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Joyful June: what’s on this month

There are plenty of reasons to jump for joy this June from fab festivals and family fun to al fresco theatre and impactful exhibitions.

JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS

Kicking off the month is an eclectic line-up of local events in honour of HRH’s 70-year reign. Highlights include The Jubilee Weekend at Ashridge House (former home of Elizabeth I, we’ll have you know!) kicks off with a Best of British Car Show on 4 June, followed by a Jubilee Dinner and open-air soirée, then a giant picnic in the grounds on 5th. And don’t miss the the Jubilee Flying Circus Airshow at Shuttleworth on 5 June with their breathtaking mid-air acrobatics.

Ashridge House

The North Hertfordshire Museum is paying tribute to our monarch with an exhibition of Royal memorabilia and paintings. The Platinum Jubilee: A Royal Display is on from 1 June – 31 July.

Then there’s a full day of celebrations at Southern Maltings on 12 June, with live music in the Malt Garden from 12pm, a tea dance from 2pm, story walks for the kids with Wild Geese Theatre Company and performances from local arts and theatre groups. There’ll also be BBQ food and pizza plus cream teas on offer throughout the day as well as the chance to get hands-on in an arty workshop.

And finally, Neil Sands brings his West End cast to The Bedford Corn Exchange on 28 June, to perform golden oldies, show tunes and Songs That Won the War in a nostalgic celebration, Happy and Glorious.

For more things to do over the Jubilee, have a read of our feature 25 Local Jubilee Events here.

FESTIVALS

Festival season is upon us and there are a few worth checking out this month. First up is Above Below (2-5 June) – an electronic music festival in a secluded valley in the Chiltern Hills near Tring. It will also incorporate educational talks, wellness workshops and collaborative arts and science projects, all with an intimate and organic feel – intriguing!

On 4 June, Slam Dunk South, a one-day Rock Fest, comes to Hatfield Park. Then from 17-19 June is the first Birch Arising. This Summer Solstice celebration aims to capture the vibe of Birch – the hotel-cum-arts-and-wellness-hub in Cheshunt, where you can dance to DJs, feast on tasty food, try out one of the many wellness experience and sleep in an actual (en-suite!) bedroom.

On a more community level, Welywyn Festival kicks of on 25 June – 3 July, with walks, tours, open days and a 10k confirmed so far. And, in Herts’ other garden city, Letchworth Festival is still going strong until 26 June, with music, art, film and heritage events taking place across the town’s arts and cultural venues.

And how about a festival dedicated to gin? Sounds good, right? Bedfordshire Gin Fest is coming to Russell Park on 25 June, showcasing local gin (and craft beer) brands.

FAMILY FUN

Don’t miss the brilliant Giffords Circus at Home Farm in Elstree from 9-13 June. The lo-fi traditional Victorian circus is bringing its new show Carpa to Herts for the first time, taking inspiration from the art, music and history of rural Mexico.

I’ve mentioned Letchworth Festival above, but it’s worth another spot here thanks to its array of family events including an inflatable assault course and 5k colour run on 11th and a family fun day at Letchworth’s outdoor pool on 19th. In the same vein, there’s the Harpenden Summer Carnival on 18th, which has a Superhero theme this year. There’ll be a POW! procession, fancy dress prizes, food stalls and a dog show.

Fancy a fun family camping trip? Head to Leighton Buzzard’s Mead Open Farm where they’re running their Summer Camping again every Saturday in June (plus Friday 3rd) – as well as your pitch for the night, you’ll get entrance to the farm park, exclusive after-hours play time, dinner, brekkie and there’s a licenced bar. Talking of farms, national educational initiative Open Farm Sunday is on 12 June where real working farms open their gates to the public. Find out which local farms are taking part here.

For more animal magic, head to Woburn Safari Park on 5th for a Hey Duggee meet and greet, while you can celebrate the Queen at ZSL Whipsnade’s Zoobilee, where there’ll be a teddy bear’s picnic, traditional games and pre-bookable picnics until 5 June. And Paradise Wildlife Park’s Summer Evenings in Paradise are back on Fridays and Saturdays (24 June – 23 July), where you can see the animals after hours, while enjoying African drumming, live music, wildlife stilt walking, plus face painting for the kids and a Pimm’s truck for the parents – win!

And if you’re after something a bit different to do for Father’s Day, how about a spot of Medieval jousting at Knebworth House on 19th – not doing it, I hasten to add, but cheering on the costumed knights as they demonstrate their skill.

Got a little bookworm on your hands? Berkofest Children’s Book Festival is happening on 18th, with authors Olaf Falafel, Vashti Hardy and more, plus an appearance from the Gruffalo and kids’ yoga. And it’s Potter fans’ last chance to see Magical Mischief at Warner Bro’s Studio Tour where the secrets behind the film trickery are revelealed. Its five-month stint ends on 20 June.

ON STAGE

Familiar with your Greek Classics? Nope, me neither, but this production of Cyclops at the open-air Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans on 8th has been brought to life with original songs and dances and lots of rude jokes! Sounds like a bit of a hoot.

On the literary theme, HG Wells’ science fiction classic, War of the Worlds has been adapted for the stage by the hilarious Pantaloons. It’s coming to The Place Bedford on 19th. And wartime weepy, Goodnight Mr Tom is at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans from 10-18 June.

And the works of the Bard are doing the rounds, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream getting a Disco makeover (Donna Summer eat your heart out!) by OVO at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans until 11 June, while the more classic version comes to Grove Theatre, Dunstable on 19th, and an as an open air performance at Hertford Castle on 25th, while The Three Inch Fools perform Twelfth Night at Knebworth House’s al fresco Garden Theatre on 15 June.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, OVO. CREDIT: Tim Morozzo

If you prefer something a bit more musical, how about getting Footloose at the Factory Playhouse in Hitchin from 15-18 and 22-25 June? And iconic Tony Award winning musical Rent, comes to the The Roman Theatre of Verulamium in the open air from 21-26 June.

KIDS’ SHOWS

Hertford Castle is the perfect backdrop for an open air performance of Kenneth Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon – a lighthearted take on the tale of George and the dragon – on 25th. And sticking with the fantasy theme, did you know it’s International Fairy Day on 26 June? To celebrate, Tiny T’s Theatre is bringing their interactive storytelling workshop, Rainbow Fairy Magic to Home Farm in Elstree.

A new live show from everyone’s favourite cartoon pig (erm, or not!), Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever, comes to Grove Theatre in Dunstable from 25-26th, promising songs, games and giggles. And there’s plenty more guffaws to come from The Comedy Club 4 Kids on 4 June at The Quarry Theatre, Bedford.

Illustration © James Mayhew

For something a little more refined, check out Once Upon a Tune at the University of Hertfordshire Arts on 19th. It’s a magical storytelling experience combining the music of Grieg, Rossini, Dukas, Sibelius and Rimsky-Korsakov, performed by the de Havilland Philharmonic Orchestra, while artist James Mayhew theatrically paints live on stage, depicting the tales of trolls, flying carpets, swans and magic spells.

ART AND EXHIBITIONS

Catch Bruce Asbestos’ exhibition The Gallery Went Pop, with his gigantic prints and inflatable sculptures at the Broadway in Letchworth this month (until 26 June). His work though playful and a bit bonkers also takes a serious look into pop culture and what makes an icon.

From one sort of icon to another, the annual Alban Pilgrimage is coming up on 25 June and there’s a chance to see the larger than life carnival puppets, including lions, Romans, chariots and angels on display at the Cathedral until 24th.

And the intrinsic connections between science and art are explored in Are You Seeing What I’m Seeing? at the University of Hertfordshire Arts from 16-25 June.

But no need to cram everything this month, there are some great ongoing exhibitions which you’ve still got a while to catch. The Art of Grieving at St Albans Museum + Gallery aims to encourage openness and conversation about the often taboo suject of death and loss. It’s on until 4 Sept but this month there’s a one-off screening of an award-winning documentary of the same name. Following a grieving artist, who paints a new piece every day for 365 days to help process his emotions, it’s showing at the Sandpit Theatre on 19th.

Henry Moore: The Sixties highlights a pivotal decade in the artist’s career, when he really shot to fame. It’s on at the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens in Perry Green until 30 October. Plus on 30 June there’s a supporting gallery talk from the exhibition’s curator, Making Space: Scale, the Studio, the Square.

Henry Moore with Knife Edge Two Piece 1962-65 (LH 516), Perry Green 1967
Photo: John Hedgecoe

The Lace Trees at Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton are a stunning sight created by the local community where volunteers crocheted pieces together to represent our connection to each other. The sculptures are on display until 11 Sept. And you’ve got until 2 Oct to see Body & Soul at The Higgins Bedford – an exploration of the feminine form over the past two centuries, with pieces from the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Collection.

Meanwhile a new exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery explores the city’s unexpected and fascinating nautical history (despite it being 40 miles from the nearest coastline!). St Albans on Sea is on until 6 Nov.

And if you haven’t had chance to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Tring yet, make a trip soon as it finishes on 19 June. Also on at the Natural History Museum this month are a pair of workshop, where you can be the artist – try willow sculpture on 25th or bumble bee felting with Felt and Dandy on 28th.

And finally, it’s the Summer Open Day at Courtyard Arts in Hertford on 18 June, with the Classes Exhibition on at the gallery, hands-on art activities to have a go at and pieces by local artists on sale – grab yourself a future masterpiece!

MUSIC

Hold the phone… new tickets have been released for Liam Gallagher’s Knebworth gigs this month on 3rd and 4th, supported by Kasabian. Go buy them right now! Other big names gracing our counties this month are The Specials and Tom Grennan playing Bedford Park Concerts on 3rd and 4th respectively. And local musicians take to the stage at Southern Maltings Music Festival on 18th, a free family event from 1-11pm.

While on the classical front, Herts Music Fest is back from 2-11 June with horn player, Ben Goldscheider as the principal artist and David Matthew’s as the featured living composer. Meanwhile, the RAF are playing at Saffron Hall on 11 June in celebration of the Jubilee, and, back at Knebworth on 25th you can enjoy a Summer Opera Evening as you picnic on the sunken lawn.

GARDENS AND OUTDOORS

Pick up some new plants for your patch at the Moggerhanger Plant Sale on 3 June. Not only will there be offerings from a number of specialist nurseries, they’ll also be putting on a Jubilee cream tea in the walled garden and entry to the park is included with your ticket. And if you need some inspo, take a tour of the gorgeous kitchen gardens at The Grove on 11 June which includes a garden-to-glass cocktail and an Indulgent lunch in The Glasshouse.

Also at The Grove join McQueen’s for A Trip to Japan on 25th, a three hour workshop on Ikebana – the Japanese art of flower arranging.

Here’s something you probably won’t have done before, but if you love the great outdoors and the art of poetry, why not give it a go. Poetry Geocache: Poems For A Stranger (11-12 June) is an interactive event where participants are invited to search for hidden poems in Bedford’s Russell Park following navigational coordinates with their phones. And for the kids there’s a bush craft workshop with Wilderness Foundation UK on 18 June at Home Farm in Elstree.

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