From the awe inspiring architecture to the sprawling gardens and hidden terraces, London and the South East has so much to offer for those that love to have fun outside. Why wallow under bricks and mortar when you can make the most of your capital and the blue skies above it?
London in the sunshine can feel like the most amazing place in the world. So much to do, so much on offer, and all on our doorstep. So here’s our pick of the best open air events in and around Town in 2016.
London Wonderground (5 May – 25 September)
London Wonderground is a dazzling playground for the people on the banks of the Thames: a slice of Coney Island fun in the heart of London. Back for a fifth year, the festival is renowned for hosting the best circus and cabaret from across the world in a riverside world, complete with a magnificent 1920s Spiegeltent and various rides and attractions. Headline shows this year include BARBU (15 June – 25 September): Daring, daft and sexy as hell: Packed with astonishing acrobatics and perfectly-groomed beards, this is cabaret but not as you know it, performed by one of the world’s greatest circus companies – Canada’s Cirque Alfonse. A spectacularly raucous and sexy circus, BARBU will take the form of edge-of-your-seat, off-the-wall entertainment to a whole other level with breathtakingly sweaty performances. Set to a heart thumping score, circus and mayhem collide to wow you in this adventure of almighty skills and muscly torsos. Hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed premier at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, get ready to party. BRIEFS (9 – 24 September, no performances Mondays): After a dazzling, sell-out run in 2015, the larger-than-life Briefs boys return to London Wonderground in 2016. Your glamorous host Shivannah guides you through a jaw-dropping, eye-popping evening of extravagant birdbath boylesque, too-close-for-comfort yo-yo tricks, valiant aerial acrobatics, irreverent interludes and show-stopping drag artistes. They’ve spent the last year touring the globe, from Berlin to Brisbane, and now they’re back, with more circus skills, more disorder and more burlesque… with balls! Other acts announced for London Wonderground include Debra Stephenson– master impressionist and star of Dead Ringers, The Impressions Show and Coronation Street – who brings her live stage show to the Paradiso Spiegeltent for the first time (14 May).
Udderbelly Festival, a summer staple on London’s South Bank, returns for its 8th year in April. Graze in the shade of the iconic upside-down purple cow, grab a bellyful of comedy, circus and family fun inside, and then enjoy an eclectic range of delicious street food and drink. Headline shows include Close Up (7 April – 12 June): Get up close and personal with four world class circus performers and witness acrobatic performance at its most extreme. See unparalleled routines, and the athleticism it takes to perform them. Gasp at extraordinary, effortless circus stunts, and understand the commitment it takes to perfect them; marvel at graceful aerial spectacles above you so close you can practically feel the rope tighten on your skin; Gobsmacked! (16 June – 17 July): A next-generation a cappella show. Featuring world-class voices, mind-blowing beatboxing and breathtaking harmonies, this all-singing, all-mindblowing theatrical experience redefines the limits of the human voice. The multitalented cast of singers and beatboxers weave an urban story from both classic and contemporary songs that embrace all forms of a cappella, from traditional street corner harmonies to cutting edge multi-track live looping. Comedy from… Nina Conti: With the help of Monkey and a bag of tricks, truly anything can happen in this unmissable improvised adventure of hilarious ventriloquism; Jason Byrne: Jason brings back his warmth and generous stage craft with even more props and silly humour; No Such Thing As A Fish: The QI Elves perform a live episode of their multi-award-winning hit podcast. Join Dan Schreiber, Andrew Hunter Murray, James Harkin and Anna Ptaszynski as they serve up their pick of the most bizarre, extraordinary and hilarious facts they’ve discovered over the last 7 days.
Udderbelly also includes an expansive and illuminating programme of live entertainment for kids. Highlights include The Amazing Bubble Man: Louis Pearl, the world’s leading Bubbleologist, returns with his fabulously entertaining family show; and ?Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids: Record-breaking beatboxer Shlomo returns to Udderbelly as a sonic superhero. See the whole line-up at www.udderbelly.co.uk
Proms on the Roof
Back by popular demand, classical music lovers can enjoy a treat for the eyes and ears with music as beautiful as the setting at the Kensington Roof Gardens. Guests can while away the summer evenings in a setting like no other Wednesday 11th May and Wednesday 10th, 17th and 24th August.
But if classical isn’t your thing, the exclusive venue, set 100ft above Kensington High Street, will be celebrating American Independence Day in true Stateside style. Guests will be treated to an American themed BBQ as well as a firework display on Friday 2nd July. There are also Garden Open Days for visitors to take a stroll and lose themselves in the three themed Gardens overlooking Kensington Palace and gardens. Open Garden Squares will take place on the 19th June and Open House London on the 18th September.
Shakespeare in Savill Garden (22nd June to 24th July)
Run away with the circus this summer and weave your way through an array of hidden gardens and spectacular lawns at The Savill Garden in this immersive production of Shakespeare’s much loved ‘As You Like it’. Forced into exile by their own families, heroine Rosalind and Orlando, a young gentleman of the kingdom, venture deep into the Forest of Arden where they encounter ‘The Golden Age’; a mesmerising travelling circus which has taken up residence beneath the canopy. Masquerading as Ganymede, Rosalind embarks on a journey of love lessons and romantic trickery, before stumbling across one of Duke Senior’s noblemen, Jacques, who fully embraces the circus folk and continually reflects on the futility of life and love as a motley fool.
A story of transformation, ‘As You Like It’ challenges conventional ideas of love and lust, blurs gender roles and muses on the absurdity of life in this brilliant pastoral comedy. The play unfolds in Britain’s finest ornamental garden and concludes extravagantly with a triple wedding where the audience and company are encouraged to come together in a boisterous, acrobatic, musical celebration indulging in food and drink from the finest local suppliers. ‘As You Like It’ will celebrate the best of the British summertime with a delicious BBQ served during the final wedding scene, and drinks to purchase from the hidden bush bar that will pop up throughout the play. For info and tickets see watch-your-head.co.uk.
Top Tennis at Boodles
Forget queuing overnight for a seat that requires binoculars at Wimbledon, those in the know book up for Boodles the week before the world-famous tournament. Boodles 2016 will host some of the world’s most exciting tennis stars for five days of competition in front of no more than 1,900 fans. With no seat further than 10 meters from the court, The Boodles brings you closer to the action than you ever imagined.
Held at Buckinghamshire’s exclssive Stoke Park Country Club, the unique mix of an intimate English garden party and an invited group of the world’s tennis elite preparing for Wimbledon creates a viewing and entertainment experience that the big tournaments just can’t match. This extraordinary combination allows guests to watch world-class players, whilst experiencing sumptuous luxury and five star catering – without the crowds and queues of the Grand Slams! Tickets for The Boodles 2016 are on sale now.
Taking place at three venues across town this summer, the annual Foodies Festival gets bigger and better each year. Gastronomes can tickle their tastebuds and indulge their tastes at Syon Park (May 28-30), Blackheath Common (July 8-10) and Alexandra Palace (August 27-29). This year’s festival sees the capital’s culinary elite in the Aga Rangemaster Chefs Theatre, showcasing their culinary skills, sharing insight into 2016’s food trends and answering questions from the audience. Chefs taking part include Atul Kochhar – Benares (Michelin starred), Janos Veres – The Hindshead (Michelin starred), Paul Shearing – Bread Street Kitchen, Tony Rodd – MasterChef Finalist 2015, Davide Degiovanni – Union St Café and many more.
Visitors can enjoy a new ‘Feel Good Foods’ theme, with healthy living chefs and food writers joining the line-up to cook with superfoods including kefir, lucuma, freekeh, kelp and banana flour, and sirt rich foods such as blueberries, kale, celery, buckwheat, turmeric, chilli and red onion. And festival-goers can also discover the advantages of eating ‘Feel Good Foods’ such as cheese (a source of phenylethylamie – the love drug) and dark chocolate and seaweed (both sources of serotonin – the happy drug) as experts promote their nutritional and emotional benefits with energy, happiness and calm boosting recipes available to take home. In the Drinks Theatre, expert mixologists and sommeliers, including Neil Phillips and Charles Metcalfe, will host champagne and wine masterclasses, and beer connoisseur and writer Melissa Cole will be on-hand with craft beer tutorials.
The Street Food Avenue food stalls will be bursting with flavours from all corners of the world including Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, and Brazilian – to celebrate the Olympic host’s cuisine, including traditional Brazilian BBQ and Rio’s favourite dish Feijoada. The Artisan Producers Market, Tasting Theatre and Vintage Tea Room will also make a welcome return and there will be bars for the grown up and entertainment for younger guests. The annual Foodies Festival family day out is fast becoming a highlight of Belle’s year!
In The Night Garden Live
Held in it’s own specially crafted showdome, the stage adaptation of the nation’s favourite tv programme returns to Blackheath (26 May – 11 June) and Richmond Old Deer Park (18 June – 2 July) this Summer. Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka are brought to life before your eyes with beautiful costumes, magical puppets, enchanting music and breathtaking projections. There are only 13 rows of seats in the arena so kids can be guaranteed an up close and personal experience with their favourite characters, and there is even the opportunity to have your photo taken with them after the show. Take a picnic and make a day of it as the domes are set up amongst some of London’s most popular open spaces. Belle About Town has secured an exlusive discount code for our readers – just enter EARLY84G when booking tickets at nightgardenlive.com to get £5 off your booking.
Terrible Tudors at Hampton Court Palace
Find out the fate of Henry’s headless wives and his punch up with the Pope. Have a sizzling time with Queen Mary and meet the Groom of the Stool. It’s history with the nasty bits left in! Running from 26th May to 2nd June in the East Front Gardens of Hampton Court Palace, the Terrible Tudors stage show is a great way to get little ones interested in history right where it happened!