The best places to celebrate St David’s Day in London

The capital has plenty on offer to celebrate Wales’s national day

As LondonlovesBusiness.com’s resident half-Welsh boyo, I have taken it upon myself to find out what is happening in the capital to celebrate St David’s Day on Saturday March 1.

Despite London being the beating heart of England, Wales’s favourite enemy, there’s more going on than you might imagine in honour of St David’s day. In fact, the capital has a surprisingly rich history of involvement in the celebrations, though not all of it on the supportive side. Indeed, in the 17th century, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary how the Welsh celebrations sparked counter-celebrations in London in which life-sized effigies of figures in traditional Welsh clothing were symbolically lynched.

Hopefully we’ll see less of that, and more of the sort of sentiments St David would have advocated.

Saint David himself was an illustrious 5th century teacher and preacher who reputedly lived to be over a hundred years old. He shot to international stardom (or the fifth century equivalent) during his lifetime after a “miracle” in which the ground he stood on rose up to form a small hill beneath him during a sermon he was giving to a crowd in west Wales.

Welsh historian John Davies has wryly pointed out that one can “scarcely conceive of any miracle more superfluous” in that part of Wales than the creation of a new hill. Nonetheless, St. David’s legacy prevailed, and here we are.

So pin your leek to your jacket, crank up the Tom Jones, and let’s take a look at some of the options:

Fortnum & Mason

The good folk at Fortnum & Mason always lead the way in spotting opportunities for celebrations, and they’re not going to miss a trick with the Welsh national day. This year, the famous Piccadilly shopping Mecca will be hosting a St David’s Day food market on Friday and Saturday.

Not only will the finest Welsh fare be on offer, but live harp music will serenade shoppers as they stroll amongst abundant golden daffodils that will decorate the ground floor. This is also a good opportunity to get your hands on a bottle of Penderyn – Wales’s only single malt whisky.

Hwyl – Green Man

It may sound like a dry heave, but Hwyl means “fun” in Welsh. This weekend the festival organisers behind the Green Man festival, which takes place every summer in Brecon, are bringing their brand of fun to Cecil Sharp House in London for a “magical night of Welsh merriment”.

Expect live music from Welsh musicians, as well as “lip smacking Welsh ales, intoxicating ciders, and hearty local grub.”  

St David’s festival at London Welsh Centre

As you’d expect, the London Welsh centre isn’t doing St David’s Day by halves. As well as an entire week of beer on offer from Welsh brewer Brains, the centre is putting on live music with Welsh choirs, and a chap from Only Men Aloud.

The LWC is also running its 10th annual guided walk “in the medium of English”, which will take punters on a tour beginning at Tower hill and ending at Bank, during which they can hear about Welsh prisoners in the Tower of London and executions, “some American connections”, Welsh abolitionists and many more.

The St David’s Day in London annual dinner

Since 1904, the Welsh community in London has held an annual dinner in London. Previous speakers at the dinner include Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan and Princess Anne. This year, Professor Dai Smith, the chair of the Arts Council of Wales, a historian and novelist will be speaking, and there will also be live music. This year’s dinner is taking place at the Royal College of Surgeons at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Wales itself

The magical land of Wales lies a mere 120 miles away from London. Trains from Paddington can whisk you out of the Smoke and straight into Cardiff in just two hours. Throw yourself into the festivities in the Welsh capital, where Welsh mega-stars Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey are set to make guest appearances during the annual St David’s Day parade and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales are playing a special gala concert at St David’s Hall.

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