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10 awesome things to do this weekend

Staying in? In December? That’s what boring old January is for. Instead we insist that you to get on your glad-rags, grab some pals and get out there – here are some brilliant ideas to whet your whistle for the week ahead.

Panto watch! New shows starting this week


Pantomime season is upon us. Oh no, it isn’t… Oh yes, I think you’ll find it most certainly is. A whole bunch open this week, promising lashings of greasepaint, slightly crap gags, and boys dressed as girls and girls dressed as boys (how very 2016). Aladdin arrives at the brilliant Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, from Fri 9 Dec, with EastEnders’ Michelle Collins on genie duty and TOWIE’s Jasmin Walla as Princess Jasmine. Milton Keynes Theatre plays host to Dick Whittington from Thurs 8 Dec, and then there’s Cinderella at Wycombe Swan from Sat 10 Dec, with Bobby Davro, Linda Robson and the man who manages to be even camper than Christmas itself, Louis Spence. Meanwhile, panto-refuseniks might prefer Once Upon A Snowflake, the always-imaginative Oxford Pegasus Theatre‘s whimsical, quirky Christmas show. Running Tues 13 to Sat 24 Dec, it features shadow puppetry, original song,  a host of tiny elf-like creatures called Winter Sprites and definitely no Widow Twankee.


30 Christmases, Old Fire Station, Oxford,  Tues 13 – Fri 23 Dec


Nothing says Christmas like family bickering,  and 30 Christmases takes this idea and runs with it to deliciously dark comic effect. Written and performed by Jonny Donahoe, Paddy Gervers and Rachel Parris (who you might recognize as the girlfriend of Chris O’Dowd’s Roy from The IT Crowd), it involves sibling rivalry, rebellion, politics and funny songs from the guys’ band, Jonny & The Baptists. This is one Christmas show that’s definitely adults-only.

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

Sonita & Young Women’s Music Project, Ultimate Picture Palace, Thurs 8 Dec


We love an excuse to visit Oxford’s bijou, artsy Ultimate Picture Palace on buzzy Cowley Road – soulless ring-road multiplex, it is not. Upcoming female musicians are the focus of their charity event on Thurs 8 Dec. The evening starts with live performances from folk-pop singer Susie Corfield (we wish we were that talented at the age of 16, or even now come to think of it) and hip hop artist Ithar MK, both of whom are alumnae of local charity Young Women’s Music Project. A one-off screening of documentary Sonita follows, which traces the story of  Sonita Alizadeh, an Iranian rapper uses music to protest against misogyny in her homeland. Shall we also mention the natty UPP bar for pre, during and post drinkies?

6.30pm; The Ultimate Picture Palace, Cowley Rd, Oxford,

Coffee Concert, Holywell Music Room, Sun 11 Dec


Peter Limonov is not just a pretty face (although his face is extremely pretty, non?) The  hotshot Russian pianist is a conductor for the London International Chamber Orchestra but he’ll be in Oxford on Sun 11 Dec, along with cellist Laura van Heijden, as the duo perform pieces by Myaskovsky, Shaporin and Prokoviev. Laura, in case you’re wondering about her musical or supermodel credentials, was the BBC Young Musician 2012 at just 15. Now that’s showing off young lady.  Catch them at the next Oxford Coffee Concert at Holywell Music Room. Free coffee at the Kings Arms pub or the Vaults Cafe with your ticket btw.

Holywell Music Room, Holywell Street, Oxford,

Recycled Christmas, Family Fun at Botanic Gardens, Oxford, Sat 10 Dec


Channel your inner Kirstie Allsopp (the arts’n’crafts incarnation, not the estate agent one) with a creative festive family day at Oxford’s Botanic Gardens. Children, who go free with a paying adult (although donations for materials are welcomed), get to make recycled, natural Christmas decorations and enjoy the garden’s winter trail. Bonus – if your kids get annoying, you can always lose them in the maze at the front (it’s a joke, social services).

10.30am – 12.30am, The University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Rose Lane, Oxford,

Accent, Spin Jazz, Oxford, Thurs 8 Dec


If your knowledge of a cappella groups starts and ends with The Flying Pickets then maybe it’s time to get with the programme and check out the lauded Accent, a tipped all-male sextet. The multi-national group mix their own songs with soul and gospel favourites. Just don’t be tempted to sing along.

Spin Jazz, The Wheatsheaf, 129 High Street, Oxford,

Christian O’Connell stand-up, The Stables, Milton Keynes, Sat 10 Dec


You may not recognize the face, but you might know the voice – Christian O’Connell presents Absolute Radio’s morning show and previously did the same on XFM. You’ve Ruined My Morning & Other Fan Mail is his third stand-up show and collates all the complaints the loudmouth provocateur has provoked over the years.  He promises “A-list weirdos, offended clowns and angry cat lovers” – we’re sold. It’s a bit sweary, so no under 16s.

The Stables, Stockwell Lane, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, Bucks,

The letters of Barbara Pym & Philip Larkin, Weston Library, Oxford, Fri 9 Dec



Nosey parkers of a literary bent will love We Used To Correspond, a reading of private letters sent between poet Philip Larkin (and, er, his favourite bunny) and novelist Barbara Pym. They began writing to each other in 1961 when he was barely known and she was a big star and their conversation tracks a reversal of their fortunes over the following two decades. Esoteric, for sure, but fascinating.

Blackwell Hall, Weston Library, Broad St, Oxford,

Missenden Abbey Christmas Market, Great Missenden, Sun 11 Dec

missenden abbey

C’mon who doesn’t love a Christmas craft fair? (You’re on your own, Scroogey McScrooge Face.) Missenden Abbey’s extravaganza features children’s activities, craft stalls, festive snacks and tipples, and a raffle and tombola for Rennie Grove Hospice. And if that wasn’t enough there are two book signings: local children’s author Rachel Sherfield will be signing her tome, Mrs Blossom and Sniffy, while Aneeka Ludra will bring along her Indian cookery book, Dadima‘s.

11am-4pm, Missenden Abbey Conference Centre, London Rd, Great Missenden, Bucks,


Three Bears, Story Museum, Oxford, now until 10 Jan ’17


If you’ve yet to discover Oxford’s charming Story Museum – and you’d be forgiven as it’s hidden away down Pembroke Street away from the tourist hordes – you’re in for a treat. Three Bears: Furry Tales For Christmas is a family musical show based on various myths and stories about our furry friends. We have a hunch one of the plotlines might involve someone eating someone else’s porridge…

Story Museum, Pembroke St, Oxford,


Festive Family Fun Night, Frosts Garden Centre, Woburn Sands, Sun Dec 11

Fan of ice ice, baby? Get thee to Frosts Garden Centre in Woburn Sands for a family evening of ice skating (you don’t have to book a slot), drinks and mince pies on arrival, a magic show, a BBQ dinner and goody bags for the nippers. It’s £100 for a family ticket, £30 for an individual one, but that gets you a lot of Christmassy bang for your buck.

5-8pm, Frosts Garden Centre, Newport Road, Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes, Bucks,

John Piper exhibition, River & Rowing Museum, Henley, from Weds 14 Dec


The late artist John Piper lived in Fawley, just outside Henley on Thames, so it’s fitting that the River & Rowing Museum are hosting a retrospective of his life’s work. Ranked alongside Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson as one of the greats of British modern and abstract art, Piper worked in a variety of mediums, including painting (this one, above, is ‘Windsor Berkshire’) , set design, stain glass windows, textiles, tapestry and print. Worth the visit.

River & Rowing Museum, Mill Meadows, Henley on Thames, Oxon, RG9 1BF,

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