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This week

MON 18 - SUN 24 DEC 2017

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Fri 8 – Sun 31 Dec 

Here they come! Su Pollard, you say? (*immediately books all the tickets*). Say hi-de-hi – or should that be hi ho hi ho hi ho? – to the Wicked Queen, who I’ll hazard a guess will be, ahem, vibrantly attired. Mirror mirror on the wall, is this the campest panto of them all? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Read my review here.

Waterside Theatre, Exchange St, Aylesbury, Bucks,


Stick Man, The Stables, Milton Keynes, Mon 18 – Sun 24 Dec

actors holding stick men puppets on stage

Will he ever get back to the family tree? Let’s hope so – I don’t fancy watching hundreds of children crying as poor old Stick Man gets used as kindling. This touching festive story about the power of family love was one of my children’s favourite Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler books, and Scamp Theatre’s production has received rave reviews on previous runs.

 The Stables, Stockwell Lane, Wavendon, Milton


War Horse, New Theatre Oxford, Weds 13 Dec  – Sat 6 Jan 2018

Soooo excited that the outstanding National Theatre production of War Horse is coming to Oxford New Theatre this month. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and featuring those incredible, life-size puppets of the horses, it’s nearly sold sell-out, so please don’t leave it too late to book. Find out what happened when we galloped down to opening night.

New Theatre, George Street, Oxford,


Jack and the Beanstalk, Wycombe Swan, Sat 9 – Sun 31 Dec

Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a boyband alum. Simon Webbe from Blue – no kidding! –  stars as our bean-obsessed hero, alongside Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler, CBeebies star Chris Jarvis and veteran panto dame extraordinaire Nigel Ellacott, who notches up this 43rd panto run. Blimey, he’s keen. Here’s the full Muddy verdict.


Christmas at Bletchley Park, Bucks, dates through Dec

Time travel back to a 1940s-themed Christmas at home of World War II code-breakers, Bletchley Park near MK. There’s live retro music (on 2, 3, 9 & 16 Dec) and a 40s-style Christmas Grotto on selected dates between  until 23 Dec for kids aged 2 to 17 (somehow, I can’t image my 15 year old son being seen anywhere near a grotto or grown ups dressed as elves  – but, hey, each to her own!)

Bletchley Park, The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Dr, Bletchley, Milton Keynes,


Working Christmas, The Old Fire Station, Oxford, Weds 6 – Sat 23 Dec

theatre old fire station

Not a panto lover? For something completely different this month but still brim-full of that Christmassy feeling, head down to The Old Fire Station. Billed as a ‘Christmas play for grown ups’, there’s a brilliant cast of actor/comedians putting on this lovely show.

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


Christmas at Waddesdon Manor, now until Tues 2 Jan 2018

lights on waddesdon manor

No Bruce Munro light installations this year at Waddesdon Manor  (he’s up the road on the approach to Bicester Village) but instead there are several light shows to enjoy as dusk falls. Waddesdon Imaginarium is a light and sound show projected onto the Manor’s façade including roaming porcelain animals, dancing musical clocks, cascades of flowers, and 18th-century portraits, accompanied by an original score composed by students at the Guildhall School of Music.

Lauren Booth, Neon Parrots, 2017

Also worth checking out is is Electric Menagerie, light-based artworks throughout the grounds by American artist Lauren Booth (above), inspired by the real and fantastical animals associated with Waddesdon (Baron Ferdinand collected a ‘zoo’ of animals and birds to amuse his weekend party guests, including antelopes, kiwis and even kangaroos). Check out Dylan, Rolo and Murphy (2017), three Neon Goats placed on the rockwork, and her neon Parrot, Bleeding Heart Dove and Rothschild Mynahs created in response to the 1889 Aviary. Perfect too for getting your littlies into the Christmassy mood, there’s Letter Writing to Father Christmas until 23 Dec and a special free Children’s House Trail until 2 Jan.


Deck the Halls: Winter Floral Workshop, Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Mon 18 Dec

How’s this for an early Christmas present!  Floral art designer Jonathan Moseley is teaming up with expert gift wrapper Jane Means to help bring those finishing touches to your day. Learn to make stunning seasonal flower displays and find imaginative new ways to wrap your presents (I need all the help I can get)! For £205 you will recieve tea and coffee on arrival, the two workshops described above, champagne Laurent-Perrier reception with canapés and a three-course lunch.

Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Great Milton, Oxon,


Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Sat  18 Nov – 4 Feb

Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas!  The festive makeover will see Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden,


Softer – Jenny Holzer Exhibition at Blenheim Palace, Thurs 28 Sep – 31 Dec

dark art gallery installation blue and purple lights two silhouettes of bodies

The fourth artist to to showcase contemporary art at Blenheim Palace (my kids still talk about Ai Wei Wei back in 2015), Holzer will be creating new work directly addressing our military and political history – eeek! For this show she’s developing large-scale light projections that will transform the Formal Gardens after dark in a series of night time public events. Sound cool right? Plus visitors can also explore more meditative areas featuring examples of Holzer’s best-known work.


Santa Specials, Bucks Railway Centre, Weds 20, Fri 22 & Sat 23 Dec

real life thomas the tank engine train on tracks blowing out smoke blue skies

Father Christmas is clearly a fan of the steam train – he’s using Thomas as his grotto this year. If you take the kids you’ll be shown to your seats on the train, and will ride up and down the track a few times as you wait for the old guy to come to our compartment with gifts. The ticket price includes presents for all kids, refreshments (drink and biscuit for children; hot drink, sausage roll and mince pie for adults), a live children’s show, face-painting, Thomas-themed colouring and badge making and you can meet The Fat Controller.

Bucks Railway Centre, Quainton Road Station, Station Rd, Quainton,


Morgan & West: A (sort of ) Christmas Carol Magic Show! Pegasus, Oxford, Tues 5 – Sun 24 Dec

More Chuck D – no, not him from Public Enemy, I mean Charles Dickens – as Oxford’s Pegasus theatre also tackle A Christmas Carol this season. This version is presented by magicians Morgan & West (as seen on The Next Great Magician (ITV), Penn & Teller: Fool Us(ITV), and The Slammer (CBBC)).

Pegasus, Magdalen Rd, Oxford,


The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, Fri 15 – Sat 30 Dec

Cornerstone Arts tackles the lesser-known Nutcracker and the Mouse King in their festive musical show, performed by actors. In case you can’t remember this story (I couldn’t): Maria and family arrive at a shonky old toyshop one Christmas Eve, and after dark all the toys come to life, sing, dance and try to find a way to defeat the miserly Mouse King.

Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Rd, Didcot,


Aladdin and the Magical Lamp, JdP Music Building, Oxford, Sat 16 – Fri 22 Dec

Join Alison, the jolly but clueless Genie, her mean money-grabbing boss and a host of other friendly characters for a modern adaptation of the Disney classic Aladdin. Experience a whole new world (geddit) as you fly around Oxford on a magical electric blanket with plenty of entertainment, puppetry, clowning and original songs along the way. Perfect for 2-7 year-olds (£7 per person, under 1s go free).


Christmas Kingdom, Mead Open Farm, Fri 1 – Sun 24 Dec

The Mead Open Farm Christmas Kingdom has the major plus of being all under cover so you can still get in the Christmas spirit if the weather’s less than perfect. Kids can meet Santa in his Grotto and get a Magical Boarding Pass to lots more fun – from festive 3D film, to exploring the Elves’ Christmas Village, to meeting real Reindeer. Some autism- friendly sessions this year too with fewer people, strobe lighting turned off and a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.


Slade, O2 Academy, Oxford, Thurs 21 Dec

If Noddy Holder shouting IT’S CHRIIIISTMAAAAS doesn’t flip some internal switch in you, you’re lying. Catch this classic anthem and other Slade hits including ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’, and ‘Coz I Luv you’ this Thursday at the incredible 02 Academy. What better way to get into the festive spirit?


Santa’s coming to Slimbridge, World Wildlife Trust, Gloucs, Sat 16 – Fri 22 Dec

This visit to Santa sounds like a lovely day trip – your ticket (you’ll need to pre-book) includes a choice of Breakfast or Afternoon Tea with the Elves, lots of festive activities … marshmallow-toasting, gingerbread-icing, Santa letter-sending….you know the score by now. And, of course, there’s a visit to Santa in his grotto. The nice thing here is you book your slot so the kids can enjoy the day rather than wait in long queues for hours (we’ve all been there!). Sounds cute.

WWT Slimbridge, Bowditch, Slimbridge, Gloucs,



Twelfth Night, RST, Stratford, Thurs Nov 2- Feb 24 2018

Dinita Gohil as Viola. Photo: Manuel Harlan (c) RSC

The RSC’s winter production Twelfth Night sees Ade Edmondson, of The Young Ones and Bottom fame, as Olivia – Kara Tointon’s dour steward Malvolio in Shakespeare’s bittersweet comedy. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, who recreated Warwickshire’s Charlecote Park on stage for the RSC’s fabulous Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing, it’s set in Victorian BritainAlso starring Birmingham’s Dinita Gohil as Viola and Michael Cochrane as Sir Andrew Aguecheek.


Winterville, Clapham Common, now  – 1 Jan 2018

If you’re in Sarf London over Christmas, Winterville on Clapham Common’s  is well worth a look. There’s everything from an outdoor Ice Rink to a fairground, roller disco and free kids’ entertainment, but there’s lots more unusual stuff than at your standard Christmas Fair. We’re particularly loving the sound of  the Spiegeltent, where you’ll find cabaret, bingo, kids raves and, er, Mexican wrestling. What next, ‘Yoga On Ice’? Oh, I see, they have that too.


Slava’s Snowshow, Southbank Centre, London, Mon 18 Dec – Thurs 4 Jan 2018

Part of Wintertime at the Southbank, this show’s been all over the world (80 countries, no less) and piled up heaps of awards so they’ve had plenty of time to refine their offering. It’s suitable for kids 8+ and is full of clowning and feel-good fun stuff for all ages.

Southbank Centre, Lambeth, London SE1,


Whales: Beneath the Surface, Natural History Museum, now – Feb 2018

Looking for something to now the kids are breaking up? You could combine this brilliant new (ish) family exhibition exploring 50 million years of the whale with a quick skate round the Natural History Museum’s fabulous open air ice rink.

Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7,


Cézanne Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, now – 11 Feb 2018

This started just last week, Brings together over 50 of Cézanne’s portraits from collections across the world, including works which have never been on public display in the UK . Over a working life of some forty-five years, Cézanne made almost 1,000 paintings of which around 160 are portraits and this exhibition offers a fascinating insight into this central aspect of his work.


Christmas at Kew, Kew Gardens, London, now –  1 Jan 2018

Such a brilliant time to visit Kew as they do the Crimbo thing so well with it one mile sparkling path winding its way through the world-famous Gardens. This year they promise a million twinkling lights, Singing Trees, ribbons of light and a flickering Fire Garden, plus Father C and his elves at the North Pole Village, vintage fairground rides (a fee for that one) and shopping. Worth going with the fam.


Modigliani, Tate Modern, now – 2 April 2018

The Tate Modern’s comprehensive retrospective of Modigliani’s work is quite a treat. During his brief, turbulent life Modigliani developed a unique and instantly recognisable style. His nudes that are a highlight of the exhibition – with 12 nudes on display, this is the largest group ever reunited in the UK. First shown in 1917, police closed down his only ever solo exhibition on the grounds of indecency. Also expect sculptures, and portraits of his friends, lovers and supporters, including Pablo Picasso and his partner Jeanne Hébuterne.


Finnish Rooftop Sauna, Queen Elizabeth Roof Terrace, South Bank, now – Sat 30 Dec

woman sauna finnish

Warm up and unwind in a one-of-a-kind Finnish sauna experience in the heart of London – it’s what you’ve always wanted to do in London!  There’s a specially designed Nordic sauna that on the Queen Elizabeth Roof Terrace on the South Bank, combining beautiful Nordic design with a bespoke artistic commission. If 90 degrees celsius is a bit sweaty for you, cool down in the open air (or with cold water buckets – go on, dare you!), while enjoying some stonking views of the Thames below.

Find more ideas here

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