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This month

October 2019


Muddy Book Club Live, Henley Lit Fest, Henley, until 6 Oct 

Muddy fave Henley Literary Festival (until 6 October) is in full swing – there’s simply too much going on to list but we might just find time to mention that we’re hosting the Muddy Book Club (5 Oct) at Phyllis Court – sorry, shall we shout that a bit louder? THE MUDDY BOOK CLUB, we’re back! We have amazeballs guests – Celebrity Masterchef champion Lisa Faulkner, former ELLE journo Lotte Jeffs and the inspirational Ella Dove. We will be there. There will be wine. It’s £12 well spent.



Still up for more book action? Well, don’t overlook Thame Arts and Literature Festival (17-20 Oct) where Muddy’s books editor Kerry Potter is hosting two events Modern Motherhood Unpicked: The Good, The Bad & The Smugly (17 Oct) where she’ll be chatting with acclaimed Oxon author Clover Stroud, Helen Whitaker (author of The School Run) and Jo Middleton, aka parenting blogger Slummy Single Mummy. She’ll also be interviewing author of How Was It For You?Virginia Nicholson (20 Oct). Tickets here.

There’s also Wantage Literary Festival (26 Oct – 2 Nov) featuring workshops, music and talks form the like of poet Pam Ayrs, author of Diary of a Drag Queen. Life’s a drag… Why not be a queen? Crystal Rasmussen and many more. That’s enough to keep you going until the Christmas markets appear.

Other events for bookworms include a book signing with director, comedian, writer and all around funnyman Richard Ayoade at Blackwell’s bookshop on Broad Street, Oxford (26 Oct). And for little ones (and boyband stans!) half of McFly will be popping up at the Westgate locale with their new children’s books; Dougie Poynter will be promoting Plastic Sucks! in the morning, whilst Tom Fletcher will be reading from The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch (5 Oct).



Wondering where to get your theatre fix this Oct? Look no further, there’s heaps of thespian action happening in our neck of the woods. First up, relive the summer of ’59 and see Grease the Musical at the New Theatre Oxford (1 – 5 Oct) with Peter Andre starring as the smooth-talking *ahem* teen angel; perfect fodder for a night out with your squad.

Meanwhile the Oxford Playhouse has a great line up for an evening out with the girls; go nostalgic and see Malory Towers, based on Enid Blyton’s girls’ boarding school series (1 – 5 Oct) or, for something more provocative (with a guarantee of no snotty kids in the audience), there’s London-based artist Louise Orwin’s Oh Yes Oh No, an exploration of female sexuality and contemporary sexual culture featuring Barbie and Ken role play (naughty!) and real, candid stories about sex (9 Oct).

We’re excited to see Barber Shop Chronicles (below), also at Oxford Playhouse, which has hit the road following a sell out run at the National Theatre (9 – 12 Oct). The critically-acclaimed production, directed by Olivier award-winning Bijan Sheibani, takes place in six barber shops across the world over the course of a single day.

The North Wall theatre, tucked away in Summertown, always has an interesting offering and is bringing the grit with Trade – set in the Caribbean, it follows three women of different ages, background and attitudes and their interlinking lives (15 – 16 Oct, 15+). There’ll also be a post-show Q&A with the cast and Oxford University English lecturer Dr Pelagia Goulimari (15 Oct). Or you can see Nuclear Future, from award-winning company Gameshow, which speculates on life after a nuclear attack (23 Oct, 12+).

The Immigrant, a slapstick comedy inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s original film, is doing the rounds in Oxon, showing at The Mill Arts Centre, in Banbury (2 Oct), Pegasus Theatre in Oxford (11 – 12 Oct) and Chippy Theatre, in Chipping Norton (19 Oct). Chris Michael, who was the first ever clown at the brilliant Giffords Circus, takes the starring role, so laughs are guaranteed.

Continuing with comedy, What’s In A Name, showing at Aylesbury Waterside (22 – 26 Oct) looks like a must-see, with a stellar comedy cast which includes The Inbetweeners‘ Jo Thomas and Bo Poraj from Miranda. We’re also looking forward to the return of Olivier award-winning Kinky Boots (above) to our ‘hood at MK Theatre, Milton Keynes, at the end of the month (28 oct – 8 Nov); it’s won every major Best Musical award (TONY, Grammy, Olivier – you name it) so a dead cert.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be October without a few spooky shows on the run up to Halloween. The Exorcist live, above, based on the two-time Oscar winning film, comes to MK Theatre (8 – 12 Oct) direct from its West End stint with Ian McKellen voicing the Demon. Or over at The Mill Arts Centre you can see a new adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw featuring live puppetry and haunting original music (17 Oct).



Adam Kay is touring the show of his bestselling book, This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, which incidentally, sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Expect an insightful evening of stand-up and music, but it’s one night only at New Theatre, Oxford (9 Oct), so snap up a ticket quick.

Fresh from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe you can see the Oxford Revue, Oxford University’s comedy group (former members include Michael Palin, Rowan Atkinson and Katy Brand) who’re promising a night of wit and fast-paced laughs (22 Oct). Sindhu Vee is popping up at Chippy Theatre, Chipping Norton, with her critically acclaimed stand up show Sandhog (18 Oct), or for a more unusual setting, scuttle over to one of my favourite comedy venues The Potters Arms in Amersham for the pub’s next comedy night with funnyman Scott Bennett (31 Oct).

And then there’s the big-name comedians touring new material. Frank Skinner, no less, is back in the game and appearing at Milton Keynes Theatre (20 Oct). Not surprisingly, it’s not recommended for children under 14. You have been warned.

Rob Beckett, or the Mouth from the South as he’s so charmingly known, is also doing the rounds with a new set entitled Wallop at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre (6 Oct) and New Theatre Oxford (20 Oct). Likewise, Josh Widdicombe’s new show Bit Much will be performed at Wycombe Swan (10 Oct) and  the New Theatre, Oxford (31 Oct).

Russel Kane brings his high-energy brand of comedy to MK Theatre with his show The Fast and the Furious (22 Oct) or over at Wycombe Swan the hilarious Ruby Wax pops up with How To Be Human, based on her best-selling book – everything you need to know about relationships, sex, emotions, the body, evolution and more (30 Oct).



Classical lovers grab yer dairies! There are loads of events coming up this month starting with the first concert of the seventh annual SJE Arts International Piano Series – 10 concerts that run until June featuring incredible pianists. Kicking off the series is Lara Melda who’ll be performing Chopin, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev and Lyadov (4 Oct).

Also in Oxford there’s the 18th Oxford Lieder Festival; 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. This year will have over 100 events, with the theme Tales of Beyond: Magic, Myths and Mortals (11 – 26 Oct).

Elsewhere, at Wycombe Swan, you can see the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a Bohemian fairytale played through flutes and gentle string instruments (5 Oct), or over at Stowe, Bucks, there’s a one-night-only operatic performance of Romeo & Juliet, performed by Arcadian Opera Chorus (19 Oct).



Britain’s Got Talent dance group stalwarts Diversity are popping and locking across Bucks & Oxon on their 10 year anniversary tour, stopping off at New Theatre Oxford (16 Oct) and MK Theatre (23 Oct). Or there’s The Storm by James Winton Dance, featuring a fusion of whip-fast acrobatics, athletics, martial arts and break dancing performed to an electric-rock soundtrack (22 Oct).

Another genre bending performance comes from South Africa’s internationally renowned choreographer Dada Masilo who’s reimagining of iconic ballet Giselle is set in a lively South African village and features Tswana dance. Masilo stars in the title role, showing at MK Theatre (25 Oct). Elsewhere you can see The Russian State Ballet and Opera House pirouette onto the stage at Wycombe Swan with a new interpretation of Swan Lake, featuring Tchaikovsky’s iconic score (28 Oct).



Recognise this? It’s Oxford High Street, of course! This oil painting is part of the collection of JMW Turner‘s work that is currently on show at Banbury Museum. The exhibition, which showed at Blenheim Palace earlier in the year, focuses on the artists work from the 1780s to the 1810s and includes works on loan from The Ashmolean, The Tate and private collections (until 12 Jan).

The stunning MK Gallery also has a new exhibition for Oct, George Stubbs: ‘all done from Nature (below), which is the first overview of the British artist’s work in the UK for over 30 years. The collection  brings together 80 paintings, drawings and publications including Stubb’s animal and equestrian paintings which he is best know for (12 Oct).

In central Oxford you can see a Kiki Smith show ‘I am Wanderer’ (until Jan), at Modern Art Oxford, which promises to take visitors on a mythological and folkloric journey in her huge tapestries to her exquisitely-fashioned gold shells.

There are also a couple of cool portrait exhibitions to check out; Daniel Meadows: Now and Then at the Western Library, Oxford, celebrates the leading British photographer’s work and compares portraits taken in the 70s and 90s (4 Oct – 24 Nov). Meanwhile, at The North Wall, there’s Felicity Gill: Being Human (below), a series of portrait paintings that look at the human subject behind the lens of social media (29 Oct – 9 Nov).

Rolling over from last month you can see the Ashmolean’s current display, Last Supper in Pompeii, with 400+ exhibits from the ancient Roman site buried by the enormous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD (until 12 Jan); An Earthly Paradise: William Morris at Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock; First Animalsan interesting exploration of the first life on earth at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (until 24 Feb); the brilliant Bears! exhibit in Henley at the River & Rowing Museum (Muddy review here).



There’s ample opportunity to pick the brains of brilliant authors, filmmakers and more this month, the headliner being Margaret Atwood‘s arrival at New Theatre Oxford (30 Oct). The best-selling Canadian author will be talking through The Testaments, her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and discussing Gilead in all it’s too-close-to-real-life-to-be-comfortable glory. Snaffle tickets quick as it’s sure to be a sell out.

Photo: Jean Malik

Another biggie on the author front is the launch of Oxfordshire-based children’s author Philip Pullman‘s new novel The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, which follows on from his best-selling His Dark Materials series (PS check out the trailer for the new BBC adaptation here). Philip will be discussing and reading from the novel and there will be signed copies available to purchase (6 Oct). Philip will also be participating in a free Philosophy in the Bookshop event at Blackwell‘s on Broad Street, Oxford (16 Oct).

Meanwhile over at Blackwell’s Westgate locale, Harry Potter illustrator Jim Kay will be showing his new Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire cover as well as discussing his previous work that has brought JK Rowling’s novels to life (10 Oct).

Any Countdown fans out there? Susie Dent will be talking at Chippy Theatre, Chipping Norton, about her funniest moments on the show as well as talking about all things weird and whacky when it comes to the words (9 Oct). We’re also really looking forward to the arrival of adventurer, charmer and author Bill Bryson (above) who’s coming to New Theatre Oxford –  I love his books and approach to life, and he’s a dab hand at live shows, so it should be a goodie (12 Oct).

Poet, director and all round cool-guy Caleb Femi, below, (he was Young People’s Laureate for London from 2016 – 2018 and featured in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture, dontcha know) is speaking at The North Wall, in Summertown, part of the theatre’s Inspiring People series. Looks like a fantastic way to get moody teens inspired to do something great (14 Oct).

There’s also the Charles Simonyi Lecture, held at Oxford Playhouse – the annual lecture is the highlight of the University of Oxford’s programme to engage the public in science. This year Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE will be discussing research surrounding the moon (25 Oct). And finally, there’ll be a screening of Leonardo: The Worksa new HD look at the iconic painter’s life and work to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his death, followed by a Q&A with author Martin Kemp and producer Phil Grabsky at swanky Curzon Oxford (29 Oct).



This month you and you little ones can catch Judith Kerr’s tea guzzling tiger direct from its West End stint in The Tiger Who Came To Teashowing at Wycombe Swan (7 – 8 Oct) and New Theatre Oxford (21 – 23 Oct). Continuing with the animal theme there’s also We’re Going On A Bear Hunt at the charming Chippy Theatre, Chipping Norton, performed with live puppetry (9 – 13 Oct), and then there’s a Peter and the Wolf concert at Aylesbury Waterside Second Space (27 Oct). It looks like a great opportunity to introduce kids to classical music with a live wind quintet consisting flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn.

Next up there’s more puppets in the form of Rumpelstiltskin & the Snail of Destiny (whatever that is) in Widdershins theatre’s new production of the Grimm’s classic performed at The Stables, Milton Keynes (12 Oct).

David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy comes to Wycombe Swan, about 12 year old Joe who is the richest boy in the country and receives £100,000 a week pocket money (don’t go getting any ideas, kids). It’s produced by the same team that created the award-winning West End show Gangsta Granny so should be a goodie and, knowing Walliams, will be packed with humour for the grown ups too (23 – 26 Oct).

More shows based on brilliant children’s books include Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe In Unicorns, performed by Olivier Award nominated Wizard Presents theatre at Roxburgh Hall Theatre at Stowe (26 Oct). The show is performed on a library set and if you bring along a book you can add it to the stage and swap it for a different book at the end, which is a really sweet touch. Or over in Oxford at Oxford Playhouse there’s Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Stick Man, below, (it’s the duo who created The Gruffalo so should be brilliant) – expect more puppets, songs and live music (26 – 30 Oct).

Also in Oxon, at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury there’s fairytale classic Jack and the Beanstalk, starring Cbeebies’ Patrick Lynch (29 Oct), plus more Cebebies action in Marty McDonald’s Toy Machine (31 Oct) at Aylesbury Waterside, featuring the voice of Justin Fletcher as Pongo the pig (aka Mr Tumble).



Calling all gin lovers! Muddy fave Foxdenton Gin are hosting a tipple tasting in the wine cellars at Waddesdon Manor – you’ll get to try six gins, including Waddesdon’s own botanical No.1 gin, and try Foxdenton’s fruit gins distilled on its Bucks-based estate (6 Oct). Or over in Oxford in the Town Hall, there’s the brilliantly named The Gin To My Tonic Festival which brings together over 100 gins, plus food stalls, entertainment and more. There’s a free gin glass thrown in too. (4 – 5 Oct).

Need something to sober you up? In south Oxon, there’s Didcot Food Festival organised by Bake Off veteran Christine Wallace. There’ll be your usual foodie stalls plus demos from MasterChef The Professionals Nick Bennett (CV:Head Chef at Sudbury House) and MasterChef 2018 finalist and Oxford Uni grad Nawamin Pinpathomrat (26 – 27 Oct).

Finally, John Lewis in Westgate Oxford is hosting a series of Afternoon Tea sessions with Blenheim Palace curator Antonia Keaney. Each date offers a different topic of conversation with October offering The Unknown Churchill (16 Oct), Evacuees and Espionage (30 Oct) but we’ll beelining the Passion for Fashion (300 years of style) talk on 23 Oct.



The market town of Chipping Norton is boosting its cultural creds with a brand new arts festival that kicks off at the beginning of the month. Organised by local artists, Chipping Norton Arts Festival will have the theme of ‘Connect’ and celebrate creativity and visual arts in the area with free workshops, theatre, screenings, talks and more held in venues across the town. The festival’s headliner is a major installation, Of All The People In All The World, above, created by renowned arts group Stan’s Café in the Town Hall. The piece has never before been seen in Oxfordshire, and uses grains of rice to bring abstract stats about the world to life (5 Oct).

Another newbie is Chiltern Heritage Festival, now in its second year the festival gives you all the opportunity you could ever want to finally get a glimpse of the region’s grand private houses, local museum’s stored-away archives and beautiful ancient woodlands (until 6 Oct).

And finally, Stowe is celebrating National Poetry Day with an informal spoken word performance from Poet-in-Residence Dan Simpson (2 Oct), or bump up your cool-creds by seeing spoken word artist Kate Tempest, above, who’s performing at O2 Academy, Oxford, off the back of her latest release The Book of Traps and Lessons (14 Oct).



There are all sorts of science-y talks, activities and events going on in Oxford for IF Oxford Science & Ideas Festival (18 – 28 Oct) – far too many to mention them all but we have our eye on Westgate Wonderlab in Leiden Square (19 Oct), Vector an immersive performance at Old Fire Station (19 Oct), What If… 2019 which features spoken word artists (28 Oct) and BLAST! a virtual reality experience (28 Oct).

Elsewhere, Stowe hosts its popular stargazing evening on the South Front, including a talk about the solar system from UK Astronomy (19 Oct). And then there’s Morgan & West Unbelievable Science, also at Stowe, which is promising explosive thrills and chemical spills (hopefully not literally), 23 Oct.



Need to keep the ankle biters entertained? We’ve got you covered. Waddesdon Manor is hosting a spooky themed afternoon tea especially for children (there’s an adult offering too), featuring ghost meringues and eyeball cupcakes created by The Manor restaurant’s  in-house chef (26 Oct – 3 Nov).

Stowe House is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birthday by hosting its first ever sleepover, for kids aged 7 -11, including torch-lit games, music, crafts (26 – 27 Oct) or for a daytime jaunt head over to Hughenden, Bucks, for a scavenger hunt around the woodlands part of the 50 Things venture (29 Oct). Also at Hughenden there’s The Great Big Tree Climb – a fun and safe way for 6+ kids to scale trees, test balance and coordination (31 Oct).




Biagio the Jeweller’s wedding ring event, Bicester or Thame, 19 – 26 Oct 

Put a ring on it (and save up to 50% while you’re at it) at this annual event from multi Muddy Award-winning Biagio the Jeweller. Book ahead to receive a free mini bottle of Prosecco and lip balm, plus if you purchase your wedding rings on the day you’ll receive 20% off your next purchase and there’s also the chance to win £200 to spend in store. Ding flipping dong!


Ghost Fest, Oxford Castle and Prison, 26 Oct – 2 Nov 

Oxford Castle’s spook-tactualr Halloween event returns with spooky tours of the prison, Mystic Market seeking all sorts of Goth-y goods, trick or treating and potion making.




Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane work is the subject of a new V&A exhibition (until 8 March). Tilda Swinton, Björk and, er, Sir David Attenborough are among his subjects and he’s also created 10 new works for the show.

Meanwhile this autumn’s big-hitter is William Blake at Tate Britain, below, (until 2 Feb 2020). The visionary painter and poet’s work will be imaginatively displayed – some of it blown up to enormous scale using digital technology, other works in an immersive room that recreates the space in which Blake first showed his art in 1809.

Elsewhere Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican (4 Oct – 19 Jan) is probably the nearest I’ll get to clubbing this autumn. It’s such a cool concept – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s, including the Berlin cabaret scene in Weimar Germany and Harlem’s jazz clubs and lifesize recreations of some of the hotspots.

Then there’s a major retrospective of 88-year-old Bridget Riley‘s life’s work at the Hayward Gallery (23 Oct – 26 Jan), taking in her famous monochrome, makes-your-eyes-go-funny Op Art paintings from the 1960s among its 70 year career span.

And finally, playing “spot the Angel Of The North” as we drive up the A1 to Newcastle is a family ritual in our house (Geordie in-laws, you see), so I’ve got a soft spot for Antony Gormley’s striking sculpture. His new show at the Royal Academy (until 3 Dec) is billed as his most ambitious in a decade and involves six tonnes of steel mesh, eight km of coiled tubing and a gallery flooded with clay and sea water. Blimey!


THEATRE: Lungs, Old Vic theatre, London, 14 Oct – 9 Nov

The Crown alumni Claire Foy and Matt Smith (aka The Queen and Prince Philip, of course) are reunited in Lungs at the Old Vic (14 Oct–9 Nov), playing a couple wrestling with life’s big issues, such as whether to have children, against the backdrop of a world teetering on the edge of environmental and political disaster.


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