Summer in South Kensington

This summer we are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to London’s home of science, arts, and inspiration. There are some fantastic events to enjoy over the coming months and we have put together a few highlights.

The cultural venues in South Kensington will be opening from 17th May with a stunning programme of events and exhibitions offering a culturally rich and diverse summer season.

One big milestone that has passed behind closed doors is the 150th birthday of the Royal Albert Hall on 29th March. However, our friends at the Hall have a spectacular year of celebrations lined up ranging from major commissions from British artists, headline performances from musical legends and a series of showcases promoting the next generation of talent. The Hall will have a few events at reduced capacity from the end of May, including Albert's Band in half term (29th May). Full capacity events start from 6th July.  Coming up you can book to see the Harry Potter movies, The Beach Boys, James Blunt, The Planets - check out their website here for the full lineup of events.

There are some unmissable exhibitions that will be either debuting or re-opening. Including a mind-bending journey down the rabbit hole with Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser at the V&A – exploring the origins of Alice’s story and its adaption over 157 years. The V&A will also be re-opening Bags: Inside Out where you can see Winston Churchill’s despatch box, alongside 300 other bags telling their own story. Epic Iran also opens with over 5,000 years of art, design and culture under the spotlight on one of the greatest historic civilizations.

Over the road at the Science Museum a new, free exhibition will open – ‘Our Future Planet’ which will showcase the cutting-edge technology and nature-based solutions being developed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Alongside, will be a series of climate talks with experts, activists and campaigners discussing climate change.

Don't forget the Science Museum's newly refurbished IMAX: The Ronson Theatre is open with its next-generation technology giving you a truly immersive storytelling experience. It is one of only two screens in Europe to feature the very best of both digital and analogue cinema, allowing the museum to host newly-released blockbusters, 3D educational films and cinema classics as well as an array of live events. And of course, Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery offers to ignite your curiosity, fuel your imagination and inspire you to see the world around you in new and exciting ways. 

The Natural History Museum will also be opening with an exhibition about climate change – ‘Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix it’ – exploring how humans have transformed the natural world and revealing some of the consequences of our actions.‘Fantastic Beast – The Wonder of Nature’ will re-open at the museum. Step into a world filled with roaring dragons, a wizardly world created by JK Rowling full of remarkable animals and the wonders of the natural world which have inspired myths and legends for generations. But if mythical creatures are not your thing, take some time to see the stunning images of rich habitats and extraordinary species in the annual ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’.

The Design Museum will have two new exhibitions. ‘Sneaker Unboxed: Studio to Street’ - a chance to step up and discover the footwear phenomenon that has inspired subcultures and shaken the world of fashion. Opening in June is ‘Charlotte Perriand: The Modern Life’ – one of the giants of 20th-century design who championed good design for all.

Japan House London has a new exhibition spotlighting the innovative work of Japanese textile designer Sudō Reiko, renowned for pushing the boundaries of textile production.

Kensington Palace opens its doors on 26th May with a new exhibition opening in the newly-conserved Orangery on 3rd June - Royal Style in the Making.  This exhibition explores the intimate relationship between fashion designer and royal client, revealing the process behind the creation of a number of the most important couture commissions in royal history. On display will be the wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales, on show for the first time at Kensington Palace in 25 years. The Luna Cinema returns on 12th August for four nights with a fantastic line-up of classic and feel-good films to brighten your summer evenings.

Over in the Royal Parks, the Serpentine Pavilion will open on 11th June. It has been designed by Johannesburg-based practice, Counterspace, and is based on gathering spaces and community places around the city. Re-opening will the outstanding exhibition, Jennifer Packer - The Eye is not Satisfied with the Seeing.

In Kensington Gardens this summer, Van Gogh Alive offers the world’s most visited immersive, multi-sensory experience’ that exhibits the life and work of the seminal Dutch artist. Having welcomed over 7 million visitors in 65 cities around the world, it offers a Covid-safe environment for visitors here in South Kensington.

Exciting plans are also underway to bring a touch of the wild to Exhibition Road this summer. We have run a competition for designs for temporary, ‘green’ installation or planters which will form part of the London Festival of Architecture. Sustainability and design will be integral to the design and there will be opportunities for the community to be involved. Watch this space….

Institut français also opens its doors with a packed lineup of events, including the return of Beyond Words from 17th-23rd May - a festival dedicated to the best of French literature. There will be a chance to catch up with some of the recently released films, including The Father. Take a look at what is coming up here and if you are under 25, you can pick up a ticket for only a fiver by registering online!

The Royal Society of Sculptors opens its doors to a group exhibition by the 2020 Gilbert Bayes Award winners - awarded for early career sculptors annually to a small group of outstandingly talented artists. 

Finally, The Great Exhibition Road Festival will be returning on a smaller scale, this autumn - dates will be announced soon. 

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Zenaida Yanowsky as The Red Queen in Christopher Wheeldon's ballet Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The Royal Ballet. ©ROH, Johan Persson, 2011. Sets and costumes by Bob Crowley
Zenaida Yanowsky as The Red Queen in Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (credit: ROH)
Fantastic Beast, NHM
Fantastic Beasts - The Wonder of Nature (credit: Natural History Museum)
Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street
Design Museum - Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street (Credit: Design Museum)
Serpentine Pavilion designed by Counterspace - exterior view
Serpentine Pavilion 2020/2021 designed by Counterspace (Credit: Counterspace)
Van Gogh Alive, Kensington Gardens
Van Gogh Alive, Kensington Gardens
Wedding gown of Diana, Princess of Wales - Royal Style in the Making, Kensington Palace (Credit: Royal Collection Trust)