With the January blues firmly behind you, it’s time to throw yourself back into all that London has to offer as February sets up an eye-catching line-up of festivals and fairs. Demonstrating its peerless capacity for putting on a show, the city is offering something for everyone throughout the month.
Tobacco Dock, 19-21 February
The British have always held gin close to their hearts. Indeed, during the 19th century the UK Government was forced to pass five major Acts to control its consumption amid a period known as ‘The Gin Craze’. Thankfully, such nannyish interference into our drinking habits is a thing of the past and the best illustration of this is the numerous booze-themed festivals that take place across the UK each year. One of the most popular is the London Gin Festival, which returns to the capital this February to celebrate everything about the berry-based beverage. Taking place for the first time at Tobacco Docks in east London, the festival will showcase some 100 different gins, as well as offering talks by gin industry experts and live entertaiment. Those who are new to gin needn’t worry – friendly staff will be on hand to explain the basics and recommend tasters.
Chelsea Town Hall, 13-14 February
At many art fairs, it can often feel as if the artwork itself is playing second fiddle to the amount of money changing hands. The Parallax Art Fair, which takes place at Chelsea Town Hall in west London this February, is a much-needed antidote to that trend. Described as Europe’s largest art fair with its showcasing of over 200 artists from around the globe, Parallax presents drawings, paintings, sculptures, jewellery, textiles and crafts – all sold at wholesale studio price. Another major attraction is that, unlike many other art fairs, the artists themselves are in attendance, giving visitors the rare privilege of speaking directly to the creative talents who know their work best. And if that doesn’t convince you to pop along, entry is free of charge for all.
ExCel London, 11-14 February
Biking has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years, sparked by a number of factors including growing environmental awareness and a desire to keep fit. But while London may still be some way from matching the bike-friendly nature of other European cities such as Munich and Amsterdam, the UK capital is making great strides in the right direction. Demonstrating this in February will be the London Bike Sow, the UK’s largest cycling exhibition, taking place at the ExCel convention centre in east London. Whether you’re passionate about road cycling, mountain biking, or leisurely rides along country lanes, every biking preference is catered for at this informative and fun-filled festival.
Chelsea Old Town Hall, 7 February
The UK market for vintage fashion is booming, with nostalgia for retro apparel at an all-time high. In February, this passion will be celebrated with gusto at Frock Me!, a vintage fashion and textiles fair first established in the 1990s. Now taking place at the Chelsea Town Hall in west London, the fair brings together over 50 stalls of the finest vintage clothing, textiles, accessories and haberdashery dating from the turn of the century all the way through to the 1980s. With prices starting at under a tenner, there’s no excuse for departing without at least one new – or should that be old – addition to your wardrobe.
The Old Finsbury Town Hall, 14 February
Another celebration of vintage fashion takes place at The Old Finsbury Town Hall in Clerkenwell, Central London, attracting a diverse range of designers, stylists, fashion editors, celebrities and models, as well as an impressive number of fashion aficionados from the general public. With men’s and womenswear stretching back to the 1800s on display, the fair is truly a step back in time, but there’s also plenty of contemporary items to be admired too, including designer pieces by iconic names such as Dior, Vivienne Westwood, YSL and Chanel. Whatever your tastes, the show gives vintage fashion lovers the chance to create your own look by mixing and matching eras without being led by high-street trends.
Royal Horticultural Hall, 28 February
For lovers of curios and novelty items from bygone eras, there’s no better place to be in London on a Sunday morning than the Adams Antiques Fair
. Taking place once a month at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Victoria, the fair features over 140 stalls of fine antiques including ceramics, silver, jewellery, paintings and more. Affectionately known as the “Horti”, it draws a large crowd of antique dealers and enthusiasts every month, attracted by the sheer diversity and quality of pieces on offer. The event’s founder, Matthew Adams, spent many years in the Middle East as a child, inspiring his passion for antiques which, in the 1970s, lead to him creating what is now the longest running monthly antiques fair in London. The venue alone, designed by Edwin J Stebbs and flooded with natural light, is worth a visit. Queues tend to form around the hall in the afternoon, so arriving early is advised.
Shoreditch, 27 February
To say London’s food scene has exploded in recent years is an understatement. Some of the city’s most popular restaurants began life as humble food stalls, where they gathered cult status and enough support to scale up to full-blown bricks and mortar offerings. London foodies will soon have the chance to sample some of the latest kids on the gastronomic block at the upcoming Urban Food Fest, which returns this February at the Euro Car Parks on Shoreditch High Street. Taking place every Saturday from midday to midnight, the event will feature 15 street food trucks and stalls that change each week. There will also be a premium bar and specialist cocktail bar serving craft beers, cider, exclusive Urban cocktails, spirits, shots, international wines, prosecco and champagne, plus live music and comfortable seating areas. Best to skip breakfast!
The Old Truman Brewery, 26-27 February
The craft beer industry is enjoying something of a golden era, with small, independent breweries popping up left, right and centre. This February, the 5th annual Craft Beer Rising Festival will once again bring together some of the most exciting beer makers around today, with almost 400 beers on offer from a total of 150 exhibitors. At this year’s edition, the festival will be moving into the main hall of The Old Truman Brewery in east London, doubling the capacity of the venue. Also new this year will be the ‘Lost In Cider Space’ room, showcasing some of the finest ciders on the UK market, while live music, street food vendors, talks, tasting and panel debates will also add to the occasion.
Chiswick Town Hall, 21 February
If you’re getting hitched and are keen to give your wedding a retro twist, there’s only one place to be this February and that’s the National Vintage Wedding Fair. Organisers claim the fair has provided wedding attire for hundreds of brides down the years and it’s easy to see why. Taking place at Chiswick Town Hall in west London, the event showcases over 400 vintage weddings gowns dating from the 1920s to the 1970s, as well as florists, photographers, jewellery, stylists, and entertainers, all offering inspiration and ideas for your special day.
The Vaults Waterloo, 27 January – 6 March
When people talk about underground culture, they’re not normally being literal, but this winter London is playing host to a genuinely subterranean celebration of art, comedy, music, dance and more. Running for six weeks from January, nestled in the deep, dark tunnels beneath Waterloo station, the Vaults are serving as a platform for a diverse selection of contemporary art exhibitions and performances. Billed as the “people’s festival”, the event places a strong emphasis on emerging artists, with organisers dedicated to creating a sustainable arts sector for everyone. It’s a noble cause that everyone interested in culture should get behind. If that’s not enough to persuade you, there’s also three great bars and an array of food options. Get involved!