Art Night 2019: a sneak peek

‘Whoever saves a life, saves the whole world’. I’m watching Marina Abramović, or her avatar at least, slowly submerge in a tank of water – and I’m powerless to help her. Abramović’s first virtual reality work, Rising (2018) aims to bring home the life-threatening urgency of the climate crisis. I sit next to virtual polar ice caps as they melt, and find myself in a dystopian flooded building much like the one I’m sat in. But witnessing Abramović’s avatar drown is the part that hits me hardest. It’s a powerful piece that demonstrates the potential power of VR to not just imagine worlds, but to change ours for the better too. And its premiere is in a Kings Cross cinema, as part of Art Night 2019.


Art Night is London’s largest free contemporary art festival. Its fourth edition will take place tomorrow night, Saturday 22 June 2019. From 5pm to 3am, over 50 art projects will pop-up in more than 40 venues in Kings Cross and Walthamstow.

Art Night 2019 is in partnership with Waltham Forest Borough of Culture. Read more about their year-long cultural programme in this blog post.


The variety of work is thrilling, including virtual reality, concerts, laughter yoga, street art tours, an art football club cup, a party live streamed from Mexico, and flash mob dancing, as well as paintings, films and installations. There’s even a four hour karaoke version of ‘Stay another day’ by East 17 you’re all welcome to join in with, if you want to test when words become mantras.

Most of the works are one night only, but I’m lucky enough to join a preview tour to see a few of the works and venues. A car filled with payday lender debt explodes across the walls of the Bank Job. It’s no longer a bank but a ‘bang’, part of an art project which cancelled £1.2million of local debt.

Inside the Grade II listed EMD cinema, currently Mirth Marvel and Maud bar and restaurant, hangs one of Emma Talbot’s paintings on silk. It’s a visual poem inspired by the spiritualism of local artist Madge Gill.

Barbara Kruger’s declarative statements take on a slightly sinister tone on the side of Walthamstow Mall. Is it a comment on the groupthink of consumerism, or an invitation to become part of a community, the diverse us which is Walthamstow? Either way, it’s quite a coup for the area, being Kruger’s first outdoor commission in the UK for over 15 years.

It’s not just the artworks which will delight. Traversing the city is part of the Art Night experience, with the trail taking you from cinemas to churches, supermarket car parks to schools. It’s a great way to discover London’s architectural gems too. I was blown away by the beauty of Coal Drops Yard, one of the key Kings Cross venues for Art Night. And I now claim Everyman Kings Cross as my favourite London cinema.

Even if you’ve been to some of these venues before, I think they’ll feel very different during Art Night. I’ve been inside L Manze pie and mash shop during the day and always loved the 1920s interior. But during Art Night the Jellied Eel pop-up cocktail bar will take it over. Something about the evening transforms the space into a warm, intimate, yet convivial space. Of course, I’m sure the decent drink helped too.

Sunday 23 June 2019
And, if for any reason you’re not up for a late one <eyeballs young kids>, you can still enjoy a small selection of Art Night works through the Sunday Trail. Projects open on Sunday include:

  • Creative banner making at Vestry House Museum Family Day (1.30pm-4.00pm)
  • Beth Kettel at Vestry House Playground (12.00-4.00pm)
  • Barbara Kruger at Walthamstow Town Square (12.00-4.00pm)
  • Art Car Boot Sale at Cubitt Square (1.00pm-6.00pm)
  • Open House Families at Gasholders Park (11.00am-4.00pm)

For more information, visit


Along the trail are late opening bars, restaurants, cafes and food markets. Many of them have special offers for Art Night visitors, so wave your programme with pride! I can personally recommend cocktails at Jellied Eel and Mother’s Ruin, and pizza at both Yard Sale Pizza and Sodo.

Art Night 2019’s two festival hubs, Walthamstow and King’s Cross, are only fifteen minutes apart via the Victoria Line. And thanks to the Night Tube, there’s no need to worry about missing the last tube as the line runs 24 hours on the weekend.

If you’re looking for a night filled with surprise and discovery, I think Art Night 2019 will deliver. Even though it’s aimed at adults, I think it’s exactly the sort of experience teenagers love too.

Art Night 2019 runs on Saturday 22 June 2019 from 7pm until 3am, in venues across Kings Cross and Walthamstow. For more information visit Art Night London


Written by Vyki Sparkes AKA Museum Mum. Award-winning culture blogger, content creator, museum curator, podcaster, and mum to three. I’ve worked in museums for 18+ years, have a masters in museum studies, but more importantly, have been letting my kids loose in museums for decades. This blog shares all my hard-earned knowledge and experience.

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