones’ striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown for 20 years after his death, until they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981. Adults £16.50, under 18s free. 
Gallery Road, Dulwich Village SE21 7AD; dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

21 The Art of Banksy, Covent Garden
20 May-21 November

For the very first time, the UK will host an array of unique pieces from the mysterious political activist, satirist and artist, who has spent most of the last three decades anonymously tagging streets across the world. The Art of Banksy, launching in May for a limited season, will feature world-famous pieces including Flower Thrower, Rude Copper and Girl and Balloon, alongside works rarely seen by the general public. Anticipated to be one of the stand-out shows of the spring, the colossal collection includes authenticated and certified Banksy artworks, with infamous prints, sculptures and limited editions scattered across the walls of a vast 12,000 square foot space in Covent Garden. Tickets from £21.50.
50 Earlham Street, Covent Garden WC2H 9LJ; artofbanksy.co.uk

22 The Murdér Express, Bethnal Green
21 May-27 Feb 2022
Immersive dining experts Funicular return with their fantastic production, The Murdér Express. The experience takes place on a luxury train carriage, where you’ll enjoy a fantastic four-course meal curated by BBC MasterChef The Professionals Finalist 2017 Louisa Ellis, while a dramatic scenario plays out around you. Expect murder, mystery, a few moments of awkward eye contact as actors break the fourth wall, and some great cocktails.
Pedley Street Station, Arch 63 Pedley Street E1 5BW; funicularproductions.com

23 The RPO at The Chesterfield Mayfair
22 May
Enjoy an exclusive performance from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) at The Chesterfield Mayfair as the hotel reopens it doors once more. Set within the rich setting of Butler’s Restaurant, dine to the music of the RPO as it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. As an ROP quartet plays, you will enjoy an exquisite seven-course tasting menu from Executive Head Chef Nathan Hindmarsh accompanied by Lanson champagne and wine from the hotel’s sister vineyard, Bouchard Finlayson. Tables will be appropriately distanced and are limited to two, four or six people. Doors open from 6.50pm for a 7pm start (late arrivals will not be permitted). Tickets £255pp including alcohol or £185pp without. Dress code: semi-formal/cocktail attire. Click here to book.
35 Charles Street, Mayfair W1J 5EB; chesterfieldmayfair.com

24 Bbar Brunch, Westminster
From 22 May
Bbar launches a brand new weekend brunch experience this month. Dine alfresco underneath London’s largest Living Wall directly opposite the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace. Choose from a delicious selection of South African dishes, from chilli bites and boerewors eggs benedict with chili chutney biltong to the signature ‘Son of a Gun’ buttermilk chicken burger. Finish with something sweet, such as buttermilk pancakes or brioche French toast with banana, coconut bacon and salted caramel sauce. Go bottomless for an additional £25 per person and enjoy unlimited prosecco (by the glass) for 90 minutes. Available Saturday or Sunday from 11am-4pm. Click here to book.
43 Buckingham Palace Road SW1W 0PP; bbarlondon.com

25 Doctor Who: Time Fracture at Immersive LDN, Mayfair
From 26 May

Olivier Award-winning producers Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook, the duo behind The Great Gatsby, are set to launch a new immersive production of Doctor Who: Time Fracture. Taking place at Immersive LDN in Mayfair, a huge historic building with three floors of immersive theatre and event spaces designated for performance, live gaming, events, escape rooms and private parties, the ground-breaking theatrical adventure will plunge you into the incredible Universe of Doctor Who. It’s 1940, the height of the Blitz, and a weapon of unknown origin not only destroys a corner of Mayfair, it also opens a rift in the space-time continuum. Earth as we know it is a stake and it’s time for you to be the hero!. Tickets £49.95.
56 Davies Street, Mayfair W1K 5HR; immersivedoctorwho.com

26 West End Musical Drive In, Enfield
Until 29 May
West End Musical Drive In – West End stars, direct to your cars – returns for live performances this April. Following an acclaimed summer and winter season, the stage is set for another fantastic celebration of musical theatre, taking place every Saturday from 17 April. The perfect pitstop on the roadmap out of lockdown, it’s a great experience for theatre fans, where you can sing and dance along with your favourite stage stars as they belt their way through the musical canon. Previous Drive In performers include Kerry Ellis, Rachel Tucker, John Owen-Jones and Layton Williams. Contact-free delivery services will be available for food and drink. Tickets from £65 per car.
Troubadour Meridian Water, Harbet Road N18 3QQ; westendmusicaldrivein.co.uk

27 The Art of Bond: Diamonds are Forever at The Milestone Hotel and Residences, Kensington
29 May
Delve into the secrets of the world’s most renowned special agent in an evening of Bond-themed glamour, intrigue and indulgence. Diamonds are Forever marks the long, long-awaited release of the 25th James Bond film, due to air in October. The experience begins with a champagne and canapé reception in The Milestone’s beautiful Conservatory, hosted by Linda Hugo of Beyond Curated and renowned Bond and food critic Richard Bagnold. You’ll then join Alessandro Borruso, Deputy Director at Sotheby’s, and Sophie Harley, who worked on the Casino Royale set, for a glass of 2005 Vintage Tattinger Blanc de Blancs as they discuss the world of rare gems and diamonds. You’ll then dine like Bond, enjoying a five-course menu where each plate is taken from a different Fleming novel. Welcome drinks from 6.15pm. Seating at 7.30pm. Price £340. Click here to book.
1-3 Kensington Court, Kensington W8 5DL; milestonehotel.com

28 Gaia at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
30 May-1 July
Following a sold-out display in summer 2020, Luke Jerram’s awe-inspiring art installation Gaia returns to the Old Royal Naval College. Set against the magnificent Baroque backdrop of the Painted Hall, a series of Friday late openings also offers the chance to see the internally-lit sculpture after dark. The monumental sculpture is an exact scale replica of our planet, measuring seven metres in diameter and floating in three dimensions like a ‘blue marble’. UK artist Luke Jerram used 120dpi NASA imagery to recreate the unique view of Earth experienced by astronauts in space. By standing 211 metres away from the slowly rotating artwork, you can see Earth as it appears from the moon, while enjoying a surround-sound composition created by BAFTA award-winning composer Dan Jones. Tickets £12.
Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, King William Walk SE10 9NN; ornc.digitickets.co.uk

29 Hundreds and Thousands, Greenwich Peninsula
Until 31 May
The Tide on Greenwich Peninsula, London’s first linear park, has scored itself another great new art installation in situ – Hundreds and Thousands by Liz West. The kaleidoscopic outdoor work features a spectrum of vibrantly-coloured ribbons, installed on the glass balustrades of The Tide’s elevated walkway to offer waves of undulating colour that change by the hour as the sun rises and falls. Greenwich Peninsula is also home to two sculptures from iconic British artist Damien Hirst (Hydra and Kali, 2015, and Mermaid, 2014), Head in the Wind by British pop-artist Allen Jones, Siblings by Morag Myerscough and Quantum Cloud by Antony Gormley, which forms part of The Line, London’s first dedicated public art walk. While there, pop into Icon Outlet at The O2 to browse 60 fashion and lifestyle brands with up to 70% off RRP.

30 The Silk Road: A Living History, King’s Cross
Until 16 June
The Silk Road: A Living History is an open-air photography exhibition by travel photographer Christopher Wilton-Steer. The exhibition documents Wilton-Steer’s journey along the historic trade route undertaken in 2019. Over a period of four months, he travelled 40,000km, traversing 16 countries by car, bus, train, ferry, horse and camel, from London’s King’s Cross London to Beijing. The exhibition’s linear design, around Granary Square, creates a physical route for the viewer offering them the chance to travel by proxy via more than 160 photographs capturing the places, people and cultures along the ancient trade route. Presented by The Aga Khan Foundation in partnership with King’s Cross.
Granary Square, King’s Cross N1; akf.org.uk

31 Making Paradise at Aga Khan Centre, King’s Cross
Until 30 September
Making Paradise is a new group exhibition exploring the concept of Eden through Islamic garden design at the Aga Khan Centre. The show brings together 19 international multimedia artists, each of whom will present an interpretation of the concept of Al-Jannah – the Garden of Eden, or Paradise in Islam –  and will feature digital reproductions of classical miniature paintings from Aga Khan Museum’s permanent collection alongside other depictions of elements associated with Paradise. The walls of the gallery will be transformed into the four symbolic quadrants of the Chahar Bagh, based on the ‘four gardens’ of Paradise in the Qur’an. The central focus of the show is a silent fountain, designed by renowned Islamic garden designer Emma Clark. From this will spring a bespoke paper-cut installation of organic forms, created by American artist Clare Celeste Börsch. The exhibition will also feature an installation of birdsong and nature sounds.
10 Handyside Street, King’s Cross N1C 4DN; agakhancentre.org.uk