The Urban Guide to the Countryside
Edition

9 fun things to do in Herts: from Weds 1 March…

28 Feb 2017

What tickles your fancy? Gentle sipping in a vineyard – well it is March, after all – or watching the creator of Katie and Ella Bella paint Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? How about donning an apron and wielding a brush to paint your own canvas? And then there’s Jane Eyre (bound to sober you up) before you go all freestyle and scat away to jazz diva Tina May. Sow the seeds for sweet peas and then it’s drinking again with the Mad Squirrel tap takeover of the Fox at Willian. It’s all happening in Herts. And with one return trip to Kings Cross thrown in for good measure. Enjoy yourselves!

Launch of Solaris 2016, Frithsden Vineyard, Sat 4 March

Let’s get our priorities right. Wine first. On Saturday, Natalie and Simon Tooley will be flinging open the gates of their vineyard to launch their Solaris 2016. It’s free entry, and you’ll be able to taste the wine, have a tour of the vineyard, enjoy a barbecue, repair for afternoon tea and stagger home again. There’s a shop with well chosen gifts and clothes, and of course you can bag a bottle to take home. 11am – 5pm.

Solaris launch

James Mayhew illustrates Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Letchworth Broadway, Sun 5 March

I know, I know, I may have included this before but I think it’s going to be good. Here’s my interview with James if you missed it. This photo is James painting Titania in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, just to give you an idea. Live music, live painting, and all you have to do is to sit there and soak it all up – in the brand new Broadway theatre in Letchworth. 2.30pm.

Tickets

Nell Phoenix, Fireside Festival, Sat 4 March

I have seen Nell in action more than once and she is amazing. She’s a member of the famous Crick Crack Club. Ace storyteller, engaging performer: you’ll be a-tingling and gripped all at the same time. The Fireside Festival has been setting Baldock alight for the last few days. I was lucky enough to go to the gala evening last week. There’s a wonderful atmosphere and it’s well worth a visit. Two events: Five Fearless Friends, suitable for age 6+ and adults welcome. 3pm. Then in the evening, it’s Little Red Riding Hood and Other Lost Girls. This is aimed at age 16+, so make sure you book appropriately! 7.30pm.

Fireside Festival

Nobodies and Somebodies, Jo Brocklehurst, House of Illustration, until Sun 14 May

Photo: Estate of Jo Brocklehurst

Jo Brocklehurst died 11 years ago and this is the first retrospective of her work. She worked as an artist all her life, painting other artists and performers including Marc Almond, George Melly, Pina Bausch and Boy George. I went to see this last week and it was wonderful to be immersed in another time and culture. If you don’t know the House of Illustration, you absolutely must visit. It’s five minutes’ walk from Kings Cross station, in one of my favourite places, Granary Square.

House of Illustration

Jane Eyre, Hertford Theatre, Weds 15 March

Burn your Brodie’s notes! If Jane Eyre happens to be a set text in your household, then this could be a good one. And I think it’ll be interesting whether you need to gen up or not. Rebecca Vaughan is Jane Eyre, struggling to make sense of Edward Rochester. The company is Dyad Productions. 7.45pm

Tickets

Brush party, Berkhamsted, Thurs 9 March

I went to the last Brush Party and you can see it on the Muddy Herts Facebook page. The evening was great fun and completely took me by surprise. You can enjoy it if you go on your own, but if you can drag a mate along, even better. It’s not all starchy and hushed, far from it. Upbeat sounds as you get into the groove with brush in hand. It’s all made super easy: the first instruction was literally ‘paint your canvas red’, although when it came to painting champagne bubbles it did tend to separate the primary school beginners from the Frida Kahlos.

Brush Party The Kings Arms, Berkhamsted 7pm

Mad Squirrel tap takeover at The Fox at Willian, Thurs 9 March

Mad Squirrel Brewery used to be Red Squirrel, just to confuse you. But it’s a brewery to watch – and taste – with lots of new flavours that have just been launched. There’s a tasting evening on Thurs 9 March at the Fox at Willian, and here’s the review of The Fox by former Muddy Herts Ed Pippa. The people behind the brewery are bright and fun and The Fox has just the right atmosphere to enjoy the likes of De La Creme, a milk stout, Flying Squirrel, Pilsner, and Roadkill, an opaque IPA. £20.

Mad Squirrel at the Fox at Willian

Weave a willow obelisk workshop, Berkhamsted, Fri 10 and Sun 12 March

Helen Reeley is a garden designer who has years of experience and a wonderful take on the world. A workshop with Helen promises a lot more than willow creativity. But that’s how it starts in the morning, when you weave a large willow obelisk for your sweet peas and then after lunch – provided by Helen – she’ll teach you how to grow them. If you close your eyes, you can almost smell summer. The cost of the workshop is £65, which includes willow, seeds, pots and compost and lunch. Small groups and only a couple of places are left! 10.30am-3pm.

Sweet pea obelisk workshop

Tina May, Hemel Old Town Hall, Sat 11 March

Tina May used to live in St Albans but has now decamped to Leighton Buzzard. Together with her band, she will be celebrating the life of Ella Fitzgerald (who would have been 100 this year), and other jazz divas. ‘Tina May is to jazz what Madonna is to pop’, is how one journalist described her. She’s hugely versatile and sparkles as a jazz singer, but also sings blues, soul and bossa. She’s a French graduate who sings Edith Piaf. 8pm.

Tickets

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside -
Hertfordshire Edition