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What’s on: May 2022

Spring has sprung and with it comes a flurry of cultural fodder to fill your calendar with, from al fresco theatre and dining to garden shows and festivals.

OUTDOORS: Chillout firepit nights (adults only), Mead Open Farm, selected dates from 1, 6-7, 13-14 May

Calling all big kids! Drop the kids off at the babysitter’s then head to Mead Open Farm for a fun evening around the firepit, with chilled out tunes, drinks from the Shepherd’s Hut bar, tasty BBQ food and marshmallows to toast. Plus you’ll get the chance to see the animals at twilight, have a go at crazy golf, race around on go-karts and have a bounce on the big pillows. Sounds like a lot of fun for £25 a head! Shhh… just don’t tell the kids though, yeah?!

CABARET: The Ladyboys of Bangkok, Grove Theatre, Dunstable, 4 May

Yes, you did read that correctly – 16 super glam showgirls (who are, erm, actually boys!) will be performing a sizzling live show loaded with fun, cheekiness and enough sparkle to light up Bangkok. No wonder it’s largest and longest running cabaret show in the UK. Shake those tail feathers!

CRAFT FAIR: Living Crafts, Hatfield Park, 5-8 May

If you love to craft and discover gorgeous handmade pieces for your home, to wear and to give as gifts, then you won’t want to miss the ultimate craft-lovers fair coming to Hatfield Park this month. Find out more about this four-day crafty extravaganza here and enter our reader treat to win tickets and afternoon tea (before 29 April).

ARTS: St Albans Visual Arts Festival, various locations, until 6 May

Not So Gullible, by Antonio Medina

Get stuck in to art with this brand new event for this year which will showcase artworks both at indoor and outdoor locations around St Albans, with pop-up exhibitions, workshops, talks and installations.

MUSIC: Symphonia Academica present Eight Seasons, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 6 May

Eight seasons you say? Well, yes, if you combine Vivaldi’s infamous baroque masterpiece with the Tango rhythms of Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. They’re being performed, along with Manuel de Falla’s Danza from La Vida Breve, by Symphonia Academica, an ensemble of six musicians, who have a residency at The University of Bedfordshire.

MUSIC: Live at the Mill, Stotfold Watermill, 6 May

Rock out to your favourite hits at this popular live gig, featuring Herts’ own 70s and 80s rock tribute band, Delorean and indie and rock covers band, Allergy. It kicks off the annual Steam Fair, all with the picturesque backdrop of Stotfold Watermill and Nature Reserve.

ART: Hertford Arts Festival, various locations, until 7 May

This fab showcase of local art includes a free trail around Hertford, where you can see artists at work, from cartoonists to oil painters to potters, and pick up some new pieces for your home. There’ll be more than 20 different pop-up exhibitions to see in the centre, as well as a kids’ art trail at the castle and exhibitions at Courtyard Arts and The Hertford Art Society.

EXHIBITION: Play Full, University of Herts Art and Design Gallery, until 7 May

Adam James, An Extension of Us. Photography by Tim Bowditch

This fun and colourful exhibition brings together the work of two artists, Adam James and Elly Thomas, which celebrates the connection between art and play. You’ll see a mixture of sculpture, live action role play, costume and moveable installations designed to function as toys, encouraging us all to embrace our playfulness.

THEATRE: We Will Rock You, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, 2-7 May

Queen’s epic hits and Ben Elton’s sharp writing make this the smash-hit musical phenomenon to see this month. It’s on just over the border in Bucks. Avoid any mud on your face by booking now!

CHARITY EVENT: Willow’s Great Big Duck Race, Lee Valley White Water Centre, Waltham Cross, 7 May

Head to Lee Valley’s White Water Centre in Waltham Cross – just over the border – for this fun family event in aid of Willow’s which organises special days for seriously ill young adults. Get your ducks in line for the big race and have a go at some duck-themed games and crafts, too.

DANCE: Boris Seva/Blkdog, Saffron Hall, 7 May

Described as brutally beautiful, this Hip Hop performance by Olivier Award-winning BLKDOG offers a commentary on how the youth of today are coping. It delves into the connections between self-discovery and self-destruction, as well as childhood memories and adult traumas. Who knew Hip Hop could be so thought-provoking?

THEATRE: Little Grimm Tales and Great Grimm Tales, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 7 May

This double whammy from Edinburgh sell-out theatre co, Box Tale Soup, includes a fairy tale themed matinee show for ages 3+ with magic, puppets and original music, plus an adults-only weird and wicked evening performance. It’s Grimm but not as you know it.

BOOKS: Herts Book Festival, Hertford Castle, 7-8 May

Love books? Get thee to Hertford (7 May) or Ware (8 May) for this celebration of literature. There’s a whole programme of events from children’s story time to author talks, and writing workshops to discussions and performance.

COUNTRY SHOW: Steam Fair and Country Show, Stotfold Mill, 7-8 May

Far more than your average country fair, this under-the-radar event is now in its 18th year. Highlights include the Lamb National (that’s sheep racing to you and I), daredevil Landrover and motorbike stunts, acrobatics, a funfair and kids’ zone, live music throughout the weekend, a craft beer and cider marquee, AND a collection of steam engines, vintage vehicles and farm machinery on display.

FOOD: Woodfired Canteen At Home Farm Live, Elstree, 8-12 May

Calling all foodies! This fab al fresco dining experience is coming to At Home Farm Live this month, with an incredible array of chefs (Sam and Sam Clark and Stevie Parle to name a few) cooking for you in the great outdoors. Find out more here then grab your tickets pronto!

BOOKS: An Evening of Crime, Books on the Hill, St Albans, 10 May

Meet and hear from three crime writers who will discuss their latest novels: Rachael Blok, author of a psychological crime series which is based in our very own St Albans; former criminal barrister-turned-author Harriet Tyce; and self-confessed ‘serial killer nerd’, Sam Holland on his debut novel The Echo Man. Not for the faint hearted!

COMEDY: Stewart Lee, Snowflake Tornado, Watford Palace Theatre, 10-11 May

This comedy double bill features two back-to-back 60-min sets from stand-up genius Stewart Lee, including a heavily re-written Snowflake (following multiple cancellations due to Covid), and Tornado, tackling the culture war, woke ‘snowflakes’ and the comedy marketplace.

OUTDOORS: Forest Bathing, Ashridge Estate, 12 and 31 May

Ever tried forest bathing? No you don’t have to take your clothes off, naughty! It’s all about making sensory connections with your surroundings in a mindful way. In these sessions at Ashridge, founders of The Forest Bathing Institute, Olga and Gary will talk you through the science bit (yes, there are actual health benefits to this!) and guide you through exercises that will help you to relax in nature.

BOOKS: An Evening with Clover Stroud, Chorleywood Bookshop, 12 May

CREDIT: Clover Stroud © Paul Clarke

Journalist and writer Clover Stroud will be talking about her latest memoir, charting her emotional journey through the first year following the death of her beloved sister. Nell Gifford, founder of Giffords Circus, lost her battle with cancer just before Christmas at just 46 years old. Clover will discuss the grief that inspired her book and how she put into writing something that felt beyond words. Tickets £10.

FILM: Phoenix Rising Film Festival, Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton, 13-14 May

If you have a passion for film, don’t miss this two-day international festival, which showcases the work of film makers from all over the world. There’ll be the chance to watch the films, network with their creators and other film buffs alike, as well as go attend an awards ceremony. Tickets start at £5 – you can’t get a cinema ticket for that these days!

MUSIC: Penguin Café, Saffron Hall, 14 May

The intriguingly bizarre Penguin Café, (or The Penguins as the group of musicians is fondly known), was founded by musician, composer producer, and former Arctic explorer (of course!), Arthur Jeffes. Their music aims to both break the genre boundaries and bring joy to all. Sounds like something that just has to be seen/heard!

WORKSHOPS: Postcard Print and Paper Flower Art workshops, Southern Maltings, 15 May

Get creative at one of these crafty workshops. Learn the art of mono printing with local artist, Julie Arnall, and make your own set of 6 postcard-sized prints using natural and manmade materials, coloured ink and a craft press. Or try your hand at the Japanese art of Kusudama – creating beautiful flowers from recycled paper and old jewellery with origami expert, Cheryl. Don’t you just love the satisfaction of making something yourself?

SCREENING: Henry V, NT Live at Watford Palace Theatre, 15 May

If the idea of swooning over Kit Harrington in a power play appeals, (err, hello!), book your tickets to the NT Live screening of Henry V. The Game of Thrones heart throb takes on this Shakespearean great, and it’s been captured live from the Donmar Warehouse in London.

ECO FESTIVAL: St Albans Sustainability Festival, various locations, 15-31 May

Hands up if you could do more to help the environment (guilty!) This annual festival dedicated to all things eco features more than 80 events and activities to get stuck into – from repair shops and litter picks, to wildlife walks and zero-waste talks – that will inspire you to do your bit. It kicks off with the Sustainability Market in Harpenden on 15 May.

MUSIC: Watford Jazz Junction Festival, various locations, 19-22 May

Whether a bona fide jazz appreciator or just dipping your toe in to the genre, put this festival, which is taking place at some of Watford’s best venues, in your calendar now. It kicks off with a gala concert at Watford Palace Theatre, featuring the National Jazz Orchestra and Grammy Award-winning Tim Garland, while a drumming workshop and Prosecco brunch are taking place on 20 and 21 May. Finally it rounds off with a free fringe event in Oxhey Village on 22.

THEATRE: Les Miserables, MK Theatre, until 21 May

Get the hankies out – the rousing, revolutionary musical phenomenon is coming our way this month, just over the border in Milton Keynes. If you need any more persuading to book, we’ve got 4 reasons right here.

KIDS: James Cambpell, The Funny Life of… Quarry Theatre, Bedford, 21 May

Like the idea of kids’ comedy but not the toilet humour? Funnyman James Campbell’s one-man show will keep the giggles going without the rude words.

KIDS: Seedheart, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 21 May

A solo performance of shadow puppetry where the set literally unfolds from a single suitcase, returns to the Old Town Hall this month. While beautiful and creative it has a more poignant scientific message about the human impact on our environment. Age 7+.

COMEDY: The Noise Next Door: In Charge, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 21 May

The hilarious quartet and kings of improv are back with a new show that will turn suggestions from the audience into comedy gold with stand-up and song. There’s a reason they’ve sold out at Edinburgh no less than twelve times!

THEATRE: Roald Dahl and the Imagination Seekers, Watford Palace Theatre, 21 May

Join the ancient guild of tale tenders on their mission to stop the words disappearing from Dahl’s books and children’s minds… Commissioned by Puffin Books, this interactive show based on the well-loved stories of Roald Dahl. It tells its own story, via performance, games and creative play, exploring the familiar tales that we know and love, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits and The BFG. Fancy winning family tickets? Click here before 29 April!

THEATRE: Twelfth Night, Quarry Theatre, 21 May

Bicycle powered theatre co, The Handlebards, bring their quirky take on the bard’s shipwreck comedy with an outdoor performance. Pack a picnic, a poncho (it’s England after all!) and your laughing gear.

EXHIBITION: Pilgrimage Puppets Exhibition, St Albans Cathedral, 21 May – 24 June

The annual Alban Pilgrimage takes place in June to celebrate the town’s namesake. It involves a procession of 12ft carnival puppets looming over the crowds that represent figures from the story, including lions, Romans, chariots and angels. See them up close in all their glory as they go on display at the Cathedral for the month leading up to the big event.

SCREENING: Swan Lake from the Royal Ballet Live, Watford Palace Theatre, 22 May

Audiences will be virtually transported to The Royal Opera House with this encore screening of The Royal Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake, with glittering costumes, Tchaikovsky’s familiar score and magical sets.

THEATRE: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, St Albans, 24 May – 11 June

CREDIT: Tim Morozzo

One of Shakespeare’s best known works gets a disco-style makeover in this glittering adaptation coming to St Albans’ historic open-air theatre. Audiences will be transported from a 1970’s working men’s club to an enchanted fun palace where fantasies become reality and disco is a religion. Team that with the music of Gloria Gaynor, Abba, The Bee Gees and Donna Summer and you’ve got yourself a hip-swivelling hoot of a night out!

COMEDY: Simon Amstell Spirit Hole, Alban Arena, 25 May

This is the comic’s first stand-up show since writing and directing his internationally acclaimed feature film Benjamin (he’s a man of many talents!) It promises ‘a blissful, spiritual, sensational exploration of love, sex, shame, mushrooms and more’ full of Amstell’s acerbic wit.

EXHIBITION: The Art of Grieving, St Albans Museum + Gallery, 27 May – 4 Sept

With the aim to encourage openness and conversation about death and loss, this emotive exhibition brings together the work of artists in all mediums from paint, sculpture and photography to textiles, film and music.

MUSIC & FOOD: American Street Food Feast feat. Elles Bailey, Saffron Hall, 28 May

Don your stetson and fringed jacket to enjoy the dulcit tones of Bristol-based blues and roots singer, Elles Bailey, while chowing down on an Americana inspired foodie feast (Jambalaya and Mississippi mud pie!) and paired American pale ales.

FESTIVAL: Letchworth Festival, 28 May – 26 June

This fab four-week festival is a showcase of music, art, film and heritage events across the town’s arts and cultural venues. The packed programme includes live music, art workshops, history tours, pool parties, screenings, a food festival, fun runs, open gardens and exhibitions.

RACE: Greensand County Ultra Marathon, Shuttleworth Estate, 29 May

Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough (rather you than me!) This 50km ultra marathon kicks off (and finishes) at the Shuttleworth Estate and follows a picturesque loop around Bedfordshire’s gorgeous Greensand countryside with beautiful views and woodlands to take in. Be rewarded at the end with some refreshments and vintage aircraft displays. From £65 to enter.

TALK: An Evening with Melissa Hemsley, Chorleywood Bookshop, 30 May

CREDIT: Sarah Malcolm

Health conscious foodie, Melissa Hemsley, will be making mouths water as she talks about her new cookbook Feel Good, packed with inspiring but fuss-free recipes for quick dinners, make-ahead lunches and warming dishes for cosy nights in. How do spring veg broth, fried halloumi rainbow salad and three-ingredient chocolate pots sound?

ONGOING

EXHIBITION: Henry Moore: The Sixties, Henry Moore Studios and Gallery, Perry Green, until 30 October

Henry Moore, Multicoloured Reclining Figure 1967 (CGM 99) lithograph in four colours. J.E. Wolfensberger, Zurich. Photo: Michael Phipps © the Henry Moore Foundation.

We’re so lucky to have this indoor/outdoor gallery (and the former home of artist and sculptor Henry Moore) in our ‘hood. This month sees the opening of the latest major exhibition of his work, highlighting a pivotal decade in Moore’s career. It was during the sixties that the artist shot to fame with his work becoming bigger, better and more abstract, gaining attention and demand from all over the world. There’ll be 30 sculptures (including a never-before exhibited plaster piece), as well as 20 colourful drawings and graphics using new materials, such as felt pens!

EXHIBITION: Body & Soul, The Higgins, Bedford, until 2 October

Edvard Munch (1863–1944), Woman with a Brooch (Madonna), 1903 © The Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery

This thought-provoking new exhibition explores the way the woman’s body has been represented in art over the past two centuries. There’ll be sculptures, prints, oils and watercolours from the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Collection, which take a deep dive into the way femininity has been both celebrated and challenged both by male and female artists, including Degas, Munch, Matisse, Litchenstein and Freud.

EXHIBITION: Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum, Tring, until June 2022

© Brent Stirton, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Can’t make it to London for the annual exhibition? See the highlights of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition closer to home this month including 34 images demonstrating the fragility and beauty of wildlife, from miniscule insects to mighty beasts.

OOPS! you missed these…

GARDENING: The Hertfordshire Garden Show, Knebworth House, 30 April – 2 May

Is your plot in need of a new-season pick-me-up? Get all your garden goodies, from plants and tools to furniture and water features, at this annual show dedicated to all things green-fingered. Ticket price includes entry into Knebworth Park, adventure playground and dinosaur trail, too, so you can keep the kids quiet as you shop!

THEATRE: The Wizard of Oz, The Radlett Centre, 30 April – 1 May

Join Dorothy and friends on her ruby-slippered trip up the Yellow Brick Road, in this panto-style adaptation. Ok, so you know the story, but there’ll also be jokes, a panto dame (Glinda Galore!) and dance scenes with enough glitz to dazzle a Strictly judge.

KIDS: Roarsome Explorers International Dinosaur Day, Home Farm, Elstree, 1 May

The creative Tiny T’s Theatre will lead this dino themed activity session, with a scavenger trail to search for dino eggs, followed by stomping back to the woodland workshop for games, puppet making and hanging wishes on the rainbow tree. £15 per head.

GARDENING: The Plant Fairs Roadshow, Hatfield Park, 1 May

Time to get your garden in order? Head to this plant show organised by a collective of specialist nurseries (including many RHS exhibitors and medal winners!). You can get advice and shopping inspiration from the resident Plant Doctor to help you pick out your plant purchases from the stalls and get your garden looking tip top. Free entry with grounds ticket.

FAMILY THEATRE: Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors, South Mill Arts, Bishop’s Stortford, 1 May

Kids just love guts and grisly stuff don’t they? Indulge them with tickets to the ever popular Horrible Histories live show. This one delves into the torturous Tudor regime, with Henry and his headless wives, Bloody Mary and evil Elizabeth making appearances. A history lesson disguised as something far more gross and gory! Shh… they’ll never know they’re learning something!

KIDS: Morgan and west, Unbelieveable Science, Quarry Theatre, 2 May

The spectacular time travelling magicians bring their latest on-stage explosive extravaganza, Unbelieveable Science to Bedford’s Quarry Theatre this month. It’s packed with mind-boggling experiements, humour and family fun.

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