STATELY HOMES: Waddesdon Illuminated, Aylesbury, Bucks, until 5 Jan (Wed – Sun)
The National Trust’s jewel in the crown, Waddesdon’s gorgeous grounds, have a light trail running until 5 Jan, with thousands of twinklers in the Aviary and light show on the facade of the manor house.
ART: Parade, a Celebration of Contemporary Art Textiles, Broadway Studio and Gallery, Letchworth, 13 Dec – 16 Feb
Got a passion for pattern? You’re going to love this exhibition of modern textiles by 15 acclaimed international artists, showcasing the different ways that threads and fabrics are being used today. And its not only textiles, but sculpture, tapestry and installation too. The one in the picture above, One Neutron Too Many, was inspired by the artist’s childhood in Ozyorsk, Russia, the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme. Intriguing stuff.
PANTO: 22 of the perkiest pantos to book now!
Love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no avoiding pantos over the festive season. So dig out your stripy tights, winkle pickers, false eyelashes and corsetry, and book in for one of our festive Panto picks in Herts, Beds and beyond.
PERFORMANCE: Spa Songs, Fay Zmija Nicolson, Broadway Studio and Gallery, Letchworth, 13 Dec – 16 Feb
This musical performance has been composed and choreographed by artist, Fay Zmija Nicolson and features only voices. It’s inspired by the harmonies of early music and high energy of folk and punk, combined with movement, lighting and costume, as well as film documenting a previous performance in the tunnel of Rotherhithe’s Brunel Museum.
BALLET: Romeo and Juliet screened live from Sadler’s Wells, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, 4 Jan
This screening of the dance maestro’s brand new and hotly anticipated Romeo and Juliet has been recorded from a live show at Sadler’s Wells in London especially for cinemas.
MUSIC: A New Year’s Celebration, Saffron Hall, 4 Jan
COMEDY: Frank Skinner: Showbiz, Watford Colosseum, 5 Jan
The long-awaited follow up his 2014 tour, Man in a Suit, this new tour from stalwart of British Comedy promises some outrageous observations about ‘getting on’ (don’t all recoil!) from an older and (maybe) wiser Frank Skinner. in his typically sardonic style.
WELLBEING: Meditation at the Swiss Garden, Shuttleworth Estate, Old Warden, 7 Jan
Ever tried a sound bath (nope, not the bubbly type)? If not, now’s your chance. It’s a holistic meditation techniquewhich uses the vibrations of Tibetan bowls, gongs and other primal instruments to help shift negative thoughts and (supposedly) pain. It’s believed to boost immunity too! Book a session at 11am or 12.15pm in the Garden Room before taking a stroll around the Swiss Garden to allow your soothing experience to sink in.
THEATRE: NT Live screening of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter, Hertford Theatre, 10 Jan
Don’t all swoon at once ladies – Fleabag’s hot priest (Andrew Scott) is back, this time in a live screening (from the Old Vic in London) of the stage production of Noel Coward’s fast-paced comedy. The story follows actor Garry through a chaotic tale of fame, desire and loneliness as he battles with an identity crisis.
FAMILY: Game Play Festival, The Place, Bedford, 10 – 12 Jan
Fancy a bit of friendly competition? This three-day family friendly festival celebrates all things gaming, and invites everyone to play along – from retro computer games to traditional board games and even role play for everyone aged 6-106! On 10 Jan there’ll be a special evening session with arcade games, a Mario Kart comp and some immersive theatrical experiences (ages 13+), with all-day play sessions on 11-12 Jan. Game on!
WEDDING FAIR: Sopwell House, 11 Jan
Wedding bells in the air this year? Get all the inspiration you need here as Sopwell House opens its doors to brides and grooms to be. Explore the venue, meet local suppliers from cake makers and florists to DJs and photographers, over a glass of fizz and some canapés – that makes the wed-min a bit easier, doesn’t it!
BALLET: The Wizard of Oz, Hertford Theatre, 11 Jan
Follow the yellow brick road with Dorothy, Lion, Tin Man and Toto as you’ve never seen them before – in tutus? Not quite, but this performance by Ballet Theatre UK is a two act, full-length ballet set to a classical score. But with all the magic of L. Frank Baum’s original story, it’s a great chance to introduce little ones to the ballet.
COMEDY: Jimmy Carr: Terribly Funny, Watford Colosseum, 15 Jan
Mr Carr and his cheeky brand of comedy are back for his new show, which promises to be jam-packed with jokes about terrible things so cast your political correctness aside and enjoy the show. Those easily offended need not apply!
DRINK: Krug Champagne Tasting Dinner, Copper House, Berkhamsted, 16 Jan
Fancy spending an evening sipping your way through the range of Krug Champagnes – from their Grand Cuvee to Rosé and older expressions – guided by the expert knowledge of Jack Dundass, Krug’s UK Ambassador? Copper House in Berkhamsted is hosting a fabulous evening on 16 Jan offering just that – a rare chance to taste this fabulous fizz outside of London over a perfectly paired four-course menu, designed by Copper House’s Head Chef to match the Champagne tasting notes. This one’s sure to get snapped up quickly, so don’t miss out. Race you to the booking page…
COMEDY: Adam Kay :‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas, Watford Colosseum, 16 Jan
If you’ve read his book, This is Going to Hurt or seen him on TV you’ll know Adam Kay will have you in stitches – although not the medical kind, hopefully! This seasonal show takes a close-to-the-bone look at the NHS and those hardy staff who had to work over Christmas – described as a love letter to those who spend their festive season on the front line removing babies and… err… baubles! Not sure if we want to know, thanks!
EXHIBITION: British Wildlife Photography Awards Exhibition, Stockwood Discovery Centre, 20 Jan – 22 March
Love the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition? Well this is the next best thing, and it’s local too! Celebrating the talents of both amateur and professional snappers, this exhibition of British wildlife photography is marking its tenth anniversary this year. And there’s a special focus on coastlines to help raise awareness about the biodiversity found there and the threats they are facing.
ART: Theodor Kern: Portraits, Wardown House, Luton, 20 Jan – 30 April
Take the opportunity to see the works of this Austrian-born artist with local connections at Wardown House this year. Kern studied at The Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and started his career in the 1920s before settling in Hitchin and teaching at Luton School of Art. His oil portraits are hauntingly lifelike.
COMEDY: Milton Jones in Milton: Impossible, Hertford Theatre, 21 Jan
Join funny guy, Milton for an evening of quick-fire one-liner gags as he launches his new show at this warm-up gig. Typically quirky and bonkers – need we say more?
THEATRE: Rough Sleeper, Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans, 23-25 Jan
Homelessness is something that feels particularly poignant at this time of year, and this play reflects the true brutality of it. This is one man’s story of rags to riches to a fall from grace which leaves him sleeping rough in a department store doorway. Hard-hitting stuff.
TALK: Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Bedford Corn Exchange, 24 Jan
He’s THE world’s greatest living explorer according to the Guinness Book of World Records, with a string of firsts under his best – the first to reach both Poles, cross the Antarctic and Arctic Ocean and to circumnavigate the world along its Polar axis. So boy, has he got some stories to tell. Here all about his life from childhood and army life to his ground-breaking expeditions and his current Global Reach Challenge.
FAMILY: Pins and Needles Productions present The Bear, Hertford Theatre, 25-26 Jan
This family friendly production looks super cute – it follows a little girl called Tilly who befriends a mischievous polar bear, with a yawn as big as her head, but she’s not scared. It’s a coming of age tale of bravery, imagination, told with amazing puppets and magical music. Little ones can bring their own bears along too. Ages 3+.
TALK: The Legacy of Anne Frank, The Higgins Bedford, 26 Jan
It’s hard to forget the story of this brave little girl and her wartime plight. Co–Founder of the Anne Frank Trust, and author of ‘The Legacy of Anne Frank’, Gillian Walnes Perry MBE,will be giving a talk celebrating Anne’s life and discussing the impact she still has on young people today.
THEATRE: National Theatre Live Screening: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Watfrd Palace Theatre, 26 Jan.
It must be one of Will Shakes’ most performed plays, but this version, screened live from London’s Bridge Theatre, stars Gwendoline Christie (yup, GoT’s very own Brienne of Tarth) and Oliver Chris (the cheeky trainee doc off Green Wing) and features a roving audience, who follow the production on foot – hope they keep an eye out for those low-flying fairies!
FOOD: Eat Green with Melissa Hemsley, Chorleywood Memorial Hall, 27 Jan
Diet need a bit of an overhaul after all that festive indulgence? Make a fresh start with a little help from Ms Hemsley – healthy eating cook and guru. She’ll be joining Chorleywood Book Shop to talk about her latest book Eat Green, which contains over 100 flexible recipes with meat and fish-free alternatives and loads of ideas for eating sustainably and minimising waste, too.
BALLET: The Red Shoes, MK Theatre, 28 Jan – 1 Feb
Matthew Bourne’s acclaimed stage adaptation of The Red Shoes is set to romantic music of golden-age Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann. The story follows a girl’s dream of becoming the greatest dancer in the world, and it’s Matthew Bourne, so there’s no doubt the moves will be excellent.
DRINK: Sloe Gin Competition, The Alford Arms, Frithsden, 28 Jan
Got some leftover sloe gin in the cupboard? Why not enter it into this competition – an annual tradition which has been resurrected in recent years by the landlords of the Alford Arms pub in Frithsden. It’s open to locals and those from further afield and there are three categories – vintage (over a year old), embellished (with a twist) and traditional. Bring on the challenge!
OPERA: La Bohème, Watford Palace Theatre, 29 Jan
Screened live from the Royal Opera House with the Royal Opera Chorus, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and English subtitles, comes Puccini’s operatic love story. And if you’re not familiar with the story, this one’s got it all – comedy, romance and tragedy with a poignant final scene.
MUSIC: Lipstick on your Collar, Bedford Corn Exchange, 31 Jan
Love a bit of old school Rock ‘n’ Roll? This feel good show will cover all the biggest hits from the 50s and 60s, from the likes of Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield, performed by West End vocalists and a full live band. Get your jive on!
MUSIC: Simon and Garfunkel Through the Years, Hertford Theatre, 31 Jan
This tribute to a timeless duo – I mean, you can’t beat a bit of Bridge Over Troubled Water, can you? – is supposedly one of the best in the world, with sell-out tours and standing ovations as standard. If you’re a fan of the original pair, don’t miss this show, which is as close to the real thing as you’re gonna get.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Alexandra Palace, Fri 13 Dec – Sun 5 Jan
Assuredly NOT a panto, this West End production (it showed at the Apollo Theatre in 2015 & 2016) comes to Ally Pally, promising a riotous spin on JM Berries’s classic tale. From the creators of award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. alexandrapalace.com
A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, Sat 23 Nov – Sat 18 Jan
This production of festive classic A Christmas Carol staged by The Old Vic’s artistic director Matthew Warchus had such great reviews that it’s returning for round three. It’s adapted by Jack Thorne, co-writer of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. oldvictheatre.com
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, London Palladium, Sat 7 Dec – Sun 12 Jan
This is like fantasy panto casting. I mean, seriously, does it get better than this? Paul O’Grady, Julian Clary, Nigel Havers, Gary Wilmot and – well who cares about the rest, I’m sold. lwtheatres.co.uk
Cinderella, The Hexagon, Sat 7 Dec – Sun 5 Jan
Just over the Berks border in Reading, CBeebies’ Justin Fletcher, aka Mr Tumble, returns to The Hexagon stage (he received raving reviews for Aladdin last year btw) to star in Cinderella. readingarts.com
Dick Whittington and his Cat, Hackney Empire, Sat 23 Nov – Sun 5 Jan
The unashamed home of Panto has chosen Dick Whittington and his Cat for this year’s festive offering. Olivier award-winner and panto dame extraordinaire Clive Rowe stars in his 13th panto for the theatre alongside Hamilton’s Tarinn Callender in the leading role. hackneyempire.co.uk
Another newbie is Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery. One of the biggest cultural events in the winter calendar, the exhibit features 150+ original artefacts found in the Pharaoh’s tomb that was unearthed in 1922 (until 3 May).
Mama Mia! A brand new (and, quite frankly, must-see) exhibition is coming to The O2, London this month – ABBA: Super Troupers is a journey through the Swedish band’s career and will feature personal items and artefacts never seen before in the UK (until 21 Aug 2020).
Other exhibitions worth a snoop are Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane collection of work at the V&A (until 8 March); William Blake at Tate Britain, with the visionary painter and poets work blown up to enormous scale using digital technology (until 2 Feb 2020); Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s (until 19 Jan).