Your 2022 local culture hotlist
New year, new exciting things to do! There's a jam-packed schedule of cool cultural happenings coming to Bucks and Oxon this year, and we know all about 'em. Diaries at the ready, let's go!
MUSIC TO MY EARS
If live music’s your jam, there’s a hot first half of the year coming at you strong. At the O2 Academy Oxford, we can’t wait to see indie heroes The Fratellis on 19 March — we’ll be up front, screaming Chelsea Dagger like it’s going out of fashion. Then it’s all eyes for Jake Bugg, also at O2 Academy Oxford, on 3 April.
Just ten days after that, on 13 April, you can catch The Vaccines when they play at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Bet they’re chuffed their name is suddenly so relevant, eh?
If you’re after something a little higher of brow, be sure not to miss the Oxford Harmonic Choir’s concert devoted to Mozart at the Oxford Town Hall on 25 June, which promises serenely beautiful arrangements. Sometimes, you really can’t beat classical.
At the beginning of July, Waddesdon Manor turns full music venue, starting with An Evening with Michael Bublé on 2 July, then slam-dunking it with a concert (OMG!) from McFly on 3 July. If that wasn’t enough for you, 80s legends Tears for Fears will be taking the stage on 5 July. What a week!
ROLL UP, ROLL UP!
We can’t wait to be in the audience for the brand new show from Giffords Circus – Carpa! A riotous celebration of all things Mexican (arrrrriba!). The UK tour opens just over the border at the Circus HQ in Stroud, Gloucestershire on 14 Apr 2022, before heading out on tour to local venues Blenheim Palace in Woodstock (2-6 Jun), Stonor Park in Henley (14-18 Jul), Barrington in the Oxon Cotswolds (21 Jul – 1 Aug).
GET YOUR HANDS UP
Then we’re getting into music festival season — can I get a hell yeah?! New this year is Kite Festival in Kirtlington Park, Oxford, a festival of ideas and music taking place 10-12 June. Grace Jones, David Miliband, Elizabeth Day, TLC… what a mix! We’re already hyped. Early bird tickets are on sale now.
If you hop over the border into Northants on 17-18 June, you can catch the brilliant Music Barn Festival, based near Kettering, for a jam-packed weekend of up-and-coming music across different genres, all in support of a local palliative care hospice. Check out the 2022 line-up here.
Moving into July, it’s the 10 year anniversary of Tring‘s Chilfest just over the Herts border, and the headliners (3 July) include The Proclaimers, Toploader, and Bucks local Tony Hadley.
Between the 8-10 July it’s all happening at The Great Tew Park with Cornbury Music Festival, the civilised festival that prides itself on being quintessentially English; think country fair with a rock’n’roll twist. Headliners this year include James Blunt, Bryan Adams, and Jools Holland.
Don’t forget your red trousers and Champagne for the genteel Henley Festival, 6-10 July, celebrating its 40 year anniversary (kudos!) with an extra special do — line-up still TBC.
Later on in the month, the serene Bucks village of Penn will be pulling in its typically impressive line-up of rabble-rousers with PennFest on 22-23 July. Again, line-up is coming soon but they’re typically big on ’90s indie favourites.
Around the same time is “The Godfather of the small festival scene”, Truck Festival in Steventon, running 22-24 July. Bombay Bicycle Club, The Kooks, Sam Fender…and more still to be announced! Phwoar.
Then, later on in the year you can look forward to Wilderness festival (Oxford) on 4-7 Aug, a heady mix of hippies and big-name artists, as well as veteran folk-fest Towersey Festival in Thame, happening 26-29 Aug.
Would you care for some art, Madame? We’re eager for the Ashmolean in Oxford’s exhibition on Pisarro: Father of Impressionism, which runs from 18 Feb – 12 June. This will honour Camille Pisarro, early impressionist and one of the most celebrated artists of nineteenth-century France, credited as influencing both Monet and Cézanne.
From 1-12 Feb, the North Wall in Oxford has a pop-up exhibition Twist, displaying a collection of talented British artists and their works, all available for purchase.
You also won’t want to miss the exciting new Modern Art Oxford online exhibition branch, available from 10 Feb – 13 March. Before you lose interest at the word ‘online’ (we see you!), this is shaping up to be really something: combining game design, interactive storytelling, speculative fiction, and citizen science, branch will experiment with the future in a properly cool and engaging way.
Then, still at the Modern Art Oxford, it’s time for a major solo exhibition by artist Jesse Darling: No Medals No Ribbons, running 5 March – 1 May. This explores the fundamental vulnerabilities and contradictions of the social and constructed body — be it human or governmental.
Up at the MK Gallery, there’s an exhibition on Ingrid Pollard: Carbon Slowly Turning from 12 March – 5 June. This is a major collection of Pollard’s works so far, which span photography, printmaking, drawing and installation, and interrogate social constructs such as Britishness, race, sexuality, and identity.
Meanwhile, Waddesdon Manor is shining a spotlight on its most famous Gainsborough painting this spring (specific dates TBC) with a special display dedicated to The Pink Boy in its newly restored state.
Then, from 7-29 May it’s already time again for Oxfordshire Artweeks festival. The UK’s biggest artist open studios & pop-up exhibition event, you can expect a wide range of creativity on display across pop-up galleries and shops, gardens, community centres and other venues.
For Bucks Art Weeks you’ll have to wait until 11-26 June, but it’s definitely worth waiting for. Last year involved over 600 artists and makers across 200 venues, so a staggering amount of stuff on show (and on sale) all across the county. Handily broken down into manageable trails, it promises great things.
TURN BACK TIME
If you’re itching for a history fix, Blenheim Palace has a new exhibition entitled Battlefields and Baroque, from Feb-May, which tells the story of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. A courageous leader in battle, briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London, the Duke was gifted Blenheim Palace by the Queen and married his wife purely for love. (HBO adaptation, when?) This exhibition will also include costumes from the film The Favourite, which starred the brilliant Olivia Coleman.
Over at the Chiltern Open Air Museum, there’s a Living History Festival on 9-10 April. Created in partnership with YouTube and TikTok sensation Living History UK, this will tell the story of 200 years of British soldiers, with plenty to immerse yourself in.
ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE
Point shoes on, folks: the Russian State Ballet is coming to the Oxford New Theatre from 10-12 Feb, with performances of Snow Maiden, Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake. We’re talking passion, tragic romance, captivation, betrayal…and astonishing calf muscles. Can’t wait.
Also 10 Feb at the North Wall, Oxford is the darkly comic Popelei: PUSH, a one-woman show about a woman staring down the barrel of motherhood. Been there! Though, admittedly, it didn’t prompt me to write an acclaimed show…
Another exciting show on at the North Wall is RICE on 18-19 Feb, the European premiere of an award-winning play by Asian-Australian writer Michele Lee. Thought-provoking and funny, it tells the story of a young hotshot executive of Indian descent, and the bond she forms with the older Chinese migrant who cleans her desk.
On 19 Feb, we’re excited to catch Here’s What She Said to Me at the Old Fire Station in Oxford. Produced by Utopia Theatre, a theatre company that explores Africa’s rich theatrical heritage, the show features a three-woman cast and makes use of music, poetry and movement in its story of a Nigerian family down the decades. There are some particularly rave reviews.
Up at the Milton Keynes Theatre, the Jersey Boys will be crooning about late December, back in ’63 from 23 Feb – 5 March. Then from 8-12 March it’s all tangos in cell blocks with Chicago (dubbed ‘the sexiest musical ever’, if you need to sell it to a spouse). And we’re extra excited to hear the people sing with Les Misérables, still at the MK Theatre, running from 26 April – 21 May.
Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful is coming to the Oxford Playhouse from 23-26 March — a great, moving show to take the kids to (9+).
April brings good things to the Oxford New Theatre: first the smash hit musical Waitress, 25-30 April, Sara Bareilles’ beautifully-scored comedy that swept Broadway and the West End. Then, on 15 and 16 April, Opera International’s award winning Ellen Kent Production will be performing Puccini’s Tosca followed by Bizet’s Carmen.
From 17-21 May, the Wycombe Swan has bagged a real treat with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the Olivier and Tony Award-winning adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel. If you haven’t seen it, it’s really worth going.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Calling all bookworms! This year the Oxford Literary Festival will be 25 March – 3 April. The schedule is still being finalised but the 2021 autumn session included huge names like writer Michael Morpurgo, classicist Mary Beard, and naturalist Chris Packham.
On 9 April there’s a talk on the novelist Iris Murdoch and her emphasis on altruism at the Old Fire Station, Oxford. This is part of Oxford Brookes’ Think Human Festival 2022, which is putting on a whole host of free events from 2-9 April. Another interesting talk is on 8 March, in honour of International Women’s Day, at The North Wall in Oxford. This will see journalist and podcaster Zing Tsjeng exploring the untold stories of marginalised women throughout history.
Then, The Chipping Norton Literary Festival is running 21-24 April, so you can expect a whole host of brilliantly bookish events. This includes Ned Palmer (author of A Cheesemonger’s History of The British Isles), whose page features the magic words “ticket price includes cheese samples”. Reader, we are there.
And finally, keep your eyes peeled for Henley Lit Fest on 1-9 Oct (last year featured Rob Beckett, Graham Norton, and Joe Wicks).
LAUGH OUT LOUD
Plenty to giggle at in Bucks and Oxon this year. Let’s rattle off some highlights: Chatty Man Alan Carr at the MK Theatre on 20 Jan or New Theatre Oxford on 31 March; Katherine Ryan (mega comedy star, and presenter of BBC2’s All That Glitters — anyone else’s comfort watch?) on 4 Feb at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre and then New Theatre Oxford on 5 Feb; Michael McIntyre on 7-8 Feb at the Oxford Playhouse; the magnificently-maned Ross Noble on 9 Feb at the Oxford New Theatre; Jimmy Carr at the MK Theatre on 6 March; Irish comedian, writer, and actor Catherine Bohart on 14 April at The Old Fire Station in Oxford; panel show star and podcast sensation Ed Gamble at at the Oxford Playhouse on 23 April.
There’s also generally a great line-up of smaller comedy nights at The Potters Arms in Amersham – it’s a brilliant local pub that’s a major player on the A-Lister comedy scene, so always worth checking if you’re nearby. Upcoming at the moment are Andy Askins on 24 Feb, and Patrick Monahan on 31 March.