5 brilliant things to do this week
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This ‘What’s On’ will last until a week on Wednesday as a reader pointed out that it’s more helpful to have these posts come out mid-week before the weekend arrives. I am nothing if not your servant, so here are 5 brilliant things to do with your time until May 23rd…
For budding ballerinas everywhere who are not yet ready to sit through hours of La Sylphide, My First Swan Lake touring at The Wycombe Swan is an inspired idea. The ballet introduces children as young as three to an enchanted world of castles and curses, forests and fairies, especially adapted for young eyes and ears and starring graduate dancers from the English National Ballet School. Children are encouraged to dress up, clap, cheer and boo, and generally express themselves without being told to shush by the grumpy lady in Row C.
On a more adult level, fans of a certain Mr Shakespeare, The Ox Bard Fest runs from 20th May-3rd June around Oxford, including Twelfth Night (23-26th May) in the amazing Christchurch Cathedral Gardens, free music recitals in stunning locations such as Brasenose or New College chapels, plus talks and one-off events. Well worth a gander.
My First Swan Lake, 26-27th May, Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe. www.wycombeswan.co.uk
The Ox Bard Fest, 20th May- 3rd June. www.oxfordshakespearefestival.co.uk
Museums at Night, Friday 18th-Sunday 20th May
Museums at Night’ is a nationwide annual after-hours celebration when hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites open their doors for special evening events. I love the idea of after-hours Museums, there’s something really buzzy and fun about it – plus you can just nip in after work rather than dragging yourself around on a weekend with a hangover and the kids. The Ashmolean’s has a brand new exhibition ‘The English Prize’ (opening Thursday 17th May) that you can see after hours on the 18th between 6-9pm that looks really worth seeing – basically the story of the Westmorland, a British armed merchant ship that was attacked by the French en route from Livorno to the UK laden with art, antiquities and booty. Now is the first time the goods have been brought back together in the UK, along with the stories and personalities behind them. ‘The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland’, Ashmolean Museum, from 17th May-27th August 2012. Museum entry free, £9/£7/under 18s free.
Open Gardens scheme
Wish you had a bigger garden? Pah, let someone else do the hard work! The National Gardens scheme lists the gardens open to the public, from bijoux suburban spaces to Grade I listed whoppers there are other beautiful gardens from Faringdon to Chalfont, Chesham to Abingdon and the counties beyond. You can search for gardens open within days, a week, fortnight or monthly which is useful too.
By the way, one of the most interesting, quirky and exceptional gardens I’ve seen in Buckinghamshire doesn’t seem to be listed on this website, so check it out here instead as it’s open from 2pm on Tuesday 15th May only. It’s Turn End in Haddenham, designed by architect Peter Aldington almost as a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ – no traditional expanse of lawn to stroll on, but wonderful nooks, crannies, water features and herbaceous borders instead. Nirvana for kids and creative gardeners. National Gardens Scheme, www.ngs.org.uk
Notting Hill Arts Club at the Ashmolean Vaulted Cafe, 18th May, 9.30pm-1am.
The Ashmolean is Teacher’s Pet this week as, aside from its new exhibition and its participation in Museums At Night, it’s also playing host to the Notting Hill Arts Club night in its Vaulted Cafe. Way back in the day when my bum was perky enough for hotpants (er, last century) the Notting Hill Arts Club in W11 was a regular haunt of mine. I can’t pretend to be funky enough to know any of the acts booked in – Aluna George, Trumaca, DJ Mim or DJ Paul Como – but the NHAC has impeccable credentials, so I shall put my money where my mouth is and check it out.
Notting Hill Arts Club at Vault Cafe, The Ashmolean Museum, tickets £12
Cotswold Wildlife Park
Seen one wildlife park, seen them all? The Cotswold Wildlife Park is doing a good job of persuading me for a return visit, with a host of new attractions including Darwin, a 25 year old giant tortoise from the Seychelles who arrived in February; a new viewing platform so the kids can see eye to eye with the giraffes; and the UK’s first Wolverine cubs ever to be born in captivity. Bring your own picnic (the canteen food is pretty ropey and the queues can be long) and sit on the beautiful lawns while your kids bomb around on the huge playground nearby. There are also daily animal feeding displays, a small farm animals enclosure and a mini steam train.