The Chelsea Flower Show and the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park get London's summer season in full swing in a month book-ended by bank holidays (2nd May for May Day and 30th May). Tracey Emin has a solo show in the Southbank, Barry Manilow croons at The O2 Arena and there's the small matter of the FA Cup final - not to forget the Champions League final, which comes to the new Wembley for the first time.
2nd May 2011
Head down to Trafalgar Square this May bank holiday to experience the colourful, culinary and exotic sounding delights of the Sikh New Year Festival. The official date for Vaisakhi is 13th April, but the 2010 Vaisakhi festival in Trafalgar Square will be held on 2nd May. Commemorating 300 years of the consecration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru, the Vaisakhi includes performances of traditional music such as Shabad Kirtin (religious hymns), as well as modern Asian music and dance and DJs. Vegetarian food prepared by the Sikh community will be offered during the afternoon. For more information about this free event go to www.london.gov.uk/mayor/vaisakhi.
4th May 2011 - 6th May 2011
Barry Manilow may not be at the cutting edge of music, but boy is he popular. The Brooklyn-born composer and performer has sold more than 80 million records during a long career that shows no sign of slowing down. For the last five years, Manilow has been topping the bill at the Hilton on the Las Vegas Strip. In 2010, he moved across town to the Theatre des Arts at The Paris Hotel, but he's still finding time to put together some international tour dates, and The O2 Arena is one of his stops. Expect songs from his 2010 album The Greatest Love Songs of All Time, as well as some from his own back catalogue of popular classics. For someone who started out writing advertising jingles, the boy done good.
5th May 2011 - 8th May 2011
The real food movement is gaining ground, even amidst the most serious recession of a generation. Real Food Markets now appear every first weekend of the month at Southbank Centre and on the last weekend of the month at Brent Cross Shopping Centre throughout the year. The philosophy behind The Real Food Festival is to foreground British produce that is nutritionally rich, and made using sustainable and ethical methods. Over 400 small-scale producers gather to show their wares, so you can stuff your hessian bags full of tasty cheese, delicious pies, fresh pasta, seasonal fruit and vegetables, organic meat and other delicacies. That's not all... The Real Food Festival also offers a chance to watch chefs like Raymond Blanc, Jason Atherton, Valentine Warner and Henry Harris in action, take part in workshops or learn how to grow your own fruit and vegetables and look after livestock.
5th May 2011 - 2nd July 2011
Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning A Delicate Balance, featuring Penelope Wilton, comes to the Almeida Theatre this summer. Urban socialites Agnes and Tobias appear to be content in a glamorous world full of drinks parties and social clubs. However, the return home of their daughter, bitter and angry following her fourth divorce, is just one of a number of factors that begin to disrupt this existence. The sudden, late-night appearance of some lifelong friends and the permanent presence of Agnes' alcoholic sister Claire only serve to reinforce the disruption. Laced with cutting wit throughout, A Delicate Balance is the fourth of Albee's plays at the Almeida and deals with the characters' fear of stepping out of familiarity and into the real world.
6th May 2011
Nitin Sawhney is one of the world's most innovative and talented musicians and composers. Working across multiple instruments and musical styles - from jazz to electronica - he has collaborated with everyone from Paul McCartney to Antony Gormley. Sawhney is at the Royal Albert Hall to launch his new album 'Last Days of Meaning' and both the album and concert feature a special composition from the Hall's great organ. The commission will be performed by James Taylor (of the James Taylor Quartet) - one of the most prominent Hammond organists in the UK and also an old school friend of Sawhney's. Expect a unique and extraordinary live music experience.
6th May 2011 - 19th February 2012
Given Shrek's popularity at the Box Office it was only a matter of time before a live version took to the West End stage. Starting in May and running through to early 2012 - and possibly beyond - the eagerly-anticipated Shrek The Musical brings the much-loved characters from the Oscar-winning animation film to life and features all new songs as well as cult Skrek anthem I'm a Believer. Join Shrek (Nigel Lindsay), our unlikely hero, and his loyal steed Donkey (Richard Blackwood) as they set off on a quest to rescue the beautiful (if slightly temperamental) Princess Fiona (Amanda Holden) from her tower guarded by a fire breathing love-sick dragon. Add the diminutive Lord Farquaad (Nigel Harman), a gang of fairytale misfits, and a biscuit with attitude, and you've got this year's must-see new musical comedy. On the stage of the historic Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the world of fairytales is turned upside down in an all-singing, all-dancing, irresistible mix of adventure, laughter and romance.
11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 17th & 18th May 2011
The revival of The Wall, 30 years after Pink Floyd first toured their most famous concept album, kicked off its 100 date worldwide tour in Toronto last September. It's not simply a gig, but a spectacle of a show, featuring a 36ft wall, animations by Gerald Scarfe, a bunch of school children, fireworks and plenty of giant inflatables. If the politicised story at the centre of the show is a little oblique (young man Pink turns his back on his family and society in general), bassist Roger Waters's singing more than makes up for it, as does the brilliance of his six piece band and male backing singers. Very few performers can really make the most of an arena the size of The O2 Arena, but with The Wall, Roger Waters fills the venue entirely.
11th May 2011 - 16th May 2011
Founded in 1943 and attended by King George VI, the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Windsor Castle still has strong royal connections and HM Queen Elizabeth II often enters home-bred horses in the event. The Queen, her sister, Princess Anne, and the Duke of Edinburgh have all previously competed. It's the kind of event that makes you feel like you're taking part in a BBC costume drama, as the impeccably aristocratic competitors put their equestrian skills to the test in events including show-jumping, carriage driving and showing. The show takes place inside the private grounds of Her Majesty's Windsor residence, a stunning area of parkland and garden. In the evening the same grounds host The Royal Tattoo - a military musical spectacle including modern battle re-enactment scenes combined with traditional military splendour and music. For further information on both events go to www.rwhs.co.uk and www.windsortattoo.com.
14th May 2011 - 3pm
The most famous cup competition in world football reaches its finale at Wembley Stadium as the two sides who have battled through to the FA Cup Final go all out to claim the last major trophy of the English season. Winners in both the past two years, Chelsea have a strong chance of being in the mix for a third consecutive success, having seen off both Everton and Portsmouth in recent finals to lift the cup. At the time of writing, the draw for the third round has just been made and with traditional cup heavyweights Manchester United and Liverpool tied together, one giant will have to exit the path to Wembley earlier than perhaps planned. Romantics will point to the fabled 'Magic of the Cup' in the hope that a surprise team makes a run to the final. Over the past decade, Wycombe Wanderers, Millwall, Barnsley and Cardiff have all come from nowhere to claim semi-final places, with some even making it all the way to Wembley. However, the last 'underdog' to actually win a Wembley final was Everton in 1995, who saw off the all-conquering Man Utd. Check www.wembleystadium.com and individual club websites for ticketing details.
14th May 2011 - 11pm
The world's only Power Walking Marathon returns for the 14th year. Sponsored by Playtex, the MoonWalk attracts 15,000 participants and raises money for Walk the Walk, a breast cancer charity that makes grants available to support medical research but one that also funds emotional and physical care to those who already have cancer. This year's theme is 'A Walk on the Wild Side', so expect the walkers to stride out in some dazzling costumes; wearing a colourful decorated bra has become de rigueur on the walk, so look out for lots of leopard print lingerie in 2011. Those that join in the walk get a fantastic evening tour past London's architectural highlights as well as the satisfaction of raising money for charity - and, as a reward, there's a party afterwards in a big pink tent in Hyde Park with a music and comedy stage at its centre.
15th May 2011
Held on a Sunday in the middle of May, the Tudor Pull is a ceremonial event for Thames Waterman's Cutters which is organised each year by the Thames Traditional Rowing Association (TTRA). Decked out in full regalia, crews of four row the 34-feet long 18th century-style cutters from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London. Each cutter is rigged with full ceremonial canopies and flags and are manned by a coxswain and a passenger underneath whose job it is to direct the boat and deliver a 'Stela' - a piece of medieval water piping made from a hollowed tree trunk - to the Governor of the Tower for safekeeping. The Tudor Pull is a fun and colourful spring-time event which can be viewed from the length of the river - ideal if you're out on a Sunday afternoon stroll. The event starts at 10.30am and is scheduled to finish around 4.30pm. For more information please visit www.traditionalrowing.com.
18th May 2011 - 29th August 2011
Tracey Emin is one of the most colourful and controversial of the group of artists known as YBAs (Young British Artist). Her work if often headline-grabbing - 1997's 'Everyone I Ever Slept With 1963-1995' was a tent appliqued with names of her past lovers, while 1999's 'My Bed' was a dirty and unmade bed, which earned her a Turner Prize nomination. This exhibition at the Southbank Centre features work from throughout her career - including sculptures, textiles, photography, films and drawings - as well as live performances and an interactive messageboard.
19th May 2011 - 10th September 2011
This is the 79th season for The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, and seeing a play here is really an essential part of spending summer in London. The season kicks off on 19th May with William Golding's gripping drama Lord of the Flies, adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams and directed by Timothy Sheader. Lucy Bailey injects her unique visual dynamism into John Gay's original text of The Beggar's Opera from 23 June. Continuing the successful series of Shakespeare plays for younger audiences, and making its first appearance at the Open Air Theatre since 1939, Pericles will be re-imagined for everyone aged six and over from 2 July. The final production of the season, playing 28 July to 10 September, is George and Ira Gershwin's hit musical comedy, Crazy for You, packed full of Gershwin classics including I Got Rhythm, Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You and Nice Work If You Can Get It. But no matter how fabulous the performances are, the biggest draw is the magical setting. The casts emerge from the green leafy wings, under a darkening summer sky (you may need to take waterproofs but mainly the show goes on whatever the weather) and twinkling fairy lights, all surrounded by English parkland. For more information go to www.openairtheatre.org.
23rd May 2011
Famous for its curry houses, Brick Lane is the obvious choice of venue to celebrate Baishakhi Mela, the Bengali New Year. In London, you can ring in the changes with a colourful parade, traditional costumes, elephants, tigers and rituals. The festivities for this year's event will take place in Weavers Fields, Allen Gardens and Brick Lane and begin with a parade led by the Tiger Out East, musicians, dancers and local children in dazzling traditional dress. A Bengali tiger, peacock boat, bridal ride, and street entertainers all mingle together, and stages in Allen Gardens, Weavers Fields and along Brick Lane feature literally hundreds of musicians and dancers. You can also sample the famous spicy baltis, birianis and vindaloos from the numerous restaurants and stalls which put Brick Lane on the map.
24th May 2011 - 28th May 2011
Founded in 1913, the Chelsea Flower Show is an extraordinary event and famous all around the world. Eight hundred of the greatest exponents of imaginative garden design spend nearly a month creating a horticultural wonderland over an 11-acre site in Chelsea's Royal Hospital gardens. Most of London society, including the Queen, regards the Chelsea Flower Show as a highpoint of the London summer season, so if you get bored of the blooms you can have a great time celeb-spotting. The 20,000 glasses of Pimm's consumed over the five days confirm it as a very sociable, very British event. This beautiful and inspiring show is a real treat, even for non-gardeners. If you are aiming to visit, please note that the first two days on Tuesday 24th and Wednesday 25th May 2011 are exclusive RHS members-only preview days.
28th May 2011 - 7.45pm
The Champions League Final comes to London this year as Wembley Stadium hosts the showpiece occasion for the first time since 1992. With all four English clubs still in the tournament at the time of writing, there remains a very real chance that at least one of them will make it to the final. Standing in the way, however, are a raft of the continent's most dangerous sides. Current holders Internazionale remain lurking in the latter stages along with the tournament's most successful club Real Madrid and the mighty Barcelona, widely regarded at present as the world's best team. English sides have an impressive recent history in the competition, though, with a team in the final every year for six of the last seven seasons and with three London based clubs still in the mix, fans are speculating that an unprecedented all-London final is possible. Can any of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham make it all the way to Wembley? Check individual club sites for tickets closer to the date.
London Calendar 2011
Highlights include Cirque du Soleil's new show, Rebecca Hall's National Theatre debut in Twelfth Night and the return of Dutch mus...January 2011
Don't forget it's Valentine's Day on the 14th - but there's plenty more going on this month besides, from the muddy pitch of Six N...February 2011
With winter on the way out, March's Ideal Home Show and the Country Living Fair are great occasions for a spring clean. Elsew...March 2011
We all get an extra bank holiday this year thanks to the much-hyped Royal Wedding on Friday 29th April. Other big d...April 2011
June in London means one thing: strawberries and cream in SW19 as Andy Murray bids to become Britain's first Wimbledon winner sinc...June 2011
August is the time when London's parks fill up with sunbathers, lidos come into their own, the banks of the Thames lend themselves...August 2011
Late summer fireworks light up the river at the Mayor's Thames Festival, while Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall sing in unison ...September 2011
Ghosts and ghouls come out to play for Halloween at the end of the month but before that in October there are some of&nb...October 2011
Remember, remember the 5th November, when fireworks are set off across the city to celebrate Guy Fawkes' night. The pinnacle ...November 2011