When it comes to accessible art, London is a clear leader because unlike elitist New York or formal Paris, it sees the link between public service and commercial energy. The Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park is edgy yet welcoming – just like London and its people. It can be these things because it realises that ideas are currency to be traded frequently and fervently, so go along and be inspired.
The cream of contemporary art talent will be exhibiting their latest works this October in and around a giant futuristic tent in Regent’s Park. London is unique in that it has an exciting art scene that focuses equally on both the public and commercial sphere and Frieze Art Fair is the perfect example of this dynamic.
The exhibits are all for sale at premium prices but the event avoids being labelled elitist by way of some imaginative programming. There are free open-air galleries and installations that attempt to break down the walls that creative media sometimes puts up. This year the venue’s immaculate rest rooms will form part of an interactive piece by Julie Verhoeven. She’ll be exploring the plight of low-wage workers by setting up as a toilet attendant, although you can be sure the results will be both provocative and disruptive. www.frieze.com/fairs/frieze-london
Forget stunt cooking with headsets, video screens and wise-cracking chefs. The London Restaurant Festival realises that the best way to appreciate top-level cuisine is within its natural habitat. With this in mind, they’ve divided this month-long foodie assault into two main experiences – Festival Menus and Restaurant Experiences. The menus are part of special offers that can be used at participating restaurants that are designed to showcase some of London’s best chefs.
These are not just vouchers for money off at your local curry house, either. Restaurants as diverse and as exciting as Oxo Tower Brasserie, Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Trishna are gearing up to serve up plenty of culinary treats. The Restaurant Experiences are a bit more glamorous as they consist of a combination of eating, travel and sight-seeing. London’s Longest Lunch is an immersive six hour affair featuring luxury apartments, expert chefs and a trip down the Thames. To start with, Richard Corrigan will cook three courses at Embassy Gardens in Nine Elms which will be followed by a guided boat ride through the capital’s gastronomic history. Disembarking at Canary Wharf, guests will then enjoy the final three courses, cooked by Tomos Parry at the luxurious Wardian Apartments in Marsh Wall. www.londonrestaurantfestival.com
With the massive interest in superhero spinoffs and all things CGI, The Big Draw provides a timely reminder of how the basic building blocks start with just a pencil and some imagination. A festival of drawing and how it permeates other disciplines such as technology, medicine and law enforcement, The Big Draw is a great combination of education and fun. However, the primary aim of this series of London events is to throw a spotlight on the therapeutic value of sketching and how it can be used to solve problems.
The National, National Portrait and Whitechapel Galleries will each have resident artists on hand to run workshops and demonstrations. They will demonstrate how, even before modern technology, draughtsmen would use ingenious techniques in order to illustrate everything from complex cities to natural phenomena. Visitors will be expected to participate so be prepared to unearth long-forgotten skills and perceptions. www.thebigdraw.org
In a time when present-day reality seems to be overtaking science fiction, it seems that literature has moved beyond trying to imagine machines and technologies, preferring instead to examine the emotions that will drive the future. These are the themes of this year’s gathering at the Southbank Centre and they are set to throw up some intriguing thoughts and concepts.
Topics veer wildly from Afro-futurism, a clash of poetry, prose and mysticism that connects ancient stories with astronomy, to robot butlers being designed for the super-rich of the future. Some events will undoubtedly be viewed as fringe but today’s speculation is tomorrow’s reality. www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Unlike most ethnic festivals that have been incorporated into London life, Oktoberfest seems to have stuck to its basics. Beer and sausage are intrinsic to German culture and Oktoberfest is an unashamed champion of their enduring appeal. Served with massive litre jugs and platters of the stuff, visitors are seated along convivial benches and can easily imagine toasting each other’s good health in a Munich cellar.
The waiting staff are resplendent in German traditional dress: dirndl dresses for the women and lederhosen for the guys. Live bands are an essential part of the festival and although German “Oompah” music may be an acquired taste to some, the jolly tunes are ideal for lots of thigh-slapping sing-a-longs and merriment. www.london-oktoberfest.co.uk
As the most influential of all twentieth century artists, Picasso tends to be stereotyped more than most. Any mention of his portrait work brings up descriptions of asymmetrical faces and wonky eyeballs. Of course there is much more to Picasso than unrelenting deconstruction; his shifts in mood are neither whimsical nor spiteful.
What matters to this artist is emotion and suffering. He is affected by the experiences of all his subjects, including himself and that is why he can sometimes startle the viewer. A case in point is a self-portrait from his twilight years. Here we see an oversized upper body just barely supporting a small head that seems to be in the process of becoming detached. In one painting, Picasso masterfully pinpoints both the loneliness and terror of old age. www.npg.org.uk
With the current craze for all things cake related being fuelled by recent events on the Great British Bake Off TV show, expect this event to be packed. As a live spectacle, the Cake and Bake show doesn’t try to follow the format of its on-screen relative, but concentrates more on finishing and decorating techniques.
There are plenty of expert tips on how to give cakes that added wow factor. Live demonstrations, panel discussions and a free to enter competition are all geared towards filling up any knowledge gaps that visitors may have. Star of last season’s GBBO, Nadiya Hussain will be appearing together with other past winners of Britain’s favourite cookery show. www.thecakeandbakeshow.co.uk
A musical set among the Hispanic community of New York may lead one to think of West Side Story, but this contemporary piece is no tragedy. Driven by urban beats and sharp dance moves, ‘In The Heights’ concentrates on the optimism and work ethic that fuels the American Dream as seen through the eyes of immigrants.
Centred around the struggles of its young cast, ‘In The Heights’ addresses inner city poverty with the kind of can-do energy that is reminiscent of 80s productions like Fame. The beats are much tougher though and the dancers are as acrobatic as they are talented.
Who says music festivals only belong to the summer months? Hackney celebrates its diversity and industrial past with a series of concerts staged at venues that have been converted from old warehouses. The Oval Space, The Pickle Factory and London Fields Brewery will all be hosting cutting edge Indie Rock from some of the best emerging new talent in the country.
Mystery Jets, Swim Deep and Lucy Rose headline the proceedings, but the line-up is fairly democratic and a band’s position on the bill is no way an indication of their talent. Alt-Country, Folk and Electronica are some of the other genres covered and anyone on a mission to spot the next big thing will probably want to attend. www.hackneywonderland.com
A great alternative to stuffing children with sweets on Halloween is to get them to explore the natural side of all the scary stuff. Hair-Raising Halloween is a series of activities in Hyde Park that is aimed at encouraging curiosity and experimentation. Kids are encouraged to explore the park in search of “magic” ingredients that would go into making potions.
As they collect plants for their “spells”, they’re actually being taught how their ancestors used the environment to provide medicines and cures. There will also be other fun projects like mask making, nature trails and the construction of bat boxes. Save their teeth and feed their minds!
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