Ready to peel yourself off the sofa and get back out there? February, we’re coming for you.
Orchid Festival, Kew Gardens, London, 10 Feb – 11 March
Things are going totally tropical this month at London’s gorgeous Kew Gardens. Their annual orchid festival takes in Insta-friendly displays of the vibrant Thai blooms, Thai street food and musical performances, workshops on how to grow these notoriously tricky flowers and Thai afternoon tea at The Botanical restaurant. King prawn, lemongrass and coriander tartlet followed by Thai sticky coconut cream rice with mango salsa? Yes please. kew.org
Oxfordshire International Women’s Festival, 24 Feb – Sun 11 March
It’s the 29th year of this festival and the pressure’s on to make it really count in the 100th year of women’s suffrage and with International Women’s Day on 8 March. Events kick off on 24 Feb but there’s not much on the website at the mo, so watch this space – I’ll find out what’s going on and get back to you on it!
Barbara Hepworth: Finding Form, River & Rowing Museum, Henley, 9 Feb – 3 June
I love Barbara Hepworth’s work – if you’re ever in St Ives, be sure to visit her gorgeous house/studio, with its striking sculptures dotted all around the pretty garden. So I’m very excited about this – and what a coup for Henley’s little museum. This retrospective covers the sculptor’s work from the 1930s to the 1960s, borrowing pieces from the Tate and National Portrait Gallery. A must-see. rrm.co.uk
Snowdrop Time, various
It’s snowdrop time! Choose a dry day (there must be one coming soon, surely?) and wander through drifts of snowdrops, aconites, crocuses and hellebores. Waterperry Gardens near Wheatley has its snowdrop weekend on Sat 16 – Sun 17 Feb, with more than 60 different snowdrop varieties carpeting the ornamental gardens over the season (free guided tours at 11am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm). Batsford Arboretum in the Cotswolds is promising carpets of snowdrops until the end of the month, and one of my favourite places to wander,Stowe Landscape Gardens, is awash with them – they call them Stowedrops apparently!
Sunday coffee concerts at Holywell Music Room, Oxford, 4, 11, 18 and 25 Feb
It’s chamber music a go-go on Sundays in the oldest purpose built music room in Europe. The Carducci string Quartet play Haydn and Bartok on 4 and 25 Feb, the North Oxfordshire-based Adderbury Ensemble perform Ravel, Saint-Saens and Mozart on 11 Feb and the Maxwell String Quartet give Haydn and Tchaikovsky a good going over on 18 Feb. Bravo! coffeeconcerts.com
Oxford International Art Festival, Oxford Town Hall, Fri 23 – Sun 25 Feb
An annual event now in Oxford, this accessible art fair runs over three halls, showing a wide variety of artworks by exhibitors from 26 countries. The big calling card here is that you can buy direct from the artist, so you can chat about the work, cut out the dealer costs and find yourself an authentic painting, sculpture, photography, art, illustration or piece of jewellery that you love.
£10 for launch party on Friday night, but free for Sat and Sun.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Milton Keynes Theatre, MK, Tues 20 Feb – Sat 24 Feb
Largely positive reviews of this touring production of Beautiful, the musical about chart-topping Carole King, who wrote countless classics including (You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, You’ve Got a Friend and You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Expect a chronological trawl through pop icons of the late 20th century as the cast impersonate groups like the Drifters etc. Ideal for Sixties music lovers. Book tickets
Hedda Gabler, Milton Keynes Theatre, MK, Tues 27 Feb – Sat 3 Mar
This new production of Ibsen’s masterpiece Hedda Gabler tours the UK following a sold out run at the National Theatre. Adapted by Olivier Award-winning playwright Patrick Marber (Closer, Three Days in the Country) and directed by Olivier and Tony Award®-winner Ivo van Hove (A View from the Bridge), who made his National Theatre debut with this bold and modern new production. Lizzy Watts plays the title role of the free-spirited Hedda Gabler, who is just back from honeymoon and is already bored of her husband. Cue drama… atgtickets.com
Variety Night: Grayson Perry, Sir Michael Parkinson, Gareth Malone, New Theatre Oxford, Weds 28 Feb
Perry, Parkinson and Malone. The most unlikely boyband ever? A new firm of solicitors? Actually, the artist, the interviewer and the choirmaster are appearing together, in conversation, on stage for this charity fundraiser. What on earth will they talk about? We’re promised ‘laughs, discussion, insight and costume changes’ (presumably the latter from Perry rather than Parkinson).
Rob Brydon, The Potters Arms, Winchmore Hill, Bucks, Weds 28 Feb
A mega-impressive booking for this Bucks village pub cum comedy venue – as such it’s sold out so you’re going to have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to catch The Trip and Gavin & Stacey star’s acclaimed stand-up show. If you draw a blank, there’s still availability for Paul Sinha on 22 Feb and Patrick Monahan on 29 March. An interval meal is included in the ticket price. pottersarms.co.uk
Party at the Pitt, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Sat 24 Feb
A night celebrating LGBTQ+ histories from Oxfordshire and beyond. Expect live performances, pop-up exhibitions, micro-talks and interactive activities with the galleries transformed to celebrate queer culture.
Winnie-The-Pooh: Exploring A Classic, V&A Museum, until Sun 25 Feb
You loved the Balenciaga exhibition. We all adored the Bowie one. Now take the kids to see Winnie-The-Pooh – a show that invites you into the world created by AA Milne and EH Shepard, in which a tubby teddy and his friends stumble over life lessons. It’s multi sensory and playful exhibition that adds to the magic of this timeless classic. vam.ac.uk
StoryStock, Battersea Power Station, Mon 12 – Wed 14 Feb
StoryStock is travelling circus bowling up at Circus West Village, one of the first developments in the new Battersea Power Station quarter. It’s an all-singing kids bookfest, with workshops including one inspired by Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile, an interactive storytelling session based on Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola and Dr Seuss’s ‘The Cat in the Hat, yoga with the Gruffalo and visiting authors. storystock.co.uk
ALREADY GONE THIS MONTH:
David Walliams’ Awful Auntie, Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, Thurs 1 Feb – Sun 4 Feb
Another month, another David Walliams book transformed for the stage, but who cares when the kids love them so much? From the award-winning producers of Gangsta Granny comes the world premiere of Awful Auntie with its tiny ghost, huge owl and little person-pleasing humour.
Family Film Favourites – FUNomusica Family Concert, Oxford Philarmonic Orchestra, Oxford Town Hall, OX, Sun 4 Feb
Ever wanted to spend the day in the world of Elsa from Frozen, Woody from Toy Story or Sully from Monsters Inc? (er, no!) FUNomusica is one for the midgets in your life – the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra with Alasdair Molloy ham it up with all the theme tunes they’ll know, in a relaxed concert at the Oxford Town Hall. There’s dancing in the aisles and everything – but make sure you give your kids a chance too.
Hip hop karoake, Terrace Bar, Tate Modern, Fri 2 – Sat 3 Feb
I feel cool just writing this. How about an evening of hip hop at Tate Modern’s Terrace Bar? Join DJ Rob Pursey and the Hip Hop Karaoke team as they lead the party, with craft beer from Brooklyn Brewery and old school gems from the 80s, 90s and 00s so you can still feel you know where it’s at. Add your stick on tooth diamond and remember not to talk about property prices.
Julius Caesar: First Encounters, RSC, Swan Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Fri 2 Feb – Sat 3 Feb
Great idea this. A new version of Julius Caesar for 8 -13 year olds. Part of the RSC’s First Encounters with Shakespeare series, these engaging adaptations are 90 minutes long, use Shakespeare’s original language and ask audiences to participate in the story. Beats Lett’s Notes any day (come on admit it, you used them too!).
George’s Marvellous Medicine, Aylesbury Waterside, Tues 30 Jan – Sat 3 Feb
A Roald Dahl adaptation that’s perfect for kids ages 5 plus, as George tries to cure his rather mean Grandmother of her nastiness with a special potion that sets him off on a big adventure. atgtickets.com
Percussion Cushion Concerts, Jdp Music Building, Oxford, Sun 4 Feb
I’m always banging on about these Cushion Concerts at the stunning Jaqueline du Pré building in St Hilda’s College Oxford, because they’re such a fantastic way for young kids to explore music. Musicians Rozzy or Tom introduce different instruments each week, with performanace suitable to 5+ and under fives. Bring cushions (ear plugs optional depending on your patience levels) and watch the craziness unfurl.
Tim Whitehead, Spin Jazz, The Wheatsheaf, Oxford, Thurs 1 Feb
Former Artist in Residence at Tate Britain no less – the first musicians to be given the honour – Tim Whitehead sure knows one end of a saxophone from the other. He joined Loose Tubes in the late 80s, the British big band that forged a new path in British jazz with their blend of impro and composition and he visits Spin Jazz at the Wheatsheaf Pub, Oxford, on Thursday. Gigs start around 9pm so you’ve plenty of time to check out the new restaurants at Westgate – try Pizza Pilgrims and Cinnamon Kitchen for size.
Shappi Khorsandi: Misstress & Missfi, The Stables, Milton Keynes, Fri 2 Feb
An interesting premise for Shappi Khorsandi‘s stand up gig at The Stables on Friday. She presents England’s unsung heroine and Nelson’s mistress, Emma Hamilton the scullery maid who finally made it to become Lady Hamilton. Not sure how far Khorsandi is planning to stray from the subject, I imagine it’s a clever framework from which to improv, but in a sea of stand up comics, it piques the curiosity (and she totally rocks that hat).
Imagining the Divine – Art and the Rise of World Religions, Ashmolean, Oxford, until 18 Feb 2018
*Warning*! You’ve probably seen this exhibition on Muddy for a while but now is the time to act as it’s due to close on 18 Feb. It’s the first exhibition to look at the art of the five world religions as they spread across continents in the first millennium AD. 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… ashmolean.org
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Milton Keynes Theatre, MK, Tues 13 Feb – Sat 17 Feb
Whoo hoo, it’s finally in our hood! To celebrate his 30th year, Matthew Bourne is touring his Cinderella. The story is transposed to London during the Blitz, rebooting it as a wartime romance between our heroine and an RAF pilot. The reviews have been of the rave variety, with Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous costumes and sets winning Olivier Awards. Go!
Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, The Stables, nr Milton Keynes, Thurs 8 Feb
Direct from London’s world-famous jazz club and combining live jazz, narration and rare archive images and footage, The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars take to the stage at The Stables, near Milton Keynes, led by the Club’s Musical Director. stables.org
Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, various cinemas, Weds 7 & 14 Feb
The latest and best films touring around the UK courtesy of the world’s most prestigious mountain film festival. On 7 Feb at New Theatre, Oxford and then Weds 14 Feb at The Wycombe Swan there are 5 short films. My favourites? Edge, featuring 90 year old iceskating wundergran Yvonne Dowlen; and Stump, a documentary that follows fearless rock climber Maureen Beck, born missing a lower arm and climbing with her ‘stump’. Amazing stuff.
Bodleian Treasures: 21 Pairs, Bodleian Library, Oxford, until Sun 11 Feb
This long-standing exhibition is finally coming to an end. Displaying a selection of the Bodleian Libraries’ most magnificent items, it features rare items including Handel’s Messiah, Shakespeare’s First Folio and William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 21 pairs of exhibits are united (chosen from 12 million), matching familiar icons shown alongside the less familiar.
Imagine Children’s Festival, Southbank Centre, Weds 7 Feb – Sun 18 Feb
12 days of jam-packed half-term fun in this brilliant annual festival by kids for kids. Aimed at 0-12 year olds, there’s a mind-boggling array of activities and events, including a whole clutch of free possibilities in The Clore Ballroom, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, dance-theatre Tidy Up, Fun DMC, Bedtime stories, plus debut authors comedian Harry Hill and Radio One’s Greg James.
Jorja Smith, O2 Academy, Oxford, Sun 11 Feb
i-D Magazine, The Fader and The Guardian all tipped the 20 year old singer Jorja Smith for stardom last year. Having made it to 4th in the BBC Sound of 2017 poll she’s not yet been handed the cigar, but she’s clearly got something going on, with collaborations with Preditah and Drake. This gig at Oxford’s O2 academy is part of a stream of UK tour dates that include Birmingham, Cambridge and O2’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire.