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This weekend

Fri 21 - Sun 23 Jun


CULTURE: WizzFizzFest, Aylesbury, Sat 22 Jun

WizzFizzFest, now in its 17th year, is a family friendly arts festival that takes place in Aylesbury town centre with talks, events and activities. Headlining the literary line up this year are Cressida Cowell, author of the incredible How to Train Your Dragon series and Nick Butterworth, the award-winning author and illustrator of the Percy the Park Keeper series. The festival will also be celebrating the life and work of Judith Kerr OBE, author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, plus Strictly’s Darcey Bussell will be hosting a dance competition.


MUSIC: Nocturne Live, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Thurs 20 – Sun 23 Jun

Nocturne Live is a festival for people who are too posh for festivals! This is more a series of chichi al fresco concerts in ridiculously elegant surroundings, with Gladys KnightMs Lauryn HillTears for Fears and Kylie (sadly sold out) on consecutive summer nights. Having once waited many, many hours for a Ms Hill gig back in the day, I wish all attendees good luck on that front.



Go on, pack your picnic and breathe in the culture! Oxford Castle Quarter’s annual Shakespeare festival which kicks off this week with back-to-back abridged (me likey) Romeo & Juliet and Richard III from BMH Productions (17 – 29 Jun). Or there are two free shows on Gloucester Green, Oxford, We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat featuring cage diving, shark hunting in the small town community of Selsey (22 Jun) and feminist dance/theatre/puppet piece Jane (22 Jun), about pre-Raphaelite artists’ muse Jane Morris, part of Offbeat Festival. Check out my full outdoor theatre guide to see what else is coming up this summer.


DRINK: Gin Festival, Slurp Wines, Banbury, Fri 21 Jun 

Slurp Wines is hosting its first Gin Festival this Fri with over 30 varieties and 10 local producers including Cotswolds Distillery, TOAD and Salcombe Gin. Tickets include gin sampling, four G&Ts, sourdough pizza and live music.


FESTIVAL: Tandem Festival, Lower Farm, Chipping Norton, Fri 21 – Sun 23 Jun


Pitching up at Lower Farm, Chipping Norton, Tandem Festival looks like a goodie if you want a laid back, family friendly vibe with the option to camp- no big names but there’s a wide range of music from orchestras and balkan beats to late night DJs. Loads of activities like dance, storytelling, crafts, yoga and it has pretty good eco creds too only serving veggie/vegan food- so a no go if you can’t live without steak for a couple of days.


EVENT: Flower Show, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Fri 21 – Sun 23 Jun

What could make Blenheim Palace‘s grounds even more lovely, you ask? Hundreds of gorgeous flowers and Mr George Clark off the telly (The Home Show, The Restoration Man and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces). I’m a sucker for baby blues, sorry Mr M. Blenheim hosts its seventh Flower Show with a Grand Floral Marquee featuring flower art created by international artists, show gardens, shopping village and talks from professional gardeners. Chelsea who?


EVENT: Royal Ascot, Ascot Racecourse, until Sat 22 Jun

jockeys on horses racing

Grab your hat, keep the hemlines long, the fake tan light and enjoy a day of sunshine (fingers crossed), 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 into the Daily Mail.


ART: Exploring Form: Oxford Sculptors Group, Greys Court, Henley, until Sun 23 Jun

Check out cool sculptures like this one at Grey’s Court this week, there’ll be larger sculptures in the walled garden and smaller pieces will be on display in the Cromwellian Building. All sculptures are available to purchase, plus there’s a trail to keep the kids entertained whilst you browse. You can also catch a glimpse of the giant Rowena the Rhino sculpture by artist Penn Cairns, proceeds of which go to Save the Rhinos and Greys Court.


OUTDOORS: Maze, Waddesdon Manor, from Fri 21 Jun

Fancy a challenge? How about checking out Waddesdon Manor’s maze above, the new design takes its inspiration from a book called New Principles of Gardening in Baron Ferdinand’s collection.


NEW EXHIBITION: Paula Rego: Obedience and DefianceMK Gallery, Milton Keynes, until Sun 22 Sept

Over at Milton Keynes’ mega new MK Gallery (I’ve been, it’s brilliant) you can see Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiancethe largest retrospective of the political artist’s work in England for 20 years with pieces focusing on gender discrimination, violence, slavery, abortion and political tyranny. Heavy stuff.


THEATRE: Amelie, New Theatre, Oxford, until Sat 22 Jun

It’s been a Broadway smash hit and now Amelie is coming to New Theatre Oxford. Based on the award-winning 2001 rom-com starring Audrey Tautou, it’s a feel-good musical about a young girl with a big imagination. Tickets here.


FESTIVAL: BSM’s Summer in the City, Cowley Road, Sat 22 Jun 

Oxford based indie label Big Scary Monsters is hosting a mini day-festival, BSM’s Summer in the City, in venues along Oxford’s cool Cowley Road including The Library, BrewDog and the Truck Store (22 Jun). The festival, that was launched last year in Hackney (cool creds), showcases local Oxford talent. More info here.


CIRCUS: Gifford’s Circus, Oxford’s University Parks, Oxford, until Mon 24 Jun

Gifford’s Circus pitches up its Big Top once again at Oxford University Parks, on its summer tour with a brand new show Xanadu– the theme this year is the Summer of Love, set in Hyde park 1973, so expect hippies, hipsters, rock stars and all-out grooviness alongside Nell Gifford’s brilliantly curated circus acts. It’s your last chance to see the circus in Bucks & Oxon this month before it returns in July.


EAT: Eat Food Festival, Henley, Oxon, Sat 15 – Sat 29 Jun

Don’t forget your elasticated pants for Eat Food Fest, a fortnight of foodie activities showcasing local producers, eateries, distilleries and more with a series of pop-ups, supper clubs, films and activities including chef demonstrations at Kenton Theatre.


THEATRE: Offbeat Festival, various locations, until Sat 29 Jun

The brainchild of Oxford arts venues Oxford Playhouse and Old Fire Station, Offbeat Festival, kicks off this month with a cultural extravaganza of never seen before productions. Started three years ago, the festival is like a mini Edinburgh Fringe and only showcases brand new material with a jam packed programme of theatre, comedy, dance, family shows and music. Full line up


KIDS: In The Night Garden Live, Wycombe Swan, Sat 22 – Sun 23 Jun

Brand new In The Night Garden Live comes to Wycombe Swan. I spent my happiest days when my kids were toddlers falling asleep to that theme music! Prepare to snooze while your little ones go wild for Igglepiggle and the gang.


NEW EXHIBITION: Wonderland – A wander through the world of AliceOxfordshire Museum, Woodstock, until Sat 7 Sept

For families, check out Woodstock based Oxfordshire Museum‘s Wonderland – A wander through the world of Alicein collaboration with The Story Museum, Oxford. The interactive exhibit will have a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, croquet with flamingos and a final escape from the Queen of Hearts.


OPERA: Garsington Opera Season, Wormsley Estate, Sat 1 – Sun 30 Jun

The Bartered Bride

Garsington Opera’s mega summer season continues this week with performances of Fantasio (Sat 22), The Bartered Bride (Sun 23) and Don Giovanni (Mon 24)


EVENT: Dragon Boat Festival, Willen Lake, Sun 23 Jun

Fancy paddling a boat to the beat of a drum? Enter your crew (max 21 people) and race your Chinese style dragon boat with a drummer at the helm at this popular spot in Willen Lake for the 18th annual Dragon Boat festival. No previous experience is needed so be prepared to get wet. You’re guaranteed at least 3 races with prizes up for grabs, plus there’s music and entertainment.


ART: Bucks Art Weeks, various locations, until Sun 23 Jun

It’s your last chance to scoop up an arty bargain from the 34th annual Bucks Art Weeks, with over 600 artists and makers out in force across Buckinghamshire. Galleries, pop-up displays, open working studios and demonstrations are all free for the public. Find your nearest venue here, or you can order a free directory from local libraries, tourist centres and participating venues.



Ongoing exhibits this week include Claudette Johnson: I Came to Dance at Modern Art Oxford- an overview of the artist’s life, the exhibit features her early work from the ’80s when she joined the newly formed BLK Art Group, comprised of black British art students and the moving, political large-scale drawings of black men and women she is best know for (Sat 1 Jun – Sun 8 Sept); Waddesdon Manor‘s two exhibitions, Brought to Life: Eliot Hodgkin Rediscovered, the largest ever show of the British painter’s work who’s best known for his still life and landscape paintings (until Sun 20 Oct)- check out my new review here, it was a surprise hit with the kids. And Framing Madame de Pompadour, a recreation of François Boucher’s famous portrait that’s on display at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. The project, in collaboration with digital art conservators Factum Arte has used 3D reproduction technology to reproduce the painting which will be displayed in its original 18th century frame with an accompanying interactive exhibition (until Sun 27 Oct).



EVENT: Downton Abbey Live, Highclere Castle, Berks, Sat 22 Jun 

Downton Abbey has long left us, but if you’re still harbouring visions of yourself as Lady Grantham (with a naughty dalliance with Lord Gillingham in the staff quarters – come on, admit it!) head down to the stunning grounds of Highclere Castle where the Chamber Orchestra of London will be performing with the television show’s composer John Lunn on piano. The al fresco concert will be hosted by actor Jim Carter in character as Mr Carson.


NEW EXHIBITION: Manolo Blahnik, The Wallace Collection, London, Mon 10 Jun – Sun 1 Sept

This new exhibit contrasts paintings, sculpture and ornate furniture from the Rococo art movement with Spanish fashion designer Manolo Blahnik’s designs. The intimate collection has been curated by Blahnik himself and features items from his private archives and these gorgeous candy pink shoes designed for Sofia Coppola’s award-winning film, Marie Antoinette. There are also a few accompanying talks, Fashion or Art?, Fashion and Power, The Collector, The Interior World, but if you want to go get a ticket quick as they’re selling out fast. This exhibit is free.


NEW EXHIBITION:  Keith Haring, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, Fri 14 Jun – Sun 10 Nov

Spot the little guys! A cool exhibit to check out that’s not over in the Big Smoke is this retrospective of Keith Haring, a legend on the ’80s graffiti, pop art and underground club culture scene.  The exhibit will feature 85 artworks including large-scale paintings, posters, photos and video. Very cool.


FESTIVAL: Summer by the River, London, until 28 Aug

If you’re heading for the Big Smoke, there’s tons to do all summer between London and Tower Bridge with the largest outdoor festival in the capital, Summer by the River (until 28 Aug)- outdoor cinema concerts, workshops, comedy and quizzes. You can scoff and drink to your heart’s content from the obligatory artisan stalls and then join in one of the fitness events to assuage the self-loathing.



Must-see exhibitions in the big smoke this month include Beasts of London, above, at the Museum of London, a fully immersive, digital installation exploring the role animals have played in the shaping of London, from the Roman era all they way up to present day. The interactive show uses video projection mapping to bring the beasts, from rats to lions, to life as they narrate a virtual tour of London with the likes of Kate Moss, Brian Blessed and Pam Ferris voicing the animals.

Or you can check out the V&A‘s retrospective of iconic 1960s designer and the mother of  miniskirts, Mary Quant– over 200 garments, accessories and exclusive unseen pieces from the designer’s personal archive (until Sun 16 Feb 2020); also at the V&A is this year’s biggie, the largest House of Dior collection ever staged in the UK, which traces the history of Christian Dior and the six artistic directors who succeeded him (until Sun 1 Sept). It is sold out but there are a few first-come, first served tickets available from 10am from the Grand Entrance – it’s well worth trying your luck.

Also worth checking out is the major Van Gogh show at Tate Britain, with over 45 works, including Starry Night on the Rhône 1888 from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and the rarely loaned Sunflowers 1888 from the National Gallery. There’ll also be work by British artist who were influenced by Van Gogh’s work including Francis Bacon and David Bomberg (until Sun 11 Aug).



EVENT: Summer Fest, Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, 6 – 7 Jul 

I’m getting vertigo just looking at this! Get booking for Waddesdon Manor’s brand new event Summer Fest, with the North Front transformed with flowers, decorations and bunting for miles. There’ll be street artists like this daring duo above, food, music and a shopping village in the Aviary Glade selling arts, crafts, plants and more.


EVENT: Chalke Valley History Festival, Salisbury, Wilts, 24 – 30 Jun

Get book now history buff! Chalke Valley History Festival has an extensive programme of talks, debates and interactive events and a mega-impressive list of speakers from Dan Snow to Mariella Frostrup, with a jaunt through Al Murray, Harry Enfield, Niall Ferguson and Antonia Fraser in between. Oh, and there’s camping too (24 – 30 Jun).


EVENT: The Boodles, Stoke Park, Tues 25 – Sat 29 Jun

Hosted at Stoke ParkThe Boodles is one of my favourite summer events- I’ve been a few times and apart from getting massively sozzled and trying on jewellery worth more than my house (I checked the exits, they were all covered unfortunately), it’s a brilliant, local, fun and cost-effective alternative to Wimbledon. The line up is always fantastic (this year you can see 21 year old tennis wizz  Stefanos Tsitsipas and former US Open champion and double Olympic silver medallist Juan Martin del Potro) and tickets sell quick- so you need to move swiftly.


The Hidden Garden, Henley Royal Regatta, Wed 3 – Sun 7 Jul

If you’re heading down to Henley Regatta this July and want to escape the riff raff (not that Henley does real riff raff, of course) book now for The Hidden Garden. New to the Regatta this year, the luxe but laid-back riverside venue on the Berkshire bank offers brilliant views, VIP hospitality, musical entertainment, gourmet food and – most importantly – lashings of booze (chilled Henriot champagne and local favourite, Mr Hobbs gin to be precise). Pre-booking is a must so grab your other half, bezzies or workies and get organised pronto!


THEATRE: The Girl on the Train, Oxford Playhouse, Mon 15 – Sat 20 Jul

I read Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train a few summers ago when it came out and was hooked (it’s the sort of novel you binge-read) but was less enamoured with the film (Emily Blunt was its only saving grace), so I’m excited to see how the thriller plays out on stage. The show stars Samantha Womack, who plays Ronnie Mitchell in Eastenders and Oliver Farnworth (Hollyoaks, Coronation Street) – looks like a goodie.

Find more ideas here

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