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This month

MARCH 2018

Hugh Grant in Conversation, Oxford Playhouse, 4 Mar

Just a teeny smattering of tickets left for this one-night-only with Hugh Grant – the actor talks life, career and his battles with the press no doubt with a large dose of self-deprication and wit. Not usually proceeds from the night go to the Hacked Off campaign.


Flight of The Conchords, Milton Keynes Theatre, 13 – 15 Mar

flight of the conchords twopence band holding old musical instruments grey background

Credit: Sub Pop

It’s business time! This rare UK tour from the hilariously hapless New Zealand comedy/musical duo, Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, sold out in a millisecond so you’ll need to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to catch the lo-fi Kiwi crew as they roll into Milton Keynes. But will their dogged manager Murray be present to take the register at the beginning of the show?


MK Handmade and Vintage Fair, outside John Lewis, The Centre: MK, 10 – 11 Mar

Milton Keynes is known for its high street shopping and mega brands so it’s brilliant to hear there’s something a little different on offer this weekend for shoppers who veer towards quirkier buys. This mammoth craft and vintage fair has 128 stalls selling fashion, homewares, furniture, gifts, art and vinyl (there’s a vinyl revival doncha know – my daughter caught sight of some of my records last weekend and asked, “What are those giant CDs?” Young people, eh.) Some of the designers will be available for bespoke commissions too. You’ll find it all in that cavernous 1800 sq m space outside of John Lewis.


The Great British Dog Walk, Culden Faw Estate, Henley, 24 Mar

Walkies! This is a nice idea to get you, your family and your pooch out into the Spring air, while raising funds for the charity Hearing Dogs For Deaf People. The Great British Dog Walk takes in a 4km family route or an 11k scenic one around the Culden Faw private estate, where you might just spot deer or wallabies. There’s also various stalls, activities and refreshments. It’s £10 for an advance adult ticket, with children under the age of 16 go free. Plus you get a free doggie bandanna to jazz up Rover.


Oxford International Women’s Festival, Oxford, 24 Feb – 11 Mar

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. It kicked off last weekend but there’s still plenty to do including Suffragette walks around Oxford, talks on everything from Sylvia Pankhurst to gender diversity, housing to, er, the menopause (I’m not even joking!) plus music and art in the mix.


Oxford Literary Festival, various venues around Oxford, 17-25 Mar 

One of the big beast literary events, the 22nd FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival packs some real beef, boasting over 100 events where you can meet leading authors and public figures from children’s laureate Lauren Childs to one of my favourite authors, Boyd Tonkin. But seriously  the list of alumni goes on and on, and all in magnificent settings, from the Sheldonian theatre to various colleges and onto the Blackwell’s Marquee


MASH Marathon, St Hilda’s College, Oxford, Weds 14 Mar

Possibly bonkers – but potentially amazing! Every year the Jaqueline du Pre building presents MASH New Music Marathon, an evening-long festival concert of experimental music, live electronics, contemporary classical instrumental music and video. This year’s concert features Ensemble Isis performing the work of British composer Howard Skempton; the English premiere of Arturas Bumšteinas’s solo piano piece, Armchair Traveller’s Delight; and the live electronic performance art of Marco Donnarumma which fuses elements of biophysical sensing, artificial intelligence and neurorobotics. As you do.


Wedding Showcase, Stonor Park, Henley 17 Mar

Put a ring sparkly enough on my finger I’ll say yes to anyone (just joking Mr M). Wedding showcases seem to pop up everywhere in Oxfordshire – clearly we’re a romantic bunch – and The Stonor Park Wedding Showcase is sure to be particularly lovely with a beautiful marquee on the lawns at the front of the house and fully decorated for a Stonor wedding, 11am-3pm.


Day Out with Thomas, Didcot Railway Centre, 17 & 18 Mar

I’m always slightly puzzled by the enduring appeal of Thomas, though my oldest son would probably still choose ‘Episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine 2002 – 2007′ as his specialist subject on Mastermind.  Anyway, your children or grandchildren can meet Thomas and his friends and The Fat Controller at Didcot, hop on rides all day, listen to story readings from 11am, and then watch some balloon modeling and clowning.


Vintage Cinema: Singing in the Rain, Marlow, 4 Mar

One for your mum. Vintage Cinema has teamed up with the Flying Tearoom to bring a special screening of Singing in the Rain with afternoon tea in the attractive Liston Hall. Afternoon tea includes finger sandwiches, scones with cream & jam, cakes, pastries and soft drinks. Rock n roll!


Coffee Concerts, Holywell Music Room, Oxford, 4, 11 & 18 Mar

I’m always mentioning them in the hope that someone will try them out! I have very fond memories of sitting with my lovely dad, giggling through one of these concerts when the music turned out a bit more experimental and screechy than we were expecting. No such problems for you though – the Marmen Sring Quartet plays Schubert and Beethoven on the Sun 11 and the brillaint Fionacci Sequence Piano Trio let rip with some more Schubert and Tchaikovsky on Sun 18. As always head to The Vaults for a free coffee with every ticket to shake away Saturday night’s hangover.


Norman Jay MBE at Clayton’s Marlow, 24 Mar

Ahhh Norman! Fond memories of nights in London in days gone by (though Mr M came across you asleep at an Idris Elba gig in Pikes Hotel s a few summer’s ago – naughty!). Anyway, the co-founder of the legendary Good Times Sound System and KISS FM is bringing his hat and vinyl collection to Clayton’s Marlow for one night only. Tickets £20.


New Natural Play Equipment at Boarstall Duck Decoy, From 10 Mar

I rather the small, unusual, slightly eccentric National Trust pleasures and this one, in mid Buckinghamshire, houses one of only four existing duck decoys in the country, a way to trap ducks without shooting them invented in the 17th century (not as altruistic as it sounds – no-one wanted to remove lead pellets before munching). This decoy is still in working order, surrounded by 13 acres of natural woodland, and this month there’s new natural play equipment for kids to play on too. A sweet diversion for an hour or so. Quacktastic.


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.


Rae Morris, O2 Academy Oxford, 20 Mar

Feeling a bit sweaty in that rubber one piece Rae? The slightly Madonna-ish looking Rae Morris, a Blackpool singer songwriter who sounds a bit like Bjork and has been waiting in the wings for her big break for some time, comes to Oxford to promote her second album, Someone Out There. The Guardian called it  a ‘supremely confident record’ and Morris’s vocals as ‘elegantly skittish, but commanding, too’. Make your own decision on that on 20 March.


Book Signing with Lauren Child, Story Museum, Oxford, 17 Mar

Isn’t everyone a bit in love with superclever, super funny Lauren Child? Come and meet best selling author of Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean and countless others as she drops into The Story Musuem café and shop ahead of her evening event here as part of the Oxford Literary Festival.


Alexandra Buckle Exhibit, The Stables at Claydon Estate Courtyard, Bucks  10 – 25 Mar

Alexandra buckle forest painting big tree

Bicester-based Alexandra Buckle is the first artist of 2018 to exhibit at The Stables in the beautiful Claydon Estate near Buckingham, and what a fab choice. Even better this is the linocut artist’s first major solo exhibition so snap up a classic while you can.


Intergalactic Adventure: FUNomusica Family Concert, Oxford Town Hall, 4 Mar

If you have little people in your life, you can’t do much better than take them to one of these informal FUNomusica concerts at Oxford Town Hall. Conductor Alasdair Malloy has been running these successfully for years with the Oxford Philharmonic and they’re really relaxed and good fun – a great way to introduce little ears to classical music. Today they travel through space and time – cue a little Holst and no doubt the theme from Star Wars. Pre-concert craft activities at 2pm.


Shazia Mizra: With Love From St. Tropez, Mill Arts, Banbury, 24 Mar

Anyone who saw Shazia Murza on Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls will have a massive respect for the get-on-with it survivalist, tougher, smarter and a hell of a lot funnier than all the muscle men who fell by the wayside. With Love From Saint Tropez is her new touring show and I’m betting it will be well worth the money. £15.


The Affordable Art Fair, Battersea Park, 7 – 11 Mar

What to do if you’re art mad but can’t afford to splurge? The Affordable Art Fair is back this month to tempt you with work from over 100 galleries, including former Muddy Award winning best gallery Carina Haslam (go check out the Great Missenden-based gallery at E5 and Craig Mooney’s work, featured above). Tickets £10-15, and children are freeeeee.


Christy McCormick exhibition, Jam Factory, Oxford, 13 March – 23 April

This buzzy, boho central Oxford restaurant/bar has an admirably arty bent, hosting life drawing glasses, craft sessions and using the walls as its airy dining room as a gallery for upcoming artists. Their newest exhibition caught our eye – Christy McCormick is a London College of Fashion-trained illustrator who has previously designed prints for Alexander McQueen. This new project sees her focus on the feminine body as a work of art in itself. Go have a gander, and grab yourself a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner while you’re there.


Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room, Milton  Keynes Theatre, 17 Mar

The hotshot Canadian comedian has been tearing up panel shows such as Have I Got News For You and 8 Out of 10 Cats (and there’s nothing token about this woman, let me tell you), as well as presenting/writing the fantastic Channel 4 documentary series about mad millionaires, How Did You Get So Rich? (if you missed it, it’s worth tracking it down). You get the impression that she’s about to go supernova so catch her in our ‘hood while you can. She’s coming to MK Theatre’s intriguingly named Glitter Room this month – I don’t know what that is but I want to be in it.


Peppa Pig’s Adventure, Milton Keynes Theatre, 28-29 Mar

peppa pig characters on stage trees campsite stage set

Whoever invented Peppa Pig is getting very wealthy. As one of the many branches of Pippa branding,  you can join everyone’s favourite cochon for a camping trip to the woods with her school friends, including Pedro Pony, Suzy Sheep and Gerald Giraffe. Games, laughter, live music and just a hint of Tramadol.


Sudeley Castle & Grounds Opens, Winchcombe, 5 Mar

I love it when the castles and manor houses start to rouse themselves from their winter slumber and visiting Sudeley Castle is at the top of my list this month. The rooms and exhibits are stunning, but outside the castle is surrounded by a breathtaking 1,200 acre estate and 10 award-winning gardens including the Queens Garden, where Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I all walked upon the original Tudor Parterre.


Teacup Floristry for Mothers, Peterley Manor Farm, Great Missenden, 10 Mar

Your mum will love – a hands on floristy workshop with a  “picked from the garden” approach, using  fresh flowers, blossoms, foliages and buds in vintage tea cups. The workshop includes Wild Strawberry Cafe Refreshments, tuition, all equipment and flowers.


Michelangelo, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 6 Mar – 2 Apr

Nice earring! And, er, the drawing’s not bad either. Your chance to explore a remarkable group of drawings by Michelangelo, recently returned from New York where they were a central feature of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They’re only on show for four weeks so don’t miss your chance.


Jon Richardson: Old Man, Aylesbury Waterside, 4 Mar

A man moaning for two hours doesn’t sound like an hilarious comedy proposition (hey, if you want that, you can come round my house any night of the week and witness it for free). However TV panel show stalwart and British Comedy Award nominee Jon Richardson’s gentle complaining about modern life is always entertaining – ‘where comedy meets nit-picking’ is how the Guardian describes his new stand-up show. However, if he’s an “Old Man” at 35, where does that leave the rest of us?


Dancin’ Oxford, Various dates and venues in Oxford 

Dancin’ Oxford seems to have cranked up a gear – though it offers its festival every year, now there’s an ongoing programme of grooving, moving, locking and popping across the theatre space and public spaces in the city. This month choose from taster classes in Zumba, Charlston or African dance, watch Tango Moderno with Flavia and Vincent or Theatre ad Infinitum at The North Wall. Full listings here.


Legoland Opens, Windsor, 9 Mar

OMG. Protect your credit card, it’s gonna get a hammering. 2018 marks 60 years of the brick and to celebrate there are a horde of new attractions including ‘Mini Land’ replicating world-famous landmarks and LEGO® Reef where you can build your very own digital fish. Watch out for the gift shop at the end – it’s a killer.


Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra: Maundy Thursday Concert, Sheldonian Theatre, 29 Mar

Handel’s Messiah, often performed as a Christmas, is also a fitting way to see in Easter. For this performance, the Schola Cantorum takes on this vast work under newly-appointed conductor Steven Grahl in the stunning surrounds of the Sheldonian Theatre. Should send tingles to places you didn’t know existed.


America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keefe to Hopper, Asmolean, 23 Mar-22 Jul

Showcasing significant examples of American art produced during the roaring 1920s and Depression-era 1930s, some for the very first time in the UK. I have to admit I don’t know much about this era art, but they’re described as sharing a smooth, crisp, clean appearance and a cool, impersonal treatment, an apparent detachment –  evoking a world in which humans have been removed or substituted. Sounds fascinating.


Oxford Vegan Festival, Kassam Stadium, Oxford, 10 Mar

Go the vegans! It feels forever ago when vegans were the weirdy beardies of society – now they’re hip, happening and with excellent digestive tracts. To celebrate the victory of the vegetable, head to the Kassam Stadium for this festival with over 100 stalls, demos and children’s entertainment.


The Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter Studios, Windsor, 30 Mar – 23 Sep

This month sees the launch of a special feature dedicated entirely to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth instalment of the film series, revealing secrets behind the characters, costumes and props that made it so special. The Goblet of Fire will be returned to the Great Hall for the first time since filming wrapped in 2010, there’ll be a live Special Effects demonstration showing how the Triwizard Champions’ parchments were expelled from the Goblet, and your kids receive a parchment to remember the visit.


Opera Anywhere: The Magic Flute, St Hilda’s College, 10 Mar & Steeple Aston Village Hall, 24 Mar 

You have to admire Opera Anywhere – they really do move around and bring the arias to the people! The Magic Flute is one of my favourite operas, probably because I studied it for my A levels so kind of know what’s going on and also I’m more inclined to comedy (I figure it’s as easy to laugh as cry). This production celebrates the birth of ‘teen culture’ in this coming-of-age story and explores the other-worldliness that glamorous Hollywood brought to post ‘Blitz’ London.


Paddington 2, Blue Door Cinema, Gt Missenden, 17 Mar

I love a community cinema and the passionate volunteers who run them, on a mission to import a dash of culture to our little villages and save us trekking to a soulless city Odeon. Great Missenden’s cinema is held in the memorial hall and they’ve made a smart booking with their Saturday matinee 3pm screening of Paddington 2. Despite being overlooked for any major awards, it’s now the most positively reviewed film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes and universally loved by critics. But most importantly, I’ve yet to find a child – or adult – who didn’t adore the newest adventures of the ridiculously cute Peruvian marmalade muncher. Watch out for Hugh Grant’s brilliant turn as a deeply theatrical baddie.


Suggs – What A King Cnut: A Life In The Realm of Madness, Aylesbury Waterside, 13 Mar

Just double-checking we’ve spelt the name of this show correctly before I continue – naughty Suggs! The Madness frontman is a perennially genial raconteur and he comes to Aylesbury not to sing about his baggy trousers but rather talk about his life, in this new one-man show (the follow up to the well-received My Life Story). And veteran popstars have all the best stories, believe me. Here he talks about nearly ruining the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics and watching his underpants fall to earth on David Bowie’s driveway among other titbits.


Julius Caesar: First Encounters, RSC, Stratford, 22 – 24 Mar

yellow red Julius Cesar animation for royal Shakespeare company children's production

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).


Penguin, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, 11 Mar

One of my favourite children’s books. There’s something fabulous and subversive about a penguin that bites a lion on the nose and a child who shoots a penguin into space in a fit of pique. Long Nose Puppets have taken Polly Dunbar’s classic Penguin and turned it into a classic stage puppet show for 2-8 years old at the excellent Cornerstone Theatre in Didcot.



Supercar Sunday, Stonor Park, Sun 20 May

Calling all Penelope Pitstops! Get yourselves down to Stonor Park, the idyllic backdrop of this annual supercar event, featuring a parade of pioneering race cars, classic sportscars, and modern hypercars. It’s set to be a fantastic family day out where you can enjoy a picnic – once the cars have left the lawn of course, health and safety fans – try some exciting street food or let loose in the Wonder Woods. Book now and save £3 per ticket.


Justin’s Band, New Theatre Oxford, 3 Apr

Is this the most famous man in the UK? There can’t be a parent in the land who hasn’t weeped in gratitude to Justin Fletcher and his children’s TV shows over years. Fletcher is a dab hand at live performance too – he was in Reading over Christmas for the panto – and he’s rocking up at the New Theatre Oxford with a brand new show, Musical Adventure. Expect lots of singing and learning about musical instruments along the way, and possibly some requests to play the tuba. Tickets 


Black Men Walking, The North Wall, 23 – 24 Apr 

The first national tour of the Revolution Mix – a three year movement that will host the largest ever delivery of Black British stories – Black Men Walking follows Thomas, Matthew and Richard on one of their Saturday morning strolls. Things turn sour as the characters find themselves forced to walk backwards through two thousand years, dismantling stereotypes and exploring identities, before they can move forwards.



Peckham Salvage Yard, Copeland Park, 10-11 Mar

Banish thoughts of Only Fools and Horses, Peckham is the hottest of hotspots in London right now. Like, really! (In fact Muddy’s Kerry is just back from a weekend mini-break there.) And if you love decking out your pad with vintage finds, this market is definitely worth whizzing down to South London for of a weekend. This indoor vintage market hosts over 40 traders, a mix of veteran sellers from Spitalfields and Bermondsey markets and locals having a clear out (head to them for your bargains). From mid-century modern furniture to antique luggage, there’s something for every vintage fiend.  Afterwards go grab a bite at buzzy Vietnamese street food joint Banh Banh or eggs-cellent brunch specialists Pedler, both a short stroll away on Peckham Rye.


The Glamour Beauty Festival, Saatchi Gallery, London, 9-11 Mar

The original incarnation of Glamour magazine folded last year but it’s back as a biannual beauty magazine and site, aimed squarely at millennials and teens. That said, beauty junkies of any age will find lots to entertain them at this Saatchi Gallery event (and if you’ve got a teenage girl in your life, it’d make a sweet day trip this Mothering Sunday weekend). Nars, Elizabeth Arden, Laura Mercier, Revlon, Guerlain, Pixi, GHD and others will have stalls offering complimentary treatments and advice, plus there’s a programme of talks from celebrities (Scarlett Moffatt’s confidence masterclass sounds fun), influencers and make-up artists. Ticket prices include a free goodie bag worth £180.


Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, V&A, London, until 17 Jun

v and a museum ocean liners exhibit empress of Britain poster white ship

These days the nearest I get to ocean-faring is a packed P&O ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg but in the early 20th century travelling by sea was fabulously glamorous and romantic. The V&A’s major Spring exhibition, Ocean Liners: Speed and Style celebrates the golden age of the big boats, looking at their design and cultural impact. Exhibits include Goyard luggage once owned by the Duke of Windsor, 1920s bathing suits and a door panel from the first class lounge of the Titanic.


London Design Week, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, London, 4 – 8 Mar

Calling interiors mavens, this one’s for you. More than 120 international exhibitors, 100 immersive experiences and a whole load of bespoke pop-ups in this celebration of new season interiors trends. A new initiative this year is ‘Legends’, where leaders from the worlds of design and decoration, art, fashion and architecture collaborate to transform showroom windows and show what you can do with imagination, wit and a lovely length of damask.


Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1 Mar until 20 May

A major new exhibition brings together, for the first time, the works of four of the most celebrated figures in art photography, Lewis Carroll (1832–98), Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79), Oscar Rejlander (1813–75) and Clementina Hawarden (1822-65). These four artists would come to embody the very best in photography of the Victorian era and have influenced photographers ever since. Featuring striking portraits of sitters such as Charles Darwin, Alice Liddell, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Carlyle, George Frederick Watts, Ellen Terry and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.


Women of the World Festival, Southbank Centre, 7 – 11 Mar

The Southbank’s 8th WOW Women of the World festival is, as you’d expect, thought-provoking, eclectic and celebratory in turns. Loads of events to choose from including a panel on equality in the creative industries, a portrait project supporting those against genital mutilation, Joan (drag king comedy last seen locally at Cornerstone Arts) and Yap Yap Yap, a hilariously irreverent and teary recreation of women’s speeches throughout history.


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