Spending this winter in London? Or simply looking for some fabulous things to do during this icy season? Well, luckily for you, I’ve handpicked the best of everything the busy UK capital has to offer over the next couple of months. From Cate Blanchett at the National Theatre to feminist topless raves, there are so many fabulous things to do in London this winter.
So, when does winter start this year? Most people in the UK go by the astronomical seasons, which change slightly every year. This really surprised me when I first moved to London as I was used to the very structured meteorological seasons that set winter in the Northern Hemisphere as 1st December – 28th February every year. However, having lived now lived here for over a decade, the astronomical seasons definitely make more sense and this year the winter season in London will run from (today!) Friday 21st December 2018 to Wednesday 20th March 2019.
Winter in London is by far the most difficult season to endure. Consistently cold, wet and grey, there’s also no big calendar events after Christmas and New Year’s Eve to keep you going through this dark season. However, that doesn’t mean fabulous things aren’t happening across. In fact, it’s the best time of the year to really enjoy indoor activities, with some fantastic theatre, exhibitions and cinema. Plus, no matter what everyone says about “dry Jan”, the first month of the year is one of the busiest for clubbing. I mean, what else you going to do when it’s gloomy outside? So pull on your sparkliest shoes and make the most of the season with these fabulous wintery things to do in London.
Rumour has it that Queen Cate was originally lined up to play Gillian Anderson’s role in All About Eve (see below) when this new play, When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, came her way. Having previously performed on the London stage at the Barbican and the Albery Theatre, this will be the first time she has appeared at the National Theatre. The bad news is that this very experimental play (that sounds quite kinky) is showing in their Dorfman Theatre, which only has 400 seats. The tickets were all sold by a ballot in November, so you can’t buy any in advance – but you can still call the theatre each day for returns. Worth a try, I think.
What better way to spend the darkest days of the new year than exploring your dreams through poetry? This six-week course, A Manual For Dreaming Women, is led by Rachel Long (who also founded Octavia, a poetry collective for women of colour) and takes place at the Southbank Centre. The course includes research trips to libraries and galleries in addition to exploring the works of poets like Audre Lorde and Anne Carson.
📅 Starts 14th January 2019
📍Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX
Describing itself as “London’s biggest, boldest and bravest arts and entertainment festival”, this epic 8-week extravaganza sees more than 2,000 performers take part in over 400 shows. The Vault Festival highlights are too many to number even here, but some fabulous choice picks include comedy from Josh Glanc and The LOL Word, shows like Pramkicker and Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist and a Valentine’s riot from Shotgun Carousel (the LGBTQ and female-led company behind Divine Proportions).
Just what you needed to start 2019: a queer body-positive club night that’s for everyone. Yes, THICC is not just a night for beautiful boys like this but anyone femme-presenting as well. Hosted by reigning Sink The Pink queen, Grace Shush, you can expect juicy go-go dancers, pop up drag shows, sweet treats and DJs such as the truly fabulous TETE Bang.
📅 25th January 2019
📍Hangar – London Fields, 2-18 Warburton Rd, London E8 3FN
After its sold-out run at the National Theatre last summer, Home, I’m Darling is about the fetishization of the domestic goddess is transferring to the West End this winter. Starring Katherine Parkinson from The IT Crowd, this dark comedy is by the writer of Posh, Laura Wade, so you can expect it pretty unsettling in it dismantling of the idea of the perfect wife and marriage.
The movie that launched everyone’s favourite karaoke song is coming to the London stage. With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton herself, 9 to 5 will be running the Savoy theatre through till the end of summer with 90s girl group Eternal star Louise Redknapp in the lead role (which is Lily Tomlin’s role of Violet btw – not Jane Fonda or Dolly’s role). Don’t expect this to become one of those musicals that run forever though – based on the lukewarm reception to it in the US, it is likely to only be onstage for 6 months. So, if you really want to see it, I recommend you get your tickets now.
If you’re yet to encounter this boisterous Bristolian comedian, then book your tickets now for Jayde Adams’ new show, The Divine Ms Jayde. The award-winning diva is bringing her Edinburgh Fringe show to the Soho theatre in Jan/Feb for a nine-night run.
With a line-up that includes Horse Meat Disco, The 2 Bears and Cassius, La Discothèque promises to be one of the most amazing dance-all-night kind of parties on this February. Plus, one of the godfathers of Chicago’s house music scene, Derrick Carter, is headlining the party – making this one of the best tickets you can score this winter. It is nearly sold out, so grab yours now.
📅 1st February 2019
📍Printworks London, Surrey Quays Rd, London SE16 7PJ
Even though Cate Blanchett was originally scheduled to play the lead (but ditched it for the National Theatre – see above), I’m actually more excited about Gillian Anderson taking the lead role in All About Eve. Teamed with Lilly James from Mamma Mia 2, this will no doubt be one of the best things you will see this winter.
The Dior exhibition at the V&A will be one of the biggest exhibitions in London this year so make sure you nab your tickets asap for it. Encompassing the French fashion designer’s entire career and its impacts on shaping fashion both then and now, this retrospective Dior: Designer of Dreams will be an amazing opportunity to view some seriously glamorous gowns.
I’m a little obsessed with the Liza Minelli+Pet Shop Boys 80s electro version of Losing My Mind from this Sondheim musical, Follies – and its campy storyline too. Set in a theatre that will be torn down the next day, a group of former chorus girls get together to reminisce about the old days when they were glamorous young ‘follies’. This is a return of the musical’s 2017 revival at the National Theatre (with a slightly different cast – so no Imelda Staunton now sadly) so it’s probably the last chance you’ll get to see it.
Widely adored as the “photographer of freaks, Diane Arbus captured some of the 20th century’s most iconic images of those marginalised by society. This new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery takes you back to her earliest days, showcasing over 100 images from her first seven years capturing those on the fringes of New York in the late 50s and early 60s. Most of these pictures have never been exhibited in Europe, so this
If you haven’t heard of Jay Jay Revlon yet then you need to change that in 2019. The voguing sensation has been transforming London’s ballroom scene, so you won’t want to miss their Triple X ball in February. Categories include Tag Team Sex Siren in an all velvet look, Butch Queen Sexy Performance in a pyjama/lingerie look and Best Dressed in an all leather, silk or rubber outfit. Expect some serious tens across the board.
📅 16th February 2019
📍Factory 45, 44-46 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6DR
If you like the idea of dancing around topless and covering yourself in all kinds of UV paint, then this party is for you. Thankfully this Brighton-based party is a stridently feminist event that is LGBTQIA inclusive, so everyone should feel comfortable taking their tops off. In fact, you’re welcome to dance around in just your pants and the £20 ticket includes coat check so you can strip down on arrival.
Adjoa Andoh (from Invictus, Doctor Who and Cucumber) heads up this incredible cast of women of colour performing Richard II at The Globe this winter. Plus, not only is Adjoa wearing the ‘hollow crown’ in the lead role but she is also co-directing alongside Lynette Linton (Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre). This will be a powerful show to see as Brexit becomes official, so snap your tickets up for this now.
Here’s an afternoon discussion you never thought you’d see: the British Academy and the Society for Dance Research (who sound amazing) are hosting a panel session at the V&A to explore whether enough is being done to defend and revive London LGBT+ clubbing scene. With so many clubs having closed down in recent years, and very few new ones opening up to replace them, this is a pretty timely discussion about why our queer nightlife is so important.
📅 23rd February 2019
📍Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
You probably know her as Lavender Brown, who has a comedic infatuation with Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, or perhaps as the lesbian activist Zoe in Pride. Well, now she has her own show: a mixture of confessional comedy and DIY performance art. Sounds interesting? Well, she’s on at the Soho Theatre for a whole month so check her out.
This is undoubtedly one of my top picks for this winter. I was lucky enough to see this retrospective of the American surrealist Dorothea Tanning’s work on my recent trip to Madrid and I was blown away by her work. I should admit that I have practically been a lifelong fan of hers, so it was a magical experience to see her work in real life. However, if you also like your art a mix of sensual and creepy, then you will love this exhibition too. Highly recommended.
Activist, educator, scholar, and politician. Angela Davis has been at the forefront of the civil right movement since the 1960s and is appearing at the Southbank Centre’s World of Women festival on International Women’s Day this year. What could be more amazing and empowering than seeing this legendary woman speak (on any day but especially this one)?
📅 8th March 2019
📍Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX
Cocktails and women in excellent menswear… that’s about all you need to know for this event. Hosted by Wotever World, the Female Masculinity Appreciation Society is an evening ideally suited for any women who love to don a suit or a baseball cap – and for anyone who loves women who dress this way too. I’m excited that this night has now moved north of the river to the LGBT+ pub, The Apple Tree, as its swish setting is ideally suited to a cocktail evening with such aplomb.
📅 9th March 2018
📍The Apple Tree, 45 Mount Pleasant, London WC1X 0AE
I went to one of this acclaimed dance company’s shows a few years ago and was blown away by both the choreography and the performers. This double bill at the Barbican brings together two very different narrative pieces with a stunning cast of black and Asian ballet dancers. Plus, Barbican members can watch the dance class before the Saturday show, which would definitely be an amazing addition for any ballet fans.