What's On

What’s on in London: The best events across the capital this May

From vintage markets to live music performances, these are the London happenings to catch this month

This is a big month for Londoners. If all goes according to plan, from May 17, not only can indoor dining resume, but entertainment venues can open too, including cinemas and theatres. Outdoor events can also welcome bigger crowds — 4,000 people or 50% of the venue capacity — with an increased capacity for special outdoor seated performances. It’s all starting to look a bit closer to normal life. From outdoor film screenings to special music performances, there are plenty of tempting events taking place this month. Here, we’ve rounded up the best things to do in London this May. 

La Clemenza di Tito at the Royal Opera House
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The Royal Opera House makes its grand post-lockdown return this month with a performance of La Clemenza di Tito (The Mercy of Titus). The theatre’s first performance of Mozart’s operatic piece since 2002, this new production by Richard Jones sees a pared down portrayal of a society threatened by change, control and intrigue. Highlighting themes of political scheming and mercy, Jones pulls out messages from Mozart’s opera that are as relevant to today’s society as they were in the Ancient Roman setting. While seating will be socially distanced, for those who still don’t feel comfortable reentering the Royal Opera House just yet, there will be a live streamed performance available to watch via the website’s player on 21 May.

17 –23 May 2021. Booking opens on 7 May.

London Design Week
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London Design Week celebrates the very best of interior design and is an annual highlight in the calendar for Design-Lovers with the week-long event packed full of talks, exhibitions and workshops. This year the festival kickstarts with a virtual launch on Sunday 16 May and then from Monday 17 to Friday 21 May, it will adopt a hybrid format with in-person visits and an online programme. A total of 120 showrooms will be open at the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour, while the virtual programme includes a stellar line-up of online talks, masterclasses and business-focused sessions. Discover the new-season collections, uplifting palettes and defining products for Spring/Summer 2021, alongside artisan craftsmanship. Expect an increasing variety of natural designs that reflect a growing groundswell for sustainability.

Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, Lots Road, London, SW10 0XE

World Meditation Day Concert at Kings Place
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To honour World Meditation Day and to help ease visitors back into gathering for live music performances, Kings Place is hosting a special, soothing concert. The Kings Cross venue will kick off the socially distanced performance with a guided meditation led by London-based yoga teacher Tania Brown, to help listeners get ready to enjoy an immersive sequence by pianist Christina McMaster and violinist Lana Trotovšek. The three-part music programme is designed to replicate a meditation, starting with a pulsating and trance-like piece before moving on to vibrating sounds and finishing with the hypnotic music of John Cage’s In a Landscape, and Messiaen’s ‘Louange à l’Imortalite de Jesús’ from Quatuor pour la fin du Temps.

Sunday 23 May, 6pm; £20.

Harrods’ new chocolate hall
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The fourth and final refurbishments of Harrods’ famous food halls has been unveiled, and it’s more elaborate than even Willy Wonka could have dreamed. The new chocolate hall at the Knightsbridge department store embraces the Harrods’ motto of ‘Omnia Omnibus Ubique,’ all things for all people, everywhere. The decadent shelves of the upgraded Grade II*-listed Edwardian hall are stocked with treats ranging from childhood gold coins to To’ak’s Guayasamin Art Series bars, which costs £350 for a 50g slab. The hall itself is a spectacle, with the Chocolaterie in the centre of room, so all visitors can see the pâtissiers and chocolatiers at work creating Harrods’ own treats, which are presented alongside creations from brands including Godiva, Pierre Marcolini and Venchi, as well as the first global concession for Paris’ Le Bonheur. 

87–135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7XL;

Chiswick Flower Market
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If you’d rather skip the long queues to get into the always popular Columbia Road Flower Market, consider heading west to the Chiswick Flower Market. The new flower market opened just before lockdown, and hit the reset with a reopening this month, kicking off its new schedule of running the first Sunday of the month. The market hosts a variety of traders offering a tempting assortment of garden bulbs, elaborate bouquets and elegant indoor plants. Located in the market place just off Chiswick High Road, it’s the perfect spot to kick off a day of exploring the area, which is also home to a host of independent boutiques, cafes and more.

‘Naturally Brilliant Colour’ at Kew
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Hosted in the world-renowned botanical garden’s Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, this new exhibit will display for the first time stunning, jewel-like colours that had previously never been recreated by humans. The colour-focused artworks were created by artist Coral G Guest using a new technology called Pure Structural Colour, which is able to artificially reproduce the naturally occurring dazzling colours on certain plants and animals. Before this technology, humans were never able to replicate, or experience up close, these jewel colours which are generated only when the microscopic structures in a plant or animal’s surface layers reflect sunlight in a specific way. Immersive and , this exhibition is a must-see for art and nature lovers alike. 

17 May – 26 September.

Hackney Flea Market
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If you’ve missed the thrill of rummaging through market stalls to find the next treasure for your home, you’re in luck — there are a number of beloved flea markets resuming this month. One standout is the Independent Ceramics Market from over 40 ceramicists from established names to up-and-coming-talent. At the end of the month, Hackney Flea Market returns to Stoke Newington’s Church St, with an eclectic mix of vintage furnishings, Danish decor and old records. Happy digging. 

The Independent Ceramics Market, Abney Hall. 73a Stoke Newington Church St, London, N16 0AS 
Saturday 22nd May, 11am — 6pm.

Hackney Flea Market, Abney Hall. 73a Stoke Newington Church St, London, N16 0AS
Saturday 29 May and Sunday 30 May, 11am — 6pm.

Hundreds and Thousands, Greenwich Peninsula
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As part of the Greenwich Peninsula’s ongoing series of installations exploring colour and scale at The Tide, London’s first-ever elevated riverside, the site has commissioned a new piece by British artist Liz West. A graduate of Glasgow School of Art, West has garnered a reputation for creating colourful, site-specific installations that respond to the surrounding environment, and her work for The Tide is no exception. Wrapping around 700m of the walkway’s glass balustrades, the artwork creates a ribbon of moving colour, responding to the riverside spot’s subtle changes in light in the transition from winter to spring.

Until 31 May.

Eataly London
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Having opened enormous food halls and eateries across the US, Eataly is making its London debut with its culinary homage to Italy. Spread over two floors, Eataly London comprises 3 restaurants and bars, 6 eateries and a selection of 5,000 Italian products to buy covering all manner of Italian delicacies, from cheeses to meats, olive oils to gelato. The food hall is also home to London’s largest wine cellar, and will host a variety of cooking classes, culinary workshops and wine tastings. Each of the three restaurants offers its own lens on Italian dining, from the La Terrazza di Eataly terrace restaurant and bar for an al fresco Aperol Spritz, to the Cucina del Mercato for market-to-table dishes served under twinkling fairy lights.

Rooftop Film Club at Alexandra Palace
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The Alexandra Palace drive-in movie theatre spot has a packed schedule of screenings for the month. Classic films including Dirty Dancing and Casablanca are on the roster, along with award-winning recent movies such as Queen and Slim and Minari. For the final weekend of the month, the al fresco cinema is hosting a special Nineties Weekend, with a slate of beloved movies from the decade, including Fight Club, Pulp Fiction and 10 Things I Hate About You. While you’re welcome to bring your own food, there’s a tempting selection of piping hot street food as well as traditional movie snacks. 

From £29.50 per car.

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