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August Bank Holiday: 8 of the best things to do in London this weekend

From foodie openings to new cultural happenings in the capital, these are the most interesting places to visit this Bank Holiday weekend

Wondering what to do this August Bank holiday? It’s admittedly going to be a different one to previous years. But the need for social distancing doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of foodie, cultural and artistic events happening to help you fill your three-day weekend. From floral themed pop-ups to thought-provoking art installations, here are eight ways to spend your Bank Holiday weekend this year.

Be transported by Cao Fei at the Serpentine Gallery

This exhibition represents the first ever large-scale solo show in the UK of Chinese multimedia artist and filmmaker, Cao Fei. Exploring the themes of automation, virtuality and technology, Fei’s work blurs the lines between the physical and the digital world, conveying the complex and shifting realities of this modern life.

In this installation entitled Blueprints, visitors are transported from the Serpentine Gallery to a former cinema in Beijing where the artist’s studio is situated. In each of the side rooms, a different film plays – some subversively dystopian, others socially immediate in the questions they pose. The unifying factor? Each one is gorgeously shot, even if it is a disconcerting feast for the eyes.

Until 13 September; Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, Kensington, W2; serpentinegalleries.org

Watch Ballet on the Hoxton Docks

Annette Buvoli performs at Hoxton Docks

Despite many of the West End’s theatres remaining closed, there’s still a way to watch members of the Royal Ballet perform out in the open, and for free. Simply stroll along Regent’s Canal and you’ll stumble across DistDancing – a socially-distant dance project which sees members of the dance company perform for passersby on a pontoon by Hoxton Docks.

Created by Royal Ballet members Chisato Katsura and Valentino Zucchetti, this project aims to give professional dancers the chance to practice and perform despite the absence of a stage. Weather permitting, dates for performances are announced daily on their Instagram account – check it out before heading down with your mask to watch on the towpath opposite. 

For more information visit DistDancing’s Instagram account; @distdancing

Experience Gaia at The Painted Hall

August Bank Holiday: 8 of the best things to do this weekend

This touring installation by UK artist Luke Jerram connects the viewer with Gaia, the personification of Earth in Greek mythology. Measuring 7 metres in diameter, Gaia is meant to give viewers an insight into ‘the overview effect’ – the feeling of awe experienced by astronauts when they see Earth from space for the first time.

Accompanied by a sound composition especially written for the sculpture by BAFTA award-winning composer Dan Jones, Gaia gives viewers not only a look at Earth from space, but also an understanding of the interconnection of all life and the responsibility we hold as its human inhabitants. A truly humbling sight.

28 August – 6 September; Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, Greenwich, SE10; ornc.org

Immerse yourself at The New Normal Festival

August Bank Holiday: 8 of the best things to do this weekend

Taking place at the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building in Wandsworth, one of South West London’s hidden gems, this festival is all about celebrating the arts in the context of the ‘new normal’. Featuring theatre, music, improvisation, magic and comedy, there’s will also be a bar and summer BBQ on hand in the building’s walled courtyard.

As to the programme, highlights include a live recording of The Guilty Feminist Podcast on Monday and Mischief Movie Night, where improv artists perform a live movie on stage using genre, location and title suggestions from the audience. A great way to get the experience of being in a live audience once again now lockdown has lifted, albeit in safe, socially-distant way.

Until 31st August, Royal Victoria Patriotic Building, Wandsworth, SW18; newnormalfest.co.uk

Be educated by Ai Wei Wei’s History of Bombs

August Bank Holiday: 8 of the best things to do this weekend

Internationally renowned artist Ai Wei Wei takes over the Imperial War Museum’s enormous atrium in this site-specific work providing an encyclopaedic look at bombs. But as well as looking at the devastation these missiles cause, History of Bombs also looks at their social implications, including human migration as a result of war.

“The work focuses on our human capacity for destruction; how we attempt to solve political, religious and economic crises through the sue of explosives, which is against any humanity and rationality,” says Ai Wei Wei of the exhibition. “Today, we have many more bombs with unthinkably destructive power, capable of reducing civilization to dust and smoke.” A thought-provoking way to spend an afternoon.

Until 24 May 2021; Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, Lambeth, SE1; iwm.org.uk

See the new bee-friendly sculpture at the Horniman Museum

August Bank Holiday: 8 of the best things to do this weekend

After months of closure, the Horniman Museum in south London’s Forest Hill reopened last month, with its world-class collection of over 350,000 natural, cultural and anthropological objects. But alongside the actual museum, the Horniman’s beautiful gardens are also open for the public to explore this August Bank Holiday.

A visit this weekend will give you the chance to view the garden’s new sculpture by quantum artist Jasmine Pradissitto. Entitled ‘Flower Girl’ and depicting a woman’s faced surrounded by giant leaves, the sculpture is made from a geopolymer called NoxTek™, which absorbs nirtrogen dioxide (NO2) from the air. NO2 has been found to mask the smell of flowers and prevent bees from finding food, so this new sculpture will help combat the pollution that threatens our bees.

Horniman Museum, 100 London Rd, Forest Hill, SE23; horniman.ac.uk

Visit an English Country Garden at Skylon

August Bank Holiday: 8 of the best things to do this weekend

Taking place in partnership with Laurent-Perrier Rosé, this summer pop-up sees the bar at Royal Festival Hall’s Skylon transformed into a beautiful English country garden. Featuring floral chandeliers and installations of pink, white and lilac blooms along the bar, this pretty garden also comes with panoramic views across the Thames.

On offer this Bank Holiday weekend will be three specially-designer spritz cocktails, including a Summer Spritz, made with Laurent-Perrier Rosé, lychee juice and raspberry purée; the Bittersweet Blossom, infused with Laurent-Perrier Rosé, Earl Grey syrup and rhubarb syrup; and The Gardener, a fruity spritz made with Laurent-Perrier Brut, sweet tomatoes and tarragon. Reservations are essential, so make your Bank Holiday booking ASAP.

Skylon, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1; skylon-restaurant.co.uk

Staycation at new hotel The Mitre at Hampton Court

August Bank Holiday: 8 of the best things to do this weekend

To celebrate the opening of its two new restaurants, Coppernose and 1665, brand new boutique hotel The Mitre will be hosting a weekend of acoustic live jazz. Situated right on the Thames by historic Tudor palace Hampton Court, the hotel will also be offering visitors 50% off all its food over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Over this period, the hotel will debut its new draft beer ‘The Six Wives’ – a light, floral ale named after Henry VIII’s unlucky wives and made in Hampshire exclusively for the hotel. But for those who’d prefer a glass of rosé, the world’s first Whispering Angel Boat House Bar will also be open for business on the river here.

The Mitre, Hampton Court Road, Surrey, KT8; mitrehamptoncourt.com

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