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CULTURE: Literary Festivals, various locations, various dates

October seems to be the month for literary fests – they’re everywhere! If you didn’t catch us at the Henley Literary Festival (and if not, why not?), then next up is Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film & Music, taking place on Thurs 11 to Sun 14 and celebrating PG Woodhouse and Jane Austen. Lots of authors to choose from but we’re liking the sound of leading wine writer Jonathan Ray talking about his latest book called Drink More Fizz (ok, if you insist) on 100 of the world’s greatest champagnes and sparkling wines and offering some tastingsSingers from Italy will be performing Puccini and other great composers, and raconteurs Nicholas Parsons and Gyles Brandreth will be telling stories of their lives on TV and in radio. Biographer Judith Mackrell tells the stories of three extraordinary and unconventional 20th-century women who lived in The Unfinished Palazzo in Venice, and An Afternoon with Jane Austen brings to life some of the novelist’s most memorable characters with actors Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis accompanied by regency-era music.

Wait 4 days and along comes another one – this time Thame Arts and Literary Festival (Thurs 18 – Sun 21 Oct). Highlights include Sophie Hannah who was commissioned by Agatha Christie’s estate to write the next Hercule Poirot adventure, Michael Pennington on the impact of playing King Lear on actors, including himself, and a Playwriting for Beginners workshop by Judith Johnson (who has written for the National Theatre amongst others). Sadly, prim but fascinating Lucy Worsley has sold out.

You can dive straight into the Wantage Literary Festival from the one in Thame as it runs Sat 20 – Sat 27 Oct. Originally celebrating John Betjeman, it now covers literature, poetry, comedy, history, science and the arts. Louise Minchin, Tracy Borman and Diarmuid Gavin are among the highlight speakers.

Still want more? Head into London for the London Literary Festival in the Southbank Centre from Thurs 18 – Sun 28 Oct. Lots of literary luminaries like Sir Salman Rushdie and Barbara Kingsolver plus a dollop of celebs like Sally Field, Sue Perkins, Roger Daltrey, Mary Beard and Melvyn Bragg.


THEATRE: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Wycombe Swan, Tues 9 – Sat 13 Oct

 Matthew Bourne’s menacing, witty and unique production of Swan Lake has won tons of awards and rightly so. It’s best known for the all male corps-de-ballet – unheard of in the ballet world before – but it’s an all-round winner even if you’re not a ballet fan.


ART: Poppy Field by Luxmuralis, Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford, Thurs 11 to Sat 13 Oct

Walk through a field of poppies as Christchurch Cathedral is bathed in light sound and music as part of the Remembrance season. Entrance is free but you need timed tickets to experience this beautiful and moving art projected onto the cathedral’s walls and floor.


COMEDY: Dara O’Briain: Voice of Reason, Milton Keynes Theatre, Thurs 11 Oct

Dara O’Briain is one of our most popular comics and his new show covers such topics as his midlife hypochondria, fame and technology. His stories are so cleverly interwoven that as the show progresses the intricate structure of it is revealed. Top-notch intelligent comedy seems on offer here so grab a ticket before it sells out.


WALKS: Chilterns Walking Festival, now until Sat 21 OctIn case you didn’t know, you either live in or very close to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. No, not Aylesbury rather the gorgeous Chilterns, The Chiltern Walking Festival involving fifty walks with expert guides plus stories and fun activities right across the Chiltern region until Sat 21 Oct.


SCIENCE FESTIVAL: IF Oxford Science & Ideas Festival, various Oxford locations, Fri 12 – Mon 22 Oct

8 Minutes

There’s all sorts of science-y and ideas stuff going on in Oxford, far too much to mention. As part of this festival, you can learn how to discover stars, build circuits, get hands-on with superconductivity or watch dance and theatre performances with science themes. Check out The Bodleians’ Frankenstein exhibition or head to the Oxford Playhouse for 8 Minutes, where you’ll be taken on a journey through the universe with dance, film and music. In the Explorazone in the Town Hall try games and activities about nuclear fusion, there’s talks about crystals (why they make chocolate taste good and how we can use them to understand our health), and you can look at MRIs of fruit and veg and try to identify them. Head to St Aldates Tavern for a spot of Spouting – a bit like 18th century karaoke with Shakespeare instead of songs or watch a performance of Hertz and get a feel for the sound of everything vibrating from the smallest atom to the largest star. The Naked Mathematician, Tom Crawford, will be at the Oxfordshire County Library where you can learn which foods we should eat to feel full, how hairy you really are and how science can make better wine. Adult boffins to baby Einsteins and everyone in between are catered for with a jam-packed programme of events to blow your mind.


MUSIC: Oxford Lieder Festival: The Grand Tour, various locations, Fri 12 – Sat 27 Oct

This 17th festival of song is one of the leading events of its kind in the world. Singers and pianists from all over descend on Oxford for concerts, workshops, masterclasses, talks, and a bit of networking. The aim is to inspire people to appreciate the artistry of words and music coming together, with loads of educational opportunities and the pleasure of hearing new talent and world-leading songsters perform in beautiful historic surroundings. Events include a family concert in the Jacqueline du Pre building  – The Empty Chair – a playful story told through singing, cello and piano and including works by Debussy; a performance of Schubert’s Winterreise by celebrated vocalists Robert Holl and Graham Johnson; the Merton College Choir singing the Eucharist; and Polish tenor Jan Petryka, singing Chopin and Paderewski  in the Sheldonian Theatre.


EXHIBITION: Michael Eden: Form & Transform, Waddesdon Manor, now – Sun 21 Oct

Last 2 weeks of this fascinating exhibition Form & Transform which was developed and created with pieces from the collection at Waddesdon as inspiration. Michael Eden has cleverly used computer-assisted drawing and 3D printing technology to make his unusual beautiful art forms.


MUSIC: Jazz at St Giles, Oxford, Sat 13 Oct

A whole series of concerts (8 in total) are taking place at St Giles Church, helping to raise funds for The St Giles Academy of Music which trains young musicians. Now into week 3 and aptly The Trifarious Trio, whose performances had people queueing round the block at the Guggenheim in Bilbao last year, will be performing their amazing fusion of classical, jazz and world music on the piano, sax, clarinet, viola and violin.


WALK: Deer Rut Stroll, Ashridge Estate, Wed 17, Fri 19 – Sun 21 & Fri 26 – Sun 28 Oct 

Our very own English safari! A gentle morning stroll (Wed 10.30am – 12.30pm) with knowledgeable volunteers to search for deer and hopefully watch the males rut, or for early risers join the rangers from 7-9am at the weekend when deer spotting chances are higher.


THEATRE: Evita, Wycombe Swan, Tues 23 – Sat 27 Oct

After a smash hit run in London, Bill Kenwright’s production of Rice and Webber’s classic Evita promises to captivate the provinces with its story of Eva’s rise to power at a time of political unrest, leading her to be heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people. With top West End stars including Lucy O’Bryne and Mike Sterling, it’s been doing the rounds to critical acclaim so get booking tickets now.


ART: Future Knowledge Exhibition, Modern Art Oxford, now until Sat 28 Oct

Hmm. Algae or something more sinister?! This exhibition explores climate change through creative presentations. It’s a truly international affair with an epic timeline stretching back 750 million years by American artist Rachel Susan, Eline McGeorge’s weaving works from Norway, and Brit Tania Kovats’ vast steel and salt sculptures, to name but a few. I’m liking the sound of Lucy Kimbell’s wallpaper that changes colour over time in response to air pollutants – might save a trip to Homebase.


EXHIBITION: Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, Weston Library, Oxford, until Sat 28 Oct

The extensive archive of artefacts from the Lord of the Rings author are on display in the biggest Tolkien exhibition in a generation which ends this month. Top attractions are parts of the manuscripts for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but there are also pieces of fan mail, private letters, maps, drawings and an interactive display on the Elvish language. A third of the 200 items have never been seen before so it’s a real thrill for all you superfans out there.


THEATRE: Shakespeare In Love, Oxford Playhouse, Tues 30 Oct – Sat 3 Nov

I loved this Oscar-winning (7 no less!) film with Gwyneth Paltrow (before she went all Goopy) and Joseph Fiennes, and the West End hit by Lee Hall is now touring our ‘hood. It’s a great Elizabethan romp and a witty homage to Shakespeare that will give you a warm glow – perfect for a cold autumn night.


FAMILY: Natural Play, Duck Decoy, Boarstall, now until Sun 4 Nov

One of the National Trust’s more unusual venues, the Boarstall Duck Decoy was once used to trap the famous Aylesbury ducks for the tables of smart restaurants. Now it’s a lovely place for a walk and there’s a new kids’ trail in the woodland with stepping logs, fallen trees to climb and a den building area. You can take your dog on a lead and, once the refurb has finished, take a walk around Boarstall Tower (pictured) too.



If you want to get your spooky thrills before the big night, Fright Nights at Thorpe Park is open. Read Muddy Surrey’s review here. Family-friendly farm and play centre Mead Open Farm transforms itself by night into The Howl for twelve nights from 6 Oct of over 15s and adult-only Halloween horror with 5 mazes, street food, live music and a bar. The Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios Great Hall is currently decorated with over 100 floating pumpkins, as seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, along with a table laden with a Halloween feast of red apples, pumpkins and cauldrons of lollipops. Kids can also delve into the sinister world of the Dark Arts from now until Nov 10.

Check out our half term guide here for more Halloween fun plus lots of other top stuff to do with the kids.


MOVIES: October’s Best New Releases

A Star is Born, nationwide from Wed 3 Oct

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut starring himself and Lady Gaga is highly anticipated and the Muddy office can’t wait to see it. The remake tells the story of hard drinking musician (Cooper, originally played by Kris Kristofferson) who falls in love with a young hopeful singer-songwriter (Gaga, originally Barbra Streisand). The movie has been very well received by the critics and with a fabulous soundtrack, it’s all set to be a romantic indulgent treat.

Jonny English Strikes Again, Fri 5 Oct

Rowan Atkinson’s spoof James Bond returns for a third time. Lots of slapstick and silliness that has made audiences laugh despite the critics not being so convinced. Kids seem to love it so if an animated yeti in the movie Small Foot doesn’t appeal for a half term trip to the flicks, perhaps this will?

Halloween, nationwide from Fri 19 Oct

Although the film is the eleventh instalment, it takes the story back to where the first one finished with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the role of Laurie Strode. Expect real visceral horror with the film returning to its roots plus some funny moments to release the tension. Fans of the original are raving about it.



Shall we ramp up the central heating? I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. If you’re hunkering down how about rustling up this easy-peasy pasta dish for dinner, while perusing one of Kerry’s compelling October literary picks? And while there’s not quite as much brilliant TV around as in Sep (Bodyguard, we miss youuuu), look out for The Bisexual on Channel 4, starting 10 Oct, a new comedy/drama, starring the always-brilliant Maxine Peake. It’s about a woman exploring her sexuality after splitting from her long-term girlfriend. Then there’s Butterfly on ITV, with Anna Friel playing the mother of a transgender child. Making Of A Murderer fans, take note – a new series of the cult crime docu-series arrives on Netflix on 10 Oct. And speaking of Netflix, the streaming service has traditionally been a bit ‘meh’ when it comes to Hollywood movies but some new additions this month caught my eye. There’s excellent thriller The Girl On The Train; Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals which stars Amy Adams; Private Life, a relationship drama starring Paul Giamatti about a couple pursuing fertility treatment and Sixteen Candles for some retro Molly Ringwald ‘80s teen movie action. Finally, I love a rock’n’roll tale and they don’t come more rock’n’roll than Whitney Houston. The acclaimed account of her amazing, chaotic, tragic life, Whitney, by Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald, is available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download on 29 Oct.




FAMILY FUN: World Conker Championships, Southwick, Northants, Sun 14 Oct

Watch the experts as they battle it out to see who is the best at playing conkers in the world! It’s a big event with a kids’ conker competition, stalls, guide dog displays, bumper cars, climbing wall, food offerings, a tea and cake tent, Morris dancers, juggling workshops, a ukuleke band and praise be, a bar.


EXHIBITION: Hannah Perry: Gush, Somerset House, London, from Wed 3 Oct and Good Grief Charlie Brown, from Thurs 25 Oct

Two new exhibitions open this month in the stunning setting of Somerset House. British Artist and Somerest House Studios resident Hannah Perry presents Gush. Using large-scale sculpture, sound and film, the exhibition explores the mental and emotional health of our hyper-connected world. Good Grief Charlie Brown brings together the original cartoons of Charles M Schluz with work from those designers and artists influenced by the iconic cartoon.


THEATRE: The Wider Earth, The Natural History Museum, London, Tues Oct 2 – Sun 30 Dec

Exciting news – there’s a theatre open in the Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum for the European premiere of award-winning drama The Wider Earth, a play about the young Charles Darwin. Puppets, an original score and cinematic animations make this theatrical event a great draw for kids plus they’ll learn a helluva lot in the process.


ART: Edward Burne-Jones, Tate Britain, London, starts Wed 24 Oct

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones Laus Veneris 1873-1878 Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

Pre-Raphaelite artist Burne-Jones was one of the most influential British talents of the 19th century and this exhibition will bring together 150 works including paintings, stained glass and tapestry in a major new retrospective. Rejecting the starched world of the Victorians, he looked to myths, legends and the Bible to create his otherworldly work. He wanted to bring beautiful design to everyone and along with his friend William Morris, pioneered the Arts and Crafts Movement.


EXHIBITION: Duke and Duchess of Sussex Exhibition, Windsor Castle, from Fri 26 Oct

Prince Harry and Meghan – Duke and Duchess of Sussex Royal Wedding 2018 Windsor Castle steps

Better late than never, but we’ve all been invited to Windsor Castle to get up close and personal with newlyweds Harry and Meghan. Ok, so they won’t actually be there but a new exhibition will display Meghan’s Givenchy bridal gown designed by Artistic Director Clare Waight Keller is, her 5m veil embroidered with flora symbolising the 53 Commonwealth countries and the 1932 Queen Mary diamond and platinum tiara loaned to the Duchess by the Queen. It’s not all about the bride (even though we known it is really), Harry’s Blues and Royals frock designed by Dege & Skinner on Savile Row will also be standing to attention.


EXHIBTION: Black Mirror: Art as Social Satire, the Saatchi Gallery, London, now until Sun 13 Jan 2019

Turbulent Tumble Tumble by Clayton Brothers

In these troubling times, satire can provide some light relief and hold up a mirror to modern-day politics. This new exhibition explores how art and satire can question and commentate in a way that can diffuse situations. All sorts of media have been used, including photography, installations and more obviously caricatures, and what’s even better is it’s completely free (very helpful when in Chelsea flexing the credit card).


FOOD: London Restaurant Festival, various London locations, all month

London’s fantastic restaurant scene is in full celebration mode this month, with great value festival menus at loads of great restaurants, plus foodie events like gastronomic weekends, tasting menus, restaurant-hopping tours, tasting menus with famous chefs, talks, films and art.


EXHIBTION: The Shape of Light, Tate Modern, now until Sun 14 Oct

Antony Cairns, LDN5_051 2017 © Courtesy of the artist Antony Cairns

Last couple of weeks to see this exhibition which chronicles 100 years of photography and abstract art. It explores the development of abstraction with photography from early pioneers to our 21st century digital innovators, with over 300 works by artists such as Man Ray and Jackson Pollock.



KIDS THEATRE: Horrible Histories, Wycombe Swan, Bucks, Tues 6 – Sat 10 Nov

Family favourite Horrible Histories is back on tour with shows Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians, bringing us mummy-making, tomb excavations and an Armada sailing into the audience. We grabbed a quick cuppa with co-director Neal Foster about what grisly goings-on we can expect. Read all about it here.


TALK: Nigella Lawson, Oxford New Theatre, Mon 13 Nov

Chatting about her life in food, saucy Nigella Lawson is on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of her first cook book, How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food. Nigella manages to make everyday cooking seem sexy and easy and here she talks about her love of food and what it means to be an author, cook and TV personality. Don’t miss the book signing after the performance too.


THEATRE: Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends, The Royal Albert Hall, Sat Dec 1

Tickets for Rob Lowe’s live show are bound to sell out fast (as they have in the States). Inspired by his memoirs of the same name and his previous book Love Life, Mr Lowe will spill the beans on a career from the Brat Pack to The West Wing to Parks and Rec and beyond. Apparently, he’s quite the raconteur with loads of witty anecdotes that touch on his career, fame, Hollywood, fatherhood and marriage.



THEATRE: Perfectly Imperfect Women, Oxford Playhouse, Mon 1 Oct and Women in Power, Wed 3 to Sat 6 Oct 

Mothers and daughters – a complex relationship? Hell yeah! Award-winning storyteller Danyah Miller explores this in the context of perfection and imperfection and how us gals need to accept imperfection to connect with our female line. If that sounds too heavy, Women in Power is a celebration of women taking the lead with comedy sketches, songs and dance.


OPERA: Raymond Blanc’s Festival of Music, Le Manoir, Great Milton, Tues 2 and Wed 3 Oct 

Scoff champers and canapés from one of our most loved chefs, then take a torch lit walk to the local church to hear acclaimed Welsh opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel performing arias and popular operatic songs, accompanied by harpist Hannah Stone. Suitably restored, return to Le Manoir for a celebration dinner and the breaking of the proverbial bank (£45o pp)!


MUSIC: Elements: Oxford Chamber Music Festival, various locations, Wed 3 – Sun 7 Oct

Shedku Kanneh-Mason by Lars Borges

A wonderful celebration of chamber music that has been taking place in Oxford since 2000. The historic buildings lend themselves perfectly to the performances with some of the best musicians of this genre playing in various beautiful locations across the city. There’s a packed programme and world class artists include Sheku Kanneh-Mason (as seen at Harry and Meghan’s wedding), Priya Mitchell and Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE. Highlights include Songs of Earth & Air at Oxford Town Hall on Wed 3 with the music of Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi; there’s a masterclass by chamber music legend Eberhard Feltz on Beethoven’s quartets at Lady Margaret Hall on Thurs 4; Pieter Wispelgwey plays Bach’s 6 suites for solo cello at the Sheldonian on Fri 5; and on Sun 7 the Waterscapes concert takes place onboard the Serafina at Folly Bridge with brunch included. Check out the full programme here .


DRINKS: The Gin to my Tonic Festival, Oxford Town Hall, Fri 5 – Sat 6 Oct

The gin revolution continues (power to the people) and there’s a new gin festival in town. Here’s your chance to sample over 80 different gins from across the UK and beyond, chosen for their outstanding craftsmanship and flavour. Local brands include TOAD (The Oxford Artisan Distillery), the Chalgrove Artisan Distillery with its OX range and the British Honey Company showcasing Honey Gin, Strawberry & Lavender Gin and English Raspberry & Honey Gin. Best book a taxi home.


BOOKS: Henley Literary Festival, Henley, 29 Sept – Sun 7 Oct

Writers such as Kate Humble, Bryony Gordon, Kate Mosse and Lucy Mangan are just some of the big names appearing to plug their books, chat and tell stories. Muddy is very excited to be hosting its very own salon and has snaffled a stellar panel of three dazzling writers – Viv Groskop, award-winning comedian and author of The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons From Russian Literature, Farrah Storr, Cosmopolitan editor and author of The Discomfort Zone: How To Get What You Want By Living Fearlessly and Caroline O’ Donoghue, writer for The Pool whose Promising Young Women is one of the most acclaimed debut novels of 2018.


FESTIVAL: Feast on the Farm, Peterley Manor Farm, Bucks, Sat 6 – Sun 7 Oct

Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar’s Sindhu team will be taking over The Yurt for Peterley Manor Farm’s Feast at the Farm Festival, 6 and 7 Oct in Prestwood, Great Missenden.  His pop-up restaurant will combine the cuisines of the Sindhu and Hawkyns (Old Amersham) in the form of small plates and he’s hosting a supper club on the Friday evening of the festival weekend. Feast at the Farm looks like it’s notching up a gear this year too – three times the workshops (including how to photograph food for Instagram by @olie_eats, tutored English wine tastings, a new children’s mini ‘Feastival’, a new area called The Garden Pergola with a Seedlip botanical bar, Harrow & Hope bubbles bar and a Campfire Gin cocktail bar. Wonder where the Muddy crew will be?


FAMILY FUN: Apple Weekends, various Bucks/Oxon locations, Sat 6 – Sun 7 Oct

The humble apple – let’s celebrate it people!  There are tastings, pressings and family-friendly activities in a host of locations this weekend. I have a gazillion apples in my garden and am always half-tempted to press my own but why bother when you can choose from this little lot –

The National Trust’s Stowe (taste different varieties, watch pressing and buy juice), Cliveden’s Round Garden (sample local cider, taste the apples and join in apple-themed activities)Waterperry Gardens (there’s a craft and food fair and you can take the kids round the apple anagram game in the gardens), Langford Community Orchard in Bicester (apple pressing, willow weaving, a chance to make bird feeders, DIY face painting and rock painting) and Botley Community Orchard in Oxford (bring apples to press, take home juice and enjoy tea and cakes).

Oxford City Farm Festival is on Sat 6th where you can harvest pumpkins, buy honey and farm produce, meet farm animals, make apple juice (bring apples for pressing), and enjoy the food stalls and bar.



FESTIVAL: Windsor Fringe Festival, various Windsor locations, now until Sat 6 Oct 

If you like your arts fresh out of the box, head to Windsor Fringe Festival – the second oldest fringe in the UK after Edinburgh. Expect an eclectic programme of comedy, music, drama, DJs, arts, gin tasting and more, plus the world reknowned International Windsor Fringe Award for New Drama Writing, sponsored by the legendary Kenneth Branagh.


ART: Frieze Art Fair, Regents Park, London, Fri 5 – Sun 7 Oct

Considered the world leading platform for contemporary and modern art, the Frieze Art Fair unites 160 of the world’s leading galleries. You can view and / or buy art from over 1000 contemporary artists, some emerging talent, others more established. Daily events include talks and performances plus there’s Frieze Sculpture and Frieze Masters (showcasing work from the ancient era and Old Masters) in Regent’s Park. If all this culture makes you hungry, there are loads of delish food pop-ups whilst you contemplate the art and what it’s all trying to say.


Find more ideas here

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