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This weekend

FRI 6 - SUN 8 APRIL 2018

Punting in Oxford!

punts in a row on a river in Oxford with blue skies

They’re all open you know, but of course the weather has been so pants I bet no-one’s had a go yet. The most central locations are Magdalen Bridge or Folly Bridge but if you want to escape the crowds and grab a posh lunch while you’re at it, head to Cherwell Boat House for your punting needs. All very civilised, until you crash into the river bank.


Willen Lake Splash Park Opens! Milton Keynes, from Sat 7 April 

blue lake water in milton keynes willen lake

Splasharama! Opening on Saturday for the first time this year is the whopping £2m splash park and its 60 water features. If you don’t know Willen Lake near Milton Keynes, aquaint yourselves pronto, it’s amazing. Tonnes of green space up here, plus cycle trails, a playground, high ropes, BBQ and lakeside picnic areas as well as an exhaustive range of watersports, inlcuding paddleboarding and wakeboarding for kid and adults. Still have energy left to burn (what’s wrong with you?) – try the 5km free park run or an outdoor bootcamp.


Easter Family Festival, The Cornerstone Theatre, Didcot, Sun 8 – Sun 15 April

The Cornerstone manages to combine a strong community feel with some excellent family programming. This month they’re running a special Easter Family Festival (Sun 8 April – Sun 15 April) for all ages from 3+, including  The Nose That Nobody Picked (surely the best title for a kids play ever) for ages 5-11 years, the Pantaloons The War of the Worlds on Thursday 12 April for 12+ with musical instruments and puppetry and Innocence, a beautiful piece of interactive dance performance theatre for children 3 years over and their adults.


‘Dracula’, Creation Theatre, Blackwells Bookshop, Oxford, until Sat 14 April

Well this is a bit different… A play for two, performed in the basement of Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford, featuring some bloke from Transylvania and his hapless victim. It promises innovative audio-visuals to conjure up the phantoms, and at 12+ it’s clearly not for the faint-hearted. Bring your garlic and for heaven’s sake remember to wear a polo neck.

Book tickets £22- £27


Victorian Passions and Pursuits, Blenheim Palace, until 16 April 

Blenheim Palace outside nature lake trees blue sky building

The period of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837 – 1901) saw five Dukes of Marlborough living at Blenheim Palace. Some of their Passions and Pursuits are represented in the Palace itself and highlights and include the Saloon restored to its Victorian heyday and costumes and sketches from The Young Victoria, from the personal archive of Academy award winning designer Sandy Powell. Particularly worthwhile are the Romance & Rebellion collection of paintings featuring 40 works by artists including Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, Richard Dadd and Aubrey Beardsley, plus vintage cars and and fire engines from the era.


It’s Always Tea Time, Story Museum, Oxford, until July 7 

Journey down the rabbit hole and discover It’s Always Tea Time, a fab new Alice-themed exhibit at Oxford’s Story Museum. Visiting the UK for the first time ever, this award-winning collection celebrates the world’s most famous tea party from Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 72 Artists from 19 countries including Iran, Russia, Spain, Hungary and the Baltic States explore the theme with interactive picture trails, dress-up stations and artwork displays which appeal to the WHOLE family *thud*.


Kids Club at Curzon, Westgate, Sat 7 – Sun 8 April

Tempting though it is to keep the Curzon for adults, I feel the little people should also get to enjoy the reclining seats. There are Kids Club performances of new Pixar animation Coco on Sat and Sun mornings of 7-8 April and 13-14 April but with those rooftop restaurants and shops let’s face it – you’ll be there all day!

Cadbury Easter Egg Trail, Basildon Park and Cliveden, now – Sun 15 April

Basildon Park National Trist cream stone mansion house seen in film Pride and Prejudice

Every venue across Berkshire is going chocolate crazy but my top tips include The Cadbury Easter Egg Trail (now – 15 Apr) at Basildon Park (pictured), and Cliveden– zip around the stunning gardens, solve the clues and, ta-da, chocolate reward (£3 per egg).


The Making of Harry Potter, Watford, now – Sun 23 Sept   

The Making of Harry Potter Great Hall Costumes

This WB Studio Tour company never runs out of new reasons to get families back to this paean to the boy wizard. A new special feature dedicated entirely to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth installment of the magical film series, revealing secrets behind the characters, costumes and props that made it so special.


One Small Step, Oxford Playhouse, Thurs 5 – Sun 8 April

Recounting the great race between the United States and the Soviet Union to send the first man to the moon, One Small Step crams 50 years of history into 60 minutes! With rave reviews from Time Out, the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times, this inventive, funny and action-packed show is fun for the whole family.


Out of the Block: Henry Moore’s Carvings, Henry Moore Studios & Garden – until October

Just over the border into Herts and well worth the travel as Henry Moore’s Studio and Gardens (near Bishop’s Stortford ) open to the public once again for Spring and Summer. There’s a wonderful new exhibition celebrating Moore’s carvings but you can also meander through the beautiful gardens with sculptures galore and spring lambs running around bronzes, plus there’s a fab new cafe, and you can also visit Henry Moore’s house.

Henry Moore Studios & Gardens


Alchymy 2018, The North Wall, Summertown, Oxford  6-8 April 2018

The second year of the Alchymy Festival, designed to showcase the skills of early-career theatre-makers will see a programme of 12 new plays premiere alongside masterclasses and panel discussions. Most writers, directors and actors involved in the festival were trained at The North Wall on the organisation’s ArtsLab programme so it’s very much about supporting home-grown talent.


Knights Jousting, Berkeley Castle, Sun 8 April

two men knights armour swords boy toy shield knight's helmut

The puntastic Dressed To Kill will be rocking up at the romantic 850 year old Berkeley Castle (Gloucestershire) this Sunday to impart their expert battling skills, where you can learn the ancient skill of sword fighting, get up close and personal with authentic steel armour and make like a 15th-century knight.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Wycombe Swan, until Sat 7 April

The story that resonates with Gemini’s everywhere. Starring Phil Daniels (of Parklife, Quadrophenia and Eastenders fame), this play is adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic thriller about the respectable Dr Jekyll who splits his personality into two, releasing the murderous Edward Hyde.


Rhythms at the Yurt, Swing Fromage, Wittenham Clumps, Fri 6 April 

Every six weeks or so this Mongolian yurt at the foot of Wittenham Clumps host two evenings of live music – mainly jazz but including other forms of mainly acoustic music too. There are only 26 seats available so it’s super-intimate and you can have drinkies there too. Kicking off the 2018 season is some gypsy jazz with Tom Weetman and Lewis Dickenson on guitars and Annalise Lam on violin.


Welsh National Opera – La forza del destino, Milton Keynes Theatre, Sat 7 April

This new production directed by David Pountney and conducted by Laureate Carlo Rizzi marks the beginning a three year partnership bringing classic Verdi operas to the stage. Told through the recognisable Overture score that has been popularised by films and adverts – you know the one of course! – it follows the tale of two lovers torn apart as our hero is pursued by his fiancé’s brother, having accidentally killed her father. Oops.



Last weekend of Winnie-The-Pooh: Exploring A Classic, V&A Museum, until Sun 8 April

Winnie The Pooh Exhibition V&A Museum London

You loved the Balenciaga exhibition. We all adored the Bowie one. Now take the kids to see Winnie-The-Pooh – a show that invites you into the world created by AA Milne and EH Shepard, in which a tubby teddy and his friends stumble over life lessons. It’s multi sensory and playful exhibition that adds to the magic of this timeless classic.


Coraline, The Barbican, 29 Mar – Sat 7 April 2018

Just a few days left to catch Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel Coraline turned operatic stage adaptation that London’s been buzzing about. Recommended for ages 8+. Tickets: £10–£40.


Now Play This, Somerset House, London, Fri 6 – Sun 8 Apr

Overground by Rosa Carbo-Mascarell

I’m feeling a bit anti screen at the mo (anyone else struggling to get young people to look up and out rather than down?) but even I have to admit this three day games festival sounds intriguing. Players can experience dozens of diverse games – many of which premiere at the festival. The focus this year is on the idea of place, and visitors can explore different countries and cultures, and critical issues specific to these places ranging from international borders to identity. Drop-in workshops throughout the popular weekender will also enable players to explore the patterns, processes and particularities of game making.


A big day out with Peter Rabbit™, Kew Gardens, until Sun 15 April 

peter rabbit and toad and beatrix potter characters against cartoon illustrated backdrop of kew gardens

The start of a new trail based on Peter Rabbit and other famous Beatrix Potter characters. More permanent pleasures include the tree top walk, the 17 metre tall Hive sensory experience, a 14,000 tree arboretum and the Palm House.

Kew Gardens

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