Your lockdown culture guide: May

Here’s your hotlist for the month ahead, including VR exhibitions, a virtual arts festival and more free cultural finds

blue kimono, kimono times
Kimono Times, Akira Times, 2017

Virtually toured your fill of the world’s top museums and claim to have ‘completed’ Netflix? Our new culture round-up is a guide to the month’s digital delights, including inventively staged festivals, free online exhibitions and talks with leading creatives (aka some of the best company we've had for a while). Add these to your calendar...

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1 Hay Festival Digital
hay festival 2016
Sam Hardwick

Every May for the last 30 or so years, the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts has descended on the diminutive Welsh enclave of Hay-on-Wye (and consequently spawned a series of international editions around the world). Rather than ditch a yearly highlight of the cultural calendar, this spring marks its first fully digital iteration. While we’ll miss browsing in the town’s myriad bookshops, the online format has enabled a seriously impressive line up – think talks and Q&As from the likes of Margaret Atwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hilary Mantel and Gloria Steinhem, plus a performance from David Gilmour. From 22–31 May 2020.

2 V&A Tour of 'Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk'
19th century vintage kimono
Keiju Sato | Joshibi Art Museum

At the time, we didn't realise quite how lucky those who bagged early slots to see the V&A's much-awaited kimono exhibition really were. Generously, the team have now filmed a tour fronted by curator Anna Jackson – no hastily-taped Instagram Stories, but five in-depth films totalling 30 minutes. Look out for rare 17th- and 18th-century designs, which share the spotlight with bold reinventions by Alexander McQueen and Rei Kawakubo. From 21 May 2020.

3 Anno Mitsumasa exhibition at Japan House
in and around the capital   horin ji   anno mitsumasa
In and Around the Capital - Horin-Ji

Another cultural institution dipping their toe into the world of virtual exhibitions is London’s Japan House, whose showcase ‘Anno’s Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa’ takes in a lifetime of work by the well-loved Japanese illustrator. His gently evocative images of life in Japan and across the world, including a section on artworks created on a visit to Britain, are exquisitely realised in a variety of media such as pen and ink, watercolours and paper cutting techniques. The exhibition is set to be a permanent fixture, so take your time. From 24 April 2020.

4 The Hepworth Wakefield's Ceramics Fair
ceramics by carla murdoch
Joanna Ritchie

The Hepworth Wakefield's annual ceramics fair is a kind of who's who of British craft talent, and this year was set to feature 55 artisans, including three winners of the Crafts Council’s Hothouse award and Great Pottery Throw Down finalist Matt Cronshaw. Happily, it's now happening on their Instagram page, where they'll share pieces for sale, artist Q&As and curator diaries. From 22 - 25 May 2020. @hepworthwakefield

5 Offsite Online design exhibition
daniel nikolovski dragon bench and shelf
Daniel Nikolovski

Featuring new work by nearly 100 designers, brands, and students, virtual design fair Offsite Online is one of several hoping to go some way in plugging the gap left by this year's cancelled events. Usually a staple of NYCxDesign, this annual showcase by Sight Unseen is resolutely contemporary: be sure to look out for works from Estudio Persona and Kompaniet, as well as the sculptural 'Dragon Series' bench and shelf by Milan-based designer Daniel Nikolovski (above) carved from black walnut. From 18th May.

6 'Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi' at Somerset House
somerset house sebastian cox mycelium lampshades
Mark Blower

Anyone who missed Somerset House's mushroom homage can now catch a virtual tour of the exhibition, recorded to honour an International Museum Day marked by closed doors. The exhibition traces the cultural legacy of the humble vegetable via a flurry of funghi-related innovations, from Beatrix Potter's delicate watercolours to mycelium shoes by Kristel Peters and shades by Sebastian Cox and Ninela Ivanova. From 18 May 2020.

7 The Monologue Library
the mono box actors
The Mono Box

With the UK's stages shut, a roster of top thespians have found a fresh creative outlet in new initiative The Mono Library, which hosts audio recordings of actors performing their favourite theatrical speech. Created by not-for-profit actor resource The Mono Box, the repository includes over 100 readings by from the likes of Riz Ahmed, Gina McKee, Vanessa Kirby and Sir Derek Jacobi, performing monologues from Tom Stoppard and Marina Carr, poems by Rilke and Rudyard Kipling, plus plenty of Shakespeare. If you've exhausted your podcast options, look no further. From 1 May.

8 London Original Print Fair
apples, pears  grapes by david hockney  raw editions
Apples, Pears & Grapes by David Hockney / RAW Editions

For the 35th edition of London Original Print Fair, 51 viewing rooms – each representing a dealer, gallery or publisher – will be available for online perusal, with prices starting around £100. Overwhelmed by choice? Browse ‘Spotlight’ exhibitions, with works selected according to theme, or let yourself be guided by handpicked selections from the likes of Cath Kidston and Royal Academy President Rebecca Salter. From 1–31 May 2020.

9 ‘We are One’ film festival
tribeca film festival queue
Tribeca Film Festival

More than 20 of the world’s biggest and best loved film festivals, including Sundance, Venice, Toronto, Tribeca and glitzy Cannes, have come together to curate a 10-day online event in the face of forced cancellations. Dubbed ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’, the format will see films streamed for free on YouTube, including shorts, documentaries, comedy and an as-yet unreleased schedule of conversations. From 29 May–7 June 2020.

10 Grayson Perry’s Art Club
grayson perry art club
Grayson’s Art Club, Mondays 8pm on Channel 4

With Philippa Perry visibly moved by a portrait painted by her husband on a plate, the first episode of beloved Brit artist Grayson Perry’s new Channel 4 show was an unexpected tear-jerker. The presumably hastily-commissioned programme is an invitation into his gloriously chaotic studio, as he reveals his creative process and chats to guests, from Viv Reeves to Antony Gormley, and enthusiastic members of the public about their weird and wonderful creations, all via video call. His pick of these pieces, formed under the guidance of a weekly theme, will be presented as an exhibition post-Covid. It continues on Mondays at 8pm throughout May 2020.

11 ‘Beside Itself’ exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Menorca
hauser  wirth menorca gallery artlab
Hauser & Wirth ArtLab

Though its much-anticipated Menorca outpost isn’t due to open until next year, gallerist Hauser & Wirth are offering a preview of two of the largest galleries via their new bespoke virtual reality software. The mapping of exhibition ‘Beside Itself’ comes courtesy of new research and innovation arm ArtLab, which uses technology to tackle issues of accessibility and sustainability. The restored stone architecture and blue Mediterraean skies make this virtual stroll an unexpected tonic – don’t miss the glimpse of the Piet Oudolf designed gardens and their towering Louise Bourgeois sculpture. From 30 April 2020.

12 National Theatre at Home
antony and cleopatra at the national theatre
Antony & Cleopatra / Johan Persson

For many, Thursday nights in lockdown are now forever associated with the next release from the National Theatre at Home streaming initiative. Each week, the team digs out another world-class production from the 30-strong archive, which is then available to stream for free for seven days. Until 14th May, you can watch Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in Simon Godwin's reimagining of Antony & Cleopatra, then it's the turn of Inua Ellams' acclaimed Barber Shop Chronicles.

13 Stephen Fry’s series for the Barbican podcast
barbican centre exterior
Max Colson

While London’s architecture lovers are pining for the temporarily closed Barbican Centre, the team have been busy raiding the archives and generating new content. Unsurprisingly, it’s proved popular – traffic to the online hub is up 350 per cent. Their Nothing Concrete podcast may have flown under the radar for some, but that’s sure to change this month with the release of a new series with Stephen Fry, who will discuss mental health, isolation and the power of art to heal in conversation with journalist Chris Gunness. Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter written by Beethoven to his brothers, will provide a springboard for the chats, in tribute to the composer's 250th anniversary this year. The first of four weekly episodes starts 6 May 2020.

14 Stella McCartney in conversation with David Adjaye
david adjaye architect
Chris Schwagga

Design Museum’s lockdown franchise #DesignDispatches is going from strength to strength, thus far hosting Instagram TV talks with Morag Myerscough, Christopher Raeburn and Bella Freud. The worlds of fashion and architecture will collide on 16th May for Stella McCartney in conversation with David Adjaye, with more creative heavyweights sure to follow. 16 May 2020

15 Design Dates at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour
kit kemp for andrew martin bedroom
Kit Kemp for Andrew Martin

West London interiors mecca Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour is enlisting its network of creatives for a series of 'Design Dates', with a particular focus on creative partnerships. Put a note in your diary for the concept's first outing, when Firmdale Hotels founder and creative director Kit Kemp and collaborator Andrew Waller of Andrew Martin will be in conversation with Giles Kime. 4pm 21 May 2020.

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