From drive-in opera at Ally Pally to Stand Up at the O2 in Greenwich and the reopening of The Clapham Grand, there are plenty of brilliant ways to enjoy a socially distanced late summer in London
Lead image: Architecture for Dogs (pictured: D-Tunnel by Kenya Hara for Teacup Poodle, photo by Hiroshi Yoda)
1 ENO Drive & Live at Alexandra Palace
Live opera returns with Puccini’s La Bohème in a unique drive-in experience at Ally Pally. When the struggling writer Rodolfo meets his neighbour Mimì, it’s love at first sight, but as the youthful couple and their friends indulge in life’s pleasures, their happiness is quickly dashed by the realities of their precarious living situation. This new 90 minute production of Puccini’s tragic romance is performed live – both on stage and on the ground – by members of the award-winning ENO Orchestra and Chorus. The raised stage has large screens relaying the performance and microphones offer high quality stereo sound both outside and inside your car. Plus, if you don’t have a car you can book an Uber Box – a static car that adheres to social distancing – or you can go on a bicycle. Tickets £35-£100.
2 Stand Up at The O2, North Greenwich
19 September & other dates
Stand Up at The O2 is an all-new event series offering you the chance to enjoy an exclusive comedy performance on top of the world’s number one music, entertainment and leisure venue – once you’ve climbed it. The urban mountaineering experience has partnered with award-winning comedian Suzi Ruffell to host the events, which start with an exhilarating climb up to the roof of The O2, followed by Ruffell’s intimate comedy set of exclusive material, complete with 360-degree, panoramic views of the capital, before climbing back down to Base Camp. As seen on The Jonathan Ross Show, Live at the Apollo and The Last Leg, and praised by The Guardian as a ‘stand-up gem’, Ruffell has established herself as one of the top upcoming comedic talents, completing five sell-out runs at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But with the Fringe Festival cancelled this year, Stand Up at The O2 is the perfect alternative for those seeking their comedy fix or simply some light-hearted entertainment. Stand Up at The O2 takes place on 19 & 26 September and 3 October at 7pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are £40pp.
The O2, Peninsula Square, North Greenwich SE10 0DX; tickets.aegeurope.com/upattheo2
3 The Clapham Grand Reopening Gigs
From 15 September
London’s iconic Clapham Grand reopens this week with its first post-lockdown shows featuring Frank Turner, Russell Howard and Emily Atak, plus Jimmy Carr, The Vivienne, Louise Redknapp and more further down the line. The venue also opens refurbished top tier balcony for first time in 15 years, bringing its socially distanced capacity to 400. Frank Turner, who helped to raise £25k with the Save The Grand campaign, playing a pilot of his Independent Venue Love live stream from the venue, returns to the Grand on Friday 18 September. Other shows include Emily Atak, who is filming her new ITV show on 15, 16 & 17 September; iconic Drag Race & Big Brother star Courtney Act with a one-off intimate evening on 19 September; plus comedian Russell Howard, who is taking over the Grand for a month of Sundays with a run of work-in-progress shows from 20 September. Ticket prices vary and some live streams are still available.
21-25 St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction SW11 1TT; claphamgrand.com
4 The Jazz Cafe Reopens, Camden
From 18 September
The Jazz Cafe, which has been closed for six months, reopens this weekend with a gig by Hackney Afrobeat veteran Dele Sosimi on 19 September, after An Evening of Soul with The Sierra Band on 18 September. Capacity will be down to 151 when the doors reopen, with fully seated, small-scale socially distanced gigs that mirror the original layout of the club when it opened in Camden Town 30 years ago. Operating seven days a week with new Covid-secure measures in place and double shows at weekends, other highlights include a fundraiser for Beirut on 24 September, Light of The World’s Jazz Funk Power Album Launch on 25 September, and 19-year-old Lola Young, a rising star from south London, on 8 October.
5 Parkway, Camden Town NW1 7PG; thejazzcafelondon.com
5 Architecture for Dogs at Japan House London, High Street Kensington
From 19 September
Japan House London will be the first destination in Europe to host the internationally acclaimed Architecture for Dogs exhibition. Featuring a collection of 16 architectural designs for different dog breeds including the Beagle, Bichon Frise and Poodle, the exhibition offers a fun and insightful exploration into how it is possible for dogs and their human companions to be at their happiest through interaction with specially designed architectural pieces. The exhibition offers smaller dogs the opportunity to interact with a number of the designs, such as Architecture For Long-Bodied Short-Legged Dogs, designed by world-renowned architectural practice Atelier Bow-Wow. Other exhibits include A new home for Snoopy and a candy floss cocoon inspired by the distinct fur of the Bichon Frise.
101-111 Kensington High Street W8 5SA; japanhouselondon.uk
Award-winning production outfit Plosive continues to bring some great comedy to the Bussey Rooftop Bar in Peckham, with Mock the Week’s regular one-liner slinging oddball, Milton Jones, headlining this Sunday. Also performing is 8 Out of 10 Cats star Catherine Bohart and Live at the Apollo’s Nathan Caton. As well as top comedy, you’ll also get to experience panoramic views of London – the best south of the river – and can opt in for pizza, beer and classic cocktails too if you fancy. Tickets from £30 for two, advance bookings only. Doors 6.30pm, show starts at 8pm.
133 Rye Lane, Peckham SE15 4ST; busseyrooftopbar.com
7 Bermondsey Street Festival
Bermondsey Street Festival returns once again to celebrate one of the coolest streets in London, although things will look a little different this year. Given the Covid-19 restrictions, this year the event will become the Bermondsey Street Festival Market. A smaller yet no less vibrant event, it will bring together the usual collection of creators and artisans selling prints, self care, ceramics, jewellery and more, alongside top food and drink opposite Tanner Street park, so that you can picnic in the park while enjoying street entertainment and music.
Bermondsey Street SE1; bermondseystreetfestival.org.uk
8 Unity Arts Festival, Leamouth Peninsula
Unity Arts Festival returns for its third year to celebrate creativity in Leamouth Peninsula, one of east London’s most exciting new cultural and artistic hubs. The event, which forms part of annual Open House London, unites London City Island and Goodluck Hope with exhibitions, installations, performances and workshops. Highlights include The Unity Live Stage, The Unity Film Studio (where visitors can make a stop motion animation film with world renowned animator Tim Allen), music workshops, the POWERPLAY Exhibition (featuring artists working within digital media, moving image and technology), an Architectural Photography Workshop, a Black Lives Matter photography exhibition, and Open House guided tours of Leamouth Peninsula. Entry to the festival and workshops is completely free, and all necessary Covid-19 safety measures will be in place.
London City Island E14; unity.london
9 The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars Celebrate the Soho Songbook
The legend that is Ronnie’s Scott’s is back in business, opening on 19 September with a sold-out gig by The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars. Fortunately, they are also playing on Sunday, and tickets (priced £35-£45) are still available! Featuring classic music from the jazz greats who have performed at Ronnie Scott’s, The Ronnie Scott’s Soho Songbook is a glimpse into the club’s incredible history. With pictures and audio clips, the show tells the stories behind the songs and who performed them at the club, featuring nods to Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, Shirley Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan and Chet Baker. Hosted and performed by the award-winning Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, and led by the Club’s Musical Director, this is a unique evening celebrating the music and history of one of London’s most legendary clubs. 8pm.
47 Frith Street, Soho W1D 4HT; ronniescotts.co.uk
Until 27 September
SLEEPLESS, a new musical starring Jay McGuiness from The Wanted and Kimberley Walsh of Girls’ Aloud, alongside a 12-piece jazz orchestra, is the first fully staged, indoor musical to be back up and running post lockdown. The timeless romantic comedy tells the story of Sam, a brokenhearted man who moves to Seattle following the tragic death of his wife. When his 10-year-old son phones a radio show, Sam ends up talking about his sleepless nights live on air and suddenly finds himself one of the most-sought after singles in America. The spacious venue means that there will be no physical contact between the staff and audience at any time, and a new COVID-19 test, which delivers results within an hour, will be used for cast, musicians, crew and theatre staff on a daily basis. Theatregoers can also park at Wembley Stadium for just £1. Tickets from £15.
3 Fulton Road, Wembley Park HA9 0SP; sleeplessthemusical.com
11 Do Robots Dream of Electric Bees? Annka Kultys Gallery, Hackney
10 September-10 October
Annka Kultys Gallery is making history as the first commercial art gallery to represent a humanoid robot artist, Ai-Da Robot, in Do Robots Dream of Electric Bees? Ai-Da is the world’s first ultra-realistic robot artist, who made the headlines last year for making over £1m in sales before her inaugural exhibition at Oxford University opened. The upcoming exhibition, a play on the novel by Philip K. Dick, presents new works by Ai-Da including oil paintings, drawings and sculptures, as well as one video work. The exhibition deals with themes from global warming, the extinction of species to the uses and abuses of future technologies. Aided by computer vision, Ai-Da can draw, and is a performance artist. Since her creation last year, Ai-Da has shown at the Barbican, Tate Modern, Ars Electronica and Abu Dhabi Art. Open Thurs-Sat, 12pm-6pm.
Unit 3, 1st Floor, 472 Hackney Road E2 9EQ; annkakultys.com
12 Laugh Out London Comedy Club at Costa Del Tottenham
20 September & other dates
One of London’s best loved comedy clubs, Laugh Out London, returns to a new socially distanced venue this weekend. Head for Costa Del Tottenham – an an all-weather industrial tropical paradise with multi-colour pergolas, private booths, street food and pint-sized cocktails – as LOL host’s the best comics in the country for just £5 a ticket. Each night will have two hour-long shows at 6pm and 8.30pm. This weekend, you can see Sara Pascoe and Darren Harriott (Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Show Nominee 2019), with MC Sarah Keyworth (Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer Nominee 2018). On Sunday 4 October, you can see Mark Watson, Ed Gamble and MC Catherine Bohart. Shows at 6pm and 8.30pm.
Ashley House Depot, Ashley Road, Tottenham N17 9LZ; costadeltottenham.co.uk
13 Five Points Does Oktoberfest, Hackney
With the real Oktoberfest unable to take place this year, the team at The Five Points Brewing Company has decided to throw their own socially-distanced celebration in its honour. Taking place at the company’s Mare Street Taproom on what would have been the famous Munich festival’s opening weekend, Five Points Does Oktoberfest will feature lagers from some of the UK’s best craft breweries, including Donzoko, Lost & Grounded, Braybrooke, North Brewing Co, The Kernel, Unity Brewing Co, Burning Sky and Anspach & Hobday. There will be DJs too, as well as ACE PIZZA serving up Bavarian-inspired pizza specials. Book a table in advance via Design My Night.
61 Mare Street, Hackney E8 4RG; fivepointsbrewing.co.uk
14 London Design Festival, various locations
The London Design Festival returns to venues across the city with a mixture of online and IRL events. As the various Design Districts fathom what they can and can’t achieve, the programme will be a little last-minute this year, but one thing we are looking forward to is the 2020 Landmark Project – The Hothouse by London-based architecture practice Studio Weave. The large-scale installation, located at International Quarter London (IQL) in Stratford, will provide a controlled habitat for cultivating plants that would not ordinarily grow in the UK’s climate. Garden Designer Tom Massey has developed a concept for the planting scheme of exotic plants from all over the world, creating an edible jungle of guava, gourd, chia seed, avocado, pomegranate, quinoa, mango, lemon, sugarcane and pineapple. Alarmingly, scientists predict that if the current rate of climate change continues to accelerate, all of these crops could potentially be grown outside in the UK by 2050.
15 Renaissance at Stephens House and Gardens
Sotto Voce presents a new Covid-secure outdoor world premiere of Renaissance, a new comedy starring BAFTA and Olivier-nominated Haydn Gwynne (Billy Elliot and Drop the Dead Donkey) and James Corrigan (King Lear and Julius Caesar), alongside Akshay Sharan and Bethan Cullinane. It’s a mystery that has been tantalizing historians for centuries. For a short time in 1502, Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia were all living under the same roof. This new comedy uses bold brushstrokes to re-imagine the interaction of these three extraordinarily charismatic and talented men. The play is scheduled to run from 17-20 September, with plans to extend beyond the end of the month if the weather and Covid restrictions permit. 7.30pm, with matinees on Sat & Sun at 2.30pm. Tickets £18.
17 East End Road, Finchley N3 3QE; stephenshouseandgardens.com
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