Things To Do This Week In London: 23-29 January 2023

Things to do this week is sponsored by The Old Vic.

All week

A bagpiper dressed in traditional Scottish dress playing the bagpipes
Celebrate Burns Night here in London. Image: Evie Fjord via Unsplash

BURNS NIGHT EVENTS: Wednesday 25 January is Burns Night, when Scots mark the 264th birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns. There are special meals, ceilidhs and whisky aplenty all week — take a look at our guide on where to celebrate Burns Night in London.

UNFAMILIAR: The Royal College of Physicians Museum near Regent's Park opens a new exhibition, Unfamiliar, featuring photographic reinterpretations of every-day medical objects from the past. They're based on objects from the museum's own archives, photographed in a way that challenges our understanding of them. FREE, 23 January-28 July. There's a special exhibition launch event on Tuesday evening.

VAULT FESTIVAL: Live performance extravaganza VAULT Festival returns for the first time in three years, with 500+ shows spanning theatre, comedy, cabaret and more. Highlights include theatre show For a Brief Moment and Never Again Since by Judi Amato, about a woman coming to terms with her husband's crime; lively musical party Just Act Normal by Chrissy Bray; 90s rave vampire-slaying horror comedy show, Police Cops: Badass Be Thy Name; and Compositor E by Charlie Dupré, a play about an apprentice typesetter working on Shakespeare's First Folio, while processing the trauma of his mother’s execution for witchcraft. Browse the full, eclectic programme. 24 January-19 March (sponsor)

ILLUMINOCITY: We're into the final week of IlluminoCity, a free light festival featuring two installations in the City of London. It's your last chance to see glowing, geometric sculptures outside the CityPoint building near Moorgate, and Principal Place near Liverpool Street. FREE, until 27 January

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: Time's also running out to see More Travels with My Camera, a free exhibition of travel photography at Barbican Library. View street and portrait photography from Africa, Asia and Latin America by Adrian Whittle, who has also written the stories behind some of the images. Some of the works are for sale, too. FREE, until 28 January

WINTER LIGHTS: Brighten up these dark evenings with a trip to Canary Wharf to see Winter Lights, a free trail featuring more than 20 glowing artworks. Some will be familiar if you've been in previous years, while others are new for 2023. You'll find them dotted around the area, both inside and outside. FREE, until 28 January

A giant rainbow slinky, illuminated multicoloured in the dark
End Over End by Studio Vertigo is part of Battersea Power Station Light Festival. Image: Janus van den Eijnden

LONDON SHORT FILM FESTIVAL: At venues around the capital, London Short Film Festival continues throughout this week, with documentaries, dramas, animations, industry events and more. We like the look of Not Too Sweet, which highlights the work of East and South East Asian filmmakers; They Call Us The Working Class, which focuses on working class stories by filmmakers from working class backgrounds; and a chance to hear from the intimacy coordinators who oversee the creation of sex scenes. Until 29 January

MIME FESTIVAL: See performers from all over the world, in town for London International Mime Festival. Have a browse of the programme but be quick as many performances are already sold out. Until 5 February

BATTERSEA LIGHT FESTIVAL: Yep, another light festival. This one's also free (hurrah!) and takes place in and around Battersea Power Station, with eight glowing installations illuminated every evening, and a selection of food trucks popping up to keep you fed and watered while you explore. FREE, until 5 March

MUSIC, MIGRATION AND MOBILITY: The Royal College of Music Museum in South Kensington recently opened a new exhibition, Music, Migration & Mobility, which tells the story of émigré musicians from Nazi Europe in Britain. Find out about the lives and legacies of musicians who fled the Nazi regime, and the far-reaching impact of migration on culture at large. FREE, until 16 April

Monday 23 January

Liza Pulman singing on stage in a pink glittery dress, with one arm up in the air
Liza Pulman performs The Heart of It at The Other Palace

CRAFT MORNING: Anyone's welcome at the regular creative coffee mornings at The Yellow in Wembley Park. Learn art and craft skills like card making, glass painting, origami, crochet, decoupage, cake decorating and more, under the guidance of qualified artist Jayshree Thacker. FREE, 10.30am-midday

CHASING PLANTS: Author and botanical illustrator Dr Chris Thorogood is at Chelsea Physic Garden to discuss plant diversity, touching on species found in swamps, rainforests and mountains. He also talks about carnivorous plants and finishes up with a Q&A session. 2.30pm-3.30pm

CRYPTO: Want to get to the bottom of crypto, blockchains, non-fungible tokens, smart contracts and metadata? Better attend Professor Raghavendra Rau's lecture at Barnard's Inn Hall, which explores how cryptographic technology is applied in business. FREE, 6pm-7pm

SPIDER SECRETS: Arachnphobes, look away now. The Royal Institution hosts Sara Goodacre, founder of SpiderLab, for a talk about the genetic secrets of spiders. She reveals some things about the creatures which can't be seen on the surface, such as artificial spider silks that could be used for drug delivery, wound healing and regenerative medicine. 7pm-8.30pm

LIZA PULMAN: Singer, actress and comedian Liza Pulman brings her show The Heart of It to The Other Palace. It's a celebration of the world’s most-loved singers and composers including Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Irving Berlin, Randy Newman, Michel Legrand, Judy Collins and Charlie Chaplin, with Pulman accompanied by a six-piece band. 7.30pm

Tuesday 24 January

A man sitting behind a rippled glass window
Immersive experience Saint Jude officially opens today

SAINT JUDE: New immersive experience Saint Jude officially opens today, set in a mysterious government building in Westminster and blurring the boundaries between theatre and technology. The experience uses AI to set visitors up as employees of Saint Jude, a fictional organisation which provides comfort, communication and conversation to people in lifelong, irreversible comas. From 24 January

THE LEHMAN TRILOGY: Three-act play The Lehman Trilogy returns to London after stints on Broadway and in LA, telling the story of the Lehman Brothers, from their arrival in American as immigrants, to the collapse of their investment firm in 2008. See it at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. 24 January-20 May

TYBURN TREE: Footprints of London tour guide Richard Watkins offers a virtual tour of the route condemned prisoners would take from Newgate Prison to the Tyburn Tree near Marble Arch, where they were hanged. Find out about the route and rituals and superstitions linked to it, all without leaving your house, in a talk designed to coincide with the Executions exhibition at Museum of London Docklands. 6pm-9pm

PIANO RECITAL: Leighton House continues its series of piano recitals with a performance by Ariel Lanyi, set among impressive works of art. Your ticket includes access to the entirety of Leighton House Museum, so get there in time to have a look around before the concert begins. 7pm-8pm (doors 6.30pm)

THE NAZIS AND UFOS: Historian Michael Fitzgerald gives an online talk about claims that the Nazis were developing flying saucers. Hear evidence suggesting that the Third Reich succeeded in developing some kind of workable flying saucer, then make up your own mind. 8pm-9.30pm


Sponsor message

A soulful new musical celebrating the life of Sylvia Pankhurst

Sharon Rose and Beverley Knight. Photo by Chantel King

A musical revolution is coming to The Old Vic! And it's all about a feminist, socialist, activist, pacifist and rebel who worked at the heart of the Suffragette movement: Sylvia Pankhurst.

Sylvia, which opens this Friday, puts the spotlight on Pankhurst and shows how she helped change the lives of working women and men. It does so in a spectacularly unique style, fusing dance, hip hop, funk and soul, with original music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde.

This remarkable new musical is written by ZooNation director Kate Prince and stars Sharon Rose in the title role, who previously played Eliza in the West End adaptation of Hamilton. It also features the living legend that is Beverley Knight as Sylvia's incredible mother Emmeline Pankhurst, who famously spearheaded the suffragette movement.

Sylvia runs 27 January-1 April, with tickets from £10. Get yours today and get ready for a riotous celebration of one of history's most fascinating trailblazers.


Wednesday 25 January

Musicians performing on a small stage in front of a crowd
Peckham Levels hosts a free live music jam

IN SEARCH OF BRIXTON: London Metropolitan Archives offers a walking tour around Brixton, covering the history and diversity of the area. 11am-1pm

GIN TOUR: Find out about the history of the 18th century Gin Craze, its impact on Londoners and how they responded to it, in this Museum of London walking tour around the West End, including St Giles, Seven Dials and Drury Lane. 2pm

SCIENCE MUSEUM LATE: Once a month, the Science Museum keeps its doors open late, and tonight's theme is Chinese New Year. Browse the exhibitions and displays after hours, hear a panel of scientists giving their predictions for the year ahead, learn Chinese calligraphy, dance at a silent disco and more. FREE, 6.30pm-10pm

TREE TALKS: Architects, artists, foragers, makers, historians, and activists come together on stage at Barbican to give a series of mini lectures on the role of trees in the city. It's the first in a series of new events to be known as London Arboretum. 7pm

VICE CITY: Mudlarking uncovers some pretty fruity remnants of London's past, as Malcolm Russell, author of Mudlark'd: Hidden Histories from the River Thames, reveals during a talk tonight in Rotherhithe. Expect stories of opium smoking, gambling, gin guzzling and the sex trade. 7.30pm-9pm

LIVE MUSIC JAM: Head to Peckham Levels for a free-entry live music jam. It kicks off with performances by a London-based Kanun player, performing music from Balkan, Greek, to Turkish and Arabic traditions, and a female global folk trio, before all other musicians are welcome to join in an open-jam session — don't forget your instrument! FREE, 7.30pm-11pm

Thursday 26 January

The three members of Wild Card, holding their instruments and walking towards the camera in a publicity photo
Wild Card perform at the Royal Albert Hall

THE Q: Last year, the longest queue the world has ever seen formed, as people waited to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state. Head to OSO Arts Centre to see The Q, a tragi-comic play which tells the story of the queue through the eyes of one woman, and the impact it had on her own life. 26-28 January

PRINT POUND NOTES: The St Bride Foundation opens a new exhibition, Print Pound Notes!, celebrating 100 years of the Adana printing press. View materials including early drawings for the company’s first flatbed press, working examples of some popular 1920s models and photographs and documents from the archives. FREE, 26 January-4 April

AFRICA FASHION: Christine Checinska, curator of the current Africa Fashion exhibition at the V&A, gives a free lunchtime talk about the creation of the exhibition. Find out more about the designers, stylists, photographers and wearers from 25 different countries who feature in the display. FREE, 1pm-1.55pm

LOVE, LEDA: Head to Foyles Charing Cross Road for the launch night of new book, Love, Leda, and accompanying exhibition, Leda in Soho. Love, Leda is a newly discovered, never-before-published queer novel set in and around the streets of Soho in the years before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and the exhibition maps some of the locations featured in the book. 6.30pm-8.30pm

OUT-SPOKEN: The January edition of poetry and live music event Out-Spoken is at Southbank Centre, hosted by TS Eliot prize winner Joelle Taylor. Poet and performer Arji Manuelpillai, writers Kim Moore and Mark Waldron and DJ Sam 'Junior' Bromfield are also on the line-up. 7.45pm

LATE NIGHT JAZZ: One for night owls: Late Night Jazz is back in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, and band Wild Card are this week's performers, celebrating the release of their new album, Cabin 19 Fever. It's a relaxed event, with the audience welcome to dance and sing along. 9pm

Friday 27 January

The George Harrison Project performing on stage
Celebrate the music of George Harrison at The Broadway in Barking

BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH: Help the RSPB keep an eye on the numbers of wild birds in London by taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. If you're lucky enough to have a garden or outside space, spend an hour counting and recording the numbers and types of birds that visit it, then report back to the RPSB. The charity then uses the data to spot any patterns, anomalies, or any species that may be in danger. FREE, 27-29 January

LAURA ASHLEY EXHIBITION: Fashion and homewares brand Laura Ashley open a mini exhibition to celebrate its 70th anniversary — so miniature, that it fits inside a phone box. You'll find in on Floral Street in Covent Garden, the phone box wrapped in a Tulips print from the '90s, containing a display of fabrics, patterns, prints and products from the brand's seven decades. FREE, 27 January-5 February

HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: John Dobai was born in Budapest in 1934, and went on to survive the Holocaust. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, the National Archives hosts an online event with John telling his story, and how he works to preserve his legacy and that of other survivors. 2pm

HISTORY OF SPEED: Be at the world premiere screening of new documentary Rapid Motion Through Space, at the Royal Institution. The feature-length film focuses on the many incarnations of speed and how it affects us all on land, sea, sky, space and even in our thoughts. The event includes a panel discussion with a group of experts, including director Trent Burton. 7pm-9.30pm

GEORGE HARRISON PROJECT: Enjoy an evening of the music of George Harrison, including early Beatles songs, and tracks from his solo career and time with supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. Head to The Broadway in Barking to see tribute act The George Harrison Project in action. 7.30pm

Saturday 28 January

Close-up photo of a child's face sniffing snowdrops
Get your fill of snowdrops at Myddelton House Gardens. Image: Shutterstock

SNOWDROP SALE: You'll have to be up and at 'em early for the annual snowdrop sale at Myddelton House Gardens in Enfield. It's a chance to buy varieties of the seasonal plant from expert growers, and then enjoy wandering around some of the venue's own snowdrops. Check out other places to see snowdrops in London this year. 7.30am-12pm

JUBILEE EXTENSIONS: When they opened in 1999, the Jubilee line extension stations were hailed as "the biggest architectural sensation of their kind since the Moscow Underground". Almost quarter of a century down the (Jubilee) line, join former head of design and heritage for Transport for London, Mike Ashworth, on a tour taking in Westminster, Southwark, North Greenwich and Canary Wharf. 11am-2.30pm

PHOTO FESTIVAL: The Photographers' Gallery at Oxford Circus hosts the Small File Photo Festival, which encourages and celebrates small file photography. Networks, data centres, and internet-connected devices create a whopping 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions each year — and the large file sizes used for images on the internet contributes to this. Workshops, talks and an awards ceremony feature in today's festival. 11am-8pm

CUBAN DANCING: Cuban salsa dance, music, and culture come to life at Peckham Levels, which hosts dance event La Gozadera. It's open to anyone, including absolute beginners who want to give salsa a go, as there are lessons followed by a social dancing session. 5pm

THE MARTIAN: 2015 Matt Damon film The Martian is chosen for this month's Silver Screen Science Fiction at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Watch the film inside the Peter Harrison Planetarium, then hear a talk from an astronomer about the science behind it. 6pm-9pm

POUR IT UP: Anthems from hip hop & R&B's best-loved artists are blasted out till the small hours at Pour It Up, the Old Queens Head's weekly club night. FREE before 8pm (runs 7pm-3am)

NEIL DIAMOND SONGBOOK: Celebrate the life and work of singer-songwriter Neil Diamond at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. Sing along to Sweet Caroline, Cracklin’ Rosie, Forever in Blue Jeans, Song Sung Blue, Hello Again, Love on the Rocks, America and more, while photos, video and narration are used to tell his story. 7.30pm

CRIZARDS: Last chance (saloon) to watch comedy twosome Crizards perform their rootin'-tootin' Wild West-themed show at Soho Theatre tonight. Giddy up. 10.15pm

Sunday 29 January

The interior of Cutty Sark
Enjoy comedy on board the Cutty Sark. Photo: Matt Brown

BIRDWATCH: Fancy a spot of birdwatching today? The ecology team at Cody Dock in east London are looking for volunteers to take part in RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch (also see Friday). You can drop in anytime you like, and stay for as long or as little as you want. FREE, 10am-2pm

BASKETBALL: Sunday sport? At the UEL Sportsdock near Gallions Reach this afternoon, the Division Two London Titans wheelchair basketball team goes up against the Brixton Ballers. KO 2.30pm

HOMO SAPIENS REDISCOVERED: Paul Pettitt, Professor of Palaeolithic Archaeology at Durham University, is at Conway Hall to talk about how our species, Homo sapiens, came about, and how and why our ancestors adapted to make us a completely separate species, dating back to the caves and rock shelters of our African origins. 3pm

ROBBIE MCINTOSH: Soz Liverpool, but London has a Cavern Club too — and this afternoon Robbie McIntosh (who's played in bands with none other than Paul McCartney) brings his band to this Raynes Park venue. 3pm

SOUL FESTIVAL: Lewisham's Fox and Firkin hosts Soul festival, Expansions. It includes an old school garden party providing Caribbean dinner, pop-up stalls, a singing competition, and a party with live DJs going on until the early hours. 4pm-2am

MARK JENKIN: His latest film, Enys Men, has stirred up a fair amount of hype, but today Cornish filmmaker Mark Jenkin appears in a Q&A at BFI Southbank, alongside a retrospective of his earlier, short works. 6.20pm

CUTTY SARK COMEDY:  Josh Jones headlines tonight's comedy show on board the Cutty Sark, with support acts Bronwyn Sweeny and Claire Haus. It takes place in the studio theatre in the lower hold, which makes a change from your average pub comedy night. 6.30pm-8.30pm

BEOWULF: Vauxhall's Teahouse Theatre hosts a fireside reading of Beowulf by Seamus Heaney to finish your week. It's a modern translation of the Old English epic poem about the eponymous Scandinavian hero. 8pm-11pm

Urban oddity of the week

On the subject of architecture and trees (see Wednesday), how about this superior fairy house we spotted in High Barnet? Hewn from a still-living though cut-back tree, this miniature palace was recently on the market for the princely sum of 77 acorns. For more fairy-door action, head a half-mile north to Hadley Common, where part of the woods is heavily populated with fairyfolk.

Good cause of the week

Got an old musical instrument you don't need any more? Donate it to Ronnie Scott's music amnesty. Any donated instruments will be given to schools to help with music education. Pop along on January 28th between 10am and 3pm.