London springs back to life with the first buds and leaves. This month, locals begin to leave the fireplace and venture outdoors with a series of festivals and events.
Kingdom of Ife Sculptures
The British Museum's African season continues with one of it's 2010 flagship exhibitions, showcasing 109 superb pieces of haunting sculpture, from the powerful medieval West African kingdom of Ife (pronounced ee-fay). It's one of the first times that such an extensive collection — which is mostly drawn from museums in Nigeria — has been seen outside Africa. Previews have been hot with the critics. The Daily Telegraph heralded the show as "potentially the exhibition of the year." In Bloomsbury, the central London neighborhood north of the West End theater district. britishmuseum.org, March 4–June 6, $12.
The East Festival
This six-day festival, opened by the Mayor of London, celebrates the cultural life of the East of London — famous abroad as the perennial home of the crafty Cockney but known to Londoners for its striking architecture pre-Olympic games architectural renaissance, its cool Hoxton clubs, and vibrant South Asian cultural life. This year's East programme focuses on these—with music and art shows from British India and the Indian sub-continent, a series of events for families at the Barbican Center, architecture shows, and free concerts throughout the area. March 4–9 visitlondon.com/events/east
St Patrick's Day
This year St Patrick's day falls mid-week on March 17. So London's huge Irish community kick off several days of Guinness- and Beamish-soaked celebrations on the weekend before. Parties in scores of London pubs and bars kick off on March 13th and the following day there's a huge St Patrick's Day Sunday Parade with marching bands, floats, street theatre, music and a procession of representatives of all 32 Irish counties, dressed in their traditional colours. Parallel with the parade is a festival in Trafalgar Square with Céilidh music and dancing. The parade starts in Piccadilly at noon (subway: Piccadilly) and continues through Central London and Trafalgar Square, finishing at Whitehall Palace.
Homage to Rudolph Nureyev
This spectacular night of ballet features stars from Europe's top ballet companies—including the Royal ballet, the Bolshoi, Kirov, Paris Opera, the Berlin, and the Vienna Staatsballet paying homage to one of the twentieth century's greatest dancers. It's a rare treat to see so many wonderful dancers gathered on one stage, especially when tickets start at $19.50. March 21 at 7 p.m., eno.org
The Head of the River Race
London's largest and most spectacular rowing race takes place over a few hours on the Thames between Mortlake and Putney on the last weekend of March. Some 400 boats leave at timed intervals to create a colorful procession along the river. No one knows who wins until the last boat arrives at Putney Bridge. And only the crews really care — the point is the spectacle and an afternoon whiled away on the banks of the Thames the day before Summer time officially begins in Britain. Let's hope it doesn't rain. The Oxford and Cambridge Boat race (which I'll profile in a separate blog) also takes place in March. Mar 27, 1:15 p.m., horr.co.uk
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