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43 festive things to do in London this weekend

Paul Shears[Photo: Paul Shears]

Avoid thinking about all the Christmas shopping you haven’t done and do something fun instead! It shouldn’t be too hard as it seems joy levels are sky-rocketing in London this weekend. Catch some classic Christmas cinema at a pop-up film screening, sample tasty festive morsels at a market on the South Bank or ho-ho-ho it up at one of the brilliant comedy shows happening in the capital. There are even some places to pick up presents if the guilt sets in…

Fun things to do 

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Body Snatcher, Old Operating Theatre Museum, TONIGHT, £12. To mark the 130th anniversary of Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story ‘The Body Snatcher’, author Dr Ruth Richardson will be digging a little deeper to uncover the story behind the story, commissioned by the Pall Mall Gazette for its special Christmas edition back in 1884.

Family Ghost Tours, Hampton Court Palace, Saturday, £14, £7 ages 8-14. The State Apartment Warders will lead this tour of the palace and its courtyards and cloisters, sharing stories of the many ghostly apparitions that have taken place in the building and some of the spookier bits of its history.

On Angels Wings Christmas Concert, St Luke’s Church, Saturday, £22.50 adults, £12.50 children. A re-telling of the Christmas story, dramatised and adapted by Simon Reade, with readings from Michael Morpurgo as the storyteller and Juliet Stevenson as the voice of the shepherds and Angel Gabriel.

Hackney Flea-Mas Market, Abney Hall, Sat-Sun, free. Stock up on everything you need to make your life look more like it fell out of an interior design magazine from decades gone by at this festive version of the regular vintage market.

Sunday Assembly, Conway Hall, Sunday, free. The Sunday service that bills itself as ‘the godless congregation for people who want to live better, help often and wonder more’ will bring a heap of joy to Conway Hall with the help of their house band and choir.

Apocalypse Day, London Victoria Station, Sunday, £85. Find out whether you’d have the survival skills to protect your family, find food, keep warm and generally be a Katniss Everdeen-level badass at this survival adventure day.

Barbican Christmas Market, Barbican, Centre, all weekend, free. Thirty-five independent designers, makers and artisans have set up shop in the foyers, with vintage and designer clothes, arts and crafts, jewellery, books and toys all available.

Skylodge, Hackney Empire, all weekend, free. An enchanted forest, magical beanstalk and oompah performances aren’t what you’d expect to stumble across on Mare Street this winter, but this immersive bar in the Hackney Empire promises all three.

Fly with The Snowman, Emirates Air Line, all weekend, free with admission. It’s our Christmas dream come true! The chance to swoop over the Thames as if you’re in Raymond Briggs’ classic animation ‘The Snowman’ (or indeed its sequel ‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’). You won’t actually fly, of course, but will glide gracefully over the river in a themed cable car carriage on the Emirates Air Line.

Olympia, The London International Horse Show, Olympia London, from £24.50. Now in its 107th year, the equine world’s annual Christmas party will attract internationally acclaimed riders, Olympic Gold Medallists and horse-lovers from all over the country for world cup competitions, remarkable displays, festive entertainment and even a shopping village.

…or check out more events happening in London this weekend.

Real Food Christmas Market

Eating and drinking 

Real Food Christmas Market, South Bank, all weekend, free. Set in the courtyard directly behind the Royal Festival Hall, the Real Food Market serves up its regular selection of sustainably and ethically produced fine foods but with extra added seasonal goodies for this five-day Christmas version.

Urban Food Fest, Shoreditch, Saturday, free. A revolving cast of dozens of food stalls and trucks serve a frankly intimidating variety of global cuisine at the Euro Car Parks in Shoreditch. Jerk chicken, wood-fired oven pizza, pad thai, halloumi souvlaki, sushi, schwarma, fried chicken, burritos – we could go on.

Home Brew Depot’s Brew School, Adam & Eve, Saturday, £89.99. These one-day introductory courses will teach you all you need to know to create your dream pint with just some jars, tubes, grains and a lot of patience.

Peckham Market, The Academy at Peckham, Saturday, free. Expect delicious refreshments from Ali Baba Juice, caffeine hits from Mouse Tail Coffee and freshly baked treats from Oliviers Bakery.

…or see Time Out’s recommended restaurants.

Brian and Robin's Christmas Compendium of Reason


Brian and Robin’s Christmas Compendium of Reason, Eventim Apollo Hammersmith, TONIGHT, £30-£45. Everyone’s favourite dreamy-eyed sciencist, Professor Brian Cox, and superb, erudite comedian Robin Ince join forces for their annual Christmas blow-out at the Hammersmith Apollo.

Nick Helm – Merry Christmas Motherf**kers!, Soho Theatre, Fri-Sat, £20, £17.50 concs. London, prepare to be kicked hard in the baubles, as the thrillingly unpredictable Nick Helm hits the capital with a festive treat.

Seann Walsh – The Lie-In King, Blackheath Halls, Saturday £16, concs £14. Wild-haired stand-up Seann Walsh – star of ‘Stand Up for the Week’ and ‘Live at the Apollo’ – received a Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination for his solo show about, well, being lazy.

Sheeps Festive Bash, The Invisible Dot Ltd, all weekend, £10, £8.50 concs. Innovative and very funny sketch troupe Sheeps – made up of Liam Williams, Daran Johnson and Alistair Roberts – are back again with their annual Festive Bash.

Joel Creasey – Rock God, Soho Theatre, all weekend, £15, £12.50 concs. Aussie comic Joel Creasey makes his UK debut, bringing his acclaimed show ‘Rock God’ (which our buddies over at Time Out New York gave the full five-stars too) to the Soho Theatre.

…or check out all the critics’ choice comedy shows.


Live music

Sparks, Barbican Centre, Fri-Sat, £22.50-£30 adv. Having treated London to all 21 albums over 21 nights a few years back, the beautiful Mael brothers continue to twist the live experience.

Fatboy Slim, O2 Academy Brixton, Saturday, £28.50. Considering the fact he doesn’t play out much any more, this high-production Christmas party with guest appearances from DJ Fresh and Slam Dunk’d will be a very hot ticket indeed.

Soul II Soul, Koko, Sunday, £30. Jazzie B and his classic soul-jazz collective bring their infectious, sun-struck funk, house and reggae riddims to the stage.

Van Morrison, Lyric Theatre, all weekend, £75. The legendary Celtic soul mystic’s more recent output has flitted between blues, big band jazz, R&B, skiffle and folk, and at these three intimate shows he should stage a full-on raid through his deep, deep discography, including cuts from his seminal ‘Astral Weeks’ and ‘Moondance’ albums.

…or take a look at all 51 live music events in London this weekend.

Ed Banger Xmas Party


Ed Banger Xmas Party, XOYO, TONIGHT, £12.50. French label Ed Banger get all festive, unleashing the usual delightful flurry of electro, house, disco and breaks, in what the crew are calling a Christmas hoedown.

Stevie Wonderland Christmas Rollerboogie, Shapes, Saturday, £10-£15. Funk-flinging roller disco-loving crew Stevie Wonderland have had a glorious 2014, and they rounding things off with a festive roller-boogie party at their much-loved Hackney Wick haunt Shapes.

Sink The Pink – Camp as Christmas, Victoria Park, Sunday, £20. Sink The Pink, the zaniest, funnest, great big epic win of a club night, is setting up camp at Winterville’s Spiegeltent, which can only be a very good thing indeed.

…or see all 49 parties planned this weekend.



Brazil, Prince Charles Cinema, TONIGHT, £7.50, £5 concs. Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi madhouse isn’t a film you’d usually associate with Christmas, but it’s peppered with seasonal nods and winks.

Classic Cinema Club: ‘A Christmas Story’, Ealing Town Hall, TONIGHT, £7, £6 concs. Surely everyone remembers how they felt, at primary school, when a literary masterpiece came back marked with a mere C+? This and many other such crimes perpetrated by the adult world on the inhabitants of kid-dom are exposed in this nostalgic mock-epic tale of young Ralphie’s quest to ensure that presents assembled under the tree on Christmas morning include a much-coveted BB air-rifle.

Pop-Up Screens: ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’, 20th Century Theatre, Saturday, £20, £10 concs. Sure, it’s crude, episodic and half the jokes don’t work, but ‘Christmas Vacation’ may be the only modern Christmas comedy that really stands up to repeat viewings.

Or at the cinema…

Kon-Tiki ★★★★☆ This fictionalised retelling of the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 Pacific crossing ought to come with a ‘Jackass’-style warning: don’t try this at home kids

Unbroken ★★★☆☆ Teenage tearaway, 1930s Olympic runner, World War II prisoner-of-war survivor… Why has it taken so long for Hollywood to make a film about the incredible life of Louis Zamperini?

…or see all of the latest releases.



Electra, Old Vic, Fri-Sat, £10-£55. Unquestionably another solid link in the Old Vic’s 2014 renaissance, a tremendously visceral and wholly uncompromising exploration of emotional pain.

Visitors, Bush Theatre, Fri-Sat, £15-£19.50, £10-£15 concs. Perhaps the biggest achievement of this brilliant debut from writer Barney Norris is how it wrings so much out of such a static, basic set. Two armchairs, a footstool and sundry geriatric accoutrements are all that’s needed to set the scene of a remote farmhouse in Wiltshire.

Apocalypse Meow: Crisis Is Born, Purcell Room, all weekend, £19. Australian-born cabaret star and singer Meow Meow returns to the South Bank with another belter of a show: like playing pass-the-parcel on a boozed-up, pill-popped Christmas Day at the end of the world, it’s a mad, many-layered treat.

Nigel and Louise’s Basement Grotto, Shoreditch Town Hall, all weekend, £10-£15. As part of the Shunt performance collective, Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari have made a host of intriguing, immersive, bizarre theatre shows. While ‘Nigel and Louise’s Basement Grotto’ is not a Shunt show, it features more than a little of the group’s glorious weirdness.

…or see our theatre critics’ choices here.

The Opinion Makers

This week’s best new art

The Opinion Makers, Londonewcastle Project Space, Fri-Sat, free. In communicating the implications and conflict in the world of the artist-curator, this exhibition depicts a rich spectrum of formal, abstract and installation pieces that feature in juxtaposed pairs.

Thomas Knights: Red Hot Box, various venues, all weekend, free. Following the success of Thomas Knights’ photographic portraits of hot flamed-haired men, ‘Red Hot’, this pop-up show and shop presents a new breed of red headed beauties.

Essex Road, Tintype, all weekend, free. Throughout the festive season, the gallery’s window space will become a screening platform for eight newly commissioned silent films about the local area.

Tiril Hasselknippe: Sophanes, Evelyn Yard, Fri-Sat, free. The Greek hero, Sophanes inspires the Norwegian artist’s sculptures of anchors rendered like weathered cement as well as an armoured bodice and specially patinated cement floor.

Nick Berkeley: The Wild Ones, The Strand Gallery, all weekend, free. In 1993 Suede played the Brixton Academy. The concert was filmed and later a video ‘Love and Poison’ was released. The multimedia artist Nick Berkeley has manipulated stills from the film to create a series of limited edition prints, which have been co-signed by lead singer Brett Anderson.

…or see all London art reviews.

And finally

Win… a trip for two to Madrid or dinner for two at the iconic BT Tower.

Grab… £19.50 tickets to ‘Slava’s Snowshow’ at the Royal Festival Hall.

Book… these gigs while you still can.

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