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London 2013: Year Ahead Preview

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From the 64,192 events scheduled for 2013 we've selected the best cultural, sporting and oddly eccentric happenings for our new 244-page London 2013 Annual Events Book. Here, LondonTown.com editor Steven Potter urges you to experience more than your fair share.
The London 2014 events guide can be found here.

There's as much to be excited about in the coming 12 months as there was this time last year - London is currently riding the crest of a wave as it enters a cultural, sporting and social boom. Sure, the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee were the kind of events that will go down in history but London isn't resting on its laurels.

There are 64,192 events in London during 2013 that will be featured on LondonTown, from blockbuster art exhibitions, entertainment and new openings, to intimate talks, gigs and book signings.

2013 also is the year that the Olympic legacy starts to take shape. It's the first phase of the regeneration process that will transform the Olympic infrastructure from a private zone into state-of-the-art venues and, most importantly, new public places . It's inspiring to witness the seismic changes to this area of east London.

Exactly a year after a parachuting James Bond and Her Majesty marked the start of 'London 2012', the former Olympic Park reopens as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this July. The beautiful Velodrome will soon after open its doors to aspiring Chris Hoys while the redeveloped Copper Box - which hosted handball during the Olympics - will become London's third biggest multi-purpose indoor arena. Stratford will have a new public green space the same size as Hyde Park.


Roy Lichtenstein has a retrospective at Tate Modern; 'The Book of Mormon' hits the West End; and the summer festivals get bigger and better

Over a decade ago, the Millennium Dome was dismissed by all and sundry as an ugly, money-losing white elephant. Ten years later, the O2 Arena had established itself, possibly, as the world's most popular live music venue, playing host not only to rock and pop concerts, but also live comedy, circus acts and a huge range of sports - from tennis to ice skating. I was there with my family for the Olympics and we were genuinely impressed by the surroundings. It's a whole mini town down there; you can now even walk over the top of the roof, or arrive by Thames Cable Car, to take in the famous London skyline.

If the much maligned Millennium Dome can become one of the biggest success stories of any modern city all over the world, then just think what can come of our Olympic Park. It's just one of the intriguing openings set for 2013 that will raise the bar once again for both Londoners and visitors alike.

The recently opened Duck & Waffle restaurant on the 40th floor of Heron Tower in the City is also an incredible experience. Looking down over the Gherkin and open 24 hours a day, this is a new experience hard to beat. But the boundaries are about to be pushed even further. As of 1st February this year, you'll be able rise to the 72nd floor of The Shard to an observation deck significantly higher than anything else in London, and eat in two restaurants which put the lofty Duck & Waffle or Galvin at Windows in the shade. From May, guests will also be able to reach for the stars in The Shard's luxury Shangri-La hotel. As it catches the sun and shines over the city like a beacon, Renzo Piano's iconic tower is already part of London folklore.


The area around King's Cross Station will continues to blossom in 2013; old London Underground posters go on display as the Tube turns 150

There are other new exciting buildings and developments, too. In autumn, the Guildhall School opens the 608-seat Milton Court Concert Hall while London's newest square opens in the shadow of King's Cross Station. The whole King's Cross area development is vast - the redevelopment around the canal and at the station will be astonishing, and Kings Place which will host its annual festival in September is consistent with the high quality of its entertainment, and representative of the new creative style that is being introduced into the area, which is now the new home to St. Martins College. Look at the example of the South Bank, which used to be a mess of concrete buildings in which people played violins. Now the Southbank Centre is one of the most vibrant entertainment centres in the world, while the whole area - from the London Eye to Tower Bridge - is London's most popular riverside hub.

Granted, the Olympics are over even if the legacy will live on. But sports fans in 2013 should continue to be excited. Two finals stand out: Wimbledon - where for the first time since Fred Perry 77 years ago, surely Andy Murray has his best shot at delivering a home Grand Slam to the British public - and the football Champions League. Wembley Stadium becomes the first stadium in history to host the European Cup final twice in three years.

What's great about the final returning to Wembley is that it was a conscious decision on the part of UEFA to celebrate 150 years of the English Football Association's existence - just one of many massive mile-stones being commemorated this year in London. Also celebrating one and a half centuries is the capital's famous Tube network, which opened with the unveiling of the Metropolitan Railway from Paddington to Farringdon in 1863. We complain of the prices, but the enduring legacy of the world's first underground railway system is one of the secrets of London's greatness today.


Madcap Britsh cartoonist Ralph Steadman has a 77th birthday retrospective; ballet fans are once again spoilt for choice in London in 2013

The Tube's 150th birthday is but one of numerous anniversaries highlighted in our special London Anniversaries feature. There are also double centenaries for the composers Wagner and Verdi, and a single centenary for Benjamin Britten. The BBC Proms will be heavily weighted towards Britain's most influential composers, while Britten's operas 'Gloriana' and 'Death in Venice' and the moving 'War Requiem', are all performed in the wake of a 'Britten at 100' festival in February.

Four decades of Sir Paul Smith are savoured at the Design Museum from November while the career of another famous knighted Londoner, Sir Michael Caine, is the focus of a four-month exhibition at the Museum of London to coincide with the actor's 80th birthday. There's also a 77th birthday retrospective for the madcap British cartoonist Ralph Steadman.

Britain's biggest anniversary, however, is that of the Queen: last year may have been Her Majesty's official Diamond Jubilee, but 2013 actually marks 60 years since her Coronation - and there's a special four-day festival in the Gardens of Buckingham Palace in July paying tribute to her timelessness. Who knows, maybe she'll be a great grandmother by then.

The Queen is also the subject of an ongoing exhibition at Windsor Castle which sees Andy Warhol's screenprint portraits of Elizabeth II displayed for the first time. For fans of modern art and photography there's the Lichtenstein retrospective at Tate Modern this spring as well as the Man Ray Portraits show at the National Portrait Gallery and Antony Gormley's sculptures at White Cube. For the traditionalists there's the first ever major UK exhibition of the French painter Edouard Manet at the Royal Academy of Arts, not to mention offbeat exhibitions of Whistler and Picasso.


Early works by Picasso are exhibited at The Courtauld Gallery; Paloma Faith is one of many musicians taking to the London stage

'The Book of Mormon' - from the creators of 'South Park' - is one of the big draws on the West End stage, while for the children it's all about 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. Once again, London seems to be the heartbeat of world theatre, with top Hollywood stars coming to the capital to perform on stage. Rupert Everett reprises his role as Oscar Wilde in 'The Judas Kiss', Helen Mirren will be 'The Queen' once again in 'The Audience'; in 'Quartermaine's Terms', Rowan Atkinson returns to the stage for the first time since 'Oliver!', while James McAvoy renews his acquaintance with a king of Scotland in 'Macbeth' after a four-year break from the London stage. Another excellent ongoing theatre initiative is the Michael Grandage season of five plays at the Noel Coward Theatre: not only are there 100,000 tickets at just £10, the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Jude Law, and Bond duo Ben Whishaw and Dame Judi Dench are all involved.

London continues to attract the biggest names in the music business to its summer festival programme. There's also a steady stream of 'golden oldies' swinging past - the likes of Clapton, Springsteen, Knopfler and de Burgh - which we've clustered together in one spread. Kraftwerk's eight live performances in the Tate's Turbine Hall promise to be an impressive experience, and there'll be a stream of acts like One Direction at the O2. Yoko Ono curates this year's Meltdown Festival at the Southbank and Paloma Faith brings some sassiness to the Apollo. On the comedy stage, Eddie Izzard brings his new 'Force Majeure' tour to town. Ballet fans are spoilt for choice again at The Royal Opera House and the Coliseum (ENO) .

There's no doubt that London attracts the biggest cultural heavyweights from around the globe - and they all know that they're expected to be at their best. With expectations so high, there's simply no room for mediocrity. Yet it's not just about the huge and contrasting list of fresh, new events happening in 2013. There were some events I attended last year that I just cannot wait to happen again. Take the London Design Festival in September, for example. It was a genuine inspiration fest last year - and it keeps going from strength to strength. The same could be said about London's continually excellent programme of talks and lectures which sees the great and the good gather to inform and inspire and share priceless ideas, often for free.


Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw take to the stage; One Direction make the girls scream; 'The Boss' brings his double denim back to town

All over London there's a confidence and courageousness that belies the fact that we're still stuck in the woods of recession. Times are hard - and yet every day here in the capital there are innovative and inspirational works aplenty. Many of them are free. Yes, the London entertainment scene can be very commercial - but there's so much more simmering underneath the surface. We have more free museums and events here than anywhere else in the world. Anyone who is anyone wants to come to London to put on a show because to prove yourself, you have to conquer the current cultural capital of the world.

But despite all the grandeur, stars and bright lights, people still get a kick out of madcap goat races, pancake and pudding relays, clowns congregating in East End churches, soggy cricket games in February or Scotch egg cook-offs. London is the capital of Great Britain and the British are crazy and weird. We jump into freezing lakes on Christmas Day or take part in umbrella jousting on bicycles. And if London reflects Britain's penchant for quirkiness it also underlines the strong community spirit that binds us all together in this multi-cultural city. There's an element of togetherness here in London, where thousands gather to watch films under the stars at Somerset House and even more line the banks of the river each year to watch two university crews race along the Thames.

Tradition. Community. Innovation. Brilliance. These words all sum up London - and nowhere are they more apparent than 2013. Last year, during the Olympics, all eyes were on London. The great thing is that no one's yet to blink.


The highest viewing platform in Western Europe opens at The Shard; Christmas Day swimmers take an icy plunge in the Peter Pan Cup

This is the introductory article to the new 244-page London 2013 year ahead annual guide book published by LondonTown.com. To purchase a copy of 'London 2013 - The Annual' go to http://www.londontown.com/2013/

 
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