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Awesome August: Muddy’s guide to the month

From festivals and food to al fresco performance and family days out, Herts & Beds has got everyone covered this month for a summer of fun.

FESTIVALS

Returning this year to Stevenage is Old Town Live on 6 Aug, a one-day extravaganza of performances by bands, DJs and singers on outdoor stages and in local venues, with street vendors, VIP zone and after parties taking place at the Old Town’s pubs and bars. What’s more – all the High Street stages are free to access!

And, another popular annual freebie, Rock at the Castle, is returning to Hertford on 7th in the town’s cool castle grounds with local musicians performing a mix of indie, folk, accoustic, rock and pop across three stages.

Not quite a festival, Wild Canvas is a pop-up camping experience with a festival vibe that’s coming to the grounds of the grand Turvey House until the end of this month. There’ll be posh tipis, activities for the kids, wild swimming, wellness sessions and world class DJs. Then Warm Up Festival comes to Bygrave Woods on 18-21 Aug with four days of techno, house, progressive and electronic dance music worthy of the best London clubs, as well as sculpture, light installations and a wellness zone.

Classic Ibiza will keep the beats coming on 20 Aug at Hatfield House. This homage to heady Ibiza nights features sets from former Pacha Ibiza DJ, Jose Luis, the Urban Soul Orchestra and Goldierocks and a laser show. And Maiden Voyage at the Lee Valley Showground on 28 Aug promises a Bank Holiday bonanza of Jazz, House, Hip Hop and Techno music played over four stages.

Don the floral headscarfs, up-dos and swing skirts, for Twinwood Festival in Clapham – a celebration of vintage music, dance and fashion, from 26-29 August. And Communion Presents brings a programme of intimate woodland performances to the At Home Live festival season in the Elstree countryside. There’s on-site glamping and music to come from Jessie Buckland and Bernard Butler on 30 Aug and Bear’s Den on 31 Aug and 1 Sept.

Twinwood

THEATRE

While August tends to be a bit quieter on the indoor theatre front, there are plenty of performances to be found in our counties’ outdoor spaces – all the world’s a stage! (sorry…)

So here goes. On 7 August, a true-to-original performance of As You Like It comes to Knebworth House, with an all-male cast, by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, followed by Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest by Immersion Theatre on 16th. The same company brings their adaptation of Rapunzel on 25 August for the kids (watch out for the water guns in the crowd!).

Anna Franklin as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo by Tim Morozzo

At the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans Louisa May Allcott’s family friendly Little Women is on 3-14 Aug and their outdoor theatre season finishes with gothic classic The Woman in White (17-21 Aug).

For more great Shakes, As You Like It will be on at Wrest Park, performed by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men on 5 August. And Much Ado comes to Myddleton House Gardens in Lee Valley on 6 August. At the same venue, you can catch the countryside tale of The Wind in the Willows on 20 August and The Railway Children on 25 Aug. While the open air stage at Ashridge House is playing host to A Midsummer Night’s Dream on 23 August.

Myddleton House

For the kids, Quantum Theatre’s The Reluctant Dragon will be performed on 13 Aug at Hatfield Forest and on 20 Aug at Shenley Park in Radlett Then the magical Bridge End Gardens in Saffron Waldon makes an immersively apt setting for Alice in Wonderland with its neat topiary mazes, on 19-20 August.

And if you do prefer your theatre under cover of a roof, there’s an adaptation of Arthurian legend The Green Knight performed by kids’ theatre co, Wild Geese at Southern Maltings on 7 and 14 Aug. Plus macabre musical, Little Shop of Horrors is at Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage from 2-6 Aug.

FOOD AND DRINK

If gin’s your thing, pop along to the gin tasting event at Home Farm in Elstree, run by Puddingstone Distillery (the guys behind Campfire Gin) on 12th for an insight into how its made and, of course, give their tipples a try. There’s also a sausage making workshop on 20th at the same venue.

Muddy Award winning bar, The Wee Vinoteca in Hitchin is hosting a cheese and wine pairing night on 17 Aug and if you like things hot, the ever popular Benington Lordship Chilli Festival returns to Stevenage from 27-29 August. This three-day fest is dedicated to the humble chilli and will have over 60 stalls selling everything from chilli plants to fiery chutney and cocktails with a kick.

chillis

SCREENINGS

Head to Hertford Castle Open Air Cinema on 19 Aug to catch Raya and the Last Dragon (10am) and Encanto (2pm) for just £3 a head, while the evening offering is Whitney classic The Bodyguard (7pm), £7 a head.

This rather glorious Grade I listed mansion (and former home to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, no less), Ashridge House, provides a fairytale backdrop for its programme of open air cinema, running until 4 August, with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (1 Aug), Hairspray (2 Aug), West Side Story (3 Aug), The Greatest Showman (4 Aug) all to come.

Watford’s Big Screen is coming to Knutsford Playing Fields (8-14 Aug) and Woodside Playing Fields (15-21 aug) with an eclectic and plentiful schedule of screenings of old classics and new blockbusters, from The Italian Job to Sing 2, and it’s totally FREE!

Or if it’s a rainy day (or you need a chillout from the heat!) Family Film Club at the Hat Factory Arts Centre in Luton is showing Gnomeo and Juliet on 20 August.

SHOPPING

Bicester Village’s Summer Evenings programme has started with live music, cocktail happy hours and is open until 10pm every other Thursday (until 25 Aug). AND there’s also an exclusive Smiley pop up on now until the end of September, with 100% of proceeds going to The Bicester Collection’s DO GOOD charity partners.

MUSIC

Over at the Muddy Award Winning Wedding Venue, Shuttleworth in Biggleswade, there’s the Flying Proms on 20 Aug – a rousing live music concert performed by a full orchestra, combined with a dramatic airshow and firework display. Plus on 21st Kylie fans won’t want to miss tribute act Highly Minogue on the lawn at the same venue.

And Hatfield Park is hosting some corkers this month, kicking of with Paloma Faith 5th, the greatest hits of Freddy Mercury and co with Queen Symphonic (combining top vocalists a rock band and full orchestra) on 6th and Simply Red, supported by Lisa Stansfield on 7th. Prime those vocal chords and dancing feet!

ART

Unleash your inner artist with this series of Re/Construct Summer Workshops at the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens this month (5-19th). It kicks off with printing and etching to drawing the natural environment and sculpture, all led by experts. Plus there’s a family friendly session and over 16s one for each theme.

Breaking Bread at the Broadway Gallery Letchworth is on until 28 Aug and explores our relationship and experiences with food consumption, from hunger and nourishment to a more visceral look at eating as survival.

Kids will love Botanical Invasion (above) – an interactive exhibition of inflatable plants and floating flowers to explore, at the North Herts Museum (til 25 Sept).

KIDS AND FAMILY DAYS OUT

Fancy a night under canvas with the kids without committing to a week’s holiday? Try the experience for size at Mead Farm, which is opening its gates to campers again this summer for selected weekends, including dinner, brekkie and a day and a half to enjoy all the farm’s fun activities. Or head to RSPB Rye Meads for the Big Wild Sleepout on 19 Aug to take part in pond dipping, sunset bat walks, stargazing marshmallow toasting before bed and some early morning Kingfisher spotting.

Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton is holding a Summer Garden Party on 6th and 20th Aug and 3 Sept with theatre, storytelling, puppetry and a parade on the final day (all free to attend!).

The Summer Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm looks set to be another cracker (until 4 Sept) and Mead Farm is running its Summer Festival of Fun too, until 29 August, with shows, sinaglongs, a foam party, and the usual animal adventures. And at Standalone Farm get up close and personal to Creepy Critters on 1-5 Aug, see some impressive Birds of Prey do their stuff from 8-12 Aug, and get messy with a Pottery Workshop from 22-26 Aug.

For more animal adventures, The Ultimate Animal Challenge is coming to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo throughout the hols (until 4 Sept), where you can compete against friends and family in the animal-inspired skills tests. Or join Krisgar and Tricky Teddy for a picnic at Animal Edge near Woburn Forest on 8th. And if you’re planning a trip to Woburn Safari you might want to tie it in with an appearance of a certain Hey Duggee (11 Aug). Meanwhile, the safari comes to the stage, also on 11th with The McDougalls Safari Adventure at Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre.

Plus at Tring’s Natural History Museum, the team from the Roald Dahl Museum will run a drop-in session, Whizzbanging Words, on 24 Aug about the creatures that inspired James and the Giant Peach. While over at RSPB’s The Lodge in Sandy, check out the Big Wild Family Summer Trail (pick up an activity pack until 4 Sept), go on a Bug Safari or enjoy some outdoor theatre from Widdershins (10 and 17 Aug). And for more creepy crawlie fun, join The Urban Worm at Home Farm in Elstree on 19th to build a DIY worm farm – lovely!

On stage there’s a fab sounding show for kids embarking on their tween years at The Eric Morecambe Centre on 17th. Charlie Locke and the Quest for Confidence follows little girl, Charlie and her brain, as they navigate their way through those tricky tween milestones.

While another thought-provoking one – Boudica, by the Wild Geese Theatre Co. – is an interactive show for 5-11 year olds encouraging kids to question who and what they’re fighting for. It’s at Southern Maltings on 7 and 14 Aug. High brow stuff for small people!

Dino crazy kids won’t want to miss Dinosaur Adventure Live on 13-14 Aug, where life-like Prehistoric beasts will be stomping their way around South Mill Arts.

Or for a more mellow experience, don’t miss the brilliant Tiny T’s Theatre at Home Farm in Elstree, including Rainbow Unicorn Magic on 3 Aug – aimed at 3-8 year olds, Forest Fairytales on 18 Aug, Flower Fairy Magic and Woodland Wildlife on 24 Aug, and finally Wizard of Oz-themed workshop on 30 Aug.

A brand new interactive show for 2-14 year olds is coming to Knebworth House from 14-27 August. The Nickelodeon Experience will bring their favourite characters to life with behind the scenes experiences from popular shows, including the Thundermans School for Superheroes to SpongeBob SquarePants’ Bikini Bottom Beach!

And talking of beaches, Watford’s Big Beach has brought the seaside to the city for the summer – it’ll be there until 21 Aug, so bring your bucket and spade!

Plus, if you need to beat the heat, step into the cool of Watford Palace Theatre for a sing-a-long screening of Encanto on 3rd and a regular screening of Moana on 17 Aug – there’s a free ice cream with every ticket and prizes for the best costumes!

For family days out that you can enjoy too, head to Shuttleworth for its fab family air show on 7 Aug, with a funfair, vintage bus rides, and awesome aerial displays, and Knebworth on 28-29 Aug for the Classic Motor Show. There’ll be American, military, classic and sports cars on display, plus your ticket gets you access to the park, gardens, dino trail and playground, too.

Fancy a history lesson? Head to Wrest Park on 20-21 Aug for History in the Park, with live historical re-enactments – experience life in a Victorian kitchen, try some hands-one Medieval events, discover all about Regency crime and punishments, with live Regency music, polo displays on horseback and more.

And last but not least, the awesome interactive experience, Colourscape, is returning to Watford for a ten day stint (20-29 Aug). It’s a labyrinth of colourful chambers and tunnels with musicians and dancers at every turn – having enjoyed the one at Waddesdon Manor in previous years, I can assure you that this will be well worth a trip (and you’ll get some amazing snaps for Insta, too!)

ONGOING EXHIBITIONS

Harry Potter fans will be delighted to hear of the latest exhibition at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour until 12 Sept. Mandrake’s Magical Creatures will reveal some of the special effects secrets from the film franchise, plus you’ll be some of the first to see some new exhibits to the tour including Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse and a scaled down model of the Weasley’s Burrow.

Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse – new to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour this summer.

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.

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.

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

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.

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