Imagining the Divine – Art and the Rise of World Religions, Ashmolean, Oxford, 19 Oct – 18 Feb
Could have had a catchier title truth be told! But anyhoo, this major exhibition will be the first to look at the art of the five world religions as they spread across continents in the first millennium AD. Blimey! Brand new research from a major project between The Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum and Oxford Uni, with amazing objects created when the iconography of each of the major religions was still being developed.
October Half-term at Waddesdon Manor, Bucks, Sat 21 – Sun 29 Oct
Steeling yourself for half-term? No need, Waddesdon Manor has more pumpkin carving, trails and spooky afternoon teas than your kids can handle! There’s also the Fête Worse than Death (full marks to whoever came up with the name of that one), a two day Halloween party filled with games, stalls, live music, face painting and dress up photo booths.
Halloween Half Term at Stonor Park, Sat 21 – Sun 29 Oct
Go on, exhaust the buggers! Stonor Park has a full list of Halloween Half Term activities, from pumpkin carving to trails and all with the Wonder Woods adventure playground thrown in free for good measure.
Stonor Park, Henley-on-Thames, Oxford, stonor.com
Pick Your Own Pumpkins, Farmer Paul’s, Weedon, October
Surprisingly not many pick your own pumpkin farms in the area – clearly we’re all too middle class to get our hands dirty! The end of the first week in October is usually when the pumpkins are perfect for plucking. Check out Weedon Hill Farm outside Aylesbury, and Millet’s Farm in Abingdon, and if anyone else knows of any, let me know.
The BFG in Pictures, River and Rowing Museum, Henley, Thurs 19 Oct – 21 Jan 2018
Curated by Quentin Blake himself, the exhibition of everyone’s favourite giant includes unpublished illustrations that have never been exhibited in public before. The exhibition includes Blake’s first designs that weren’t included in the book, and provide a glimpse of a BFG that might have been in 40 original artworks. Don’t forget there’s the permanent John Piper exhibition at the museum too – that’s well worth seeing in its own right.
Brick or Treat, Legoland, Windsor, Sat 14 – Mon 30 Oct
I’ve run out of jokes about Brick or Treat – that’s how long this Legoland event has been running! Over 55 ‘spooktacular’ rides, live shows and attractions, plus firework displays on 21, 22, 27 & 28 October. Don’t forget to read my tips on how to survive Legoland.
Dark Arts, Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios, Sun 1 Oct – Sun 12 Nov
Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios are brilliant at ringing the changes with their events and for this one the Great Hall will be decorated with over 100 floating pumpkins, just as seen as 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 Art – wand combat techniques and Death Eater duels as well as filmmaking snot, blood and drool. Er, nice!
Warner Bros. Studio Tour london, Studio Tour Dr, Watford, Leavesden, wbstudiotour.co.uk
Ruby Wax – Frazzled A Guide to Mindfulness, Wycombe Swan, Thurs 26 Oct
I’ve been reading Ruby Wax’s bestselling book A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled. and have a new-found respect for the comic, who I always found a bit irritating as a stand up. Wax gives a tour of the mind – how to use it, not lose it. By the way, she graduated from Oxford with a degree in psychology three years ago so she should know her stuff.
La Voix Humaine, North Wall, Oxford, Fri 20 Oct
Olivier Award-winning OperaUpClose returns to The North Wall this autumn with a new production of Poulenc and Cocteau’s La Voix Humaine. Poulenc and Cocteau had shared the perils and pleasures of early-20th-century gay life – including Nazi occupation – for decades by the time the composer tackled his friend’s hit play, and this intense 50-minute tour de force for solo soprano is the result. Performed by Sarah Minns and Richard Black on piano and directed by OperaUpClose’s Artistic Director, Robin Norton-Hale, it’s a devastating musical portrait of a human being on the brink of disintegration. Sneak in a stiff drink if it all gets too much.
Oh come now, you’ve always wanted to go to a Lieder Festival! Lots of Mahler knocking around, plus a talk on the history of music in silent films by author Matthew Sweet, and a narrated recital of My Dearest Hedgehog by Henrietta Bredin, exploring the relationship between Richard Strauss and his wife, Pauline. Strauss wrote many of his greatest songs with her voice in mind and the fascinating and witty narrative, delivered by two renowned actors, is interspersed with a number of these works.
Family Arts Takeover, North Wall, Oxford, Sat 21 Oct
Lots of theatres do take over days but my money is with The North Wall’s version with the return of its Family Arts Takeover. Behind-the-scenes theatre tours, special shows and a huge range of wondrous workshops.
The North Wall Arts Centre, S Parade, Oxford, thenorthwall.com
Ellie Taylor: This Guy, Cornerstone Arts, Sat 21 Oct
Comedian Ellie Taylor’s show following a sell-out Edinburgh Festival season and 2016 tour. She’s been getting around in all the right ways, as the star of BBC’s Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week and The John Bishop Show, Channel 4’s 8 Out of 10 Cats, and BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show.
Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Rd, Didcot, cornerstone-arts.org
October Steaming Days, Bucks Railway Centre, Quainton, Dates throughout Oct
Can’t get your fill of Thomas the Tank Engine? Go give the Fat Controller some cholesterol advice on Sundays throughout October with the Bucks Railway Centre’s Steam Days.
The Addams Family, Milton Keynes Theatre, Tues 24 – Sat 28 Oct
Les Dennis and Samantha Womack star in the UK premiere of The Addams Family musical comedy, from the writers of multi award-winning hit musical Jersey Boys. Plus live orchestra, original score and a sprinkling of star power.
Founders Festival & LiveFriday Late Night, Ashmolean, Oxford, Fri 27 – Sun 29 Oct
This weekend kicks off with another late night LiveFriday opening where you get to to experience the museum after dark: essentially it means fewer school kids and tourists and a more sophisticated crowd. The whole weekend’s all about celebrating the life and times of Ashmolean founder Elias Ashmole so expect seventeenth century-themed theatre, talks, music and quizzes galore – and all for free!
Ashmolean, Beaumont St, Oxford, ashmolean.org
London Restaurant Festival, 1 – 31 Oct
Rack up the plates, here I come with my elasticated pants. The London Restaurant Festival takes place in 350 restaurants across the Smoke, from neighbourhood favourites to Michelin-starred fancy pants eateries, so it’s your perfect excuse to try somewhere new with chef-hosted lunches and tasting menus on offer all month.
In-Light II and Museums at Night, Compton Verney, Sat Oct 28 – Sun Oct 29
The combination of dark autumnal skies and a rural location makes Compton Verney the ideal place to experience a spectacular and contemporary ‘son et lumière’. Celebrated light artist Luxmuralis will draw upon poetry and nature to create a series of stunning light projections. Wrap up warm and prepare to see the written word and a colourful palette projected onto the famous house’s Georgian façade. You can also join Antonia Harrison, the curator of Compton’s major autumn exhibition The Lost Words, writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris as they reveal the ideas and inspirations that led to the show. The talk takes place in the recently restored Chapel, and is followed by a book signing.
ALREADY GONE THIS MONTH…
Henley Literary Festival, Mon 2- Sun 8 Oct
It’s the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – and a bumper crop of literary festivals. Henley has pulled in some big celebrity names, including Dermot O’Leary (pictured), who’ll be talking about his first children’s book, Toto The Ninja Cat & The Great Escape. Other speakers include Russell Brand, Alison Steadman, Michael Morpurgo, Vince Cable, Fearne Cotton and Victoria Derbyshire, the BBC broadcaster who’s written about her struggle with breast cancer. henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk
Awesome Animation, The Roald Dahl Museum, Sat Oct 7
Children aged 5+ can join animator Adam Childs and make their own moving masterpiece. What new adventures will you take Matilda on? Maybe she’ll meet up with Willy Wonka?! Work together as a family to make the extraordinary happen! Cost: £3 per participant.
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, 83 High St, Great Missenden HP16 0AL.
Fun Palaces 2017, Science Oxford, Sat 7 – Sun 8 Oct
Heard of Fun Palaces? It’s a free, nationwide weekend festival for young theatre and science enthusiasts, held locally in association with Science Oxford and the Oxford Playhouse. At this year’s Fun Palace the DNA detectives will be using the Burton Taylor Studio as their base, with loads of hands-on activities and experiments, from making puppets to completing a treasure hunt, the day also includes workshops and performances. Suitable for ages 5+, but younger siblings welcome. Free from 11am to 3pm.
Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford Playhouse, Gloucester Street, Oxford, scienceoxford.com
Sculpt at Kew, Kew Gardens, London, until Sun 15 Oct
If you’re heading to London, this is hands-down the best time of year to visit Kew Gardens, as you’re treated to nature’s own technicolour art display in the form of the turning of the leaves. This autumn you can also explore a sculpture exhibition set within the gardens – catch Piers Mason’s and Hamish Mackie’s life-size animals lurking in the bushes, among 70 works by other British and international artists. Access to show is included in the general admission ticket. kew.org
Cliveden Literary Festival, Sat 14 – Sun 15 Oct
Literary festival venues don’t come more insanely gorgeous than Cliveden House. Its current owner Natalie Livingstone (the author of The Mistresses of Cliveden, who we interviewed here) is impeccably connected, as her impressive line-up demonstrates. Speakers include Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Robert Harris and The River Café’s Ruth Rogers. And if you need a breather from all that highbrow chat, hotfoot it to the newly refurbished and utterly divine spa.
Cliveden, Cliveden Rd, Taplow, Maidenhead, clivedenliteraryfestival.org
Dancin’ Oxford Family Dance Week, Sat 7 – Sun 15 Oct
Dust off your dancing shoes for this weeklong boogiethon at various venues across Oxford. There are dance workshops and performances suitable for the whole family, including Tipping Point, which sees five groovers use metal poles to create fantasy landscapes. And if you get a lot of comedy mileage in your household from mocking the moves of the family patriarch, then send him down to Disco Dadz, a 2 hour session for rug-cutters and their rug-rats, with a live DJ and – crucially – a dance tutor. Off you go, Mr Muddy.
Luisa Omielan: Am I Right Ladies?, The Hexagon Reading, Sat 14 Oct
Comedy phenomenon Luisa Omielan is bringing her smash hit show Am I Right Ladies!? to Reading. Her joke on the Thigh Gap went viral with currently over 40 million views (add to the view count here). If you like this you will LOVE the show. It’s a party with jokes in! Be quick guaranteed to be a sell out.
Feast on the Farm, Peterley Manor Farm, Sat 14 – Sun 15 Oct
Those innovative Peterley Manor Farm bods are always full of good ideas, what with their yurt café and various events (and they won Best Farm Shop in this Muddy awards). Now they’re launching their first food and drink festival, Feast On The Farm, celebrating goodies from the Chilterns. There will be a Lea & Sandeman wine bar, workshops from butchery to fermentation and some Heston-style molecular gastronomy for children, plus demonstrations from local chefs and a Friday night supper club hosted by Oliver Rowe, from BBC2’s Urban Chef.
Peterley Manor Farm, Peterley Ln, Prestwood, Great Missenden, Bucks, peterleymanorfarm.co.uk
Million Dollar Quartet, Wycombe Swan, Mon 9 – Sat 14 Oct
This West End and Broadway musical focuses on the famous recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. Martin Kemp, formerly partial to the headband and polyester shiny shirtlings of Spandau Ballet, now silver fox, TV regular and Muddy secret heart-throb, plays legendary record producer Sam Phillips who does a svengali and magics up the sweet music. Trust me, your mum will love it.
Magical Soirée: Objects of Power and Belief, Pitt Rivers, Oxford, Sat 14 Oct
I don’t know about you but they had me at Magic Soirée. This is an evening Takeover event exploring the theme of magic, with cosmic projections, live music from The Land Girls (bit random but it sounds fun) and talks about magical artefacts. Kids can learn about the meaning of tarot cards, make fluorescent potions or concoct potion recipe.
Muddy Literary Salon, Thame Town Hall, Thurs 12 Oct
Holy crap, the Muddy Literary Salon is nearly here! We are bringing our inaugural event to the Thame Arts & Literature Festival and we have a mind-blowing line up of brilliant best-selling authors – Sascha Wilkins (LibertyLondonGirl); Tasmina Perry; Elizabeth Heathcote; Clove Stroud; and Alexandra Heminsley. No need to be in a bookclub, wear glasses or frankly even to have read the books, it’s a great chance to meet some inspiring women, have a glass or two of bubbles, and chat to the Muddy team at the bar! Book tickets