I’ll come right out with it – the weather does not look good for August bank holiday this weekend. This will no doubt come as a surprise if you happen to be looking out of your window upon a bright blue sky, or conversely, completely feasible if you have fallen victim to one of the freak localised monsoons London has enjoyed amidst this tropical weather of late. Either way, summer bank holidays have long gone hand in hand with a great dichotomy – so many things to do, so many weather dependencies… But if the Olympic logistics team taught us anything, we have to ‘get ahead of the games’ – or to embrace this vastly failing metaphor, insert ‘weather’ and see The London Word’s careful planning for both eventualities.
Kicking off with the sunnier outlook, August bank holiday in London would be nothing without the infamous Notting Hill Carnival (Sunday 26 and Monday 27 August). As Europe’s largest street party of its kind, there isn’t really any way to describe this monstrous and wonderful celebration through the streets of Notting Hill. With more sequins, feathered headdresses and Red Stripe than you could ever dream of, the main carnival parade is a beast, winding its way through the streets from 9am until about 7pm. Then, it’s time for you to head into the throngs and explore the countless sound systems on offer, blowing their speakers with everything from soca to salsa to keep the crowds dancing until the small hours. Or until the police move you on. Carnival Tip: always have a designated meeting point for when you inevitably get separated from your friends. Do not try and instigate a ‘signature whistle’ – steel drums and sound systems trump the plastic carnival whistles you will no doubt accumulate en route.
Hitting it up East side, The Book Club continues to garner its well earned reputation for king of the Shoreditch street parties with Bookstock Street Festival (Sunday 26 August) featuring live music from Dub Pistols and Bikini Beach Band, DJs, London Fields beers, festival food and a glow-in-the-dark ’90s ping pong rave. Entry is free but make sure you grab a wristband from The Book Club.
And if the inevitable happens and the skies do their worst – you can always get subterranean.
Head to the newly unveiled labyrinthine caverns beneath the Tate Modern – The Tanks – and join their 15 week celebration of live art with film, installations and performance, Art in Action. In keeping with the unique industrial feel we love at the Tate Modern, The Tanks are a collection of pods, each home to a series of installations between now and October. Play in the haze of light and shadow in Lis Rhode’s Light Music, explore the patterns of life with Suzanne Lacy’s timelapse performance or embrace the surreal in Sung Hwan Kim’s interdisciplinary installation. Also, until Monday 27 August, the Tate hosts Undercurrent Festival as part of their Young People’s Programme, exploring the theme of ‘underground’ with events, installations and interventions in the rather apt space of The Tanks.
While you’re at the Tate, hang around to see the latest (and final) Unilever commission in the Turbine Hall as performance artist Tino Sehgal draws audiences into his unique and enrapturing happenings where the audience are as much part of the show as his many performers.
As night falls, get your festival fix and warm up for Notting Hill with the annual Urban Nerds Carnival Special (Saturday 25 August; tickets £15) at Scala, Kings Cross as London’s bass favourites take over three rooms with a huge line-up of DJs blasting their infamous mash-up of tropical inspired reggae, dancehall and electronic beats and UK bass. If you’d rather save your hearing for the big Carnival day on Monday, try the more sedate, but nonetheless wild, Guilty Pleasures Cinema Party at the Troxy (Saturday 25 August), taking you on pop-tastic trip to the ’80s with a screening of Desperately Seeking Susan accompanied by dancing, singing, DJs and fancy dress.
So whether we’ll be basking in London’s pseudo tropics or sailing down Ladbroke Grove in a steel drum, this August bank holiday there are more than enough ways we can all keep that carnival vibe flowing – and enjoy some culture thrown in for good measure.