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The UK cultural highlights to look forward to in 2020

Keep your dinner party conversation in sparkling form with this year’s best exhibitions, theatre, concerts and more

Ah culture. We all like to think we’re up to speed on the latest blockbuster exhibitions and intellectually-challenging plays but, if you stop to think about it, when was the last time you visited a museum or caught an opera? It’s been a while, we’re willing to guess. So turn off Netflix and make 2020 the year you up your game with our guide to the unmissable exhibitions, theatre and alternative festivals to take in.

Art and exhibitions

Andy Warhol, Tate Modern, 12 March - 6 September

andy warhol self portrait

Andy Warhol, Self Portrait, 1986 © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York
and DACS, London

andy warhol ladies and gentlemen

Andy Warhol, Ladies and Gentlemen (Helen/Harry Morales), 1975 © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York
and DACS, London

It is a fact universally known that, should you happen to be in London, you are only a few tube stops from the nearest Andy Warhol exhibition. Or at least that how it seems anyway. It is surprising, then, to learn that the Tate Modern’s 2020 retrospective will be its first on Pop Art’s poster boy for nearly 20 years. Offering a thorough recounting of Warhol’s life, the exhibition will include fan favourites (your Marilyn Monroes, Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup cans) as well as a host of works never previously displayed in the UK, including 25 portraits of black and Latinx drag queens and trans women from his Ladies and Gentlemen series which have not been displayed for more than 30 years.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, V&A, from 27 June


Alice in Wonderland. The Royal Ballet. Zenaida Yanowsky © ROH, Johan Persson, 2011. Costumes by Bob Crowley

alice in wonderland

Original drawing of the White Rabbit for the series Alice in Wonderland, Ralph Steadman, 1967. © Ralph Steadman Art Collection, 2019

Delving into the 157-year history of one of the world’s strangest and most adored children’s books, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser promises an immersive and theatrical experience of all things Wonderland. Featuring exhibits that span the cultural gamut from fashion and film to art, theatre, music and more, highlights include sketches by Walt Disney and Salvador Dali, artworks by Peter Blake and costumes from the Royal Ballet.

Prada. Front and Back, Design Museum, September


Widely regarded as the greatest living fashion designer, it seems almost incredible that no major museum has yet dedicated an exhibition to the talents of Miuccia Prada. The Design Museum is set to rectify that in 2020 with Prada. Front and Back, a wide ranging exhibition that will look both at Prada the designer, in terms of her entry into the fashion world and how her approach has transformed the practice of fashion design, and the way in which Prada the business has redefined the way we view luxury with its investments in art and architecture as well as technology.


Endgame, Old Vic, 27 January - 1 February


An all-star cast including Alan Cumming, Daniel Radcliffe, Jane Horrock and Karl Johnson will lend their talents to Samuel Beckett’s much-loved (but characteristically bleak) comedy about a blind old man locked in a stalemate with his servant. Directed by Richard Jones, Endgame will be presented a double bill with Rough for Theatre II, one of Beckett’s lesser known double acts in which two men discuss the fate of another man in room who never speaks. Expect some of Beckett’s signature modernist work at its finest.

Creature by Akram Khan, Sadler’s Wells, 1-8 April

gisele english national ballet

The third instalment of the critically acclaimed collaboration between contemporary choreographer Akram Khan and the English National Ballet, which has so far given us Dust and a reinterpretation of Giselle, Creature is a much darker work drawing on the tales of Frankenstein, Prometheus and Woyzeck. With input from Oscar-winning designer Tim Yip and composer Vincenzo Lamagna, Creature explores themes of ambition, human endeavour and morality in what promises to be an utterly beautiful work that will leave an impression long after the curtains have closed.

The Seagull, Playhouse Theatre, 11 March - 30 May

the seagull

Emilia ‘Queen of Dragons’ Clarke makes her West End debut in a new Jamie Lloyd-directed version of Chekhov’s classic The Seagull this spring. Clarke will take the role of ambitious actress Nina who arrives at an isolated country home populated by a cast of heart-broken and disillusioned characters left with no options but to turn on each other. This modern adaptation by Anya Reiss brings Chekhov’s story of love, loneliness and fame squarely into the 21st Century with spectacular effect.

Alternative festivals

How The Light Gets In, Hay-on-Wye, 22-25 May

how the light gets in

There’s so much packed into this four day festival that’s its almost impossible to define. Broadly a philosophy and music festival, there’s also elements of comedy, culture, theatre, performance and food thrown in, and it all takes place in the stunning setting of Hay-on-Wye. What’s not to like? The list of speakers already announced for 2020 is diverse: Vince Cable, Toby Young, Lucy Hawking, Jon Lansman and Penny Mordaunt are all on the line-up. Which might be a bit heavy if it weren’t for the lashings of fun and sprinkling of debauchery thrown in by performers including Belle & Sebastian, The Correspondents, Phil Wang and Lou Sanders.

Henley Festival, Oxfordshire, 8-12 July

henley festival
henley festival

Once the rowers have cleared out, Henley makes way for the UK’s only black tie festival – and it’s become a firm favourite in the Gentleman’s Journal offices. This year’s line-up is yet to be released but in 2019 musical talent came from the likes of Tom Odell, Jessie J and Boy George. You can also expect food worthy of a black tie event – we’re talking proper sit down, a la carte restaurants which, in 2019, offered a range of fine dining menus devised by Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett. Oh and there’s also a Moet Champagne lawn. Chin chin!

Here the best new books coming out in 2020.

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