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 activity Mecca. This month is no exception. 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 Aug, I’ll be pushing small children out of the way for a turn on the giant inflatable Hungry Hippos 18-19 Aug and there’s a jungle party 25-26 Aug. Glen the Gorilla will also be making an appearance every Weds for a fun family show.
MUSIC: Oxford Proms, Sat 23 Aug
Three spectacular Oxford venues play host to this year’s concerts, including The Musicians of the Dreaming Spires orchestra at St Michael at the Northgate, an ode to Romantic Classics at the Sheldonian Theatre and the return of Jocelyn Freeman on the piano at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
THEATRE: Anything Goes, The Old Fire Station, Oxford, Weds 22 – Sat 25 Aug
Famous for its Indi theatre offerings, The Old Fire Station is throwing caution to the wind this month and staging a traditional production of Cole Porter’s classic musical Anything Goes. Expect toe-tapping, tails and fabulous costumes, with old favourites including You’re the Top and I Get A Kick Out of You.
SPORT: British Grand Prix MotoGP, Silverstone Racecourse, Towcester, Northants, Fri 24 – Sun 26 Aug
Cal Crutchlow will be hoping to build on his winning streak as he takes on World Champion Marc Marquez. But it’s so much more than just a race – the Moto Grand Prix is basically a weekend-long party, from Friday through to Sunday. The non-stop entertainment will keep any reluctant petrolheads happy and includes a gig from Plan B.
CULTURE: Oxford Storytelling Festival, Waterperry Gardens, Fri 24 – Mon 27 Aug
New to 2018, Oxford Storytelling Festival explores magic and the spoken word through stories, poetry and song in the gorgeous Waterperry Gardens. Expect naked women dancing around a fire whilst men with painted faces share a pipe. Apparently (and this bit is true) there’s also a line-up of some of the UK’s best storytellers, a grand tipi, therapy and relaxation areas, craft workshops and an ‘open mic’ if you’re feeling brave enough.
SHOPPING: Henley Country Craft Show, Stonor, Fri 24 – Mon 27 Aug
Arts and crafts, handmade jewellery, hand-finished furniture and everything in between at Henley Country Craft Show that rocks up at the lovely Stonor Park this bank holiday weekend. Tickets includes entry to Wonder Woods, a falcon show from The Hawking Centre, terrier racing and archery. Kirstie Allsopp, eat your heart out.
FOOD & DRINK: The Big Feastival, Alex James’ Farm nr Kingham, Fri 24 – Sun 26 Aug
This posh nosh extravaganza from cheese-obsessed Blur bassist Alex James hosts top chefs including Marco Pierre White, Raymond Blanc, Pierre Koffmann, Ashley Palmer Watts, and music from Professor Green, Clean Bandit, Paloma Faith, Basement Jaxx, James Arthur and Tom Odell. There’s various camping options with glamping bolt-ons and lots of fun for the kiddos too, including appearances by Paddington, Peppa Pig & George and Justin Fletcher (Mr Tuuuumbleee) plus a creche for under 5s provided by Nipperbout.
CULTURE: Spellbound, Ashmolean, from Fri 31 Aug
Showcasing the history of magic over eight centuries, this new unusual exhibition has everything from a unicorn’s horn to a human heart encased in lead (sounds like my ex). The exhibition’s launch coincides with the monthly Ashmolean After Hours event where you can wander the galleries with live music and talks, and then enjoy a drink or supper on the Rooftop until 8pm.
EVENT: Pop-up cinema, Babylon Plants, Watlington, Fri 31 Aug
This wholesale nursery spread over 4 acres is heaven for garden designers and landscapers with a wonderful selection of plants and gardening must-haves. On the last evening of August, they open their doors to the general public for a screening of the wonderfully quirky The Grand Budapest Hotel with its all star cast including Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Defoe, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton and Jude Law. Tickets cost £20 which includes a complimentary cocktail plus there’s a licensed bar with food. Sounds like the perfect way to bid a fond farewell to August and welcome in the autumn.
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.
FAMILY FUN: Dragon Slyer, Warwick Castle, various dates in Aug
Looking for something to entertain kids aged 8+? This is Warwick Castle’s first night-time experience telling the tale of 10th century warrior Guy as he battles monsters and dragons in a bid to gain a knighthood and win the heart of his one true love Princess Felice, daughter of the Earl of Warwick. It’s an explosive epic tale depicted over the course of an evening using live action, animation, equestrian acrobatics, fire and pyrotechnics. Boom! There’s also the regular birds of prey demos, the mighty trebuchet, archery and ramparts to rampage for day time fun.
FILM: Pop-Up Cinema Action, various locations, various dates
The Natural History Museum & Pitt Rivers team up for Jaws on 21 Aug (er, a good idea surrounded by skeletons and stuffed animals?), Coco on 22, Top Gun on 23 and The Greatest Showman on 24. Head down to The Hell Fire Caves Fri 3 Aug for Young Frankenstein at 7pm and Batman Returns at 9:30pm. With real in house bats, dark tunnels and legendary tales of haunting, feel free to hide behind your complimentary blanket during creepy scenes. Over at Blenheim Palace the boy wizard is making an appearance in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on 10 Aug, The Greatest Showman on Sat 11 and, fittingly as the birthplace of Churchill, The Darkest Hour on Sun 12 Aug. Chiltern Open Air Museum is dipping its toe into pop-up cinema waters for the first time with La La Land Weds 22 Aug, Back to the Future Thurs 23, Gladiator Fri 24 and round-up your Pink Ladies for Grease on Sat 25. Set up by a couple of locals, Elms Park Thame is screening Slumdog Millionaire Fri 17 Aug, Grease Sat 18 and Back to the Future Sun 19. Last but not least, head to the lovely Babylon Plants Fri 31 for The Grand Budapest Hotel and a complimentary cocktail (we like their style!).
ART: Nick Sharrat: Pirates, Pants & Wellyphants, River & Rowing Museum, until Sun 16 Sept
If you’ve got kids, you’ll have a book somewhere in the house with Nick Sharrat’s fabulous illustrations. The interactive exhibition of his work at the River Rowing Museum continues this month – and as well as being a great place to take kids, the lovely venue also has plenty of adult amusement! Including all you ever wanted to know (or not know) about rowing, painting and sculpture exhibitions, a cafe with posh nosh, and a short stroll to the river and shops of Henley.
AUGUST’S TOP MOVIE RELEASES:
Ant-Man and The Wasp, from 3 Aug
The newest marvel blockbuster and the first in the franchise to name a female character in its headline, sees Scott Lang struggling to balance being both a Super Hero and a father (it’s not that hard Scott – us mothers do it every day!). A new mission finds the Ant Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past. I’m sure it’s cooler than it sounds.
Christopher Robin, from 17 Aug
The nation’s favourite bear is back! From the creators of the 2017 smash-hit The Beauty & The Beast and starring (eye-candy alert!) Ewan McGregor, Disney’s latest live action adventure sees Winnie and the gang leave the Hundred Acre Wood to help a grown-up Christopher Robin remember the loving and playful boy who is still inside. Pack some tissues because it’s bound to be a tear-jerker.
The Meg, from 10 Aug
Have you watched Jaws recently? It’s laughable how scared we used to get by such terrible 80s graphics. But that is definitely not the case with new $150 million horror The Meg. After escaping an attack by a 70-foot shark, Jonas Taylor played by Vin Diesel – because no action film is complete without the him – must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible.
CULTURE: Disney in the West End Summer Pop-Up, Convent Garden, 31 July – 26 Aug
If you’ve got a child with mini jazz hands, they will go nuts for this free pop-up experience in London’s Covent Garden. See the masks, costumes and puppets from The Lion King and step inside Aladdin’s cave to get a photo with the legendary lamp. There will also be events taking place each day, including a Mac make-up demonstration, a puppetry display, plus singing and dancing workshops.
ART: Scoop: A Wonderful Ice Cream World, The British Museum of Food, London, until 30 Sep
Finally! A valid excuse to stuff my face. The British Museum of Food returns with its first major exhibition Scoop: A Wonderful Ice Cream World. Dedicated entirely to the frozen treat, explore memorabilia from the world’s largest collection of ice cream paraphernalia, discover the neuroscience behind it and try scoops of bygone eras, from daffodil to all-day-breakfast flavour (hmm). Other highlights include ice cream-flavoured weather (vanilla fog!) and a glow-in-the-dark concoction that you can eat in a futuristic luminescent cave. Pass the ladle, I’m going in…
THEATRE: Little Shop of Horrors, 3 Aug – 15 Sep, Regents Park Open Air Theatre
This off-beat musical about a florist shop assistant who pines for his work colleague 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, Jemima Rooper and Marc Antolin star in the OTT show that seems perfect for summer in the lovely setting of Regent’s Park (Brucie bonus – the theatre boasts the longest bar in the West End!).
FAMILY FUN: Zip Now London, Archbishops Park, Lambeth, until 9 Sep
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope it’s a human torpedo whizzing down a 738ft wire, 100ft (9 double decker buses!) above Archbishop’s Park at 50mph. Beats the tube any day of the week. What we’ll do to avoid our faces been wedged in someone’s sweaty armpit. Get yourself down to South Bank, climb to the top the tower and wheeeeeeee. Suitable from 8+
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.
FILM: Film4 Summer screen, Somerset House, London, Thurs 9 – Weds 22 Aug
If you can make it into London, head for the popular Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House. Featuring a mixture of premiers, old classics and recent hits, the venue’s fountain courtyard is a corker of a setting on a balmy summers evening in the capital. Highlights include the opening night premiere of The Wife introduced by Glen Close, Call Me By My Name on 20 Aug and Selma on 21 Aug.
ART: All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life, Tate Britain, London, until 27 Aug
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. Catch it while you can.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN:
KIDS: 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 ruse. The amazing but under-the-radar 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: Tobias Keene, Aurora, DW Gallery, Charlbury, until 5 Aug
Hollywood stars such as Robert Downey Jr and Tobey Maguire adorn their walls with the artwork of LA painter Tobias Keene and now you can do the same. The former Cotswolds 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 ex-pat life. The paintings range in size from a mere 20cm to a whooping 3m and feature 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 at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Christie’s in LA so this is quite a coup for lil’ old Charlbury. For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org
THEATRE: Shrek The Musical, Milton Keynes Theatre, until Sun 5 Aug
The Oscar-winning kids’ film hits the stage in this 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.
FESTIVAL: Countryfile Live, Blenheim Palace, Thurs 2 – Sun 5 Aug
Can’t get enough of Adam Henson and the Countryfile gang? Catch the show live at Blenheim Palace while you can. We’ve heard it features Matt Baker doing a semi-naked trapeze act and John Craven taming the Friesian cows in top hat and fishnets. Maybe. We can 100 percent confirm though there’s 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.
FESTIVAL: Wilderness, Cornbury Park, Thurs 2 – Sun 5 Aug
Possibly the best (and certainly the poshest) local festival of them all, Wilderness has a heady mix of right-on hippiness (yoga, skinny-dipping and hot tubs) and live disco, dance and soul from the likes of Nile Rodgers 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 the weird and wonderful world of Wilderness for you!
FOOD & DRINK: Cornerstone Beer & Music Festival, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, Fri 3 – Sun 5 Aug
Beer fests are all the rage with dozens popping up around our ‘hood this summer. Now in its 8th year, the community-minded Cornerstone Arts hosts one of the more established ones. I love this funky small arts space in central Didcot, add music and hops and it’s just about perfect.
FOOD & DRINK: Native Feasts Japanese Pop-Up Supper Club, The College Farm, Long Crendon, Sat 4 – Sun 5 Aug
Not easy to get good Japanese food around these parts so we’re very excited about this one. Native Feasts look east for their latest pop-up series at this Bucks farm. Hopefully this balmy weather will hold and dinner will be al fresco but the main room is lovely 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: Cliveden Open Air Theatre, Taplow, Sat 4, Weds 8 & Thurs 9 Aug
The beautiful oriental-inspired garden with its six-sided Chinese pagoda is the setting for this year’s theatrical offerings at the ever elegant Cliveden. Bring a picnic or purchase nibbles from The Doll’s House cafe and have your hanky ready for an adaptation of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children on Weds 8 Aug. Or get the hairs standing up on the back of your neck with a spooky retelling of Sherlock Holmes’ The Hound of the Baskervilles on Thurs 9 Aug and Fri 10 Aug.
MUSIC: Oxford Piano Festival, 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.
MUSIC: The Dead Kennedys, 02 Academy Oxford, Tues 7 Aug
Calling all semi-retired indie-rockers! Believe it or not, this is one of the most important American hardcore punk bands of the late ’70s – you might remember head banging to their hit Holiday in Cambodia (no, me neither). Try to contain your excitement as they come to Oxford this month to “cause some chaos” at the 02 Academy. Fingers crossed nobody breaks a hip.
THEATRE: Shakespeare Festival, Oxford Castle Quarter, until Sat 11 Aug
This eight-week Shakespeare binge kicked off last month with two hours of back-to-back, abridged (me likey) Othello and Much Ado About Nothing, followed by the much-loved A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now it’s Romeo and Juliet‘s turn. Bring a picnic or pre-order one with your tickets and enjoy a balmy Bardy night in the historic surroundings.
THEATRE: Brave New World, Westgate Centre, Oxford, 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.
FOOD & DRINK: Angel at Burford Summer Festival, Fri 10 – Sun 12 Aug
Nestled in an idyllic Costwold town, the totally gorgeous Angel at Burford pub is having its annual Summer Festival across a long weekend and is packed with fun for the whole family – entertainment, live music, shire horses, face-painting, an outdoor gin bar and lots of tasty al fresco dining.
THEATRE: Swallows & Amazons, Oxford University Parks, now until Sat 11 Aug
The marvellous Creation Theatre are 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.
CULTURE: Discover the English Civil War, Chiltern Open Air Museum, Sat 11 – Sun 12 Aug
Meet Soldiers and Officers of the English Civil War at the Open Air Museum as they reveal how they lived during this tremulous period. Highlights include a skirmish re-enactment, a live drill and the chance to explore tents, muskets, pikes, armour and artillery. Got kids who love fighting? Bring them here!
FAMILY FUN: ‘Tracing their Footsteps’ High Wire Walk, Blenheim Palace, Sat 11 – Sun 12 Aug
Great Scott! Blenheim Palace steps backs in time to when the famous high-wire walker Carlos Trower scaled great heights above the estate’s lake in 1886. The incredible Bullzini Family will attempt to recreate this historic moment (hope the chap in the picture has got his swimming shorts on) alongside performances from Victorian strong man acrobats, jugglers, stilt walkers and a scattering of vintage fairground rides.
FILM: RickFlix, The Rickety Press, Jericho, Oxford, Sat 11 Aug
Following the roaring success of last year, RickFlix (nothing to do with anyone called Rick, rather a play on the restaurant’s name) is back with another pop-up street cinema, featuring four classic films (all in one day!), deck chairs, food and drink for the whole neighbourhood. The crowd-pleasing line-up is (drum roll please)… Mrs. Doubtfire at 12pm, Billy Elliott at 3pm, The Greatest Showman at 6pm and The Grand Budapest Hotel at 9pm.
THEATRE: Whistle Down The Wind, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Thurs 16 – Sat 18 Aug
The talented local youth are heading to Aylesbury Waterside with this year’s Stage Experience production Whistle Down the Wind. The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman musical follows the story of a poor farming family who, as Christmas approaches, are desperate to find something to hold onto and believe in. Er, hasn’t anyone told them about Santa?
SPORT: Oxford Royal Regatta, Oxford, Sat 18 – Sun 19 Aug
Couldn’t see a thing at Henley Regatta? This smaller, popular Oxford regatta on the Isis river is organized annually by the City of Oxford Rowing Club. Racing is over a 1000m course on Saturday and a 500m sprint on Sunday with the usual array of tight lycra, bulging muscles and, um, great technique. Fun all round!