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London Cultural Calendar: Ten Unmissable Summer Events in 2013
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London Cultural Calendar: Ten Unmissable Summer Events in 2013

Picture of Thomas Storey
Updated: 9 February 2017
London is home to a thriving arts and culture scene which blossoms in the summer months, with a packed calendar featuring unique and bewildering art exhibitions, raucous street festivals, celebrations of global cuisine and the finest theatre in the world. These captivating events bring the best of international culture to London and in doing so highlight the multicultural nature of the city itself.

The Hayward Gallery: The Alternative Guide to the Universe

June 11 – August 26

The Hayward’s major summer exhibition, The Alternative Guide to the Universe brings together the best ‘Outsider Art’ from throughout the globe, summoning mavericks, visionaries and recluses to reveal their own personal perspective on the world. The diverse collection of artists on display includes self-taught artists and architects, fringe physicists, dreamers and visionary engineers, all of whom interpret the world around them though their own unique prisms, and who transcend the conventionality of the institutionalised art world. The works traverse the boundaries between art, science, fiction, reason and mysticism but share a utopian desire to reinvent the world through the power of the imagination. Highlights of the exhibition include Marcel Storr’s chimerical towers, the incredible cosmological diagrams of Alfred Jensen and the physics experiments of Karl Hans Janke. The Alternative Guide to the Universe is not only an unmissable opportunity to see what is happening on the fringes of the art world, but it is also a fascinating interrogation of what defines ‘art’ itself.

For more info visit The Alternative Guide to the Universe.

Leandro Erlich’s Dalston House

26 June – 4 August

A captivating and bewildering visual spectacle, Argentine artist Leandro Erlich has transformed an empty lot near Dalston Junction into a three-dimensional visual illusion. Turning a Victorian terrace house inside out and upside down, Erlich’s Dalston House project creates a surreal reversal of perception in which visitors lying on the floor appear to be climbing the walls. The house resembles a movie set, with the life-size façade reflected in a mirrored surface positioned overhead at a 45-degree angle. As with all of Erlich’s projects, the audience plays an active role in bringing the installation to life, and visitors’ experience of having their perceptions of spatial reality subverted is central to the work. The project is organised by The Barbican in conjunction with OTO Projects and the London Festival of Architecture 2013, and is part of their Beyond Barbican series, which intends to bring art to communities across East London. As part of the project a series of events will be held in the surrounding area throughout the summer; these include film screenings, artist talks and explorations of the history and culture of Dalston.

For more info visit: Leandro Erlich: Dalston House.

Young Vic: A Season in the Congo

July 6 – August 10

With a formidable production team backing up an all-star cast, A Season in the Congo looks set to be another triumph for the Young Vic. Written by Martiniquais writer Aimé Césaire in the late 1960s, this play charts the rise and fall of legendary Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba, who fought to free his people from Belgian rule and became the first democratically elected leader of the Republic of Congo. Césaire used Lumumba’s passionate struggle for independence and self-determination to create an epic portrayal of the fight for decolonisation in Africa. BAFTA Award-winning director Joe Wright and Olivier Award-winning choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui bring this tale to the Young Vic stage with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the central role of Patrice Lumumba, and a supporting cast that features Daniel Kaluuya and Joseph Mydell. This highly anticipated production will see Aimé Césaire’s work gain a new audience, and the contemporary resonances of his incendiary play brought to the fore.

For more info visit: A Season in the Congo.


Camden Fringe

29 July – 25 August

Now in its eight year, the Camden Fringe has solidified its reputation as the UK capital’s alternative to the Edinburgh Fringe. The Camden Fringe showcases theatre and comedy in a range of venues across the borough of Camden, and brings performers from all over the world to North London. The Fringe’s eclectic and experimental nature is reflected in the diverse variety of both performers and theatres, which range from regular Fringe theatres such as the Etcetera, Camden People’s Theatre, Upstairs at the Gatehouse and Tristan Bates Theatre, through to pubs, music venues, restaurant spaces, pirate castles and more. Highlights of this year’s Fringe include an al fresco version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the gardens at Lauderdale House; …and this is my friend Mr Laurel, a biographical one-man play about the life of film comedian Stan Laurel, starring Jeffrey Holland; and Warde Street, a new play by Damien Tracey about one man’s experience in the aftermath of the July 7th bombings.

For more info visit: The Camden Fringe.

Global Beats Festival

14 – 17 August

Curated by Planetman, The Global Beats Festival brings music from all four corners of the globe to the historic Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End. Boasting a diverse line up with acts from every continent, the Global Beats Festival truly merits the title of ‘world music festival’. It will feature some of the best music from Senegal, USA, Italy, Nigeria, Venezuela, Portugal, Algeria, Congo, Brazil, Turkey, Greece, UK, Colombia, Israel, Yemen, Jamaica, Ghana, Armenia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Japan, whilst creating a carnival atmosphere in the ancient surroundings of Wilton’s, a music hall which has existed on the same spot since 1839. The highlights of the festival include Algerian group Seddik Zebiri & The Seeds Of Creation, who blend traditional Berber music with Afro-Blues and Jazz; the Senegalese Kora maestro Kadialy Kouyate; Venezuelan cuatro player Luzmira Zerpa; and The Turbans, an international musical collective with members from the UK, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria, who play a mix of traditional Balkan, Klezmer, Turkish, Celtic and Greek traditional folk sounds. Global Beats Festival is an unmissable occasion for fans of music from all over the world, and a monument to London’s diverse and inclusive culture.

For more info visit: Global Beats Festival.


The London African Music Festival 2013

13 – 22 September

A chance to experience the best of contemporary music from throughout the African continent, the 11 incarnation of The London African Music Festival takes place at venues throughout London in September. Many of the artists will make their UK debut at the festival, which brings together a diverse range of artists for a celebration of the incredible array of musical traditions in Africa. Highlights of this year’s festival include Congolese soul singer Fredy Massamba, Ugandan singer Jaqee, Senegalese rapper Sister Fa and Ethiopian singer Hanisha Solomon. The 2013 festival will also feature performances from two Nigerian legends, saxophonist Orlando Julius, who will be collaborating with The Heliocentrics, and Queen Salawa Abeni, who will be joining forces with The Yoruba Women Choir. The London African Music Festival was created by Joyful Noise founders Biyi Adepegba and Barbara Pukwana in 2003 as a means of promoting the diversity and wealth of contemporary African music in London. It has grown exponentially since then, and regularly features icons of African music as well as up and coming talent from throughout the continent.

For more info visit The London African Music Festival 2013.


Real Street Food Summer Festival

23 – 26 August

London is in the midst of street food fever, with markets throughout the city buzzing with new stalls and innovative dishes which reflect London’s multicultural community. The Real Street Food Festival has launched a new series of quarterly street food festivals, featuring an amazing line up of traders from markets throughout the city. The range of cuisines planned for the 2013 Real Street Food Summer Festival over the August bank holiday include succulent salt beef sandwiches, Spanish churros, gourmet style coffee, unique craft beers, Basque country staples and classic Indian street food. The range of food traditions on display is immense, and trying them all will be impossible for all but the most hardened gourmand. Nevertheless, The Real Street Food Summer Festival is a must for foodies and those interested in sampling a delightfully diverse cultural palette.

For more info visit: The Real Street Food Festival.

elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food

5 July – 29 September

The global icon of gastronomy Ferran Adrià is being honoured by a major retrospective exhibition at Somerset House this summer, which focuses on his restaurant elBulli, widely lauded as the world’s best before its closure in 2011. The retrospective will showcase the art of cuisine and cuisine as art by taking a behind-the-scenes look at the legendary laboratory and kitchen of the internationally renowned restaurant, which delighted diners in Cala Montjoi, a small picturesque bay on the Catalan coast of Spain near Roses, for over 50 years. It will reveal the evolution of the restaurant from when Adrià joined the staff in 1983 to its pinnacle in the late 1990s and 2000s, when it was world renowned for its innovation and originality.

For more info visit: elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food.


Open East Festival

27 July – 28 July

Celebrating the anniversary of the London 2012 Games, the Open East Festival brings music, art, theatre and food to the newly reopened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Musical acts at the festival will include The Waterboys, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and a supergroup of Malian artists including acclaimed duo Amadou & Mariam. As well as these musical delights, there will be the Real Food Festival, performances from the Theatre Royal Stratford East and a travelling ‘art circus’ called House of Fairy Tales and an Eco Design Fair. Organised by the Barbican as part of its Barbican Beyond series, the festival will also feature an Art Car Boot Fair and interactive storytelling from Discover Children’s Story Centre. This summer weekend of fun will fill the entire Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and will allow visitors to relive the excitement of the Olympics with an array of cultural, gastronomic and artistic events on offer.

For more info visit: Open East Festival.

Notting Hill Carnival

25 – 26 August

The signature event of the London summer, The Notting Hill Carnival is a world renowned celebration of culture, diversity, music and dance which ignites the streets of Notting Hill every year. The Carnival celebrates Caribbean traditions, which inform so much of London’s contemporary culture and society. Filling the West London streets with vibrant, colourful parades, and floats and stalls selling all sorts of West Indian street food, revellers can enjoy classic dishes such as Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat and Rice and Peas. The Carnival originated in 1959 as a positive celebration of Caribbean culture in the response to increasingly toxic race relations. It has grown ever since, and is now a celebration of cultural and ethnic diversity which embodies the myriad qualities of multicultural London. Today over 2.5 million people attend the Carnival annually. While travelling to and from the Notting Hill area can be problematic, the extravagant and unreserved party atmosphere of the festival makes it worthwhile, as this is truly a unique event, and one which encapsulates London like no other.

For more info visit: Notting Hill Carnival.

By Thomas Storey

The Culture Trip showcases the best of art, culture and travel for every country in the world. Have a look at our London, United Kingdom or Europe sections to find out more or become involved.