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The best local culture picks this autumn

My god I love Autumn. The kids are back at school, it's game on for clothes shopping, and best of all, it's a culture-vulture paradise, with loads of cool stuff to see across Bucks & Oxon. Ready with your red marker? Then let's get planning.


Opera fans will no doubt be aware that the awesome Welsh National Opera is coming to Oxford this November with its productions of Verdi’s RigolettoBizet’s Carmen and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (tickets from £13). And for those with a ear for cello music, take note: superstar cellist (and 2016’s Young Musician of the Year, no less) Sheku Kannek-Mason will be performing at Oxford Town Hall on 2 November (tickets from £15) with a recital of Mendelssohn and Rossini’s major works, among other. Keen to get the kids on board with the classical vibe? Well, look no further than Bugs!! FUNomusica Family Concert at the same venue on Sunday 29 September, where invertebrates from the jungle to the garden are explored through the medium of music. Want more? There’s also Peter and the Wolf, at Aylesbury Waterside Second Space, on Sunday 27 October, with tickets starting at £12.65.

Also on our musical speed dial is the number for Oxford Academy, because look at this line-up: the pastel clad, Elder Island trio, above, bring their cool electronica sound from Bristol’s creative scene to the venue (11 November), Professor Green is getting the UK up to date with his Matters of the Heart tour (16 November, tickets from £21.60), deep electronica seven-piece Submotion Orchestra will no doubt enchant on 26 September (tickets from £17.65), spoken word artist Kate Tempest is performing off the back of her latest release The Book of Traps and Lessons (14 Oct; £25.50), Scouting for Girls are touring their new album The Trouble With Boys and arriving in Oxford on 18 November (£28.90) while Leeds-based Gentlemen’s Dub Club are bringing their unique ska and reggae fusion to the city on Friday 6 December, tickets start at £21.60.


If you’re a fan of books, or indeed a fan of people talking about books, there could be worse places for you to wind up than one of the region’s rather impressive literary festivals. Let’s talk the Cliveden Literary Festival (28-29 September), for instance; the illustrious names strolling along the manicured parterre include Ian McEwan, Howard Jacobsen, Helen Fielding, Robert Harris, Tina Brown, Kate Mosse and everyone’s favourite particle physicist, Brian Cox. Tickets for the weekend come in at a very reasonable £175 and refreshments from Bey Roots Lebanese street food and Veuve Clicquot make the whole proposition highly desirable.

The MK Literary Festival (18-22 September) while considerably less expensive (£30 for a day ticket, while there are a limited number of free tickets for 16-25 year-olds) still boasts some remarkable guests; Carrie Gracie, the BBC China Editor who resigned over the gender pay gap is discussing her new book Equal while Jack Monroe is going to talking about her new book Tin Can Cook, teaching us how to make the most of those borlotti beans gathering dust in the cupboard.

Last year’s lit salon

Then, of course, there’s Muddy’s particular favourite; the Henley Literary Festival (28 September – 6 October). There’s simply too much going on to list but we might just find time to mention that we’re hosting the Muddy Book Club on Saturday 5 October at 8.30pm at Phyllis Court – sorry, shall we shout that a bit louder? THE MUDDY BOOK CLUB, we’re back! We have amazeballs guests – Celebrity Masterchef champion Lisa Faulkner, former ELLE editor Lotte Jeffs and journalist turned author Ella Dove. We will be there. There will be Prosecco. It’s £12 well spent.

Still up for more book action? Well, don’t overlook Thame Arts and Literature Festival (17-20 October) and Wantage Literary Festival (26 October – 2 November). That’s enough to keep you going until the Christmas markets appear.



Kiki Smith, Sky, 2012. Jacquard tapestry ©Kiki Smith. Courtesy Timothy Taylor, London/New York and Magnolia Editions

In Oxford’s Museum of Modern Art, a Kiki Smith show ‘I am Wanderer’ (28 September – 19 January 2020) promises to take visitors on a mythological and folkloric journey in her huge tapestries to her exquisitely-fashioned gold shells.

The Ashmolean is always worth an hour of anyone’s time and its current exhibition ‘Last Supper in Pompeii’ (on until 12 January 2020) promises to keep visitors wandering the ornate galleries longer than usual. The 400 plus exhibits from the ancient Roman site buried by the enormous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD has, not surprisingly, picked up a tally of astonishing reviews.

Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan is taking residence at Blenheim Palace between 12 September and 27 October. You may want to book a three-minute slot to see his piece ‘America’ – an 18-karat gold toilet, which will be hidden inside the palace. Over 100,000 people queued at New York’s Guggenheim to see it in 2016.

And if beautiful, shiny objects are your thing, a trip to Waddesdon Manor might be in order as a new permanent gallery has opened dedicated to displaying the extraordinary collections of the Rothschild family, including jewellery gifted from Queen Victoria.

But if the rock stars of the art world are more your thing… Emin, Hockney, Banksy, Hirst… you need to carve out a weekend at the Fresh:Art Fair  at Ascot Racecourse. Some of the best galleries (Muddy Award-winning ones too) in the UK and Ireland, will bring more than 6,000 pieces, many priced from £500 to £5,000, including the likes of the Carina Haslam gallery in Great Missenden, Kingfisher Art in Woodstock and Burford’s Wren Fine Art (20 – 22 Sept).

And closer to home, a brand new arts festival is coming to Chipping Norton on 5 October. Created by CNArts, a network of Chippy-based local artists and arts professionals, Chipping Norton Arts Festival will have the theme of ‘Connect’ and celebrate creativity and visual arts in the area with free workshops, theatre, screenings, talks and more held in venues across the town. The festival’s headliner is a major installation, Of All The People In All The World, created by renowned arts group Stan’s Café in the Town Hall. The piece has never before been seen in Oxfordshire, and uses grains of rice to bring abstract stats about the world to life.


Question: who doesn’t want to see Louise knocking out some Dolly Parton classics? Precisely. So do yourself a favour and book yourself in to see 9 to 5 The Musical and the Milton Keynes Theatre between 24 and 28 September. Tickets start from just £13. But if you want something a touch more child-friendly, Madagascar the Musical is on at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from 19-22 September (from £13), and like the smash-hit film, follows members of a New York zoo as they make their way to the eponymous African island.

Relive the summer of ’59 and see Grease the Musical at the New Theatre Oxford (1-5 October – tickets from £13): perfect fodder for a night out with your squad. But if you’re in the market for something a little more sobering and yet ultimately uplifting, The Lovely Bones at Oxford Playhouse (11-16 November – tickets from £10) is an adaptation of Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel, and a coming-of-age story, with quite a big twist.


Ha ha, funny 

There is plenty to laugh about in the coming few weeks, but most notably, we recommend getting tickets for Stephen Fry’s latest project, Mythos, a trilogy of plays about Greek mythology. Not your usual thing? Perhaps not, but with Fry’s unique delivery and wit, it’s being sold as ‘laugh-out-loud funny’. So get yourself down to the New Theatre, Oxford between 19-21 September. Tickets start at £49.15.

The living legend that is Margaret Atwood is arriving on our shores too, to talk through The Testaments, her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and discuss Gilead in all it’s too-close-to-real-life-to-be-comfortable glory. She’ll be on a short UK tour and there are still tickets left (from £11.90) at the New Theatre, Oxford, on 30 October.

Talking of living legends, Bill Bryson is discussing his latest subject of interest, on the back of his soon-to-be-published book, The Body: A Guide for Occupants. On 12 October, he, too, will be on stage at Oxford’s New Theatre (tickets from £39.40) regaling the audience with his ‘observations on life and the human body’. Catch him while you can.

Adam Kay is touring the show of his bestselling book, This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, which incidentally, sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Expect an insightful evening of stand-up and music. But it’s one night only – 9 October – so be quick. Tickets from £24.

And then there’s the big-name comedians touring new material. Frank Skinner, no less, is back in the game and appearing at the New Theatre, Oxford on 25 September and Milton Keynes Theatre on 20 October (from £29). Not surprisingly, it’s not recommended for children under 14. You have been warned.

Rob Beckett, or the Mouth from the South as he’s so charmingly known, is also doing the rounds with a new set entitled ‘Wallop’ and it’s easily worth the £27.15 ticket price; Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on 6 October and New Theatre Oxford on the 20 October. Likewise, Josh Widdicombe’s new show ‘Bit Much’ (tickets – from £24.15) will be performed at the New Theatre, Oxford, on 31 October.



Latimer House, Bucks

The Chiltern Heritage Festival (21 September – 6 October) gives you all the opportunity you could ever want to finally get a glimpse of the region’s grand private houses, local museum’s stored-away archives and beautiful ancient woodlands. In it’s second year, the festival allows local businesses, tourist attractions and stately homes to open their doors and is an opportunity for Chiltern occupants to celebrate the area’s incredible history. We’re keen to visit the gorgeous Latimer House, in Bucks, on 1 or 4 October (from £32), the Roald Dahl Museum’s Archive Tour, Afternoon Tea on 22 September (from £12.50) and put us down for the private tour and tasting at Daws Hill Vineyard on 26 September (from £16).


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