Fancy a July jaunt? We’re here to help…
Wonder Woods, Stonor Park, Henley, Weds 19 July – Sun 3 Sept
File this one under ‘Help, they’re driving me mad and there’s still 5 weeks of the school holidays left’. Wonder Woods at the glorious Stonor Park is a brilliant big play park for kids up to age 15, with all the wobbling, swinging, jumping and sliding they could ever want. Throw in a few scary tunnels, a 50 metre zip wire and a nearby cafe for parents and, yep, that’s everybody happy.
Fun-Packed July, Roald Dahl Museum, Great Missenden, throughout July
There’s a brilliant line up of activities and special events all month at our favourite kids’ author’s home town museum in Bucks. We’re especially loving the sound of The World’s Greatest Space Cadet on Sun 16 July with the crazy poet/wild guitarist, James Carter and the Gloriumptious Guided Trails on Sun 25 July. The 2pm Countryside Trail includes a romp into the local Chilterns woods which inspired many of Roald Dahl’s stories.
MK Festival of Nature, Howe Park Wood, until Sat 8 July
There’s a lot more to Milton Keynes than shops and roundabouts, doncha know. This week-long programme of activities celebrates the nature found in the town’s green spaces. There are fishing lessons for children, workshops on how to photograph wildlife and woodland walks.
Ashmolean After Hours, Oxford, Fri 21 July
Too busy working to find time to visit museums? Yep, me too. But hey, we’re in luck: every so often, the clever Ashmolean throws open its doors from 7- 10.30 pm. giving you the opportunity the collections after hours. This month, you can enjoy the current exhibition, Raphael: The Drawings (there’s an evening talk on Raphael too) and, of course, there’s music and bars serving food and drink.
Much Ado About Nothing, Wadham College, Oxford, all week (now to 19 Aug)
I’ve seen a fair few interpretations of Much Ado over the years – from a 1960s hippy setting to one bizarrely featuring senior citizens Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones as lead characters Beatrice and Benedick. Oxford Shakespeare Company have taken their latest production of this hilarious Shakespeare comedy to a 1943, war-struck Messina where the Italian Resistance meet Mafiosi and it sounds pure brilliance. Catch it now until mid August in the gorgeous outdoor setting of Wadham College Gardens.
Wadham College, Parks Rd, Oxford, ticketsoxford.com
The Art of Nature – Metal Sculpture Exhibition, Turrill Garden, Oxford, now until 30 Sept
The Turrill Sculpture Gardens have regularly changing displays of contemporary art by local and national sculptors for sale in this lovely public garden in Summertown. The current expo features some stunning work from Diccon Dadey. If you’re up that way, you can drop in afterwards at Mamma Mia for lunch with the kids (it’s just round the corner and has been awarded Best Independent Pizza Restaurant in the UK!) or if you’re doing the grown up thing, Portabello a few doors down.
Behind the Public Library, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford, turrillsculpturegarden.co.uk
Jane Eyre, Milton Keynes Theatre, Mon 10 – Sat 15 July
Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece is brought to the stage in a collaboration between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic, at MK Theatre this month and it’s a corker. The touring production was given five stars by The Observer and if you’re anywhere near Milton Keynes, this is your last chance to see it in our region. I saw it Aylesbury Waterside a while back – read my review here.
MK Theatre, atgtickets.com
Winslow Hall Opera Season: Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, Fri 7 – Sun 16 July
The 18th century Bucks mansion designed by Sir Christopher Wren provides a fabulous backdrop for this summer’s opera season. This year Carmen Jakobi directs, Oliver Gilmour conducts and Rosalind Plowright, a recent cover star of Opera Magazine, stars as Ulrica. If you get tickets for a Sunday matinee, you can take a picnic for a pre-show al fresco lunch.
World Picnic, Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, Fri 30 July
The Pirates of Penzance & HMS Pinafore, Waterperry Amphitheatre, Fri 7 & Sat 8 July
Opera Anywhere are known for their quirky venues and this month present the popular Gilbert & Sullivan operetta in the Amphitheatre at Waterperry Gardens. But, à la Centre Court at Wimbledon, they’re cleverly installed a temporary roof structure to avoid rain stopping play this summer. Take a picnic or order one in advance from the gardens’ tea shop.
Waterperry Gardens, Waterperry, Oxford, waterperrygardens.co.uk
Pitt Fest Remixed, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Sat 29 July
No, not a celebration of Brad Pitt (hey, every day is that kinda Pitt Fest in the Muddy office), rather the annual one-day festival at Oxford’s excellent museum. Visitors explore the collections via performances, workshops, tours and talks around the cases, plus there’s live music.
Pitt Rivers Museum, South Parks Road, Oxford, prm.ox.ac.uk
The Full Bronte, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Oxford, Mon 17 – Weds 19 July
A theatrical homage to the legendary literary sisters, this Creation Theatre production melds comedy, storytelling, music and games and has been described by one critic as “the anarchic love child of French & Saunders and Hinge & Bracket”. Wowzers. Catch it in Oxford following its sell-out run in Edinburgh and on national tour. (If you’re on hols then worry not, it returns 24-26 Aug.)
Battleproms Picnic Concert, Blenheim Palace, Sat 22 July
Bring out the bunting, wave your flags and get territorial with your picnic blankets! It’s the annual Blenheim Palace Battle Proms Picnic Concert this month. Expect an exceptional evening of classical music, carefully choreographed Spitfire, cavalry and aerial freefall displays, dramatic cannon fire and a stunning firework finale.
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxon, blenheimpalace.com
The Fabulous Cornbury Festival Finale, Fri 7 – Sun 9 July
Sadly, this is Cornbury’s last ever outing, as it bows out of an increasingly crowded festival market after 14 years. Boo! It tends to attract big names and after last year’s set from Bryan Ferry, this year’s Bryan is veteran Canadian rocker, Adams, the Saturday night headliner. An opportunity to howl along to Summer of ’69? We’re in.
Gin Fest, The Crown at Sydenham, Fri 7 – Sat 15 July
Gin has never been more fashionable, a trend of which we at Muddy heartily approve, naturally. For Gin Fest, The Crown at Sydenham has a 4-course gin-inspired tasting menu, accompanied by a ‘gin flight’ of 3 hand-selected gins & mixers , plus a range of cocktails. Bagsy not being designated driver. In other gin news, Gin Festival Oxford runs Fri 21 – Sun 23 July, and promises exclusive gins that’ll be entirely new to you (Gin Festival obviously hasn’t met Muddy.)
Dinosaur World, Banbury Museum, 22 July – 9 Sept
This is a summer hols saviour if you have little ones who love dinosaurs. At Banbury Museum they can create their own dinosaur lands, creature, masks and fossil collages and even a hatching dino baby. It’s on Saturdays and every day during the Oxon school holidays, with two daily sessions: 10:30am – 12:30pm or 2pm – 4pm.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Creation Theatre, Oxford, 5 July– 5 Aug
A return for last year’s sell-out, interactive Shakespeare show, this is part treasure hunt, part play and wholly anarchic. Audience members take to the streets, meeting in small groups at a secret Oxford city centre location to follow clues. Apparently you have to watch out for fairies…
Giffords Circus, Stonor Park, 13 – 17 July
Described by the Telegraph as “the nation’s most glamorous troupe”, Giffords arrives at the gorgeous Stonor Park this month for a brand new Baroque-inspired show. No need to stuff your handbag with snacks for the interval -they also bring a 60-seat pop-up restaurant, complete with candle-lit communal oak tables.
Stonor Park, Henley-on-Thames, stonor.com
Waddesdon Manor summer activities, throughout July
There’s tonnes on at Waddesdon this month including outdoor cinema screenings, a kids’ overnight camp and a bushcraft summer school. It’s a good one to have up your sleeve during the school holidays for when the kids reach Peak Whingeing (it’s not just mine, is it?)
Hampton Court Flower Show, until 9 July
Missed Chelsea Flower Show? Quick, Hampton Court is on this week. New this year is Gardens for a Changing World which explores how we need to adapt our gardens for the future. There’s 300 stalls with gardening products and food, a butterfly dome, talks by celeb chefs and Plant Village, while children’s activities include a cookery school and seed sowing.
Pennfest, Bucks, Sat 22-Sun 23 July
For a diddy village, Penn Street is a veritable festival force. Now in its 7th year, this summer’s event is ’90s indie-tastic, with Primal Scream, The Charlatans, James and EMF (Unbelievable! Geddit?) all on the bill. Plus you can buy a weekend ‘posh loo pass’ for £27 extra – a tempting thought.
Brian Blessed directs Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web, Mill at Sonning, 6 July – 9 Sept
Gordon’s Alive! It’s only national treasure Brian Blessed in the director’s chair this Thursday at The Mill at Sonning. This Agatha Christie murder mystery classic sees Clarissa discover a dead body in her house. Do any of her house guests have anything to do with it, we wonder?
Comedy of Errors: Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Waddesdon Manor, Sat 22 July
Two sets of identical twins, both with servants named Dromio, all in the same city on the same day. What could possibly go wrong? Waddesdon Manor’s manicured lawns are the location for this outdoor production of Shakespearian farce The Comedy of Errors. Bring a chair, a cagoul and a picnic but absolutely no gazebos, you naughty view-blockers.
Garsington Opera, Wormsley Estate, throughout July
Still LOADS happening on the banks of the Cherwell at the rather fab Garsington Opera. There’s Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro until 16 July, Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia until 15 July and a fab-sounding, family-friendly new commission, Silver Birch which combines music, drama, poetry and dance and is running from 28- 30 July.
The Postal Museum, London, from 28 July
How’s this for seeing London from a different angle – The new Postal Museum opens this month, with its 15 minute Mail Rail ride on the underground tracks that delivered the city’s post for 75 years. One for any Postman Pat fans in your household.
Phoenix Place, London WC1, postalmuseum.org
Lovebox Festival, Tower Hamlets, London, 14 – 15 July
Calling all midlife ravers – head to the consistently bangin’ Lovebox in London’s Victoria Park for all your dance music needs this summer. The line-up is strong, with Frank Ocean, Chase & Status, Jamie xx, Solange, and Rag ’n’ Bone Man among the acts.
Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London E3, loveboxfestival.com
Alice, Oxford University Parks, 15 July – 19 Aug
More from quirky Oxford theatre company Creation. This time they invite you to fall down a rabbit hole in the green gorgeousness of University Parks for a family-friendly production of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. This particular wonderland is in a Big Top so inclement weather be damned!
Romeo & Juliet, Oxford Castle, Mon 3 – Sat 21 July
Sure to be popular, Tomahawk Theatre are mixing it up, throwing in a bit of song and dance but sticking to Shakespeare’s original language for their latest production of Romeo and Juliet. Get there early – it’s first come for seating; all with the stunning background of Oxford Castle.
National Trust Big Camp Weekend, 15 – 16 & 21 – 22 July
Crack out the marshmallows! Fill your hip flask! The National Trust Big Camp Weekends take place in various venues across the region, offering you and the nippers chance to sleep al fresco and stargaze amid beautiful surroundings. In Buscot Park in Oxfordshire, you can camp by the River Thames on Sat 15 July, or you can pitch up Waddesdon or the Ashridge Estate on 21 July.
Amid the tropical palms lurk some major pop stars in Kew Gardens, West London, the gloriously verdant setting for this summer’s picnic concert series. Acts include Razorlight (put your shirt back on Johnny Borrell please, this is genteel Kew), All Saints, James and soul diva Mary J Blige,
Bricks Britannia, Bucks County Museum, Aylesbury, 22 July – 2 Sept
Here’s a way to make history more palatable for children – recreate it in LEGO. This fantastic exhibition spans the history of Britain from the Stone Age to modern day, brick by brick. Highlights include an 8m long model of the Flying Scotsman (above). Brucey bonus – Roald Dahl’s Children’s Gallery is also on site.
Buckinghamshire County Museum, Church St, Aylesbury, buckscountymuseum.org
British Grand Prix, Silverstone, Fri 14- Sun 16 July
It’s so much more than just a race – the British Grand Prix is basically a weekend-long party, from Thursday through to Sunday. The non-stop entertainment will keep any reluctant petrolheads happy and includes an ’80s party hosted by Sara Cox and gigs from Travis, Reef and The Hoosiers.
Oxford Piano Festival & Summer Academy, 30 July – 7 Aug
Ivory-tinklers (like me) will find much to love at Oxford’s Piano Festival, which celebrates the world’s best players, both old and new. Two hotshots names to drop: Zhang Zuo (above), an imaginative soloist, chamber musician and former BBC New Generation Artist who’ll perform works by Beethoven, Granados and Liszt, and Israeli pianist Saleem Ashkarn, with his all-Beethoven recital.
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Tate Modern, London 12 July – 22 Oct
Tate Modern’s exhibitions are always worth a look (and a run around the cavernous Turbine Hall afterwards, if you’ve got the nippers in tow). Soul of a Nation explore black artists’ work, opening in 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Among the 150 artworks are vibrant paintings, powerful murals, collage, photography, revolutionary clothing designs and sculptures made with Black hair, melted records, and tights. Icon of the era Muhammad Ali is present in Warhol’s famous portrait.
Cogges Beer & Cider Festival, Cogges Manor Farm, Witney, Oxon, 21-23 July
Ultra-local booze from within a 30 mile radius will be served up at Cogges Beer & Cider Festival. The action takes place in the 17th century barns, complete with Morris Dancers (let’s hope they don’t drink’n’dance) and there’s a bouncy castle to keep the kids happy while you quaff those hops.
Twelfth Night, Bodleian Quad, Oxford, Tues 25 Jul – Thurs 3 Aug
Loving the sound of this performance in the Bod Quad, which promises to be one of the highlights of Oxford’s summer. Watermill Theatre are celebrating their 50th anniversary with an outdoor production of one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies, Twelfth Night. Directed by Paul Hart, there’s a post-war, 1920s setting for the play and a fabulous soundtrack of jazz inspired by Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.