London certainly has its share of annual parades, festivals, and events, from its Carnival to the Lord Mayor’s Show. Many of them illustrate the city’s history and cultural heritage, though some are a little on the weird side. London is home to an array of bizarre festivals.
These eccentric events promise to provide plenty of entertainment and laughs for future adventures. When you next head to London be sure to check out one of these wonderfully wacky events and experience something you will almost certainly have never seen anything quite like before.
Here’s our list of London’s strangest annual events that you can dress up and take part in or simply watch in wonder!
Spitalfields Pancake Race
One more excuse to get dressed up in costume. Every Shrove Tuesday, which falls on March 1 this year, many people whip out frying pans, pour in batter, and start flipping their way to a pile of pancakes to compete in a pancake race on Brick Lane.
Teams of four will do their best to walk as quickly as possible along the Dray Walk while flipping a pancake in a pan—and not spilling the pancake. The first team to cross the line first gets to take home a specially engraved frying pan. There are also prizes for the best costume and runner-up teams.
While this may appear to be the silliest event on this list, it is all for a good cause. The purpose of it is to raise money and support London Air Ambulance. You’ll be rewarded with pancakes whether you win or lose.
Peter Pan Cup
Swimming outside on Christmas day in London? As ludicrous (and unappealing to many) as that might sound, it’s an extremely admirable annual tradition.
The Peter Pan Cup is a very special open water swim race that takes place each year on Christmas morning at 9 am. This aquatic race is held in London’s Hyde Park which is just around the corner from the Montcalm Hotel over a 100 metre course. The water temperature is usually below 4C (40F) degrees in the winter, so swimmers must become acclimatised over a period of time in order to cope.
Remember that participation requires Serpentine Swimming Club membership. But a race isn’t a race without spectators, so if you’re in town and fancy a walk, you can watch from a safe (and dry) distance. Wrap up warm and marvel at their swimming endurance.
London Bridge Sheep Drive
No city does quirky historic tradition like London and at the heart of much of these ancient practices is the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, one of London’s oldest Livery companies.
A shepherd/shepherdess is permitted to drive a herd of sheep across a famous London bridge once a year. The drive serves as a way to promote wool as an environmentally-friendly textile, to continue to promote the industry, and to raise money for charity.
The custom commemorates the ancient right to drive sheep across London Bridge. Apparently, sheep farmers would drive their little lambs across London Bridge into the City of London to sell them at market in medieval times. The ancient and honorable rite, which dates back to medieval times, is now only performed for charitable purposes.
Twelfth Night at Bankside is an annual modern New Year celebration involving many ancient elements associated with the season, and is now well established, having run for over 25 years. This event is held on the Bankside by Shakespeare’s Globe, in London and is staged by a group of professional performers, called The Lions Part.
These traditions included the arrival of the Green Man (Holly Man) across the Thames, Wassailing around Bankside, a Mummer’s Play, traditional dancing, and the crowning of King Bean and Queen Pea.
The Holly Man, decked out in greenery, makes his way across the Millennium Bridge, accompanied by Wassailers and mummers who perform a traditional hero/combat play starring St George. Following the performance, cakes are distributed, and those who find the hidden bean and pea in their cakes are crowned King and Queen for the day.
It is a free show, accessible to all and happens whatever the weather.
Don’t be deceived into thinking this is about serious and dull sports, the Chap Olympiad is anything but serious & stuffy sports!
Held annually for the last 15 years, london’s most dapper and least energetic annual sporting event for the elegant and athletically inept, The Chap Olympiad welcomes 1500 eccentric chaps and Stylish debutantes to London’s Bedford Square Gardens.
Organised by the lovely gents at The Chap Magazine and Bourne and Hollingsworth (who specialise in period bars and events), the eccentric festival sees participants in dandy outfits compete in events that require minimal physical exertion.
Enjoy a delightful day of themed sporting events, such as umbrella jousting, French Connection (contestants attempt to knock French cheese off a pole with a baguette), Butler Baiting (a chap take on a three-legged race), and passing the port. There are also live swing bands, country fair side-shows and plenty of dry martinis. Don’t bother turning up in sportswear as guests in lycra, jeans or trainers will not be admitted.The dress code is strictly enforced and calls for ‘elegant finery, military wear, formal wear, or dandy wear.’