Bank Holiday Activities

Suzanne Frost

The August Bank Holiday always feels like the last big carefree celebration of summer before reality (and rain) will undoubtedly return again. Sensing the mood just right, London is unleashing a sudden explosion of silliness, parties, sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, glitter and ice cream on us, so all you need to do is pick your favourite celebration!

A hallmark of London culture, the incomparable Notting Hill Carnival kicks off again celebrating Caribbean and West Indian culture with dancing in the street, soca music and pavements lined with Caribbean-inspired food stalls. Attracting two million visitors each year and hosting more than 70 masquerade floats, it is the largest street party in Europe - only Rio is bigger! Technically it’s a two day celebration but things actually kick off on Saturday night with the UK National Panorama Steelband Competition taking place at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park from 6pm-10pm. Early risers can jump right in to the action on J’Ouvert - Sunday, the ‘opening of the day’, where revellers converge on the streets to dance and get messy with colourful paints and powders from 6am. Sunday is known as the family day, and the highlight is the Children’s Parade, with colourful, family friendly floats, as well as live music and street food in Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park and Powis Square. The main carnival experience takes place on Bank Holiday Monday (27 August) with the huge Grand Finale Parade, which starts at 9am on Great Western Road. Food stands will be sizzling, Sound Systems will be blaring, dancers will be dancing and their costumes will be dazzling.
Brazilian dancers at The London Cabaret Club.

If you don’t want the party to end, head over to The London Cabaret Club at The Bloomsbury Ballroom on Saturday, 25 August for a Bank Holiday Carnival Show that takes guests on a tropical tour of immersive cabaret, vibrant live performances, colourful carnival dancers, exotic rum-based cocktails and a mouth-watering Caribbean menu.
Another major London celebration looms with Smithfield 150: London’s biggest birthday party taking families on a whirlwind celebration of the capital and its history. Marking 150 years of Smithfield Market, it will be a huge FREE family festival with a funfair, live music and food showcasing the best of London’s vibrant culture and creativity. Have a drink at the Roller Disco, dance at the main stage, be disgusted by London’s gory past with Horrible Histories, watch Stealing Sheep’s all-female percussion procession, invent party drinks with Company Drinks or let little ones chill-out at their own mini-festival hangout. Smithfield 150’s extensive programme extends across six festival zones and two stages, a selection of the most exciting talent, music, food and entertainment from across the capital, set against a stunning Victorian backdrop. Held as part of the Culture Mile project, with partners including Barbican, City of London and Museum of London, the free festival will span the entirety of Smithfield Market and the surrounding area, and should be like no party London has ever seen!
The Monster obstacle course

For bigger kids, the world’s biggest inflatable obstacle course, The Monster will make its home at Alexandra Palace for the ultimate Bank Holiday weekend party. Bounce, jump, slide and dance your way around the 300 metre course and unleash your inner child on 42 brand new obstacles including the 18m Mega Slide, the Tunnel of Love and The Bouncy Cage of Doom. The party doesn’t stop once you’ve taken on The Monster. Each day-long bonanza boasts delicious street food and a host of pop up bars to be enjoyed whilst soaking up the sun, and overlooking one of the best views in town as The Terrace at Ally Pally is opened up for The Monster guests. Once you’ve had a monster makeover from the onsite glitter face painters you’ll be ready to hit one of the biggest dance floors in the city and let loose to the sounds of the resident live DJ’s. The Monster is in residence at Alexandra Palace from 24 – 27 August, 11am-11.30pm and we hear tickets are selling out fast!
More inner child unleashing can be done at SCOOP: A Wonderful Ice Cream World at King’s Cross. The latest project by Bompas & Parr, the interactive exhibition at the new British Museum of Food explores the past, present and future of ice cream, with the chance to experience glow-in-the-dark ice cream, a sub-zero ice chamber, an ice cream cloud and the world’s first hundreds and thousands fountain. The exhibition demonstrates how our relationship with ice cream has evolved through the ages, from the ornate sorbet moulds of 1700s Rome to the rise and fall of street vendors’ ‘penny licks’ in the 1850s. The cafe, Conehenge, will serve ice-cream flavours inspired by age-old classics such as Candied Fruit (1694) as well as Bompas & Parr’s new flavour, Bliss Point. SCOOP: A Wonderful Ice Cream World is at Gasholder 11, 1 Lewis Cubitt Square N1C 4BY until 30 September and Tickets £12.
Glow in the dark ice cream at ACOOP: A Wonderful Ice Cream World, image courtesy of Bacchus PR

For something a bit more serene and relaxing, Scandinavian eatery KuPP has created a new gourmet picnic to be enjoyed exclusively while drifting around Regent’s Canal on a GoBoat. The eco-friendly GoBoats are made from 80 percent recycled plastic bottles, sustainably sourced wood and fitted with Torqeedo electric motors. You set sail from Paddington Basin, go along Regent’s Canal to Little Venice, past London Zoo and on to Camden Lock. Each GoBoat holds up to eight people, with kids and dogs very welcome on board. Both companies are mindful of their environmental impact, so the KuPP picnic uses the finest ingredients from artisan Scandinavian and British suppliers, and is presented in smart recyclable packaging. A Go Boat starts at £59 for one hour and for the picnic (£35 for two people) simply on the ‘Extras’ section when booking your trip at
Creative crafty people should head over to Victoria Park for London’s first ever MAKEMORE Festival, promoting independent artistry in a bid to save Britain’s endangered crafts. Taking place from Thursday 23 – Monday 27 August, MAKEMORE festival will deliver a four-day educational and fun-packed event, where guests can learn unique crafts - some that feature on the Heritage Craft Association Red List of Endangered Crafts -  such as weaving with Whelans Weaving, paper marbling with Paperwilds and furniture making with the Goldfinger Factory. Research carried out on behalf of the HCA has found that cricket ball making, sieve and riddle making, gold beating and lacrosse stick making have all become extinct in the last 10 years in Britain.

© Aardman Animations LTD 2018 at MAKEMORE Festival

Crafts including piano making, saw making, fore edge painting and metal thread making are also at risk due to an insufficient number of craftspeople to pass on the proper skills and knowledge. London’s first maker festival is giving independent artists a platform to promote their craftmanship to the public, in a bid to take back the High Street from large commercial companies and encourage the public to get offline and make with their hands.
MAKEMORE encompasses the traditional party atmosphere of a festival with bars, street food stalls and a funfair, but also includes an element of immersive creativity, to inspire the public to take up a new hands-on skill, and show how entrepreneurial makers are going against the grain of the normal 9-5 work life. The family friendly festival is also running children’s entertainment and workshops every day from companies like the Polka Theatre and Little Angel Theatre. A full list of MAKEMORE makers and how to book tickets to their workshops can be found here:  

Big fun arcade games - mash machine at Hi!Tech

Less nostalgic and more tech savvy? International Quarter London is hosting Hi!Tech, a festival of innovative and engaging  interactive technologies for all the family. Taking place on 25 August in Endeavour Square in Stratford, visitors will be able to enjoy the latest in interactive technologies, such as an artificial reality treasure hunt, or a gaming bus with all the latest consoles. At the robotics workshop you can design, build and draw your way through a series of creative engineering challenges. Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality and a food tech merger of engineering and traditional chocolate making techniques let’s you scan your own head and have it carved in chocolate right in-front of your eyes. Best of all, it is all free – just register your interest here.

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