Mon 25 Nov - Sun 1 Dec
It’s December on Sunday *cue jingle bells*, but if you’re holding fire on the mince pies until then this week’s guide is for you, handily split into non-festive and Christmassey activities.
MUDDY’S PICK OF THE WEEK
NATIONAL TRUST: National Lottery open day, various venues, 23 – 29 Nov
We’re spoilt for choice in Bucks & Oxon for gorgeous National Trust sites. If you’re not a member of the NT, this is the month you can blow raspberries at everyone who’s bought an annual pass – to celebrate the National Lottery’s 25th birthday, you can enter some of the venues for free if you bring along a National Lottery ticket (plus, if you actually win the lottery you’ll be able to buy one, so it’s kind of like house hunting).
THEATRE: The Woman in Black, Aylesbury Waterside, 26 – 30 Nov
Looking for spooks? This week there’s The Woman in Black at Aylesbury Waterside which is celebrating its 30th year in the West End. Still never seen that one and unlikely to as I habitually kick the chair in front of me in fright. (I’ll get my coat).
COMEDY: Ian Stone, Micheal Legge and Jarleth Regan, The Potters Arms, Amersham, 28 Nov
The Potters Arms, just outside Amersham, continues with its brilliant regular comedy nights. This month you can see trio of comedians – Ian Stone, Micheal Legge and Jarleth Regan – plus, you’ll have dinner in the interval.
MUSIC: Happy Mondays, O2 Academy Oxford, 28 Nov
The legendary 80s band will be performing all their big hitters on this huge Greatest Hits headline tour.
EXHIBITION: Cool Britannia, Dantzig Gallery, Woodstock, until 29 Nov
Last chance to see the Cool Britannia exhibition which celebrates post-war British art with works from big shot artists in Woodstock. It’s not often that we see major players from the art world in Oxfordshire but this collection features hand-signed works from big shot artists like Barber Hepworth, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin as well as groovy up-and-coming young guns like East-London based painter Tommy Fiendish. dantzig.uk
COMEDY: Stephen K Amos, The Theatre, Chipping Norton, 28 Nov
Over in Chippy at The Theatre, comedy-circuit regular Stephen K Amos performs his stand-up Everyman.
NEW EXHIBITION: Wildsong by Jane Duff, The North Wall, Summertown, 29 Nov – 7 Jan
At The North Wall, in Summertown, you can see an nature exhibition entitled Wildsong by Jane Duff, with art inspired by her upbringing on the edge of Snowdonia and experience working as a guide in the Himalayas.
SHOP: Ruby’s Vintage and Retro Fair, Abingdon Guidhall, Abingdon, 30 Nov
Ruby’s Vintage and Retro Fair, which travels around Bucks, Oxon & Berks, pops up at Abingdon Guildhall this week armed with quirky clothes, jewellery and accessories. Hotfoot it down if you want to snaffle a bargain, it’s the last fair until the new year.
NEW EXHIBITION: Tommy Fiendish, Dantzig Gallery, Woodstock, 30 Nov – 27 Dec
Up next at this cool local gallery is a solo exhibition of up and coming East London artist Tommy Fiendish. Each of Tommy’s pieces begin as a 2D image of an abandoned property with layers of colour, mythological animals, ’50s tattoos, swans and a touch of Gothic. Very cool.
MUSIC: Winter Concert, Dorchester Abbey, Dorchester, Oxon, 30 Nov
If it’s a stunner of a setting you’re after, go park your bum on a pew at Dorchester Abbey‘s Winter Concert – this first show in the Abbey’s new season focuses on the Baroque period with music from Bach, Handel and Vivaldi which will be totally dreamy.
MUSEUM: After Hours, Ashmolean Oxford, 29 Nov
Fancy a night at the museum? The brilliant Ashmolean opens until 8pm on the last Fri of every month with live music in the atrium and late access to the exhibitions. For this event artist Amanda Beck will be hosting JMW Turner-inspired art activities in the galleries and there’ll also be a talk entitled The Unity of Women Tea Pluckers – Adding Justice to your Cuppa, followed by a Fair Trade tea tasting. Chin chin. ashmolean.org
SHOP: Museum Shop Sunday, various locations, 1 Dec
Museum Store Sunday offers discount in brilliant museum’s shops -which showcase an assortment of curated and unique gifts – for one day only. Participating venues in Oxford include the Ashmolean (Spend £30 receive 10% off, Spend £60 receive 15% off, Spend £90 receive 20% off, special price on the 70cl Ashmolean Gin: £35.00) and the Bodleian Libraries (free Lucky Dip for all purchases over £15, plus 10% off all online orders). If you’re heading into London there’s also 10% the British Library and the Museum of London if you complete its children’s trail.
ART: ArtBag Studio opening, Old Amersham, 1 Dec
NEW EXHIBITION: ICON, Old Fire Station, Oxford, until 23 Dec
ICON at Old Fire Station will be exhibiting iconic photographs that have been recreated by Rory Carnegie and artists who have experienced homelessness. I’m absolutely loving this idea! Plus on 30 Nov you can book in to have your own group portrait taken by artists who’ve worked on the project.
ART: Off The Wall Art Fair, Bucks County Museum, Aylesbury, until 7 Dec
If you’re looking to buy some art, head over to Off The Wall Art Fair at Bucks County Museum, Aylesbury. Now in it’s 10th year, the fair exhibits contemporary art, sculpture, jewellery, photography and more by 30 artists, at a range of prices.
Ongoing must-see exhibitions include The Young Turner: Ambitions in Architecture and the Art of Perspective, on display at Banbury Museum which is a collection of JMW Turner’s work from the 1780s to the 1810s, on loan from The Ashmolean, The Tate and private collections (until 12 Jan); George Stubbs: ‘all done from Nature’ , at MK Gallery, the first first overview of the British artist’s work in the UK for over 30 years (until 26 Jan).
In central Oxford you can see a Kiki Smith show ‘I Am Wanderer’ (until 19 Jan), at Modern Art Oxford, which promises to take visitors on a mythological and folkloric journey in her huge tapestries to her exquisitely-fashioned gold shells; the Ashmolean’s current display, Last Supper in Pompeii, with 400+ exhibits from the ancient Roman site buried by the enormous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD (until 12 Jan); First Animals, an interesting exploration of the first life on earth at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (until 24 Feb).
KIDS: The Snowman and The Snowdog, River & Rowing Museum, Henley, from 23 Nov
The River & Rowing Museum, in Henley, has a fantastic programme of activities (puppet shows, story corners) for the festive season all themed around The Snowman. Also on display will be over 40 original illustrations from the charming film, plus behind-the-scenes drawings, preparatory sketches, artwork and screenings. The museum always excels in creating interactive elements for kids, so sure to be a hit.
XMAS: Santa’s Grotto, centre:mk, Milton Keynes, until 24 Dec
Ho ho ho! centre:MK’s Xmas grotto is open for business where kids will meed the big red man himself as well as his chief scientist and creator of snow fuel! And what would mummy like for Xmas? A lie-down and a Valium, please Santa.
LIGHTS: Christmas at Waddesdon, Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, until 5 Jan
Love a festive display? Waddesdon has started it’s Christmas season pretty early this year with the Manor decked out with festive accessories and a light trail around the Aviary combining light, sound colour and movement. There’ll also be two light shows performed on the facade of the Manor.
Waddesdon Manor Christmas Market, Aylesbury
When: 16 Nov – 22 Dec (Wednesdays – Sundays)
What to expect: One stunning floodlit Rothschild manor house, a whopper of a Christmas tree (20ft to be exact) and 80 hand-selected exhibitors standing to attention in charming wooden chalets decked in fairy lights. Stalls change weekly.
Entry included in grounds admission, adult £11, child £5.50
Blenheim Palace Christmas Market, Woodstock
When: 22 Nov – 15 Dec
What to expect: Blenheim really goes the whole shebang when it comes to Christmas with twinkling wooden chalets lining the Great Court selling a curated range of ceramics, textiles, gifts, homewares, fashion and foodie items. You’ll also find the brilliant annual Illuminated Light Trail (we’re talking a 100k Light Tunnel and laser show), plus the Palace’s State Rooms will be decorated with the theme of Alice in Wonderland.
Missenden Abbey, Great Missenden
When: 1 Dec
What to expect: Here you’ll get live reindeer along with 50 stalls, Santa’s Grotto, entertainment, festive grub and the pretty backdrop of the Abbey. This year proceeds will go towards Thames Valley Air Ambulance.
£3 adult, £1 child tickets
Henley Christmas Festival, Henley-on-Thames
When: 29 Nov
What to expect: The whole of Henley clubs together with festive stalls scattered around the town along with Santa’s Grotto, Xmas lights switch on in Market Place and sweet lantern parade, led by reindeer, from Muddy favourite The River and Rowing Museum.
Woodstock Festive Fayre, St Mary Magdalen Church
When: 29 – 30 Nov
What to expect: Woodstock Festive Fayre returns for a second year with local stalls selling jewellery, textiles and more, along with seasonal cards, gift wrap, crackers, wreaths and Christmas pudding. Yum! The event coincides with a Night of a Thousand Candles on the Sat with music and Christmas light switch on countdown in the town square.
THEATRE: The Snow Queen, The North Wall, Summertown, 30 Nov – 5 Jan
I’m really excited to see Creation Theatre and The North Wall Theatre’s joint wintery offering, The Snow Queen – it’s the same team behind Creation’s recent Christmas shows (Peter Pan, A Christmas Carol, Snow White) so bound to be brilliant with their signature mix of music, anarchy and storytelling.
PANTO: Beauty and the Beast, Oxford Playhouse, Oxford, 29 Nov – 12 Jan
Fairytale favourite, Beauty and the Beast Panto, is showing at Oxford Playhouse – this one looks great for little ones 5+ with singing, silliness, slapstick and not a soap celeb in sight.
DRINK: Christmas wine tasting, Dukes Wine Bar, Princes Risborough, 29 Nov
Did someone say vino? Dukes Wine Bar in Princes Risborough is hosting a Christmas wine tasting on 29 Nov in its loft, with award-winning Champers, flights of red and white, and festive food.
PANTO: Puss in Boots, Theatre Chipping Norton, 13 Nov – 12 Jan
The Theatre in Chippy always punches above its weight and this year’s Puss in Boots, set in 1950s London, offers a cool twist on the usual routine. For those not encumbered by little people, there are adult-only evenings on offer – the mind fair boggles, doesn’t it Puss? chippingnortontheatre.com
XMAS: A Candlelit Christmas, Stonor, Henley, from 28 Nov
Stonor opens its doors for Christmas for the fourth time, with this year’s theme being A Candlelit Christmas. The house will be decorated with holly, mistletoe, sweet scented pine and greenery grown by the Head Gardener, plus a 20ft Victorian decorated Christmas Tree in the Gothic Hall.
XMAS: Christmas at Chastleton, Chastleton House, Oxon, 30 Nov – 1 Dec & 7 – 8 Dec
The Jacobean country house will be transformed for a Victorian Christmas for two weekends only on the run up to Xmas – you’ll experience the servant’s and family’s preparation for the big day with festive aromas in the kitchen, festive foliage, towering tree in the Great Hall and roaring fire.
ART & EXHIBITIONS
Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane work is the subject of a new V&A exhibition (until 8 March). Tilda Swinton (below), Björk and, er, Sir David Attenborough are among his subjects and he’s also created 10 new works for the show.
Meanwhile this autumn’s big-hitter is William Blake at Tate Britain, below, (until 2 Feb 2020). The visionary painter and poet’s work will be imaginatively displayed – some of it blown up to enormous scale using digital technology, other works in an immersive room that recreates the space in which Blake first showed his art in 1809.
Elsewhere Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican (4 Oct – 19 Jan) is probably the nearest I’ll get to clubbing this autumn. It’s such a cool concept – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s, including the Berlin cabaret scene in Weimar Germany and Harlem’s jazz clubs and lifesize recreations of some of the hotspots.
Then there’s a major retrospective of 88-year-old Bridget Riley‘s life’s work at the Hayward Gallery (23 Oct – 26 Jan), taking in her famous monochrome, makes-your-eyes-go-funny Op Art paintings from the 1960s among its 70 year career span.
And finally, playing “spot the Angel Of The North” as we drive up the A1 to Newcastle is a family ritual in our house (Geordie in-laws, you see), so I’ve got a soft spot for Antony Gormley’s striking sculpture. His new show at the Royal Academy (until 3 Dec) is billed as his most ambitious in a decade and involves six tonnes of steel mesh, eight km of coiled tubing and a gallery flooded with clay and sea water.