7 exciting art and design festivals and events in September to book now

Whether you’re looking to explore architectural marvels, view ground-breaking art or lose yourself in the design world, these are the cultural events you don’t want to miss

As we move towards autumn, the capital’s cultural agenda has never looked more exciting or inviting. A raft of brilliant London festivals and art events are taking place across the capital, from the Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival, which celebrates the extraordinary creative work of disabled artists, to Open House London, where you get the chance to peek inside some of the capital’s hidden architectural gems. Here we’ve rounded up London’s key cultural events in September 2022 you need to know about.

Greenwich + Docklands International Festival
26 August – 11 September

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Always one to push boundaries when it comes to spectacular outdoor art installations, the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival is back with its most eye-catching schedule yet. Each of the events and installations have been designed as a feast for the senses, with the festival kicking off with ‘Spark’ by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde on Friday 26 August, which will see the skies over Greenwich filled with hundreds of biodegradable artificial ‘fireflies’. Other highlights include Stephanie Lüning’s ‘Islands of Foam’, which will see environmentally-friendly technicolour foam surge through the streets, and Peter Hudson’s incredible 32ft high zoetrope Charon, originally made for Burning Man, recreated at Royal Docks. 

Various locations around London

Totally Thames Festival
1-30 September

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As the lifeblood that runs through the heart of London, it seems only fitting that the Thames should have its very own dedicated festival. Totally Thames brings imaginative events and activities to various locations along the riverbank, running from Richmond to Barking. This year, for the first time, they’ll be bringing a night-time flotilla to the waterway with an installation called ‘Reflections’ on Saturday 24 September, which will see over 150 boats decorated in twinkling lights descend along the Thames from Chelsea to Tower Bridge, creating what the organisers refer to as a “sparkling night time Canaletto scene”. Other highlights include an installation of 200 silk flags fluttering outside the National Maritime Museum and an exhibition dedicated to the Thames’ secret islands.

Various locations around London

Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre
7 - 11 September

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Hero & Leander

As part of its biennial Unlimited Festival, the Southbank Centre will be playing host to a five-day programme that celebrates the creative work of disabled artists, with events spanning performance, music and film. This year the programme is set to focus on climate change, identity and marginalised experiences, with highlights including Corali Dance Company’s first family show ‘Super Hot Hot Dog’, which explores the relationship between performers with and without a learning disability, and ‘Leave the Light on for Me’ from Mind the Gap, England’s leading learning disability performance and live arts company.

Belvedere Road, Southbank, London SE1 8XX

Open House London
8 – 21 September

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Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Open House London gives visitors the opportunity to peek inside architectural marvels in the capital that aren’t usually open to the public, providing a fantastic new perspective on the city. For a fortnight in September, iconic office buildings, incredible private homes and even places of worship will fling open their doors to whoever fancies having a nose around, and to celebrate their milestone birthday the festival is adding a brand-new element this year, championing nine specific London neighbourhoods: Aldgate, East Ham, Greenwich Peninsula, South Tottenham, Somers Town, Battersea, Walworth, Shepherd’s Bush and Cambridge Heath. 

Various locations around London

London Design Festival
17 - 25 September

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Felipe Pantone, Quick Tide

Bringing together talent from across the world and shining a light on the design prowess of the capital, LDF returns for its 20th edition this September. While the main site may be at the V&A – with specially commissioned projects and a compelling line-up of talks and workshops from leading designers – there will be events and installations taking place all over London during the festival. Highlights among the 400-plus events include an outdoor installation from Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis celebrating the Brutalist form of Centre Point and Better Bankside’s Hope Exchange, a colour-filled outdoor installation that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in London and beyond.

Various locations around London

HowTheLightGetsIn Festival
1 - 2 October

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This thought-provoking festival held at Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath combines music, ideas and philosophy for a weekend of erudite hedonism. This year’s theme is ‘Error and Renaissance’, and the world’s leading thinkers and performers have been drafted in to provide a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening programme. Key speakers include acclaimed author Esther Freud, BAFTA-winning playwright David Hare and revolutionary feminist Laurie Penny, while music comes courtesy of Mercury-nominated Gwenno and art rock legends Django Django. There also an imaginative roster of cabaret led by sequin-clad satirists Bourgeois & Maurice and stand-up comedy from Tatty Macleod and Alexandra Haddow.

Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Hampstead, London NW3 7JR

British Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery
29 September – 2 October

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The Saatchi Gallery is known for its ground-breaking contemporary art, so it seems only fitting that it should be playing host to the British Art Fair at the end of the month. As the only fair dedicated to Modern and Contemporary British Art, over 50 leading dealers will be brought together to exhibit paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures covering the most important artistic movements of the past 100 years. Many of the exhibitors have been with the fair since its inception in 1988, but new this year are ten contemporary galleries who will each be showing the work of one British artist in a curated show on the second floor entitled ‘Solo Contemporary’, including the Bermondsey Project Space and east London’s Union Gallery.

Duke of York Square, King’s Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4RY

Main picture: Peter Hudson’s incredible 32ft high zoetrope Charon, originally made for Burning Man.
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