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What's On In London In December
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What's On In London In December

Picture of Harriet Clugston
Updated: 23 November 2016
The air may be thick with Christmas cheer, but there’s still plenty of non-festive cultural activities going on in London this December. With a major exhibition on the father of pop art, world-class horse riding and adventures in Moominvalley, here’s a list of the best to do and see this month.

THURSDAY 1ST DECEMBER – SUNDAY 4TH DECEMBER

Image courtesy of London Wetland Centre /Courtesy of the Cancer Research Great Pudding / Fenton House|©Orangeaurochs/Flickr / Robert Rauschenberg, 'Retroactive II', 1963|© Nathan Keay/ MCA Chicago
Image courtesy of London Wetland Centre / Courtesy of the Cancer Research Great Pudding Race / Fenton House | ©Orangeaurochs/Flickr / Robert Rauschenberg, 'Retroactive II', 1963|© Nathan Keay/ MCA Chicago

CHRISTMAS | Cuddle Up To A Husky At The London Wetland Centre

📅 Saturday 3rd December – Sunday 4th December

Spend your weekend with a team of cuddly huskies at the beautiful London Wetlands Centre’s child-friendly winter weekend. Among the range of activities on offer for kids are husky sleigh rides (adults can also get in on the fun, with family photo shoots with the dogs on offer), donkey rides, a wellie-throwing competition and an elves workshop with Christmas decoration crafts.

Free with admission

📍 London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London, UK, +44 20 8409 4400

CHRISTMAS | Great Christmas Pudding Race

📅 Saturday 3rd December

Head down to Covent Garden this Saturday morning for the annual Great Christmas Pudding Race in aid of Cancer Research. The main event, as the name suggests, sees teams of contestants in fancy dress hoping to snag the coveted Christmas Pudding Trophy race through a tricky obstacle course atop the cobbled streets, navigating foam jets, inflatable slides and other hurdles – all, in theory, without dropping their puddings.

Free to spectate

📍Covent Garden, London, UK

ART | Explore Love, Loss And Life At Fenton House’s Immersive Contemporary Art Exhibition

📅 Saturday 3rd December – Friday 23rd December

Art collective Traces take over the National Trust’s Fenton House – the city’s very own country house – for the festive period, bringing the lives, loves and losses of its early 18th-century inhabitants, the Gee family, to life. Multi-sensory works by 80 contemporary artists and designers will explore the family’s relationships with each other and the changing outside world, filling the historic home with ‘sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes’ that provide an immersive link with the year 1730.

£10

📍 Fenton House, Hampstead Grove, Hampstead, London, UK, +44 20 7435 3471

ART | See The Work Of Warhol Contemporary Robert Rauschenberg

📅 Thursday 4th December – Friday 2nd April 2017

As one of the key early figures in the rise of pop art in the US, Robert Rauschenberg remains to this day one of the most influential artists in modern art. This December, the Tate Modern launches a major retrospective into his life and work – the first anywhere since his death in 2008, and the first in the UK for 35 years – exploring the enormous breadth of his graphic work, painting and performance art.

£18.50

📍 Tate Modern Bankside, London, UK, +44 20 7887 8888

MONDAY 5th DECEMBER – SUNDAY 11th DECEMBER

Winterlights|©Stuart Leech/Dulwich Picture Gallery / Joanna Lumley in 'Light Up the Room'|©Rankin/Southbank Centre / Courtesy of Pop-Up Cinema / Image courtesy of Urban Makers
Winterlights | ©Stuart Leech/Dulwich Picture Gallery / Joanna Lumley in 'Light Up the Room'|©Rankin/Southbank Centre / Courtesy of Pop-Up Cinema / Image courtesy of Urban Makers

FESTIVAL | Lose Yourself In A Colourful Wonderland With Winterlights At The Dulwich Picture Gallery

📅 Tuesday 6th December – Sunday 18th December

Wander through the 19th-century building and grounds of Dulwich Picture Gallery this December, spectacularly illuminated by the team behind Christmas at Kew. The colourful displays are accompanied by an ambient soundtrack, a giant baroque picture frame for group selfies, festive music from pop-up choirs, festive food and drink and an enchanted cottage, perfect for a spot of storytelling for little ears.

£12-14

📍 Gallery Road, Southwark, UK, +44 20 8693 5254

ART | Support The Southbank Centre’s Renovation With Light Up The Room: Portraits by Rankin

📅 Thursday 8th December – Friday 23rd December

A range of famous faces from Joanna Lumley to Grayson Perry have teamed up with renowned fashion and portrait photographer Rankin to create this free exhibition in the foyer spaces of the Royal Festival Hall. Each figure is adorned with pieces from an exclusive new range of affordable jewellery by high-profile and up-and-coming British designers, proceeds from which will go towards funds for the ongoing Let The Light In campaign, in aid of the refurbishment of the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room.

Free

📍 Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London, UK, +44 844 875 0073

FILM | Catch A Festive Film At The Snow-Filled Hackey Showroom

📅 Thursday 8th December – Sunday 18th December

Join roaming cinephiles at the Pop-Up Screens at Hackney Showroom, ‘East London’s newest cultural centre’, for a season of festive films this Christmas. Step through a ‘magical wardrobe’ and into the snow-filled hall for a cracking line-up, including Christmas classics such as Love Actually, Elf, Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street.

£20

📍 Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, London, UK, +44 20 3095 9747

FOOD | Eat S’Mores Around The Fire With Skip Garden’s Fire Feast

📅 Friday 9th December

Huddle around an open fire in King’s Cross’ charming sustainable urban garden while tucking into a delicious range of warming food at Fire Feast. A pass for the evening buys you three portions of food – choose from stews, soups, pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven, horse chestnuts or gooey s’mores cooked in the flames – and a cup of rum chai, while special winter cocktails are also on offer, all topped off with a spot of live music.

£18

📍 Skip Garden, Tapper Walk, King’s Cross, London, UK

DESIGN | Hunt For Unique Gifts With Urban Makers East

📅 Saturday 10th December – Sunday 11th December

Over 100 designer-makers will be popping up in Mile End’s Ecology Pavilion this December weekend for Urban Makers East’s festive edition, selling a range of high-quality goods including textiles, accessories, ceramics, art and decorations, as well as warming meals and winter cocktails. Three workshops will be held across the weekend giving visitors the chance to test out their skills in origami, arm knitting and body polish-making, while a Mini Makers Craft Room will give kids the chance to get hands-on with some festive activities.

Free

📍 Mile End Ecology Pavilion, Haverfield Road off Grove Road, London, UK, +44 20 7364 3115

DESIGN | Browse Original Illustrations At The Illustrator’s Art Fair

📅 Saturday 10th December

Almost 100 contemporary illustrators and collectives will be filling the covered yard outside King’s Cross-based House of Illustrators with their original art pieces, including posters, books, ceramics and badges. Browse the stalls in search of fantastic and unique gifts while tucking into some festive treats.

Free

📍 House of Illustration, 2 Granary Square, King’s Cross, London, UK, +44 20 3696 2020

MONDAY 12TH DECEMBER – SUNDAY 18TH DECEMBER

Courtesy of the London International Horse Show / Courtesy of the V&A Museum of Childhood / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Photo by Jonathan Olley© 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd/Getty /Tove Jansson, The Groke from 'Moomin Papa at Sea', 1965 © Moomin Characters™
Courtesy of the London International Horse Show / Courtesy of the V&A Museum of Childhood / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Photo by Jonathan Olley | © 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd/Getty / | Moomin Characters™

SPORT | Catch Some World-Class Horse Riding At The International Horse Show

📅 Tuesday 13th December – Monday 19th December

Billed as ‘the world’s best equestrian Christmas party’, the Olympia Horse Show is the only UK show to ‘host all three FEI World Cup Qualifiers in Dressage, Show Jumping and Driving’, alongside a variety of displays and competitions, a shopping village containing over 250 shops, and tonnes of food and drink. Look out for the world-renowned Portuguese Lusitanos, 16 Lusitano Stallions ridden by some of the country’s top riders, and the horse whisperer and trainer Santi Serra showcasing ‘the bond between man, horse and dog’.

Various prices

📍 The Grand Hall, Olympia Way, Hammersmith, London, UK, +44 871 230 5580

CHRISTMAS | Test Your Board Game Know-How At The Museum Of Childhood’s Christmas Quiz

📅 Thursday 15th December

A chance for board game buffs to test their knowledge at the V&A Museum of Childhood’s festive quiz night, part of their ongoing exhibition celebrating the universal love of board games, from Monopoly to Frustration. Teams of a maximum of eight compete and relive their childhoods, though with the welcome addition of a flowing bar.

£7 per person

📍 Cambridge Heath Road, London, UK, +44 20 8983 5200

FILM | Return To A Galaxy Far, Far Away With Star Wars: Rogue One

📅 Friday 16th December

The day Star Wars fans have been waiting for – the first instalment in the spin-off trilogy, Star Wars: Rogue One, hits screens up and down the country. Set ahead of the Revenge of the Sith but before the original series, Rogue One follows a group of new recruits to the Rebel Alliance, who pitch in their skills in an attempt to steal the plans for the Empire’s new weapon – the Death Star. And yes, the villainous Darth is back.

Various

📍 Multiple places around the UK

LITERATURE | Explore Moominvalley At The Southbank Centre

📅 Friday 16th December 2016 – Sunday 23rd April 2017

Moominvalley, the ‘eccentric world’ of beloved children’s characters The Moomins, is brought to life in this major, immersive exhibition. Despite their worldwide renown, this will be the first time in their more than 70 years that the Moomin family have found themselves the subject of a UK exhibition. Exploring the lovable characters through the life of Finnish creator Tove Jansson, the exhibition will bring together archival materials from 3D models to original illustrations, alongside an audio narrative by Sandi Toksvig​ and Laura Dockrill.

£12-16.50

📍 Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, Lambeth, London, UK, +44 20 7960 4200

MONDAY 19TH DECEMBER – SUNDAY 25TH DECEMBER

THEATRE | Get Your Heart Broken With The Kite Runner

📅 Wednesday 21st December 2016 – Saturday 11th March 2017

Khaled Hosseini’s devastating, powerful tale of childhood trauma set against the backdrop of the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan makes the leap from page to stage in this haunting production, appearing at the Wyndham’s Theatre for a limited season after a successful journey across the UK.

Various prices

📍 Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London, UK, +44 844 482 5120

MUSIC | Catch Some Carols By Candlelight At The Royal Albert Hall

📅 Friday 23rd December

Begin your run-up to Christmas Day in style at Kensington’s world-famous Royal Albert Hall. The likes of Gruber’s ‘Silent Night’, Bach’s ‘Joy of Man’s Desiring’ and Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ will appear in a medley with more contemporary carols and seasonal classics in this sumptuous candle-lit affair, performed by an orchestra and chorus in full 18th-century getup.

Various prices

📍 Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College Road, London, UK, +44 20 7589 8212

CHRISTMAS | Get Back To Christmas’s Roots At St Paul’s Cathedral

📅 Saturday 24th December – Sunday 25th December

For those of you who see Christmas as more than presents, food and alcohol, or those who want to see what things are like on the other side of the tracks, there’s nowhere better in London than St Paul’s for that quintessential Christian Christmas. Head on over on Christmas Eve for a Christmas carol service followed by a midnight sermon, or on Christmas Day for the traditional services, followed by a late afternoon choral service.

Free

📍 St. Paul’s Churchyard, London, UK

MONDAY 26TH DECEMBER – SATURDAY 31ST DECEMBER

MUSIC | Hear Katherine Jenkins Perform Her Favourite Songs At The Barbican

📅 Tuesday 27th December

Modern day soldier’s sweetheart and Welsh mezzo-soprano singer Katherine Jenkins will be giving a special concert with the London Concert Orchestra at the Barbican in the wake of the Christmas festivities. Coming as part of the centre’s Raymond Gubbay Christmas Festival, Jenkins will be performing a selection of her own favourite music.

£20+

📍 Barbican, Silk St, London, UK, +44 20 7638 4141

FILMS | Catch An Out-Of-This-World Screening Of ET At The Royal Albert Hall

📅 Wednesday 28th December

Experience the magic of Spielberg’s classic 80s hit ET: The Extra-Terrestrial like never before, with this special screening at the Royal Albert Hall. David Newman conducts the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra live, performing the film’s iconic, atmospheric soundtrack as the otherworldly action is beamed onto a giant HD screen.

Various prices

📍 Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College Road, London, UK, +44 20 7589 8212

FESTIVAL | See In The New Year With London’s Fireworks Extravaganza

📅 Saturday 31st December

London’s famous New Year’s Eve pyrotechnic firework display is back once again, and no doubt as spectacular as ever – trust us, it really just isn’t the same on the TV. Bag a ticket for £10 a pop (last chance to buy is on the 2nd December) and head over to join the many thousands of revellers on the banks of the Thames.

£10

📍 The London Eye, The Queen’s Walk, London, UK