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It’s July! So what’s on in Bucks and Oxon this month?

The social calendar's full and celebrating summer! From explosions of culture to cutting-edge theatre to bold exhibitions, here's what's on throughout the rest of July.

CULTURE WEEKEND

It’s our very own Bucks Open Culture Weekend on 22-25 July! Entailing a hefty crop of tours, trails, live music, performances, exhibitions and activities, this is a celebration of our fine county’s culture and creativity. There’s an exploration of the secret parts of Stowe House (above), a monstrous tour of Marlow by Frankenstein‘s Mary Shelley, classes on interior design or patchwork quilting in Amersham, an interactive pirate concert for children in Buckingham, and so, so much more. (Many of these activities, you’ll be pleased to know, are free).

EXHIBITIONS

This summer, head over to the Roald Dahl Museum to catch a very clever fox: their Imagining Fantastic Mr Fox exhibit celebrates 50 years since the title’s publication. Included in the cost of a Museum ticket, this display charts the different ways Fantastic Mr Fox has been brought to life over the years by Quentin Blake, Wes Anderson, Jill Bennett and more. Childhood nostalgia: activated.

If all this children’s fiction is a bit frivolous for you, try some interactive contemporary art for size: Blenheim Palace is putting on a major solo exhibition by artist Tino Sehgal in its gardens from 9 July – 15 August. If you’re not up on your modern art, Sehgal is known for artworks composed exclusively using the human body, voice, and interactions. Participation and the transient qualities of social encounters, naturally, form the basis of his work. For this project, Sehgal will present a complex, roaming choreography imagined for Blenheim, involving more than 30 participants.

Then, a hop and a skip over the border into Beds, Whipsnade Zoo will be hosting an immersive exhibition of life-size animatronic dinosaurs from 24 July – 25 Sept. Experience life 66 million years ago: how the dinosaurs moved, how they compared in size, and why they went extinct.

Back in the present geologic era, from 29 July the Ashmolean is showing its Tokyo: Art and Photography exhibit. A riot of colour, history, and culture, this major exhibition will explore 400 years of Tokyo, from its beginnings as the headquarters of the early 17th century Tokugawa shoguns to the sprawling modern metropolis it is today.

FESTIVALS & FAIRS

Over in Milton Keynes, it’s all kicking off between 10-30 July thanks to the Milton Keynes International Festival. Encouraging people to look at the city in a different light, this festival presents a world-class programme through a range of family events, concerts, theatre, dance, music and visual arts installations, in locations across the city.

If you’re of a more theatrical persuasion, then don’t miss Oxford Castle & Prison‘s Oxford Shakespeare Festival, happening from 12 July – 24 August. Catch outdoor performances of Twelfth Night between 12-24 July, A Midsummer Night’s Dream between 26 July – 7 August, and next month there’s also Much Ado About Nothing, 9-21 August. The festival is subject to the whims of British weather, which so far this year means: wear a rain mac.

THEATRE

There’s a great selection of theatre on this month. First up is Macbeth, performed by The Handlebards at Pudlicote House in Chipping Norton between 17-21 July. Then, things get a little spooky at The Oxford Playhouse with The Woman in Black, 19-24 July. But it’s back to Shakespeare between 27-31 July with The Merry Wives of Windsor, performed by The Garden Players at Stubbings Nursery, Maidenhead.

FOOD & DRINK

Eating more your scene? We hear ya. Book yourself into a Summer Supper at Waddesdon Manor on 31 July for a relaxed evening of seasonal, sumptuous food (and if you want it, plenty of alcohol, too). Or, take one of the various workshops on at Daws Hill Vineyard throughout month: wine tasting, a gin experience, cheese and charcuterie…what’s not to like.

Totally over shop-bought ingredients, or just like the idea of eating like a woodland fairy? Secret Adventures Foraging is for you, friend. Rock up to Greenmoor Wood, South Oxon on 24 July to spend a dreamy afternoon learning to forage with trained herbalist and forager Justine Gens, before cooking your findings over an open campfire.

KIDS & FAMILY

And for the kiddos? That great summer staple the Millets Maize Maze at Millets Farm, near Abingdon will reopen 20 July. The theme this year is bees, so kids can work their way through a great games pack of quizzes and puzzles to solve, all about our good friend the bumblebee. As well as the maze, there will be trampolines, tractor rides, pedal go-karts (for adults, too!), crazy golf, and more. Sounds like a dead cert day-out to us.

If you want to shove something slightly more educational down their throats, don’t miss the Great War event on at The Chiltern Open Air Museum, 24-25 July. Costumed re-enactors, oodles of information about WWI, stories of local heroes… the whole shebang.

Can the circus be educational? There’s bound to be a way to spin it. Gifford’s Circus is coming to Stonor Park from 22 July – 2 August, so buy some candy floss and settle in for flying fairies, naughty leprechauns, wild horses, Celtic music, and more. Slightly easier to pass off as mind-improving is Tudor Tales with the Unbound Theatre at Waddesdon Manor, 25 July. This is a whistle-stop sketch show about everyone’s favourite period of history, the Tudors, and — undoubtedly best of all — it’s being performed free on the lawns by the Woodland Café.

Finally, if your little one is animal-mad, don’t miss the Snorassic Sleepover at Whipsnade Zoo on 31 July. Pitch up a tent on the main lawn, enjoy a torchlit expedition around the Zoo to see who’s still awake at night, and then receive a unique morning tour of the Zoo before any other visitors arrive the next day. It’s bound to win oodles of good-parent-points.

Need more inspo for what to do? Check out the best PYO spots in Bucks and Oxon, and where to play tennis while you’re still feeling Wimbledon-inspired

(THIS BIT’S ALREADY HISTORY, DARLING)

THEATRE: Under The Mask, The Oxford Playhouse, 12-15 July

Under The Mask is a fully-immersive installation on at The Oxford Playhouse from 12-15 July. Written by new writer Shaan Sahota, it tells the story of her experience as a junior doctor on the frontline of the Covid wards. Having finished her studies early like hundreds of other medical students in 2020, Sahota was faced with rows of unconscious intubated patients and crying relatives saying goodbye via Skype, unable to seek comfort from her parents for fear of passing the virus on. This installation shares the sounds and experiences of the Covid ward: audience members will be sat on stage, under their own lighting rig, experiencing the play through personal headphones.

EXHIBITS

Something a little more, er, tangible is The Oxford Sculptors Group’s display at Greys Court between 12-18 July, which will celebrate local art and artists in the spirit of Lady Brunner, a great patron. The artworks on show cover a range of scales and materials including stone, metal and ceramics, and will also be available to purchase if any catch your fancy.

FESTIVALS & FAIRS

Curiouser and curiouser! On Sat 3 July, Oxford is set to explode into whimsy for Alice’s Day, the annual celebration of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s novel. But this year isn’t any old year — 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of Through the Looking Glass, and The Story Museum has organised a wonderful array of celebrations and events on throughout the city. Things to expect: giant Alice puppet, talking flowers, the Red Queen astride a Dodo, nonsense, mischief, and a generally frabjous day.

Fed up of festivals that don’t centre around woman’s best friend? It’s your lucky day! Blenheim Palace is hosting the UK’s largest and fastest growing festival devoted to dogs and their owners on 3-4 July with Paws at the Palace. Expect arena displays, dog training experts, have-a-go activities, breed clubs, and the long-awaited opportunity to bag your well-behaved friend a rosette, in various competitions. Wagging tails all round.

Then, it’s all happening at once on 4 July, and we’re not talking US independence. Enjoy a mixed bag of music genres whilst tucking into street food at the Bucks Music Trust Summer Festival at Chiltern Open Air Museum. Or, crack out the bunting and face paint and throw a street party in honour of the virtual Cowley Road Carnival, a celebration of Caribbean culture in Oxford. Due to the pandemic elephant in the room, this year the Carnival is putting on House Floats around the city, but rather than hosting a mass gathering encourages people to celebrate with their own smaller-scale street parties. Also on 4 July (told you it was a busy day) is Supercar Sunday at Stonor Park, a dead cert for petrol-heads and the car-ambivalent alike, thanks to its gourmet food and picturesque location.

Then, on 11 July Missenden Abbey is holding its Summer Fair, which entails a range of activities and entertainments: pony rides, craft stalls, petting animals, live music and more. Also on 11 July is the classic American car show at Blenheim Palace, a laid-back event with well over 400 classic American vehicles on display.

Over at the Waterperry Gardens near Wheatley, fans of The Great Pottery Throwdown should rejoice on 16-18 July: the Celebrating Ceramics Festival is back and bigger than ever before. Over 130 diverse makers from the world of contemporary ceramics will be there harking their wares, including some contestants from the series. Watch live demonstrations, peruse beautiful products, and enjoy street food and live music.

Or, you can nurture a different wholesome hobby on 18 July with the Plant Fair at Chenies Manor. Expect over 60 exhibitors and specialist nurseries, and be sure not to miss out on the homemade afternoon tea on offer in the Garden Room. Very refined.

PERFORMANCES

Right, that’s enough doing things. Time to sit back and laugh: this year’s Marlow Comedy Weekender is a seriously good line-up. Do the names Russell Howard, John Bishop, and Simon Amstell ring any bells? Catch these three giants of British comedy as well as a TONNE of up-and-comers at Higginson Park, Marlow, from 1-4 July.

Or, catch various Dancin’ Oxford performances at Oxford Playhouse, Pegasus Theatre, Florence Park, and more. There’s plenty to enjoy covering a range of styles, but we particularly like the sound of Rouge, created by pop’s coolest choreographer, Marion Motin’s (who’s worked with Dua Lipa and Christine and the Queens!), performed by Rambert’s daring dancers on 15 – 17 July as a live stream.

Some will argue, of course, that nothing compares to the spectacle of hearing Beethoven’s ‘Battle Symphony’ performed as he composed it. That is: with 193 live Napoleonic cannons providing a thunderous percussion… which you can genuinely experience at Blenheim Palace‘s Battle Proms Picnic Concert, 3 July. If the cannons aren’t enough to convince you, there’s also a meticulously choreographed aerial display from a WWII Spitfire, historic cavalry acts, and a 2 hour orchestral concert from The New English Concert Orchestra. Pack that picnic, people!

Then, celebrate 10 years of cinema under the stars at the Waterperry Gardens with their Summer Screens Open Air Cinema 8-10 July. Enjoy the crowd-pleasers Romeo + Juliet, Mamma Mia!, and The Greatest Showman in a stunning location offering plenty of delicious food.

FITNESS

All this theatre too much sitting around for you? You’ll not want to miss this year’s FitFest Oxford at The Oxford Community Centre, July 3: a boutique interactive, experiential fitness and wellness event. Family friendly and inclusive for all, FitFest provides the opportunity to get stuck into fitness activities, enjoy healthy food, buy local products, and attend a range of talks.

Or, head to Broughton Castle on 11 July for their Sportive Sunday, where you can choose to cycle one of five routes through stunning North Cotswold landscape, and earn trophies.

KIDS & FAMILY

Catch a ballet adaptation of Tom’s Midnight Garden at Oxford Castle and Palace on 1-2 July, and be guaranteed that even if the kids aren’t fussed, the parents will be weeping with nostalgia.

Or, join a family-friendly online event with beloved children’s author Michael Morpurgo until 4 July, suitable for ages three and above. Morpurgo will be speaking about his life and the inspiration behind his iconic stories, and will be joined by Emily Gravett (who has illustrated his latest book A Song of Gladness) for a live draw-along.

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