• What to know

    Tucked away in Kensington is one of London's many secrets: Leighton House, currently showing A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón Collection.

    From the street, Leighton House seems like a rather plain Italian palazzo. But once inside, the romantic vision that leading Victorian artist Frederick Leighton had for his home and studio, is laid bare. Building began in 1864 and on the ground floor, the 'Arab Hall' is filled with C15th and C16th tiles from Damascus, up the stairs to the elegant 'Silk Room', then through to the artist's studio with a huge north facing window overlooking a large leafy garden. And despite the many entertaining rooms, Leighton unusually felt the need for just one tiny bedroom with a single bed. 

    Mr Pérez Simón began collecting Victorian art in the 1970s, when the period was rather out of favour. He has amassed over 3000 museum quality works, and has the largest collection of Victorian masterpieces outside of the UK, including Frederick Leighton's Crenaia, the nymph of Dargle, Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Venus Verticordia and Lawrence Alma-Tadema's The Roses of Heliogabalus. It's the latter painting that proves the hero of the show; the paint so meticulously applied to create the illusion of marble, fruit and water gushing from a fountain. But also because the overwhelmingly beautiful mass of pink and white rose petals in fact disguises a scene of dark depravity, as Heliogabalus and his bored guests watch on as the figures at the front of the painting drown amongst the blooms for the onlookers pleasure.

    The last time this picture was exhibited in London was 1913. Seize this rare opportunity to view it at splendid Leighton House.


    A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón collection at Leighton House Museum

    Until 29th March 2015

    Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road, London W14 8LZ

    Leighton House Museum offers all Vanity Fair A-List subscribers the chance to win one of three pairs of tickets for an out of hours experience of A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón Collection at Leighton House Museum at 6pm followed by a special screening of Effie Gray in Leighton's studio, a room frequented by Effie Gray herself, her husband and art critic John Ruskin and Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais. Monday 8th December at 6.30pm. 

    Don't miss out on future offers,   sign up to the A-List.

  • What to see

    Memphis is a girl meets boy story done right. Enter Huey Calhoun (Killian Donnelly) with his deep-fried wit and charm, an out of work radio DJ who knows a star when he sees one. And see one he does - Felicia Farrell (the indefatigable Beverley Knight) - at an underground nightclub in 1950s Tennessee. Together they rise up, come crashing down, combat racism, segregation and abuse, fall in love and bend the system until it all but breaks.

    Inspired by true events from the stealthy club scene of the 50s and the rampant racism in the South, Memphis was a smash hit in the US, winning four Tony awards when it opened in 2010, before opening in London.

    With an original score by Grammy-award-winning David Bryan (a founding member of Bon Jovi's band), it's all about that deep soul music and the effervescent choreography - arms and legs that swing back and forth like the hands of a clock. And you won't miss the costumes, designed by four-time Tony nominated Paul Tazewell. Nothing says West End musical like a litany of sequins dancing across the stage.

    By Bridget Arsenault


  • What to do

    S. J. Watson was 40 years old and working for the NHS with hearing-impaired children when he got the idea for Before I Go To Sleep. He wrote the bulk of it while on a "Writing a Novel" course at the Faber Academy. Thanks to the big-budget film recently released, we now see Nicole Kidman when we picture Christine, Colin Firth for Ben and Mark Strong for Dr Nasch. And we're not the only ones conjuring those visuals, as it's been sold in 42 different countries and translated into 40 different languages.

    So now you're armed with the necessary artillery to understand the thrill of the world premiere of S. J. Watson's forthcoming novel Second Life, when he reads at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel on 24th November, as part of Damian Barr's Literary Salon's year-long residence. The hotel has a potent literary history - when under its previous guise as the Midland Grand Hotel it was a favourite of Charles Dickens - and more recently the Salon has been helping the hotel flex its literary muscles with participants including David Nicholls, Lynn Barber, Diana Athill and David Mitchell.

    But one debut simply wouldn't be enough. The Literary Salon will also see Chris Cleave read from his new novel (so fresh it remains untitled) and Clare Balding will be ruminating on her memoir Walking Home.

    Held in the hotel's former reading room and now the Ladies Smoking Room - the first public room in Europe where ladies could light up - doors open at 6pm for cocktails before the readings at 7pm. And stay afterwards for a Yorkshire Wagyu Beef Burger and a few glasses of champagne punch at the Booking Office (the barman tips an entire bottle of Veuve Clicquot into your punch bowl) or enjoy brasserie food recalibrated at The Gilbert Scott restaurant where you'll be in the gifted hands of Marcus Wareing. 


    By Bridget Arsenault

    St Pancras Renaissance Hotel offers all Vanity Fair A-List members the chance to win a pair of tickets to Damian Barr's Literary Salon on Monday 24th November, along with dinner for two at the Booking Office and a night's stay for two including breakfast all at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (valued at £750). 

    Don't miss out on future offers,  sign up to the A-List.