Things To Do This Weekend In London: 16-17 September 2023

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All weekend

Three people in medieval costumes standing in a field at dusk holding lanterns
Witness Night of Legends at Eltham Palace on Saturday night.

FREE PALACE GARDEN: Savvy Londoners know that you can occasionally visit the gardens at Hampton Court for free — and this is one such weekend! It's a chance to explore without the usual admission fee, though you'll still need to pay to get into the palace itself, plus the maze and the Magic Garden playground. FREE, 16-17 September

LONDON PODCAST FESTIVAL: We're into the final weekend of this year's London Podcast Festival at Kings Place, and the last two days focus mainly on podcasting itself, with shows giving advice on creating and promoting your own. Some shows are streamed online, if you can't make it in person. Until 17 September

OPEN HOUSE: This is the second, and final, weekend of this year's London Open House Festival, giving you a chance to go inside, above, below and behind the scenes at various London landmarks via open days and guided tours, as well as joining in with walking tours on a variety of topics. Have a look at our picks from the programme this year. Until 17 September

GREENWICH COMEDY FESTIVAL: Greenwich Comedy Festival takes place in a seated arena in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum, with a seriously giggleworthy line-up. Shows this weekend feature Russell Kane, Shaparak Khorsandi, Stephen K. Amos, Rachel Parris, Ardal O'Hanlon, Jack Dee, Nina Conti, Fern Brady and many more big comedy names. Arrive early to make the most of the pop-up bars and street food stalls running alongside the festival. 13-17 September

PECKHAM FESTIVAL: Galleries, former factories, warehouses, multi-storey car parks and railway arches are all venues for Peckham Festival, a free celebration of creative and cultural Peckham. FREE, 15-17 September

TOTALLY THAMES: Much like the river itself, Totally Thames Festival is in full flow, celebrating our magnificent main waterway through events including exhibitions, talks and tours, as well as the Great River Race (details under 'Saturday'). Read our guide for the lowdown on this year's festival. Until 1 October

A team of rowers in a boat on the Thames, with water drops flying everywhere as they row
See hundreds of boats on the Thames on Saturday. Image: Great River Race

RUGBY WORLD CUP: The action continues in France, where the Rugby World Cup is being held, with England playing Japan on Sunday, and Wales playing Portugal on Saturday, among many other matches. If you can't make it across the Channel, peruse our guide to where to watch the Rugby World Cup here in London. Until 28 October

AIN'T TOO PROUD: Following the remarkable journey of Motown group The Temptations from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hit-packed musical Ain't Too Proud ends its run at the Prince Edward Theatre this week. Until 17 September

THE OFFBEAT SARI: The Offbeat Sari at the Design Museum 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. This weekend is your last chance to see the exhibition. Until 17 September

The cast of Ain't Too Proud on stage during a performance
Last chance to catch Ain't Too Proud in the West End. Photo: Johan Persson

ASTRONOMY PHOTOGRAPHY: Shortly after last year's show closed, the new Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, showcasing the greatest space photography taken all over the world, with one picture declared the overall winner. From 16 September

REBEL FASHION: Björk's iconic swan dress, worn at the 2001 Oscars, is one of the centrepieces of REBEL: 30 Years of London Fashion, a new exhibition at the Design Museum, which opens to coincides with London Fashion Week. Items worn by Harry Styles, Sam Smith, Rihanna and Kate Moss also feature in the show, which highlights London's unique fashion culture on the world stage. From 16 September

CHANEL EXHIBITION: The middle of September is a double whammy for fashion fans, as the V&A opens its much-awaited exhibition, Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto this Saturday too. Get an insight into the life and work of the French couturière known as 'Coco', who founded the House of Chanel and continues to influence the way women dress today. From 16 September

OLD FRIENDS: Stephen Sondheim's Old Friends opens for a 16-week run at the Gielgud Theatre from Saturday. It brings American actress Bernadette Peters to the West End stage for the first time in her career, along with Lea Salonga, Bonnie Langford and and Jeremy Secomb, among others, all honouring musical theatre composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. 16 September-January 2024

Saturday 16 September

Three female cast members on stage during a performance of Abigail's Party
Abigail's Party returns to the stage in north London. © Sheila Burnett

GREAT RIVER RACE: See around 300 rowing boats take to the Thames, covering a distance of 21.6 miles in a head-to-head race from Millwall to Richmond. Skiffs, regal-looking barges and Viking-style long boats all take part in the Great River Race, an event that's been going on since 1988 and is now part of Totally Thames Festival. It's free to watch, and there are plenty of viewpoints along the way — here are some tips. From 7.30am

STONEMASONRY WORKSHOP: For something a bit different, head to Highgate Cemetery where stonemason Neil Luxton leads a stonemasonry workshop, where you'll work on your own A4-sized slab throughout the day, learning new techniques as you go, and taking it home with you afterwards. 10am-4pm

BOWIE AND BEYOND: Find out about David Bowie's connections to the Kingston music scene in exhibition Bowie and Beyond: Ziggy Stardust at Kingston Museum — today's the final day of the exhibition. He launched his Ziggy persona at Tolworth local pub Toby Jug in February 1972. 10am-5pm

BSL TOUR: The Charterhouse in Clerkenwell offers a BSL tour exclusively for Deaf and hard of hearing visitors. Learn about some of the key features of the building and 600 years of its history, including the Great Hall and the Great Chamber — used by Queen Elizabeth I during her reign. Find other London museums and galleries which offer regular BSL tours. 11am-12.30pm

PETER PAN: Songs, bubbles and puppets feature in this family-friendly production of Peter Pan, performed at Dugdale Arts Centre in Enfield. Fly with Peter and Wendy to Neverland, meeting Captain Hook, the crocodile, and other characters along the way. 11am/3pm

September 2023: an illustration of Myra Dubois, grimacing and holding a bird in her hands.
Catch Myra Dubois at Sadler's Wells.

DRAG ROYALTEA: Drag artist Kate Butch and special guest Ella V Ryde host the Royal Albert Hall's inaugural drag afternoon tea. Tuck into a boozy afternoon tea as you enjoy lip-syncing, drag silliness, songs, games and prizes — just be prepared for strong language and audience interaction too. 1pm

ABIGAIL'S PARTY: Catch a performance of Mike Leigh's 1977 play Abigail's Party, originally shown at Hampstead Theatre, but performed today at Artsdepot in North Finchley. Watch as married couple Beverly and Laurence prepare to host their neighbours for the evening, offering a snapshot of 1970s Britain. 2pm/7.30pm

NIGHT OF LEGENDS: Last chance to catch a brand new medieval performance event at Eltham Palace, taking place across three evenings this week. Night of Legends combines theatre with storytelling in an outdoor show about an ill-fated group trying to save themselves from an eternal curse, featuring doomed lovers, witches' curses and a mounted knight. Suitable for age 5+. 7pm-9pm

MYRA DUBOIS: Following a turn at Edinburgh Fringe, comedy drag act Myra Dubois brings a short run of her UK tour Be Well to the Peacock Theatre, offering a sardonic side-eye at the wellness industry with her acid tongue and quick wit. Tonight's the final night. Myra has also written about her perfect day out in London for Londonist — read it here. 7.30pm

Sunday 17 September

A mannequin wearing a Chanel twin suit - cream wool and tweed with a navy and red trim
It's the first weekend of the V&A's Chanel exhibition. © Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris / Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope

PARK OPEN DAY: Never been to Richmond Park? Today's as good a day as any to explore, as it holds a free open day. Yes, admission to the park is free every day, but today there are free guided walks, woodland crafts, horse riding demonstrations and other events and activities to help you make the most of the sprawling green space. FREE, 11am-4pm

VINTAGE FAIR: Chelsea Old Town Hall is the place to head for the latest Frock Me Vintage Fair, where you can shop vintage and antique clothing, jewellery and textiles from more than 60 different dealers from across the UK and beyond. It's not unusual for designer label items to appear at the event, so keep an eye out as you browse. 11am-5.30pm

TEDDY BEARS' PICNIC: Classical ballet, physical theatre, visuals and storytelling combine for family-friendly show Teddy Bears' Picnic at Artsdepot. It's aimed at ages 0-8, with audience members encouraged to bring their own teddy along to join in the fun. 11am/1pm/3pm

WE WERE YOUNG: Barbican Cinema hosts a screening of 1961 film We Were Young, set in 1940s Bulgaria as the Nazis rise to power, and telling the story of a group of young people willing to risk everything to oppose the Nazis. It's part of a series celebrating Bulgarian director Binka Zhelyazkova, and this is the first UK screening of this film since it was restored in 2021. 5.40pm

TWELFTH NIGHT: The Globe Theatre presents a very special performance on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Bard's First Folio. The cast involved are preparing for the performance as they would have done in Shakespeare's time — no lengthy rehearsals, and no access to the full script. Each has just been given their own cues and lines to learn, to see how it all turns out on the night. 6.30pm

WAR TECHNOLOGY: The RAF Museum hosts a talk about the bombing technology employed in the second world war. Electronic engineer and historian Dave Gilbert offers an insight into the technology used aboard Bomber Command and Luftwaffe bombers, including how they were able to bomb with such accuracy. No prior technical knowledge is required to follow the talk. 6.30pm-10pm

PIATTI QUARTET: Wrap up your weekend with a performance of music by Felix Mendelssohn,
Vaughan Williams and Brahms by the Piatti Quartet and clarinettist Sacha Rattle (son of legendary conductor Simon Rattle). Part of the Sunday Concerts series at Conway Hall. 6.30pm