London Music Festival Guide 2019

The War On Drugs at All Points East 2018. Photo: All Points East

Every summer London is awash with music festivals. There are so many that it can be hard to differentiate them and know which is right for you. That’s why we’ve decided to make things a bit easier on you, and sum up each event in a few pithy sentences. Enjoy:

RE-TEXTURED: Could anything be more London in 2019 than an electronic music festival centred around brutalist architecture. That’s not a knock — we couldn’t be more excited to see ear-shattering techno in London’s boldest buildings. There are plenty of memorable nights on offer, but our pick has to be Nina Kraviz playing for hours on end at the occasionally overlooked Walthamstow Assembly Hall. Various venues across London, prices vary, book ahead, 28-31 March

LONDON LATIN MUSIC FESTIVAL: A 10-day festival now in its 19th year, that showcases the best of the Latin music world. Whether you grew up with Latin music or have never knowingly listened to any — apart from the inescapable Despacito — you’re welcome to party at this series of gigs. Various locations and prices, book ahead, 25 April-5 May

BRIXTON DISCO FESTIVAL: A disco festival in Brixton. What else could you possibly need to know? Okay. There’s a roller disco. There’s south London legends Horse Meat Disco. There’s London’s coolest choir, Contemporary Voices, recreating classic New York venue Studio 54. There’s film screenings, talks… okay, it turns out there was a lot of other stuff you needed to know. Brixton (various venues), £22.50-£40, book ahead, 27 April

WE ARE FSTVL: London festivals are inherently different beasts to countryside festivals. They’re day events, not camping based, with limited space to operate in. Dance music extravaganza We Are FSTVL aims to prove all of that wrong. How so? By taking place in the part of London lots of people don’t consider to be London. Upminster. Three days of non-stop bangers and the punters won’t care where they are. Upminster, £42-£300, book ahead, 24-26 May

ALL POINTS EAST: Victoria Park is ground zero for London in terms of the city’s park-based day festivals. All Points East continues the area’s traditions with two weekends of supremely curated music. The first weekend operates more like a standard festival, whereas the second weekend is more ‘big gigs’ a la BST. There’s too much quality music here to highlight, but we’re gonna give it a go anyway: Hot Chip, Primal Scream, Courtney Barnett, Christine and the Queens, Little Simz, Kamasi Washington, Dizzee Rascal, Mac DeMarco… aaaand we’re out of breath. Victoria Park, £59+, book ahead, 24 May-2 June

STEEL YARD: Finsbury Park. Ibiza. Can you really tell the difference? Well if you currently can — let’s face it,  the New River isn’t quite the Mediterranean Sea — you soon won’t. That’s thanks to the one and only Carl Cox bringing his legendary Space Ibiza show in the park. A Balearic touch in north London. Finsbury Park, £45-£99, book ahead, 25-26 May

Photo: Gala

GALA: Good food, good music, good people. That’s the tagline for the fourth edition of this intimate south London day festival, and let’s see whether it can deliver on its promises. Good food looks to be covered: Made of Dough and The Cheese Truck have never let us down before. Good music: an already strong line-up has been boosted by the addition of a new stage curated by London’s jazz-inflected Worldwide FM. Good people: Well that’s up to you really. Peckham Rye Park, £50-£60, book ahead 26 May

JAM ON RYE: Sticking with Peckham for a minute, Jam on Rye puts a punny spin on the area’s famous park. But this isn’t punning for the sake of a cheap laugh. Food and music are paid equal attention on Bank Holiday Monday, as KERB provide a stage for some of the best street food vendors in the city. Even the music seems to have a culinary theme; Kelis headlines, and surely it’s not a coincidence that her last album was called Food? Coincidence or not, it’s one of the most underrated R&B albums of the past five years. Peckham Rye Park, £0-£45 (under 12s go free), book ahead, 27 May

THE ENDS: The Ends makes its debut in Croydon, and looks like it might try and position itself as a competitor to the juggernaut Wireless, by focusing on black music genres. Three days with a handful of acts currently announced for each, it’s a little disheartening to see no British headliners in a festival called The Ends. Still, Nas, Wizkid and Damian Marley are all excellent choices. And seeing Nadia Rose in her Croydon hometown should be epic. Sidenote: if no one plays Are You Really From The Ends, it’s a travesty. Lloyd Park, £50 per day, book ahead, 31 May-2 June

CAMDEN ROCKS: Trawl around the pubs of Camden to watch the most exciting rock bands the city has to offer. There are an ambitious 400 bands squeezed in around 20 venues in just two days, so the key is to see as much as possible. One pro tip though — don’t try rushing to wherever a headliner (Frank Turner and Deaf Havana) is playing minutes before their show. There’s a strong chance you won’t get in. Camden, £40-£70, book ahead1-2 June

One of the warehouses housing Field Day this year. Photo: Field Day

FIELD DAY: A juggernaut of London’s day festival scene, and one of the genre’s originators. The name isn’t quite so accurate anymore as this is the first year it’s ditching the field for four giant, connected warehouses in Enfield. It’s a seismic change, that looks to keep Field Day ahead of the competitors. That anticipation only builds once taking the ridiculous line-up into consideration. Skepta, Julia Holter, Earl Sweatshirt, Jorja Smith, Sinkane and Deerhunter to name but a few. Meridian Water, £40-£150, book ahead, 7-8 June

JUNCTION 2: One of many dance music festivals gracing London this summer, Junction 2 stands out thanks to the quality of its line-up. Ben UFO, Ricardo Villalobos, San Proper and others are all names to drive proper dance music heads wild. Each stage has its own curator — our pick of the bunch is Soho record store Phonica’s stage on Friday. It’s a mecca for electronic music in London, so there’s no surprise it’s done such a good job curating a stage: Hunee’s tunes should perfectly complement the leafy surroundings. Boston Manor Park, £35-£100, book ahead, 7-8 June

HAMPTON COURT PALACE FESTIVAL: An eclectic array of musicians takes over south west London’s favourite Tudor tourist attraction this July. Nile Rodgers & Chic, Tears for Fears, Kylie (although her shows have sold out) and others see if their spectacular shows can match the majesty of the venue’s brick beauty. The big question on everyone’s lips is… will Hampton Court Palace still be standing in the year 3000? That’s right, Busted are playing. Enough said. Hampton Court Palace, £49-£99, book ahead, June 7-21

MIGHTY HOOPLA: People don’t think of pop music as cool. But who gives a damn what people think when you’re having the time of your life? That’s the mood at Mighty Hoopla, a festival that just wants people to have a hell of a lot of fun. And look, Chaka Khan is headlining. Ain’t nobody that could have a bad time here. All Saints, Bananarama and Liberty X also fill out a nostalgic line-up in south London. Brockwell Park, £45-£75, book ahead, 8 June

Photo: Hampton Court Palace Festival

CROSS THE TRACKS: Chaka Khan stays in Brockwell Park the following day, but in somewhat different circumstances. At Cross The Tracks, she’s surrounded by funk, jazz and some classic Motown soul. Martha Reeves and The Vandellas also represent the old guard — if you love The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show (a favourite at Londonist Towers), this could be one for you. The festival also has plenty of acts crafting the future of jazz, funk and electronic music, through alchemic genre fusions. Brockwell Park, £35-£60, book ahead9 June

COMMUNITY: Another Finsbury Park festival — the park is clearly a big hit among music promoters — this one goes all in on indie. The Kooks top the bill, but that doesn’t mean the whole day can be written off as a mid-noughties nostalgia-fest. There are plenty of fresh and exciting acts on offer too, like The Hunna, Don Broco and Sea Girls. We’re not sure what the name Community has to do with it all though — blandest-named festival in London? Finsbury Park, £40, book ahead, 30 June

INNERVISIONS: A multi-venue soul, funk, jazz and blues multi-venue festival. Plenty of the big names are playing the Roundhouse in Camden: Van Morrison, Mavis Staples and Aloe Blacc. In all honesty, calling Innervisions a festival shows the diverse use of that term today — this is more a series of similarly-themed gigs across the city. Of those gigs, we reckon the Fela Kuti tribute night at EartH — an excellent new venue in Stoke Newington — might be the best under-the-radar bet. Various locations, various prices, book ahead, 3-7 July

WIRELESS: London’s annual urban music festival returns to Finsbury Park for the sixth year running. Actually we say that, but historically Wireless was an entirely different beast — David Gray once headlined the festival up in Leeds. Don’t worry hip hop heads, none of that this year. Instead this line-up has a real American rapper bent to it: Cardi B, Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky get top billing. For our money though, the highlight of the weekend will be west London’s AJ Tracey rounding off a mega-year that saw him release his criticallyacclaimed debut album. Finsbury Park, tickets are sold out but keep an eye out here to see if any more become available, 5-7 July

BRITISH SUMMER TIME: The big-hitter in the heart of London. Entertaining the masses in Hyde Park this year are Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Florence + The Machine, Robbie Williams and one more as-of-yet unannounced act. In between the two weekends of musical brilliance comes BST Open House, when you can wander into the site for free and enjoy cinema screenings, pop-up bars, circus, cabaret and much more. Hyde Park, various prices, book ahead. 5-14 July

LOVEBOX: Another one of the London mainstays, this is the ideal festival for people who like to dance, but often want the songs that make them dance to have lyrics. Ok, that’s reductive — there are quite a few straight up rappers and electronic music artists here. However, Lovebox always shows plenty of love to the R&B scene, and representatives from the genre this year include H.E.R. and Solange. Dress code is colourful but cool — see what vintage Fila or Adidas you can get your hands on at a trendy second hand shop. Gunnersbury Park, £58-£120, book ahead, 12-13 July

CITADEL: All the infrastructure from Lovebox remains in the park on Sunday, as the park goes indie for Citadel. Catfish and the Bottlemen and Bastille are the top acts, which might mean the punter age skews a little younger than some others on this list. Curiously the festival takes on an astronomy vibe for its non-music areas. There’s a space pub quiz, a Q&A with someone from the UK Space Agency, space yoga and more. We expect most people will interpret this space-theme through glitter but why don’t you one-up them with a full astronaut outfit? Gunnersbury Park, £28-£40, book ahead, 14 July

Photo: Lovebox

LONDON INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL: And now for something completely different. London International Music Festival brings together young musicians from around the globe to perform in some of London’s most prestigious venues — Central Hall Westminster, Southwark Cathedral, Conway Hall and more — in a supportive environment. Various locations, free entry, just turn up, 15-18 July

51ST STATE: There will be plenty of sniggering ravers at the start of August as they ride the Piccadilly line to Cockfosters for 51st State. Held in the leafy Green Belt, this year marks the fest’s fifth birthday, and it’s celebrating the only way it knows how. Masses of house music with a dash of garage, a hint of soul and a dollop of disco across seven stages. Trent Park, £40-£150, book ahead, 3 August

EASTERN ELECTRICS: From the end of the Piccadilly line, we move on to the end of the Northern line, Morden. This is another festival dedicated to making your body move but with acts like Goldie, Big Narstie and Hannah Wants, Eastern Electrics has a hard edge. Expect bass. The kind that may leave your ears ringing for a week. If that sounds a bit much, you can always just follow the roaming samba band around the site for two straight days. Morden Park, £39-£77, book ahead. 3-4 August

Photo: 51st State

MELTDOWN: Despite being named after a word best associated with nuclear disasters, Meltdownfestival is a far more civilised affair than the majority of events on this list. One legendary artist curates a week of gigs at the Southbank Centre. Recent curators include M.I.A. and Robert Smith, and this year the honour falls to Nile Rodgers. His lineup is yet to be announced, but here’s hoping it’s full of disco and soul. Southbank Centre, price TBC, book ahead, 3-11 August

ART’S HOUSE: Festivals tend to be extravaganzas, jam-packed with as many big acts as humanly possible. Not two DJs playing one guy’s house. Surely that’s not a festival. It is for Art’s House. So, it’s not really Artwork’s house, instead the stage is designed to make it look like a house. And the two DJs are big names: obviously Artwork himself, joined by DJ Harvey. On a patch of greenery enclosed by the Lea Valley River, this is a wonderfully eccentric addition to the London scene. Three Mills Island, £29-£50, book ahead, 10 August

ONE DAY AT THE DISCO: The trick is in the name of this festival, it’s all about disco. To emphasise this point, the bill has Chicago House legend Derrick Carter, but the poster very clearly states after his name ‘does disco’. That set should be special, but we’re most excited for Mister Saturday Night. They’re famous for their Saturday night parties in hipster-haven Brooklyn, but can they do it on a ‘hopefully sunny, but possibly rainy’, Saturday afternoon in east London? Time to find out. Three Mills Island, price TBC, book ahead, 24 August

SOUTH WEST FOUR: Mega. That’s the one word that sums up Clapham Common’s EDM/grime/garage/whatever-the-hell-people-want-to-dance-to end of summer weekender. The line-up is massive. Dance music is a broad church, so if you and your mates all have differing tastes this could be the festival for you — there’s at least one act on this behemoth of this line-up that everyone will go crazy for. What’s ours? Tough choice, but TQD have never let us down before. Clapham Common, £57-£99, book ahead, 24-25 August

Photo: Art’s House

MAIDEN VOYAGE: Three Mills Island is clearly the east London spot to be for one day festivals this summer. Maiden Voyage is a brand new festival from the team at Camden’s Jazz Cafe. Despite the name, the venue’s tastes are a bit broader than just jazz, and include hip hop, afrobeat and funk. We’re not saying that’s a bad thing. Especially when it means you can squeeze Awesome Tapes From Africa, Madlib and Roy Ayers onto the same lineup. Three Mills Island, £30, book ahead, 25 August

SOUTHPORT WEEKENDER: Despite having a Merseyside town in its name, Southport Weekender is in south London. Crystal Palace to be precise (it’s also worth pointing out that it’s just one day). The reason for the name lies in the festival’s origins, a R&B, garage, house and soul weekend in Southport Pontins. The team have brought the self-proclaimed ‘world’s friendliest party’ vibe down to the Big Smoke, for a few years now, although this is its first time in south London. No line-up announced at the time of writing. Crystal Palace Park, £45-£66, book ahead, 31 August

BBC PROMS IN THE PARK: The BBC Proms culminate in Britain’s biggest outdoor classical music event. It’s September, so by this point the British weather is even less reliable than for everything else on this list. Pack an anorak. Even if the forecast is clear. Trust us. Hyde Park, price TBC, book ahead, date TBA

EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL: Do you ever get to November and have a real hankering for a music festival to lift those winter blues? EFG has you covered, with glorious jazz to make everything feel alright again. Set across plenty of venues across London, lots of the gigs have already been listed with tickets on sale, despite the fact we’re months out. Epic Russian film Battleship Potemkin with a new live soundtrack caught our eye. Various locations, various prices, book ahead, 15-24 November

Know any others we’ve missed out? Add it to the comments below. We will update this article as more events are announced.

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The Best Comfort Food In London

Best comfort food meals in London: Queso Fundido at The Cheese Bar
Not all cheese strings are bad. Queso Fundido at The Cheese Bar. Photo by @allthingsmeaty.

When it’s cold and dark, whether in reality or simply in your heart, what you really need is some warming comfort food to put a smile back on your face. This is a selection of our current favourites, and we’d love to hear about yours in the comments.

Queso Fundido at The Cheese Bar

Melted cheese is a quick fix comfort, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In a sandwich, it can go cold quickly, but if there’s enough of it melted into a big ol’ pot, then Bob’s your cardiac consultant. The Cheese Bar founder Mathew said of the dish, “we use Queso Chihuahua and Oaxaca for our Queso Fundido. Then we add cooked chorizo and peppers with epazote. It’s a real comfort food classic in Mexico — almost like a fondue. It’s scooped up into corn tortillas then finished with a squeeze of fresh lime, the ideal dish to warm you up on a cold day in London.”

The Cheese Bar, Unit 93-94 Camden Stables, NW1 8AH. Price: £12. Click through to find out more about the best places to eat cheese in London.

Pasta and wine at Forza Win

Forza Win continues to nail it in Peckham. We recently dropped in on a weekday evening to find the place heaving with people gathered around the two communal tables. Tuesdays through to Saturdays, 6-7pm only, look out for Awesome Sauce, which is a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine for a tenner. Your cockles will be thoroughly warmed.

Forza Win, Unit 4.1, 133 Copeland Road, SE15 3SN. Price: £10 for a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, menu changes weekly. Find out more about London’s best pasta restaurants.

Best places to eat comfort food in London: pasta and wine at Forza Win
May the sauce be with you.

Dan Dan Noodles at Barshu

Chilli always does the trick and we love a bowl of dan dan noodles, a classic Sichuan dish from the streets of Chengdu. The noodles are surrounded by a chilli oil enhanced sauce, and topped with intense garnishes, such as minced meat and preserved vegetables. The bowl is mixed together by the diner and slurped, if not kerb-side, then preferably inside this excellent Sichuanese restaurant.

Barshu, 28 Frith Street, W1D 5LF. Price: £4.90. Read more about London’s best Chinese restaurants.

Roti Canai at Roti King

Roti King is a twinkly gem set into the less-twinkly backdrop of Euston. Roti canai is a Malaysian creation, a flaky flatbread made with oily dough, which is flung and swooshed overhead, then folded and crumpled until the structure is full of layers and folds. It’s cooked until toasty on the outside, then dunked into a thickly spiced sauce— heaven. It’s so good we rate it in our top three roti in London.

Roti King, 40 Doric Way, NW1 1LH. Price: £5.

Roti Canai, at ultimate comfort food at Roti King in London's Euston
Roti canai by Su-Lin on Flickr

Poutine at The Poutinerie

You have to track down this roaming street food stall, but it’s well worth the effort. At present it’s the only place in the capital that we know of serving up bonafide Canadian poutine. We’re talking cheese curds (no exceptions). We’re talking crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside golden fries. We’re talking meat gravy, and lots of it. It’s not the healthiest of dishes, but it’s a smashing treat and pure comfort food magic.

The Poutinerie, roaming, but often pitched up at food markets in Victoria, Liverpool Street and Brick Lane. Keep an eye on the Twitter feed for updates. Price: £5 (for original poutine). Read more about London’s best poutine.

Curry Goat Ragu-men at Nanban

We’ve already written of our love for this Brixton based Japanese pub/ramen bar. It’s a lesson in Japanese comfort food and although we love the fishy tom yum ramen with onsen egg more than we love some members of our families, the curry goat ragu-men has got to be up there as one of those dishes that can melt through the worst of chills. Let the egg noodles wobble their way to the bottom of the rich, goaty sauce and set your mouth buzzing with scotch bonnet pickles.

Nanban, 426 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LF. Price: £16. Read more about London’s best Japanese ramen.

Nanban's curry goat ramen is one of the best comfort foods in London
Japanese-Caribbean fusion at Nanban. Photo: Paul Winch-Furness.

Middle Plate Chicken at Silk Road

An oldie but a goodie. The hand pulled noodles at Silk Road are quite the opposite of the sad examples we were served at Noodle Oodle. These huge steaming bowls of chicken in anise-scented broth come in two sizes – middle plate or big plate. They are both massive, and halfway through the staff will come to the table and slop in another portion of noodles. It also contains potatoes so you can tick the double-carbing box. Middle plate will feed four people easily.

Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR. Price: £9 (middle plate)

Lasagne at Cozzo

Londonist’s Ruth Hargreaves admits that “the lunchtime street food market on Whitecross Street may be hard to resist, but halfway down the road, a treat awaits.” That treat is Italian restaurant Cozzo and, more specifically, its lasagne. Layered loveliness comes in the form of classic bolognese ragout, lashings of creamy bechamel, and a price tag of under a tenner to make it that little bit more delicious.

Cozzo, 177 Whitecross Street, EC1Y 8QP. Price: £9.95. Find more of London’s best lasagne.

Salted caramel fondue at Tramshed - best chocolate fondues and comfort food in London
Salted caramel fondue at Tramshed

Salted Caramel Fondue at Tramshed

For no holds barred, positively shameless, boast-worthy indulgence, stick your face into the salted caramel fondue at Mark Hix’s trendy Tramshed restaurant in Shoreditch. At the centre of this former tram-generator building lies Damien Hirst’s famous ‘Cock and Bull’ installation, but the real artwork is hidden away on the desserts menu. The salted caramel fondue is meant for 3-4 people sharing (sharing?! whatever), and comes encircled with a platter of warm mini donuts and homemade marshmallows for dipping.

Tramshed, 32 Rivington Street, EC2A 3LX. Price: £14.50. Find out about London’s best chocolate fondues.

Steamed Lemon Pudding at Quo Vadis

Quo Vadis is almost a perfect restaurant in many ways and we’ve spent such happy times there, showing our appreciation for the ice cold martinis, ordering our favourite plate of bavette with pickled walnuts. One of the reasons that Quo Vadis is so brilliant is that the food looks as if it were casually thrown together — but there’s actually huge attention to detail. The steamed lemon pud is no exception. This could be one of the best comfort food dishes in the whole of London — deep citrus flavours and a dense yet fluffy texture. Served with custard.

Quo Vadis, 26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL. Price: £8.50. Find out more about London’s best desserts.

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Big Ben Has Been Repainted Blue

Big Ben becomes Blue Ben. Photo: UK Parliament

Sacre bleu!

Big Ben*, the icon of London, has turned blue. Except it hasn’t ‘turned’ blue exactly — it’s simply reverted to its original colour. The clock face was blue when built in 1859, but over time it turned black due to a London that was even more polluted than our city is today. When it got its last fresh coat of paint in the 1980s, they just stuck with simple black.

Big Ben is currently undergoing a four-year refurbishment and until today, three of the four clock faces had been covered by scaffolding. One side was peeled back this morning — presumably to then cover the face that had been on display up to this point — to reveal this fresh paintjob.

We can’t help wonder about the timing. Big Ben turns blue as we’re in the midst of this Brexit debacle? Could it possibly tie into plans for us to get blue passports once we’re out of the EU? Scratch that, apparently this hue is dubbed ‘Prussian blue’, so perhaps it’s a statement of our everlasting ties to Europe. Delete whichever of those two scenarios makes you madder.

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This Chelsea Pensioner Has Painted Some Awe-Inspiring WWI Artworks

The ghosts of the first world war haunt these paintings, by Chelsea Pensioner, Rick Graham.

The specially-commissioned artworks go on display as part of an exhibition at the Royal Hospital Chelsea this month, commemorating the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Graham’s thought-provoking paintings remember brave British men setting off for the battlefields of France and Belgium, as well as the city of Ypres razed to the ground, its sky throbbing blood-red.

Another work is set at the Royal Hospital Chelsea — home of the Chelsea Pensioners — and remembers those residents who’d fought in the Great War.

Elsewhere, as part of From the World War One Battlefields and into the Peace, you can learn about Sylva Boyden, the first woman to descend from a tethered balloon by a packed parachute; find out why the Silver Badge Men, who could not serve, marched in Hyde Park; and examine a copy of the Treaty of Versailles, given to the Royal Hospital, shortly after the original was signed.

The 10th Essex Living History Group will recreate a section of a first world war trench, re-enacting the demobilisation of a unit coming back home to England after the war, complete with original tents, cycles, uniforms and equipment.

A series of free guest lectures takes place each day at 2pm.

Artist and Chelsea Pensioner, Rick Graham, with one of his paintings, ‘Battlefields to Butterflies’.

From the World War One Battlefields and into the Peace is at Wren House, Royal Hospital Chelsea from, 29-31 March, 10am-4pm, free entry

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London’s Weirdest Building: Will Alsop’s Neuron Pod

What the actual f*ck?

Whitechapel has a building that looks like an amputee hedgehog.

London’s most erinaceous structure can be found at the Centre of the Cell, a science educational facility attached to Queen Mary, University of London.

Do you see a brain cell, or something you might find snuffling under a hedge?

The peculiar new extension was designed by the late Will Alsop to resemble a brain cell. Called the Neuron Pod, it joins other cell-shaped meeting rooms within the building. It’s sure to become a staple of Instagram, especially night time shots when the spines are illuminated.

Hedgehog bottom
Oh. My. Gosh. Look at that butt.

Your correspondent walked right around the pod, underneath, back to front, and viewed it from every side. It most definitely has more of the dismembered hedgehog about it than anything cellular.

It’s nightmarish when viewed from the west. Like some kind of hedgehog-shark composite or a massive tardigrade. Beware.

Still, who could begrudge such a joyful, original piece of architecture? I for one have no axon to grind.

Oddness from a safe distance.

Dezeen has additional photos, including shots from inside the pod. Visit the building at Centre of the Cell,  4 Newark Street, Whitechapel E1 2AT.

#london, #londonist, #uk

Be Treated Like Royalty At Ted’s Grooming Rooms

This is a sponsored article on behalf of Ted’s Grooming Room.

St James’s is home to London’s royalty. No, I’m not talking about Buckingham Palace, although there is that too. Welcome to the latest Ted’s Grooming Room, where every single customer is treated like a king. I went down there to try out The Full Ted Service: a haircut, clean shave or beard design rounded off with traditional ear flaming.

I arrive and take a seat on a comfy sofa as, even though this location has only just opened, the barbers are all busy crafting styles onto punters. I take a sparkling water — a brand from Istanbul. Looking up at the walls, there’s plenty of royal memorabilia to reference the nearby Palace-residing neighbours.

After only a few minutes, it’s my turn. First comes the haircut. The attention to detail is mind-blowing. This isn’t your average short-back-and-sides-please-mate-cheers you get at your standard high street barber. This is a classy cut, where the barber asks you what you’d like, then follows your direction to a tee.

Preceded by a quick wash, there’s an early pause in the trim, a chance for me to sup on a delicious Turkish coffee. Then it’s back to sorting out my somewhat mop-like hair into something respectable but trendy. After some incredible attention to detail, it’s over, and my, what a beaut it is. People spend the next two days complimenting me, on how good my hair looks. That has never happened. Ever.

Following the cut comes a shave. Hot towel after hot towel is elegantly draped over my face. Then a delicate and sensitive brush to apply shaving cream to my face. Finally, the cut-throat shave. All this, with the hot towel still over my eyes. I can’t see what’s going on, but I have complete confidence in the barber after the job he did on my hair.

Not since before puberty has my face been so smooth.

Next, out of the blue, an arm massage. Instantly it relieves all the tension that comes from living in a manic city like London. Finally, I have my ears singed. This is an entirely new experience for me, having a flame whacked near a vital appendage isn’t part of my standard Thursday morning schedule. However, this is completely safe, your ear just gets a bit warm. And then they’re smooth as a baby’s bottom.

For those more adventurous than myself there’s eyebrow trimming too. I watched my next chair neighbour have it done, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself. The height of luxury. We wouldn’t be too shocked to see Philip here sometime soon. He can’t be getting anything this opulent at Buckingham Palace.

The new Ted’s Grooming Room is on 3 Butler Place, St James’s Park, SW1H 0QD. The Full Ted Servicecosts £54 for walk-in or £62 for appointments.

#londonist, #uk

Theatre Review: Downstate At National Theatre

Breathtaking, brave and brilliantly acted, Downstate is a landmark play. It’s listed as a ‘collaboration’ between NT and Steppenwolf, but the Chicago company’s prints are all over this glistening weapon.

Sometimes a play is just arrestingly good. Sometimes it’s also amazingly timely. As the creative legacy of Michael Jackson is re-examined in the shadow of fresh allegations, it’s sensational that the National Theatre should present a piece — by Pulitzer-winning Bruce Norris — which studies ankle-tagged paedophiles who have fetched up in a charitable co-living house in rural Illinois.

Script and acting combine to normalise the characters: could Francis Guinan’s sweet old wheelchair-bound grandpappy Fred really have been the virile young music teacher who taught his underage pupils a special type of fingering? When Tim Hopper’s excellent clockspring-wound insecure Andy comes to confront his abuser with a contract of closure designed by his therapist, he’s almost beguiled by the gentle self-effacement of a man of whom he was once terrified. Matilda Ziegler as his hardboiled wife is most definitely not.

The acting is universally splendid, every character has immense depth and credibility developed by Steppenwolf technique, but Bruce Norris’s script constantly defeats stereotypes and predictability. The way the characters establish a pecking order for household chores based on the comparative severity of their crimes is insightful and thought-provoking. You’ll leave this play wanting to talk.

Cecilia Noble’s coffee-mug toting Ivy may start as an amiable wisecracking black woman who wouldn’t seem out of place in Waitress or Hairspray, but she reveals solid police skills when the situation changes. But it’s K Todd Freeman’s ex-choreographer Dee, who loved the young chorus boy he dated for five years before being arrested — that most engages you, and carries you with humour and fierceness through the storylines until he eventually, gently, and beautifully breaks your f*cking heart.

In a word, it is unmissable.

Downstate, National Theatre Dorfman, Upper Ground, SE1. Tickets £25-54, until 27 April 2019.

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