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In most cities, the only free music you’ll find is the odd busker. In London, you can find free gigs and concerts taking place every night across the capital – at prestigious arts centres, happening bars and even galleries.
The venues we’ve picked below offer everything from jazz and soul to classical and world music – some of their events are ticketed, but many are totally free. Check times and listings for full info.
The Southbank Centre is a fantastic community arts centre, so it’s fitting that it holds regular free musical performances in the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall. February highlights include Argentian duo Sigamos (28 Feb).
St Martin-in-the-Fields, located bang opposite Trafalgar Square, is known for its candlelit concerts. But this striking church also hosts regular free lunchtime concerts. Future participants include the NLSO Flute Trio (25 Feb).
A few minutes walk from Camden Town Station, The Forge is a bar/music venue, with an unusual central stage. Classical, jazz, world and folk music is on the bill here, with free jazz concerts every Monday night.
Royal College Of Music
Musicians studying at the Royal College of Music perform free lunchtime concerts at St Mary Abbots every Friday (1.05pm) and free ‘rush-hour’ concerts every Friday at the National Gallery (6pm) and V&A (6.30pm). Visit the RCM website for full listings of future events and participating venues.
About 10 minutes’ walk from the centre of bustling Brixton, Hootananny is the place to go for ska, roots, reggae and folk rhythms. Upcoming free gigs feature the likes of The Fontanas + Barking Bateria + New Street Adventure (22 Feb) and Rollo Markee & The Tail Shakers (26 Feb). Check the listings before you go, as some events are ticketed and others are only free until 10pm (or earlier).
A working church and community centre, Union Chapel is a wonderfully atmospheric venue for live music. As well as its popular concert series, the chapel puts on free music performances in its Daylight Music series. This month’s guests include Chris T-T & The Hoodrats + The Capybaras + Laura Cannell (22 Feb).
Ain’t Nothing But…
This excellently named blues bar, tucked away just off Regent Street, is a real find. Every night at Ain’t Nothing But… there’s live music, and entry is free Sunday to Thursday – and before 8.30pm on Friday and Saturday. Singing (or playing) the blues this month is the Dust Me Down Blues Band (26 Feb).
With the name and relaxed feel of an underground jazz club of yesteryear, Charlie Wright’s is an intimate music lounge/restaurant located close to Old Street Station. The venue has been serving up live music (and, somewhat randomly, delicious Thai food) since 1992. Today, entry is free on Mondays, when Charlie’s Comedy Club is followed by a late jazz jam session hosted by the Nikki Mackenzie Quartet, and also on Tuesdays, when drummer Shane Forbes hosts Charlie’s Jazz Jam.
Primo Bar at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London Hotel
A short walk from the London Eye, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is a design-led hotel with a surprisingly packed live music calendar. Every night in the hotel’s glossy Primo Bar you’ll find free performances, from ‘Brazilian Vibe’ Wednesdays to ‘Chilled Jazz’ Sunday with the Spitz Collective. With views out onto Big Ben and a lengthy cocktail menu, it could become a new favourite.
Check out our listings for more live music bars in London