Whether you live, work or study in SW7, check out our 'must do' activities, recommended by those in the know, including Imperial's Festive Fringe.
December is a busy time for catching up with friends, family and colleagues. Here are our tips for unusual or unexpected cultural events taking place on your doorstep this month.
Follow the links for more information, tickets and offers, and share your top tips in the comments box for others to try out between now and the end of the year.
1. Designer baubles:
RCA Christmas Fete
Friday 5 - Sunday 7 December
12:00 – 20:00
Browse affordable and original art and design pieces at the Royal College of Art Christmas fete, back for a third successive year. With stalls selling hand-made designer items by College students, a programme of festive performances, and hot drinks and delicacies, this indoor market is like heaven on earth. On Sunday 7 December there will be a Parents and Children’s Day dedicated to family festivities: bring the kids to be amused with balloon animals, face painting, and Christmas arts and crafts. Free.
2. Mix with the locals:
Exhibition Road Community Christmas street party
Monday 8 December
17:00 – 19:00
Rockin’ around the Christmas tree with the Exhibition Road Choir. Warm yourself with plenty of mulled wine, mince pies, sausage rolls and other warming seasonal treats put on by local community leaders. This festive event is for everyone who works, studies and lives in the area and takes place at the southern end of Exhibition Road, close to the iconic South Kensington Tube station. Free.
3. Grown-up entertainment:
Red: Christmas Cabaret starring Miss Polly Rae
Tuesday 9 & 16 December
21:00 - late
Who said Christmas was for kids? Royal Albert Hall invites you to meet ‘Red’, the Queen of the Naughty List, as she welcomes you to the place where Santa secretly goes to relax before Christmas to enjoy fine wine, exquisite eats and witty and risqué entertainment. Check out the tickets for this show in the intimate Elgar Room at £28, with an offer for Imperial staff and students on inclusive dinner tickets at £68 (normally £75) if you book at the box office - ID required.
4. FOR ENQUIRING MINDS:
Thursday 11 December
16:00 - 20:00
Imperial Fringe returns for its seasonal celebration of science featuring 3D-printed decorations, new ways to control your appetite over the holiday period, and advice on how to keep the lights on this winter. At 18.00 and 19.00 hear astrophysicst Dr Roberto Trotta, talking about his book, which explores the stars using the 1000 most common English words. A pay bar is open throughout, all activities take place in Imperial’s College Main Entrance on Exhibition Road. Tweets and Instagram pics at #impfringe. Free.
5. A gently educational stroll …
Walk in Park - Christmas with Victoria and Albert
As the year’s shortest day approaches; join the Royal Parks Foundation for a stroll through our local park, Kensington Gardens, to look at the seasonal folklore, traditions and feasts that have developed over the centuries. Hear about the Christmas traditions that Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert introduced to Britain, why robins appear on Christmas cards, and how holly became protected by Kings. Walk starts at the Statue of Queen Victoria, The Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens. Tickets £5.
6. Followed by a fun cultural evening:
Royal College of Music Philharmonic
Friday 12 December
An orchestral concert featuring works by Richard Strauss and Schubert in the Royal College of Music’s stunning Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall. Highlights include Japanese composer Keiko Abe’s Prism Rhapsody written for the marimba, and Schubert’s well-known Unfinished Symphony. An optional pre-programme talk starts at 18:15. Imperial staff and students get half price tickets by entering the code IMPERIAL50 when booking online, or quote 'Imperial Offer' on the phone - ID required. Normal price £10 and concessions £8.
7. For peace on Earth:
Carols by candlelight
Monday 15 December
18:00 – 19:30
Enjoy an hour and a half of peace amid the December chaos with the Imperial College Choir and Interfaith Chaplaincy. Share the symbolic ‘light of the world’ with the congregation, and join in singing a host of well-known carols. Mince pies and drinks follow the service, all in the Holy Trinity Church on Prince Consort Road. Free.
8 & 9. Two ideas on local improvement:
South Kensington tunnel ideas competition
Tuesday 16 – Friday 19 December
09:30 – 17:30
Check out the top-rated designs for an improved South Kensington visitor experience. Students at the Royal College of Art, Imperial College London and Royal College of Music have reimagined the pedestrian tunnel and underground station entrance. The most ingenious idea will be awarded £5,000 and the opportunity to feed into grand plans to bring the area up to twenty first century standards. An exhibition of the shortlisted schemes is on display to the public at the Henry Moore Gallery in the Royal College of Art, with a special open evening until 19:00 for locals on Tuesday 16 December. Free.
Visitor welcome and orientation pod exhibition
Monday 15 – Monday 22 December
09:00 – 17:30
Tired of tourists milling around, making the place look untidy? The solution is nearly here, with a design competition for a visitor welcome pod to guide them straight to all the big attractions and hidden gems the area has to offer. The proposals are all created by smart Imperial Mechanical Engineering students in collaboration with the artist Hawys Tomos. The winner will be unveiled on Friday 12 December, with a reception from 17:00. The exhibition is then open to the public in Imperial College London’s City & Guilds Building foyer, accessed through the Main Entrance on Exhibition Road. Free.
10. Get your skates on:
Ice skating at Natural History Museum
Check website for times
Open until Sunday 4 January
Skate around the Christmas tree, then sip hot chocolate while enjoying the festive scene from the Café Bar. There's a huge main rink and smaller rink for beginners and children. Check out the site for live music and foodie events. Cheap staff tickets are being offered for all Exhibition Road staff on weekday skating sessions until Thursday 11 December Show your staff pass at the on-site box office to get adult tickets for £9 and children for £6 (prices include booking fee), eligible for groups up to eight people. Normal price £14 adult and £9.50 child, plus booking fee. Show your student ID for discounted tickets and a free drink on Mondays and Tuesdays until 9 December.
Post your top tips in the comments box for others to try out between now and the end of the year.
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