War Horse, New Theatre Oxford, Weds 13 Dec – Sat 6 Jan 2018
Soooo excited that the outstanding National Theatre production of War Horse is coming to Oxford New Theatre this month. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and featuring those incredible, life-size puppets of the horses, it’s nearly sold sell-out, so please don’t leave it too late to book.
New Theatre, George Street, Oxford, atgtickets.com
Native Feasts pop up supper clubs, College Farm, Long Crendon, throughout Dec
The Native Feasts dynamic duo of Chris Godfrey (ex Michelin star chef of The Sir Charles Napier in Chinnor) and Greg Jones continue to create gastro evenings in cool locations. Long Crendon is a chocolate box village just on the Bucks/Oxon border (close to Thame), and the lodge is set to be decked out with fairy lights, holly and misteltoe. They’re promising a ‘minc pie martini’ which sounds frankly perilous but I dare say will hit the spot, plus artisan wines and beers. Some of the evenings are already sold out but there’s availability at the time of writing this for Dec 2, 8 & 9 Dec plus a New Year’s bash at the cool Coopers industrial cafe space in Marlow. Tickets for the supper clubs are £45 for four courses, complimentary ‘winter warmer’ shooters on arrival and ‘pass the Christmas present’. What more do you want, table service by the elves?
Waddesdon Christmas Fair, Waddesdon Manor nr Aylesbury, now to Sun 10 Dec
Wadddesdon’s Crimbo fair is set against the fairytale backdrop of the floodlit Manor where there’s light and sound shows going on (see below for more deets), all adding up to a really Christmassy atmosphere. Stock up on your pressies from the rows of cute wooden chalets where over 80 exhibitors are selling gifts, crafts and decorations. Muddy tip: bring cash – not all the stallholders have a card machine.
Christmas at Stonor, Stonor Park, until Sun 10 Dec
Yeah, my fireplace looks just like this one. If you want to see a manor house beautifully decorated (and get a sense of how the other half live – the Stonor family are still in situ) then head to Stonor Park. No I’m not jealous at all. *gnashes teeth*
Stonor Park, Stonor, Henley-on-Thames, stonor.com
Hannah Ryggen, Modern Art Oxford, now until 18 Feb 2018
Another corker of an expo from Modern Art, Oxford. Hannah Ryggen was one of Scandinavia’s most outstanding artistic figures of the 20th century, an impassioned artist responding to the socio-political events of her time, from the the rise of fascism and the Nazi occupation of Norway, to nuclear power and media coverage of the Vietnam War. This is the first major presentation of the artist’s work in the UK and surveys her career from early portraiture through to the intricate tapestries that characterised her career from the 1920s onward. Don’t forget that Modern Art Oxford is free entry, and there’s a brill café on site too.
Christmas at Bletchley Park, Bucks, dates through Dec
Time travel back to a 1940s-themed Christmas at home of World War II code-breakers, Bletchley Park near MK. There’s live retro music (on 2, 3, 9 & 16 Dec) and a 40s-style Christmas Grotto on selected dates between until 23 Dec for kids aged 2 to 17 (somehow, I can’t image my 15 year old son being seen anywhere near a grotto or grown ups dressed as elves – but, hey, each to her own!)
Bletchley Park, The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Dr, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, bletchleypark.org.uk
Christmas Wednesdays, Sulgrave Manor, Weds 6 & Weds 13 Dec
Did you know that Sulgrave Manor near Banbury is the home of George Washington’s ancestors? Well you do now! Themed tours take you back in time where servants are getting ready for Mr W’s Christmas. Mulled wine and seasonal treats a-plenty in the tea rooms.
Sulgrave Manor, Manor Rd, Sulgrave, nr. Banbury, Oxon, sulgravemanor.co.uk
Working Christmas, The Old Fire Station, Oxford, Weds 6 – Sat 23 Dec
Not a panto lover? For something completely different this month but still brim-full of that Christmassy feeling, head down to The Old Fire Station. Billed as a ‘Christmas play for grown ups’, there’s a brilliant cast of actor/comedians putting on this lovely show.
Arts at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford , oldfirestation.org
Christmas at Waterperry Gardens, Sat 9 – Sun 10 Dec
Waterperry-grown Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths are on sale this weekend and along with pressies on sale in the Gallery, Gift Barn and Christmas Shop. Plus – all through December, there’s a Find Santa’s reindeer trail round the garden for kids with chocolate treat incentives at the end – anything to encourage some some fresh air!
Waterperry Gardens, Near Wheatley, Oxon, waterperrygardens.co.uk
Christmas at Waddesdon Manor, now until Tues 2 Jan 2018
No Bruce Munro light installations this year at Waddesdon Manor (he’s up the road on the approach to Bicester Village) but instead there are several light shows to enjoy as dusk falls. Waddesdon Imaginarium is a light and sound show projected onto the Manor’s façade including roaming porcelain animals, dancing musical clocks, cascades of flowers, and 18th-century portraits, accompanied by an original score composed by students at the Guildhall School of Music.
Also worth checking out is is Electric Menagerie, light-based artworks throughout the grounds by American artist Lauren Booth (above), inspired by the real and fantastical animals associated with Waddesdon (Baron Ferdinand collected a ‘zoo’ of animals and birds to amuse his weekend party guests, including antelopes, kiwis and even kangaroos). Check out Dylan, Rolo and Murphy (2017), three Neon Goats placed on the rockwork, and her neon Parrot, Bleeding Heart Dove and Rothschild Mynahs created in response to the 1889 Aviary. Perfect too for getting your littlies into the Christmassy mood, there’s Letter Writing to Father Christmas until 23 Dec and a special free Children’s House Trail until 2 Jan.
Polly Gibbons & James Pearson, Spin Jazz, Thurs 14 Dec
Last show before Crimbo at Oxford’s hot jazz venue headlines with vocalist Polly Gibbons (above) and pianist James Pearson bringing an evening of song and music to round up the Spin Jazz season. Expect a world-class night out: Polly is a regular performer at top venues from Ronnie Scotts in London, to the iconic Birdland in NYC and James has a staggering fifty album credits to his name, working with everyone from Paul McCartney to Wynton Marsalis.
Spin Jazz, The Wheatsheaf, 129 High Street, Oxford, spinjazz.net
Softer by Jenny Holzer, Exhibition at Blenheim Palace, until 31 Dec
The fourth artist to to showcase contemporary art at Blenheim Palace (my kids still talk about Ai Wei Wei back in 2015), Holzer will be creating new work directly addressing our military and political history – eeek! For this show she’s developing large-scale light projections that will transform the Formal Gardens after dark in a series of night time public events. Sound cool right? Plus visitors can also explore more meditative areas featuring examples of Holzer’s best-known work.
Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Sat 18 Nov – 4 Feb
Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas! The festive makeover will see Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, wbstudiotour.co.uk
Christmas Kingdom, Mead Open Farm, Fri 1 – Sun 24 Dec
The Mead Open Farm Christmas Kingdom has the major plus of being all under cover so you can still get in the Christmas spirit if the weather’s less than perfect. Kids can meet Santa in his Grotto and get a Magical Boarding Pass to lots more fun – from festive 3D film, to exploring the Elves’ Christmas Village, to meeting real Reindeer. Some autism- friendly sessions this year too with fewer people, strobe lighting turned off and a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.
Christmas at Legoland, Windsor, through Dec
Legoland is all twinkly lights and snow-dusted Christmas magic. Entry price for the Christmas season includes a visit to LEGO Santa in his magic grotto for kids who’ll receive a LEGO gift to take home. Grown ups aren’t forgotten – they’ll receive a free hot drink and cookie and a large double shot of whisky to anaesthesise a day looking after children.
Legoland Windsor Resort, Winkfield Road, Windsor, Berks, legoland.co.uk
Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sheldonian, Oxford, Sat 9 Dec
Ashkenazy conducts and Natalia Lomeiko appears as violin soloist for Shostakovich’s first violin concerto followed by Rachmaninov’s powerful Symphony No. 1. The concert opens with Nimrod Borenstein’s If You Will It, It Is No Dream; a work recorded by the Oxford Philharmonic and Vladimir Ashkenazy last year and recently released on the Chandos label.
The Sheldonian Theatre, Broad St, Oxford, oxfordphil.com
G4 – Christmas by Candlelight, Sheldonian, Oxford, Fri 15 Dec
Remember this bunch and their ‘Nessun Dorma’ on the X-Factor back in 2004? In true ‘boy band’ tradition, they then split up, then reunited but – hoorah! – they came back and they’ve carved a bit of a niche with their Christmas by Candlelight concerts. Raising funds for the ‘Missing People’ charity, it’s a really good cause too.
The Sheldonian Theatre, Broad St, Oxford, venues.ox.ac.uk
The BFG in Pictures, River and Rowing Museum, Henley, now to 21 Jan 2018
Curated by Quentin Blake himself, the exhibition of everyone’s favourite giant includes unpublished illustrations that have never been exhibited in public before. The exhibition includes Blake’s first designs that weren’t included in the book, and provide a glimpse of a BFG that might have been in 40 original artworks. Don’t forget there’s the permanent John Piper exhibition at the museum too – that’s well worth seeing in its own right.
Imagining the Divine – Art and the Rise of World Religions, Ashmolean, Oxford, now to 18 Feb 2018
Could have had a catchier title truth be told! But anyhoo, this major exhibition is the first to look at the art of the five world religions as they spread across continents in the first millennium AD. Blimey! Brand new research from a major project between The Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum and Oxford Uni, with amazing objects created when the iconography of each of the major religions was still being developed…
North – Fashioning Identity, Somerset House, now to Feb 4 2018
Forget the north/south divide, London doffs its hat to Manchester, Newcastle et al in this new exhibition. Social documentary film and photography detailing life in the north of England in the mid-20th century sits alongside works by photographers, designers and artists inspired by the parts of our green and pleasant land beyond the Watford Gap. Contributors include Nottingham’s finest Paul Smith and Manchester’s Factory Records designer Peter Saville. If you visit after 15 Nov, you can also take a twirl on Somerset House’s gorgeous outdoor ice rink.
Twelfth Night, RST, Stratford, Thurs Nov 2- Feb 24 2018
Winterville, Clapham Common, now – 1 Jan 2018
If you’re in Sarf London over Christmas, Winterville on Clapham Common’s is well worth a look. There’s everything from an outdoor Ice Rink to a fairground, roller disco and free kids’ entertainment, but there’s lots more unusual stuff than at your standard Christmas Fair. We’re particularly loving the sound of the Spiegeltent, where you’ll find cabaret, bingo, kids raves and, er, Mexican wrestling. What next, ‘Yoga On Ice’? Oh, I see, they have that too.
Slava’s Snowshow, Southbank Centre, London, Mon 18 Dec – Thurs 4 Jan 2018
Southbank Centre, Lambeth, London SE1, southbankcentre.co.uk