Culture in the sun: The best outdoor events in London this summer

Jazz saxophonist playing on a bridge in London over the Thames with a view of Big Ben in the backgroundLondon is an exciting place in the summer, with endless festivals and performances providing the perfect excuse to enjoy an outing with family and friends. The longer days and warmer weather allow many of these events to be staged outdoors, and what better way to while away a sun-drenched afternoon than by lounging on the grass, listening to music or being entertained with theatre or dance?

To help you make the most of the fine weather and London’s cultural happenings, we’ve rounded up some of the best outdoor events in the capital this summer. Pack a picnic, bring your sunscreen or a jumper, and prepare to enjoy the best of London’s outdoor arts scene in 2014.

Open-air theatre, opera and dance

There’s something exciting about shows staged in the open air, and given the strength of London’s theatre, opera and dance communities, it’s not surprising that summer brings a veritable flood of high-quality outdoor performances. Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has become a warm-weather institution in London, a place to enjoy extraordinary theatre in a relaxed, carefree setting. This year’s programme includes a reimagined Twelfth Night and an adaptation of the ever-moving To Kill a Mockingbird, amongst others.

Opera fans can savour outstanding performances at the equally popular Opera Holland Park. Highlights this year include a fanciful revival of the specially commissioned Alice in Wonderland, as well as a unique performance of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw followed by a spooky night-time tour of the park.

Live outdoor music

Music festivals are a summer institution, and there are countless opportunities to catch some outdoor tunes in London this summer. The ever-popular British Summer Time in Hyde Park (3rd-6th and 12th-13th July 2014) features an outstanding line-up of artists, including Arcade Fire, Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Neil Young, Tom Jones, The Libertines, McBusted, Backstreet Boys and more. (The Cumberland Hotel is conveniently situated just on the edge of Hyde Park, so you won’t have far to go to catch this year’s festival.)

Alternately, catch the likes of Kanye West, Tinie Tempah, Drake, Bruno Mars, Ellie Goulding and Outcast at Wireless Festival (4th to 6th July), which has relocated to Finsbury Park this year, or plan a trip to one of the exciting festivals taking place at Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets, such as Lovebox (18th to 19th July).

Fancy a picnic in scenic gardens while listening to world-class acts? The annual Kew the Music concert series at Kew Gardens returns from 16th to 20th July 2014, with performances from Elvis Costello, Björn Again, Jools Holland, Simple Minds and Bill Bailey.

For those who fancy cool jazz on a hot summer’s day, check out the programme at the Canary Wharf Jazz Festival (15th to 17th August 2014), which offers a diverse mix jazz, soul, big band, folk and funk acts at its base in Canada Square Park. All performances are free, so be sure to arrive early to get a space.

Outdoor cinema

Outdoor film viewings have become a favourite summer pastime throughout the UK, and London has no shortage of cool venues that let you watch your favourite stars under the stars. From pop-up screens in surprising locations, to regular showings at trendy hangouts throughout the city, there’s an outdoor cinema for every taste, playing everything from cult comedies to classic dramas.

The best known is the Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year from 7th to 20th August with a special selection of new and old favourites shown in its elegant neoclassical courtyard, just a short walk from The Charing Cross Hotel. Or catch one of the many shows organised by the travelling Luna Cinema in spectacular settings across the capital, which include everything from Greenwich Park to Kensington Palace.

A similar operation is the Nomad Cinema, which organises pop-up screenings in locations as diverse as Belgrave Square and Brompton Cemetary. Or head to Camden Lock Market, where the Backyard Cinema has set up shop for the summer with bean bags and deck chairs lined up on the cobbles in front of its 14-foot screen.

For a really unique film viewing experience, bring your swimwear and hop in the Hot Tub Cinema, which this year has taken over a disused train platform in Shoreditch that was once part of an underground station. Seated in an inflatable, eight-person hot tub with your own personal waiter, you can enjoy a relaxing soak while watching the film.

A bit of everything…

The Scoop at More London (just across the Thames from The Tower Hotel, between HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge) is a fantastic new outdoor venue that hosts an extensive programme of free events throughout the summer, ranging from fringe and theatre to music, dance, opera and film screenings. It’s well worth checking out the More London Free Festival for events during your visit – for instance, there’s live music on in July and film screenings throughout September. A particular highlight this year is August’s programme of theatrical adaptations of the stories from Wagner’s Ring Cycle – a must-see for those who love opera, theatre or fantasy.

(Image: charlieishere@btinternet.com on Flickr CC)

One thought on “Culture in the sun: The best outdoor events in London this summer

  1. Pingback: Reasons we love London in the summer |

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