December in London 2018

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Operation Ouch!

Dr Xand and Dr Chris - Maverick Television photographer Jacob Niblett

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Operation Ouch!
English National Ballet: Nutcracker
Guy Barker's Big Band Christmas
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Circus 1903
Carols at the Royal Albert Hall
A Vintage New Year's Eve Party
New Year's Eve Fireworks
Great Christmas Pudding Race
The Band
Peter Pan Cup Swimming Race


Christmas favourites like The Nutcracker, Carols at The Royal Albert Hall and the Santa Dash return along with a Festive Feast at Hampton Court Palace and a new puppet show from the puppeteers behind War Horse. These are the best London events in December 2018.

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Return to Elm House

A new immersive adventure for children aged 6 and over.

Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN

Tube: Clapham Common Station


Dates: 1st to 30th December 2018


A new immersive adventure for children aged 6 and over and for families, Return to Elm House is the heart-warming tale of Wandsworth's Jeanie Nassau Senior, a social pioneer and Britain's first female civil servant, the founder of modern foster care. On the very spot where Battersea Arts Centre now stands, a woman known for her generosity, wisdom and care, lived in Elm House. Explore the building and discover hidden memories, uncover mislaid secrets and collect clues to bring back the story of Elm House. From the creators of the critically acclaimed The Good Neighbour, the show is part of the Phoenix Season which reopens Battersea Arts Centre's Grand Hall.


The Band

Take That's back catalogue is made into a West End musical.

Haymarket Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4HT

Tube: Piccadilly Circus Station , Leicester Square Station, Charing Cross Station


Dates: 1st December 2018 to 12th January 2019


With the music of Take That and featuring the winners of the BBC's Let It Shine TV talent search, Tim Firth's musical, The Band, comes to the West End. Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen and Robbie Williams have had a hand in producing this stage show which charts the misadventures of five teenage girls for whom Take That's music provides a soundtrack to their haphazard lives. The musical is staged at Theatre Royal Haymarket this Christmas season and shows the five friends, 25 years on, as they try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting their heroes.


Belgravia Christmas Sunday

The street is transformed with craft stalls and boutique sellers.

25 Elizabeth Street, Elizabeth Street, London, SW1W 9RP

Tube: Sloane Square Station


Dates: Sunday 2nd December 2018


As part of Belgravia's Christmas celebrations, which will also see Father Christmas come to the area, Elisabeth Street will once again be transformed for the Belgravia Christmas Sunday. Turning the street into a magical wonderland on Sunday 2nd December, there will be handmade craft stalls and boutique sellers providing the chance to enjoy some festive Christmas shopping. The day will also offer children's entertainment, choirs, brass bands and seasonal food and drinks.


London Santa Dash

Don your Santa suit and run 5k around London.

Old Spitalfields Market, 1 Crispin Place, London, E1 6DW

Tube: Liverpool Street Station


Dates: Wednesday 5th December 2018


For one night only, throw on your Santa suit and join the Santa Dash, running 5k around the City of London. Starting from Old Spitalfields Market, you'll get your own Santa suit to dress up in and race against the clock - and other Santas - around the circular route. Previous routes have seen Santas dashing past St. Paul's Cathedral and the Gherkin. Complete the 5K circuit and on the finish line you'll be greeted with a medal and a celebratory drink. Anyone over the age of 18 can enter, in teams of up to ten or as individuals and it typically takes Santas between 25 minutes and an hour and a half to complete the run. There's a serious side to all this fun - all Santas will be raising money for children with disabilities and additional needs.


Operation Ouch!

The CBBC show goes from the small screen to the London stage.

Apollo Theatre, 29 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7EZ

Tube: Piccadilly Circus Station , Leicester Square Station


Dates: 6th December 2018 to 6th January 2019


Dr Chris and Dr Xand are, as any well informed 8 year old knows, identical twin doctors and the stars the hit CBBC television series, Operation Ouch! Now the show goes from the small screen to the London stage as it comes to the West End for its first ever live at the Apollo Theatre. The brothers grew up in London and trained in medicine at Oxford University. Both still work in medicine so there's accuracy and authority to everything they do but the good news is they make medicine fun. This live show is packed with incredible stunts, crazy experiments and amazing facts as Dr Chris and Dr Xand explore the fascinating world of biology. You'll see the awesome things the body can do and the twin doctors will also share their favourite bits from their television show.


Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree & Carols

The majestic Christmas tree returns for another year with a series of choir performances.

Trafalgar Square, Central, Westminster, London, WC2N 5DS

Tube: Charing Cross Station , Leicester Square Station, Embankment Underground Station, Piccadilly Circus Station


Dates: 6th to 25th December 2018


Since 1947, stately Trafalgar Square has received a majestic Norwegian Christmas Tree as an annual gift from the people of Oslo, thanking Britain for its support and friendship during World War Two. The enormous tree is a popular seasonal tourist attraction, particularly in the fortnight leading up to Christmas, when each evening (from 4pm to 8pm on weekdays, and from 2pm to 6pm at weekends) a different choir gathers there to sing carols and raise money for a range of voluntary or charitable organisations. Passers-by are welcome to come and listen to the carols in the square and join in the festive cheer. Nelson's Column is decorated with Norwegian white lights and the tree is illuminated from noon until midnight until the Twelfth Night of Christmas in early January. A few days after the official lighting of the tree there's a torch-lit procession on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields, as the choir and clergy bless the Crib in a special ceremony in Trafalgar Square. The tree actually goes up in late November if you want to see it in all its naked evergreen glory.


BBC Good Food Festive Feast

The festival brings a taste of Christmas to Hampton Court.

Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, London, KT8 9AU

Tube: Richmond Station


Dates: 7th, 8th and 9th December 2018


The perfect way to prepare for Christmas, the BBC Good Food Festive Feast brings a taste of Christmas to Hampton Court with indulgent food, Christmas liquors and demos from top chefs in the candle-lit Tudor Kitchen. Head to the Kitchen Theatre in the East Gardens of the historic palace to watch chefs and experts cook live on stage. All sessions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. As well as seeing chefs in action, you can browse and buy seasonal treats from artisan producers selling everything from hog roast to mulled wine, churros to sausages. It's guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit.


Great Christmas Pudding Race

A fabulously festive version of the egg and spoon race.

Covent Garden Piazza, Covent Garden, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD

Tube: Covent Garden Station , Leicester Square Station, Charing Cross Station


Dates: Saturday 8th December 2018


You're familiar with the egg and spoon race. Well how about the Christmas Pudding Race? Covent Garden Piazza swells with spectators as about 150 contestants in teams of six don fancy dress and race around a course strewn with flour-filled balloons, foam jets and other obstacles - all while trying to balance a Christmas pudding on a flimsy plate! The race has been going on every year since 1980 and it raises money for Cancer Research. At this time of year Covent Garden is a great place to be, with shops full of Christmas decorations and street entertainers putting on some diverting shows before and after the main event. The perfect way to break up a day of Christmas shopping in Covent Garden's collection of stylish stores.


English National Ballet: Nutcracker

London Coliseum - English National Opera (ENO), St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4ES

Tube: Charing Cross Station , Leicester Square Station, Covent Garden Station, Embankment Underground Station


Dates: 13th to 30th December 2018


A very traditional interpretation of E.T.A. Hoffman's the Nutcracker, English National Ballet's version was first performed in 2010 to celebrate the company's 60th birthday. This glittering production was created by Wayne Eagling (artistic director of the company from 2005 to 2012), and with its Edwardian setting created by Peter Farmer, it cannot fail to get you in the Christmas spirit. As sure as putting up fairy lights, filling Christmas stockings and having too much mulled wine at the office party, watching Clara dance in front of the Christmas tree is a truly festive thing to do. Wayne Eagling's choreography to Tchaikovsky's famous score is continuously heart-warming and every beautiful scene, from the family party to the appearance of the magical kingdom, lures you in.


Guy Barker's Big Band Christmas

A mixture of classics that will put a spring in your step this festive season.

Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP

Tube: South Kensington Station


Dates: Friday 14th December 2018 - 7.30pm


A mixture of jazz classics, unearthed treasures and Christmas oddities that'll put a swing in your step as the festive season kicks off, from Count Basie to Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Louis Prima played by Guy Barker's Big Band, a 40-piece orchestra supplemented by vocal guests. Jazz singer and BBC Radio 2 presenter Clare Teal co-presents the evening at the Royal Albert Hall performing alongside special guests including a cappella stars Accent.


Jeff Wayne's The War Of The Worlds

The show returns with a new cast and stage sets.

The O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, London, SE10 0BB

Tube: North Greenwich Station


Dates: Saturday 15th December 2018


Nearly 40 years on, based on HG Wells' dark Victorian tale, Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of The Worlds remains a firm favourite to millions around the world. Commanding The O2 stage, Jeff Wayne returns to the podium to conduct the 9-piece Black Smoke Band and 36-piece ULLAdubULLA strings, while Liam Neeson retains his role in 3D holography as The Journalist. As well as getting a new cast, in 2018 the show will break through the fourth wall with a huge arched bridge running through the centre of the arena to bring the action closer to the audience.


Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The legendary improv show celebrates its 30th birthday with an exclusive run.

Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP

Tube: South Kensington Station


Dates: 15th - 16th December 2018


The legendary improv show celebrates its 30th birthday with an exclusive run of three festive shows. With Colin Mochrie, Josie Lawrence, Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Jeff Davis and musicians Laura Hall and Linda Taylor, who all join original host Clive Anderson. Shaping the landscape of TV comedy when it first appeared on screens in 1988, it went on to become a huge hit, both here and in America. The stage version will bring together old and new games, including a sketch that requires members of the audience to create the scenery and another where they are asked to hand over their handbags for inspection. Without the restraints of TV, this version is set to be more risqué than ever before.


Circus 1903

Take a journey back to the golden age of circus in this new production from the War Horse puppeteers.

Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

Tube: Waterloo Station , Embankment Underground Station


Dates: 19th December 2018 to 5th January 2019


The award-winning puppeteers from War Horse present the European premiere of Circus 1903 as part of the Southbank Centre's Winter festival. American circus company, The Illusionists, takes us back to 1903, the golden age of circus, to recreate the thrills and spills of turn-of-the-century entertainment using acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, trapeze and high wire performers. You'll see "gasp-inducing" performers, "like an aerial act in which a burly man treats his partner as if she were a slab of hand-pulled noodles" (New York Times) and those wonderful elephants imagined by the War Horse puppetry team.


Carols at the Royal Albert Hall

A fun-filled jamboree of carols and Christmas hits.

Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London, SW7 2AP

Tube: South Kensington Station


Dates: Sunday 23rd and Monday 24th December 2018


Held in the two days before Christmas, the Royal Albert Hall's Christmas carols programme is a fun-filled jamboree of carols and Christmas hits where you can sing along to festive favourites in spectacular surroundings. Join the Royal Choral Society, National Youth Choir of Great Britain, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the fanfare team of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards for traditional carols, modern arrangements, and festive favourites. Compere Greg Beardsell will lead you through mass sing-alongs to your favourite carols and this year there's a brand-new version of Silent Night penned by James Bond film composer David Arnold.


Peter Pan Cup Swimming Race

This brave (and crazy) bunch love nothing more than an icy dip in the Serpentine.

Serpentine Boating Lake, The Boat House, Serpentine Road, Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH

Tube: Knightsbridge Station


Dates: Tuesday 25th December 2018


This lot are a hardy bunch but tradition is tradition and members of the Serpentine Swimming Club have been plunging themselves into the Serpentine lake's icy waters every Christmas Day since 1864. At temperatures of below four degrees Celsius in winter, the swimmers will want to get a wiggle on so it's lucky that they are all in hot pursuit of the prestigious Peter Pan Cup. The name of the 100-yard race dates back to 1904 when J.M Barrie, the creator of the boy who refused to grow up, presented the first cup. While most of us are still tucked up in bed or delving into our stocking the competitors line up (and pretend not to shiver) for their 9am start, a jolly crowd gathers to witness the spectacle. It's a great way to get some fresh air on Christmas morning and you'll feel like you've earned your post-lunch snooze. Behind you, Hyde Park offers a wonderful wintry landscape and, if you want to continue the Peter Pan theme, why not nip across to see the famous statue in Kensington Gardens. It was so cold and snowy in 2010 that the race had to be cancelled - although some intrepid souls still broke holes in the ice in order to have a quick dip.


A Vintage New Year's Eve Party

The huge New Year's Eve party returns with five floors of entertainment.

Southbank Centre: Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, South Bank, London, SE1 8XX

Tube: Waterloo Station , Embankment Underground Station


Dates: Monday 31st December 2018


Following six sell-out years, A Vintage New Year's Eve Party is back. The huge party sees the Royal Festival Hall transformed into five floors of set-dressed entertainment including seven pop-up vintage nightclubs, stylish dining, a hair and beauty salon, photo studios and a private terrace overlooking London's world-famous New Year's Eve fireworks. Entertainment will come from The Torch Club, celebrating the '20's, '30's and '40's big band sound; The Jive Romeros, Britain's kings of bepop, rock and roll, jive and swing; and Six Million Steps, offering pure '70s and '80s disco. The Tiki Bar serves colourful cocktails and samba and after midnight the Clore Ballroom transforms into an intimate cabaret club. With disco dancing, musical bingo and karaoke thrown in for good measure, it's a hell of a way to see in 2019.


New Year's Eve Fireworks

Ten explosive minutes of fireworks welcomes in the new year.

London Eye , Jubilee Gardens, South Bank, South Bank, London, SE1 7PB

Tube: Embankment Underground Station , Westminster Station, Waterloo Station


Dates: Monday 31st December 2018


The annual New Year's Eve Fireworks display, launched from the foot of the London Eye and from rafts on the Thames, is visible from most of central London: the basic rule is that if you can see the London Eye, you'll be able to see the show. They cram enough firepower for an hour-long display into ten explosive minutes, lighting up the sky for miles around. The best views are from Victoria Embankment, the South Bank, and Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge. Hungerford Bridge is closed after 8pm and there's also no entry to Westminster Bridge after this time. Go to for full details.

Photo credit: James O Jenkins.

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