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12 things to do this weekend

I know, I know – we’re all knackered, the kids are falling ill, work is ramping up, and only those with superhuman ability have even considered what presents to buy for Christmas. Take my advice and hoik in a deep breath, park all your angst in a box called ‘stuff I’m going to pretend isn’t happening’ and then go out and create mayhem on the town. There’s absolutely heaps of cool stuff going on in Bucks & Oxon this week, and here’s my curated ‘best of’ to help you on your way.


Jazz Skate at Somerset House, London, Sun 20 Dec

Skating Somerset House

London’s most iconic ice rinks have just opened – the Tower of London, Natural History Museum and, my favourite, Somerset House which is holding a very funky sounding Jazz Skate on Sunday, as part of the London jazz festival. Jazz FM DJ Chris Philips will be playing a classic mix of soul, jazz, R&B and hip hop, with live musical accompaniment from trombonist Ashley Slater who’s played with the likes of Norman Cook while you perfect your triple sulkos on the ice. A little bit closer to home and without quite so much grandeur (but with added animals!)  Millet’s Farm Centre in Abingdon opened its rink on Saturday.

Christmas at Stonor, Mon 28 Nov – Sun 4 Dec

A flagwave for a first at Stonor House near Henley (above), that opens its front door to guests this Winter for the first time from Mon 28 Nov. This will be the moment to think kind thoughts as your body is gripped by stupendous envy as the family still lives here (excuse me while I weep quietly). Stonor House, let’s be frank, is an absolute stunner that dates back to 13th century, and for its open house is promising a traditional Victorian Christmas tree in the Gothic Hall, the Blue Dining Room laid for Christmas lunch and even Christmas stockings in the bedroom. It’s the sort of thing that kids will love if you can trust them not to push and shove each other around the tree (timb-errrrrrrr!) and you’ll get massive brownie points with the in-laws too.

Christmas at Blenheim, Woodstock, 25 Nov – 2 Jan 2017


An early flagwave for Blenheim Palace’s whopper Christmas offering. For the first time, the Blenheim estate will be illuminated for an hour-long festive trail that will transform the Capability Brown-designed Gardens into a winter wonderland. The highlights include a scented Fire Garden, Christmas trees that sing, a swaying lawn of fibre optic colour; the lake filled with brightly-lit boats filled with snowflakes and presents (dont be tempted to swim for it). Other highlights include a fairy-lit arbour and the lakeside boathouse which will become a temporary home for that fat bloke with the white beard. A festive no-brainer.

Banbury Literary Live, Sat 19 – Sun 20 Novbanbury

OMG, the literary festivals keep coming but this one is small, community-minded and has its own quirky USP so we’ll let it through. Banbury Literary Live has its emphasis very much on the word ‘live’  – so there are performance poets; theatrical events; cookery demos; animators and illustrators; and creative writing workshops. I’m loving the sound of the hip hop poetry event, and the All things Forest School event for kids 3-13. There’s also a special pre-event showcase for adults and older teens on Saturday evening with music, wine and cheese, authors and poets.
Banbury Literary Festival, North Oxfordshire Academy, Drayton Road, Banbury,

Henley Jazz and Blues Festival, now until Sun 20 Nov


This jazz festival, now in its fourth year is ostensibly a way to get punters into Henley’s Brakespear pubs but it’s a very pleasant way to do it. The festival combines established national acts with local artists in everything from classic jazz and R&B through to swing and Latin with most acts free of charge, and the pubs food during the gigs for customers who want to dine while they listen. some lovely pubs taking part like the Five Horseshoes in Maidensgrove and the Angel on the Bridge, literally looking over the river in Henley.


Hogwarts in the Snow, Warner Bros Studios, Opens Sat 19 Nov

The return of Hogwarts in the Snow, back for another Christmas run at Warner Brothers Studio just over the border into Hertfordshire from Saturday. Sets will be decorated as they were for festive scenes with behind-the-scences secrets about how filmmakers created fire, snow and ice to ooh-and-aahhh the Harry Potter fans in your family.

Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, Warner Drive, Leavesden, Herts,

Living Crafts for Christmas, Blenheim Palace, Thurs 17 – Sun 20 Nov

No excuses not to do all your Christmas shopping at least a month in advance with all these gift and craft shows everywhere. This week the Living Crafts show in Blenheim Palace is on – two huge pavillions situated in the Great Court, directly in front of the Palace, where over 150 British designer-makers will be showcasing millinery, ceramics, studio glass, leather work, sculpture, textile crafts, photography, toys and puzzles, fashions, soaps and designer jewellery. Overflow parking is in one of the fields so wellies rather than stilettos are probably advisable.

Cheese and Wine Tasting, Granary Deli, Watlington, Fri 18 Nov

They had me at cheese and wine. The Granary Delicatessen in Watlington is the place to go for cheese – owners Robin and Francesca Holmes-Smith sell over 100 UK and continental cheeses in the shop and online so they know a fair bit about culturing and mould-ripening. They’re holding a wine and cheese evening tonight at the deli. Prepare to scoff til you pop and expect to have some vivid dreams.

The Granary Delicatessen, 18 High St, Watlington, Oxon,

Hopes and Fears, Oxford Museum of Natural History, Fri 18 Nov


Hopes and Fears is a joint event between Oxford Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum, promising an evening of music, comedy, debate and a bar, exploring Hopes, Fears, Extinctions and Invasions. Reassuringly bonkers.

Tickets £3 or 4 for £10. 7 – 10pm. Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Rd, Oxford ,

English National Ballet’s Nutcracker, Milton Keynes Theatre, Weds 23 – Sat 26 Nov

Where would we be without The Nutcracker at Christmas? (Ummm, possibly on the couch with a large glass of wine, but let’s not go there). This perennial ballet classic chasses up to MK this week with over 100 English National Ballet dancers and musicians with Tchaikovsky’s glorious score played live. Twill be gorgeous.

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

Family Fun Day, Bates Museum of Musical Instruments, Sat 19 Nov


The quirky Bates Museum of Musical Instruments just next to Christchurch Meadows in Oxford is holding a day of family events featuring a treasure trail, live musical performances and demonstrations plus a chance to play some of the instruments in the handling collection. I had a go on Handel’s harpsichord there a few years ago and murdered a couple of preludes and fugues, and it was quite the thrill. Clearly they’re not going to let sticky fingers loose on that instrument, but they do bring out some fun bits and bobs. A drop-in for an hour if you’re in the area I’d say.

Artists and Makers Fair, Thame Town Hall, Sat 19 Nov

Sally Evans’ events are really well established with respected artists and crafters exhibiting in droves at venues including Waddesdon Manore and Thame Town Hall. A dead cert for picking up pressies without the elbow-factor of Nov & Dec, plus free parking in the centre of town and Waitrose.

10am-4pm, free entry

The Villiers Quartet November Concert, Holywell Music Room, Sun 20 Nov


In their second year of their music residency at Oxford University, The Villiers Quartet play the Fantasias of Purcell alongside a modern-day equivalent – the Fantazia for String Quartet by Oxford composer Robert Saxton. Then it’s a skip (or maybe sledge) up to the Nordic countries, for Carl Nielsen’s At the Bier of a Young Artist’ and Sibelius’s Quartet in D minor. ‘It turned out as something wonderful,’ he said, and who are we to argue?

Holywell Music Room, Holywell St, Oxford,

 Turrill Sculpture Garden Christmas and Winter Exhibition, Oxford, Sat 19 Nov – Sat 25 Feb 

This is such a fab idea. There are regularly changing displays of contemporary art by local and national sculptors for sale in this lovely public garden in Summertown including striking glass pieces from Judith Middleton, Wendy Newhofer, and Vital Peeters (shown above), mosaics by Susan Bird and metal by Joyce Dargay and Henrietta Bud. If you’re up that way, you can drop in afterwards at Mamma Mia for lunch with the kids (it’s just round the corner and has been awarded Best Independent Pizza Restaurant in the UK!) or if you’re doing the grown up thing, Portabello a few doors down.

Through Summertown Library, South Parade, Oxford,

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