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What’s on in London – May 2017

With the announcement of a general election, one member of the public seemed to echo the mood of an entire nation live on TV. Sure enough, this coming month will be full of hollow promises, on air gaffes and inaccurate polls as the country once again cast its vote. With Brexit rarely out of the news, things might get tactical, leading to some surprise results locally. Don’t expect the political map to change much, though, because irrespective of political opinion, London likes nothing better than to get on with business.

On The Town – Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park

The Open Air Theatre has become a staple in the summer entertainment calendar and continues to thrive, no matter what the weather brings. This optimistic show that kick-started the movie career of Frank Sinatra is therefore the ideal musical vehicle for this outdoor setting. Three sailors are in New York on a 24 hour pass and they are determined to have a great time, but whose idea of fun is the best? On The Town is a great example of why Broadway ruled the genre for so long. It cracks along with witty dialogue, sharp moves and massive show tunes and doesn’t let up even in the romantic bits. It was also the first time that Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins worked together and is therefore something of a Hollywood milestone. www.openairtheatre.com

Foodies Festival – Syon Park

Some of the most memorable culinary events take place when Mother Nature plays a role and this makes Syon Park, with its stately home and cultivated gardens overlooking the Thames, the perfect venue for three days of epicurean excitement and endeavour. The profile of homegrown innovation has never been so high and this is reflected in the programme of the Foodies Festival which takes place at the end of May. Winners and runners up of both the Great British Bake Off and Masterchef will all make appearances on the main stage as will several of today’s groundbreaking chefs. Traditional disciplines like cider brewing and jam making rub shoulders with the latest street food crazes and destination restaurants. There’s live music, kitchen demonstrations and even a chilli-eating competition. Hot stuff indeed!

RHS Chelsea Flower Show – Chelsea

It’s often joked that The Queen prefers horses to people, but if you do the research, you’ll find that the one event that she always looks forward to is this relaxed homage to the Great British Garden. Always a people person, Her Majesty takes great delight in talking with fellow flower enthusiasts and admiring their horticultural endeavours. As always, inspiration is taken from all corners of the globe. This may be a archetypal British event but it wields reach and influence well beyond the borders of SW3. Artisan designs from Japan and flower arrangements inspired by Vikings (I kid you not) all feature as the only limit seems to be that of the horticulturalist’s imagination. www.rhs.org.uk

State Opening of Parliament – Westminster

The relationship between the nation’s monarch and the elected representatives of her people is one of the pillars of Great Britain’s democracy and way of life. The ceremony that indicates the commencement of a new legislative cycle is steeped in traditions that reveal how hard won these freedoms are. With full pomp and pageantry, the Queen will make her way to the Houses of Parliament in order to address a government that will receive her with due deference while at the same time stating its independence. In previous centuries, various rulers attempted to threaten and coerce the fledgling MPs and that tension has been incorporated into today’s courtly proceedings. When the Queen arrives in Westminster, she will send a messenger (Black Rod) into the building to summon parliament. The door is symbolically slammed shut thereby forcing the minion to ceremoniously bang on it three times. The MPs then pour into the chamber in order to hear her speech. Much ado about nothing? Probably, but the costumes, jewels and choreography make for great theatre. www.parliament.uk

Renaissance Lates – National Gallery

In an attempt to win over the elusive twenty to thirty something demographic, the National Gallery has launched a series of after-hours events that have proved immensely popular with the West End crowd. Interactivity is the key focus as different periods of art history are brought to vivid life with minimum interference from the hordes of tourists that tend to slow everything down in the daylight hours. This May, the Renaissance takes centre stage with in depth talks, guided tours and live period music all being used to give visitors a clearer picture of these momentous times. Calligraphy lessons, sugar sculpture and life drawing classes give a sense of what it was like for artists who, having been released from the straight jacket of religious art, were now entering one of the most creatively fertile periods of European history.

Cabbages and Frocks: Dog Day Afternoon – Marylebone

Taking on the appearance of a seriously upscale village fete, Cabbages and Frocks rewards knowledgeable browsers with some great discoveries. Set in the grounds of St Marylebone Parish Church, the event features numerous fashion stalls selling everything from retro and vintage clothing to hand crafted jewellery. Although it’s a weekly fixture, there are also special festival dates that have their own themes and Saturday the 20th is a must for dog lovers. Dog Day Afternoon features a host of events dedicated to Man’s Best Friend. Obedience classes, a canine disco and plenty of pooch related arts and crafts will all be on show. As always, there will be plenty to eat and drink with artisan food stalls, hog roasts and craft beer outlets. If you’re not all that pet oriented, then pop down to the same venue two weeks earlier on the 6th. The focus then will be on independent beauty products and health remedies.

 Photo London – Somerset House

Photo London events are currently doing for photography what The Affordable Art franchise has done for fine art in the Capital. Entering its third season, the gathering takes place in one of the most photogenic pieces of real estate in London: Somerset House. London has a long history of dynamic innovation in the world of photography so visitors can expect something really special. Prominent exhibitors include Taryn Simon, Juergen Teller and Isaac Julien and their work will range from virtual reality templates to social and political critiques. Many photographs will be presented as part of extensive installations or as subjects of a series of in depth discussions by experts in the medium. www.somersethouse.org.uk

Balance Festival – Old Truman Brewery

Getting a beach ready physique used to be all about hitting the treadmill and munching on salad leaves but events like Balance are determined to change the way we approach diet and exercise. A dynamic array of classes, workshops and fitness concepts will be showcased and full participation is a must as the very latest equipment and techniques are ready to be put to the test. On the nutrition side, dozens of health food brands will be showing how delicious meals can be made with the minimum of fuss and effort and if you’re stuck for ideas, a live demonstration kitchen is set to run throughout the festival. Of course, inspiration is a key component of any set of goal oriented activities, so there’ll be plenty of motivational input from leaders in the fields of yoga, wellness and nutritional medicine. www.balance-festival.com

Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains – Victoria & Albert Museum

Fifty years ago, Pink Floyd’s debut album featured a band photo on the cover for the first and last time. From then on, these musical pioneers pushed the boundaries of design, graphics and conceptual art to their very limits. Albums like Dark Side of the Moon and Animals remain milestones in multimedia presentation as well as sonic icons. As a result, this eagerly anticipated exhibition features much more than old guitars and signed lyric sheets. The band’s penchant for customising technology to meet their needs is represented by the presence of DIY lighting artefacts and quadrophonic sound generators. The UFO club, with its groundbreaking psychedelic light show has also been meticulously recreated. www.vam.ac.uk

Prosecco Springs – Oval Space

Leading wine makers of Northeast Italy are coming to East London, their mission being to prevent their beloved Prosecco from being used as replacement Prozac for yummy mummies from Chiswick to Chingford. As with most popular tipples, the secret is food. Regional wines are great when paired with local dishes and this is where Venetian cuisine really comes into its own. Tastings, recipes and wine appreciation classes are all combined in a four day celebration of all things fizzy and Italian. Bar snacks, small plates and select menus are designed to promote Prosecco as much more than a cost effective Champagne substitute. Live jazz and a selection of super smooth DJs will keep the party atmosphere bubbling along. www.proseccosprings.com

 London Craft Week – Various London Venues

As long as there are centers of excellence like London where skill, precision and tradition are nurtured and encouraged, artisan craftsmanship will never die out. Luxury brands depend on a whole host of disciplines and processes. From traditional weaving in Scotland to French hand painted cufflinks, expertise that has been handed down through the generations is in constant demand. London Craft Week spotlights artists and technicians that not only contribute to the exclusivity to international luxury brands but also supply items to big budget films and museum installations. There will be many chances to interact with these makers, so if your interest is in silver jewellery or even guitar making, there will be something of interest at the event. www.londoncraftweek.com
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About the Author

Established in 1958, Benham and Reeves is one of London’s oldest, independently owned property lettings and sales agents.  With specialism in residential sales, corporate lettings and property management in prime areas of London, the company operates from 19 prominently located branches and 8 international offices.

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