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12 fun things to do this weekend

The gloves are well and truly off for 2017 now and this week is a particularly cheery mix of art, music, festivals, theatre, poetry, film and comedy. Tired of the Muddy Guide, tired of life!

Drawing in Red, Christchurch Picture Gallery in Oxford, until 30 Jan 2017


I’m a massive fan of this beautiful, underutilised gallery at the back of Christchurch College. It has a fantastic collection of Old Masters, and the gallery space itself is just exquisite, architecturally a real mix of the old and new.  Drawing in Red shows shows over 30 drawings from Michelangelo to Bernini, focusing on the technique emerging in the early 16th century of drawing with red chalk but hurry, it’s the last weekend to catch it.

Teddy Boys & Girls: Ken Russell Photography Exhibition, North Wall, Oxford, Weds 1 Feb

Fifty photographs of teddy girls and boys, taken by ground breaking film director, Ken Russell (1927-2011) are brought together for the first time in this new exhibition. Before finding fame as a director of Women in Love, Tommy and The Devils, Russell worked as a freelance photographer, and began taking photographs in 1951, aged 23. Although these are among of the first photographs to capture fledgling youth culture in London, they remained unseen for 50 years, and were only rediscovered in an archive in 2005. The teddy girls and boys are photographed on London streets, at funfairs, at stage doors, leaning on graffiti-covered brick walls, on derelict East End bombsites and outside the Seven Feathers Club where they did the popular Ted dance, The Creep. Russell himself called his photographs his ‘still films’. The images, all taken in 1955, are exceptional as they feature mostly girls, often staring directly and defiantly at the camera.

The North Wall, South Parade, Oxford,

T2 Trainspotting, in cinemas from Fri 27 Jan

Twenty-one years (hands up, who feels old?) after the original Trainspotting chugged into the midst of 1990s Cool Britannia, here comes the sequel. Danny Boyle – now best known as the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony genius – is back in the director’s chair, along with the full cast: Ewan McGregor (Renton), Johnny Lee Miller (Sick Boy), Robert Carlyle (Begbie, still a psycho) and Ewen Bremner (Spud). They’re certainly older, but are they wiser? (Hell, are any of us?). Anticipation levels are sky-high for those of us d’un certain age – for more on T2 Trainspotting read my piece here.

Advance Heads Up for Hamilton The Musical, Victoria Palace Theatre, London

OMG, I’m desperate to see this musical! Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also stars in the show, Hamilton tells the story of little-known US founding father Alexander Hamilton through tunes that borrow from rappers including Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z, as well as theatrical composers Stephen Sondheim and Gilbert and Sullivan. Hamilton has been a sensation in America, where fans include Barack Obama, Beyoncé and Emily Blunt, winning 11 Tony Awards. Although the musical doesn’t open here until November, the early bird tickets have been snapped up, but fear not –  on Mon 30 Jan the public booking opens at 12pm. Put your phone on repeat dial and don’t move until your bloodymindedness prevails!

Picasso Portraits – National Portrait Gallery, London – ends 5 Feb


This major exhibition of more than 80 works focuses on Picasso’s portraits of family, friends and lovers; covering both his familiar impressionist works and his lesser known more realist paintings from his youth. Organised with the help of Barcelona’s Museu Picasso, works on show will range from celebrated masterpieces loaned by international institutions to those in private collections being shown in the UK for the first time. Regular adult tickets are £17 but the first 100 tickets for every Friday during the exhibition are £5, available for entry at 10am and 10.15.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE. Tel. 020 7306 0055

Live music everywhere! Sun 30 Jan

What’s January for if not to spend your time in a warm pub, listening to free music and feeling smug that you never promised yourself you’d be teetotal til 1 Feb? Between 3.30-8.30pm there’s free entry to listen to an eclectic mix of bands at The Wheatsheaf pub on Oxford High St. Over at The Old Bookbinders in Jericho today and every Sunday at 8pm, it’s an open mic gig; still in Jericho at the achingly hip Beatnik Cafe it’s jazz with Gilad Atzmon & the Talinka Quartet (Jazz), and you can find more jazz up at Oxford’s Wine Cafe in Summertown with Jamie Brownfield, one of the young hot jazz trumpet players of the moment, playing for free from 6.30pm.

Linguamania, Live Friday, Late Night at Ashmolean, Fri 27 Jan

I love Live Fridays at the Ashmolean – the free events that invite us to experience the museum after dark (which means fewer school kids and tourists and a more sophisticated crowd) with an imaginative programme of music, theatre and talks. It’s a neat reminder that we’re lucky enough to have a creative, cool, forward-thinking city on our doorstep. The theme this month is Linguamania, in conjunction with Oxford-led research programme Creative Multilingualism, and its aim is to bring alive the museum through the art and science of language (er, yeah, whatever). There are a whopping 30 activities to sample  – live music, theatre performances, story telling, opportunities to learn Russian or Old Norse or to crack hieroglyphic codes. And once you’re feeling sufficiently cultural, may I recommend a cocktail at the ever-chic Ashmolean Dining Rooms on the top floor? It starts at 7pm, goes through to 10.30pm and while it’s free you definitely need to book, as it’s a popular Friday night spot.

Ashmolean, Beaumont St, Oxford,

Vanishing Man, Mill Arts, Banbury, Thurs 26 Feb

This is my top tip for this week and for one night only, so hurry!  The Vanishing Man at the Mill Arts, Banbury is a show about magic (rather than a magic show – thought I’d make that clear in case you’re expecting David Blaine to show up). The play is based on the true story of Hugo Cedar, an Edwardian magician – the titular Vanishing Man – who created the perfect trick by disappearing in front of his audience… forever. Check out these credentials: it’s performed by Simon Evans, who is magical consultant to the NT, Old Vic and Donmar Warehouse, and two-time winner of the Close Up Magician of the Year award, and directed by David Aula, who directed Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden as the headline show at the Vault Festival. Quick, before it disappears in a puff of smoke.

The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Park, Spiceball Park Rd, Banbury,


The Anti-Slam, Old Fire Station, Oxford, Sat 28 Feb

If you find traditional poetry readings a bit twee, this one’s for you. The Anti-Slam is a competition with a difference – the worst rhyme wins, with the lowest-scoring wordsmith crowned slam champion. Now in its fourth year, this unconventional, defiantly lowbrow, raucous literary evening at Oxford’s Old Fire Station is a hotbed of toe-curling metaphors and crap cadence and is, by all accounts, hilarious. You know how some things can be so bad, they’re actually good? Which reminds me, I must rummage in the loft for my teenage haikus and limericks – if any publishers reading want to anthologize them, I’m all ears.

Old Fire Station,  40 George Street, Oxford,

Hackney Colliery Band, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, Fri 27 Jan

Formed in 2008, the Hackney Colliery Band from East London are a rip-roaring brass outfit who play a range of genres, including funk, hip hop, rock, electronica, contemporary jazz and even Balkan music. The members come from diverse backgrounds – they’ve played with Jarvis Cocker, at the Royal Opera House and with major international orchestras. And any band good enough to be booked for the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony is certainly good enough for us. Tickets sold out last time they played at Cornerstone Arts, so chop chop!

Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Road, Didcot, Oxon,

Comedy at The Potters Arms, Sean Collins, Thurs 26 Feb


The Potters Arms in Winchcombe Hill, near Amersham, punches well above its weight when it comes to comedy, with its nights really well established on the comedy circuit. They nab big names to perform in incredibly intimate surroundings. I caught the brilliant Zoe Lyons here last year. Sean Collins heads up the first gig of 2017 tonight (Thurs) –  you might know the Canadian standup from Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow on BBC 1. Tickets are just shy of £20 including food and is offers something more intimate and unusual than run-of-the-mill comedy club nights.

The Potters Arms, Fagnall Lane, Winchmore Hill, Bucks,



McDowall Collection of British Neo-Romantic Art, Bucks County Museum, closes Sat 28 Jan

It’s easy to overlook the Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury town centre – lots of people don’t know it’s there. This is your last chance to catch this exhibition of mid-20th century neo-romantic art  – think lots of imaginative, abstract landscapes. The artists featured include Paul Nash, John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Ceri Richards and John Craxton, with the works loaned by private collectors Nicolas and Frances McDowall.  If you happen to be there on Saturday, with nippers in tow, it’s worth noting that the museum also houses the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery.

Bucks County Museum, Church Street, Aylesbury,


Black is the Color of My Voice, Chipping Norton Theatre, Fri 27 Jan

I mentioned Black is the Colour of My Voice last week when it was in Oxford, and now those in West Oxfordshire have the chance to see it in Chippy. If you love jazz, you’ll love this show inspired inspired by the life and music of Nina Simone. Written by and starring Apphia Campbell who has toured the production to New York, London and Shanghai, the first half tells the story of Simone as an artist and civil rights campaigner, with the second part of the evening as Apphia’s Soul Sessions cabaret, celebrating Simone’s music.

Chipping Norton Theatre

Hope and Social, Arts at the Old Fire Station, Oxford, Thurs 26 Feb

Hope and Social look like they’re having fun don’t they? Or maybe that they’ve had a few too many drinks. Maybe both! Anyway, they count BBC Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe and BBC Radio 1’s Greg James as fans and describe themselves as a Yorkshire E-Street Band meets Arcade Fire meets The Faces meets Dexy’s Midnight Runners meets Prefab Sprouts at a party. No idea what that sounds like, but I dare say the boys hold a mean tune. They play Oxford’s Old Fire Station in a standing gig (you as well as them).

Arts at the Old Fire Station, 40 George St, Oxford,


Chinese New Year, Sat 28 Jan

Into London we go for Chinese New Year – loads of free festivities in Trafalgar Square and across the East End to help you celebrate the Year of the Rooster. The parade starts  along Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue begins at 10am and then continues around central London. Includes traditional dance troupes, acrobats, dragon and flying lion dances, opera and martial arts acts with the grand finale ending in fireworks at Trafalgar Square. If you want to stay closer to home, Oxford is having its own celebrations on Sun 29 Jan at the Town Hall – a lunch followed by a programme of events including a Lion Dance, Acrobatics Workshop, Mask Changing and Ribbon Dance, Contortionism, Unicycle and Escapology, Comedy Juggling, Chinese Folk Dance. Or if you’re looking for a low-key nod to the New Year, over at the Ashmolean it’s a family-friendly offering including dragon mask and Chinese lantern making as well as storytelling for the littlies.

Chinatown, nearest tubes Leicester Square & Covent Garden. Chinese New Year at the Oxford Town Hall, 12.45-3.45, on the door, £10 adults, £7 children.


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1 comment on “12 fun things to do this weekend”

  • Rosemary Banner, Abingdon January 29, 2017

    Decided on your bringing the Hackney Colliery Band to our attention, and a view that we ought to check out Cornerstone Arts centre to go last Friday to the toe tapping upbeat and joyful event. Glad we did. They played to a packed house many of whom had see them before. A fun evening, and a great arts centre will make sure we go again. Thanks for the prompt. X


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