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What’s on in Bucks & Oxon this October? We know!

It's all treat and no trick in Bucks and Oxon this month, thanks to a bumper autumn harvest of things to do. From boundary-pushing exhibits to rib-tickling theatre, Muddy knows what's good.

MUDDY’S PICK OF THE MONTH

FESTIVAL: IF Oxford, various locations and online, 9-26 Oct

Thinking caps on everybody, this month it’s the Oxford Science and Ideas Festival. With a mix of over 100 in-person and digital events for all ages, there’s plenty to pick from. We like the sound of the Chemistry Confections series on the science of food and taste (11 / 18 Oct), comedian Rosie Wilby’s talk on the science of heartbreak (15 Oct), and the ambitious Anti-Body performance on 26 Oct, which examines the biological form of the human body (and our desire to transcend it) through dance. Have a flick through the full events list; you can sort by age group, theme, and type.

EXHIBITIONS

Up first on our whistle-stop tour to autumn culture in Bucks and Oxon is Anish Kapoor’s ‘Painting’, at the Modern Art Oxford on from 2 Oct – 13 Feb 2022. His first show at the gallery in 40 years, this pushes the boundaries between sculpture and painting, and explores perceptions and experiences of the human body. Plenty to sink yer teeth into.

Elsewhere, at Henley’s River & Rowing Museum you can see new Skyscape: The Limitless Art of the Sky (until 16 Jan). Curated by the Ashmolean, the exhibit features works by the art world’s top dogs – Rembrandt, Dürer, Turner, Palmer, Piper, Nash – with a focus on aerial landscapes and the sky.

The Dressing Room at Dury Lane, 1922, Oil on canvas, on loan from and photo courtesy The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport. Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Then, from 9 Oct – 20 Feb 2022 there’s a big new exhibition on at the MK Gallery: Laura Knight, A Panoramic View. Exploring one of the most popular English artists of the twentieth century, this charts the long, unconventional, and ground-breaking career of the female painter Laura Knight. There will be displays of rare works, as well as her more iconic pieces.

Moving from paints to film, the Banbury Museum is hosting this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year display from 16 Oct – 23 Jan 2022. A chance to see some truly phenomenal natural photography, this is the most prestigious photography event of its kind — the pictures were first debuted at the Natural History Museum in London no less.

And don’t miss out on the various ongoing exhibitions. Try the exploration of creativity and language Sign Symbol Sound on at Modern Art Oxford until 11 Oct, or Waddesdon’s much-lauded Gustave Moreau exhibition, on until 17 Oct, as well as their A Rothschild Treasury exhibition, which displays an amazing range of precious historic objects, on until 31 Oct.

Staying with the sound theme, the Muddy Award winning Darl-e and the Bear are holding an exhibition called The Sounds That Paintings Make from 9-31 October. This is an exploration of the works of abstract visual artist, Sandra Beccarelli, and her works which draw from the idea of sound and rhythm.

Over at the Ashmolean Museum, you can see a vibrant (and free!) exhibition exploring one of that trickiest of art subjects: hands. In Praise of Hands: Woodcuts is on until 15 Mar 2022.

Another ongoing exhibition is the Oxford Natural History Museum’s ‘Meat The Future’ exhibit. Running until 16 Jan 2022, it presents cutting edge research on the environmental and health impacts of eating meat, and (spoiler) it isn’t good news for the fry-up.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Be quick for this next one: the Oxford Chamber Music Festival 2021 is underway and taking place in gorgeously atmospheric venues around Oxford until 4 Oct. ‘Beyond the Clouds’ in Christ Church Cathedral is one highlight, along with ‘Transcending Heights’ at the Sheldonian. Tickets online, with some free tickets available for 18-25 year olds.

Then, the plucky Henley Literary Festival, is running 2-10 Oct. Though sadly we’re not holding the Muddy Literary Salon there this year (due to the fact we’re, you know, absolutely knackered running the site), the festival boasts a rack of big names. Let’s rattle off a few: Ruby Wax, Cecilia Aherne, Sebastian Faulks, Elizabeth Day, Frank Gardner, Kate Mosse, and Rob Biddulph… There are talks, workshops and signings for all ages, and there’s a particularly strong children’s section this year.

Cliveden Literary Festival

Want more? Then hop over the Berks border for Cliveden Literary Festival later in the month (23 – 24 Oct). Speaking at this year’s event are: Oscar-winning writer, actor and director Emerald Fennell, comedian David Baddiel, Women’s Hour’s inquisitor-in-chief Emma Barnett, author Kate Mosse, Michael Gove MP, author Olivette Otele, former political columnist Barbara Amiel, Muddy’s journo pal Camilla Tominey who broke the story that Harry and Meghan were dating and many more. With the sumptuous hotel as the backdrop, this promises to be a fabulous affair. Tickets from £110 or win yourself TWO tickets in Reader Treats.

Pretty soon, of course, it’s all beginning to get rather spooky. From 22-31 Oct you can get a good old-fashioned thrill with Halloween After Dark at Blenheim Palace, from 5.15-10pm. Expect creepy gardens, fire performances, amazing lightshows, and a hot toddy or hot chocolate to soothe any frightened nerves.

Then, just for the grown ups, it’s time to don your deadliest look (and biggest shoulder pads?) for the We Love 80s Halloween Party on 30 Oct at Clayton’s Marlow. Killer retro bangers, flowing drinks, crazy costumes… uh, we are there.

And on the spookiest day of all (31 Oct, duh), there’s an especially gruesome Murder Mystery on at Missenden Abbey: guests will tuck into a three course meal and then join a high school reunion, which soon turns sour… Five professional actors help things run smoothly.

STAGE & SCREEN

But what’s on at the theatre, you cry! Worry not, dear reader: Muddy knows all. Try Charlie and Stan, at The Oxford Playhouse 5-9 Oct, for an all go-go-go, high-energy show about when Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel shared a cabin on a ship from Liverpool to New York in 1910. Yep, this really happened: the play offers the remarkable story of the greatest double act that nearly was, and celebrates two figures that changed the world of comedy forever.

Then a bit later in the month you can get into the spooky mood with a thrilling adaption of dark psychological classic Jekyll and Hyde, on at The Chipping Norton Theatre, 19-20 Oct. Who doesn’t love a bit of misty 19th century murder on an October’s eve?

For a bit of music, head to The Oxford Artisan Distillery on 14 Oct to catch a swinging performance by jazz legend Martin Shaw, accompanied by the Spin band courtesy of The Spin Jazz Club Oxford. Excellent jazz accompanied by excellent gin… now that’s an evening.

One to book now for November is the Welsh National Opera coming to the New Theatre Oxford 7-13 Nov, with performances of Madam Butterfly and The Barber of Seville. Talk about cultural!

Then moving onto the screen, the beloved boutique cinema is back at Clayton’s Marlow, Tuesday nights from 12 Oct. Book ahead for dinner, cocktails and films such as Nomadland and Promising Young Woman. Or, on 15 Oct, The Addams Family is showing at The Oxford Castle and Prison — bring a cardi, it’s an outside screening.

If you’re angling for a laugh, there’s a staggering list of comedians due to play at The Oxford Playhouse this month: Phil Wang (2 Oct), Sindhu Vee (10 Oct), Jonathan Pie (the stage character of Tom Walker, 15 Oct), Simon Amstell (16 Oct), and Andy Hamilton (17 Oct).

And there’s plenty of comedy elsewhere, too: on 12 Oct catch Adam Kay and his show This is Going to Hurt at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, followed by Jack Whitehall and parents at the Oxford New Theatre, 18 Oct, and Scott Bennett – Relax at The Potters Arms, Amersham, 28 Oct. Phewph — if all that didn’t get a giggle out of you, God knows what will.

FOOD & DRINK

Now, who’s hungry? Head on over to Waddesdon Manor on 9 Oct for its Artisan Food Tour: a dazzling array of seasonal produce, sugary treats, and savoury snacks.

Or, on 15 Oct you can catch the fascinating Late Night: Consumed, at the Oxford Natural History Museum. This offers a tasting menu of food-themed fun (talks, activities, demos), whilst exploring how our meat consumption affects the health of our planet. (Don’t worry, there’s plenty of tasting along with all that pondering).

For something a little more themed, treat yourself to a Spooky Halloween Afternoon Tea at Waddesdon Manor, 23 – 31 Oct. Kids can enjoy gruesome treats like eyeball snot-tail jelly shot (erm, gross) — but the adult menu is a little more refined: toffee apple crumble pannacotta, and Death by Chocolate cake. And if you fancy doubling up on the cake action (which, we do) you can also get a Halloween themed afternoon tea at Blenheim Palace, for both kids and adults, from 22-31 Oct.

Saving the booziest till last, there’s an Open Cocktail Masterclass on 28 Oct at the Muddy Award winning Tipsy Mercer in Abingdon. Free glass of bubbly on arrival (yeah, baby!) and a tipsy tutorial on how to make two classic cocktails. You can pre-book tickets at the bar.

KIDS & FAMILY

It’s prime pumpkin-picking time, so head to Peterley Manor Farm, Great Missenden, for their pumpkin picking sessions (16-17 and 23-24 Oct), as well as the PYO at Millets Farm near Abingdon, available from now up until 31 Oct. This leads neatly onto the Farm’s Halloween Spook-Tacular, featuring a circus on from 25-31 Oct, a spooky children’s disco party on 30 Oct, and a falconry Halloween Hoot on 30-31 Oct.

Over at The Oxford Castle and Prison, Ghost Fest 2021 is back — which means spooky tours through 1000 years of history, and a resident wizard Merlin (would love to see that job application). Bring a torch and get ready to wander through the dark. Tours start with the weekend of the 16-17 Oct, and then continue from 22-31 Oct.

For more Halloween fun, try the Halloween celebrations at Waddesdon Manor from 23-31 Oct. There’s a spooky trail safari experience that turns into a special twilight safari experience, and special themed kiddie refreshments.

Or check out The Moon Witch’s Halloween Adventure at Tumblestone Hollow, Stonor Park, on from 20-31 Oct, which celebrates the upcoming publication of their book The Moon Witch and the Thief. There will be readings from the book, puzzles to solve, ghoulish surprises, pumpkins to carve, and plenty of treats. That should do the blighters.

FURTHER AFIELD

Circus City, Bristol

Ooh, stepping out of county for a change? Go on, why not. Here are few things worth leaving home for:

THEATRE: The Shark is Broken, 9 Oct – 15 Jan at Ambassadors Theatre, London’s West End. This new comedy play (on stage one year later than planned, no prizes for guessing why) takes the audience to Cape Cod in 1974, and the making of Jaws. The mechanical shark has stopped working, and the lead actors are getting cranky. Reviews so far are rave.

FESTIVAL: London Literature Festival, Southbank Centre, 21-31 Oct. This year, the acclaimed annual festival looks at friendship. We like the sound of Grayson Perry: A Show for Normal People, 22-23 Oct.

EXHIBITION: Nero: the man behind the myth, British Museum, on until 24 Oct. A ‘thrilling’ exhibition that questions the traditional narrative of Nero, one of Rome’s most infamous rulers, as a ruthless tyrant.

PERFORMANCE: Circus City, various venues across Bristol, from now until 16 Oct. Think you ‘get’ circus? Ooh, boy: there’s a whole world of contemporary circus out there, and this biennial circus celebration shows it all off.

Not enough for you to do this month? Try one of these:

Headline walks in Bucks & Oxon

Autumn reads: 8 new books to get stuck into

8 local arboretums to explore this autumn

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