FRI 8 - SUN 10 DEC
Electric Menagerie, Waddesdon Manor
I’m a sucker for a bit of neon so I’m already predisposed to these light-based artworks throughout the grounds of Waddesdon Manor by American artist Lauren Booth (above), inspired by the real and fantastical animals associated with the estate. While your there, get your littlies in the Christmassy mood, withLetter Writing to Father Christmas until 23 Dec and a special free Children’s House Trail until 2 Jan.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Fri 8 – Sun 31 Dec
Here they come! Su Pollard, you say? (*immediately books all the tickets*). Say hi-de-hi – or should that be hi ho hi ho hi ho? – to the Wicked Queen, who I’ll hazard a guess will be, ahem, vibrantly attired. Mirror mirror on the wall, is this the campest panto of them all? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.
Waterside Theatre, Exchange St, Aylesbury, Bucks, atgtickets.com
Jack and the Beanstalk, Wycombe Swan, Sat 9 – Sun 31 Dec
Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a boyband alum. Simon Webbe from Blue – no kidding! – stars as our bean-obsessed hero, alongside Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler, CBeebies star Chris Jarvis and veteran panto dame extraordinaire Nigel Ellacott, who notches up this 43rd panto run. Blimey, he’s keen.
Lily and the Little Snow Bear, Stowe House, Sun 10 Dec
A prettier venue I can’t imagine for this snowy tale about a little lost bear and a brave little girl. Coming in at 55 minutes for kids 3+ it’s a lovely way to spend your Sunday afternoon. After the show children can meet Lily and Baby Bear and have photos taken with them.
Roxburgh Hall, Stowe House, Stowe, Buckingham, stowe.co.uk
Oxford Christmas Market, Broad Street, Oxford, Thurs 7 – Sun 17 Dec
This pretty chalet market bang in the Broad St, one of my favourite Oxford streets, is worth the detour if you’re in central Oxford. Loads of quirky, indie traders so a good chance to scoop up some really unusual pressies, plus food and mulled wine and live music every day. It’s getting to feel a lot like Christmas, folks!
Native Feasts pop up supper clubs, College Farm, Long Crendon, 8 & 9 Dec
The Native Feasts dynamic duo of Chris Godfrey (ex Michelin star chef of The Sir Charles Napier in Chinnor) and Greg Jones continue to create gastro evenings in cool locations. Long Crendon is a chocolate box village just on the Bucks/Oxon border (close to Thame), and the lodge is set to be decked out with fairy lights, holly and misteltoe. They’re promising a ‘minc pie martini’ which sounds frankly perilous but I dare say will hit the spot, plus artisan wines and beers. Some of the evenings are already sold out but there’s availability at the time of writing this for Dec 2, 8 & 9 Dec plus a New Year’s bash at the cool Coopers industrial cafe space in Marlow. Tickets for the supper clubs are £45 for four courses, complimentary ‘winter warmer’ shooters on arrival and ‘pass the Christmas present’. What more do you want, table service by the elves?
Coffee Concerts, Holywell Music Rooms, Oxford, Sun 10 Dec
I’m a big fan of these coffee concerts in central Oxford – I used to go to them with my lovely dad, so I think fondly of them. But sentimentality aside, they stand on their own merit. World class performers in the oldest, purpose-built concert venue in Europe. The North-Oxfordshire based Adderbury Ensemble provide Catrin Finch (harp), Julian Sperry (flute) and Fiona Cross (clarinet) to play Ravel: Introduction and Allegro for Harp, String Quartet, Flute and Clarinet; Saint-Saëns: Fantaisie for Harp & Flute, op 124; and Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A major, K 581.
Days Out With Thomas and Father Christmas, Bucks Railway Centre, Sat 9 – Sun 10 Dec
Father Christmas is clearly a fan of the steam train – he’s using Thomas as his grotto this year. If you take the kids you’ll be shown to your seats on the train, and will ride up and down the track a few times as you wait for the old guy to come to our compartment with gifts. The ticket price includes presents for all kids, refreshments (drink and biscuit for children; hot drink, sausage roll and mince pie for adults), a live children’s show, face-painting, Thomas-themed colouring and badge making and you can meet The Fat Controller.
Bucks Railway Centre, Quainton Road Station, Station Rd, Quainton, Bucks, bucksrailwaycentre.org
Waddesdon Christmas Fair, Waddesdon Manor nr Aylesbury, now to Sun 10 Dec
Last weekend to catch Waddesdon’s Crimbo fair, set against the fairytale backdrop of the floodlit Manor where there’s light and sound shows going on, all adding up to a really Christmassy atmosphere. Stock up on your pressies from the rows of cute wooden chalets where over 80 exhibitors are selling gifts, crafts and decorations. Muddy tip: bring cash – not all the stallholders have a card machine.
Christmas at Stonor, Stonor Park, until Sun 10 Dec
Yeah, my fireplace looks just like this one. If you want to see a manor house beautifully decorated (and get a sense of how the other half live – the Stonor family are still in situ) then head to Stonor Park. No I’m not jealous at all. *gnashes teeth*
Stonor Park, Stonor, Henley-on-Thames, stonor.com
Working Christmas, The Old Fire Station, Oxford, Weds 6 – Sat 23 Dec
Not a panto lover? For something completely different this month but still brim-full of that Christmassy feeling, head down to The Old Fire Station. Billed as a ‘Christmas play for grown ups’, there’s a brilliant cast of actor/comedians putting on this lovely show.
Arts at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford , oldfirestation.org
Christmas at Waterperry Gardens, Sat 9 – Sun 10 Dec
Waterperry-grown Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths are on sale this weekend and along with pressies on sale in the Gallery, Gift Barn and Christmas Shop. Plus – all through December, there’s a Find Santa’s reindeer trail round the garden for kids with chocolate treat incentives at the end – anything to encourage some some fresh air!
Waterperry Gardens, Near Wheatley, Oxon, waterperrygardens.co.uk
Morgan & West: A (sort of ) Christmas Carol Magic Show! Pegasus, Oxford, Tues 5 – Sun 24 Dec
More Chuck D – no, not him from Public Enemy, I mean Charles Dickens – as Oxford’s Pegasus theatre also tackle A Christmas Carol this season. This version is presented by magicians Morgan & West (as seen on The Next Great Magician (ITV), Penn & Teller: Fool Us(ITV), and The Slammer (CBBC)).
Pegasus, Magdalen Rd, Oxford, pegasustheatre.org.uk
Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sheldonian, Oxford, Sat 9 Dec
Ashkenazy conducts and Natalia Lomeiko appears as violin soloist for Shostakovich’s first violin concerto followed by Rachmaninov’s powerful Symphony No. 1. The concert opens with Nimrod Borenstein’s If You Will It, It Is No Dream; a work recorded by the Oxford Philharmonic and Vladimir Ashkenazy last year and recently released on the Chandos label.
The Sheldonian Theatre, Broad St, Oxford, oxfordphil.com
Christmas Creations, Oxford Botanic Gardens, Sat 9 Dec
A sweet, creative morning to be had at Oxford’s lovely Botanic Gardens from 11am-1pm on Saturday. Collect leaves, pods, twigs and natural treasures from the Garden and turn them into beautiful decorations to decorate the Botanic Garden Tree and others to take home. It’s free entry for kids with a paying family member.
University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Rose Ln, Oxford, botanic-garden.ox.ac.uk
& FURTHER AFIELD…
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Sadler’s Wells, London, Sat 9 Dec – Sat 27 Jan
Matthew Bourne’s productions are always stunning and this is no exception. He transposes the story of Cinderella to London during the Blitz, rebooting it as a wartime romance between our heroine and an RAF pilot. The reviews have been of the rave variety, with Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous costumes and sets winning Olivier Award.
Sadlers Wells, Rosebery Av, London EC1, sadlerswells.com
Dick Whittington, London Palladium, Sun 10 Dec – Fri 12 Jan
Filed under ‘go big or go home’, we have London Palladium’s offering, starring Julian Clary and Elaine Paige. Oh yeah! And you thought Su Pollard was camp. Fans of ’80s cheesiness will be thrilled to hear that Gary Wilmot co-stars alongside Nigel ‘The Charmer’ Havers.
London Palladium, Argyll St, London, dickwhittingtonpalladium.com
North – Fashioning Identity, Somerset House, now to Feb 4 2018
Forget the north/south divide, London doffs its hat to Manchester, Newcastle et al in this new exhibition. Social documentary film and photography detailing life in the north of England in the mid-20th century sits alongside works by photographers, designers and artists inspired by the parts of our green and pleasant land beyond the Watford Gap. Contributors include Nottingham’s finest Paul Smith and Manchester’s Factory Records designer Peter Saville. If you visit after 15 Nov, you can also take a twirl on Somerset House’s gorgeous outdoor ice rink.
STILL GOING AND WORTH YOUR ATTENTION…
Softer – Jenny Holzer Exhibition at Blenheim Palace, Thurs 28 Sep – 31 Dec
The fourth artist to to showcase contemporary art at Blenheim Palace (my kids still talk about Ai Wei Wei back in 2015), Holzer will be creating new work directly addressing our military and political history – eeek! For this show she’s developing large-scale light projections that will transform the Formal Gardens after dark in a series of night time public events. Sound cool right? Plus visitors can also explore more meditative areas featuring examples of Holzer’s best-known work.
Christmas at Kew is always a draw (above) but for charms close-to-home, check out Waddesdon Imaginarium‘s light and sound show projected onto the Manor’s façade, or Blenheim Palace, Kew Gardens and Westonbirt Arboretum. If you really can’t be bothered to move, grab a torch and shine it at the nearest tree in your garden. Whoa, cool!