As the UK emerges from the health pandemic, Londoners are already taking advantage of their regained freedoms and what better place to start than in Hampstead. The affluent, family-friendly NW3 postcode has always offered an attractive mix of outdoor pursuits, good eating and cultural must-sees, so here are seven events in the area which indicate that this prime North-West London neighbourhood is back and raring to go.
Although the grounds surrounding this imposing stately home have been open for somewhile, visitors will now be able to access the main house and rooms that make a trip to Kenwood such an all-round satisfying experience. The Brew House is an on-site café, popular for its delicious selection of pastries and it serves as a refreshing pit stop for those who like to combine the fresh air of the gardens with the more contemplative settings of the art gallery and museum.
Kenwood is famous for being a great summer venue for live music and blues-rock sensation, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man will be kicking off this season’s series of gigs.
All residents and visitors to Hampstead should make it a mission to dine at this family-run restaurant after lockdown. For nearly sixty years, this cosy eatery in Heath Street has been a stalwart of the neighbourhood’s dining scene and has provided sustenance for royals, actors, journalist and anyone looking for a reasonably-priced meal and a convivial old school atmosphere.
Like Villa Bianca – another culinary pillar of Old Hampstead – La Gaffe occupies premises that are owned by the family and have therefore managed to weather the fallout from Covid-19 without having to run a takeaway service in order to pay rent. However, management and staff are keen to get back to some semblance of normality and will be offering the same cheerful welcome and high-quality food that has made them popular for over half a century.
‘Freud and Pandemic’ – Freud Museum
We may feel that the times we are living through are unprecedented, but a visit to this quirky small-scale museum is a chance to put our experiences into some sort of context. Reopening after restrictions lifted in May, the former home of psychology pioneer Sigmund Freud will focus on the great man’s personal trauma which came in the shape of the Spanish Flu pandemic which took the life of his daughter and unborn grandchild.
Through letters, pictures and other media, the exhibition draws a direct link between the tragedy and the birth of Freud’s seminal work: Beyond the Pleasure Principle. It also charts the way in which modern practitioners are dealing with the psychological effects of recent events and how they themselves see the profession adapting and changing.
Lady Maisery – Cecil Sharp House
The close harmony singing which underpins English folk songs are some of the most unique and haunting sounds in music. They are also some of the most overlooked. The three multi-instrumentalist/vocalists that make up Lady Maisery are doing their best to push traditional compositions into the limelight and with the recent online craze for sea shanties still ongoing, this summer might be their time to shine.
Performing live in the intimate surroundings of Cecil Sharp House, Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans use harp, accordion, fiddle and above all, their distinctively ethereal voices, to bring both old and new tunes to vibrant life. Lady Maisery have been busy showcasing new material online during lockdown, so expect them to be on top form next month as they embark on a series of select live shows.
Walter Price: Pearl Lines – Camden Arts Centre
Pearl Lines is an exhibition that traces its inspiration and purpose directly back to the early months of the pandemic in both New York and London. American, Walter Price was based at the Camden Arts Centre when Covid hit and had to quickly return to the states. In New York, he found materials and money in short supply and therefore decided that he would work with whatever he could lay his hands on.
This exhibition charts Price’s struggle and ingenuity as he adapted his working methods – continuously diluting his paints and simplifying his approach. Sometimes his exhaustion shows as fully formed figures are replaced with figurative symbols, but his directness and urgency never flag. It seems fitting that this most visceral response to the global crisis should return to the place that first inspired it.
The Death of a Black Man – Hampstead Theatre
his feisty three-hander was first performed in London in the mid-seventies and was an instant hit with the critics, who praised its wit, energy and authentic voice. The action centres around best friends Shakie and Stumpie – two Afro-Caribbean teenagers, determined to exchange poverty and obscurity for life in London’s emerging fast-lane.
Shakie is the brains of the outfit with plans, schemes and dreams enough for both of them. Stumpie, however has found a way to break into the music industry and when the glamorous Jackie walks back into their lives, things start to get even more ambitious. Directed and performed with maximum swagger and attitude, the play is also a thoughtful look at youth, race and class that still has resonance.
David Rodigan’s Outlook Orchestra – Kenwood House
Reggae music pioneer, veteran radio DJ and all-round living legend: David Rodigan has done it all. When reggae music was seen as a fringe phenomenon in 70s Britain, Rodigan treated its practitioners with all the respect and commitment that other DJs reserved for the Beatles. As a host of his own weekend radio show, Rodigan championed the careers of everyone from Bob Marley to Maxi Priest and is a highly regarded figure whose name is known from Kingston to Kuala Lumpur.
Rodigan has been around, but he’s still like a kid in a candy store when it comes to performing live. Like other DJs with a similarly wide range of influences, he’s almost spoilt for choice on stage, yet proceedings are never allowed to become jaded. The huge smile that beams from his face when he rewinds the intro to a favourite remix is testament to the man’s enduring appeal and funky good taste.
So, as the UK transitions into the penultimate stage in its journey back to be fully open again, theatre goers, sports lovers and gig attendees can all meet up responsibly and where better to do that than in Hampstead, London’s very own hilltop haven – one of our favourite places to live.
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