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Our guide to London: Events & Festivals

London has an almost endless roll-call of ceremonials and special shows and for daily information it is always well worth checking Time Out.

 

January:

London Parade: to kick off the New Year a procession of floats, marching bands, clowns, cheerleaders and classic cars makes its way from Parliament Square at noon to Berkeley Square collecting money for charity from around one million spectators en route.

February:

Chinese New Year Celebrations.  the streets of Soho’s Chinatown explode in a riot of dancing dragons and firecrackers.

March:

Head of the River Race.  Not as well as the Oxford and Cambridge boat race that takes place in April but loads of fun.  Over 400 crews set off at 10 second intervals chasing each other from Mortlake to Putney.

April:

London Marathon.  The world’s most popular marathon with around 35,000 runners participating in the 26.2 mile race from Greenwich Park to Westminster Bridge.

May:

IWA Canal Cavalcade.  Lively celebration of the city’s inland waterways held at Little Venice with lots of decorated narrowboats, morris dancers and lots of children’s activities.

June:

Fleadh.  Pronounced “flaa”, this is a noisy, Irish music festival held in Finsbury Park, North London.  Both Van Morrison and Bob Dylan have performed here, so you never know what will happen.

July:

Greenwich & Docklands Festival.  Ten-day festival of fireworks, music, dance, theatre, art and spectacles at venues on both sides of the river plus a village fayre in Blackheath.

August:

Notting Hill Carnival.  The biggest carnival after Rio, this two day festival has been running for over 35 years.  Enjoy the floats, outrageous costumes, thumping sound systems and live bands.

September:

Horseman’s Sunday.  Held at St. John & St. Michael in Hyde Park, this bizarre ceremony involves a vicar on horseback who blesses about 100 horses.  The newly consecrated animals then parade around the neighbourhood before galloping off through the park and taking part in show jumping.

October:

State Opening of Parliament.  The Queen arrives by coach (with horses rather than the bus type) at the Houses of Parliament accompanied by the Household Cavalry and gun salutes.  The ceremony takes place inside the House of Lords and is televised.  It also takes place whenever a new government is sworn in.

November:

London Jazz Festival.  Big ten-day jazz fest held in all London’s jazz venues.

December:

Oxford Street lights: timeout.com/london/things-to-do/christmas-lights-in-london

Winter wonderland: hydeparkwinterwonderland.com

Lord Mayor’s Show

Held on the second Saturday of November, the newly appointed Lord Mayor begins their investiture at Westminster leaving at around 9.00 am for Guildhall.  At around 11.00 am the vast ceremonial procession headed by the 1756 State Coach begins its journey from Guildhall to the Law Courts in the Strand.  Later in the day there is a firework display from a barge and a small funfair on Paternoster Square by St. Paul’s Cathedral.