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This week

MON 30 JULY - SUN 5 AUG 2018

Masses of fun stuff on this week. Where shall we go first?


FAMILY FUN: Survive the Summer! Xscape Milton Keynes, throughout August

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at Xscape over the last few months because there always seems to be something happening at this North Bucks centre. This month, they are helping you survive the summer with plenty of activities for all the family. From 4-5 Aug, Lego-nuts can build a jungle-themed animal at one of their Lego workshops, Bush Tucker Trials are taking place 11-12, I’ll be pushing small children out of the way for a turn on the giant inflatable Hungry Hippos 18-19 and say farewell to August with a jungle party 25-26. Glen the Gorilla will also be making an appearance every Weds for a fun family show.


FAMILY FUN: Den Building, Black Park, Wexham, Weds 1 – Thurs 2 Aug

I’m always looking for incentives to get the kids away from tech and here’s a nifty rouse. The amazing Black Park – hundreds of hectares of outdoor fun – have press-ganged their park rangers into helping kids build dens and then enjoy toasting marshmallows by the campfire.


ART: Kids’ Photography Course, Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, Weds 1 – Fri 3 Aug

If you have an Ansel Adams (master of landscape photography in case you hadn’t heard of him – me neither) in your midst, this 3 day course by Sharp Shots Photo Club for children ages 9-15 will teach them how a camera works, what exposure means, how to use depth of field, shutter speed, and the fundamentals of composing an amazing photograph. At the end of day 3, parents can come and view their portfolio of work. The grounds of Waddesdon are stunning so great results guaranteed.


MUSIC: Wilderness Festival, Cornbury Park, Thurs 2 – Sun 5 Aug

Possibly the coolest local festival of them all, here there’s a heady mix of right-on hippiness (think yoga, skinny-dipping and hot tubs) combined with great music from the likes of Bastille, Nile Rodgers and Chic and Groove Armada. Plus The Flying Seagulls, Mortimer Nannies and The Artful Badgers Breakfast Boogie to keep the kids happy. A few years back, my daughter ended up in tears after clocking a ‘real’ mermaid flicking her tail on a rowing boat – she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to ditch the family and go live with her magical new friend. That’s Wilderness for you! Pricing: Child 0 – 5 years £5, Junior 6 – 12 years £35, Teen 13 – 17 years £115, Adults from £179 upwards, with all sorts of camping options to be had.


SPORT: The Big Tree Climb, Hughenden, Thurs 2 & Fri 3 Aug

Harnesses on? Not eaten anything in the last half hour? Then head to the delicious Hughenden for Tree Climbing with The Great Big Tree Climbing Company. Wheeeee!


ART: Tobias Keene, Aurora, DW Gallery, Charlbury, now until 5 Aug

Archangel. Photo courtesy of Tobias Keene and Branch Arts

Hollywood’s gliterrati (Robert Downey Jr, Tobey Maguire and Bill Wyman to name but a few) have been adorning their walls with the artwork of LA resident Tobias Keene. Now you can do the same. The former-Cotswold resident has brought some of his pieces home to the UK to feature in a pop up exhibition called Aurora, offering an insight into his new life. The paintings range in size from a mere 20cm to a whooping 3m, combining cows, running dogs and portraits of saints with lots of surrounding space in vivid colours (they must look great on vast walls in Stateside mansions). His work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions including the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA and Christies in Beverly Hills so it’s quite a coup for Charlbury. For more info email


THEATRE: Cliveden Open Air theatre, Thurs 2 and Sat 4 Aug

cliveden statue house

The beautiful oriental-inspired garden with its six sided Chinese pagoda is the setting for this year’s theatrical offerings. Bring your own picnic or purchase nibbles from The Doll’s House cafe and enjoy the one-man show Old Herbaceous on Sat 4 Aug. Based on the classic novel by Reginald Arkell, it’s a humorous story of a charming old head gardener and his passion for plants (not suitable for children).


#DeclareYourScent, Jo Malone, John Lewis, High Wycombe, Fri 3 – Sat 4 Aug

If you’re in the High Wycombe area, pop into John Lewis for a special Jo Malone pop-up event taking place across the nation. Get the inside line on your most-loved scent with a special edition Hand & Arm Massage whilst enjoying some complimentary sparkling wine and treats. Discover how to layer through the art of Fragrance Combining and (here’s the best part) take home samples of its perfect pairing.


SPORT: Love Willen Day, Willen Lake, Milton Keynes, Fri 3 Aug

Well, I totally know where I’ll be headed on Friday! A whole day of FREE activities to try suitable for toddlers through to adults, including a 30 min kneeboarding session, 30 min archery tag and a powerfan jump. Plus 2-4-1 on sessions at the fantastic Splash Park (one of the largest in the UK, dontcha know).


FOOD & DRINK: Cornerstone Beer and Music Festival, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, Fri 3 – Sun 5 Aug

bright modern cornerstone building

Beer fests are all the rage, and this one at the community-minded Cornerstone Arts is well-established, now into its 9th year. I love this funky small arts space in central Didcot, add music and hops and it’s just about perfect.


ART: Pizza Slice Weekend, Modern Art Oxford, Sat 4 – Sun 5 Aug

hand taking pizza slice from a white plate on top green checked table cloth

Modern Art Oxford and Muddy fave Pizza Pilgrims have teamed up to create a weekend of art, pizza and live music. Head upstairs to the A Slice through the World exhibition for some inspiration, then create #pizzaboxart in the Yard for a free slice of pizza. Wash it down with an alcoholic beverage at the BRICK pop up bar.


FESTIVAL: Countryfile Live, Blenheim Palace, Thurs 2 – Sun 5 Aug 

Can’t get enough of Adam Henson and the Countryfile gang? Roll up, roll up, catch the show while you can at Blenheim Palace as the team showcase the best of the British countryside. Expect live arena shows where Matt Baker does a semi-naked trapeze act while John Craven tames the Fresian cows in top hat and fishnets. Apparently (and this bit is true) there’s also a National Trust theatre, waterside activities, off-road experiences, animal displays and 700 exhibitors. This year they are also throwing a BBC Countryfile Live Summer Party on the Saturday 6-9pm, headlined by country duo The Shires (a BBC Radio 2 favourite) and supported by Newton Faulkner and Ferris & Sylvester.


FOOD & DRINK: Native Feasts, Japanese Pop-up restaurant, The College Farm, Long Crendon, Sat 4 – Sun 5 Aug

Native Feasts look east to the setting sun for their latest pop-up series at The College Farm. Hopefully this balmy weather will hold and dinner will be alfresco but the main room is lovely enough if it happens to rain. Japanese style yakitori (skewers cooked over a coal grill) include duck and spring onion, prawns with ponzu and yuzu and king oyster mushroom. Ramen and salads, desserts such as Purin milk pudding, Asian inspired cocktails, artisan wine and sake are also on the tempting menu.


THEATRE: Shrek The Musical, Milton Keynes Theatre, until Sun 5 Aug 

Like most oscar-winning films, Shrek has been declared ripe enough for the stage in an all-singing, all-dancing, musical comedy adaptation. Join Shrek, and his loyal steed Donkey as they set off on a quest to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona from her tower, guarded by a fire breathing love-sick dragon. Add the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad, a gang of fairytale misfits, and a biscuit with attitude, and you’ve got a show that the whole family will enjoy.


FOOD & DRINK: Chafor Vineyard Open Day, Gawcott, Sat 4 Aug

purple grapes

If you’re having a staycation, a trip to local vineyard Chafor can trick your brain into thinking you’re in France, Italy or Spain, sipping fine wines in the heat of the day, then popping home for a nap before deciding where to have dinner. Oops, caught day dreaming again. Chafor is kindly hosting a day of wine tasting, BBQ, giant Paella and a bouncy castle, for the kids obvs but hey I’m on holiday too!


MUSIC: Oxford Piano Festival, now until Sun 5 Aug

Ivory-tinklers like me will find much to love at Oxford’s Piano Festival, which celebrates the world’s best players, both old and new, with performances, masterclasses and lectures. Last week to catch it, people!


THEATRE: Brave New World, Westgate Centre, Oxford, now until Sat 11 Aug

Aldous Huxley with your H&M? You’ve finished your shopping, had a drink and dined on the roof terrace, but still don’t want to leave Westgate. How about a trip to the theatre? With the brand new shopping centre as the backdrop to Creation Theatre’s version of Auldous Huxley’s Brave New World, this vision of future consumerism is scary, pertinent and thought-provoking.


CULTURE: Family Museum, Libraries and Gardens Trawl, Oxford, all summer

Want to encourage your kids to visit all the great museums, libraries and gardens in Oxford this summer? If they’re of an age where stickers and prizes are enough to get them through the door then take part in this family campaign. Grab a passport from the information desk at The Ashmolean, Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers, Museum of the History of Science, Harcourt Arboretum, Bodleian Library or Botanic Garden and each time you visit get a sticker. Three stickers equals prizes equals happy kids equals smug parents like me!


THEATRE: Swallows & Amazons, Oxford University Parks, until Sat 11 Aug

The marvellous Creation Theatre is at it again, bringing us imaginative theatre in every sort of location other than theatres. Originally performed in Bristol’s Old Vic, this adaptation of children’s classic Swallows & Amazons is being performed in Oxford University Parks. I’m sure Arthur Ransome would approve.


ART: Nick Sharrat: Pirates, Pants & Wellyphants, River & Rowing Museum, now until Sun 16 Sept 

If you’ve got kids, you’ll have a book somewhere in your house with Nick Sharrat’s fabulous illustrations. An interactive exhibition of his work is now on at this lovely venue which is a great place to take kids but there’s plenty of adult amusement with all you ever wanted to know (or not know) about rowing, visiting painting and sculpture exhibitions, a cafe with posh nosh, and a short stroll to the river and shops of Henley.


THEATRE: Shakespeare Festival, Oxford Castle Quarter, now until Sat 11 Aug

Romeo and Juliet, Oxford Castle QuarterOxford, now until 11 Aug

Wherefore art thou, Romeo? (sorry, it’s the best I can do in this heat). Last week of this 8 week Shakespeare Festival Othello and Much Ado About Nothing A Midsummer Night’s Dream all gone and now it’s   Romeo and Juliet (Siege Theatre) that started on Monday and going through to 11 Aug. Fabulous setting in the old castle yard, bring a picnic or pre-order with your tickets from £16 for the performance and £8.95 for a standard picnic.



THEATRE: Kids Week, various London locations, throughout August

This August, children aged 16 or under can get FREE theatre tickets to selected performances across London (when  accompanied by a paying adult). There is a huuuge selection of shows to choose from including Sound and Sourcery at The Vaults, an immersive music concert experience inspired by Disney’s Fantasy. Under Waterloo station, collect your headphones at the door and step inside the tunnels where you will dance with a funky hippo, walk in a prehistoric wasteland, seek out the fairies in a magic forest and sneak into the Sorcerer’s lair. Over at the National Theatre, the Star Seekers need help saving their space station in this interactive 50 minute show for 3 – 8 year olds. Or for older kids, Pressure at the Ambassador’s Theatre is a funny and tense play about the D-Day landings.


THEATRE: Little Shop of Horrors, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Fri 3 Aug – 15 Sept

This off-beat musical about florist shop assistant Seymour who pines for his work colleague Audrey but doesn’t know how to win her heart or what to do to sate the appetite of a human-eating plant looks great fun. Matt Willis from Busted fame, drag queen Vicky Fox from the USA support Jemima Rooper and Marc Antolin star in an OTT show that seems perfect for summer in the lovely setting of Regent’s Park (bonus fact – the theatre boasts the longest bar in the West End!).


FAMILY FUN: Circus Sampler, Somerset House, London, now until Tues 7 Aug

With 2018 being the 250th anniversary of the birth of circus, you can celebrate with a free exhibition Circus Originals opening on 25 Jul plus live circus events at Somerset House. Dance artists Far From The Norm perform Union Black that combines humour, hip hop and circus using Chinese poles and tight-wire. Between performances, you can watch international record-breaking hula hooper extraordinaire, Marawa. She’s joined by her team of hoop performers, The Majorettes, and they’ll teach you to hula hoop after the show.


ART: All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life, Tate Britain, London, now until 27 Aug

Paulo Rego, Bride 1994.

Soon to end, this fascinating exhibition All Too Human celebrates the painters in Britain who have tried to capture human figures, their relationships and surroundings, in paint. With works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon (including 3 of his works which have not been shown in Britain for decades) amongst others, the intimate representations of reality make for a powerful experience.



FILM: The Cold War with Director’s Q&A, the Curzon, Westgate, Oxford, Mon 30 Jul

Apparently, the Hollywood summer blockbuster was introduced when air-con first appeared in California. If you fancy escaping the heat and sitting in the lovely Curzon Oxford cinema, then this Monday you can extend your visit with a Q&A with Director Paweł Pawlikowski, following the screening of his black and white epic romance Cold War. Set against the backdrop of Europe after World War II. it spans decades and nations to tell a love story that is as tragic as it is moving. Pawlikowski won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival 2018 so it promises to be a fascinating evening (and delightfully cool!).


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