Budget-friendly things to do in London this week for £5 or less.
Admire the artworks of talented Black artists
At St James's Market Pavilion Space right now, you'll find Shine Your Light, a free outdoor exhibition of fine artworks created by talented Black artists including Damel Carayol, Elicia McKenzie, Ibim Cookey, Lola Betiku, Nathan Bowen and Sovina Vernon-Whit. One to have on your radar if you're in the area.
Free, until 8 March.
See a new Myanmar exhibition
LSE opens a new, free multimedia exhibition by multidisciplinary artist Chuu Wai, who was born in Myanmar and now lives in Paris. The display, Not Another Protest Exhibition, looks at the broader historical and sociopolitical backdrop of contemporary Myanmar, and how women played a large role in the Civil Disobedience Movement across the country after the 2021 military coup.
Free, 29 January-23 February (open Monday-Friday).
Catch a free concert inside an historic chapel
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance often offers free concerts and performances, giving its students a chance to gain performing experience. On Tuesday this week, pianist Miaoyan Li and soprano Ling Chen give a free lunchtime concert inside The Old Royal Naval College Chapel.
Do keep an eye on the Trinity Laban events programme for other upcoming free performances — there are often several a week, in various locations.
Free, 30 January.
Learn how to solve maths puzzles
Sarah Hart, Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, gives a free talk about mathematical puzzles and paradoxes. Find out about some of the most famous and historical puzzles, and the maths required to solve them — you can watch in person at Barnard's Inn Hall, or online.
Free, 30 January.
Find out more about the Russia-Ukraine war
Almost two years on from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, LSE hosts an event to launch Gwendolyn Sasse's new book Russia's War Against Ukraine. Sasse is in conversation with Sam Greene, Professor in Russian politics at King's College London, about how and why the conflict came about, and why Putin chose to escalate it. Watch in person or online.
Free, 30 January.
Have a laugh at this cheap comedy night
Top and Bottom Comedy is back at The Book Club in Shoreditch, with big names and future stars performing their current shows and trying out new material. Names not announced yet, but for just £3 a ticket, you can't go too far wrong.
£3, 31 January.
See a new exhibition of Quentin Blake artworks
A new exhibition of work by illustrator Sir Quentin Blake opens at Cromwell Place in South Kensington on Wednesday, showcasing never-seen-before artworks. The show moves away from his children's book illustrations to artworks aimed at a more mature audience, with originals for sale.
Free, 31 January-18 February.
Start LGBTQ+ History Month with a free lunchtime lecture
February is LGBT+ History Month, with plenty of events going on around London to mark the occasion. The V&A kicks things off on Thursday with a free lunchtime lecture about transgender heritage within the museum's collections. LGBTQIA+ tour guide Cas Bradbeer talks about a painting at the V&A that may represent Moll Cutpurse, a gender non-conforming performer and infamous celebrity in 17th-century London, as well as how trans historians and artists are working together to improve trans inclusion in heritage institutions.
Free, 1 February.
Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Science Museum
The Science Museum stays open into Thursday evening, for a special late to celebrate Chinese New Year. Watch lion and dragon dancers and Chinese drummers performing throughout the museum, take part in art, craft and poetry workshops, or dance the evening away at a silent disco.
The late coincides with the opening of the museum's new exhibition, Zimingzhong 凝时聚珍, Clockwork Treasures from China's Forbidden City, which displays clocks owned by Chinese emperors in the UK for the first time. You can view the exhibition as part of the late night opening, on a pay-what-you-can basis (minimum donation £1).
Free (or minimum £1 to view the exhibition), 1 February.
Master the steps of Chinese Classical Dance
Open to all ages, Southbank Centre teams up with the Museum of Colour to offer a free Chinese Classical Dance class, where you can learn some Chinese folk dance moves — just in time for Chinese New Year. The moves are inspired by myths and folklore, and no dancing experience is necessary, with seated options available for anyone less physically able to join in fully.
Free, 2 February.
Get up close to real-life armour
Marylebone's Wallace Collection is mostly associated with seriously impressive paintings, but it has some other tricks up its sleeve too — including arms and armour. Every fortnight, the museum offers a free 'Collection in Focus' tour on a different theme, and this Saturday is a chance to learn more about the armour. No booking, places on a first come, first served basis.
The galleries are free to visit too (with the exception of some temporary exhibitions) so make time to visit the rest of the museum before or after the tour.
Free, 3 February.
Celebrate Lunar New Year
London's Lunar New Year celebrations take over the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which hosts a day of free, family-friendly activities themed on the Year of the Dragon on Saturday. Watch Taiwanese ribbon dance and Korean harp performances, see a martial arts demonstration, learn to play mahjong, and find out about traditional Chinese tea ceremonies, among many other activities.
Free, 3 February.
Catch the final act of this exhibition about musicals
This week is your final chance to see the V&A's current free exhibition, Re:Imagining Musicals, which looks at the evolution of musical theatre from Miss Saigon and My Fair Lady to modern classics including SIX the Musical, and Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Costumes, posters and props all feature.
Free, until 4 February.