5 Things To Do In London's Cemeteries (July-September 2015)

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 83 months ago
5 Things To Do In London's Cemeteries (July-September 2015)

This sort of thing is not unusual at Kensal Green's Open Day. Photo by Simon Crubellier in the Londonist Flickr pool.

1. Peruse horse-drawn hearses at Kensal Green

"Like a cross between a funeral, a gig by The Cure and a village fete" is how one journalist described Kensal Green Cemetery's Open Day (this year on 4 July). With the promise of horse-drawn hearses, funeral ephemera, and a healthy smattering of goth chic, it's fair to say that journalist may have hit the (coffin) nail on the head. There are also on-the-hour tours, covering everything from the cemetery's listed monuments to its ne'er-do-wells. Both of which it has in spades.

2. Watch Hitchcock films after dark in Leystonstone

Leytonstone's own Droopy-faced director, Alfred Hitchcock, is celebrated in the local cemetery (though he's not buried here), with a triple bill of screenings next month. Choose from Dial M for Murder (16 July), The Man Who Knew Too Much (17 July) and The Lady Vanishes (18 July). Bring a blanket: there'll be a distinct chill in the air. And if the frisson of watching films among an audience of the dead is your thing, book tickets for Nomad Cinema's screening of Pan's Labyrinth at Brompton Cemetery on 9 September.

3. Shuffle along to Shuffle at Tower Hamlets

Though exact details remain elusive for this year's Shuffle Festival, it is indeed going ahead in Tower Hamlets Cemetery (24 July-1 August) with its usual orgy of film, science education, storytelling, performance art, architectural installations, walks, food, comedy and music. Last year featured a mind-boggling series of events, including a human pyramid workshop and a life and death drawing class; with 2015's Shuffle extended by another four days, we're expecting extraordinary things. Tickets — which organisers say they'll keep affordable — are on sale on the website from 24 June.

Raise a toast those interred at Cross Bones. Photo by Paul Clarke in the Londonist Flickr pool.

4. Do talks, tours and vigils at West Norwood and Cross Bones

It's the perfect time of the year to take advantage of the monthly happenings of two of the city's best-known cemeteries. West Norwood Cemetery hosts tours on the first Sunday of every month: the next few are 5 July, 2 August and 6 September. Make the acquaintance of famous inhabitants including Sir Henry Doulton (he of toilet fame), Sir Henry Tate (he of sugar fame) and Baron de Reuter (he of Reuters fame). Added to that, West Norwood opens its gates for Open House London, with tours on the Saturday (19 September, at 2pm, 2.30pm and 3pm). At Cross Bones in Southwark, meanwhile, attend one of the monthly vigils for those buried beneath the concrete. Bring ribbons, tea lights and poems. Moving stuff accompanied by a summer sunset.

5. See ducks and learn about cremation at City of London Cemetery

Set in 200 acres of plants trees and wildlife, City of London Cemetery (it's in Wanstead, not the actual City) is a bucolic setting in which to indulge in a summer saunter. Nature walking tours (roughly an hour long) are hosted by the WREN Conservation and the Wanstead Wildlife groups, who will be more than happy to introduce you to the resident ducks. History and heritage walks take place monthly at City of London Cemetery too; the next are on 19 July, 16 August and 19 September. These include a visit to the Modern Crematorium, where the guide promises to dispel the myths about how people end up in urns. The cemetery usually gets involved with Open House London too, so keep your eyes peeled for details.

Last Updated 18 June 2015