Things To Do This Week In London: 18-24 October 2021

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All week

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is at Natural History Museum. © Zack Clothier, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

BLOOMSBURY FESTIVAL: With its theme of 'Shining Light', Bloomsbury Festival 2021 continues into this week, with arts and science events. Highlights include the premiere of a new, locally-written play, and a virtual walk through the King's Cross and Bloomsbury areas. Until 24 October

HARRY POTTER WANDS: Wingardium leviosa! Head to Leicester Square after dark to see nine towering wands illuminated and accompanied by the Harry Potter film soundtrack. The free installation celebrates 20 years since the Philosopher's Stone film was released which, quite frankly, makes us feel ancient. Leicester Square, free, just turn up, until 25 October

PADDINGTON: Time's running out to see Paddington: The Story of a Bear at British Library. The small, family-friendly exhibition looks back at 60 years of Paddington Bear, with reminders of the various incarnations and adventures he's had along the way, from original illustrations to animated TV shows and the recent films. British Library, £8, book ahead, until 31 October

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY: Be among the first to see the winning shots at this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Bears, seals, spiders and elephants star, alongside this year's winning image of a trio of fish spawning in French Polynesia. As well as showcasing mind-blowing photography, the exhibition promotes environmental issues. Natural History Museum (South Kensington), from £15.50, book ahead, until 5 June 2022

SCI-FI FILMS: Briefly escape the world as you know it, at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival. Features include various premieres including Strawberry Mansion, in which an all-seeing surveillance state invades dreams; and Tiong Bahru Social Club, about a data-driven project to create the world’s happiest neighbourhood. Picturehouse, Stratford. 19-26 October

Monday 18 October

Inspired by Africa at BoxPark

LONDON'S VILLAGES: Not many people think of Bloomsbury as a village, but in this Guildhall Library talk, Pete Smith introduces the area as just that, discussing some of its oddities including the site of Hogarth's Gin Lane, and a church where hundreds of chimney sweeps had Christmas dinner. Online event, free, book ahead, 2pm-3pm

INSPIRED BY AFRICA: A host of brands collaborate to bring the culture and colour of Africa to London. Watch a unisex fashion show with clothing inspired by the continent, and enjoy live music, DJs and comedy, all by African artists, for Black History Month. BoxPark Shoreditch, free entry, book ahead, 6pm-11pm

Tuesday 19 October

What happens when animals break the law?

SHAKESPEARE AND RACE: Farah Karim-Cooper, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London, gives a free Gresham College lecture about race in Shakespeare's plays, including Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Find out how the plays reflect preoccupations with race in society at the time, and how they are portrayed in modern performances. Museum of London/online, free, book ahead, 6pm-7pm

ANIMAL VEGETABLE CRIMINAL: What happens when an animal — or a tree — breaks the law? We're talking a jaywalking moose, a burglar grizzly bear, that kind of thing. Author Mary Roach tackles the topic, off the back of her book Animal Vegetable Criminal, which also covers leopards terrorising Himalayan villages, gulls nicking floral tributes in the Vatican — and the question of what can be done to encourage coexistence among species. Online event, suggested donation £10, book ahead, 7pm-8.30pm

Wednesday 20 October

Nerd out at Nerd Nite

ANTONY GORMLEY: Arts Society Lecturer Frank Woodgate talks about the work of Antony Gormley and other contemporary sculptors, looking at how innovative and imaginative their work can be. He also gives a brief overview of the history of sculpture, from classical Greece to the present day. Online event, free, book ahead, 2pm-3pm

ADVENTURE REVOLUTION: Professional explorer Belinda Kirk is at Stanfords to talk about her new book, Adventure Revolution. A timely tome after we've all spent so much time at home, the book presents a compelling case for ditching the living room in favour of a longer, happier, and more adventurous life. Stanfords (Covent Garden), £5, book ahead, 6.30pm-8pm

DIARY DAYS: For the first time in 2021, watch your fellow Londoners live out their teenage nightmares, by reading their past diaries out loud in public — and then share yours. Diary Days also accepts old love letters, post cards, Christmas lists... basically, anything that gives a little glimpse into the former you. The Book Club (Shoreditch), £6, book ahead, 7pm

NERD NITE: One of our comedy picks for October, Nerd Nite is a chance to hear from experts on their specialist subject while you enjoy a drink or two. They're each given around 20 minutes to give an entertaining talk, and this month's topics include night terror, the pointlessness of craft beer, and creepy plants. Backyard Comedy Club (Bethnal Green), £5-£7.50, book ahead, 7.30pm

Thursday 21 October

Beano comes to Somerset House for a new exhibition

BEANO: Take a trip to Beanotown, as the Beano takes over Somerset House for a major new exhibition. Original drawings, artefacts and objects from the comic's archive are on display, along with new works by writers, musicians, painters, sculptors and photographers, all playing on the Beano spirit of rebellion. Somerset House, £!6/£12.50, book ahead, 21 October 2021-6 March 2022

SEX TALK: "Sex and the female pleasure taboo" is the topic of a new monthly series of talks/podcast recordings hosted by Emma-Louise Boynton, presenter and Her Hustle co-founder. Guests this time are Lucy Litwick, CEO of Coco De Mer, and Billie Quinlan, co-founder of sexual wellness app, Ferly. The Punch Room (Fitzrovia), £12, book ahead, 6.30pm-8.30pm

GRINLING GIBBONS: Woodcarving artist Grinling Gibbons is the subject of a special talk at the V&A Museum. Hear from Ada de Wit (Curator of Works of Art and Sculpture at the Wallace Collection) and Antiques Roadshow contributor Lennox Cato, about Gibbons' work and legacy, which can still be admired in royal palaces and St Paul's Cathedral. Tickets for the in-person event include a wine reception. £15/£18 in-person at the V&A (book here)/£5 for online event (book here), 6.30pm

HIGHGATE CEMETERY: Ever heard of The Grave of the Lost Girls in Highgate Cemetery? It's the final resting place of 10 'fallen women' from the 19th century who escaped a life of prostitution nearby. Find out why the unmarked communal grave is such a mystery, along with two related graves, via an online talk by cemetery volunteer Richard Kuhn. Online event, £5, book ahead, 7pm-8.30pm

Friday 22 October

The Natural History Museum ice rink opens for the final year

NHM ICE RINK: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the first pop-up ice rink of the season opens at the Natural History Museum. It's a bit of a special one, as it's the last time there will be an ice rink at the NHM, as the area is due to be redeveloped. Natural History Museum (South Kensington), from £11.50 adult/£8 child, book ahead, 22 October 2021-16 January 2022

PORT CITY: Museum of London Docklands' latest exhibition, London: Port City, opens today. It focuses on the Port of London, looking at the impact it has on the people and culture of London, and its international reputation.  Museum of London Docklands, free, book ahead (currently booking until February), 22 October 2021-8 May 2022

CONCERT FOR AFGHANISTAN: Classic FM presenter John Suchet presents an evening of classical music in aid of humanitarian charity the International Rescue Committee — which is raising money for victims of events in Afghanistan. Expect Bach, Mozart, and an anthem specially penned for the occasion. St James's Church (Piccadilly), from £25, book ahead, 7.30pm

QUIZ NIGHT: Test out your general knowledge at the Royal Parks annual quiz night, hosted by radio and TV presenter Adrian Mills. Arrive in a team of six, or find a team on the night. Tickets include a light supper. Kings House School (Richmond), £20 per person, book ahead, 7pm-10.30pm

Saturday 23 October

The Walk stops off at Somerset House on its London tour

HALF TERM: Most London schools have the forthcoming week off for half term. Plan ahead with our guide to keeping the kids busy during the holiday, including theatre shows, interactive exhibitions and day trips outside of London for the whole family. 23-31 October

POP-UP LONDON: Free family festival, Pop-Up London, starts today — featuring outdoor theatre, circus, dance, magic, music and puppetry. In all, over 200 artists are celebrating the city's diversity. It springs up in various parts of central London. 23-31 October

THE WALK: Little Amal is the 3.5m tall puppet of a young refugee girl, and she stops off at Somerset House this evening. The Walk has seen her travel from Syria to the UK, and she's making appearances all over London this week — including Somerset House this evening — to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and raise money for Choose Love. See her full London schedule. Somerset House, free, just turn up, 7pm

ICE RINK CANARY WHARF: Not to be outdone by the Natural History Museum (above), Ice Rink Canary Wharf opens today — and this one's here until February. Skate beneath east London's famous skyscrapers, before warming up at the rink-side OffPiste Bar. Canada Square Park, from £17.95 adult/£11.95 child, book ahead, 23 October-February 2022

CENTRE STAGE: Regular performance evening Centre Stage hosts a special Black History Month event, bringing talented Black artists to the stage alongside a live band. Full line-up TBC. Poplar Union, £5-£7, book ahead, 7pm-10.30pm

CANDICE CARTY-WILLIAMS: Queenie author Candice Carty-Williams chats to journalist and podcast host Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff about her latest book, Empress & Aniya. It's set in a south London school and tells the story of two teenage girls who accidentally switch bodies, Freaky Friday-style. Southbank Centre, £10, book ahead, 7.30pm

Sunday 24 October

Maria Canyigueral performs at Conway Hall

MORNING GLORYVILLE: Fancy a rave up, while keeping things sober for October? Morning Gloryville is back, with six hours of music to dance to, wellness, healthy food and nutritious drinks. There are also immersive theatrics, and fun & art workshops for kids and adults. The Steel Yard (Cannon Street), from £20 adults, £5 kids, book ahead, 10am-4pm

SUNDAY CONCERT: Spanish pianist Maria Canyiguera performs an autumn recital as part of Conway Hall's Sunday concerts series. The programme consists of works by Bach on the venue's Bösendorfer piano. Conway Hall (Holborn), £10-£14, book ahead, 6.30pm-8pm

Urban oddity of the week

A slab of clear acrylic with a crown at the centre and rays fanning out is placed on a wall.

The return of Sci-Fi London Film Festival (see 'All week') reminds us of this very strange feature of St Katharine Docks, next to the Tower of London. It's the world's largest lump of acrylic, marked with the shape of a royal crown. What's the sci-fi connection? The block was originally made (without the crown) to represent the monolith in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It didn't quite have the weird gravitas needed for the role, though, and a slab of obsidian-black material was used instead. You can find the rejected monolith near the central Starbucks in the docks, right above a cash machine that makes it a little awkward to photograph. Read more here.

Good cause of the week

Fancy ushering a Christmas pudding around Covent Garden in aid of a good cause? Of course you do. The annual Great Christmas Pudding Race takes place on 11 December 2021 within the piazza, and sees teams in fancy dress dashing along a festive course, navigating a giant inflatable slide and a crazy foam slalom... all while balancing a Christmas Pudding on a tray.

Sounds fun, and it's all to raise money for Cancer Research UK. If you want to take part, book your place and start fundraising now. You need to assemble six willing friends, pay a registration fee of £60 and promise to raise at least £600 for the charity. If you game for a festive, fundraising laugh, sign up now.