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This week

MON 12 - SUN 18 NOV 2018


ART: Penny Woolcock, Fantastic Cities, Modern Art Oxford, Sat 17 Nov – Sun 3 March 2019

I’m very excited about this super-cool new exhibition celebrating the work of contemporary artist and director, Penny Woolcock, whose work unpicks social inequality. Argentine-born but Oxford-based for many years, she’s won many awards for her diverse range of work from film, opera, documentaries and art projects. This exhibition includes three brand new moving-image commissions exploring how dramatically different peoples’ lives can be within the same city. A real thought-provoker but don’t take the kids as there’s a bit of what my mother primly calls “language”.


FASHION: Designer Sample Sale, Thame Town Hall, Mon 12 Nov

Bargain hunters rejoice – this Monday evening Thame Town Hall will be awash with designer samples at reduced prices. The likes of Essentiel Antwerp, Cashmere, Intropia and many more will be on offer, so sharpen those elbows and you might find that perfect Christmas party outfit or pressie.


MUSIC: OSJ Proms, Ashmolean, Oxford, Tues 13 Nov

One for us highbrow culture vultures (no sniggering at the back): The Orchestra of St John’s will be playing a programme of Variations at the Ashmolean Museum  this Tuesday. Also, rockstar flautist alert! (is that a thing? Let’s make it a thing.) It’s the orchestra’s 50th anniversary concert at Dorchester Abbey, Wallingford on 30 Nov, starring James Galway no less, aka the man with the golden flute, playing Mozart.


THEATRE: Wise Children, Oxford Playhouse, Tues 13 – Sat 17 Nov

Adapted from Angela Carter’s novel Wise Children by Emma Rice, this is a flamboyant theatrical celebration of show-business and family. The tale of two chorus girls and their famous actor father, it’s an all-singing, all-dancing bold and bawdy show. Fidget-bottoms take note, it’s only one hour long. On Fri 16 Nov, Rice, former director of Shakespeare’s Globe, is in conversation talking about her career.


PEOPLE: Nigella Lawson, Oxford New Theatre, Tues 13 Nov

Chatting about her life in food, saucy Nige is on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of her first cook book, How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food. She’ll be on stage with a chocolate-covered spoon which she will lick slowly and sensuously for two hours (possibly). She may also talk a bit about cooking. Don’t miss the book signing after the performance too.


SHOPPING: Living Crafts for Christmas, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Thurs 15 – Sun 18 Nov

Oh gawd, do we have to talk about Christmas already? Well, it seems some of you are far more organised than me so if you’re already on the Christmas market trail you’ll want to know that Blenheim is showcasing 180 British designers and makers in stylish pavilions in the grounds this week. Crafts on offer include millinery, ceramics, studio glass, leatherwork, sculpture, textile crafts, photography, toys and puzzles, fashion, soaps, designer jewellery and more. Some designers will be taking commissions for personalised presents too. Can you do my Xmas shopping while you’re at it, please? Pretty please?


OPERA: English Touring Opera, Oxford Town Hall, Thurs 15 Nov

Sung in Italian but with English subtitles, the English Touring Opera are in town to perform one of Handel’s most famous operas, Radamisto. If you’ve never really got to grips with opera (*sheepishly raises hand*), this one is apparently as accessible as it is moving. There’s also a pre-concert talk so you’ll be familiar with the story before the show and can sit back and enjoy the music.


SHOPPING: Henley Festive Fayre, Henley, Fri 16 – Sun 18 Nov

Another Christmas fayre! There’s lots of delicious food on sale here, along with some arts and crafts, including award-winning Brockleby’s Pies and the Marlow Cheese Company, so you can get that larder stocked ahead of the big day (although I’d be tempted to scoff it all now, to be honest). They’ll also be street food to eat there and then and entertainment to get you in the festive spirit.


SHOPPING: Christmas Fair and Carnival, Waddesdon Manor, now until Wed 2 Jan

More spectacular Christmas shopping…Using the amazing artworks in the Waddesdon collection for inspiration, the house and grounds are a feast for the senses this Christmas. The house is decorated beautifully, inspired by the Venetian carnival and 18th century fancy dress, and the manor is hosting its biggest Christmas fair ever with food and gifts on offer from charming wooden chalets (Sat 10 Nov – Sun 16 Dec). There’s also a light show by the Guildhall School, this year projected onto the stables, and featuring Waddesdon’s objects, gardens and architecture.


ENTERTAINMENT: Oxford Christmas Light Festival, Fri 16 – Sun 18 Nov

This year’s theme for Oxford’s cultural celebration is Undiscovered Oxford. Local and international artists have created installations, illuminations and artworks and there are performances and dozens of free events. As usual school kids open the festival with a lantern parade from the Covered Market on Fri at 6.30pm to Gloucester Green. All weekend, you can check out giant sound and light sculptures at some of Oxford’s most iconic buildings, moving to different locations throughout the weekend (Hidden at the Natural History Museum on Fri; Imagine Peace inside the University Church of St Mary on Sat; Talking Maps in the Old Schools Quad on Sunday) including a huge LED cube in the Westgate with constantly changing light artworks and pop-up performances of music, dance and theatre all over town.


FOOD & DRINK: Native Feasts, Peterley Manor Farm, Great Missenden, Sat 17 Nov

Following on from the success of their vegetarian feast at Peterley Manor Farm last month, the Native Feasters have decided to do the same for meat-eaters, devising a menu based around the Tamworth pig. Chef Chris will be serving the pork in a multitude of ways from snacks on arrival to hearty mains, but thankfully promises they’ll be no pork in the pudding. There will be the usual cocktails, artisan wines and local ales to wash it all down. Pork scratching, anyone?


ENTERTAINMENT: Bucks County Museum Pride, Aylesbury, Sat 17 Nov

These guys look like they’d be a lot of fun down the pub, right? Celebrating our LGBTQ community, drag king Adam All and West End star and drag queen Topsie Redfern will be performing at Bucks County Museum. Visitors are encouraged to bring along an everyday object with a tale attached which in some way will help tell the hidden story of Bucks LGBTQ community in future displays. Everyone is welcome and the event is free but donations welcome.


SCIENCE: Eyeballs and Other Things, the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, Sat 17 Nov

Do you get an eye-roll from your kids or teens when you suggest an educational trip to a museum? Then what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than dissecting eyeballs! This fantastic museum in Oxford – in the oldest surviving purpose built museum building in the world – has a huge collection of early scientific instruments and runs really entertaining and educational family events. This Sat between 1pm and 4pm bring your kids along to dissect eyeballs and carry out various visual experiments to learn how our eyes work. They’ll love it!


CULTURE: One World Festival – Sing! The Ashmolean, Oxford, Sat 17 – Sun 18 Nov

The Ashmolean is celebrating the diverse communities of Oxford with free activities, live music, talks, tours and storytelling in a weekend of faith, folk and song. Whilst you’re there, it’s worth visiting the No Offence exhibition in its last 2 weeks, exploring the LGBTQ community’s representation throughout history.


MUSIC: Jessie J, Oxford New Theatre, Sat 17 Nov

Buy me a big glass of Chablis and I’ll tell you all about the traumatic week I once spent chasing Jessie J around for a magazine cover story interview – it involved randomly jumping on a plane to Ireland and a surreal midnight chat (*starts twitching*). Anyway, I’m not one to bear a grudge (*cough*) so I’m delighted to tell you the singer-songwriter is in town this weekend, performing her new four part album R.O.S.E in the intimate setting of the Oxford New Theatre. I know you’re wondering where she’s been of late –  apparently in China, appearing as a judge on their equivalent of The X Factor. Or maybe just hiding from me.


ART: Approaching Thunder, River & Rowing Museum, Henley, now until 13 Jan

John Minton, ‘St. Florent, Corsica’, 1947, (Wakefield Permanent Art Collection). Photograph: Diane Feather

We may have put our poppies away for another year, but the River & Rowing Museum are highlighting wartime art in their current exhibition of 1940s prints and drawings by leading 20th century British artists. With materials strictly rationed and a stagnant art market, the likes of Edward Bawden, John Piper and Vanessa Bell turned to paper to record their experiences of life in wartime Britain.


CULTURE: Bacterial World, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, now until 28 May 2019

OK, it might not seem the most thrilling subject but the excellent Museum of Natural History has pulled out all the stops to excite visitors about their new Bacterial World exhibition by installing a giant (92 feet long) inflatable E.coli bacterium (yum), hanging from the ceiling. The sculpture by Luke Jerram is just one of the exhibits aiming to educate people about the oldest form of life on earth. Bacteria are remarkable organisms and scientists are convinced they will help us tackle environmental problems so we really should learn to love ’em.


ART: Stanley Spencer: Friends and Family, Stanley Spencer Gallery Cookham, until Mar  2019

No, not a brand loyalty scheme, rather the latest exhibition at the brilliant Stanley Spencer Gallery on Cookham High Street. Although more famous for his local landscapes, his portraits are world class – in fact one on his first self-portraits hangs in the Tate Britain. This new exhibition is an intimate snapshot of the artist’s private life, demonstrating his immense talent at capturing the mood and character of those closest to him.



FOOD & DRINK: Montague Ski Lodge, Montague Hotel, London W1, Fri 16 Nov – Sun 20 Jan

If you can’t make it to the Alps this season, fear not, you can trot into London instead and chill out in the pop-up Montague Ski Lodge. The après-ski is the best part after all, right? The Wood Deck will be adorned with pine trees, ski racks, piste maps, snowmen and falling snow (not sure how they’ll pull that one off but there you go). You can sit under woolly blankets and enjoy 12 different types of Schnapps and flavoured vodka, hot spiced cider, hot choc or mulled wine from the bar. Or head inside to the log cabin with sofas, armchairs and the obligatory Christmas tree.



FOOD & DRINK: Catalan Fizz Tasting, Native Feasts at The Woodworks Trading, Thame, Thurs 22 Nov

Thame’s newest café, the chic Woodworks Trading, is the venue for a collaboration between Muddy favourites Native Feasts with vino importer L’Altre Vi, for a night of Catalan sparkling wine and veggie snacks inspired by the region. The Spanish fizz has been made with very little intervention (does this mean a lesser hangover, I wonder?) and they’re bringing six different styles along for you to neck, er, I mean sip, take notes on and buy at the end. Olé!


KIDS: The Cat In The Hat, Aylesbury Waterside, Thurs 31 Jan – Sun 3 Feb 2019

Calling all Dr Suess fans! This Curve (of The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine fame) production of The Cat In The Hat will have kids wetting themselves in excitement. The classic picture book will be retold with original songs, circus skills and lots of mischief so don’t forget to pack spare undies.


THEATRE: Cilla The Musical, Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, Tues 27 Nov – Sat 1 Dec

Cilla musical woman singing on stage

The writer of the acclaimed 2014  Cilla Black TV biopic, starring Sheridan Smith, has penned this new musical production, which is garnering a lorra, lorra good reviews. It arrives in Wycombe this week with Kara Lily Hayworth, who beat thousands of others at open auditions to win the part, playing the Scouse songbird. The action all takes part in the ’60s so, fear not, there will be no dodgy recreation of the Blind Date TV set. The perfect choice for a night out with your mum or girlfriends.


FILM: Royal Opera House Cinema Festival, London, Mon 3 Dec – Mon 7 Jan

It’s the 10th anniversary for the Royal Opera House’s Cinema Festival and it begins on 3 Dec in the Linbury Theatre with a live screening of The Nutcracker for which children aged 5 – 15 go free. Cool, huh?. This is followed over the next month by 20 screenings of operas and ballets with memorable casts. Operas include Renée Fleming and Joseph Calleja performing La Traviata and Jonas Kaufmann singing Verdi’s Otello. Ballets include Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov in Manon as well as Swan Lake and Giselle which brings the festival to a close. Perfect for a festive London day out, I reckon.


THEATRE: The Girl on the Train, Milton Keynes Theatre, Wed 23- Sat 26 Jan 2019

I loved this book by Paula Hawkins and enjoyed the film (although shame it was set in the US instead of London) and now there’s a stage play. Starring Samantha Womack (Eastenders, Game On and Kingsman) critics are raving about it. Even if you already know the story of Rachel Watson and her obsession with her past life, apparently there are plenty of surprises in this gripping new play.


ART: Jeff Koons, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Thurs 7 Feb – Sun 9 Jun

Behemoth of the contemporary art world, Jeff Koons will curate his own exhibition in collaboration with Norman Rosenthal. It will span Koons’ entire career and showcase seventeen works, most of which have never been shown in the UK before. It will include his popular series Equilibrium, Statuary, Banality, Antiquity and his recent Gazing Ball sculptures and paintings.


 CULTURE: Ian McKellen on Stage, The Swan & The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon, Sun 21 July

Ian, you’re one of my all-time favourite thesps but could you not have run the iron over that jacket, old chap?! Tickets go on sale this week for his one-man show to celebrate his 80th (80!) birthday. He’ll be touring 80 theatres, rocking up in Stratford next July. Expect oodles of witty anecdotes about his career, and in particular his experience of being a regular in the Royal Shakespeare Company for more than 40 years. He’ll even be performing some of his favourite speeches. Reckon these’ll go like hot cakes so chop chop.



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