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This month

July 2019


Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, 8 Jul – 7 Sept 

Tis the season to dodge the rain and enjoy some outdoor thespian action so grab your rug, brolly and, of course, a sneaky hipflask as Europe’s first pop-up Shakespearean theatre is pitching up at Blenheim Palace with Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III and Romeo & Juliet– the 13-sided scaffolding theatre, with three tiers of covered seating and open courtyard for ‘groundlings’, will be accompanied by a Shakespearean Village selling local ales, ice cream and side shows (8 Jul – 7 Sept).



festival tent sunshine

Cornbury Music Festival

Didn’t make it to Glasto? No worries, there are loads of festivals lined up in our neck of the woods starting with Cornbury Music Festival, The Great Tew Park, Oxon (5 – 7 Jul), The Beach Boys and The Specials head the bill at this civilised festival that prides itself on being quintessentially English- think country fair with a rock’n’roll twist. Next up there’s genteel shebang Henley Festival, Oxon (10 – 14 Jul), Boy George, Jessie J and Tom Odell headline; Pennfest, Penn, Bucks (19 – 20 Jul) with an impressive line-up of rebel-rousers- it’s big on ’90s indie favourites and this year sees Suede headlining, plus turns from Happy Mondays (always hilariously shambolic live) and New Order’s Peter Hook.

Full marks to Truck Festival, Steventon, Oxon (26 – 28 Jul), for nabbing indie favourites and local lads Foals for their first Oxon show in five years. They’ll be joined by Wolf Alice and Kate Nash (side note: have you seen her acting chops brilliant in Netflix series Glow?). This veteran South Oxon festival in a farmer’s field hits all the right notes too with its family-friendly feel and decent food.



Oxford Arts FestivalOxford, continues this month, the cultural event has grown massively and now packs a punch around Oxford with two weeks of full-on cultural immersion. Performances, workshops, outdoor screenings and talks around theatre, literature, art, film and music, as well as dance and sport have the theme of Connections this year (until 7 Jul). Over in Aylesbury, at Waddesdon Manor, there’s the National Trust site’s first Summer Fest below, a relaunch of the popular summer Feast event, there’ll be street performers, food, music, shopping village in the Aviary Glade and bunting for miles (6 – 7 Jul). Or, for a red trousers and champers-type affair there’s the 30th anniversary of The Cotswold Show and Food Festival, just over the Glos border, with stalls, trade stands, falconry, dog show and Bathurst Arena with equestrian antics (13 – 14 Jul).

There are a couple of free music festivals happening in the ‘hood too: in Faringdon there’s FollyFest, a community arts festival with music, fringe events, arts and crafts, local businesses and lots of family fun. Whatever your taste in music, the whole spectrum is covered with soft rock, blues, folk, jazz, dance bands plus DJs doing their thang (12 – 14 Jul). And over in Charlbury there’s Riverside Festival, with over 30 acts playing across three stages, children’s entertainment, pop-up shopping stalls and music workshops (20 – 21 Jul).

Image: Henley Royal Regatta

And finally, the biggie this month is Henley Royal Regatta, Henley– straw boaters on, eyes on the lunch box (sarnies or Lycra bulges… they’re not mutually exclusive) and watch the rowing brawn from the riverbank. There’s over 200 races to watch the smoking–hot rowers and enjoy your Champagne picnic (3 – 7 Jul).



There are a few opportunities this month to get your side-splitting fix of comedy. The Oxford Festival Fringe Preview Comedy Festival, Oxford, (try saying that after a few G&Ts) kicks off at the beginning of July with over 50 shows from the best comedians who’re heading to Edinburgh Fringe and other large arts festivals in several venues across Oxford (Mon 1). Or, later in the month, there’s FanAtic Festival, Botley Park, Oxford, a one day outdoor event with more Fringe preview shows, local street food and a wellbeing area (Sat 27). Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, is also showing an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Preview (Tues 23) with up-and-coming comedian and regular on BBC2’s The Mash Report Pierre Novellie and BBC New Comedy Award winner Steve Bugeja.

Solo comedy shows this month include Jimmy Carr, with his new show Terribly Funny, which promises to throw PC comedy out the window (you’ve been warned), showing at Wycombe Swan, Wycombe (Thurs 4) and Aylesbury Waterside, Aylesbury (Wed 10); James Acaster with Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, showing at Wycombe Swan, Wycombe (Wed 10) and New Theatre Oxford, Oxford (Wed 24).



Al fresco shows this July include Oxford Castle’s annual Shakespeare festival in the fabulous setting of the old castle yard with Macbeth (1 – 27 Jul) and Twelfth Night (29 Jul – 10 Aug); Chapterhouse Theatre Company perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Claydon House, one of my favourite National Trust buildings in Bucks (6 July); Stowe’s Lawn plays host to the world’s first cycling theatre company, The Handlebards, who’ll perform  their seriously silly all-female production of The Tempest (18 Jul).

Muddy favourite Creation Theatre always do things a little bit differently and this summer, for The Tempest, the Oxford-based production company is taking the audience on a trip around Oxford with the play’s characters popping up across the city and interacting with the audience (19 Jul – 15 Aug); Waddesdon’s stunning gardens and stately country manor house are the backdrop for The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s 15th summer of performing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An all male cast with music, dance and wackily improvised Elizabethan costumes above (20 Jul); West Wycombe Park’s outdoor theatre on the East Lawn returns for another year with Jane Austen’s bonnet-fest Sense and Sensibility, amongst the gorgeous Palladian backdrop of the house and grounds (Thurs 27).



Looking, erm, good Craig?! Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood dons a wig and tights to play tyrannical Miss Hannigan in Tony Award winning Annie The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre (Mon 1 – Sat 6 Jul), or later in the month you can catch the 50th anniversary tour of award-winning HAIR the Musical below– a psychedelic, hippy, sexy, rock song fandango set in the late ’60s in New York’s East Village just after the Vietnam War. Dancing on Ice winner Jake Quickenden, Daisy Wood-Davis (Hollyoaks) and Marcus Collins (X-Factor finalist) star- it looks like a goodie (15 – 20 Jul).

If your heading into central Oxford this July Creation Theatre are performing Oscar Wilde’s Pictures of Dorian Grey in the quirky setting of Blackwell’s bookshop on Broad Street with the cast swapping roles for each performance  (9 – 27 Jul, excl Sun). Or there’s Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train at Oxford Playhouse– I loved the book but was less enamoured with the film (Emily Blunt was its only saving grace), so I’m excited to see how the thriller plays out on stage with Samantha Womack (Eastenders) in the starring role (Mon 15 – Sat 20 Jul).

There’s also Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at New TheatreOxford, with Union J’s Jaymi Hensley playing Joseph for his first ever starring role in a major musical, all the iconic belters and new choreography from Gary Lloyd (Thriller Live, Heathers), Tue 16 – Sat 20 Jul.



Pass the popcorn! Outdoor cinema season is in full swing, here’s what’s on this July: Steven Spielberg’s epic dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park at The Paddock Picturehouse, Watlington (Sat 27); last year’s big hitters Bohemian RhapsodyMary Poppins Returns and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again at Ascot Racecourse along with a fully stocked bar (Thurs 18 – Sat 20); Hugh Jackman’s musical fandango The Greatest Showman and Bohemian Rhapsody at The Woodland Lodge, found on the Culden Faw Estate, nr Henley (Fri 19 – Sat 20); at Wycombe Museum it’s ’90s nostalgia with Back to the Future (Fri 26 Jul); a summer of sequels at Peterley Manor Farm in Great Missenden with Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (Fri 26) and Mary Poppins Returns (Sat 27) plus loads of local producers are pitching up too; a stunning backdrop of Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford, for, you guessed it, Bohemian Rhapsody (Wed 31).



Bring out the bunting, wave your flags and get territorial with your picnic blankets! It’s the 16th annual Blenheim Palace Battle Proms Picnic Concert, Woodstock, this month where you can expect an evening of classic music, carefully choreographed Spitfire, cavalry and aerial freefall displays and dramatic cannon fire (Sat 6). Or check out Oxford‘s 21st Oxford Philharmonic Piano Festival with concerts hosted in venues across the city including Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford Town Hall and Hollywell Music Room. The festival showcases a range of music spanning two centuries played by artists from all over the world (27 Jul – 4 Aug).


Garsington Opera‘s mega summer season is still on the go at the stunning Wormsley Estate with The Turn of the Screw, Fantasio and Don Giovanni (until 26 Jul), or get a double dose of soprano with Stephen Storace’s lively comedy about two unhappy newlyweds Gli sposi malcontenti (1785), under the title Bride & Gloom, at Bampton Classical Opera, nr Witney (Fri 19 – Sat 20).



Britain’s oldest botanic garden, Oxford Botanic Garden, is celebrating all things green in the city this July with Urban Oasis Week (Mon 15 – Sat 20 Jul); arty drop in sessions, guided tours, activities for littlies, poetry readings and and Urban Oasis Picnic Afternoon on the Sat with Pif Paf street theatre, live music and family activities. You can bring a picnic or buy food from pop-up local producers. Or, if you’re the sporty type (nope, me neither) there’s Wallingford Cycling FestivalWallingford. Set up in 2015, the non-profit festival has thousands of people attend each year to see cycling races and activities across the town including fun rides and sportives and a giant air bag for daring 10+ year olds who want to practice flips and bike stunts (12 – 14 Jul). And for Bucks-based petrol heads, check out the annual classic vehicle show at Chiltern Open Air Museum, which will have a collection of classic cars, lorries, traditional fire engines, motorbikes, plus historic tractors and wagons that have appeared in Downton Abbey (27 – 28 Jul).



Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom

Henry VIII had six wives (or was it seven?) – that’s about as far as my Tudor knowledge goes I’m afraid, but you and your brood are guaranteed to learn a whole lot more at family favourite Horrible Histories new show Terrible Tudors, showing at Milton Keynes Theatre (Wed 10). Other children’s theatre includes It’s A Small World, (be warned, it’s based on that Disney ride with the ear-splitting theme tune) at Kenton Theatre, Henley (Sat 13 – Sun 14); a brand new version of The Three Little Pigs set in France with Parisian piggies and a grumpy old chef/wolf who wants pigs’ tails for his soup, at Oxford Playhouse, Oxford (Sat 13); Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, based on the BAFA award-winning animated television show, it’s about a young fairy princess and her Elf best friend, showing at Wycombe Swan (Wed 17 – Thurs 18). It’s from the makers of Peppa Pig, so should be a big hit with the little people.

For more family fun this month, Millet’s Maize at Millets Farm, nr Abingdon, pops up for it’s 22nd year with the theme of ‘Fantasy Fun’, with games and challenges hidden throughout the massive maze. There’ll also be a medium and mini route for younger children (Wed 17 Jul – Tues 3 Sept). And finally, Giffords Circus moves onto Stonor, Henley, with its ’70s Summer of Love themed show- expect hippies, hipsters and rockstars alongside Nell Giffords brilliantly curated acts (Thurs 25 – Mon 29).



Fancy a cuppa and some crustless sandwiches? Always! Woburn Abbey, just over the Beds border (hey, it’s allowed!) is the home of afternoon tea and you can get to grips with the history of Britain’s favourite tipple at this new event which includes a talk on the history of tea and afternoon tea with all the trimmings. Make sure you make the most of the lovely house and grounds whilst you’re there, the award-winning Repton-designed gardens feature woodland glades, a Kitchen Garden, ponds and architectural features, like the Chinese Dairy and Camellia House (24 Jul). One of my favourite Oxfordshire spots is also open this month- Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden in Kirtlington, only opens for a few weekends over summer (this month it’s 20 – 21 Jul) and it’s well worth trying to nab a table. It’s an utterly quirky setting, hidden away down a canal towpath so only accessible on foot or via narrowboat. 
Now onto the harder stuff! Prosecco in the Park runs festivals across the Muddy counties and this month it’s coming to Rye Farm Meadow, Abingdon-on-Thames, where you can guzzle away on fizz all weekend in the pop-up Champagne and Prosecco tent and stuff your face with street food (Fri 26 – Sun 28). There’ll also be a purpose built Gin House, Beer Bunker and Cocktail Box. There are 8 al fresco screenings over the boozy weekender too including Dirty Dancing (Fri), Hugh Jackman’s musical fandango The Greatest Showman, Bohemian Rhapsody (Sat) and family favourite Sing (Sun). And finally, The Cinnamon Kitchen, up on Westgate Oxford’s rooftop, is hosting a Wine & Spice evening this month (Wed 17) – you’ll learn which wines match spice levels (I like it hot!) and get to scoff some top-notch Indian small plates curated by owner and executive chef Vivek Singh.ART &
Oxford University Museum of Natural History‘s new major exhibition First Animals opens this month, the exhibition will look back on the first origins of life as we know it on earth with fossils and specimens, some of which are over hundreds of millions of years old (!), loaned from museums around the world.  Highlights include an interactive, 360-degree diving installation, digital reconstructions and virtual reality (from Fri 12). And if you can’t wait that long to get your fossil fix (no judging), then check out The North Wall‘s First Imprints exhibition, a collaboration between Oxford Printmakers and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the exhibit will feature work from 25 artists inspired by First Animals (9 – 10 Jul).

The Ashmolean, Oxford, also has a newbie to explore, Last Supper in Pompeii, will focus on the resort-town’s love of eating and drinking (sounds familiar), with artefacts on loan from Naples and Pompeii including, erm, carbonised food that was on the table when the volcano erupted- cool or gross, you decide (25 Jul – 12 Jan). Or over in AylesburyBucks County Museum is being taken over by robots, cyborgs and androids for its new exhibition ROBOTincluding full-sized robots from classic sci-fi films and TV shows (27 Jul – 31 Aug).

Ongoing exhibitions this moth include Paula Rego: Obedience and Defianceabove, at Milton Keynes’ amazing new MK Gallery, the largest retrospective of the political artist’s work in England for 20 years with pieces focusing on gender discrimination, violence, slavery, abortion and political tyranny; Claudette Johnson: I Came to Dance at Modern Art Oxford– an overview of the artist’s life, the exhibit features her early work from the ’80s when she joined the newly formed BLK Art Group, comprised of black British art students and the moving, political large-scale drawings of black men and women she is best know for (Sat 1 Jun – Sun 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)- check out my new review here, it was a surprise hit with the kids. And Framing Madame de Pompadour, a recreation of François Boucher’s famous portrait that’s on display at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. The project, in collaboration with digital art conservators Factum Arte has used 3D reproduction technology to reproduce the painting which will be displayed in its original 18th century frame with an accompanying interactive exhibition (until Sun 27 Oct).





Do you <heart> the ’80s? Get yourself down to Chilfest, now in its sixth year rolling out retro hits across the Chiltern Hills. Acts booked include Bananarama, Soul II Soul, The Selecter and Five Star – although, call me a pedant but it looks like they’re technically One Star now, with one original member and a bunch of newbies (6 July). Or if you fancy a camping festival, there’s Shambala, a small, lo-fi indie festival on a country estate in Northants. It’s not big on household name music bookings but there’s more cabaret, inspiring talks, yoga, circus acts and comedy than you can shake a stick at. Plus it’s very family friendly (22 – 25 Aug). Other camping weekenders include LatitudeSuffolk, the Radio 4 of festivals – refined, civilised and cultured, with its line-up of literary readings, theatre, comedy and Sadlers Wells ballet performances. They don’t skimp on the live music easier – this year Lana Del Rey, Underworld and Primal Scream are on the bill (18 – 21 Jul). Or there’s Camp BestivalLulworth CastleDorset, the kiddy-friendly alternative to Bestival, this one has loads to keep little people happy while you tuck into that box of wine. Human League, Chic, Jess Glynne are playing, with Sara Cox, Annie Mac and Spice Girl Mel C on DJ duties (25 – 28 Jul).

And if you’re heading for the Big Smoke, there’s tons to do all summer between London and Tower Bridge with the largest outdoor festival in the capital, Summer by the River (until 28 Aug). Outdoor cinema as well as concerts, workshops, comedy and quizzes- you can scoff and drink to your heart’s content from the obligatory artisan stalls and then join in one of the fitness events to assuage the self-loathing.



Must-see exhibitions in London this month include a new collection of Manolo Blahnik‘s designs at The Wallace Collection above, which contrasts the designer’s work with paintings, sculpture and ornate furniture from the Rococo art movement. The intimate collection has been curated  by Blahnik himself and features items from his private archives (until Sun 1 Sept). Or you can check out 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.

Muddy visited the Mary Quant retrospective (until 16 Feb) above at the V&A recently and it’s definitely worth checking out- over 200 items from the iconic ’60s designer’s career, from miniskirts to her make up range, accompanying images and a strong feminist undertone (girl power!) Also at the V&A is the the largest House of Dior collection ever staged in the UK, it’s sold out but there are a few first-come, first served tickets available from 10am from the Grand Entrance, or you can see the exhibition by purchasing a membership for the V&A (until 1 Sept). The major Van Gogh show at Tate Britain is also worth a gander, with over 45 works, including Starry Night on the Rhône 1888 from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and the rarely loaned Sunflowers 1888 from the National Gallery (until 11 Aug). And finally, if you’re heading up north, there’s the new 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.



EVENT: The Henley Country Craft Show, Stonor Park, Henley, 23 – 26 Aug 

Ready to get crafty? The lovely Stonor Park hosts this family friendly craft show with outdoor marquees filed 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.


THEATRE: War Horse, New Theatre, Oxford, Thurs 22 Aug – Sat 7 Sept

The brilliant War Horse comes to New Theatre next 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.


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