FESTIVAL: Greensand Country Festival, various locations, 1 – 31 May
In its second year, this annual festival celebrates our surrounding countryside, namely the 40 mile strip of scenic landscape, stretching from Cambridge to Bucks all across Bedfordshire, which is known as Greensand Country. It contains all of Bedfordshire’s remaining heathland, half its woodland and more historic parkland than anywhere else in the country! There’s masses going on throughout the month to encourage you to explore the area, including guided walks, bike rides, bushcraft, country crafts, fun runs, cookery workshops, yoga, local exhibitions, foraging and more.
THEATRE: The Glass Menagerie, Watford Palace Theatre, 2-18 May
The play which propelled Tennessee Williams to fame is returning to the stage with a new ‘radical’ interpretation by director, Femi Elufowoju jr. Following the story of the impoverished Wingfield family in Depression-wrought St Louis, it might not tackle the cheeriest of subjects, but we reckon it’ll take you on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster if you’re up for a weepy.
COMEDY: Radio Active – Angus Deayton, Rhodes Arts Complex, Bishop’s Stortford, 3 May
This tour marks 40 years since this hilarious sketch show (created by Angus Deayton, Geoffrey Perkins, Michael Fenton Stevens, Helen Atkinson-Wood and Philip Pope), was first performed live at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, before it became a popular BBC4 Radio show in the 80s. The cast reunite, bringing with them all the classic characters and musical parodies from the original.
FAMILY: Build a LEGO Universe, The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 4 May
Physicist Dr Ben Still explains the building blocks of particle physics, from the Big Bang to the Periodic Table, using… you guessed it, LEGO – now there’s something that everyone can relate to, from the scientifically challenged to budding Stephen Hawkings. After listening to ‘the science bit’ everyone can have a go at building their own LEGO universe. There’ll also be a chance to pick up a signed copy or Dr Still’s book, Particle Physics Brick By Brick, after the show. Minds will be blown! For age 7+.
THEATRE: The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio, Broadway Theatre, Letchworth, 4 May
Everyone’s favourite ‘real boy’ comes to Letchworth courtesy of Immersion Theatre. This musical adaptation promises to be a vibrant and lively show, and there are some new songs as well as comedy and audience participation. Sounds like a great afternoon out for the whole family… no strings attached (*gets coat*).
OPERA: artsLive Screening of the The Royal Opera’s Faust, Berkhamsted Arts Centre, 5 May
Thanks to technology, you don’t have to travel far to get your fill of culture. Screened live from London’s Royal Opera House, Gounod’s gritty opera promises to plunges audiences into 1870s Paris, where, (if you’re not familiar with the story) Michael Fabiano, as philosopher Faust, strikes up a deal with the devil in return for youth and power. Expect knock-out virtuoso performances, stunning sets and there’s even a bit of ballet thrown in, all backed up by the epic Royal Opera Chorus.
MARKET: Hertford Castle Craft Market and Open Day, 5 May
Shop from over 40 stalls sprawled across the castle lawn selling handmade everything, from jewellery and homeware to food and clothing. Kids can create their own crowns (very on-theme!) and take part in giant art workshops. Plus there’ll be a chance to venture inside the castle itself where families can explore the dungeon, Victorian Kitchen and court room and pick up some local historical trivia from the volunteers who will be primed to answer your burning questions.
AIRSHOW: Season Premiere Airshow, Shuttleworth, Old Warden Aerodrome, 5 May
Those into vintage feats of engineering won’t want to miss the first of the 2019 airshows at the Shuttleworth Estate, as some glorious flying machines come out of hibernation for the season. Marvel at them doing there thing up in the air, whilst enjoying the entertainment on the ground, including live music and stalls. There will also be the chance to board a Dakota and Cataline aircraft and have a go on a gliding simulator, if you’re looking to whet your apetite for flying, as well as a pilot chat, vehicle parade and a chance to hop on a vintage bus and tour the estate – don’t miss the gorgeous Swiss Gardens.
EXHIBITION: Hertford Art Society Open Exhibition, The Cowbridge Halls, Hertford, 5 – 18 May
Whether you’re a dab hand with a paint brush yourself or just have an eye for talent, you’ll enjoy perusing the works on display at this open exhibition for amateurs and pros alike. Artist are invited to submit works, in any media except photograhy – from ceramics and sculpture to pastels and prints – to be judged by a panel of experts. There were around 600 works submitted last year, with 300 selected to exhibit.
PERFORMANCE: Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers: Tribe, Hertford Theatre, 9 May
The high energy show celebrates 25 years of Europe’s largest taiko drumming organisation, and the growth of its ‘tribe’ of performers from around the world. The super-talented bunch will keep you on the edge of your seat with their Mugenkyo (meaning limitless reverberation!), skill, stamina and powerful rhythms, all set to dramatic choreography. Prepare to be mesmerised.
THEATRE: Earth Hour, Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans, 9 – 11 May
With climate change at the top of the political agenda at the moment (Brexit aside… groan) it’s no surprise that the arts world is starting to tackle the subject head on. This fast-paced, gritty play from brand new theatre company On A Wimb sounds like an interesting take. It centres around characters Sasha and Dominic, part of the production team for environmental TV programme, Earth Hour, but when their own personal disagreements start to get in the way of the bigger message it serves as a reminder that time is running out for the planet – hard-hitting stuff!
COMEDY: Croft and Pearce: Double Take, The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 10 May
You might know school-friends-turned-comedy-duo, Hannah and Fiona, from their BBC Radio 4 sketch show The Croft and Pearce Show and if that’s anything to go by then their brand new live sketch-based tale promises to be a proper giggle. They’re bringing some of their fave characters from the show, such as June and Jean, to the stage, along with some ingenious and hilarious new ones.
FESTIVAL: SustFest, various locations, St Albans, 11 May – 1 June
We all know that we could probably do a bit more to help our planet so this three-week-long festival dedicated to sustainability is a good way to learn how, plus have some fun too. There are over 100 events taking place in St Albans, Harpenden and the surrounding villages, from nature walks and allotment days to Make do and Mend workshops, cycle rides and clothes swaps. Then on 19 May there’s the St Albans #SustFest19 Market Takeover, where you’ll find stalls focused on sustainable living, such as plastic-free shopping, local nature groups, electric cars and bikes, as well as live music all day and tasty meat-free food. So make like Mr Attenborough and do your bit for the environment.
KIDS: Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show for Kids (And Childish Grown-ups!), Luton Library Theatre, 11 May
Join this pair of time-travelling magicians and masters of illusion as they perform their mind boggling tricks along with a generous helping of tomfoolery and good old-fashioned fun. Suitable for ages 5+
FESTIVAL: Dogfest, Knebworth House, 11 – 12 May
Whoever knew dogs needed their own festival?! Well apparently they do, and it sounds pretty fun actually. Take your four-legged friends along to the gorgeous Knebworth House where there’ll be loads of activities (from Fido’s Lido to hay bale racing), as well as a fun dog show, live music and pup-formances on the main stage (dog yoga anyone?), a puppy zone (aww…) as well as appearances from Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick and dog lover Clare Balding.
FESTIVAL: Althorp Food and Drink Festival, The Althorp Estate, Northants, 11-12 May
The Spencers open their gates to the public for the annual foodie fest again this year and it looks like a cracker. Ken Hom OBE, Royal cakemaker Mich Turner MBE and Michelin star chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will be headlining and demonstrating their skills in the Cookery Theatre, plus there’ll be drinks masterclasses, a pop-up restaurant, live music, art exhibitions and over 100 stalls championing local food and drink.
FUN RUN: Bubble Rush, Gadebridge Park, Hemel Hempstead, 12 May
Not much of a runner? No worries, as anyone can take part in this fun family-friendly event, from little ones to great grannnies! Come on – it’s only 5k and it’s for charideee! It costs £20 for adults, £1o for kids and it’s free for tots, with all proceeds going to local cause, The Hospice of St Francis. Plus, when else will you get to run through masses of multi-coloured bubbles?
WELLBEING: Art & Soul, Hitchin Town Hall, 12 May
If you’re into ‘good’ living, this community-based event has got your name all over it. There’ll be a combo of talks, workshops and stalls, all focusing on mindfulness, wellbeing, mental health, conscious shopping and creativity. The day kicks off with a yoga session, followed by a full schedule of workshops including gong meditation (ommmm!), colour enlightenment and DJ sets. Meanwhile you can shop (sustainably, of course!) to your heart’s content from stalls hawking everything from vegan skincare to art and holistic treatments. It’s free to get in (but donations are welcomed), and you can take part in as many of the workshops as you like for £10 (or £5 after 2pm). Plus, all the proceeds go to the very worthwhile cause that is local charity Team Super Seraph, which is raising vital funds for future treatment of mini superhero, 4-year-old Seraph, who has high risk neuroblastoma. So dig deep people – it’s good for the soul!
FAMILY: Duckie, Luton Library Theatre, 12 May
Cabaret for kids? Bear with us… this re-imagining of The Ugly Duckling is acclaimed cabaret star, Le Gateau Chocolat’s first foray into children’s performance (all family-friendly, of course), and it sounds faaabulous. Set in an animal circus, Duckie, who’s not quite like everyone else, struggles to find his tribe and be accepted, but soon learns to turn his differences into strengths. A good moral tale about self respect, with a side order of glitz and glamour. Ages 3+
FESTIVAL: Berkofest Book Festival, various venues, Berkhamsted Town Hall and Rectory Lane Cemetery, 12 May
You may well be familiar with the annual community-run music event, Berkofest (held in September) but this year marks the launch of its inaugural sister festival dedicated to books! The family-friendly event will host a mix of international and locally acclaimed authors doing readings, Q&As and book signings, as well as a series of workshops taking place from comedy improv to photography. A book worm’s dream!
SCREENING: National Theatre Live: All My Sons, Welwyn Garden City Cinema, Campus West, 14 May
This National Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s blistering drama stars Academy Award-winner Sally Field (Steel Magnolias, Brothers & Sisters), Bill Pullman (The Sinner, Independence Day) and Jenna Coleman (Victoria, Doctor Who). It hits screens live across the UK from The Old Vic in London, including Welwyn’s Campus West.
THEATRE: Les Misérables, Milton Keynes Theatre, 14 May – 8 June
Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed production (which broke box office records when it premiered in 2009), comes to Milton Keynes Theatre on its major UK tour. One of the longest running West End shows, this production featuring new staging and scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. No Hugh Jackman (sorry), but a great cast of established actors including Olivier Award nominated Killian Donnelly (The Phantom of the Opera, Kinky Boots) as Jean Valjean.
COMEDY: The Guilty Feminist: Live, Aylesbury Waterside, 17 May
Host of the hit comedy podcast, The Guilty Feminist, and author of the book of the same name, Deborah Frances-White, tackles the state of 21st century feminism in her touring version of the show. We’ve got the inside scoop from Debs herself – check out our interview here.
DRINK: Gin-Tology Experience, Bletchley Park, 17 – 18 May
If you’re partial to a G&T (who isn’t?) you can learn more about this popular tipple as part of the nationwide Museums at Night Festival, with an after hours guided tour of Bletchley Park, live music, a history lesson on gin. And you’ll get to create a bespoke G&T from a selection of 40 gins. Ice and a slice, please!
FESTIVAL: World Food Festival, Welwyn Garden City town centre, 18 May
Experience flavours from all over the globe as Welwyn Garden City comes alive with the smells, sights and sizzles of all sorts of international dishes at this special foodie festival. Over 30 stalls will be cooking up a storm, where you can try everything from South African to Caribbean cuisine. You can also pick up some tips at The Cookery Academy and buy your own ingredients at the market. Plus there will be music and kids activities too – look out for the bonkers Fairly Fresh Fish Company, who will be wandering around Howardsgate with their dancing prawns and lively octopus!
COMEDY: Ruby Wax: How to Be Human, Broadway Theatre, Letchworth, 22 – 23 May
Here’s one lady who’s guaranteed to have you spluttering on your wine. Ruby Wax’s brand new show – following her sell-out tours also on the theme of mental health, Sane New World and Frazzled – is billed as ‘the ultimate manual on how to upgrade your mind as much as you’ve upgraded your iPhone’, and with special guests neuroscientist Ash Ranpura and monk Gelong Thubten, it promises to be bonkers and brilliant.
EXHIBITION: Brought to Life: Eliot Hodgkin Rediscovered, Waddesdon Manor, 23 May – 20 October
Renowned for his still-life subjects, (like these lovely lemons), and landscapes, Eliot Hodgkin was also a passionate collector and author. Catch this new retrospective exhibition, the largest ever show of the British painter’s work at Waddesdon Manor, which starts this month.
FILM: Bohemian Rhapsody and The Greatest Showman outdoor cinema screenings, 25&26 May
Ooh we love a good outdoor screening and there’s a brand new Bedforshire venue in the mix for this summer’s offerings. Catch Queen retrospective, Bohemian Rhapsody on 25th and the musical of the moment, The Greatest Showman on 26th in the rather grand grounds of the 18th century Turvey House. Pack your picnic and off you go!
FAMILY: TotFest 2019, Hitchin Priory, 26 May
This mega festival aimed at pre-schoolers (6 months – 5 years) will feature more activities and interactive events (over 50 in fact!) than a playgroup on steroids! Think mini fairground rides, giant painting canvasses, bubble workshops, story zone, tots race track, edible messy play, drama sessions, a baby rave, mega block building, AND entertainment from The Flying Seagull Project and Glastonbabies. If that doesn’t wear them out, I’m not sure what will!