Fantastic Festivals In London: Autumn 2021

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 16 months ago

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Fantastic Festivals In London: Autumn 2021
Turning Tides at Greenwich Peninsula

GREENWICH + DOCKLANDS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL: The ever-creative (and, even better, free!) GDIF returns, with family-friendly outdoor events including a recreation of the Northern Lights, a riverside fire garden, and a giant birdcage roaming the streets at dusk, with video projections of birds released onto the streets. Greenwich and surrounds, 27 August-11 September

YAM CARNIVAL: Looking for some summertime revelry? Yam Carnival, a brand new music festival coming to Clapham Common this August, should do the trick. This celebration of Black culture boasts a seriously sweet line-up, including Davido, Kehlani, Femi Kuti, and Honey Dijon. Clapham, 28 August.

BBC PROMS: Probably the world's classiest music festival, BBC Proms continues into September, with everything from organ recitals to 20th century film music on the programme. It's ideal for last minute plans, as in most cases, bargain price Promming tickets for the events go on sale at 9am on the day. Many of the performances are shown on TV too, if you can't make it in person. Royal Albert Hall and other locations, until 11 September

All manner of free performances feature in GDIF

UNDERBELLY: This year's Underbelly Festival finishes its first season at its new Cavendish Square location with a typically jam-packed programme. September highlight include 1940s-style party night Miss Kiddy and the Cads (get your gladrags on for that one), a live recording of comedy podcast Drunk Women Solving Crime, and cabaret comedy duo Frisky & Mannish. Kids are catered for too, with beatboxing and appearances by Basil Brush. Cavendish Square, until 26 September

LONDON WONDERGROUND: Kids of all ages have until the end of September to enjoy giant fairground London Wonderground. Vintage rides, an urban beach, food and drink stalls, and live performances are all part of the fun. Our September picks include comedian Stephen K. Amos, a drag improv show, and late night variety show Stamptown. Until 26 September

Celebrate the Illuminated River project as part of Totally Thames

TOTALLY THAMES: Totally Thames 2021 is a whole month of events celebrating our waterway. Talks, walks, live performances, film screenings, workshops and much more all feature on the programme. Learn about Rotherhithe's links to the Mayflower, take a boat trip to see the Illuminated River bridges, find out more about the mysterious Eel Pie Island, ogle beautiful vessels at the Classic Boat Festival, or try out all manner of activities on the water — and that's just a tiny snippet of the full programme. Various locations. 1-30 September

LONDON PODCAST FESTIVAL: Looking for inspiration for some new listening material? The London Podcast Festival has live recordings of several podcasts, including plenty of comedy, a send-up of The One Show, and indepth discussions of Doctor Who, Friends and Studio Ghibli — you might just find your new favourite commuting podcast. Kings Place, 2-12 September

Eat, drink and be merry at Pub in the Park

PUB IN THE PARK: At time of writing, there are limited tickets left for the west London leg of Pub in the Park. The three-day foodie festival brings together food, drink and live music, with a selection of pubs and restaurants popping up to sell taster dishes from their menu, plenty of bars to keep you lubricated, and live music from Nerina Pallot, The Feeling, Kingdom House Choir, and more. Chiswick House and Gardens, 3-5 September

CLASSIC BOAT FESTIVAL: Permission to step on board? Ogle 40 vintage vessels at the St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival, and see inside a few of them. Dunkirk Little Ships; the Havengore (which carried Winston Churchill's body during his funeral procession), and the Royal Rowbarge Gloriana are among the boats on display, and there's also live music and other entertainment. St Katharine Docks, 4-5 September

The Classic Boat Festival sails into town

OPEN HOUSE LONDON: Does it count as a festival? We're not sure, but we love it so much, we'll use any old excuse to mention it. Anyway, the lowdown: nine days (instead of the normal weekend!), more than 500 buildings which are normally off-limits, many free to visit. Here's a more detailed guide to Open House London 2021. All over London, 4-12 September

WIDE AWAKE: Looking for a big mixed grill of leftfield indie, punk, electronica, jazz, and a lot of other stuff to boot? The search stops here. The Wide Awake line up features summer-on-stage Afrobeats from the (just great in concert) Kokoroko, and lavish, rocky punk from Dream Wife. Brockwell Park, 3 September.

CROSS THE TRACKS: Lianne La Havas, The Cinematic Orchestra, Greentea Peng, and the London African Gospel Choir are all on the line-up for this year's Cross The Tracks, with an equally punchy set of street food vendors to keep you going between sets. Brockwell Park, 5 September

Brockwell Park comes alive for Cross The Tracks

SKATE THE STRAND: A Westminster Council and Somerset House collab, skate brand Vans is bringing Skate The Strand festival — two weeks of skateboarding programming, including skate lessons, and demos from skate pros — to a pop up skatepark just outside Somerset House. The events are free, but you'll need to book some of them in advance. 8 to 24 September

OPEN CITY DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL: A celebration of non-fiction filmmakers, this year's Open City Documentary Festival features both in-person and online events. Spoilt for choice? Our picks are Songs for the River, about communities coming together in lockdown, and Río Turbio, which focuses on an Argentinian coal town. Various locations, 8-23 September

WIRELESS FESTIVAL: At time of writing, VIP tickets are still available for Wireless Festival, but you'll have to be quick. American rapper Future, grime artist Skepta and hip hop trio Migos are the headline act for each respective day of the Friday-Sunday festival, with AJ Tracey, Megan Thee Stallion and Young Thug also on the line-up. Crystal Palace Park, 10-12 September

Wireless Festival is back

BARNET MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL: The 550th anniversary of the Battle of Barnet is marked by Barnet Medieval Festival, which includes reenactments, archery displays and living history encampments, to give 21st century Londoners an idea of what the battle would have been like. Barnet Elizabethans RFC, 11-12 September

TURNING TIDES: Summer at Greenwich Peninsula is brought to a close with Turning Tides, a free outdoor music weekend by the river. Self-made artist Oscar Jerome, vocalist and songwriter, Zara McFarlane and indie singer-songwriter Taloula are among the performers, and there's free mini golf, hopscotch and ping pong to keep the kids happy. Greenwich Peninsula, 11-12 September

Get ready to sing along at West End Live

CHELSEA HISTORY FESTIVAL: If you thought Chelsea was all fancy shops and pastel-hued houses, Chelsea History Festival will make you think again. Spies, nursing, mudlarking and gardening in the local area are just some of the topics covered, with both in-person and virtual events, so you can join the fun even if you can't make it in person. 17-26 September

WEST END LIVE: If you love musicals, West End Live is THE festival for you — and it's free. For two days, Trafalgar Square hosts the stars of London's biggest musicals for a programme of lively sing alongs. Performers from & Juliet, The Book of Mormon, Hamilton, Mamma Mia!, Matilda the Musical and dozens more shows all take to the stage for renditions of their tunes. Note that although the event is unticketed, you'll need to show proof of your Covid-19 status to gain entry — more details on the website. Trafalgar Square, 18-19 September

The Museum of the Home celebrates its new incarnation with a weekend festival

FESTIVAL OF HOME: The Museum of the Home (previously known as the Geffrye Museum) has been reopen for a while now, and it's celebrating with a two-day Festival of Home, on the theme of home and belonging. Events range from a discussion on gentrification to an embroidery workshop, an Indonesian supperclub, and an appearance by queer pan-Asian cabaret collective The Bitten Peach. 18-19 September

HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN: The philosophy and music festival featuring big ideas, and big names, is coming to Hampstead Heath this year with a Dreams and Jeopardy theme. We're picturing a big Bloomsbury set energy from the poshly historic setting (gardens of Kenwood House), and the philosophy focused programme. Our pick of the line up — the Lost In the Matrix panel, debating the idea that we're living in a computer simulation; the Inheriting Inequality talk, exploring the rise of multimillionaire exoneration, barely fettered capitalism, and entrenched wealth disparities; and comedy from Erika Ehler, and Ivo Graham. 18-19 September

LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL: Full details of the London Design Festival programme are yet to be announced, but from past experience, we're expecting installations, exhibitions, talks, workshops, guided tours and live art. One part which is confirmed is Medusa by Sou Fujimoto and Tin Drum, an installation at the V&A which moves and evolves based on the people visiting the space. More information on other events TBC. 18-26 September

Tuck into international grub at London Halal Food Festival

FLOWER FESTIVALS: Traditionally, May is when London goes mad for flowers, thanks to the Chelsea Flower Show. But as that's moved to September this year, so too have its fringe festivals, Chelsea in Bloom and Belgravia in Bloom. Both are free, and both involve decadent floral arrangements appearing around the area on a certain theme (Chelsea: Extraordinary Voyages/Belgravia: Floral Fairground). Our tips? Wear comfy shoes, take a camera, and download a map from the respective website before you go. Chelsea 20-25 September/Belgravia 20-26 September

LONDON HALAL FOOD FESTIVAL: Now in its sixth year, the London Halal Food Festival brings more than 100 food stalls to west London, offering you a chance to sample Halal food from around the world. Watch celebrity chefs whipping up their own Halal dishes and, if you like what you see, stock up on ingredients at the Big Top Bazaar before you leave. Syon Park, 25-26 September

For other things to do, take a look at our guide to the best events in London in September 2021.

Last Updated 25 August 2021