MUDDY’S PICK OF THE MONTH
THEATRE: War Horse, New Theatre, Oxford, Thurs 22 Aug – Sat 7 Sept
The brilliant War Horse comes to Muddy Award-winning New Theatre at the end of the month. Set in WW1, this spectacular production is theatre at its best with the puppetry so clever that after a while you forget about the operators and models. A must see.
The spectacular University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, found on the cobbled Radcliffe Square, plays host to this year’s Oxford Proms concerts, Hall of Fame Classics with Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2 (Sat 10) and Concerto Spectacular: The Magic of Mozart (15 Aug). Also on the classic front there’s a special Gala Performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera The Pirates of Penzance at Roxburgh Hall, Stowe (9 Aug).
Or, if jazz is your bag there are a few events this month including Jazz on the Parterre hosted on the National Trust’s jewel in the crown, Waddesdon Manor‘s landscape gardens above (Fri 2). Bring a picnic and there’s a glass of fizz or Pimm’s thrown in too. For another stunner of a setting, the Ashmolean’s Rooftop Restaurant, Oxford, hosts its popular Gin’n’Jazz evening (Wed 7)- live music, as well as drinks and tips from The Oxford Artisan Distillery. And at the end of the month, there’s a free performance at Modern Art Oxford inspired by its major exhibition on Claudette Johnson and the artist’s love of jazz (31 Aug). The session will be curated by DJ Octavia Freud and feature 60’s east coast jazz, classic female vocalists and Afro-beat. Groovy.
Cool, up-and-coming indie-soul singer Lots Holloway is popping up in Westgate, Oxford across Aug with a series of performances (16, 17, 30, 31), catch her quick before she hits the big time. And finally, how about this for an ’80s throwback? Bespectacled Scottish duo The Proclaimers rock up at New Theatre, Oxford, this month (Sun 11 Aug) on their tour Angry Cyclist. I thought they’d walk 500 miles to get here but apparently they’re on two wheels this time.
Up first on the festival front this month is one of my favourite shindigs- possibly the coolest local festival of them all, Wilderness, in Cornbury Park, Oxford, is a heady mix of right-on hippiness (think yoga, skinny-dipping and hot tubs) combined with impressive big-name music bookings including Groove Armada, Robyn, Bombay Bicycle Club and Tom Odell (Thurs 1 – Sun 4).
First up is posh nosh extravaganza The Big Feastival, based on the farm of cheese-obsessed Blur bassist Alex James in Kingham, Oxon. Top notch chefs including Raymond Blanc and Prue Leith, plus music from big pop names Jess Glynne (pictured above), Lewis Capaldi, Jade Bird and Rudimental (Fri 23 – Sun 25). Then there’s the return of Towersey Festival, the veteran folk festival which confusingly is now held in market town Thame, rather than nearby village, Towersey. Acts this year include Hothouse Flowers, Seth Lakeman and Steve Harley & The Cockney Rebel, and there are loads of kiddy activities to keep the nippers occupied (Fri 23 – Mon 26). Or you can head over to Swanbourne, set in the beautiful Bucks countryside, for family affair Swanbourne Music Festival – no mahoosive names but lots of local acts, plus Brit indie rock band The Zutons (Sun 25).
EVENT: The Henley Country Craft Show, Stonor Park, Henley, 23 – 26 Aug
Ready to get crafty? Stonor Park’s gorgeous grounds host this family friendly craft show with outdoor marquees filled with up to 200 stalls selling handmade jewellery, homewares, clothing and more. Snaffle a bargain, then head over to the artisan food and drink stalls to stuff your face. There’ll also be live music, a vintage fair and new for 2019, a pop-up petting zoo, clay pigeon shooting, candle making and weaving workshops. thecraftshows.co.uk
Dig out your elasticated pants as there are a few food events happening in our neck of the woods this month starting with the UK’s biggest food fest, Foodies Festival at Oxford South Parks (Fri 24 – Mon 26). There will be loads of gastronomic goodies, street food, artisan producers, live cooking demos, plus music from indie pop group Scouting for Girls. New for this year there’ll also be a larger Kids Zone with cookery theatre, slime challenge and Dog Arena. Or turn up the heat at Waddesdon Manor‘s annual Chilli Fest (I like it hot!) which takes place in the beautiful Aviary Gardens (Sat 31 Aug – Sun 1 Sept). There’ll be a curated selection of artisan producers, indie traders, plus live music and family activities.
Head down to Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden, hidden away down a canal towpath in Kirtlington– it’s only open for four more dates this year so book in quick if you want the Full Jeeves (afternoon tea with all the trimmings). Dates for August are Sat 17 – Sun 18. No excuse necessary, it’s Afternoon Tea Week starting on Monday 12 Aug!
The biggie this month is BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace (1 – 4 Aug)- the Countryfile crew will be on hand throughout the weekend along with some special guests including England rugby player James Haskell, JLS’ JB Gill and England hockey player Sam Quek. There’ll be heaps of activities across the long weekender with a pop-up nature reserve, theatre hosted by the National Trust, dog show, kayaking lessons, offloading experiences and more. You can camp too (erm, I’ll give that bit a miss).
Alternatively, if you live in Bucks there’s the 152nd Bucks County Show in Aylesbury (29 Aug), a similar shindig (although sans celebs, sorry) with horse shows, trade stands, food stalls and vintage tractors. Or a sweet lo-fi counterpoint to the larger events is Aylesbury Travelling Farm which will be setting up on Market Square (1 Aug) with baby lambs, goats, ducklings, shetland ponies and more.
PASS THE POPCORN!
How stunning is this backdrop for a spot of outdoor cinema? It looks just like a scene in Harry Potter, oh wait… The Museum of Natural History, Oxford, will be screening the plucky little wizard in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (3 Aug), Bohemian Rhapsody (2 Aug) and Jurassic Park (1 Aug) – no surprise there, the museum is dino-mad. Or, over at Amersham Cricket Club, there’s a chock-a-block line up starting with a permed Julia Roberts and a slightly-creepy-but-gets-away-with-it Richard Gere in Pretty Woman (15 Aug) followed by The Greatest Showman (15 Aug), Jurassic Park (16 Aug), Dirty Dancing (16 Aug), Bohemian Rhapsody (16 Aug), Mamma Mia! (17 Aug), A Star Is Born (17 Aug) and Mary Poppins Returns (18 Aug). Also showing this month is Bohemian Rhapsody at Wycombe Museum (Fri 16), with hotdogs, popcorn and a bar; Bohemian Rhapsody (Fri 16) at Buscot Park, Faringdon; Bohemian Rhapsody (23 Aug), Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s HOT chemistry in A Star Is Born (24 Aug) and Grease (25 Aug) at Cotswold corker Sudley Castle; A Star is Born at Campbell Park Amphitheatre, Milton Keynes (21 Aug) followed by Dirty Dancing (22 Aug), Jurassic Park (24 Aug), The Greatest Showman (25 Aug) and, you guessed it, Bohemian Rhapsody (23 Aug). Wow, lots of Freddie Mercury fans around these parts.
OPEN AIR THEATRE
There are absolutely loads of opportunities to get your al fresco theatre fix this month starting with Cliveden Water Garden‘s beautiful formal gardens showing family comedy Three Men in a Boat (3 Aug), The Tempest (10 Aug) and Noel Coward’s comedy of manners Private Lives (30 Aug), about a divorced couple who end up in adjacent rooms on honeymoons with their new spouses- awks! Or there’s Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors at Millets Farm, nr Abingdon, with audience participation and live music; Romeo and Juliet (10 Aug), The Pink Panther (15 – 17 Aug), The Taming of the Shrew (22 – 24 Aug) at cool new outdoor theatre The Arches, nr Olney, below which is made up of four disused railway arches.
The Sword in the Stone shows at Waterperry Gardens (10 Aug), nr Muddy HQ in Oxon; West Wycombe Park’s outdoor theatre on the East Lawn returns for another year with an all-male production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (14 Aug); Waddesdon Manor’s stunning gardens and stately country manor house are the backdrop for Quantum Theatre’s new adaptation of Wind in the Willows (23 Aug); a moving production of The Tempest by Creation Theatre with the Oxford-based production company taking the audience on a trip around Oxford with the play’s characters popping up across the city and interacting with the audience (until 15 Aug); Oxford Castle and Prison is the setting for physical theatre company Justice in Motion’s totally free production On Edge, which addresses issues of modern slavery, and will be performed using parkour skills on a towering scaffold. Free workshops will run in between shows, no booking required (17 – 18 Aug).
And finally, there’s Europe’s first pop-up Shakespearean theatre at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock above – the 13-sided theatre, with three tiers of covered seating and open courtyard for ‘groundlings’ is showing Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III and Romeo & Juliet (until 7 Sept) and will be accompanied by a Shakespearean Village selling local ales, ice cream and side shows.
KIDS & FAMILY
At this point in the school holidays the kids are climbing the walls, so why not let ’em climb trees instead? The Big Tree Climbing Company are pitching up at Oxford Botanic Garden (Sat 10) and Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury (Sat 17 – Sun 18) – kids aged 6+ can safely scale the trees with ropes, harnesses, helmets and zip line to the floor. The National Trust venue is also hosting a Summer of Sport (until Fri 30 Aug) with themed trails, Orienteering, workouts, Tour de Waddesdon, football, table tennis, badminton and more. Or over at Oxford Castle Quarter this month there’s a totally free Medieval Fayre complete with sword fights, fire juggling jesters, live blacksmithing, plus on 24 – 25 Aug there’ll be medieval cookery lessons and music from medieval minstrels Sloe Gin (great name). For kids there’ll be puppet shows and Knight School below.
It’s your last chance to catch Giffords Circus as it moves onto its final location in our ‘hood this month, Barrington, in Oxfordshire– this year the circus’ theme is ’70s Summer of Love so expect hippies (peace out!), hipsters and rockstars alongside Nell Gifford’s brilliantly curated acts (1 – 12 Aug). Or fancy a day at the beach? Willen Lake in Milton Keynes hosts its Seaside in the City event with large sandpit, plus activities like banana boats, pedalos and splash’n’play area (16 Aug).
On the theatre from it’s a double bill of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler this month (of The Gruffalo fame) with Tabby McTat at Oxford Playhouse (Fri 16 – Sun 18) – a feel good story about friendship with original songs- and Zog at Milton Keynes Theatre, about a young dragon eager to earn a star at Dragon School (Thurs 29 – Sat 31 Aug). And finally, Channel 5’s Milkshake crew, including Fireman Sam, Noddy, Nella the Princess Knight and more, will be at Wycombe Swan for Milkshake Live – should be a big hit with the little people (Sat 31). See my full summer holiday guide here.
ART & EXHIBITIONS
The lovely River and Rowing Museum, in Henley has a new children’s exhibition Bears! (3 Aug – 3 Nov) where kids can learn about history’s favourite bears – Rupert, Winnie the Pooh and friends – as well as explore original artwork and manuscripts from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Bear and The Piano and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Every Fri during the hols there’ll be bear-themed games and crafts in the galleries, and on 8 Aug, there’ll be a Teddy Bear’s Picnic.
Other exhibitions this month include Oxford University Museum of Natural History‘s new major exhibition First Animals (until 24 Feb) which looks back on the first origins of life as we know it on earth, with interactive elements; Robots at Bucks County Museum, Aylesbury with cyborgs, androids and metal characters from sci-fi TV shows from the ’50s and ’70s (until 31 Aug); the new Last Supper in Pompeii exhibition exploring the resort town’s love of food at the Ashmolean, Oxford (until 12 Jan).
Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance, at Milton Keynes’ amazing new MK Gallery, the largest retrospective of the political artist’s work in England for 20 years; Claudette Johnson: I Came to Dance at Modern Art Oxford, an overview of the black political artist’s life (until 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) and interactive exhibit Framing Madame de Pompadour, a recreation of François Boucher’s famous portrait (until 27 Oct).
Kicking off Aug’s theatre offering is the European premier (ohhh, exclusive!) of Little Miss Sunshine at Oxford Playhouse, Oxford. Based on the brilliant Oscar-winning film, it follows the Hoover family as they travel from New Mexico to California in a bright yellow campervan for their young daughter Olive to compete in a beauty contest. Feelgood theatre at its finest (Tue 20 – Sat 24). Also at Oxford Playhouse is Nigel Slater’s Toast, a recreation of the Brit food writer and journalist’s childhood from making sherry trifle to ‘the playground politics of sweets’. Rumour has it the actors hand out food to the audience so try and snaffle a seat in the stalls (Mon 26 – Sat 31). Or, over in MK, there’s The Mousetrap (Mon 19 – Sat 24 Aug) at Milton Keynes Theatre, the classic Agatha Christie whodunnit is the longest running show in the world (66 years and counting), so they must be doing something right!
CULTURE: Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh, 2 – 26 Aug
Edinburgh’s cultural fandango kicks off this month and is well worth the trip way (way, way) up north with the whole city buzzing with creativity, comedy, theatre, arts, crafts and street performances. Far too many shows to list in detail (over 1,200 groups perform across the city each day!) but highlights include Ian Stirling (of Love Island voiceover fame), Russell Howard, Frank Skinner, plus loads more familiar faces. Full programme here.
NEW EXHIBITION: Sweet Harmony: Rave exhibition, Saatchi Gallery, West London, until 14 Sept
Rave on! This new photo exhibition explores the new world that emerged from the acid house movement in the ’80s and ’90s and the beginnings of rave culture. Photographers Tom Hunter, Vinca Petersen and Dave Swindells will be on hand at the Saatchi Gallery to explain the stories behind their iconic shots. saatchigallery.com
Exhibitions still on the go this month include a collection of Manolo Blahnik‘s work curated by the iconic shoe designer himself at The Wallace Collection (until Sun 1 Sept). Also on the fashion front is the Mary Quant retrospective at the V&A (Muddy’s been, it’s really cool), featuring over 200 of the seminal ’60s designer’s pieces (until 16 Feb). Or, also at the V&A is the largest House of Dior collection ever staged in the UK, a handful of tickets for evening slots have been added so snaffle quick if you want to go as it’s super popular (until 1 Sept).
Other exhibitions include the family-friendly Beasts of London, at the Museum of London, a fully immersive, digital installation exploring the role animals have played in the shaping of London with the likes of Kate Moss, Brian Blessed and Pam Ferris voicing the animals which are brought to life using video projection mapping; the major Van Gogh show at Tate Britain with over 45 of the artist’s famous works including Starry Night on the Rhône and Sunflowers; if you’re heading up north, check out the Keith Haring exhibition at Tate Liverpool, a legend on the ’80s graffiti, pop art and underground club culture scene, the exhibit features 85 works including large-scale paintings, posters, photos and video. Very cool.
MUSICAL: Madagascar The Musical, Aylesbury Waterside, Aylesbury, 19 – 22 Sept
Alex the lion (played by X Factor winner Matt Terry), Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, Gloria the hippo and a troupe of pesky penguins explode onto the Aylesbury Waterside’s stage in Madagascar The Musical next month, a guaranteed hit with kids (and adults for that matter) who like to move it move it (sorry). Tickets here.
CULTURE: Henley Literary Festival – featuring Muddy Stilettos Book Club Live, Phyllis Court, Henley, Sat 5 Oct
It’s back, baby! We’re returning to Henley Lit Fest (28 Sept – 6 Oct) this year with lashings of wine, plenty of pizzazz and a panel of brilliant authors: actor, Celebrity Master Chef winner and Meant to Be author Lisa Faulkner, former deputy editor of ELLE and How to be a Gentlewoman author Lotte Jeffs, and Five Steps to Happy debut novelist Ella Dove. More info here. Get your tickets pronto, last year was a sell out. henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk
CULTURE: Bill Bryson, New Theatre Oxford, Sat 12 Oct
Best know for his quirky travel books and expertise in explaining things that usually go way, way, over our heads, author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson, is heading out on tour to celebrate the release of his new book The Body; A Guide for Occupants which will be released on 3 Oct. There are only two dates on the line up (the other is Manchester) so book up, it looks like a goodie. Plus you might actually learn something, how about that? Tickets here.