Things To Do This Week In London: 15-21 May 2023

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All week

Things to do this week in London: a red carpet photo of a woman in a gold-coloured, sari-inspired outfit: part of The Offbeat Sari exhibition at Design Museum.
The Offbeat Sari opens at The Design Museum on Friday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI/Alamy Live News

OUTDOOR CINEMA: The weather's been a bit slow to catch up, but outdoor cinema season is well and truly upon us. Take a look at London's open-air cinemas this year, including on rooftops in south and east London, and a free screening in Paddington Basin this week.

DULWICH FESTIVAL: This is the main week of this year's Dulwich Festival, a celebration of the heritage and culture in the local area. Sunday's Goose Green Fair is a highlight every year, but other events this week include a ceilidh night, a screening of short films, a comedy night, a talk about Rudyard Kipling, and live music by the Mississippi Swamp Dogs. Well worth browsing the full programme. Until 21 May

DISNEY EXPERIENCE: You'll have to be quick if you want tickets for Disney's Wonder of Friendship, a new interactive experience which celebrates 100 years of Disney through four themed rooms. At time of writing, many time slots are completely sold out already. Until 21 May

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: A quick reminder that the stage adaptation of Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird is only on at the Gielgud Theatre Until 20 May

Things to do this week in London: three adults swinging on swings in a Lion King themed room at the Disney experience, with a 'Hakuna Matata' neon light behind them.
Disney's Wonder of Friendship is open until the end of this week.

STATUS QUO: This is the final week to see Celebrating Seven Decades of Quo, a free display at Barbican Library showcasing memorabilia relating to rock band Status Quo. It includes photographs, tour posters, and handwritten lyrics. FREE, until 22 May

ALADDIN SANE: David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust fans won't want to miss Aladdin Sane, an exhibition at Southbank Centre marking 50 years since the album was released — with an accompanying programme of events. The focus is largely on the iconic lightning bolt cover photograph, and you've only got a couple more weeks to catch it. Until 28 May

HIGHGROVE IN HARMONY: Head to The Garrison Chapel in Chelsea Barracks to view its current exhibition, Highgrove In Harmony: Exploring A Royal Vision. It explores King Charles III's 43 years at Highgrove, his private residence in Gloucestershire, through newly-uncovered archive photos, early designs and His Majesty's own drawings and paintings, including never-seen-before plans for a treehouse for Princes William and Harry. FREE, until 29 May (sponsor)

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN: Annie Proulx’s short story about hidden love in 1963 Wyoming has been adapted for the stage. Brokeback Mountain — a new play interwoven with country and western songs by Dan Gillespie-Sells – is now open at @sohoplace. It sees Ennis (Lucas Hedges) and Jack (Mike Faist) take jobs on the isolated Brokeback Mountain, starting a decades-spanning secret romance with tragic consequences. Tickets from £29.50. Until 12 August (sponsor)

DAY TRIP OF THE WEEK: Fancy getting out of London for a day? How about a trip to a secluded island which is home to more than 8,000 teapots — including the world's largest teapot? Read up about our visit to Teapot Island and find out how to get there yourself.

DRINK OF THE WEEK: There's a new bar on the Bermondsey beer mile but here's the twist — it's all about the aperitivo — These Days specialises in summery spritz (think blood orange & chinotto, or bitter peach & honey). Ideal for evenings when the sunshine is playing ball.

MUSEUM OF THE WEEK: Inside what looks like a village hall at the side of Mitcham Common, is the Wandle Industrial Museum, a pint-sized collection of displays and artefacts centred around the fascinating past of a river that was once home to a slew of water-powered industries — including a chocolate factory and a Liberty printing press. Open Wednesdays and Sundays

Monday 15 May

Things to do this week in London: an old sepia-toned photograph of a person walking down a road in the Caribbean
Indo + Caribbean opens at Museum of London Docklands on Friday. Image: A Country Road, Trinidad, circa 1900, Courtesy of JF Manicom

FOOD ON SOCIAL MEDIA: As part of the British Library's Food Season, it brings together a panel of cooks and food writers to discuss food on social media. Hear from Poppy O’Toole, Chetna Makan, Ed Smith and Itamar Srulovich about the good and bad sides of everything we eat being shared online these days, and the challenges that creates for professional chefs. 7pm-8.30pm

CLIMATE CHANGE AND WAR: Find out about the seemingly unlikely connection between climate change and US national security, in a talk by expert Neta Crawford at the Royal Institution. She argues that as the Pentagon is the largest single organisational energy consumer and greenhouse gas emitter, it's at the centre of the climate change issue. 7pm-8.30pm

TREE TALKS: Landscape architects from Brussels, Paris, Zurich and London come together at Barbican to talk about how trees have featured in their recent work. It's part of the venue's Money and Trees series of mini lectures. 7pm

KAI SAMRA: Award-winning comedian Kai Samra is back at Soho Theatre with Native, an hour-long show about race, class, immigration, youth homelessness, India and 2010 indie-rock bands. 7.15pm

GIPSY KINGS: Grammy Award-winning band The Gipsy Kings are at the Royal Albert Hall for an evening of traditional flamenco, Western pop and Latin rhythm. 7.30pm

MONDAYS: Looking for further inspiration for today (or any other Monday)? Take a look at our guide to things to do in London on a Monday. On first glance, London can seem a little quiet on the first day of the week, but there's comedy, cabaret, live music, walks, talks, tours and more to enjoy if you know where to look — which we do.

Tuesday 16 May

Things to do this week in London: a man in a red jumper on stage, in front of a 'Natural Born Storytellers' banner
Natural Born Storytellers returns to Tufnell Park

HUNTERIAN REOPENS: Closed since 2019, the Hunterian Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields finally reopens today. It contains 14,000 specimens belonging to 18th century surgeon and anatomist John Hunter, and tells the history of surgery using various instruments, drawings, models and the like. Read our 5-star review. FREE, from 16 May

BARNSBURY: This largely residential area isn't, perhaps, a place many of us spend a great deal of time, but the area packs in a lot of history and some beautiful Georgian squares. Explore this under-appreciated quarter with a London on the Ground guided walk. 2pm

COLONEL BLIMP: Head to St Marylebone Parish Church for the latest Film Club event, a screening of 1943 film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. It's a romantic drama war film, featuring an extended flashback over the life of Major-General Clive Wynne-Candy, a senior commander in the Home Guard during the second world war. 6.45pm-9.30pm

BRIXTON WINE CLUB: Mortimer House in Fitzrovia is the venue for this month's Brixton Wine Club. It's a wine tasting event, with a flight of five wines to try under the guidance of a sommelier, and tasting notes are provided. 7.30pm

DEF LEPPARD: All five members of rock band Def Leppard take time out from their current tour to appear on stage together at Southbank Centre for the launch of new book Definitely: The Official Story of Def Leppard. The book is narrated by the band and features photographs from their personal archives. 7.30pm

NATURAL BORN STORYTELLERS: 'Help' is the theme of May's Natural Born Storytellers, a monthly true storytelling event at Aces & Eights in Tufnell Park. Take to the stage yourself, or kick back and listen as others tell shocking, life-affirming or hilarious tales. 7.45pm-9.45pm

Wednesday 17 May

Things to do this week in London: comedian Sarah Keyworth smiling
Sarah Keyworth stars in the launch night of the London LGBTQ+ Comedy Festival. Photo: Matt Crockett

LGBTQ+ COMEDY: Comedy Bloomers launches The London LGBTQ+ Stand-up Comedy Festival. It's 10 nights of comedy, featuring shows and collaborations with renowned LGBTQ+ comedy stars, plus work in progress shows by rising comedy stars. It begins with a Clandestina Queer Comedy night tonight starring Sarah Keyworth, Jessica Fostekew, and others. 17 May-11 June

TRAVEL WRITING: The Royal Geographical Society hosts a travel writing evening, featuring a panel of travel writers talking about their trips on assignment, and sharing tips and tricks for recording your journeys. 7pm-8.30pm

CANNABIS AND RACE: Experts Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Tahira Rahmatullah discuss how the war on drugs has disproportionately affected certain communities. Find out how systemic racism has fuelled a policing and drug policy, and hear stories from those affected, at this live-streamed event. 7pm-8.30pm

NERD NITE: Head to Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green for Nerd Nite, a regular event which gives experts 18-21 minutes each to give an amusing but informative talk on their chosen subject. Music history and conspiracy theories are on the bill tonight. 7.30pm

KENNINGTON BIOSCOPE: Watch a double bill of films with a western theme, screened on 16mm at the Cinema Museum. The Westbound Limited (1923) is about a railroad engineer who saves the daughter of the president of the company when she falls on the tracks, and The Last Outlaw (1927) is about a woman rescued from a runaway horse. 7.30pm

Thursday 18 May

Things to do this week in London: two rare books on display in a glass cabinet at London's rare books fair
Firsts: London's Rare Book Fair opens today. Photo: Clare Hughes Photography

KINGSTON BEER FESTIVAL: Kingston Workmen's Club and Institute — just a few minutes' walk from the station — hosts the Kingston Beer Festival. Sample some of 70 ales — many brewed locally — and 11 ciders and perries. The event supports charity Princess Alice Hospice. 18-20 May

RARE BOOKS: Books, original manuscripts, letters and rare items are all for sale at the annual Firsts: London's Rare Book Fair. Taking place at Chelsea's Saatchi Gallery, this year it has a theme of 'Shakespeare: 400 Years of Influence', with special focus on rare editions and objects related to the Bard's works. An original Peggy Fortnum illustration of Paddington Bear, a first edition of Moby Dick, and a rare signed presentation copy of Karl Marx's Das Kapital are among the other highlights. 18-21 May

CHINA'S HIDDEN CENTURY: The British Museum opens a new exhibition, China's hidden century, about events in the country in the 19th century, when 2,00 years of dynastic rule came to an end and modern republicanism took over. The show illuminates the lives of individuals — an empress, a dancer, a soldier, an artist, a housewife, a merchant and a diplomat — and contains items including cloisonné vases given by the Last Emperor's court to King George and Queen Mary for their coronation in 1911. 18 May-8 October

BRING YOUR BABY: Introduce your little one to the work of Charles Dickens from a very young age, with Bring Your Baby's guided walk around Oliver Twist's Clerkenwell. The route and pace is designed for those with babies, and you're welcome to stop to feed or change your baby at any time. Find other London events designed for parents or carers with babies. 11am-1.30pm

BEATING THE BOUNDS: We love London's many unusual traditions and customs, including Beating the Bounds, an ancient ritual still observed at the church of All Hallows by the Tower and scheduled for today. Watch as members of the Clergy and Livery Companies visit each parish boundary to pray for protection and blessings — including boarding a boat to reach a boundary marker in the middle of the Thames. FREE, 4pm

Friday 19 May

Things to do this week in London: a group of five women standing in a row and laughing.
The inaugural Postcards From Midlife takes place in Islington.

POSTCARDS FROM MIDLIFE: Launching at the Business Design Centre in Islington, Postcards From Midlife is a new lifestyle and wellness event aimed at women 40+ with expert talks, celebrity guests, workshops, shopping and more taking place across two days. Ruby Wax, Patsy Kensit, Andi Oliver and Freya North are among those on the line-up. 19-20 May

THE OFFBEAT SARI: Hopping from China (yesterday), to India, The Offbeat Sari is Design Museum's newest exhibition. It looks at the multiple definitions of the modern Sari — worn by some as an everyday garment, and others only for more formal occasions — and how its unstitched form has allowed designers to experiment with it over the years. From 19 May

INDO + CARIBBEAN: Museum of London Docklands opens a free new display, Indo + Caribbean: The creation of a culture, which explores the underrepresented history of Indian indenture (people being contracted to work without salary for a specific period) in the British Caribbean. Timed to mark the 75th anniversary of Empire Windrush arriving in London, it draws on family histories to explore Indo-Caribbean culture in London today, and features contracts, shipping company records, postcards, and papers from the Parliamentary Archives. FREE, 19 May-19 November

PURPLE SEA: Barbican wraps up its Syrian Arts and Culture Festival with a screening of Purple Sea, a 2020 documentary composed of footage filmed on a wrist camera, when a boat on the Mediterranean Sea carrying 300 people begins to sink. It's followed by a discussion with directors Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed. 6.15pm

LONDON NIGHTS LATE: London Transport Museum is celebrating the capital’s nightlife with an illuminating evening of tales, trivia, crafts, and trails. Hear wonderfully weird after-dark anecdotes from Black cab driver-turned-Hidden London guide Aaron Oliver, partake in a pub quiz hosted by a Drag artist, or just explore the museum away from the usual crowds, followed by a drink in the bar or a specially-themed takeaway. 6.45pm-10pm (sponsor)

FLAMENCO LIFEDRAWING: There's a touch of flamenco flair to Lifedrawing Music Club's evening at Ugly Duck in Bermondsey tonight. Capture dancer and choreographer Lourdes Fernandez on the canvas, while listening to beats from Elsa Dove. 7.30pm-10pm

PHIL WANG: Comedian Phil Wang is at Southbank Centre with his new stand-up show, Wang in There, Baby! He chats race, nipples, family, and other things going on in his life. Age 16+. 8pm

Things to do this week in London: comedian Phil Wang, grimacing and wearing a flower crown
Catch Phil Wang at Southbank Centre on Friday night. Image courtesy of Avalon

Saturday 20 May

CHELSEA FRINGE: Tying in with the Chelsea Flower Show, the Chelsea Fringe is a gardening festival run by local people, for local people. Events this year include guided walks, talks and art events. 20-28 May

GROUNDHOG DAY: Tim Minchin's Olivier Award-winning musical Groundhog Day returns to London, gracing the stage of the Old Vic with the story of a TV weatherman getting stuck in a timeloop when sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in the small town of Punxsutawney. From 20 May

CHEAM CHARTER FAIR: Rumour has it that the Cheam Charter Fair dates back to 1259 — though even the modern-day organisers can't verify that. Either way, head to the London-Surrey border for a traditional fair of stalls, kicked off with a procession at 9am.

FRAGRANCE FAIR: Barnes is smelling extra good today, thanks to its first-ever fragrance fair. Follow your nose to talks and workshops from top fragrance experts and writers — with topics including how to create sustainable scents, and picking your perfect perfume. Kids can get stuck in with a game of 'smelly bingo'. 10am-5pm

QUIRKY VAUXHALL: Join tour guide Christine Burton for a tour of the Vauxhall area, focussing on the strange, the quirky and local 'firsts'. 10.30am

CINEMATIC ISLINGTON: Alternatively, head to Islington for a London on the Ground tour of the area's old cinemas, from Screen on the Green to the old Carlton on Essex Road. 11am

CLEAN AIR CYCLE RIDE: Everyone's welcome to take part in the Camden Clean Air Cycle Ride, a friendly and non-competitive bike ride through the Borough of Camden, beginning and ending in Granary Square in King's Cross. The route includes Camden Town, Primrose Hill and Hampstead, with staggered start times from 9.30am-4pm

HIGHWAYS FESTIVAL: The Royal Albert Hall hosts Highways, a day-long festival of country and Americana music. It kicks off with a country concert for kids, and also features acts such as Kip Moore, Morgan Wade, Jackson Dean and Stephen Wilson Jr. Browse the full programme. 9.30am-11.30pm

HOT SAUCE FESTIVAL: How hot is too hot for you? Find out at the Hot Sauce Festival in Peckham, where hundreds of small-batch sauces from 40+ traders are available to try and buy, along with live music, games, street food — and a bar for those all-important, palate-cleansing drinks. 11am-7pm

MERSEY BEATLES: It's 60 years since the Fab Four packed out Woolwich's Granada Cinema, and to mark the occasion, the Mersey Beatles rock up at Woolwich Works, to perform a carousel of Beatles hits, from early numbers, to the more experimental stuff. 7.30pm

MOONWALK: Sign up to take part in the London Moonwalk on Clapham Common, raising money for breast cancer charities. Walk 15.1 or 26.2 miles at night, with decorated bras and themed outfits very much encouraged. From 8pm

Sunday 21 May

Things to do this week in London: people browsing stalls at the Hot Sauce Festival
Spend Sunday recovering from Saturday's Hot Sauce Festival. Photo: Alistair Veryard Photography

LONDON TO BRIGHTON: Get down to Cheam Recreation Ground early doors to see the London to Brighton Mini Run setting off, with Minis of all ages and conditions joining the route, organised by the London & Surrey Mini Owners Club. You'll need a ticket to access the start line, but if you're in the surrounding area, you might catch a glimpse of them setting off. Exact time hasn't been announced, but they start gathering early. From 5am

CHEESE MARKET: Get down to Chiswick early doors for the regular Cheese Market, and browse and buy more than 150 cheeses, as well as associated paraphernalia (crackers, chutney, and the like). As well as being a delicious way to spend a morning, it's a nod to the area's history: Chiswick derives from 'Cheesewick' meaning 'cheese farm'. 9.30am-3pm

SS WINDRUSH: 75 years after the SS Windrush arrived from the Caribbean, join a walking tour around Dalston and Hackney looking at how Black culture has shaped the area between the 1950s and the 21st century. Your Black History Walks guide focuses on music, activism, bookshops, gentrification, and other topics.  10am-12pm

PLANT AND CERAMICS MARKET: Mix and match houseplants with pots, planters and vases at the Grown and Thrown market at Big Penny Social in Walthamstow. There's a wide range of sizes and species of houseplants, alongside ceramic pieces by a variety of artists and makers. 11am-5pm

VORTEX TEMPORIUM: The London Sinfonietta and violinist Daniel Pioro explore the concept of time at a special concert at Southbank Centre. They perform two very different yet complementary masterpieces; ‘nature time’ in Vivaldi’s iconic The Four Seasons and Gérard Grisey’s Vortex Temporum, a work that takes us through three time frames. The event features narration and specially created writing by author Michael Morpurgo. 4pm

Museum treasure of the week

The windpipe of an elephant, which looks remarkably like a trunk, but with a kind of handle thing on the end.
Image Matt Brown. Not to be reproduced.

This week's treasure has to be one of the million wonders to be found in the Hunterian Museum, which reopens on Tuesday. We're spoilt for choice here, with curious objects at every turn. But we've gone for this peculiar item because, well, where else can you view an elephant's windpipe? Looks remarkably like a trunk, doesn't it?

Good cause of the week

Know any young, aspiring poets who also love London? Then tell them about this magnificent initiative from Heritage of London Trust. Poet for Places is looking to find budding poets who are particularly inspired by the city around them. It is open to 18–25-year-olds living in London, with closing date of 31 May.

The winning poet will receive a grant of £10,000 and mentoring over the year from award-winning poets Daljit Nagra and Emma Filtness at Brunel University London. It’s an amazing opportunity for a young Londoner to promote their career and raise their profile as a new poet. To apply, you'll need to submit a poem inspired by London's heritage, and answer a few questions. See Heritage of London website for more details.