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What’s on: July 2021

Summer's here! Even if the weather thinks differently... but worry not. We've found plenty of lovely things to get stuck into this month from outdoor theatre and music to food and family fun. Go get 'em!

CONCERTS: Musicals at the Manor, Rothamsted Manor, Harpenden, until 30 July

This summer series of concerts features all your favourite hits from the West End musicals performed by the stars of the theatre, including leading lady Kerry Ellis on 30 July. There’ll be matinee and evening performances held in the manor’s Great Drawing Room.

ART: Childwickbury Arts Fair, Childwickbury Estate, St Albans, 2-4 July

Come browse and buy an array of artworks from over 50 painters, printmakers, ceramicists, textile, jewellery and glass artists in the glorious surroundings of the Childwickbury Estate. Watch the artists at work and enjoy some delicious food and drink offerings from street food vans on site. There’ll be kids’ entertainment and workshops during the weekend, and tickets are half price on the Friday.

FAMILY: A Grand Family Day Out, Wrest Park, Silsoe 3-4 July

A Grand Family Day Out Wrest Park
© English Heritage

This historical hullabaloo will pique the interest even of kids who think history is booooring. There’ll be interactive performances of Robin Hood, tales of William the Conquerer, princess discovery sessions (from factual to fairytale!), appearances from historical authors, Beatrix Potter and Lewis Carroll, and an intriguing apothecary. Plus kids can put their skills to the test in the WWII obstacle course and have-a-go archery. That should keep ’em busy then!

PERFORMANCE: Imagine Watford, various locations, 3-18 July

The annual free extravaganza of outdoor arts, performance and aeriel trickery in association with Watford Palace Theatre, has been REimagineDthis year, with three new venues hosting an array of mind-boggling pop-ups throughout Watford. In total there will be fifteen shows and activities across four sites, including live music, making junk instruments, modern dance, poetry, mechanical sculpture, a life sized whale, and an aerialist suspended inside a giant beating heart – weird but wonderful!

OUTDOOR CINEMA: The Italian Job, Ashridge House, Berkhamsted, 5 July

As part of the summer screenings programme at Ashridge House, the original version of The Italian Job will be shown on 5 July in partnership with Specialist Cars MINI. A selection of cars will be on display against the backdrop of the magestic house, and if you happen to own a MINI yourself, rock up in it to receive a 15% discount with code MINI15. All together now in your best Michael Cain voice… (sorry!)

MUSICAL THEATRE: Olympiaganza, The Roman Theatre Open Air Festival, St Albans, 5-6 July

A hybrid between a battle of the bands, Greek mythological theatre and comedy show, this performance from Best Youth Theatre Experience sounds utterly bonkers, but brilliant. It will attempt to cover the entirety of Greek Mythology in one evening, featuring a musical reimagination of The Iliad. And what better setting to peform ancient epics than an actual Roman Theatre?

OUTDOOR THEATRE: Tess of the D’Urberville’s, The Place, Bedford, 9 July

I’ve not read this one since GCSE days – and that was a loooong time ago! If. like me, you reckon it’s time for a buff up on your Victorian fiction, this anticipated production performed by Hotbuckle Productions will bring Hardy’s flawed heroine to life – the company’s previous adaptations have had rave reviews so we’re expecting good things from Tess.

THEATRE: Roman Theatre Open Air Festival, St Albans, until 10 July

Rob Ryan Roman Theatre

The Maltings Theatre and OVO’s summer programme for the Roman Theatre Open Air Festival, continues this month with The Comedy of Errors (until 4 July) and The Winter’s Tale (until 10 July). They’ve commissioned papercut artist Rob Ryan to produce a series of gorgeous posters to go with the shows too.

EXHIBITION: Airship Dreams: Escaping Gravity, The Higgins Bedford, 10 July – 28 November

Did you know that one of the largest and most exciting airships developed was built in Cardington, Bedford in the 1920s? Tragically it crashed in 1930 crushing Bedford’s dream of becoming the UKs airship hub. Today, local artist, Mike Stubbs has taken on the subject in this exhibition, which involved inviting other locals to share their stories to inspire his own artwork – an immersive audio-visual film, taking audiences on a mythical airship journey. Intriguing!

ART: Courtyard Arts’ Big Art Weekend, Hertford, 10-11 July

Hertford’s creative centre is opening its doors to the public for a fun-packed creative weekend. Fancy having a go at some screen printing or clay sculpture? Your print or clay leaf, flower or insect could grace the courtyard’s wall as part of the weekend-long exhibition. Why not have a mooch around the gallery and shop while you’re there, plus there’ll be a stall selling vintage pots, too.

FOOD: Little Mexican Kitchen Supper Club, Borehamwood, 10, 17, 24 and 31 July

If you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine, check out these fab sounding supper clubs, courtesy of Little Mexican Kitchen. Enjoy six tastebud-tantalising courses all created with authentic methods and ingredients – you won’t find any ‘fusion’ food here, it’s Mexican food as it’s meant to be! Think pulled pork tacos, spicy cactus salad and loads of veggie options, too, plus extras like watermelon with habanero chilli salt. Yum! There are 16 spaces on each date and it costs just £10 on 10th and 17th July, with an optional ‘pay what you feel’ honesty box on the night. Don’t know about you, but I’m sold!

MUSIC: Swiss Garden at Night with Live Music, Shuttleworth Estate, Biggleswade, 16 July – 11 Sept (various dates)

Soak up the lovely atmosphere at the Swiss Gardens by night for an evening of live music. There will be a different performer for each date and you can arrive from 6pm to enjoy your picnic in the grounds before the performance starts.

MUSIC: Battle Proms, Hatfield House, 17 July

Battle proms

Load the hampers and pop the Champers for this explosive celebration of pomp and ceremony. The grounds of Hatfield House will be filled with a rousing orchestral programme of toe-tapping tunes, accompanied by dramatic Spitfire displays, cavalry and canons and a spectacular fireworks finale.

MUSIC: Gardner conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, 17 July

Ed Gardner (c) Neil Pugh

Whether or not you’re a classical music buff, we can all appreciate the haunting and emotive effect of live orchestral music. The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s new Music Director conducts this spine-tingling programme, featuring Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony, and tenor Nicky Spence performing Britten and Holloways’ Winter Words.

FOOD: Great British Food Festival, Knebworth House, 17-18 July

This popular food-focused weekend returns to the glorious grounds of Knebworth and there’s something for everyone. Along with the Chef Demos, street food stalls, artisan market, Cake Off and Men v Food comps, Bake and BBQ stages, there’ll also be kids cookery, live music, foraging walks, a craft market and a mini zoo. Plus it’s dog friendly so bring pooch along for the fun. Head over to our Reader Treats for your chance to bag a family ticket for four (enter by 13 July).

KIDS: The Noise Next Door – Out and About, Quarry Theatre Garden, Bedford, 18 July

This improv group sound like total geniuses – they take ideas and suggestions from the audience and transform them magically into hilarious songs, gags and physical performance. They’re know for their crazy and chaotic brand of comedy and this show promises to let you have your say after months of being told what to do! Can’t argue with that!

FESTIVAL: Folk by the Oak, Hatfield House, 18 July

Folk by the Oak

Still going ahead, thanks to its limited numbers and social distancing measures, this easy breezy summer fest is all about chilling with a cold bevvy to the sountrack of some of the finest folk acts in the biz. On the main stage this year will be Seasick Steve and Kate Rusby, while folk-punk six-piece Skinny Lister and others will be rocking the Acorn Stage. There’ll also be craft and vintage stalls to explore and creative workshops for all ages. Don the floral headgear and away you go!

FESTIVAL: Standon Calling, Standon, 22-25 July

Music and arts festival, Standon Calling, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. It started life as an extravagant birthday garden party, only the party just kept getting bigger and bigger. This year’s line-up includes Bastille, Craig David, Hot Chip and Primal Scream. Day tickets are £65, or weekend ones £179.

PERFORMANCE: Bedford Festival Fringe, 22 July – 1 August

Bedford’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the concept behind the Bedford Festival Fringe is to come and see not one but loads of live shows, from performances of new work by household names to brand new faces making a name for themselves on the circuit. There’s everything from music and dance to comedy, theatre and spoken work coming to various venues in and around Bedford.

SPOKEN WORD: Emergence: Stories of a New Beginning, Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton, 23 July

This thought-provoking event will bring to life pieces of creative writing by participants of The Butterfly Project, an organisation which provides art therapy and mental health support for women. These womens’ stories, journeys, life lessons and challenges overcome throughout lockdown and beyond, will be shared through this performance, with a positive takeaway message about discovering new beginnings.

FESTIVAL: Chilfest, Tring, 24 July [NEW DATE!]

Chilfest is coming back big after 2020’s fallow year. It’s set to be quite a glossy affair: posh loos, sushi, and good wine to knock back as you boogie to tribute acts and 80s hits. Friday will be the tribute night: The Bootleg Beatles, Queen One Vision, Noasis and Tania Alboni’s Tribute to Amy Winehouse, among others. Then Saturday is a funky throwback to the 80s: Tony Hadley, Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals, Leee John of Imagination, and Boney M’s Maizie Williams are just some of the familiar faces ready to light up the stage. Fluff those shoulder pads and get grooving. Tickets from £26.50.

THEATRE: Suitcase Shakespeare, The Place, Bedford, (outdoor event) 27-29 July

I love this idea by Lamphouse Theatre, who are known for performing in intimate venues – two actors recreate one of the Bard’s works using only the contents of a suitcase! Oh and in just 45 minutes flat… expect plenty of mischief, live music and hilarity. This performance will include Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth with a picnic interval between the plays.

COMEDY: Adam Kay: This is Going to Hurt, Stage in the Park, Watford Palace Theatre, 28 July

If you haven’t heard of Adam Kay or read one of his books, where have you been?! This junior doctor took the world by storm with his deadpan take on hospital life behind closed doors and brought his darkly hilarious tales to the stage in a unique comedy performance. You will laugh til it hurts…

COMEDY: St Albans Comedy Garden, Verulamium Park, 28 July – 1 August

Sara pascoe and Rob Beckett

I think we’re all in need of a good laugh after the year we’ve had, aren’t we? Luckily some of the best stand-ups of our time are heading to Herts for this brand new funny fest running over five nights. The line-up is immense: Sara Pascoe, Josh Widdicombe, Alan Davies, Milton Jones, Shappi Khorsandi, Reginald D Hunter, Nina Conti, Tom Allen and Rob Beckett to name a few! It’s all live and open air with street food, summer cocktails and craft beer on offer too.

Bedford Park Concerts, 29 July – 1 August

Bedford Park Concerts

This ordinarily annual collection of gigs, Bedford Park Concerts, are always hotly anticipated and feature big names in a stunning venue (the clue’s in the name!), giving it that day festival vibe. This year’s line-up features Olly Murs, Café Mambo and Ocean Colour Scene, plus on 1 August is the grand finale – The Bedford Park Proms which is celebrating its 25th birthday, so expect fireworks and lasers aplenty.

KIDS: Rogue Theatre, Along the Wild Path, Home Farm Live, Elstree, 30-31 July

Part of the Home Farm Live festival programme, taking place in the gorgeous Elstree countryside, this award-winning Cornish theatre company creates a magical natural world through immersive story telling by kooky characters. A mash-up of mythical tales, breath-taking live music and spectacular dance all inspired by nature, it promises to have kids’ imaginations running wild and to leave them completely enthralled.

FESTIVAL: The Legends Festival, Herts County Showground, St Albans, 31 Jul – 1 August

Legends Festival

The UK’s biggest tribute act festival, The Legends Festival has a massive line-up with thirteen of the world’s biggest and best pop and rock tribute bands and artists. There’s Killer Queen, Madness Badness, Coldplay Cloneplay and Dan Budd as Robbie Williams on Saturday, followed by Abba Mania, Absolute Bowie, The Upbeat Beatles and more on Sunday. It’s super family friendly, in fact if you’re in time to snap up an Early Bird ticket, you can bring your little ones for just a tenner!

CATCH THEM AGAIN THIS MONTH..

ART: Fiona Curran: Jump Cut, Still Life, Broadway Studio + Gallery, Letchworth, until 4 July

Fiona Curran

This exhibition opened virtually last month but from 20 May you can actually visit the gallery and see the exhibits for yourself. Fiona Curran’s artistic response to the Pandemic involves a collection of pieces focussing on the impact of technology vs the idea of slowing down and witnessing changes in the natural world. The first part of the title, ‘jump cut’, refers to a film editing technique, which disrupts the order of time. It’s a metaphor for how much of our lives have been displaced to a screen throughout the last year or so. Works include vivid textiles, abstract collages and architectural installations.

EXHIBITION: Animal Mummies, Natural History Museum, Tring, until 17 October

Animal mummies Natural History Museum
© Trustees of the Natural History Museum

I, for one, am delighted that this fab free museum has reopened – it’s a great place to pop in with the kids on a rainy day and we spot something new every time we visit. The current exhibition will entice kids and big kids who have a fascination with ancient Egypt, with the opportunity to examine real animal mummies and x-rays showing how they were preserved. There’ll also be a 2,000 year-old cat coffin on display and an interactive scanning machine.

ART: This Living Hand: Edmund de Waal presents Henry Moore, Henry Moore Studios and Gardens, Perry Green, until 31 October

Henry Moore

If you’re familiar with Moore’s sculptures you’ll know that they’re innately tactile. This exhibition by acclaimed artist, Edmund de Waal, explores the role of touch in the sculptor’s work. Naturally, visitors are invited to get hands-on with the pieces on display – including Moore’s works in bronze and stone, plus a series of carved benches by de Waal. Moore’s studies of own and others peoples’ hands, as an expression of power and symbolism, will also feature.

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