Best Things to Do in London for May Bank Holiday

From outdoor cinema to dressing up for a Gatsby-style romp, enjoy this May bank holiday in style


A Fête Worse than Death, The Book Club, Shoreditch

For British eccentricity with a healthy dash of paganism, The Book Club’s village fete, slap bang in the middle of Shoreditch, is your place. The Leonard Street car park will be festooned with bunting and spring blossom and a be-ribboned maypole will be erected for fertility-celebrating dancing. London’s most credible Morris dancers (seriously), The Belles of London, will be doing their thing while, from the bandstand, Scottish folksters The John Langan Band and others whip the crowd into frenzy. Participation in traditional(ish) fete games will be encouraged, a fortune- teller will be on hand and delicious gastro bites – from venison burgers to nettle and goat’s cheese rolls – will be provided by The Foragers. Attire-wise, “think Ophelia meets Florence Welch”, The Book Club advises and, at 4pm, a May Queen will be crowned with a headdress of flowers. If virginal frocks are not your thing, eccentric British apparel is also welcome.


The Book Club, 100 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4RH; Sunday 5th May, 12pm - 9pm - FREE ENTRY; 020 7684 8618;

Canalway Cavalcade, Little Venice

This annual event, taking place at the junction of the Regent’s and Grand Union Canals in Little Venice, will be one of the May Bank Holiday’s most spectacular, scenic affairs. More than 150 bunting-strung vessels will congregate; from historic canal working boats to holiday narrow-boats and the occasional Dutch barge. There will be floating events, guided walks, boat trips, food stalls, a licensed bar, a trade and craft show and music of all kind. Don’t miss the theatre and puppet shows aboard the barge May Brent in The Pool. After dark, a pageant will take place featuring a procession of illuminated boats, bands will play and food stalls and bars will serve until late. On a warm night, this should be magical.


The event extends from the Pool of Little Venice to the back of Paddington station, from which there is direct access to the site. The other end of the site is a few minutes' walk from Warwick Avenue, W9 2PB; Saturday 4th to Monday 6th May; Saturday 4th May 10:00 till 18:00, Sunday 5th May 10:00 till 18:00 and 20:30 Music, Monday 6th May 10:00 till 17:00; FREE;

Street Fest 2013, Shoreditch

Car parks and warehouses around Shoreditch will become a canvas for what bills itself as the UK’s only live art festival, promising a full programme of demos, screenings and shows from some of the county’s top graffiti artists, musicians, poets, dancers and urban athletes. American rapper and producer, Oddisee, will headline and there will be sets from Dot Rotten, DJ Vadim & DJ Nikki Beatnik. More than 20 graffiti and street artists will be creating live art and, if you want to have a go yourself, there will be workshops and tours on offer. Curating the dance stage at Streetfest will be London based B.Supreme, an outfit dedicated to supporting women in hip hop. Expect performances, dance battles and workshops. Meanwhile, a skateboarding contest will take place on a specially constructed ramp. If it all gets too much and you need a sit down, Claire Kirby Nails & Effy Nails will be hosting a pop-up nail bar.


Hearn Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3LS; Sunday 5th May, 1pm – 11pm; Tickets: Early bird £5. Second release £10, on the door £15;


Road Movies at KXFS

For a dose of surreal Americana, head to the King’s Cross Filling Station where independent cinema group, Everyman Cinemas, are in residence for 12 days. It’s an incredible venue; an ex-petrol station behind King’s Cross, reincarnated as an edgy, industrial arts space whose glowing neon sign is reflected in the Regent Canal. Everyman will be hosting screenings of cult road movies – think Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, Drive – on a giant screen that curves around the audience on three sides. You’ll sit under the old forecourt canopy, provided with blanket and headphones, to watch your movie, drink cocktails, wine or filter coffee and eat suitably American snacks. Like 1960s California, but, in most likelihood, not quite as warm!

King’s Cross Filling Station, Goods Way, N1C 4UR; Screenings throughout Bank Holiday weekend; Tickets £10-£20;

Streets of Spain Festival, Southbank Centre

Foodies should head to the Southbank this weekend to shop and eat at the Streets of Spain Festival, a celebration of Spanish food, wine and art. Market stall owners from Barcelona’s famous La Boqueria food market will be bringing their produce to the UK for the first time and there will be the chance to try artisan tapas. If you get up in time, Spanish breakfasts will be served from 10:45am. Later in the day, wine tastings will take place, courtesy of festival sponsors Campo Viejo and there will be a series of masterclasses as well as the chance to blend your own wine. From 7-10.30pm a pop-up restaurant, led by Michelin-starred chef, Angel Pascual, will offer gourmet Spanish dining and you can end the night with the screening of a film from the Spanish Film Festival.


Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX; 3rd-6th May 10.30am-7pm (restaurant open until 10.30pm); Free entry; ,

Spitalfields Art Market

This monthly event is always a good excuse to potter around Spitalfields en route to the vintage mecca of Brick Lane. The Spitalfields Art Market aims to bring original, affordable art to the public and you might just discover a work by the next big thing. Ranging from photography to screen prints, street-style painting to fine art, this is a chance to support new and established artists by buying directly from them. When you’ve finished browsing, there are food and drink choices galore so you can refuel ready for more shopping.

Brushfield Street, London E1 6AA; 2nd-5th May 10am-5pm;

West Egg Garden Party, Proud Galleries, Camden

Celebrating the summer’s inevitable Great Gatsby fever – as well as the Bank Holiday – Proud Galleries in Camden is throwing a West Egg Garden Party, inspired by Fitzgerald’s much-loved novel. As befits the casual decadence of the 1920s, the party starts early and, during the afternoon, guests can mingle on the grass flooring of the gallery amid grand art-deco decorations, fortified for a game of croquet by an elegant afternoon luncheon. Outside, the terrace will host a daytime fete featuring a coconut shy, marathon sack race and a bootleg liquor challenge. Merriment will be accompanied by a New Orleans marching band and DJ set from Hugh Hefner's DJs of choice, The Karminsky Experience. As evening falls, the party will move up a gear and the Horse Hospital will be transformed into a full-blown Bootleggers’s Ball with DJ sets from Yasmin and Hervè. Dress code is, of course, roaring 20s elegance; an excuse to be Daisy Buchanan for the night.

Elle is giving away free tickets to the The Bootlegger's Ball to the first ten people who answer this correctly: "Who plays Daisy Buchanan in the new Great Gatsby film?"

Email the answer and your name, with "Elle Gatsby Competition" in the subject line to

Proud Galleries, The Horse Hospital, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AH; Sunday 5th May 3pm – 8pm FREE ENTRY, 8pm – 5am Advance Early Bird Tickets – £6; 020 7482 3867;

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