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This week

Mon 31 Dec - Sun 6 Jan 2019

ART: Spellbound, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until Sun 6 Jan

Eeek! It’s nearly over. Showcasing the history of magic, mysticism and superstition over eight centuries, the Ashmo’s major autumn exhibition draws to a close on Sunday. It has everything from a unicorn’s horn to a human heart encased in lead so if you haven’t yet gone, it’s well worth a visit.


MUSIC: A Night at the Opera, Wycombe Swan, Wed 2 Jan

Think Classic FM meets the fat lady singing on a Wycombe street and you have A Night at the Opera by London Festival Opera (LFO). A greatest hits recital of the best of the likes of Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Bizet, Puccini, Offenbach and Gilbert & Sullivan, LFO is made up of performers from the Royal Opera, English National Opera and Glyndebourne, as well as emerging artists so it’s tra-la-laaaaverley way to ease into the New Year.



MUSIC: Kevin Fitzsimmons Band, Witney Jazz, Burwell Hall, Witney, Fri 4 Jan

Kevin Fitzsimmons is a popular musician in and around the London scene. Not only is he a great musician, composer and jazz singer but he’s very comfortable on stage and intersperses the music with humorous chat so you can expect a great night out. Here he is joined by top players guitarist Jez Cook, bassist Paul Jefferies and drummer Charlie Stratford performing two sets of music featuring American Songbook favourites plus works from Sting, Sam Cook and even Paul Weller.


CULTURE: Oxford Historic Sites & Ghost Walk

Oxford is quiet at the moment with many students still away so it’s a great time to take a tour. With 30, 60 and 90 minute options you can visit the 15th Century Divinity School, Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court, Duke Humfrey’s medieval library, Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link (a new reader space, opened in 2011, which links the Radcliffe Camera and Old Bodleian Library). To experience another side of the city’s past, Bill Spectre’s Ghost Tours are an Oxford institution. Dressed as a Victorian undertaker, he’ll take you through the streets for an hour and 45 mins of spooky trails and tales, leaving from the Oxford Castle and Prison at 6.30pm every Fri and Sat.


MUSIC: Damien Wilson and Adam Wakeman, Holywell Music Rooms, Oxford, Sun 6 Jan

It’s usually classical music at the Holywell Music Rooms but tonight at 7pm it’s Ozzy Ozborne and Black Sabbath’s  keyboard and guitar player! Adam Wakesman – son of Rick Wakeman! – co-wrote the platinum selling scream album with Ozzy in 2010 and has toured with Travis, Annie Lennox and Will Young. Damien Wilson isn’t too shabby either – he’s released 5 solo albums and has played the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on their UK National Tour. Rock n roll! Their new album together Stripped is released this month and they’re playing an acoustic set for your delectation.


ART: Penny Woolcock, Fantastic Cities, Modern Art Oxford, until Sun 3 March

Photo: Penny Woolcock Utopia

This super-cool exhibition celebrating the work of contemporary artist and director, Penny Woolcock, whose work unpicks social inequality, is a defo on the to-do-list. 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”.


Pantos still on…

Peter Pan, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, until Mon 31 Dec

Aylesbury Waterside Theatre sees Holby City and Corrie star John Mitchie don a wig and tights as Captain Hook, drag act La Voixas the dame, Nickelodeon’s Holly Atterton as Tinkerbell and the always awesome Andy Collins in their last two performances today. Read our review here.

Robin Hood, Milton Keynes Theatre, until Sun 13 Jan 

EastEnders’ happy chappy Shane Ritchie will be all tights and double entrendres as he becomes Robin Hood at MK’s Theatre alongside a live orchestra.

Dick Whittington and his Cat, Oxford Playhouse, until Sun 6 Jan 

Can’t stand Z-list pantos? The Oxford Playhouse continues its policy of not bothering with the soap star brigade, with its in-house panto. Clearly they’re expecting a good turn out as it’s one of the longest running pantos in town!

Peter Pan, North Wall Theatre, until Sat 5 Jan

Sword-fights? Check. Songs? Check? Cool venue? You betcha. Muddy favourites North Wall and Creation Theatre combine for their eighth Christmas collaboration and we’re betting it’ll fly.


Christmas at Historic Houses ending this weekend…

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock

Decorated as Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Palace until Sun you can wander through the historic rooms and conjure up the magic of the fairy tale’s characters with rooms themed around the Wicked Stepmother, the Ugly Sisters, Cinderella and Prince Charming. You can walk through the Fairy Godmother’s crystal world and hang a wish on the wishing tree in the candlelit chapel.

Grey’s Court, Henley

The house is still decorated for a Swiss Christmas, exploring the links the Brunner family had to Switzerland, and different Christmas recipes are baked in the kitchen with tasters available. Until Sun 6 Jan.

Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon

Using the amazing artworks in the Waddesdon collection for inspiration, the house and grounds are a feast for the senses this Christmas. The decorations in the house are inspired by the Venetian carnival and 18th century fancy dress, plus there’s a light show by the Guildhall School, this year projected onto the stables, and featuring Waddesdon’s objects, gardens and architecture, as well as neon-lit trees and tunnels in the grounds. Until Wed 2 Jan (reopens after Christmas on 27 Dec). Read my review here.

Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe

A Very Royal Christmas: a visit from the Faery is the theme for Christmas at Hughenden. The manor will be decorated in traditional Victorian splendour to celebrate the visit of Queen Victoria and her daughter Princess Beatrice who came to lunch with Benjamin Disraeli in 1877. There’s a treasure hunt round the house for little ones – they have to find 10 gold crowns – plus miniature scenes to discover in the gardens. Closed Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Until Wed 2 Jan.

Grey’s Court, Henley

The house will be decorated for a Swiss Christmas, exploring the links the Brunner family had to Switzerland, and they’ll be different Christmas recipes baked in the kitchen with tasters available. Until Sun 6 Jan (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).


ART: Pop Art in Print, Banbury Museum, Banbury, now until Sun 3 Mar

Having extended their galleries so they can hold bigger exhibitions, Banbury Museum has reopened with a humdinger – Pop Art in Print – featuring work by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Damien Hirst and more. Organised by London’s V&A, the exhibition displays works of these famous artists of the 60s and 70s alongside contemporary artists so their influence can be seen. There are over 60 works by more than 30 artists so it gives a pretty comprehensive view of the pop art movement from the 1960s to the early 2000s.


EXHIBITION: Christmas Toy Box, Bucks County Museum, now until Sat 19 Jan

OMG, I had one of these Daleks! This retro toy display from the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties looks like a total blast. It includes Dr Who, Thunderbirds, string puppets, the Sony Walkman (yup, had one of those too), jack in the boxes and teddy bears. There are games to play from Giant Jenga, Brio Trains and Duplo, while your bored kids yawn wide and say rude things about you on snapchat.


EXHIBITION: Great War Propaganda, Abingdon Museum, Oxon, now until Thurs 31 Jan

Extended by popular demand, this collection of conscription and propaganda posters explores the social attitudes and underlying stories of the Great War period, giving us some insight into life at home and on the front line one hundred years ago.



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

First self portrait of british artist Stanley Spencer and one of the last

Youth and experience” Self portraits of Berkshire-born Stanley Spencer

Not a loyalty scheme, but 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.


CHRISTMAS: Kew Gardens, London, until Sat 5 Jan

Photo: RBG Kew

A spectacular winter trail with over a million twinkling lights and thousands of laser beams, Kew’s light show is awe-inspiring. You can be mesmerised by the Fire Garden, walk through the moonlit woods and check out the laser garden. Mulled wine, hot choc and spiced cider will help keep you warm and the kids can whizz round on vintage fairground rides whilst looking out for Santa and his elves.


CHRISTMAS: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park London, until Sun 6 Jan

hyde park winter wonderland illuminated heater skelter and fairground ride London

Last week to catch London’s Winter Wonderland – free to enter but once inside, prepare to sell a kidney. Major attractions this year include the Magical Ice Kingdom Secret Forest, an immersive showcase of woodland animals and mythical creatures created from ice and snow; a Bavarian village offering an authentic Oktoberfest experience; karaoke cabins, ice sculpting workshops, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club, immersive screenings of The Snowman and plus Peter Pan on Ice.


THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, London, until 19 Jan

The smash hit of Dickens’ classic adapted by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and directed by Matthew Warchus returns to the Old Vic and this time Stephen Tompkinson stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. This big-hearted and warm production’s unique staging immerses the audience in the story and there’s music, mince pies and much merriment for a fab festive night out.


FAMILY: Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Watford, until Sun 27 Jan

Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas!  The festive makeover will see Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.



THEATRE: All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre, London, Sat 2 Feb – Sat 11 May

Not the recent fabulous tv series but a play based on the award-winning 1950s film starring Bette Davis as Margo Channing, a Broadway star, and her young fan, Eve Harrington, who inveigles her way into her life. With Gillian Anderson and Lilly James in the starring roles, director Ivo van Hove at the helm, and with the themes of celebrity and youth at its core, this looks like a dead cert for success.


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.


EXHIBITION: Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Sat 2 Feb

Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri (b. 1964), Éventail de vos hasards, Dress, Haute Couture, Spring/Summer 2018. Dior Héritage collection, Paris

This is going to be maaassive! The V&A is showing the largest House of Dior exhibition ever staged in the UK, tracing the history of Christian Dior and the six artistic directors who succeeded him. The exhibition is based on the major exhibition Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve, organised by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and there will be a new section exploring Dior’s fascination with British culture. A highlight will be the Christian Dior dress worn by Princess Margaret for her 21st birthday celebrations, on loan from the Museum of London.

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