MON 24 - SUN 30 JULY
The last week of July – let’s see it out in style.
Peter Rabbit: Mischief and Mayhem, River & Rowing Museum Henley, until 24 Sept
Bounce over to Henley for the River and Rowing Museum’s latest kid-friendly attraction – Peter Rabbit: Mischief and Mayhem. This exhibition includes original artworks, first editions and early Peter Rabbit merchandise. You can can even help Mrs Tiggywinkle hang up the laundry or visit Mrs Rabbit’s burrow! Dress up (probably best to save your bunny girl outfit for another day), help in Mr MacGregor’s Garden and listen to stories.
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.
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.
Pitt Fest Remixed, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Sat 29 July
No, not a celebration of Brad Pitt (hey, every day is that kind of 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
War of the Roses Live! Warwick Castle, twice daily until Sun Sept 3
This summer Warwick Castle is staging a thrilling live action War of the Roses horseback battle twice-a-day. Think Game of Thrones for kids. The real-life War of the Roses story has something of a GoT quality to it – a series of battles fought in medieval England from 1455 to 1485 between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. It’s somewhat diluted for dramatic effect but perfectly pitched for bringing history to life to kids of all ages…Medieval Glamping in the Knight’s Village is also now available over the summer. Review here.
The Jungle Book, Batsford Arboretum, Thurs 27 July 2017
A special open air theatre production of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale from The Jenny Wren Theatre Company. They’re promising silly humour, slapstick and serious storytelling and wolves, tigers, bears and pythons loose in the beautiful grounds of the Arboretum. Bring a picnic and low-backed chair and your kids – ideally for 6+ though well-behaved littlies also welcome.
Tickets 10 adults, £8 concessions/children, £30 for families (2 adults, 2 concessions). Gates open from 5pm for a 6pm show. batsarb.co.uk
Nick Cope & Friends, Cornerstone Arts Centre, Tues 25 July
The former indie-rocker frontman of The Candyskins, Nick Cope has been enjoying a fruitful, rather more wholesome career as a musician for children over the last six years, creating interactive concerts for families. Catch his special concert before he heads up to the Edinburgh Fringe next month.
Wonder Woods, Stonor Park, Henley, until 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 opened just last week and 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.
Beer and Music Festival, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, Fri 28 – Sun 30 July
Beer fests are all the rage, and this one at the community-minded Cornerstone Arts is well-established, now into its 8th year. I love this funky small arts space in central Didcot – add music and hops and it’s just about perfect.
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 the Gloriumptious Guided Trails on Sun 25 July. The 2pm Countryside Trail includes a romp into the beautiful local Chilterns woods that inspired many of Roald Dahl’s stories.
Draw! Ashmolean Museum, starting Thurs 26 July Weds & Thurs throughout the summer holidays
Sometimes you just need an emergency something for the kids and this could be it. Drawing games, doodling, artists in the galleries giving tips and all inspired by the stunning Ashmolean collections from on Weds & Thurs 2-4pm until 31 Aug. While we’re on the free and fabulous tip, also worth knowing that the Pitt Rivers Museum has family object handling on a Saturday and the Museum of the History of Science on Broad St (a museum I love, and seems to be much under-utilised) has family drop ins too.
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
Artspace: Optical Art, Compton Verney, near Kineton, Warwickshire, Tue July 25-Fri Sept 1 (weekdays only)
This brilliant drop-in summer holiday activity for the family ties in fab new summer exhibition Seurat to Riley: The Art of Perception, which is already attracting the crowds. It includes fantastic activities such as make your own Kaleidoscope, design a Colourwheel mixer and create your own illusion and add to Compton Verney’s giant collaborative wall artwork and watch as it changes shape, 11am–4pm.
World Picnic, Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, Fri 30 July
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…
Garsington Opera, Wormsley Estate, 28 – 30 July
The last outing on the banks of the Cherwell for the fabulous Garsington Opera – a family-friendly new commission, Silver Birch by composer Roxanna Panufnik and librettist Jessica Duchen, uniting professional artists with 170 members of the local community in music, dance and poetry.
Field to Feast, Big Chief’s Table, Lassco at The Three Pigeons, Milton Common, Sat 29 July
Loving the sound of this – 18-year-old foodie Jesse Kempner is a total food nut, and is holding her own Big Chief’s Table pop-up supperclub at LASSCO The Three Pigeons. Sample course: cured mackerel starter, with cucumber ceviche and lemon sherbert dressing. I haven’t tried out her wares, but if The Three Pigeons are giving her air-time, chances are good! It’s a one night only job from 7pm, with tickets £30 per head.
Three Pigeons, London Rd, Milton Common, Oxon, tabl.com
Film Under The Stars, various venues, various dates
Aww, this is a nice idea – free pop-up cinema screenings that are suitable for children. Film Oxford are screening Moana (PG) at Sunnymead Park this Saturday (9.15pm) and LEGO Batman at – not technically under the stars but hey – Rosehill Community Centre on Sunday 20 Aug (8.45pm). Each feature will be supported by shorts created by Film Oxford’s youth and summer programme attendees. Don’t forget your popcorn and blanket.
Medieval re-enactment, Chiltern Open Air Museum, Sat 29 July
Do your kids like fighting? (Is the Pope Catholic?) Channel it in an educational way by taking them to this medieval re-enactment, where they can watch knights in violently wound each other with swords. There’s also a Knights School for little ‘uns aged 5-11. It’s part of the Chiltern Open Air Museum’s Festival of Archaeology.
Chiltern Open Air Museum, Chalfont St Giles, Bucks; coam.org.uk
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!
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.
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