I know, I know. Like me, you can’t quite believe that it’s already autumn in London either.
We’re now heading back into the cooler months after what can only be described as the crappiest UK summer on record. In London, this means trading weekend festivals, outdoor parties, and European beach holidays for indoor club nights, festive events, and, most importantly, Halloween. Yes, the only annual event that can safely challenge Eurovision for the title of ‘gay Christmas’.
So, let’s shake off our post-summer depression, book a few queer things to do and cross all our fingers that we don’t end up back in another lockdown before the end of the year.
When does autumn start?
It starts today!
Most people in the UK go by the astronomical seasons, which change slightly every year. This approach surprised me when I first moved to London. I was used to the very structured meteorological seasons that set autumn in the Northern Hemisphere as 1 September – 30 November every year.
However, having lived here for over a decade, the astronomical seasons make more sense. This year, autumn in London will run from Wednesday 22 September to Tuesday 21 December 2021 (wrapping up just before Christmas).
What’s so great about autumn in London?
Autumn is probably my favourite time of the year to be in London. It’s so wonderfully atmospheric and festive as everyone prepares to celebrate the season and hunker down for winter.
Autumn in London whizzes by in a flurry of fun stuff between the fireworks, Halloween parties, and endless Christmas celebrations. Some of the best parties of the year happen during this season. With summer finally out of the way, the city re-embraces what it does best with a fantastic line-up of shows and exhibitions.
So, pull your cosiest jumpers out of the back of your wardrobe and make the most of the season with these fabulously queer things to do this autumn in London.
London is getting a queer clubbing festival, and it looks AMAZING! Making its debut on 9 October, Body Movements will take place across a whopping 16 different venues across Hackney Wick, with a line-up including the likes of Lakuti, Jaye Ward and DJ Paulette.
Dreamt up by producer/DJ Saoirse Ryan and Clayton Wright from Little Gay Brother, this day to night festival has been carefully curated to include over 40 queer, non-binary, and trans artists – both established and emerging talents. And the best thing? Even though tickets originally sold out like wildfire when they were first released, you can now catch some resales on Resident Advisor (keep checking back for cheaper options).
Having known beautiful Bimini since they first started doing drag, I’m so stoked at how the past year has seen them rocket into the queer celeb stratosphere. Their “queer self-help manifesto” Release the Beastis released on 14 October, and you can catch Bimini (and a copy of their book) that night in person at the Hackney Empire.
If you loved Tales of the City (the Netflix series or the 1970s books that inspired it), I strongly recommend seeing Armistead Maupin in conversation with actor Russell Tovey at the Southbank Centre on 6 October. I saw Maupin at a similar event (with Laura Linney) in late 2019, and it was enchanting to hear stories about San Francisco in the 70s from one of our queer elders.
Fresh off the back of staring in Chicago Opera Theater’s queer version of Carmen, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is back in the UK after that iconic Pride flag moment at 2019’s Last Night of the Proms. This time she’s teaming up with composer Jake Heggie for an evening of music celebrating its capacity for emotional expression, including their lockdown project, What I Miss the Most.
Tate Britain is launching a multi-media installation from the queer artist, dancer and choreographer SERAFINE1369 (formerly Last Yearz Interesting Negro). These three videos works explore the sense of being haunted through the use of mythological archetypes.
In November, the V&A is launching an eye-catching exhibition featuring the work of Carl Fabergé. Renowned for his opulent eggs (which Elton John once claimed to own more of than the Russian Kremlin), this collection will feature a kaleidoscopic display of Fabergé’s expensive treasures, alongside the story of how London and the Russian Revolution shaped his brand.
After the success of her Portraits collection, legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz is back with a new anthology. Wonderland turns its gaze towards fashion, featuring photos of Lady Gaga, Matthew Barney and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. To launch this book, Leibovitz will be appearing at the Barbican on 29 November to discuss how her work has evolved over the past 50 years.
Reclaiming the stage
Thirty-five years since its UK premiere, the National Theatre is bringing the landmark HIV/AIDS drama, The Normal Heart, back to the London stage this autumn. Starring Ben Daniels (who played Antony Armstrong-Jones in The Crown) and directed by Dominic Cooke (who helmed the Olivier award-winning production of Follies), this play is a time capsule from a painful but important moment in queer history.
Queer crip artist Dan Daw is returning to Sadler’s Wells at the end of this month with a new show exploring kink, shame and pride. Blurring the divide between theatre and dance, The Dan Daw Show comes with a list of content warnings (including humiliation and “sexy disabled people”), which indicates that this is an excitingly progressive piece.
Initially scheduled for summer 2020, Straight White Menis finally receiving a four-week run at Southwark Playhouse this November-December. Scripted by Korean American playwright Young Jean Lee, this is an amusing exploration of identity, privilege and the traditional father/son dynamic. Most excitingly, the events are shaped by certain Persons in Charge, played by Kamari Romeo and the sensational Kim Tatum (aka Mzz Kimberley).
Harpies are back! This iconic strip club, which celebrates queer and trans+ bodies, has moved home to the White Swan in Limehouse and relaunched itself in style last Saturday. Keep an eye on Resident Advisor for upcoming dates. You can also catch this crew at Dalston Superstore every Wednesday for TransVisions, hosted by the iconic Lucia Blayke.
Fresh from its feature in BFI Flare’s 2021 programme, the documentary Colors of Tobiis being screened at the Barbican next month, followed by a Q&A with Tobi and the director. This film explores the evolving relationship between a mother and their non-binary child against the backdrop of Hungary’s growing transphobia.
Support your local queens
With a new season of Rupaul’s Drag Race UK starting this week, we all know this autumn will be dominated by the drama that unfolds on our screens every Thursday night. Looking for the perfect screening party? It doesn’t get better than The Karaoke Hole’s weekly offering with Just May, Tete Bang and Mahatma Khandi at the helm (and a singing sesh at the end).
The ever-talented ShayShay has written and directed this festive seasons’ unmissable immersive dining experience. Mulan Rouge is taking over The Vaults from October until early 2022 with this colourful cabaret. Cleverly combining Disney’s Mulan and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, this show promises sensational drag shows, burlesque and comedy, accompanied by a four-course meal.
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