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7. Festivals&Events ___

In a city of over seven million people, speaking over 300 different languages between them, it is no wonder that the London festival calendar is an all year-round celebration. Whenever you choose to visit London, there’ll be a chance to join in, and the best news is that most of it is free.

Celebrating London’s communities

Why not see in Chinese New Year, six weeks after 31 December, with London’s Chinese community. Celebrations take place in Soho, complete with dazzling Lion Dances, authentic Chinese food and a carnival atmosphere.

The world’s second largest street carnival takes place in London in August. At the heart of the Notting Hill Carnival is London’s black community, but the Carnival is open to everyone. It is an amazingly noisy and vibrant event with 100 costumed bands, live music stages and 45 sound systems. Not for the faint hearted.

London’s Asian communities also have their major celebrations. Diwali, the Hindu and Sikh festival, is an explosion of fireworks, funfairs and good food in Ealing and Hounslow. Traditional and contemporary Asian culture abound at the Mela Festival in East London’s Newham with music, fireworks and entertainment.

Brick Lane is one of London’s liveliest areas and the annual Brick Lane Festival shows off its rich mix to the full. This great free day out is non-stop entertainment with a fusion of world music, dance, street theatre and wonderful food from the local Bangladeshi restaurants. The festival is fast becoming the East End’s version of the Notting Hill Carnival.

Musical festivities

The acclaimed Ealing Jazz Festival attracts top UK and international acts performing cool jazz every evening for eight days in August. It is but one part of the lively West London summer festival which includes blues, comedy and lots of kids events. The perfect way to spend a relaxing summer evening.

Jazz fans can also indulge themselves at the Southwark Festival, an annual autumn event along the south bank of the Thames. The festival includes lunchtime concerts at Southwark Cathedral and Guy’s Hospital, as well as classical recitals, sophisticated street theatre and family fun days.

Offering easy access to both early and contemporary music is the aim of the Spitalfields Summer Festival, just east of the City. A Winter Festival is also held in December.

The Covent Garden Festival is celebrating its eleventh year in 2001. It is another treat for music lovers, particularly those of opera. Catch performances at venues throughout Covent Garden, including street opera in the Piazza.

From the written word to the spoken word

A unique festival in London, about London, WORD is London’s literary celebration. WORD focuses on writers from London or those who write about London with a mixture of local, national and international writers taking part. There is a wide range of events with discussions, workshops, readings and signings throughout London.

The best of the London arts scene in some of the City’s most historic buildings is the appeal of the City of London Festival every summer. Historic churches and livery halls become temporary stages for opera, orchestral, choral and chamber music, theatre, poetry, jazz and dance.

Film is not forgotten either as the London Film Festival premieres the most recent works of UK and international film directors. There is a film for lovers of all genres.

For the dramatic, look no further than the London International Festival of Theatre 2001 (LIFT), one of the world’s leading theatre festivals. LIFT has been bringing new performers from across the world to theatres and unusual locations all over London since 1981.

Something for everyone

London’s major lesbian and gay festival, Mardi Gras, takes place in early July at Finsbury Park. Highlights of the event include a big star line up of world famous musicians, Europe’s top gay dance clubs and a classic stage featuring choirs and other classical musicians.

The Chelsea Flower Show is an integral part of the London season. Heralding the beginning of summer, it is a paradise for gardeners with spectacular show gardens, gardener’s tips and inspiration for the gardening year ahead.

Never dull, and often spectacular, the Coin Street Festival is a great chance to enjoy free entertainment by the river. It takes place throughout summer next to the Oxo Building on the South Bank and includes live music, dance, performance art and children’s events.

Bonfire night is always celebrated widely throughout London, particularly as the target of the Gunpowder Plot was Parliament in London. Among the regular big fireworks events are those at Alexandra Park, Primrose Hill and Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith. Check local papers for details and exact dates of the events.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.