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What’s On: The Muddy Guide (Thurs 22 – Weds 28 Sept)

Henley Literary Festival, Mon 26 Sept – 2 Oct 2016



Into its tenth year, the Henley Literary Festival is one of Oxfordshire’s most bijou literary festivals, with over 150 events this year including writers from comedy, cookery, politics and music. Catch the likes of Robert Harris, Fay Weldon and Victoria Hislop Ben Miller and Nadiya Hussain, plus over 50 events for kids and families from Julian Clary, Tiger Who Came to Tea creator Judith Kerr, plus special Harry Potter and Roald Dahl events in the lovely surroundings of Stonor Park.

Stonor Park, Stonor, Henley-on-Thames,

UPP opens again, Jeune St, Oxford, Fri 23 Sept


Whooppee! My favourite indie cinema reopens tomorrow in Oxford after its summer spruce, with two brilliant films, both of which I’m dying to see – Almodovar’s Julieta and Brady Corbet’s audacious, dark debut The Childhood of a Leader starring Robert Pattinson and Bérénice Bejo, chronicling the childhood of a fascist leader in the period immediately following World War One. Yeah, a bit of light comedy for you there on your Friday night! But it is supposed to be brilliant.

The Spin Club, The Wheatsheaf, Oxford, Thurs 22 Sept

Spin Club

Oxford’s brilliant jazz club has been closed for summer but today is the first gig of Autumn with Time Is of the Essence in action. The club has been going 18 years and in 2012 was voted Best UK Live Jazz in the prestigious Parliamentary Jazz Awards, and has been shortlisted a further four times as one of the top three jazz clubs in Britain. It’s a bit grungy to be sure, but very welcoming and they get some amazing musicians at this place – I saw Nigel Kennedy playing Hendrix on an electric violin last time I was there. The always witty write up on the Spin website describes tonight’s gig as ‘felonious funk combined with seriously sensuous jazz styling’ and who are we to argue?!

Dinner at the Twits, The Vaults, London, now to 30 Oct

Can’t quite imagine the Roald Dah Museum putting this event on, though wouldn’t it be fun? Les Enfants Terribles theatre company and ebp, the creators of the Olivier Award nominated Alice’s Adventures Underground  have created an event around The Twits specifically for adults. You can join Mr & Mrs Twit in their windowless house and revolting garden, fish the glass eye from your prickly cocktail aperatif, unt for concealed canapes and gruesome hors d’oeuvres, and then brave a baroque bird pie banquet and potentially perilous pudding, served with ½ bottle of wine or non-alcoholic drinks, all whilst experiencing 90 minutes of entertainment from the worst hosts ever. Bompas & Parr and the creative wranglers at Creature of London are also in on what The Stage calls ‘fittingly grotesque’ fun.

The Vaults, Leake St, London SE1,

Write on Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens, Thurs 22 – Sun 25 Sept


Another literary festival, we’re a nation obsessed! Four days of talks and events with over 70 events with a stellar list of speakers from Carol ann Duffy (above), Monty Don, Michael Rosen, Horrid Henry creator Francesca Simon, Rose Tremain and Marian Keyes. Plus you can catch actors Brian Blessed, Tony Robinson and Ben Miller, and politicians Nick Clegg and Alan Johnson. Better take your autograph book, you’re going to need it.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond,

Oxford Coffee Concerts, The Atéa Quintet, Holywell Music Rooms, Sun 25 Sept


I’ve been yakking on about these concerts for ages – have you been to one yet?! Sunday mornings are a gorgeous time to visit Oxford, when the city hasn’t quite woken up and feels peaceful and quiet. These Coffee Concerts are held most Sundays at the Holywell Music Rooms (the oldest purpose built concert hall in Europe doncha know) so you can set yourself up with a coffee at the Missing Bean around the corner (Muddy tip for the best beans in Oxford) before enjoying a bit of Sunday morning culture. This weekend the Atéa Quintet play – the wind ensemble are double winners at 2015 Karl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition in Denmark and Ensemble in Residence at the Birmingham Conservatoire, so you know, they’re quite good!  The programme includes Debussy, Mower and Zemlinksy if you fancy it.

Holywell Music Rooms, Holywell St, Oxford,

Tighten Up, Clayton’s Marlow, Sat 24 Sept

Clayton’s Marlow continues its habit of hipstering up Marlow with this free night of northern soul, motown, rare groove and modern soul. Vinyl only kids, none of this digital rubbish, so get down with the cool dads! 9pm-2am

Very Last Chance to See Storms, War and Shipwrecks, Ashmolean, closes Sun 25 Sept 

It’s the last few days to catch this crowd-pleasing exhibition at the Ashmolean –  interesting for adults, hands-on for kids, in depth enough to be worth the entrance fee (£11 adults, £5.50 children 12-17 years) but a very doable for children, with four rooms of artefacts brought up from the bottom of the sea around the Southern Italian island.

The premise of the exhibition is the political, geographical and cultural importance of Sicily over the last 2500 years, and the 200-strong exhibition focuses on objects rescued from the bottom of the sea over the last Sixty years, from chance finds to excavated shipwrecks including pieces from an incredible ‘flat pack’ church, prefabricated marble elements of basilica that sank en route to mainland Italy and bronze battering rams once mounted on the prows of Roman warships.

Click here for my review and catch the exhibition while you can.

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Sea runs until 25 Sept 2016.

Music from the time of Shakespeare, Windsor Castle, Fri 23 Sept

I know you only usually go to Windsor Castle when the royals ask you over for an afternoon cuppa, but this concert, in collaboration with The Royal College of Music sounds a bit special. Performed in the gobsmackingly beautiful St George’s Chapel, an ensemble of soprano, viol and lute will play a one hour programme of music from the age of Shakespeare. The Queen will hold a tupperware raffle during the interval.

7.30-8.3opm St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Berks,

Iver Academy Open Day, Pinewood Studios, Sat 24 Sept


This is more of a ‘new career’ moment than something to add to your social calendar, but this Saturday the Iver Academy at Pinewood Studios is holding an open day for prospective students to showcase its professional make-up and hair courses for film, TV, theatre and fashion. I am going along myself to be made up like Marie Antoinette – I’m not joking here! – to show what feats of transformation (and, er, hiding of spots) are possible. The Iver Academy is the pinnacle for British make-up artists so if you, yours or theirs have an interest in a career with powders and brushes, head along.

Pinewood Studios, Pinewood Road, Iver, Iver Heath, Bucks,

Dirty Dancing, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Mon 19 – Sat 24 Sept


Still two days left to catch Dirty Dancing. Watermelons at the ready, Baby in the corner and a whole lot of merangay hip action coming your way. I saw this production earlier this week (see my review) and it was brilliant cheesy fun. Book it!

Thame Food Festival, Sat 24 Sept


This free Food Festival in Thame has grown like a prize Italian truffle since it launched in 2008 and consistently pulls in the top chefs in the country. This year Masterchef 2016 winner Jane Devonshire is attending, along with Raymond Blanc, Nadiya Hussain and a host of others. It can be a bunfight at lunchtime so go early or late and keep your elbows pointed out at all times!


The Great Antique & Vintage Car Boot Fair, Stonor Park, Sun 25 Sept

I’m not sure how Stonor Park polices what qualifies as vintage and antique but this sounds like the kind of event where you could find a real bargain or two. Tickets are £10 beween 7-9am (yes, you read that right) and only £2.50 from 9am onwards, so if you’re serious about snaffling that masterpiece, get there early! Otherwise meander around until 5pm at your leisure.

Stonor Park, Stonor, Henley-on-Thames,

Missenden Abbey Wedding Fair, Sun 25 Sept

Ding dong! If you’re getting hitched for the first time, second or – well, who’s counting? –  there’s a Wedding Fair at Missenden Abbey on Sunday to give you some inspiration. They’re promising goodie bags, wedding suppliers and live music. No word on whether there are marriage counsellors on hand but I’ll get back to you on that one.

Free entry and free parking.Missenden Abbey Conference Centre, London Rd, Great Missenden, Bucks,

Sister Act, Milton Keynes Theatre, Mon 26 Sept – Sat 1 Oct

Alexandra Burke, last seen warbling in The Bodyguard, has swapped sequins for a habit to take the starring role in  Sister Act made famous by Whoopee Goldberg in the film version. It’s directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, and I’m guessing it sticks to the film script like a wafer on the tongue. Alexandra isn’t doing matinee performances so if you want to see La Burke, book evenings people.

Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks,

Cushion Concert, St Hilda’s College, Oxford, Sun 25 Sept



I’ve been to one of these concerts myself, and the feelings of parental self-satisfaction is sublime. This week Roz with Mr Cello introduces the flute to little people and their parents in a 45 minute concert. Bring cushions with you to the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building at St Hilda’s College – mostly for your benefit, your kids will probably be standing, prodding the flute or zipping around the room while you try to impress upon them the finer points of the wind instrument.

10am & 11am Performances for Under 5s; 12pm Performance for Over 5s. Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Oxford,

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