The Platinum Jubilee Weekend: Here are all the London cultural events to mark in your diary

·6-min read
The Queen (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The Queen (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

On February 6 the Queen became the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee – that’s 70 years since she was crowned Queen.

However, in true Queen style, celebrations are taking place five months later. There’s going to be a special four day bank holiday from June 2-5 with a bonanza of events scheduled across London, the UK and the Commonwealth.

While The Queen’s Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour) isn’t necessarily for everyone (and neither is the Platinum Jubilee Pageant or Platinum Jubilee Party at the Palace) there’s also a full roster of cultural events taking place at some of London’s biggest and best art galleries and museums – and some of them look absolutely cracking.

Here’s our breakdown of the best events to mark in your diary.

Southbank Centre

Starting early on Wednesday June 1 and running across the whole weekend, the Southbank has a packed schedule of events for the Jubilee. Highlights include music from Nu Civilisation Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a day focusing on Punk culture – including the screening of Danny Boyle’s new Sex Pistols TV show Pistol – plus daytime The Posh Club and late-night The “Alternative” Royal Command Performance events from veteran LGBTQI+ club Duckie.

There will also be family-friendly performances from Moxie Brawl’s Punk Alley, Half Moon’s Party and Folk Dance Remixed’s Step Hop House.

BBC Concert Orchestra will play at the Southbank Centre (BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
BBC Concert Orchestra will play at the Southbank Centre (BBC / Chris Christodoulou)

Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s will be hosting a Jubilee Arts Festival from May 28 to June 15 with an absolutely packed calendar of events. There’s going to be an opening weekend (May 28-29) series of talks and debates that will explore the women who have “served as custodians of our cultural legacy” — including discussions on Queen Elizabeth I, Victoria and Margaret Thatcher. Then there’ll be a family day on June 4, with musical workshops, performances and art trails, plus a reading with Michael Morpurgo. On June 10 there’ll also be a ‘late’ workshop with poet Theresa Lola.

Overlapping with these events is a series of daily talks and performances from May 30, including a Fantasia Quartet recital, RADA graduate performances and discussions with Dame Joanna Lumley, writer and broadcaster Robert Hardman, Dame Magdalene Odundo, Lucian Freud sitter Martin Gayford, National Gallery’s Caroline Campbell, and V&A Director Tristram Hunt. Talks will cover major topics including female power, The Queen, royal books, James Bond, tiaras and 1960s British art.

Then, to top it all off, Sotheby’s will be staging a special exhibition of seven Queen regnants (reigning in her own right), with tiaras and manuscripts. It’s really all go!

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I will be on show at the Jubilee exhibition (Michael Bowles/Getty Images)
The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I will be on show at the Jubilee exhibition (Michael Bowles/Getty Images)

Tower of London

Opening on June 1, and running until September 18, the Tower of London is celebrating the Platinum Jubilee with a colourful moat filled with flowers. In spring 2022, over 20 million seeds will be planted in the moat, with the idea that visitors can then enjoy the blooming flowers over the following months.

Visitors will also be able to grab a mat and slide down into the moat on the special ‘Superbloom slide’. Then there will be a route through the display.

This isn’t the first time the site has done this sort of thing – in 2014, to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of The First World War, the Tower of London filled its moat with thousands of ceramic poppies. This time though, they’re a bit more at the mercy of the weather.

The Tower of London’s poppy exhibition in November 2014. (David Jensen/EMPICS)
The Tower of London’s poppy exhibition in November 2014. (David Jensen/EMPICS)

British Museum

To celebrate the Jubilee the British Museum will be opening a new exhibition about Mary Gillick, who designed the first coinage featuring our present Queen, exactly 70 years ago. It will open on June 2 and run until July 31. It’s going to include archival newspaper cuttings, sketches and plaster models.

Some of Mary Gillick’s work from 1941. (The Trustees of the British Museum)
Some of Mary Gillick’s work from 1941. (The Trustees of the British Museum)

Sir John Soane’s Museum

If you like Royal ceremonies that this new exhibition could be for you. The Sir John Soane’s Museum is known for its higgledy-piggledy display of thousands of extraordinary artefacts from antiquities to architectural models and paintings, so it comes as no surprise that the museum will celebrate the Platinum Jubilee with a special exhibition.

It’ll be focused on royal memorabilia – from cups, plates, bunting to hairpins. And if you have your own memorabilia that you would like to see in the show, the museum still has a call out for contributions – so get in touch! Tickets are required to visit.

Horniman Museums and Garden

To celebrate the Jubilee, Horniman Museums and Garden is throwing a Drag Queen Bingo on June 5. Timberlina and Auntie Maureen will be hosting the game, and there’s promised to be family-friendly “impromptu dance routines”, “silly sing-alongs” and “witty royal repartee”. There will be three sittings and buying tickets in advance is necessary.

V&A

If you are excited to see the winners and runners up of the Platinum Jubilee Emblem Competition – the V&A is where you’ll be able to peruse all of the submissions that made it to the final.

People aged 13 – 25 were asked to design an emblem to mark the historical event, and 19-year-old Edward Roberts, won the competition. Open from June 1, graphic design fans – this one could be for you.

Royal Museums Greenwich

At the Royal Museum Greenwich, there is going to be a full series of community activities across the entire bank holiday weekend. There will be a trail of photographs documenting The Queen’s visits to the museum over the years, plus fun activities. Families are invited to bring a picnic and enjoy the bunting-covered grounds.

Extraordinary: this 17th-century royal house is considered one of the most important architectural buildings in Britain (National Maritime Museum)
Extraordinary: this 17th-century royal house is considered one of the most important architectural buildings in Britain (National Maritime Museum)

Imperial War Museum

Launching on May 27 and running to January 8, 2023, IWM will be showing Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime – a new exhibition showing the Queen in her different roles at some of the country’s toughest moments in history.

Across the same time period, there will also be a trail, where historical objects will be on display across five gallery spaces at IWM London, showing the relationship between the Royal family and the British Armed Forces.

Objects on display at the Imperial War Museum (Lucy Young)
Objects on display at the Imperial War Museum (Lucy Young)

The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection (Trustees of The Wallace Collection)
The Wallace Collection (Trustees of The Wallace Collection)

To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, guide Rosa Somerville will be giving a special talk about the royal connections in the Collection on Saturday, June 4 from 4 pm. It’s free, but first come first serve on the day.

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