We’re into June and the Great British Summer! Time to start letting it all really hang out in Oxon, Bucks and beyond.
Raphael, The Drawings, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1 June – 3 Sept
The Ashmolean’s captivating summer show, Raphael, brings together 120 stunning works from international collections spanning the brief but brilliant career of Raphael, only 37 when he died. The Ashmolean’s unrivalled Raphaels are joined by superb works from the Albertina and loans from other international collections including the Louvre, the Uffizi and Liz II. Drawings include the exquisite Head of a Muse, which broke records when auctioned at Christies in 2009, as well as the sublime Heads and Hands of two Apostles, considered to be the finest drawing Raphael ever made.
Offbeat Festival, Oxford, Fri 23 June – Sun 2 July
Loving the look of this. Offbeat started last year and is a showcase of 71 different pieces of brand new theatrical work, from comedy, drama, dance, spoken word. 25 per cent of the shows are from Oxfordshire based artists and it’s a collaboration between Oxford Playhouse and The Old Fire Station so it’s extremely professional. Best of all , the tickets are a tenner or less, so you can see the likes of Mark Thomas, Viv Groskop and Richard Marsh without breaking the bank. Look out for Dr Zeiffal and the Hippo Can Never Be Caught (pictured, 24 June); This Flipping Rescue Dog has Ruined My Life (Sat 1 July); Todd and God (Sun 2 July); Swan (Sun 2 July) and the brilliant Everything Wrong With You Is Beautiful (Tues 27 June).
Northern Ballet’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Aylesbury Waterside, Fri 9 – Sat 10 June
This ballet has had rave reviews and it’s guaranteed to be an emotional one. Set in a WW2 holocaust camp, two young boys become friends on opposite sides of the barbed wire fence, one prisoner, one officer’s son. The brilliant Northern Ballet present this heart breaking story through dance for the first time, but given the themes they advise taking secondary school kids and upwards.
War of the Roses, Live at Warwick Castle, Sat 27 May – Sun 4 June
This summer Grayson Perry, one of the most astute commentators on contemporary society and culture, will present a major exhibition of new work. The works will touch on many themes including popularity and art, masculinity and the current cultural landscape.
Waddesdon Feast, Waddesdon Manor, nr Aylesbury, Sat 17 & Sun 18 June
Nosh up! The Waddesdon Manor Feast Weekend promises a celebration of food, drink and performance in prime position at the front of the Manor. There’s a huge decorated outdoor dining table running the length of the North Avenue for picnics or trying the 70 handpicked artisan stalls, but the bit that really lifts it from just another foodie event is the performances – everything from jazz, the smallest theatre in the world, moving art installations, and loads for kids.A deffo for the weekend.
Garsington Opera Season Starts, Wormsley Estate, Stokenchurch, 1 June – 4 July
Tra-la-laaaaaa! The much-anticipated Garsington Opera season has just started in the stunning grounds of the Wormsley estate in Stokenchurch. Grounds are open from 3.30pm on each performance day so get there early to have a snoop around the Walled Garden, Deer Park or afternoon tea overlooking the beautiful Wormsley Cricket Pitch. Two operas to choose from, Handel’s Semele (running until 4 July) or the crowd-pleaser comedy Le Nozze de Figaro by Mozart which opens on 2 June running until 16 July.
The Boodles, Stoke Park, Tues 27 June – Sat 1 July
A brilliant, local, fun and cost-effective alternative to Wimbledon held at the gorgeous five star hotel and country club of Stoke Park. It’s luxury all the way here, with Perrier-Jouët Champagne on ice and a gourmet lunch prepared by award winning chef, Chris Wheeler. There’s also a Boodles gallery of fine jewellery to gawp at – the Muddy girls tried half of it on last year while nervous assistants watched on.I should also mention that it’s a brilliant way to see top tennis players in a stadium of just 2000, so it’s like being in the first five rows at centre court. Already confirmed for this year are Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Nick Krygios, Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and Fabio Fognini (pictured). I think it’s important to see as much of the players as possible, don’t you?!
Stoke Park, Stoke Poges, Bucks, stokepark.com
Buckingham Literary Festival, Fri 30 June – Sun 2 July
The Buckingham Literary Festival dipped its toe in the waters last year, liked the feel of it, and is back for its second year this month. It’s a short festival at only three days but they’re packing in some great names with Peter James, Jacqueline Wilson, Roger McGough, Chris Patten, Clare Mackintosh, Holly Smale, Mark Lawson, and load more on the bill.
Rick Stein’s Sunset Cinema, Cliveden House, 21 June – 11 July
Lose the remote, quit the Netflix bingeathon, because Rick Stein’s Sunset Cinema is almost her. No soggy nachos here just Ricks Stein’s amaaaazing nosh and a classic movie watched in the Spa Garden at Cliveden House. It will be a night to remember. Many nights are sold out, but there are still tickets available on Thurs 22 June (Almost Famous); Fri 23 June (La La Land); Wed 28 June (Forrest Gump); Thurs 29 June (About Time), Fri 7 July (The Great Gatsby).
Rick Stein’s Sunset Cinema, The Pop Up Picture Company, Cliveden House Hotel, Taplow, Berkshire SL1 8NS popuppicturecompany.co.uk
Nocturne Live, Summer Concerts, Blenheim Palace, Thurs 15 – Sun 18 June
The Great Court at Blenheim Palace turns into a 7000 arena in mid-June with Nocturne, an all day music affair – either just rock up with your ticket to hear the music or book the added VIP dining in the State Rooms if you’re feeling superflash. You may not be shocked and saddened to hear that Stormzy and Sean Paul haven’t made it onto the artist list, but fear not – Max Richter (June 16), Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter & Corinne Bailey Rae (June 17) and The Jacksons & Kool and the Gang (June 18) are stepping in to save the day.
StarBQ, Green Dragon Eco Farm, Sat 10 June
Open air cinema, The Swan at Streatley, Thur 8 June
A stunning riverside location, Top Gun on the big screen, and gourmet street food and cocktails on ta – yeah go on, sign me up. The Swan at Streatley is hosting its first ever open cinema event. Literally giddy with excitement. Take me to bed or lose me forever! (hang on, I’m just going to have a burger first, I’ve seen the Wandering Feast catering van).
Oxfordshire Science Festival 2017, Fri 16 – Weds 21 June
Hear like an insect, build a star or watch a contagious cabaret at the Oxfordshire Science Festival. The hands-on Explorazone will open in the evening on Saturday 17 June for adults only, so grown-ups can play at being a paramedic, a plasma physicist or prevent a Polio pandemic (I don’t know about you, but that’s always been on my bucket list) and kids can get enthused about everything from solar plasmas to insect’s knees.
Super Hero Family Fun Day, Beale Park Lower Basildon, Sun 18 June
Holy Batman! Wear your big pants with pride, swing your capes over your shoulders and prepare for an action packed Superhero Family Fun Day at Beale Park. It’s Father’s Day too, so show the old man how much you love him by entering him into the 5km fun run and meet him at the finish line with a pint. Then simply load the kids up with candy floss and let them blow the sugar rush on the bouncy castle and funfair. Entry: £5 adults, £2 kids and free entry for under 12s. All registered runners will enter free of charge.
Royal Ascot 2017, Ascot Racecourse, Tues 20 – Sat 24 June
So many fashion rules to remember, but one of the great highlights of the social calendar is here. Royal Ascot has come around again, so grab your hat, keep the hemlines long, the fake tan light and enjoy a day of sunshine, celeb spotting and apparently there are few horses running too. It’s the perfect place to people watch, just don’t overdo the bubbles for fear of making it onto the front page of the Daily Mail. Tickets are still available from £37.
The Little Welly Goes Wild, Henley, Sat 24 – Sun 25 June
Persil at the ready? Then I’ll begin. Bigger, better and muddier than ever, the UK’s biggest children’s obstacle course returns for the fourth year to the Culden Faw Estate in Henley. We’re talking 30 obstacles over a 3km course for kids 4+ (and they’re parents – sorry about that!) braving The Big Slide, Tyre Mangle, mud and water pits, Spider’s Web and bouncing round the foam pit. Away from the race’s there’s Laser Tag, Parkour demonstrations & workshops, pony rides, den building and bungee trampolining. Seriously good fun.
Good Vibrations: The Science of Sound, Banbury Museum, Fri 16 June – 2 Sept
An immersive interactive exhibition on tour from Science Projects of London, whose work is featured in major science centres around the world. Visitors can experiment with odd musical instruments such as the light lyre with its light beams instead of strings and the theremin played by moving your hands close to two aerials. Sounds fun for kids, who can also find out how their vocal cords work, watch their voice on a computer screen and try to work out sound illusions.
Blenheim Palace Flower Festival Show, Fri 23 – Sun 25 June
I sit writing this in my garden, having just pruned my roses – holy crap it’s happening, I’ve hit middle age! If you, like me, enjoy flowers more than you care to admit in public, this three day gardening show is for you. The Grand Floral Pavilion promises to provide UK’s finest nurseries and growers giving expert garden advice and ideas, plus there are 250 stalls selling everything from gazebos to flowers. One word of warning – remember to lock your M&S chastity belt before you go – the show is being opened by pensionable gardening hottie Alan Titchmarsh (*swoon*).
Waiting For God, Oxford Playhouse, Tue 27 Jun – Sat 1 Jul
Ever wondered what happened to Jeffrey Holland from Hi-de-Hi? Look, here he is, walking the boards with Olivier Award-winning Nichola McAuliffe (Lady in the Van) at Oxford Playhouse! The Nineties TV sitcom about silver surfers behaving disgracefull at Bayview Retirement Home has had a new script makeover, reimagined for 2017, and is directed by Tony Award-winner David Grindley (Journey’s End). Take your mum, she’ll love it.
Opera Anywhere, HMS Pinafore, Mill Arts, Banbury, Sat 3 June
On Saturday Opera Anywhere kicks off its Summer Gilbert & Sullivan Tour with HMS Pinafore at the Mill Arts Centre in Banbury. The idea behind Opera Anywhere is that is basically does what it says on the tin – they perform opera in strange, exotic and brilliant locations but this performance of HMS Pinafore is at an actual theatre at the Mill Arts Centre – hurray for comfy seats! If you’re looking for something a bit more whacky they are doing the Pirates of Penzance on punts in July at WaterPerry Gardens. operaanywhere.com
Oxford Green Week, Sat 17 – Sun 25 June
A fortnight of nature-related activities for all ages, organised by local Wildlife Trust, including stand-up comedy, orchid and butterfly walks, and, er, puppetry. There are pop green events all over the city including pond dipping, bat safaris, and mammal detective groups (yes, it’s a thing). One to do with the kids.
Love Marlow Festival 2017, Thurs 2 – 17 Sat June
Marlow is definitely the Buckinghamshire town du jour, with seemingly endless cool openings, posh boutiques, and festivals on the go. Its LOVE Marlow Festival is really popular locally, with over 60 community activities and promotions including music, sport, workshops and kids’ events. Worth checking out whether you’re nearby or going that way for a day trip.
Clangers, Bagpuss and co, River and Rowing Museum, Henley, until Sun 4 June
Free entry for dads at Batsford Arboretum – on production of a valid child of course; at Bucks Railway Centre up to 60 historic vehicles will be on display, plus unlimited free steam train rides and the miniature ride-on steam trains (£1 per person); at Bletchley Park, there’s a traditional Father’s Day Barbecue with Forties’ Swing Band, The Bevin Boys. Swing Dance MK will also be on hand to demonstrate some 1940s dance moves for those you too tired to lock n pop.
The Great British Dog Walk, Stowe, Sun 4 June
I’m the only person in Oxfrodshire not to have a dog so this doesn’t apply to me, but if you want to walk your dog somewhere totally beautiful and geared up for the four-legged, head up to Stowe Landscape Gardens today. Apart from the Capability Brown grounds there are dog agility shows, stalls, face painting and activities, all in the name of the Hearing Dogs charity.
Kraftwerk, Oxford New Theatre, Tues 6 June
The revolutionary German genius of Kraftwerk, the iconic 70s band that pioneered synth and computerised rhythms, come to Oxford’s New Theatre on Tuesday. Apparently their concerts are really brilliant, very theatrical and inventive, so this is your chance to see the granddaddies of electro, tech and hiphop whilst playing air synth to The Model.
Creation Theatre: The Faerie Thorn, Blackwell’s, Oxford, Tues 6 – Weds 7 June
For two nights only Creation Theatre presents Big Telly Theatre’s production of The Faerie Thorn in The Norrington Room in Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford. Based on the book The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories by Jane Talbot, The Faerie Thorn recreates Talbot’s dark, imaginative and bewitching tales as contemporary, physical theatre, incorporating masks, movement and illusion. Sounds fab.
Camino Del Flamenco – Spanish Night, Cornerstone Arts, Dicot, 24 June
The Cornerstone Arts coffee shop and bar is a little oasis of cool in Didcot and the perfect setting for this Spanish Night featuring professional flamenco company Grupo Noemi Luz, featuring Noemi, Magdalena Mannion and a guitarist and singer. Noemi Luz is known for her “bata de cola” dances, which feature the difficult art of dancing in a long tail skirt, and the cafe will be tranformed cabaret style. Hopefully Juan the fit Spanish waiter will fetch me a Sangria in his little tight shirt, but I’ll have to extract him from my overactive imagination first.
The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes, South Bank, London, runs to Sept 2017
Star Wars Identities, O2, Greenwich, runs to Sept 2017
A collection of some 200 props, models, costumes and artwork from the original Star Wars films, plus an interactive identity quest for Star Wars nuts at STAR WARS Identities at the 02 in Greenwich. It asks the deep question ‘what force shapes you?’ The obvious answer is the sugared doughnut but I don’t think George Lucas has invented that character yet.
Giffords Circus, Any Port in a Storm, touring now until 24 Sept
This year the inimitable Giffords Circus is recreating a 17th-century Spanish court and putting on a candle-lit international gymnastic show with dancing horses, a live band and everyone’s favourite clown Tweedy. It’s moved from its Gloucestershire home into Oxfordshire for the next month – currently nestled in Kingham, it then heads off to Stonor Park and central Oxford before hitting the big bucks in London.
Holland Park Opera Season starts, 1 June – 29 July
I remember taking my dear departed dad to a Holland Park opera a few years ago – it was masses of fun so I can definitely recommend from personal experience. There are 6 shows, including Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Puccini’s La Rondine, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Will Todd and even a performance by the Royal Ballet School. Tickets vary in price, from £77 at the top end down to a fiver so worth checking out.
The Inking Woman, Cartoon Museum, London, now until 23 July
‘Why are there no women cartoonists?’ Well, actually, there are – lots of them. The Inking Woman showcases the work of 100 British Cartoon and Comic Artists over 250 years includes prints from the 18th century, caricatures, joke, editorial and strip cartoons, graphic novels and digital comics.
On the Town, Regents Park Open Air Theatre, 19 May – 1 July
Strictly finalist hottie Danny Mac dances his way into a new musicals career, starring in the classic Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra classic On The Town at the acclaimed Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Olivier Award-winner Drew McOnie with a score by Leonard Bernstein, Regent’s Park is a 10 minute stroll from the train at Marylebone. What more do you want, good weather while you’re watching it?