Culture team highlights of 2018

27 December 2018

This year has seen art and culture dominate the landscape with every borough across London creating engaging and inspiring moments for all to enjoy. As we look back on 2018, we wanted to share with you our highlights and the special events that touched us as a team over the last 12 months.

What were your favourite cultural moments of the year?

Let us know @LDN_Culture and tag #myLondonculture2018

Ed Bayes, Culture at Risk Officer

Songwriting Circle, Stoke Newington

These intimate monthly gatherings showcase the best emerging talent from across London in a small candlelit church in Stoke Newington. At any given circle you can see some of the most exciting artists in London right now from Jai Paul co-sign Fabiana Palladino; to rising stars Jordan Mackampa and Christof van der Ven; to indie golden boy Westerman. I might be slightly biased as Lou, who runs it, was kind enough to let me play a few songs earlier this year, but it really is something special to behold. Just make sure you bring a jumper in the winter as there’s no heating!

Steam Down, Deptford

Who knew that mosh pits and jazz could come together so effortlessly? Every Wednesday in a sweaty railway arch in Deptford you can watch the next generation of UK jazz sing, jam, dance and at London’s finest music night: Steam Down. On any given evening you can spot anyone from radio legend Gilles Peterson to global jazz heavyweight Kamasi Washington mixing among younger artists like Nubya Garcia, Kokoroko, Ezra Collective and Sons of Kemet. There are rumours it might be moving to accommodate its growing following but wherever it ends up, don’t miss out. Just don’t wear too many layers, it gets hot!

Adventure Uncovered Film Festival, The Cinema Museum

Polar bears and nostalgic cinema memorabilia, what’s not to love? Adventure Uncovered ran its first film festival shining a spotlight on how extreme sports enthusiasts are tackling social and environmental challenges, from climate change to education. This year it was held at The Cinema Museum, which houses a mind-blogging collection of cinema equipment from across the ages in Charlie Chaplin’s former workhouse. As City Hall’s Culture at Risk Officer, I have been working with the Museum’s team to try to protect its future, and long may it continue!

Lauren Bouillot, Projects & Policy Officer - Placemaking

Millicent Fawcett statue
The first-ever monument of a woman, and the first created by a woman, to stand in Parliament Square! I felt proud to take part in such a historic day, and the ceremony was profoundly moving.

Art night London
Art night is such a fun festival. I love discovering new places through art every year. This summer I really liked the performance by artist Tamara Henderson in the New Covent Garden Market, mysterious and hypnotic.

Basquiat: Boom for Real at the Barbican
Going to the Barbican is always a treat. This wonderful retrospective of the energetic work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat had plenty of archival material.

Millicent Fawcett statue

Paul Broadhurst, Manager, 24 Hour London/Music

Caroline or Change at the Hampstead Theatre flummoxed me with a singing washing machine. But once I was over the surprise, it was an incredible, moving show. It finds magic in the mundane, revealing the tectonic social changes of 1960’s Louisiana through the daily drudgery of an African-American maid. It has proven popular and recently moved to the Playhouse Theatre at Embankment.

I had not heard of Ola Kvernberg and Joshua Redman, but I was craving some live music. So I ducked into the Wigmore Hall, paid £15 and got 90 minutes of stunning artistry: violin and saxophone weaving sounds I could never have imagined. A last minute decision, but a good one.

The story of a lesbian comic book artist who lives in a funeral home with her closeted father was a real audience divider. Half were in tears at the end – including me (but I’ve cried with joy watching snooker before). The other half weren’t. Afterwards, the argument went on until we were booted out of the bar. Fun Home was at the Young Vic Theatre this summer.

Mike Clewley, Senior Communications & Engagement Officer

Summer Exhibition at Royal Academy of Arts
Every year is good, but this 250th edition of Grayson Perry RA handpicked choices of art in any medium was really special. Bright, provocative, hilarious, sad and strangely, very British.

Hamilton the Musical
A tour de force. Totally euphoric and completely lived up to the hype. Like nothing else, you will see in the theatre.

Nexxt Step EP
A personal project for me and a privilege to work with the awesome Sian Anderson and support these incredibly talented 10 young women. It was amazing to see the journey from never performing live to playing sold-out London shows and creating a beautiful, banging and unique collection of songs.

Nexxt Step

Angie Farrance, London Borough of Culture Co-Ordinator

A new play from the brilliant Martin McDonagh at the Bridge Theatre (very handily located right next to City Hall). A dark and crazy 90 minutes – go see it, don’t take your nan.

Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition of new works - The Moving Moment When I Went To The Universe at the Victoria Miro Gallery on Wharf Road. Glorious pumpkins, flowers and an infinity mirror room. Which is now my new profile picture.

And I must give a shout out to Waltham Forest because I predict that most of our highlights for 2019 will happen in the Mayor’s first ever London Borough of Culture!

Abid Gangat, Senior Communications Officer

The King and I
I first saw The King and I at the cinema when I was 9. I remember protesting to being forced to watch a musical by my father when there were so many other action films available to see. However, it wasn't long before I was swept away by the fantastic on-screen performance of Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. So when I was offered a Gala Night ticket to see the performance at the London Palladium, I couldn't say no. The music, sets, stage, colourful costumes and effects were spectacular and made me forget I was watching a show and not a film. The onstage chemistry between Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe propelled me to Siam, and I was left wanting to return the very next day.

Somerset House – Sleeping Beauty
Having a real passion for film, I was keen to experience the summertime celebration of cinema that was the Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House. It was a lovely August evening when I attended with my sleeping bag and cushions in hand and found myself a spot on the floor ready to watch Sleeping Beauty. It was an enchanting evening, watching a Disney classic under a starlit sky, sharing the magical experience with couples, families, children and friends. All were enjoying a fantastic film experience that I will definitely be keen to re-live in 2019.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles
I absolutely love Sherlock Holmes, the suspense, the drama, the anticipation these are the key ingredients to a Sherlock Holmes mystery. However, the Drayton Arms Theatre version of this Arthur Conan Doyle classic will have you crying with laughter while waiting in anticipation for the very next line. With the entire cast of 10+ roles delivered by a talented male and female duo, this is one ticket you will definitely want to get your hands on!

Anne Hartley, Culture Seeds Co-ordinator

A World Inside a Book: Gruffalos, Dragons and Others @ Discover Story Centre
If you’ve ever read Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books, this exhibition is for you. It brings to life all of the stories in wonderful ways. My three-year-old loved it, me even more so.

The Star Seekers @ National Theatre
It was great to take a trip into space, explore planets and meet aliens in this interactive show for young people from Wardrobe Theatre.

Graveyard Gang, Purple Moon Drama
It was fantastic to see some outstanding performances from young people at the Poplar Union in Purple Moon Drama’s Graveyard Gang. Supported by Culture Seeds.

DMB Chubby Hearts

Mark Inger, Policy & Research Officer

Shame, at the Electric Ballroom (April 2018)
Quite possibly one of the best gigs I’ve seen in years. This South London five-piece tore the place apart with songs from their debut album ‘Songs of Praise’. Check out the singles ‘One Rizla’ and ‘Concrete’.

‘Misty’ at the Trafalgar Studios (September 2018)
Arinze Kene’s almost one-person show, looking at what it means to be a writer, and a black man living in London, and dealing with gentrification was a standout show of the year. Kene was mesmerising and is surely destined to be one of London’s most original contemporary voices in theatre.

Gruff Rhys with the London Contemporary Orchestra, the Barbican (September 2018)
The Super Furry Animals frontman filled the brutalist Barbican for a performance of his latest solo effort ‘Babelsberg’, backed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. The Welshman’s distinctive voice is still up there with the best of them, and his song-writing takes in a range of influences.

Chrissy Kinsella, Chief Executive, London Music Fund

Common & Kind at Union Chapel (@CommonAndKind ‏)
A musical extravaganza to celebrate the best of humanity through music, now in its third year. An incredibly moving and inspiring concert.

The LSO in Trafalgar Square @londonsymphony
The amazing London Symphony Orchestra performed live and free in Trafalgar Square, featuring numerous young musicians from the Discover programme, and some @londonmusicfund Scholars – and we got to meet Sir Simon Rattle afterwards!

Porgy & Bess at English National Opera @E_N_O
Gershwin’s spine-tingling opera about the relationships between members of a close-knit community in 1920s South Carolina, in its first staging at ENO.

Shonagh Manson, Assistant Director

Hofesh Shechter's East Wall was a totally transfixing, unique dance performance in the moat of the Tower of London as part of LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre). 150 incredible community performers, along with rock and string music, and the Band of the Irish Guards - what's not to love? Truly epic.

Seussical the Musical at Southwark Playhouse was our family Christmas show this year. "A person's a person, no matter how small!" Great Dr Seuss morals for my 5 and 3-year-olds and cracking energy from the cast. I'm delighted Southwark Playhouse got a major grant from the Mayor's Good Growth Fund to help secure their move to permanent premises for the first time.

The exhibition Contemporary Muslim Fashions was a real highlight, so I'm adding that to my list - I saw it at the de Young Museum (which is stunning in itself) when we were in San Francisco in November running the World Cities Culture Summit there. The show featured the most incredible array of designers exploring Muslim dress codes and identities worldwide. Look up Mona Haybar's 'Hijabi' on YouTube. 

Lucia Masundire, Policy & Projects Officer

Sylvia at The Old Vic
I’m not a musical fan, but this take of Sylvia Pankhurst’s life was so much fun, with a great cast and even amazing soundtrack.

Lumiere London

This was my first Lumiere event although I’m a sucker for anything that involves light projections, it’s hard to pick a favourite piece, but I really enjoyed Child Hood from Collect if Coin and My Light is your Light from Alaa Minawi.

This is my favourite music festival at the moment not just because it happens over my birthday weekend. The line-up is incredible, there’s always great veggie and vegan options, and this year I saw two amazing acoustic sets from Press to Meco and Undead Raisins and discovered my new favourite the Nova Twins.

Lumiere London

Jackie McNerney - Senior Manager

London Nights (and Fatberg) at Museum of London

Seeing London through a night time lens with a wonderful selection of photos spanning over 100 years. From a beautiful photograph of the Thames at night from the turn of the century to Londoners sleeping in the tube during the blitz to striking contemporary images of how we work and play at night. And have to sneak in the Fatberg exhibition - highlighting all the stuff that is lurking in our sewers. A fascinating display and challenge for the Museum on how to present such a disgusting and toxic object!

LIFT 2018

Anna Deveare Smith’s Notes from the Field at the Royal Court has got to be one of the most memorable one-woman performances I have ever seen. She spoke to over 200 people to highlight the poverty to prison pipeline and institutional racism in the US. The way she morphed from one character to the next and held your attention for over two hours was amazing. Loved the vibrancy and energy of Session at Bernie Grants Arts Centre and These Rooms at Shoreditch Town Hall was a harrowing look at tragic lives lost during the Easter Rising.

Good Grief Charlie Brown at Somerset House

I loved Peanuts as a kid, and this exhibition brought me back to all those wonderful characters with my favourites still Peppermint Patty and Woodstock. I could get lost in those cartoon strips for hours – so poignant at times capturing everything from heartbreak, insecurity, friendships to gender equality.

Jacqueline Rose - Senior Manager, Strategy and Programmes


Loved the build-up and banner-making to this mass participation event. Inspired by Artichoke, thousands of us carried homemade banners and walked a historic route through the capital on a glorious June day to create a white, green and purple river of girls and women celebrating 100 years since the first women won the right to vote - what a blast it was to be part of this amazing public artwork.


Continuing the theme of #BehindEveryGreatCity, LDN WMN was a special partnership with Tate Collective which led to 20+ public artworks created by women and non-binary artists drawing attention to the unsung female heroes in the nooks and crannies of the capital during the October half term. I am so delighted that some even found permanent homes such as 'Queen of the Air' by Lakwena across Cricklewood Station's platform.

Big Dance Lives On

Big Dance's legacy moved into a new decade with the official handover of the programme to Australia on 29 April marking International Dance Day. This was followed by recommissioning of Akram Khan's Big Dance Trafalgar Square 2016 piece by 14-18 NOW as KADAMATI for 300 dancers in Edinburgh in August and 700 in Paris this September.


Tim Spires, Senior Policy Officer – Cultural Education and Music

Nile Rodgers and Chic
If you want a masterclass in songwriting, audience engagement and entertainment (and just a blooming fun time!), then you should look no further than the legend that is Nile Rodgers. I’ve had the privilege of seeing this guy perform live with the band three times in 2018. Can’t wait for them to return to London next spring…when they’re supporting someone called Cher.

How To Catch A Krampus
A twist on what a festive show looks like from drag collective Sink the Pink at the Pleasance Theatre. A twisted musical horror story featuring comedy, music, dance and amazing outfits, all set in ye olde Victorian London. Brilliantly funny, coherently disjointed and scarily festive.

Boiler Room x Sounds Like London
A slight slip into a work event…but definitely a highlight. The Mayor’s Sounds Like London campaign in June celebrated London’s grassroots music scene and shone a spotlight on some amazing female talent. Working with Boiler Room, we put on a gig at the top of City Hall which literally shook the building. Some fantastic contemporary artists and DJs on the bill, including Jamz Supernova, Flohio and Ray BLK. A night to remember!

Amanda Maxwell - Boiler Room - Sounds Like London Ambassador

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