All my theatre highlights took place at The National, from Danny Boyle’s mind-blowing production of Frankenstein, to the hilarious One Man, Two Guvnors and finally to the beautiful, romantic and funny play by Daniel Kitson -It’s Alright Now, until Later. On the food front, I had an incredible dining experience at Heston’s Dinner in Knightsbridge, and dicovered a new favourite Oxford Street eatery at Riding House Café – perfect for escaping the shopping crowds. Finally, my most bizarre experience of the year was rowing across the roof of Selfridges on an emerald lake courtesy of Bombas and Parr.
My 2011 highlights included following the craft trail at the Thames Festival, seeing Milton Jones’ stand-up show, being utterly terrified by Daleks at the Doctor Who Experience, visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition, watching Arthur “Rory” Darvill in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe and attending Knit Nation for the first time. Tapping into the trend for shocking Christmas jumpers, I took a one-day knitting class at Loop and mastered Fair Isle knitting. I also took a silver clay class at the London Jewellery School and a lampshade making class at The Make Lounge, both of which I heartily recommend. Best of all was South Pacific at the Barbican: just beautiful and dreamy.
There were some gorgeous exhibitions in London this year including the Glamour of the Gods at the National Portrait Gallery which I loved. Degas and the Ballet at the Royal Academy of Arts was fantastic too. I enjoyed dinner at two of London’s most well-known restaurants, the OXO Tower and the Rib Room which have both had refurbishments this year and reopened looking better than ever with food and drinks to match.
After seeing Shrek The Musical, my friend declared, “That’s the best thing that’s happened to me all week!”. I have to agree; in fact it was one of my top events for the whole year. Audience members of all ages left the theatre with a smile on their face. If you need cheering up in the dark winter months after Christmas, I’d recommend a visit to Shrek.
Walking along the Southbank with all the beach huts, beach and drinking Pimms on the roof top garden bar during the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Britain was fantastic. I was also lucky enough to go to The O2 to watch the ATP Tennis semi-final matches, which was truly inspiring. Next would be my preview trip of the Harry Potter tour which is opening in March – I just couldn’t believe how much detail had gone into making the sets! Finally, my trip on the Orient Express: being treated like royalty, drinking champagne and eating divine food while pottering around in a beautiful trainâ€¦ what a year!
From the swashbuckling Pirates exhibition, to the beautiful and delicate paintings of Degas, it’s been a great year for soaking up some culture in London. I spent hours at the Mirá½¹ exhibiton at Tate Modern, and now we have the Dickens exhibition, which I think really deserves all the hype. Other stand-out moments included visiting The Ritz (every bit as decadent as I’d imagined); touring the Tower of London by night and visiting beautiful Lancaster House during a rare public opening.
Matilda was unquestionably the highlight of my year in London. The kids loved it too, but you don’t need a little one in tow to appreciate this musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic. I also enjoyed visiting World Travel Market over the autumn. Practically every country around the world occupies a tiny corner of the enormous ExCel exhibition centre. It’s so huge; you could spend a whole week taking in the atmosphere. Earlier in the year, I saw John Bishop compere a comedy benefit in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust at the Royal Albert Hall. So many great acts, so many laughs. Best of the bunch was Seann Walsh, who is definitely a face to look out for in 2012.
2011 has been a great year for discovering new spaces in London, from inside the former Commonwealth Institute as part of Open House London, to the Eden Project-designed Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden & Bar for the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain. I’m glad this beautiful, grassy rooftop will be back in 2012. Other highlights included a Q&A with author Kazuo Ishiguro at a screening of Never Let Me Go in February (the venue, the Ritzy in Brixton, had an incredible year of events celebrating its 100th birthday), and Hackney Wicked in July. Finally, the best single moments were the decision to award the 2017 World Athletics Championships to London, and the discovery of (possibly) London’s best burritos at Picante Mexican Grillin Victoria – both are a fantastic result for the city.
There have been some great shows in London this year. Highlights for me included the brilliantly acted plays Clybourne Park, Frankenstein and The Westbridge; and classy musicals Crazy For You, Matilda and Betty Blue Eyes. Best of the lot was One Man, Two Guvnors – a wonderful script, a fantastic cast, and whole lot of fun. I also loved seeing the new Penguin Beach at London Zoo earlier in the summer.
What were your highlights of 2011? Let us know in the comments below…