Canary Wharf might not be the first district that comes to mind for a free family adventure or art-focused escapade, but in amongst 20 acres of landscaped parks, gardens and squares you'll find sculptures and installations by leading artists.
Canary Wharf is a hidden hive of cultural activity. For starters, it boasts the largest collection of free outdoor art in London. There’s over 100 works in total (and you’ll need to make more than one trip to see them all), with notable pieces including the great sculptor Henry Moore’s ‘Draped Seated Woman’ (Old Flo); Lynn Chadwick’s striking 'Couple on Seat'; two bright red, contorted pieces by Julian Wild (‘Scribbleform’ and ‘Origin’) and Richard Hudson’s alluring metallic sculpture ‘Tear’.
Queen of colour Camille Walala has also put her stamp upon the Canary Wharf estate. In 2020, she reimagined Adams Plaza Bridge as Captivated by Colour, lending the tunnel her signature bold tones and geometric shapes.
There’s a Children’s Art Trail too, featuring 12 striking and exciting installations for little ones to spot around the Estate – a great way to keep them entertained on long summer days.
At a time when the climate crisis is front of mind, a sculpture trail can be plotted between the Estate's sustainability-led installations. Joining existing works of bronze, marble and steel are pieces made from recycled materials and works made in direct response to the challenges currently faced by the planet. Paul and Pute’s ‘Time & Tide’ is an hourglass shaped reminder of our urgent need to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Aphra Shemza’s ‘Ocean Rise’ is an art-led example of how plastics can be recycled into tiles.
The artworks alone aren’t the only pull here. This summer, Canary Wharf plays home to summer games, a spectacular series of light installations, a four-day arts festival and temporary exhibitions. Here are four events reshaping what was once merely a financial district into a melting pot of free, family-friendly culture.
WHEN: 21 - 24 July
WHERE: Throughout Canary Wharf, London E14
Theatre, music, dance and comedy – there’s a little something for everyone at Festival14, a four-day celebration of the arts, spread across Canary Wharf’s parks, plazas and open forums. The best bit? Most events are free.
Canada Square Park is set to become the hub of the festival, with a main stage playing host to a diverse line-up of musicians, spanning classical, jazz, soul and gospel. For some fresh-air takes on Shakespeare, head to Westferry Circus, which is being transformed into an outdoor theatre for the festival. Here, you can also catch evening comedy gigs and a family rave. Up at Crossrail Place Roof Garden, there’s cabaret, comedy and storytelling to enjoy, while down in Jubilee Park, there will be a steady stream of live music every day.
Foodies aren’t being forgotten either. Just like any festival, a parade of street food stalls will be cooking up flavours from around the world. Head to Montgomery Square when you need to refuel. There is also a vast variety of restaurants, cafes and bars available across the Estate, some of which will be hosting special events and offers to celebrate the festival. And if it's a lunch in the sun or cold drink on an outdoor terrace you're after, download their alfresco dining and drinks map here.
Reginald D Hunter
House Gospel Choir
Bus King London
Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra
Hackney Colliery Band
Minigolf by Craig & Karl
WHEN: Daily, 12pm - 6pm
WHERE: Montgomery Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14
Designed by artists Craig Redman and Karl Maier, this is a minigolf course with artistic flair. It’s a great one for the school holidays: the multicoloured course is free to play – just ask the stewards for some clubs and balls, and challenge your troops to a round of putting balls.
WHEN: 21 June - 20 August
WHERE: Throughout the Estate, Canary Wharf, London E14
While its Winter Lights festival is one of the largest in London and a highlight of January's cultural calendar, Summer Lights offers a chance to watch the effects of natural light on the area's parks, buildings and walkways, when manipulated by leading lighting designers. A hit in 2021, Summer Lights returns to Canary Wharf for 2022.
Jelle Mastenbroek’s The Robin Who Wondered if he was a Nightingale
WHERE: Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Canary Wharf, London E14
Immerse your ears in birdsong in this atmospheric, audio exhibition from Dutch artist Jelle Mastenbroek. The foliage-lined walkway of the Crossrail Place Roof Garden will play home to a cacophony of bird song as a series of machines replicating the tapping of woodpeckers, the whistles of nightingales and the song of cuckoos are nestled among the plants.
|What||Why a trip to Canary Wharf is a must for art lovers this summer|
|Where||Canary Wharf, 1 Canada Square, London, E14 5AB | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Canary Wharf (underground)|
01 Jun 22 – 20 Aug 22, Various times