Things To Do This Week In London: 22-28 May 2023

Things to do this week is sponsored by the London Symphony Orchestra.

All week

Things to do this week in London: two Chelsea Pensioners pushing a wheelbarrow at the Chelsea Flower Show
Big week for gardeners as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place. Image: RHS

CHELSEA AND BELGRAVIA IN BLOOM: West London gets a floral glow-up as free flower festivals Chelsea in Bloom and Belgravia in Bloom return, to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show (details on Tuesday, below). The theme this year is Flowers on Film for Chelsea in Bloom, and Into the Wild for Belgravia in Bloom, so expect to see large-scale floral installations at shops, restaurants and other businesses around the areas. Both FREE, Chelsea in Bloom is 22-28 May, and Belgravia in Bloom is 22-29 May

ZOOM ROCKMAN: Private Eye cartoonist Zoom Rockman has created a Jewish Hall of Fame at JW3, featuring 100 cultural icons including Sacha Baron Cohen and Amy Winehouse. With interactive cartoons and automata — and plenty of selfie ops — it sounds like zany fun. 23 May-3 September

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 this is your last week to see it. Until 28 May

Things to do this week in London: a floral sculpture of an orca whale at a previous Chelsea in Bloom
Chelsea and Belgravia in Bloom both return this week. Image: Londonist (from a previous year)

PEAKY BLINDERS: Love TV show Peaky Blinders? This is the final week of Peaky Blinders: The Rise, an immersive experience which takes you into the dark world of Tommy Shelby, where you meet the characters, explore the sets, and take part in challenges. Until 28 May

NEON ARTWORKS: Head to Rich Mix in Shoreditch for a free exhibition of neon artworks by Chila Kumari Singh Burman. Her work has previously adorned the front of Tate Britain, and the interior of Covent Garden Market, and this time we're promised "bold, colourful installations combining Hindu mythology, British iconography, Bollywood glamour, colonial history and childhood memories". FREE, until 7 June

DAY TRIP OF THE WEEK: Thinking about getting out out of London for a day or two as half term approaches? Combine a trip to one of Essex's finest castles (albeit a reconstruction) with a nostalgic trip to a toy museum that'll please adults as much as the kiddies. The House on the Hill Toy Museum in Stansted Mountfitchet has 70,000 toys on display, the lifetime collection of one man. Take a look at our Beyond London section for further inspiration.

A meaty bus, fries, cocktail and bottle of Monkey Shoulder
There's some new whisky-infused dishes on the menu at the Prince of Peckham

TAPROOM OF THE WEEK: Croydon brewery The Cronx hasn't had a taproom for a while now, but that's changed with the opening of a swish new unit on High Street in central Croydon. For the time being, it's open on Saturdays and Sundays — pouring Cronx-made brews as well as guest appearances from breweries including Kirkstall and Brick. The staff, btw are extra lovely.

EAT OF THE WEEK: Chicken specialists White Men Can't Jerk have been a staple of the Prince of Peckham pub since it opened; right now they're trying something a bit different, thanks to a collab with Monkey Shoulder malt whisky. Slow cooked cabrito goat bun, buttermilk fried chicken strips plus a 'Smokey Melon' cocktail are on the menu now through to September.

Monday 22 May

Things to do this week in London: a woman on stage smiling in front of a microphone at the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Heats
The Roundhouse Poetry Slam Heats begin.

POETRY SLAM HEATS: This year's Last Word Festival at Roundhouse in Camden gets underway with the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Heats, taking place in person Monday-Wednesday and online on Thursday this week. See emerging spoken word artists aged 18-25 compete for a cash prize and the coveted title of Slam Champion. 22-25 May

GEOGRAPHICAL CURIOSITIES: Vitali Vitaliev, journalist and author of the Atlas of Geographical Curiosities, is at the Royal Geographical Society to discuss some of the little-known oddities of the world, which have been known to cause diplomatic dispute or military conflict. Watch either in person or online. 2.30pm-3.45pm

CHARITY COMEDY: Rhys James, Rosie Holt, Lara Ricote and Jazz Emu are among the acts on the line-up for Cracking Comedy in Aid of Women and Children First, a fundraising comedy night at Leicester Square Theatre. 7.30pm

FROM FARM TO FORK: The British Library's Food Season continues with an evening with Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, known as The Black Farmer and Thomasina Miers, co-founder of Wahaca, who discuss emerging trends in the food industry and the changing image of food on the high street. 6.30pm-8.30pm

BOTH SIDES NOW 8: Head to the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury for Both Sides Now 8, a diverse programme of eight short films (total duration 65 minutes) which explore queerness from international perspectives, covering topics including queer theory, exorcism, death, sex and desire. The evening begins with an introduction by the programme's curators, Jamie Wyld from videoclub (UK) and Isaac Leung from Videotage (Hong Kong). Doors 7pm (sponsor)

JONI MITCHELL: "Joni Mitchell is the woman who taught your cold English wife how to feel". So says Emma Thompson's character in Love Actually, and tonight the music and poetry of the Canadian-American musician is celebrated at Wilton's Music Hall. Rules To Live By is "a musical celebration of lived human experience, through the words and worlds" of Mitchell, with a chance to hear her own songs, and songs and poems which inspired her. 7.30pm

Tuesday 23 May

Things to do this week in London: two actors dressed in the roles of Holmes and Watson in the Hound of the Baskervilles
The Hound of the Baskervilles comes to Penge.

CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW: A calendar highlight for any green-fingered Londoner, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes over the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, with gardeners from all over the country showing off their work; stalls where you can buy flowers and plants to take home; and a chance to pick up tips from gardening experts. 23-27 May

HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES: Theatre company British Touring Shakespeare bring a new adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Hound of the Baskervilles to the Bridge House Theatre in Penge. It's aimed both at existing fans and anyone who's never read the novel, and features live music and elaborate costumes. 23-27 May

LONDON LIFE: What was it like to live in London in 1746? Use documents from London Metropolitan Archives' collection to explore what the daily lives of Londoners would have been like. This is the first talk of a series, and focuses on 1746 because is was the year in which John Rocque published his Map of London. Watch in person or online. FREE, 1pm-2pm

PEPYS'S LONDON: Author Jacky Colliss Harvey is at Stanfords in Battersea Power Station to discuss her new book, Walking Pepys's London. As the title suggests, it's a guide to the London that would have been familiar to famous diarist Samuel Pepys in the 17th century. 6.30pm-8.30pm

UNDER THE SEA: Tying in with the current (excellent!) exhibition, Animals: Art, Science and Sound, the British Library takes a look Under The Sea. Presenter and diver Miranda Krestovnikoff, author Tom Mustill, and scientists Miranda Lowe and David Curnick discuss why there is still so much we don't know about our oceans, and why they need protecting. Watch in person or online. 7pm-8.30pm

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The London Symphony Orchestra brings a bucolic burst of Beethoven to the Barbican

Rippling streams, chirruping birds, a shepherd playing their pipe… not sounds you’d typically associate with the City of London, but on Wednesday the beauty of the countryside is coming to the Barbican, in the form of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ symphony.

This lush and uplifting piece is performed by the London Symphony Orchestra as part of their Half Six Fix series — a unique concert concept that makes orchestral music feel much more accessible. Your evening begins at 6.30pm with an introduction from conductor François-Xavier Roth, who’ll let you know what to listen out for as you relax with a drink from the Barbican bar. Then, it’s time for main event: a stunning symphony by one of the most celebrated composers of all time. And this is a proper-audio visual affair – with big screens showing performance close-ups as they happen.

It’s all over by 7.30pm — handy if you’ve got dinner plans. And with 2-for-1 tickets available with the promo code 241HSF05, you may as well invite your dining companion along on your aural odyssey. That means you could get two standard tickets from as little as £18, or up to £38 for a pair of the best seats in the house! But solo attendees can still save thanks to the Wildcard option, whereby you’ll pay £10-£15 for a mystery seat that’ll be revealed on on the day — exciting stuff!

Half Six Fix at the Barbican. 6.30pm. Tickets here.

Wednesday 24 May

Things to do this week in London: drag queen Ella Vaday
Ella Vaday hosts a night of queer comedy.

SPITTING IMAGE THE MUSICAL: Fans of satirical puppet show Spitting Image are in for a treat, as Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image The Musical comes to the Peacock Theatre. Over 100 puppets feature, including likenesses of  Tom Cruise, Greta Thunberg, Meghan Markle, Tyson Fury, RuPaul, Angela Rayner, Idris Elba, Ant & Dec, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Keir Starmer, Stormzy, Vladimir Putin... and many more. From 24 May

PODCAST SHOW: Make a podcast? Want to make a podcast? The Podcast Show is the place for you, featuring live podcast stage shows, 350+ speakers, 150+ panel sessions, networking events and more, all taking place at the Business Design Centre in Islington. 24-25 May

LONDON QUIZ: Think you know London's history? Come along to the Christopher Hatton pub in Holborn and pit your wits against other knowledgeable folk in a bid to win the London Historians Annual Big Quiz trophy. The quiz is written and hosted by Londonist's editor-at-large Matt Brown. Doors 6.30pm, 7pm start

A large silver trophy on a table with a few dvds
Can you win the London Historians Big Pub Quiz trophy?

CINEMA COMEDY: Carl Donnelly, Tom Houghton, Hatty Ashdown, Maclarry and Dee Allum are all on the line-up for a night of comedy in the beautiful vintage cinema room at the Fellowship Inn in Bellingham. Siôn James is MC for the evening. Doors 7pm

LGBTQ+ COMEDY: The London LGBTQ+ Comedy Festival continues with Ella Vaday's Elluva Comedy Night at 21 Soho. Hear about her life as a drag queen, interspersed with performances by Stephen Bailey, James Barr, Alison Zrada, Mark Bittlestone, Maddie HW & Iffy. 7.30pm

UNDER THE KUNDÈ TREE: Here’s a story that hasn’t been told before. Premiering tonight, Under The Kundè Tree is the first production in the UK to explore the Cameroonian Independence War through the eyes of women. See this powerful play at Southwark Playhouse Borough and learn about a pivotal (yet little-known) moment in the decolonisation of Africa. 8pm, until 17 June (sponsor)

SADIQ KHAN: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has written a book — and you can hear him discuss it at Southbank Centre tonight. Breathe focuses on air pollution and the climate crisis, also touching on politics, life, and the future of London. 8pm

Thursday 25 May

Things to do this week in London: drummer Mackwood playing on a drum set
Mackwood performs at Late Night Jazz at the Royal Albert Hall

BRING YOUR BABY: Take a guided walk of the old alleyways and coffee houses of the City of London — with your baby in tow. Bring Your Baby guided walks are aimed at parents and carers with babies, taking place at a slower pace than regular walks, so you're free to change and feed your baby as needed as you go along. Find other events to take your baby to in London. 11am-2pm

DARTS: The season semi-finals and final of Premier League Darts takes place at The O2, the result of 17 nights of the sport played at venues all over the UK. See the final four players battle it out for the top prize of £275,000. 6pm

SECOND WORLD WAR: Fulham Palace hosts a talk about life at the palace — and in London generally — during the second world war. Find out how Fulham Palace contributed to the war effort and how it was altered by the conflict. 6.30pm-8pm

THIN VEIL OF LONDON: One of the best guided walks (with theatrical elements) we've ever been on returns for a short run through May and June. The Thin Veil of London is "a very unusual walk around the lesser-known corners of Holborn and Bloomsbury, interwoven with mysteries from the stories of Arthur Machen (1863-1947), a foremost pioneer of ‘folk horror’. Thoroughly recommended. 6.30pm, and on other dates

ARABS ARE NOT FUNNY: Head to Grand Junction in Paddington for the Arabs Are Not Funny fundraiser for Syria, supporting victims of the earthquake. Arabs Are Not Funny is a semi-regular comedy night featuring comedians with roots in the Arab world attempting to prove the naysayers wrong. Prince Abdi, Esther Manito, Isabelle Farah and Omar Badawy are among those on the line-up this time round. 7.30pm

LATE NIGHT JAZZ: Drummer and producer Mackwood stars in this week's Late Night Jazz at the Royal Albert Hall. Expect to hear a blend of original songs and classic standards in the building's Elgar Room, ahead of the release of his debut album. 9.30pm

Friday 26 May

Events in London in May:  a red hut or tent completely surrounded by white - a photo on display at The Polar Silk Road at Natural History Museum
The Polar Silk Road opens at Natural History Museum. Image: EastGRIP I, Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet, Ice Core Project, 2019, © Gregor Sailer

MCM COMIC CON: Dust off your cape — MCM Comic Con is back at ExCeL London. Highlights include guest stars, author talks, costume competitions and more. Guests include actors Julian Glover and David Bradley and author Ben Aaronovitch. 26-28 May

PANTI BLISS: Drag queen Panti Bliss returns to Soho Theatre with her comedy show If These Wigs Could Talk, fresh from a stint on Dancing With The Stars. It sees the notorious performer taking a moment to question her purpose and place in this changing world. 26 May-10 June

POLAR SILK ROAD: The Natural History Museum opens a new, free display, The Polar Silk Road, displaying the work of artist and photographer Gregor Sailer. View 67 photographs and a short film discussing the wide-ranging impacts of the climate crisis, including how melting ice across the Arctic is opening shorter sea routes in an area becoming widely known as the Polar Silk Road. FREE, from 26 May

NORTHERN IRELAND TROUBLES: The Imperial War Museum opens a new exhibition, Northern Ireland: Living with the Troubles. It looks at the conflict in Northern Ireland through the perspectives of multiple individuals affected, through photos, stories and objects, and the exhibition finishes with a look at the situation today and in the future. FREE, 26 May- January 2024

THE PLEASURE OF SEEING: Colour photography pioneer Joel Meyerowitz is at the V&A Museum to discuss his new visual biography, The Pleasure of Seeing. Hear stories from his 60-year career, and find out about the inspirations behind many of his famous photographs. 6.30pm-7.30pm

COURTAULD LATE: The last Friday of the month means Courtauld Lates. The gallery — located inside Somerset House — invites you to peruse its Peter Doig exhibition, sip cocktails and listen to DJs. All sounds rather smashing. 6.30pm-9.30pm

IMPROV: Soho’s new comedy night, The League of Improv, is back at the Century for an evening of “long form improv". The show is completely made up on the fly based on a simple one word suggestion from the audience. 7pm and 9pm

Saturday 27 May

Things to do this week in London:  a crowd gathered around a scientist speaking at a previous Soapbox Science event
Soapbox Science is back on South Bank. Image: (C) ZSL

BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND: Monday 29 May is a(nother) bank holiday, which means that the bank holiday weekend starts today. Have a browse of our guide to spending the bank holiday in London with ideas for cultural days out, walking routes, places to eat and drink, and plenty more.

MOTORING PAGEANT: Whitewebbs Museum hosts the Enfield Pageant of Motoring, taking place at the Enfield Playing Fields. It brings together classic cars and motorbikes, hot rods, modified cars and military vehicles, along with live music and DJs, a funfair, and food and drink stalls. Note that the museum itself isn't open. 27-28 May

MAY HALF TERM: The final week of May, running into June, is May half term, when the kids are off school. Have a look at our May half term events guide, for plenty of ways to keep them entertained. 27 May-4 June

FOODIES FESTIVAL: Head to Syon Park for Foodies Festival, a three-day celebration of all things edible (and quaffable), with a side of live music. Fleur East, Scouting For Girls and Sophie Ellis-Bextor are among the performers, with live demos by celebrity chefs, street food and artisan markets, kids' cookery sessions, pop-up bars and more. 27-29 May

FOOTBALL BOOK MARKET: Stanchion Books and South London Gallery Bookshop join forces for the London Football Book Market, a chance to browse and buy football-related books, magazines, fanzines, shirts, prints and other merch from independent publishers. 11am-6pm

ALLY PALLY 150: This month marks 150 years since Alexandra Palace was first opened to the public, to mark Queen Victoria's 54th birthday. They're throwing a big party to celebrate the anniversary with live music, palace tours, cinema screenings, a silent disco and more. 12pm-9pm

SOAPBOX SCIENCE: Leading female and non-binary scientists take to their soapboxes to discuss their areas of expertise; Soapbox Science pops up on South Bank, with sharks, DNA and brain tumours among the topics covered by representatives from ZSL, UCL, the University of Cambridge and other eminent institutions. FREE, 1pm-4pm

ESSEX ROAD: How well do you know the streets between Essex Road and Regent's Canal? It's not a part of town that gets much attention, but London on the Ground tours reckon there's plenty to discover. Take a two-hour walk around the streets and finish up in a community pub. 2.30pm

PHASES: Electronic, mechanical and sonic artwork-creators Kai Lab team up with composer/musician Aliayta Foon-Dancoes to create Phases — a mesmerising piece of music/performance art on violin and quadrophonic polyrhythm drum. It's at October Gallery in Bloomsbury tonight only. 7.30pm-8.30pm

Sunday 28 May

Things to do this week in London: a group of nine people dressed in various costumes at MCM Comic Con
MCM Comic Con is on all weekend.

HAYES CANAL FESTIVAL: Hop on a boat and cruise along the Hayes Canal — just one of the events at the Hayes Canal Festival, which also includes exhibitions about the canal's history and sustainability, live music, kids' activities, and a food and drink tent. (Crucial info: it's the Hayes in the Borough of Hillingdon, NOT the Hayes in the Borough of Bromley). FREE, 7am-6.30pm

RIDELONDON 2023: Large parts of central London go traffic-free for RideLondon 2023, a free and family-friendly bike ride that's open to everyone. Ride past the likes of St Paul's, Trafalgar Square and Westminster without the usual traffic. 10am-3pm

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY: Barbican Cinema screens a recording of The Sleeping Beauty, performed by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, featuring Tchaikovsky’s  music and Oliver Messel’s fairytale designs. 2pm

BLACK HISTORY BUS TOUR: Take a tour of London's top tourist attractions with a difference — seeing them from an African/Caribbean perspective. The Black History Bus Tour is a three-hour drive, starting in Brixton and passing landmarks including the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament, with the hidden Black connections explained as you go. 2pm-5pm

AS YOU LIKE IT: The rambunctious Three Inch Fools put a comedic/musical spin on Shakespeare, with their production of As You Like It, which plays at the Actors' Church in Covent Garden tonight, Monday and Tuesday. 2.30pm (and again on 29 and 30 May at 7.30pm)

A GYPSY HISTORY: Jeremy Harte — author of Travellers Through Time and secretary of the Romany and Traveller Family History Society — is at Conway Hall to discuss Romany Gypsy culture from Tudor times through until today, focusing on different portrayals of Romany people, and the hardships of travelling life. 3pm

SUNDAY SCHTICK: The Rose & Crown in Kentish Town hosts another free night of comedy with its Sunday Schtick session. Stands ups take to an open mic for an unpredictable evening of comedy — who knows, maybe you'll discover the next Big Thing. FREE, 7pm

Museum treasure of the week

A pair of bellows once used to blow tobacco smoke into the rectum of the recently drowned
Image: Matt Brown

This week's treasure is an anal probe; a life-saving anal probe, no less. These early 19th century bellows were once positioned at key points along the Thames as a means to resuscitate the recently drowned. They "worked" by administering a puff of tobacco smoke directly into the rectum. The warm, dry smoke was thought to be an antidote to the cold, wet Thames water, according to the prevalent "four humours" school of medicine. Needless to say, it didn't work. This peculiar object can be seen in the Science Museum's Medicine Galleries, and there's more on the history here.

Good cause of the week

A grey and white image showing the words Vagina Museum over the entrance to a building, formed of two railway arches

Some good news from the Vagina Museum, which recently had to vacate its temporary Bethnal Green home. They've now found a wonderful new space in two railway arches in East London. But they need to act fast to secure the space. They're looking to raise £85,000 by the beginning of June in order to move forward. If you'd like to support them, take a look at their crowdfunding page.

For those wondering why London needs a Vagina Museum, here's what they say: "The Vagina Museum exists because we want to end the stigma and shame about vaginas and vulvas. 65% of women aged 16-25 say they have a problem using the words vagina or vulva. This embarrassment to talk about the gynaecological anatomy can literally kill: nearly a third of women aged 16-35 say they have avoided going to the doctors altogether with gynaecological issues due to embarrassment (Eve Appeal 2016, 2019). Almost half of women (and more than half of men) cannot correctly label a diagram of the vulva (YouGov 2019). We exist to break these taboos, to educate people and empower people to talk with confidence about anatomy which half of the world shares."