MUDDY’S PICK OF THE MONTH
OPERA: Welsh National Opera, New Theatre, Oxford, 19 – 23 Nov
Any fellow opera fans out there? I grew up going to the WNO with my dad in Cardiff, so – call me biased! – I’m really looking forward to the arrival of the Welsh National Opera at New Theatre, Oxford. Three world class shows coming up this month for our delectation, – Verdi’s Rigoletto, Bizet’s Carmen and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen.
NATIONAL TRUST & STATELY HOMES
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).
Love a festive display? Waddesdon is starting 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 from 16 Nov).
Hot on the heels of Waddesdon, Blenheim (below) is also kicking off festivities this month with its annual Illuminated Light Trail – over 100,000 for the Tunnel of Light, a Laser Garden, scented Fire Garden and light finale on the Water Terrace and front of the Palace set to music. For kids there’ll be a Victorian-style fairground and Santa (from 22 Nov).
And finally, Stonor opens its doors for Christmas for the fourth time, with this year’s theme being A Candlelit Christmas (from 28 Nov). 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. Stonor is also hosting a boutique-style shopping event in marquees, Country Homes & Interiors Christmas, with a selection of festive goodies, homewares and lifestyle products. See you there (21 – 24 Nov).
Ho ho ho! (sorry, too early?) There’s plenty to laugh about this month, but most notably, we recommend getting tickets for Ben Elton’s return to the stand up scene, at Wycombe Swan (4 Nov) and Aylesbury Waterside (19 Nov). The iconic comedian hasn’t toured in 15 years, with his new material promising to attempt to make sense of a world that he thinks has gone mad (fair point).
Other big names popping up in Bucks & Oxon include one half of Armstrong & Miller and Pointless host Alexander Armstrong, below, at Aylesbury Waterside on his first ever stand-up tour All Mouth and Some Trousers (12 Nov).
Meanwhile at New Theatre, Oxford, there’s everybody’s favourite posh boy Jack Whitehall who’ll be testing out his new material on us guinea pigs ahead of his huge autumn arena tour (12 Nov *rescheduled for 2 Dec). And then there’s Josh Widdicome who’ll be supplying the laughs at Aylesbury Waterside with his show Bit Much, which is tackling topics such as advent calendars and, um, pesto (17 Nov).
Also performing in our locale at Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, is Question Time regular Geoff Norcott with his provocative show Taking Liberties (8 Nov), followed by George Egg‘s Moveable Feast which sees the chef/comedian cook live on stage with unusual methods like car engines (14 Nov). Because, you know, why wouldn’t you?
Elsewhere The Potters Arms, just outside Amersham, continues with its brilliant pub 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 (28 Nov). Or over in Chippy at The Theatre, comedy-circuit regular Stephen K Amos performs his stand-up Everyman (28 Nov).
So many displays to write about I’m ready to combust. Read here for my full fireworks guide for Bucks & Oxon. KABOOM!
It’s a brilliant month for classical music with superstar cellist (and 2016’s Young Musician of the Year, no less) Sheku Kannek-Mason performing at Oxford Town Hall with a recital of Mendelssohn and Rossini’s major works, among others (2 Nov) though it’s already officially sold out so you may have to sell your mother or sneak in the night before to see him now.
Also in central Oxford, the beautiful Sheldonian Theatre is marking the 500th anniversary of Leonardo Da Vinci’s death with a performance by British solo-voice ensemble I Fagiolini, commissioned by composer Adrian Williams and poet Gillian Clarke. The performance will be accompanied by a talk from Leonardo expert Martin Kemp (no, not that one! 8 Nov). Over in Didcot, Oxford’s St Giles Orchestra put on their annual show at Cornerstone Arts. (9 Nov).
We have a taste of Glyndebourne opera at Milton Keynes Theatre this month with performances of L’elisir d’amore, Rigoletto and Rinaldo (12 – 16 Nov), or 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 (30 Nov) which will be totally dreamy.
If classical isn’t your bag, how about a throwback? STEPBACK! 90’s VS 00’s, the world’s biggest Noughties and Nineties concert returns to Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes, this month with a stellar pop line-up of B*Witched, 5live, East17, Blazin’ Squad, S Club and more (23 Nov). I bet you £50 you’ll have lost your voice by the end of the concert.
Also on our musical speed dial is the number for O2 Academy, Oxford, because look at this line-up: trio Elder Island bring their cool electronica sound from Bristol’s creative scene to the venue (11 Nov), Professor Green is getting the UK up to date with his Matters of the Heart tour (16 Nov) and Scouting for Girls are touring their new album The Trouble With Boys (18 Nov).
ART & EXHIBITIONS
Newbies this month include ICON at Old Fire Station, in Oxford, which will be exhibiting iconic photographs that have been recreated by Rory Carnegie and artists who have experienced homelessness (16 Nov – 23 Dec). I’m absolutely loving this idea! There’ll also be a free Q&A on 15 Nov, plus on 30 Nov you can book in to have your own group portrait taken by artists who’ve worked on the project.
Elsewhere 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 (29 Nov – 7 Jan).
Or 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 (16 Nov – 7 Dec).
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). And finally, it’s last call for sweet children’s exhibition Bears! at River & Rowing Museum in Henley which finishes on 3 Nov (Muddy review here).
Fancy some Prosecco? Silly question. The UK’s largest Prosecco Festival is coming to Oxford Town Hall this month with 40+ types of Prosecco and fizz, street food and live entertainment. A ticket will get you a free drink and glass to carry round the festival to refill at boozy pitstops. New for this year, there’ll also be a gin offering (22 – 23 Nov).
On the topic of fizz, Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire, is introducing a new Bellini Brunch in the elegant Soane dining room, above, this month with three courses designed by Executive Head Chef, Daniel Richardson and bottomless Bellinis. I’ll take 12, please (23 Nov, 15 Feb, 14 Mar). And finally, laid-back Dukes Wine Bar in Princes Risborough is hosting a Christmas wine tasting, details TBC but I’m sold already (29 Nov).
We can all go a leetle bit purchase-crazy on the run up to Christmas which, let’s be honest, isn’t the best for the environment (or your pocket). So how about trying one of these vintage fairs as an alternative? First up is the mega MK Handmade and Vintage Fair, held at centre:mk in the 1800 sq m space outside of John Lewis – it’s huge and totally fabulous, with over 130 exhibitors selling one-off items from fashion, homewares, furniture, gifts, art, vinyl and more (1 – 3 Nov). I’m a massive vintage fan so expect to see my rummaging down the bottom of a box somewhere.
For a smaller affair Ruby’s Vintage and Retro Fair, which travels around Bucks, Oxon & Berks, returns to Millets Farm in Abingdon (23 Nov) armed with quirky clothes, jewellery and accessories. You can also catch the fair in Abingdon Guildhall later in the month (30 N0v).
Or there’s the Chiltern Open Air Museum’s annual fundraising charity auction, held at Chalfont St Peter Community Centre. There’ll be a variety of items available to bid on, with proceeds going toward maintaining the museum’s historic site (16 Nov).
Packed away your hotpants and cowboy hat after the summer? Good, because these festivals are all about culture!
Oxford Think Festival, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Broad Street, 9 – 21 Nov
A partnership between Oxford University Press and Blackwell’s Oxford, this totally free event celebrates knowledge with a series of talks about the big issues and ideas of our time. The main festival runs across 16 – 17 Nov, with a special preview event on the legacy of the Blair government on Nov 9 and a closing World Philosophy Day event on 21 Nov. Events are free, but booking advised.
Being Human – A Festival of Humanities, various locations, 14 – 23 Nov
This nationwide festival brings together universities, museums, galleries, communities and more with hundreds of events across the country geared towards increasing understanding of the relevant and importance of humanities. Highlights from Oxford include Uncomfortable Oxford Tours around the city that highlight uncomfortable’ events in Oxford’s history, Oxford Research Unwrapped, an evening of mini-talks, stalls and games for all ages which also includes a huge colour and sound installation (in collaboration with Oxford Light Festival, below) on the 3-storey Radcliffe humanities building.
Oxford Light Festival, various locations, 15 – 17 Nov
This year’s annual light extravaganza will have the theme of Discovery to celebrate 50 years since the moon landing. Lots of free events across the city including light and sound installations, a festive market, music, dance, activities and lantern parade.
Late Night Diversity, Pitt Rivers Museum & Museum of Natural History, Oxford, 15 Nov
The two central Oxford museums are teaming up to celebrate diversity in the natural world with a series of talks, tours, research, poetry, stalls, activities, dance and music (FYI there’s also a bar). The evening will also be the national launch of LGBT History Month 2020 with a Diversity themes light and sound show projected onto the front of the museums.
One World Festival, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 16 – 17 Nov
All together now! This free festival celebrates all communities and faiths in Oxfordshire with a activities, performances, talks and crafts. Highlights include Bollywood dancing entertainment (Sat) and performances from Oxford Gospel Choir (Sun) and Senegalese musician Jali Fily Cissokho (Sun).
First off the blocks this month is a modernised dark twist on Pinocchio by Oxford Theatre Guild at Old Fire Station using puppets (obvs), physical theatre and original music. It’s promising to be a little scary so recommended for 10+ (4 – 9 Nov).
On a chirpier note, Chippy Theatre always pulls it out the bag with its Christmas panto (oh yes it does!) and this year is putting on Puss in Boots reimagined in 1950s London. Looks like a goodie (13 Nov – 12 Jan). And then there’s another fairytale favourite, Beauty and the Beast Panto, showing at Oxford Playhouse – this one looks great for little ones 5+ with singing, silliness and slapstick (29 Nov – 12 Jan).
There’s still time to catch the return of Olivier award-winning Kinky Boots at MK Theatre, Milton Keynes, which started its stint last month (until 8 Nov). It’s won every major Best Musical award (TONY, Grammy, Olivier – you name it) so a dead cert.
Elsewhere, there’s a stage reimagining of Alice Sebold’s best-selling coming-of-age novel The Lovely Bones, at Oxford Playhouse. If you’ve read the book or seen the film (starring Saoirse Ronan) you’ll know it’s a massive tear jerker, so don’t forget to pack tissues (11 – 16 Nov).
For literature buffs there’s Jane Eyre at Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, in all her Gothic glory (22 – 23 Nov), or for spooks there’s The Woman in Black at Aylesbury Waterside which is celebrating its 30th year in the West End (26 – 30 Nov). 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).
Also at Aylesbury Waterside, an early festive attack with Nativity! The Musical, following the show’s two sell out stints in London in 2017 and 2018. I watched the show in Oxford last year and it really was brilliant – proper feel-good, family theatre at it’s finest (6 – 10 Nov).
KIDS & FAMILY
The Big Tree Climbing Company returns to Waddesdon with ropes, knots and karabiners (that’s a safety-clip to us groundlings) to help kids climb up to the tree canopy and have a go at branchkwalking (1 – 3 Nov).
Or for a rainy afternoon, head to Wycombe Swan for Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever, a brand new live show full of road trips, songs and games (2 – 3 Nov). Let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong with Peppa and her clan.
And then there’s Morgan and West’s Unbelievable Science show at Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, which is promising explosive thrills, chemical spills and a sprinkling of education (3 Nov). Also at Cornerstone, there’s a special little people version of The Nutcracker – a great way to get children involved with classical ballet (17 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 (form 23 Nov).
And finally, Millets Farm’s covered ice rink returns for another year – all ages are covered with skates that strap onto shoes with twin blades for smaller children, plus push along seals (I think I might need one of those too), from 16 Nov.
INTERIORS: Country Living Christmas Fair, Business Design Centre, London, 13 – 17 Nov
It’s Christmaaaaas! Well, not just yet, but head London’s Business Design Centre this month and you’ll find heaps of festive stalls from hundreds of British designers, makers, food artisans and crafters. As well as shopping there’ll also be live workshops and talks, plus Prue Leith will be chatting to Country Living’s Editor about all things food at Christmas time on Wed 13.
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.
Excuse me, after writing that lot I think I need to lie down until December.