The middle of Hyde Park Corner roundabout isn't the obvious place to open a gin bar, but when you describe it as 'cocktails at dusk on the balconies of Wellington Arch', it starts to sound a lot more appealing, don't you think?
The one-night-only event is part of Emerge Festival. 'Big on creativity, low on convention' is the festival's motto, and with a downright eclectic selection of events taking place in fantastic venues across 11 London boroughs, we wholeheartedly approve — in fact, we're seriously impressed with what's on offer and can't wait to get stuck in. Here are our top picks from the programme so far — get booking, because these will sell out.
1. A pop-up gin bar on top of Wellington Arch
So, about that gin bar... head to Wellington Arch as the sun begins to set, and climb to the top to enjoy specially-crafted cocktails (or a glass of vino), while enjoying views over the city, Hyde Park, and even the gardens of Buckingham Palace.
2. A house party at Jimi Hendrix's pad
The Handel & Hendrix Museum is a celebration of an address shared by two famous musicians, albeit centuries apart. Focus is on the latter at this house party, which transports guests back to the 1960s, when Jimi Hendrix had just arrived in London. Don your best vintage clobber for an evening of DJs, dancing and drinks. Think Woodstock... but in zone 1.
3. Candlelit stories in a secret grotto
Pope's Grotto is a mineral-encrusted underground grotto on the banks of the Thames. It occasionally opens to limited numbers of visitors, but this special event is led by blind storyteller Giles Abbott. Roam through the candle-lit chambers, feeling your way, and hear the story of Alexander Pope’s quest for perfection. We're getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
4. An evening at London's House of Scandal
Overlooked by the aforementioned gin bar, Apsley House transforms into a House of Scandal. Take on the character of a member of Regency high society, and uncover scandalous secrets as you chat aristocrats... basically, a murder mystery evening without the murder. Organisers describe it as 'playing a real life 'who-dun-what' with Jane Austen characters'.
5. A skyline photography masterclass at The Monument
Turbo-charge your photography skills at a masterclass held at the top of The Monument. Held at dusk, 61m above London, in the City and right next to the river, the class is a chance to learn techniques for capturing twinkling lights, colour and movement in the darkening streets and panoramic views of the capital.
6. An ice sound bath at London Canal Museum
You've heard of a sound bath, and are familiar with an ice bath... now combine the two. Don't worry, it's not as chilly as it sounds — experimental electronic musician Tom White has put together a sonic landscape using samples from an ice factory, the London canals and their locks. Immerse yourself in the soundscape, drink in hand, next to the canal.
7. Behind the scenes at ZSL London Zoo's library
Did you know that London Zoo has a library? It's located across the road from the zoo, in ZSL's offices, and is home to an ostrich egg with a map of Whipsnade (London Zoo's sister site in Bedfordshire) painted on it, and a blanket made from camel hair. Probably some books and stuff too. Take a behind the scenes tour with an expert and see some items that have never been shown to the public before.
This is just a tiny selection of the events taking place, all of which sound brilliant. Our only regret is that the festival is only on for two nights, meaning several of the events run concurrently, and it's just not possible to do them all.