One wonders what women’s rights activists in the early 20th Century would have made of our modern habit of giving destructive weather systems female names. Would Emily Pankhurst have been impressed by Hurricanes Irene, Katrina and Sandy, seeing as she wasn’t averse to a bit of disruptive behaviour herself? It might be that the suffragettes would have preferred gender free nicknames like the “Beast from the East” moniker that was given to last month’s cold snap, but where do you go from there? “Pest of the West”? “Lout in the South”?
As a slice of British pageantry right in the heart of the Capital, the changing of the guard has withstood the test of time with all the nobility and grace that we have come to expect from our royal institutions. With two royal weddings on the way, the event is as popular as ever with Londoners as well as tourists and the gates of Buckingham Palace are ideal vantage points from which to view this somewhat esoteric ceremony.
The concept is fairly simple, with one set of soldiers guarding the Queen being replaced by another, however the steps, orders and costumes involved make for a mesmerising military ballet that is unique. The Guards regiments are some of the oldest in history and can trace their lineage to before the Napoleonic Wars. This event is free and regularly attracts large crowds, so getting there early is recommended.
A century before #MeToo there was the suffragette movement which fought and won the right for women to vote in Britain. Drawn from a cross section of Edwardian society, these fierce ladies used propaganda, political lobbying and direct action to bring about change in their communities – in fact, the National Portrait Gallery was one of their targets as they actually committed an act of vandalism there which shook the nation.
Rebel Women spotlights these proto-feminists in all their austere Edwardian glory. Some are with their fellow activists, some alone, hatless and defiant. The exhibition tells of the life and times of, not only the famous Pankhurst family, but also the common rank and file women who sacrificed their freedom in order to gain it for their comrades. www.npg.org.uk/whatson/rebel-women
Hampton extends the theme of its annual Easter egg hunt to include history lessons, cooking demonstrations and theme park activities. While kids of all ages will enjoy finding clusters of chocolate treasure, they will also be able to educate themselves about how a commodity from the New World became valued by kings and queens.
The kitchens of Hampton Court Palace played host to the emerging chocolatiers of Europe and visitors can explore the equipment and techniques that inspired what has become a worldwide industry. Many of the eggs will be located in the former jousting grounds created by Henry VIII which now contains a Magic Garden complete with a robot dragon and mystery maze. www.hrp.org.uk
Running right through the Spring and Summer months, the Underbelly Festival is jam packed with edgy and alternative versions of the kind of entertainment on offer in the West End. Comedy, improv, magic and circuses from four continents are all taking place on the southern shore of the River Thames, right opposite Big Ben.
With plenty for the kids to discover and do, Underbelly is a brilliant option for a family day out. The venue is near a wide variety of exotic food outlets and is also in the shadow of the London Eye. Highlights of the April programme include Best of Comedy Store, The Amazing Bubble Man and Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho. As always, eclecticism is the lifeblood of this popular event. www.underbellyfestival.com
A massively talented field of international champions will be competing for top honours in one of the most iconic road races in the world. The London Marathon course will take runners past a host of famous landmarks before circling around Docklands and leading through the city centre and finishing near the gates of Buckingham Palace.
Her Majesty the Queen will start the race which will include thousands of fun runners, charity teams and the usual sprinkling of eccentrics. In the elite race, several African athletes will be looking defeat our very own Sir Mo Farah but it would take a brave soul to bet against one of the greatest of all time. www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com
Attempting to understand faith by studying the things and structures used in worship is a huge task because the very object of that trust is unseen. The British Museum claims that it wants to find out how people worship rather than what they worship and it brings all of its curative techniques to bear in this fascinating exhibition.
Temple artefacts, scrolls and sculptures are all placed in the mix as prayers, ritual and pilgrimages are studied and reflected on. Humans, it seems, have an intrinsic need to look into the afterlife, a need that seems to inspire endless creativity. Spanning 40,000 years, this hugely informative exhibition supported by the Genesis Foundation is worth attending more than once. www.britishmuseum.org
Giovanni Battista Belzoni’s discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I in 1817 came at a time when Britain was gaining pre-eminence as a world superpower. Egyptology became a favourite fascination for the pre-Victorians because, unlike Greek culture, it was something that they could appropriate for themselves.
Belzoni wasn’t even a scientist, but his background as a circus performer gave him a sense of showmanship. He transported the hieroglyphics and artefacts to Sir John Soane in London who threw lavish parties and viewings, using his treasure as an exotic backdrop. The Sir John Soane Museum have preserved the Belzoni collection and two hundred years have yet to diminish their impact. www.soane.org
Experimental sound design takes a giant leap forward in the Capital in the form of this unique set of live performances. Over the last ten years, Kings Place has championed contemporary music performance and this event showcases some of the more left field material currently pushing sonic boundaries.
At the Sonica Festival, lines between sound shaping, audio installations and performance art are intentionally blurred so that visitors have the choice of listening, watching or even participating. The very latest in digital music software enables artistes to morph natural noises into intriguing aural masterpieces. A truly atmospheric event. www.kingsplace.co.uk
Because the flag of St George has, in the past, been misappropriated by fringe groups, the English have trod a fine line between reinvention and jingoism when celebrating their patron saint. It seems, however, that a new generation is ready to wave the red and white banner without embarrassment or irony which can only be a good thing.
Enjoying great entertainment, music, tea and cake in Trafalgar Square has become a simple delight in recent years and a wide range of activities are planned in other venues. This year’s celebration will focus on English women in the music industry with a live band recreating flawless versions of popular hits from yesteryear as well as contemporary material. Food stalls and children’s games will complete the family atmosphere.
The secret to the enduring success of Sweden’s greatest export (no, not IKEA) is that they composed perfect pop that had just the required tinge of melancholy. This made their music work on many levels as pre-teens would be totally oblivious to the needy compulsiveness swirling around “Mama Mia” and older fans would wonder why they were drawn to the cheesiness of “Fernando”.
This exhibition takes a fairly conventional look at the ABBA phenomenon which is all that visitors need because the catchy tunes, sequinned hot pants and soaring harmonies speak for themselves. Narrated by Jarvis Cocker, it focuses on how the gloom of the early seventies was lifted by two fresh faced Scandinavians couples with a knack for songwriting that Ed Sheehan would give his loop pedal for. The Southbank Centre combines materials from private archives and the ABBA museum in Stockholm including original costumes and handwritten notes. www.southbankcentre.co.uk
A perfect example of a London mashup event that simply works, Dog Day Afternoon is a boho dog show that is married to a trendy outdoor market in one of the Capital’s hippest areas. Lots of pet-focused activities will take place, including an obedience school, canine beauty contest and demonstrations by some of the most talented pooches you’ll ever see.
The main market has its own attractions with stalls selling vintage clothes, shoes, bags and secondhand couture. There is an open competition aimed at dogs of no particular breed. Called “A Bit of Ruff”, it’s an opportunity for visitors to bestow a bit of glamour on their very own faithful friends. Special stalls selling all manner of canine accessories will be open also.
Although aimed at the young teenage market, the underlying message of this Disney film is one that we can all related. A young girl unsure of her place in life is visited by three sparkly apparitions in female form that encourage her to take control of her emotional health by setting off on a quest through time itself.
Female empowerment is a constant theme and its no wonder that two of the spirits are played by Reece Witherspoon of “Legally Blonde” and the queen of self-actualisation herself – Oprah Winfrey. There’s plenty of whizzbang sci fi and special effects connected to the journey and the child actors are credible without being irritatingly precocious. www.westfield.com/london/entertainment/cinema/a-wrinkle-in-time
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