Half term: heaven or hell?
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Another half term, another bumper Muddy Guide, because, as you know, I’m just nice like that. If you’re unencumbered with midgets, or want to do something without teenagers grunting in the background, fear not – there’s plenty of grown-up stuff to do too. Have fun peeps and keep checking back, as I will always add new things as I hear or remember them during the week…
Haven’t managed to make it to Cezanne and the Modern yet at the Ashmolean? It ends on 22 June so now could be the perfect time to give it the time it deserves. Fashion lovers should head off to the British Design Collective at Bicester Village – loads of home-grown talent at knock-down prices, plus Royal Academy of Art is involved this year, selling a selection of limited edition prints from the likes of Gary Hume and Grayson Perry. Medieval Glamping at Warwick Castle starts tomorrow, with ready-to-sleep tents, VIP parking, medieval entertainment (the mind boggles) and 2 day priority entrance. Oxford’s funky old indie cinema the Ultimate Picture Palace has just had brand new seats installed, so park your bum in comfort to watch East of Eden; Locke starring Tom Hardy; or Exhibition Starring Viv Albertine and Tom Hiddleston where two artists sell the home they have loved and lived in for 2 decades. English Wine Week starts on Saturday, so you have the perfect excuse to sample the local vineyards – check out the website for special tasting days.
Fri 23 May
The brilliant Story Museum in central Oxford presents a 7+ evening storytelling event Dark Tales from the Woods about giants, castles, magic spells, shapeshifters and talking animals by Daniel Morden, award-winning author whose show has been described as “Gruesome, fantastical and hypnotic” by The Times. For 11+ kids, the National Theatre in London is putting on just 6 performances (from today until Monday 26 May ) of the massively acclaimed The Animals and Children Took to the Streets which combines live music, storytelling, film and animation. “jaw-droppingly clever”, “mind-blowingly beautiful”, “a perfect show” gush the broadsheets. Northern Ballet dances Three Little Pigs mini-ballet for children at the MK Theatre for 18 month – 5 year olds. The show lasts a manageable 35 mins. There’s also a 1 hour workshop before if you fancy pigging out (see what I did there?).
Sat 24 May
Combine a punt with a pint (of um, wine) at the Cherwell Boathouse which celebrates English Wine Week with wine tastings this week. Nasty Crafty Kids at the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden gives your 5+ kids the chance to get messy and make a greedy character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory using collage. Pre-booking recommended. Get them outdoors at the Cotswold Wildlife Park where their excellent Bird of Prey demonstrations start today and go on until 26 May. Young dancers (10-14 yrs) will love the Northern Ballet workshop at the MK Theatre, inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The session is open to all abilities and includes a basic ballet warm up, workshop and a chance to watch the company class on stage. Super-gorgeous Kew Gardens begins its summer festival, Plantasia, with everything from a barefoot Walk and Tai Chi sessions to a Gin and Tonics Garden (hellooo!), plant family croquet and horticultural displays.
Sun 25 May
Amble quietly in the acclaimed Old Thatch Gardens in Bourne End, which once belonged to Enid Blyton and have tea and cake amongst the flowers. Well behaved kids are tolerated! Broughton Castle near Banbury is perfect for families, and is open today between 2-5pm. Make a day of it at Stowe Landscape Gardens or go to the dark side and check out the bat discovery evening (perfect for your teenage Emo) with night-time walk in the garden with bat detectors. For little ones, Peppa Pig is out and about at Odds Farm, along with the usual tractor and trail rides, sheep racing, and giant indoor playbarn. Heading into London? The critically acclaimed puppet show Skitterbang Island comes to the Little Angel Theatre, a tale of discovery and friendship about a shipwrecked girl and the strange creature she meets in a magical world full of music, song, rhythm and harmony. Billed as the perfect introduction to opera for children and families if that floats your boat. Workshops also available with the show. Like your cars? The Morgan Sports Car Club returns to Waddesdon Manor showing more than 200 British Sports Cars manufactured since 1909. A brand new Morgan Three Wheeler is going to be on display if that means anything to you! Bletchley Park is pulling on its nylons with its 1940s Boutique today, with workshops on how to style your hair and makeup for the war years. If you don’t think your husband will look very good in rollers, just turn up and see the Park itself.
Monday 26 May
Whoo hoo, Bank Holiday! Make the most of it with a visit to Highclere Castle, one of the few days it’s open to the public over the next two months. If it’s sunny and you just can’t be bothered to go anywhere, justify staying at home with your sausages by explaining patiently you’re taking part in National BBQ Week (true!). For those in South Oxon/Bucks, Newbury’s Victoria Park is hop-skip-jump for an inaugural charity free event Jazz in the Park from 12pm.
Tues 27 May
Today is the first of two Fun Days at the acclaimed Horsewyse in Buckinghamshire (the second is this Thursday), where kids can ride, play games, and learn new skills in supersafe surroundings. 10am-3pm, £40. From today until 30 May, Blenheim Palace runs its popular Activity Days for kids 7-16 years, where they can try all kinds of outdoor sports and skills (including fish gutting!). Love the sound of Games in the Attic! at the National Trust-run Upton Park – basically a great excuse to get the tiddlywinks out. Theatre wise, try 1001 Nights at the North Wall Theatre in Oxford for kids 6+, nominated for an Off West End Award for Best Production for Young People. The RSPB rock up to Waddesdon today for the first of two RSPB wildlife days, where kids do lots of birdy and insecty things and taunt you with the minibeasts they dig up (or something).
Wed 28 May
NEW! Lego construction day 28th May 10-4.30pm at High Wycombe Waterstones for Master Builders. Prizes and no doubt ‘Everything is Awesome’ played on-loop! A second day of birds, insects and mini beasts courtesy of the RSPB at Waddesdon Manor. Amble quietly in the acclaimed Old Thatch Gardens in Bourne End, which once belonged to Enid Blyton and have tea and cake amongst the flowers. Well behaved kids are tolerated! Broughton Castle near Banbury is perfect for families, and is open today between 2-5pm. At the Whitechapel Gallery in London’s E1, kids 9-12 can take part in a groovy sounding day art course (£29) where they get to make their own documentary exploring moving images and stills, video games and music, words and storytelling. Meanwhile back in Bucks, the Roald Dahl Museum is holding its own art event for a more modest £2.50, for kids 5+ with Factory Frights, where kids can learn monoprinting.
Thurs 29 May
The brilliant Horsewyse charity and riding school in Buckinghamshire holds its last Fun Day for kids, which includes riding, playing, nature walks and other cool stuff. 10am-3pm, £40 for the day. See life from up high with the Springtime Tree Climbing at Cliveden. The usual zip wires, rope swings, canopy swaying stuff from the Big Tree Climbing Company, available today and tomorrow. For the grown ups, Open Air Cinema returns to Oxford from today – kick back and enjoy a film in your choice of a deckchair or bean bag, and a drink expertly made by the cocktail kings at Milk. Today’s film is Pan’s Labyrinth, 30 May Withnail & I, 31 May Dirty Dancing, 1 June Kill Bill). Enjoy your food – a lot? Journo and food critic Jay Rayner comes to Chipping Norton Theatre for a one-man show A Greedy Man in a Hungry World, about the international edible landscape, and the promotional blurb promises it will change the way you shop, cook and eat forever. Time to stop frying that Mars bar then.
Friday 30 May
The utterly brilliant Nigel Kennedy brings out his fiddle at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre tonight, but if you can’t make this performance, he’s also at the New Theatre Oxford on 3 June. I’ve seen him twice and he’s incredibly charismatic so try to get tickets! Liking the sound of Wot? No Fish!! at The North Wall, Oxford, a one-man show that drew acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival in 2013, and stars Danny Braverman as he tells the true story of how he found the lost comics drawn every week by his uncle for his aunt, detailing their life together.