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A bitter row over the existing skatepark has forced the centre to delay its £120m overhaul

Britten Sinfonia/Padmore, Queen Elizabeth Hall

What is Englishness in music? The young string players of the Britten Sinfonia don’t pose the question explicitly in their current touring programme, but it’s hovering in the surrounding ether.

Festival of Britain returns to London's Southbank

London's Southbank is to be transformed with a modern restaging of the Festival of Britain to mark the event's 60th anniversary, with contributions from Tracey Emin, Ray Davies and Heston Blumenthal.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Pierre-Laurent Aimard may be 53, but he still comes across like the miraculous child he was when Messiaen made him his adoptive son.

London Philharmonic Orchestra / Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

As if it wasn’t enough to open a new London Philharmonic season with a simply tremendous performance of Mahler's 3rd Symphony, Vladimir Jurowski could not resist adding a preface. And the music he chose not only reminded us of the intriguing connection with Mahler's younger contemporary, Alexander Zemlinsky, in that both men loved the same woman, Alma Schindler, it also looked at life, love, and destiny from an obliquely different perspective.

Ernesto Neto, Hayward Gallery, London

Festival Brazil kicks off on the South Bank with Ernesto Neto's dazzling playground for adults. Art shouldn't be this much fun...

Brazilian triangle: three historical capitals

As a festival showcasing South America's biggest country arrives at the South Bank in London, we celebrate Brazil's three historic capitals

Paolo Nutini, Royal Festival Hall, London

By the time Paolo Nutini swoops into "High Hopes", the third song of a rousing and beautifully chaotic evening, it's clear that any sense of decorum that the Royal Festival Hall exerts is hanging by a thread: nervous stewards (and bizarrely, or not, depending on how hard you care to think about it, ushers with mops), shepherd grinning, swooning dancers back to their seats.

Brazil! Brazil!Southbank Centre, London

Note the spelling: it may be written "Brasil" on the cast's football strips, but this show wants to explain its country to a British audience. Different numbers introduce ideas of Brazilian dance, music and football, with a laddish emphasis on the fighting origins of the dance capoeira and on the importance of the beautiful game. A large section of the audience, on this evidence, is keen for the men to take their shirts off. Both sides get what they want, in a cheerful and sometimes chaotic show.

Scour museum gift shops for divine designs

They may not be the first place you think to look while shopping for the best in contemporary design, but – as these original and quirky pieces show – museum shops are about much more than postcards and erasers

Cedric Tiberghien, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Clean-limbed, shining-eyed Cedric Tiberghien, 35, still comes across like the miraculous child he was when he won the Paris Conservatoire’s Premier Prix at seventeen, and his approach to the piano still has a vernal innocence.

Best of '09: Ed Ruscha, 50 Years of Painting, Hayward Gallery, London

Larry Ryan on the Ed Ruscha retrospective at the Hayward Gallery. Plus: nominate your favourite cultural moments of the year.

Robert Glasper with Bilal and Stonephace, Southbank Centre, London

You get the feeling that this evening was an attempt to be ‘hip’. If this was the case it limped in the awkward way the person who did the bill might have said it, or need a new one at least.

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Nezet-Seguin, Queen Elizabeth Hall

The biggest “surprise” of this splendid Haydn bicentennial celebration turned out to be the earlier start time. The rude fortissimo chord which gives Symphony No 94 its nickname was sounding on TV monitors throughout the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer as this commentator arrived in good time for a 7.30 start. But even the tinny sound and poor image of the latecomers monitor gave one an immediate sense of the charm and exuberance that conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin was already eliciting from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. And there would be plenty of surprises where that first one came from.

Handel Remixed, Barbican Hall, London<br/>The Bernstein Project, Royal Festival Hall, London<br/>The Damnation of Faust, Barbican Hall, London

Take five composers, think 'bland and commercial', cut and paste a few bars, and call it an anniversary tribute? How depressing

Ornette Coleman, Meltdown Festival, Southbank Centre, London

Ambling onstage in sparkly silver suit and lime-green shirt, Ornette Coleman displays the disregard for prevailing tastes and fashions that has shocked jazz fans for half a century and more. Okay, inventing Free Jazz was one thing – but lime green and silver? What kind of way is this for a man on the cusp of 80 to dress?

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'