As Morrissey once warbled, there’s nothing better to do on a (dreaded) sunny day than hang out at the local cemetery. Unlike Morrissey, though, you don’t have to gravely read the stones until it makes you want to cry. London’s cemeteries are full of life this summer — here’s a handful of happenings between now and September.
1. Meet music hall artists at Abney Park
Stokie’s Abney Park Cemetery is the final resting place of many a London vaudeville act, including George Leyboune, aka Champagne Charlie and Nelly Power, whose Abney Park funeral in 1887 was attended by a few thousand mourners. The Music Hall Guild has restored a number of musical hall gravestones and memorials, and is hosting a guided tour of them this Sunday. Free, just turn up at the cemetery gates. 27 July, 2pm
2. Go to Shuffle Festival at Tower Hamlets
Each of the five days of Shuffle Festival — held in the the 31 wooded acres of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park — has a theme. ‘Nature’ kicks off proceedings — events include a wildflower and butterflies walk, picnicking in a glade, and a screening of Spirited Away. The final day of the festival is fittingly themed around ‘Death’, and features death-defying treetop acrobatics, a bat walk and Mexican sugar skull face painting. There’s also another picnic in a glade, so that’s good. Patrons of Shuffle include Jarvis Cocker, Professor Brian Cox and Danny Boyle, and it’s fast becoming a stalwart of the east London festival scene. Entry to the cemetery is free. Prices vary, depending on the event. 30 July-3 August.
3. Watch The Matrix at Nomad Cinema, Brompton
Brompton Cemetery is a film star in its own right. The grandiose graveyard has featured in the likes of Eastern Promises, Finding Neverland and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. Brompton is also an occasional movie theatre — that’s the case when Nomad Cinema pitches up here again in September. A screening of The Dark Knight is already sold out, but you can still throw on your best leather trench coat for a viewing of The Matrix. £19.80 (inc. booking fee). 9 September, doors 6.45pm, screening 7.45pm
4. Go owl watching in Highgate
It seems tickets for events at Highgate Cemetery are almost as in-demand as plots of land here. A Dickens tour and a late opening in August are already sold out. However, you can currently snap up tickets for an illustrated talk about owls, which includes a chance to see a few in the flesh (surely feathers?) and flapping around the cemetery chapel — how very Harry Potter. £7. 18 September, doors open 7pm, event starts 7.30pm
5. Do a guided tour of Kensal Green
Every Sunday until the end of October, you can go on a guided tour of Kensal Green Cemetery. As well as visiting the graves of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his father Marc, Wilkie Collins and Harold Pinter, you get to call in at the ominously-named Catacomb Z, which lies beneath the Dissenters’ Chapel. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the 33 species of bird and other wildlife. £7/5 donation. Every Sunday, meet on the steps of the Anglican Chapel at 2pm