Entertaining after-hours events have become a regular fixture at many of London’s top museums and galleries.
Natural History Museum Lates
Natural History Museum, Building
Adults can live out their childhood dreams by exploring the Natural History Museum at night with Lates. The museum allows after-hours entry to current exhibitions and famous galleries on the first Friday of every month. The Central Hall is taken over by free live entertainment, with open-mic performances from London’s fresh talent. Tasty meals and seasonal drinks are served in the museum’s bars and restaurants on the night.
Visitors can make as much noise as they want at special late events hosted by the British Library. In the past, DJ sets from electro-dance act Hot Chip and live music from the band Public Service Broadcasting have provided highly sought-after entertainment. Exciting demonstrations, workshops, talks and performances are inspired by the British Library’s current exhibitions. Dates and timings change monthly; book early to avoid disappointment, as tickets have been known to sell out within hours.
Late at Tate Britain offers free music, art, performance, fashion shows and films. Contributors include young creatives from the Tate Collective group, who develop fresh ideas for the evening. Past events have allowed guests to swap fashion items, ‘perform’ architecture and participate in installations. If you’re feeling peckish, head to Tate’s luxurious Whistler Restaurant.
Numerous galleries, museums and studios in East London participate in the cultural extravaganza that is First Thursdays. Venues open late for the event, with some offering free workshops, talks and private viewings. Visitors can sign up in advance for the free Art Bus Tour, with a lottery deciding who will win a place on the bus. The tour, led by an experienced guide, travels to three specially chosen events and exhibitions, beginning and ending at Whitechapel Gallery. Each month, curators also produce a suggested route for a walking tour of selected venues. In addition to the many culinary hotspots of East London, delicious food is served in the Whitechapel Gallery Café.
More than 3,000 adults pass through the doors of the Science Museum for its Lates events. Three floors are transformed by themed shows, talks and interactive activities, many of which are free. Experts showcase some of the latest technology and talk about topics such as climate change, space exploration and forensic science. Diverse make-your-own activities take place, which in the past have included building a volcano or a motorised Dalek. Some of the regular crowd-pleasers are the pub quiz, comedy show, silent disco and speed dating. Thrill seekers are kept amused with rides on the RAF Typhoon and Red Arrows flight simulators. If exhaustion sets in, there are several bars and food outlets to refuel at.
At the V&A’s Friday Late, free events are themed around the latest exhibitions. Visitors are invited to dress up and join in the fun with DJs, installations and performance artists. Talks, workshops and screenings add an intellectual flavour, while creative types will enjoy taking part in imaginative craft activities. The elegant V&A Café, the world’s oldest museum restaurant, provides an appetising range of food and drink on the night. Friday Late takes place on the last Friday of every month, except in May and December.
The ever-popular Friday Late has become a weekly fixture at the National Portrait Gallery. Expect discussion and contemplation with talks, tours and philosophy salons, as well as life drawing, DJ sets and live music. Start your weekend in style exploring world-class exhibitions, discovering the collection and taking a free Rebel Women Gallery trail. Enjoy a drink at the bar or dine in the Portrait Restaurant for rooftop views of the London skyline.
At Friday Lates, the National Gallery opens its doors for talks, guided tours, life-drawing classes, live music and late exhibition openings. Concerts by the Royal College of Music, among others, respond to paintings in the collection. Guests can book a table at the award-winning National Dining Rooms or sample the modern European menu in the National Café. Drinks can be enjoyed at the bar in the Sainsbury Wing Foyer.
Late exhibition viewings, lectures and discussions are just a few of the attractions at the British Museum Friday Lates. Free 20-minute spotlight tours also introduce selected areas of the collection. Some Friday Lates in the past have been produced on an ambitious scale, such as Sound Histories, which featured more than 200 musicians performing 100 different scores across the entire ground floor. The Court Café, set in the stunning Great Court, offers refreshments and a quick bite to eat.
Installation view of Aniko Kuikka's work at the RA Schools Show
Culture enthusiasts can soak up the latest exhibitions at the Royal Academy. Special Saturday Late events often feature talks and discussions on current topics, with attractions such as sculpture workshops, interactive installations, live music and DJs. The ever-popular RA Lates programme has included a huge inflatable cosmic installation, themed supper clubs, UV Garden of Eden life-painting and Pollock-inspired paint splattering among countless others, helping to bring exhibitions to life and guarantee an unforgettable Saturday night.