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LONDON FOR FREE! – Late at Tate Britain: In the spirit of Hogarth

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Late at Tate Britain: In the spirit of Hogarth, a night of true variety, intriguing pleasures and dazzling distractions.

If you think museums are boring then head to Late at Tate Britain.

Every first Friday evening of the month you can sip a Gin and Tonic (or whatever you prefer) while roaming the halls of Tate Britain, enjoying live performances and shows while thumping beats make the gallery paintings shake.

Tonight I was in for a special treat with opera in drag, burlesque poledance, high leg kick singalongs and dancing ladies of the night. All that in the exhibition rooms of the 19th century building. You’d think this might be a bit mismatched. But it is exactly this kind of out of place feeling that makes it an experience extraordinaire.

In this sense Tate Britain appears to be more modern than Tate Modern:

Down the Manton Staircase you could indulge in opera chansons from Le Gâteau Chocolat, a massive black man in 18th century drag. Though I must say, his baritone of ‘Summertime’ had a bit of jazz in it, I think.

In room 14, where during the day you can admire The Pre-Raphaelites, you could get pleasure from Princess Twinkle Knickers’ 18th century poledance. In a hooped petticoat she swirled around the pole delighting the audience with a flash of her bloomers.

In room 9 the main attractions took place. Where you’d normally go to see Romantic Painting in Britain, this night the spectators got heated up by sexy DJing, cockney classics by Boogaloo Stu and Miss High Leg Kick and Sparklemotion’s tribute to wanton ladies of the night.

Their performances caught everybody by surprise. Maybe DJ Simon Gitter’s potted history of sex in music should have given a clue of what was to come.

But when Miss High Leg Kick started to carry out a strip mums had to hold the eyes of their children closed. And when Boogaloo Stu started to sing vulgar lyrics like ‘Oh I do like to be poked in the ringpiece, I do like to get it in the bum’ mums had to hold the ears of their children shut. These mums ended up not catching up to averting eyes or ears, but having to explain some things to their kids later on, I guess.

Sparklemotion’s dancing was pretty harmless in comparison, even though they did it in a night gown and with 20s swing moves.

All in all it was absolutely hilarious and a spectacle to remember. 

Keep in mind though: Be early! The Gallery rooms don’t hold many people and because of the valuable paintings only a certain number is allowed in the rooms, which to the untrained eye looks like the room hasn’t actually filled up at all (very frustrating if you happen to be stuck in the cue to get in).

Clearly these performances and the 70s soft porn music that DJ Simon Gitter was blasting out of the speakers got people to interact much more. Everybody was chatting away, commenting on art candidly and open to discussions with whoever happened to be standing next to them.

With a programme this peculiar, the crowd was quite unusual for a museum visit anyhow. A lot of the visitors you’d normally expect in Camden or Shoreditch. Some had dressed up in Victorian style to honour the Hogarth exhibition, which was half price tonight.

But what really makes Late at Tate Britain so special is the estranged atmosphere around the exhibition rooms. Somehow people are far more relaxed. All of the sudden it’s ok to be romantic while taking a stroll along the oil paintings with your partner. Or it’s completely fine to not sit but lay down on the seating facilities. Or hang out and camp on the floor. Thus, taking on a different perspective on the art and the architecture. It’s not disrespectful. You can still feel the awe about those pieces of art hovering around. Probably even more, as it’s undisruptive. Without any barriers. Hence taking in the art is much more personal. It feels a bit as if you’ve just stepped out of your living room and landed in Tate Britain. You could absorb the artistry the way you wanted to and not as others pushed you through to stick to their tight touri timetable.

It’s calm and peaceful at night at the Tate Gallery. The perfect spot to relax and breathe in some culture.

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