Soldiers of African and Caribbean descent who fought for the British Empire in the 19th century as part of the West India Regiments are the subject of a new display at the Museum of London Docklands. Fighting for Empire: From Slavery to Military Service in the West India Regiments focuses particularly on the story of Private Samuel Hodge, the first soldier of African-Caribbean descent to receive the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour. Central to the display in the museum’s ‘London, Sugar & Slavery’ gallery, is Louis William Desanges’ painting, The Capture of the Tubabakolong, Gambia 1866 (pictured above), which gives greater prevalence to the British commanding officer Colonel George D’Arcy than to Hodge and which was never displayed with Desanges’ other military paintings in the Victoria Cross Gallery at the Crystal Palace in the 1870s. The exhibition also includes prints, ephemera and maps. Runs until 9th September next year. Admission is free. Meanwhile, this weekend the museum is hosting a Maritime Music Festival celebrating the Docklands’ proud maritime heritage. The festival offers the opportunity to try your hand at a poetry rhyming session, learn knot tying skills and listen to sea shanty crews performing. The festival runs from noon to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands.

An English Heritage Blue Plaque has been unveiled at the former South Kensington home of artist Francis Bacon. Bacon moved to the converted Victorian coach house at 7 Reece Mews in 1961. He kept a studio on the first floor and lived at the property, described as “insanely eccentric”, until his death in 1992. Among significant works he completed there was his first large-scale triptych, Three Studies for a Crucifixion, in 1962 as well as portraits including his 1966 work Portrait of George Dyer Talking. Six years after Bacon’s death in 1992, his studio and its entire contents – including the walls, doors, floor and ceiling – were removed and recreated in The Hugh Lane Gallery in the city of his birth, Dublin. The property is today in the care of  The Estate of Francis Bacon. Meanwhile, another Blue Plaque was unveiled this week, this time commemorating Sister Nivedita. She was one of the most influential female figures in India, an Indian independence campaigner and someone who helped introduce Hindu philosophies to a western audience. The plaque can be found at 21A High Street in Wimbledon, where Nivedita stayed with Swami Vivekananda in 1899. For more on Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

The first UK exhibition dedicated to the works Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela has opened at The National Gallery. Lake Keitele: A Vision of Finland centres on the work titled Lake Keitele which, acquired by the gallery in 1999, is one of four versions, all of which have been reunited for the first time in the UK in this display. They are some of the dozen or so works in the exhibition which spans 30 years of Gallen-Kallela’s career. The free show, which can be seen in Room 1 until 4th February, marks the centenary of Finland’s independence. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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Bompas-&-Parr-with-pineapplesKew Gardens is all about food this summer and autumn with the launch of IncrEdibles: A Festival to Feed the Imagination this Sunday. Visitors are being encouraged to take part in a range of food-related activities including taking a fruit-shaped boat on the Palm House Pond around a floating pineapple island (the Tutti Frutti Boating Lake has been designed by “culinary creators” Bompas & Parr – pictured right), checking out a ‘global gastronomic garden’ featuring more than 90 edible plants on the Great Lawn, and listening to volunteer guides in the Palm House discussing how many of our foods have their origins in the rainforest. The festival also features a range of talks, tours and tastings and you can sample some special foods at the onsite eateries. The festival runs until 3rd November. For more, see www.kew.org. PICTURE: Bompas & Parr

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II standing on the Cosmati pavement in Westminster Abbey will go on public display for the first time this afternoon at the abbey as part of the celebrations surrounding the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. The Coronation Theatre: Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, is the work of Australian-born, London-based artist Ralph Heimans and has been acquired by the abbey for its collection. The painting, which was officially unveiled in London for the Diamond Jubilee last year, was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra until the end of March. The painting can be viewed in the chapter house at the abbey from 2pm today and will remain on display until 27th September. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org.

A blue plaque commemorating late comic duo Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise has been unveiled at the Teddington Studios in west London. The Heritage Foundation plaque was reportedly unveiled by Morecambe’s widow Joan and daughter Gail. Teddington’s Studio One was where the last four series of the duo’s show were produced.

On Now: Francis Goodman: Back in Focus. This display at the National Portrait Gallery features more than 40 black and white photographs spanning the career of fashion and society photographer Francis Goodman (1913-1989), from the 1930s to the 1970s and includes portraits of the likes of artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud as well as writers including Noel Coward and Nancy Mitford. The exhibition runs until 3rd November. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

The second annual Camellia Festival kicks off in  gardens surrounding the neo-Palladian property, Chiswick House,  in west London this weekend. The month long festival, run by the Chiswick House & Gardens Trust, was kicked off in 2011 with the aim of showcasing Chiswick’s world renowned Camellia Collection, believed to be the largest in the Western world. Following the success of last year’s festival following a £12.1 million garden restoration project, the flowers will once again be on display in the Conservatory (designed by Samuel Ware in 1813). Complementing the display of camellias will be a showcase of early spring flowers planted in the newly restored Italian Garden (originally created for the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1814, it was, at the time, at the forefront of horticultural fashion). The Camellia Collection, meanwhile, includes rare and historically significant plants featuring pink, red, white and striped blooms, many of which are descended from the original planting in 1828. Among them is the Middlemist’s Red which was originally brought to Britain from China in 1804 by John Middlemist, a nurseryman from Shepherds Bush. It is one of only two in the world known to exist (the other is in Waitangi in New Zealand). The festival runs from the 18th February to the 18th March.  Admission charge applies. For more information, see www.chgt.org.uk. PICTURE:  The Middlemist’s Red Camellia at Chiswick House © Clare Kendall.

• On Now: Picasso and Modern British Art. This exhibition at Tate Britain explores the influence of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso on British art and the role this played in the acceptance of modern art in Britain as well as celebrating the connections Picasso made with Britain following his first London visit in 1919. It features more than 150 works including 60 by Picasso, among them Weeping Woman and The Three Dancers, as well as works by the likes of Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and David Hockney. Runs until 15th July. Admission charge applies. For more information, see www.tate.org.uk

On Now: Mondrian || Nicholson in Parallel. This show at the Courtauld Gallery tells the story of the extraordinary relationship between celebrated 20th century painter Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson, one of the UK’s greatest modern artists. The exhibition will follow the parallel artistic paths taken by the two artists in the 1930s and their subsequent creative relationship. Each of the works selected for the exhibition have a particular historical significance and the presentation also includes archival material such as photographs and letters. Admission charge applies. For more information, see www.courtauld.ac.uk.

• Epping Forest’s historic Butler’s Retreat has reopened its doors as a cafe following a refurbishment project to restore the building to its former glory. The building was constructed in the 19th century and is one of the last remaining Victorian-era ‘retreats’ within the forest. Named for its 1891 occupier, John Butler, it was one of a number of retreats built to serve refreshments as part of the Temperance movement – said to have been “extremely popular” with visitors from the East End. The building, which now forms part of the Epping Forest visitor hub, is expected to host a range of events this summer and will have its opening hours extended with the slated opening of a restaurant upstairs in the evenings. Owned by the City of London, Epping Forest is the largest public open space in the London area, stretching across 12 miles from Manor Park in East London to a spot past Epping in Essex. The cafe, the refurbishment of which was carried out with funding provided via the Heritage Lottery’s Branching Out project, will be open from 9am to 5pm weekdays and 8am to 5pm weekends. For more on the cafe, see www.worldslarder.co.uk. For more on Epping Forest, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/eppingforest

• On Now – Designs of the Year Exhibition: The London Olympic Torch and the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress are among 90 objects nominated as one of the “best designs in the world” in this year’s Design of the Year competition. The objects, which go on display at the Design Museum today, have been entered in seven categories – architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport – with winners to be announced on 24th April. Among the other objects nominated are a wind-propelled landmine detector, a pop-up cinema in Hackney, the London 2012 velodrome and the first Tesco virtual store. An admission charge applies for the exhibition which runs until 15th July.  For more information, see designsoftheyear.com.

On Now – Lucian Freud Portraits. The last work of the late artist Lucian Freud is on show for the first time in this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The unfinished painting, Portrait of the Hound 2011, which depicts Freud’s assistant assistant David Dawson and his dog Eli, is a highlight of the exhibition which also includes works dating back as far as the 1940s. The 130 paintings and works on paper – which feature sitters including artists Francis Bacon and David Hockney along with the likes of Andrew Parker Bowles and Baron Rothschild – have been loaned from museums and private collections around the world. Runs until 27th May, 2012. Admission charge applies. See www.npg.org.uk.