25 free things to do in December

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Days out UK December 2017

From carol singing to dressing up as Santa: our monthly bumper round-up of things to do and days out

NATIONWIDE EVENTS

Free things to do uk December 2017

1. Santa Dashes

Throughout December

Santa Dashes are, suddenly, ‘a thing’. All over the country, thousands of people dressed as Father Christmas are running through the streets, raising money. There are over 30 Santa Dashes in the UK on Sunday 3 December alone. Check the full list for your nearest one: dress up yourself or just go along and watch.

2. Watch Jeremy Clarkson in action

Various dates and locations

Tickets to attend the recordings of the second season of Jeremy Clarkson and co’s megabucks Amazon show are now available for free at locations around the UK. And if that doesn’t appeal, then The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Sing and plenty of other big shows are also looking for audiences at the same link. The new series of The Grand Tour starts on Amazon on 8 December.


LONDON & SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND

Free things to do in London December 2017

3. Christmas carols in Trafalgar Square

11 – 22 December (excluding 12 and 16 December)

Since 1947, the people of Norway have sent a Christmas tree to London (as well as Grimsby, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Sunderland and Aberdeen) in thanks for Britain’s help in the Second World War.

The switching-on ceremony is on 1 December; the carol-singing starts 10 days later, with a solid roster of professional and amateur choirs singing beneath the tree for an hour each throughout the day.

4. Santacon

London, 19 December

Less a Santa Dash and more of a Santa pub crawl, Santacon features gift-giving, carol-singing and general japery all in a surreal flash-mob spirit: join one of three groups roaming London before everyone gets together for a grand finale. Free to join – but you do need to dress as Father Christmas (obvs).  

5. Family shows of A Christmas Carol

Museum of London, 16 – 17 December

Hour-long performances of Dickens’ Christmassy classic, suitable for children aged five-plus.

6. Burning of The Clocks

Brighton 21 Dec, 6.30 – 8.30pm

Brighton celebrates the shortest day of the year with a family lantern parade, followed by a spectacular firework display and bonfire on Brighton beach.


MIDLANDS & EAST

Free things to do in Birmingham and the Midlands December 2017

7. Go to the world’s best-known carol service

Kings College Chapel, Cambridge. 24 December, 3pm

Kings College Chapel’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve has become world renowned, since it was first broadcast by the BBC in 1928. Aired live on BBC Radio 4 at 3pm on 24 December, it is played out on other networks over the following 24 hours. (BBC 1 shows it around midnight, just as Father Christmas is putting his boots on.) There’s only 600 available seats. Start queueing at 9am if you want to be sure of getting in (although some people start the previous day).

8. Convict art

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham B1 2HS. 6 December – 11 March 2018

See picture above. An exhibition tracing the remarkable life story of 19th-century Birmingham artist Thomas Bock: transported as a convict to Australia, he resumed his work in Tasmania, where he was commissioned to engrave bank notes and to paint official portraits of condemned men, as well as personal projects that capture the new world of 19th-century Australia.


SOUTH-WEST ENGLAND & WALES

Free things to do in south west england and wales December 2017

9. Tenby Boxing Day swim

Tenby, West Wales, 26 December

Clean out the Christmas cobwebs by taking a dip in the sea at Tenby along with hundreds of other hardy souls in this crackers annual tradition. Or just go along and watch. It’s for charity.

10.  Hospital workers’ art

RUH Central Gallery, Royal United Hospital, Bath. Until 18 January 2018

The 4800 staff of the Hospital Trust (plus many associated volunteers) have been invited to submit photography, painting and mixed-media art and this exhibition is the result. A third of the revenue from sales will go to the RUH Arts Fund, to maintain the broad range of award-winning arts projects on offer at the hospital.


NORTHERN ENGLAND

Free things to do in Liverpool and the North December 2017

11. Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition

Leeds Central Library, 3 December – 29 January 2018

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, an exhibition exploring the background to the folklore traditions and magic at the heart of the Potter stories – with a series of accompanying events and workshops, too.

12. Lightwaves 2017

Salford Quays, 8 – 17 December

The UK’s biggest digital light art festival comes to Salford Quays for 10 magical days, with displays by local, national and international artists designed to light up the depths of winter.

13. Cosgrove Hall Films exhibition

Waterside Arts Centre, Sale. Until 17 February 2018

The great Cosgrove Hall studios in Manchester have produced a string of well-loved children’s animations over the last 40 years, from Dangermouse to Postman Pat, Count Duckula to Jamie and the Magic Torch. This exhibition celebrates their work, with displays of puppets, props and original storyboards as well as the story of the cartoon’s creators.

14. 1950s fashion exhibition

Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. Until 15 April 2018

See picture above. Journey into a lost world of elegance in this photographic exhibition telling the story of June Duncan, the Liverpool-born child actor who went on to become a regular on the catwalks of London and Paris and in the pages of Vogue in the 1950s.


SCOTLAND & NORTHERN IRELAND

Free things to do in Scotland December 2017

15. Edinburgh’s giant advent calendar

General Register House, Edinburgh, 1 – 25 December

A building-sized advent calendar projected onto the front of General Register House, featuring archive photos of Edinburgh winters of yesteryear, with a new picture every day. Appearing daily at varying times between 5.30pm and 10pm.

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