Nutcracker Trail and St Albans Christmas Market, Vintry Garden, until Sat 23 Dec
A Nutcracker Trail thanks to St Albans Bid, gifts to buy thanks to a host of local designer makers, and festive treats to eat and drink in cosy Christmas cabins. Whatever takes your fancy, St Albans has got it. The Christmas market is open and ready for you. It’s in and around Vintry Garden, next to the Cathedral.
Rapunzel, Hertford Theatre, opens Sat 2 Dec
Here we go! The panto opens at Hertford Theatre and even the foyer looks beautifully sparkly and ready for fun and games. You might like to read my interview with director Rhys Thomas, to see what goes on behind the scenes. You’ll be pleased to know this is a panto with top notch talent and quality of story. And slosh. Hurry, hurry, tickets are going fast. Until 1 Jan 2018.
As You Like It, Broadway Theatre, Fri 1 – Sat 2 Dec
Mistaken identity and love, all tangled up in a forest. Sounds like a recipe for happiness ever after. This is Shakespeare’s As You Like It by Shared Experience, in a production that promises to be funny, accessible and great fun. 7.30pm each day, with matinees on Thurs 30 Nov at 1.30pm, and Sat 2 Dec, 2pm.
Wreath workshop with Helen Reeley, Weds 29 Nov
Helen Reeley (on the right) is a garden designer based in Berkhamsted. She is running four workshops between now and Christmas, with the first one at the end of November. They’re all in Berkhamsted. Bend willow into your base before selecting your hedgerow bounty (I think will have been collected for you). Take your pick from holly and berries, teasels and cones. Helen will offer lots of help and guidance but of course you can do whatever takes your fancy – it’s time to unleash your wreath creativity! A workshop costs £35 and includes all the materials and refreshments. The venues are Potten End Village Hall and Potten End Village School. Some are day time and some evening. The first is Weds 29 Nov, 6-9pm, Potten End Village Hall. See Helen’s Facebook page for info. The other dates are Weds 6 Dec, Sat 9 Dec and Sun 10 Dec. Here are photos from some of the previous workshops with Helen. Guaranteed to get you in the mood for festive fun.
Release your inner Ibiza, Sat 2 Dec
I once spent a whole summer in Ibiza, and I don’t think I ever got over it. If you’ve experienced the dance scene of the White Isle, or would like to, you can do this without boarding a plane, thanks to Housemouse, who have organised a not-for-profit celebration of Balearic Beats in a secret location close to Tring. So close in fact, that if you hop on the bus at 7.45 pm, you’ll be transported to the venue in 15 mins. Buses leave from Tring, Pitstone and Cheddington. Nobody ever went out clubbing at 8pm when I was in Ibiza, but this is Herts, and we’ve got babysitters and beauty sleep to consider. Don’t worry about being stuck in the middle of nowhere, once you arrive, you can book a cab home, or come back on one of the buses at 12.30am or 1.45am. The location is guaranteed to be warm and with proper loos. It’s a private party, so you do need to book, and Housemouse are asking for a donation of £33. You’ll get a drink on arrival and then you can buy your drinks at a fairly priced bar. The organisers don’t want to make a profit, and if they do, it’ll be donated to local charities. Get ready to release your inner Ibiza and be home before 2am. What a completely brilliant idea. For tickets, email: email@example.com
See this beautiful image in the flesh, and lots more from the hugely talented artists who are part of the thriving Hitchin Art Hub. Artists exhibiting and selling their work include Roz Down (above) and photographer Kasia Burke. Market Place, 10am – 3pm.
Santa in Love, Sandpit Theatre, Sun 3 Dec
For the youngest members of the family, as you’ve probably guessed. Just the ticket for whipping them up into a pre-Christmas frenzy. At least it keeps them away from the Christmas TV ads. A musical with bells on, singalongs and silliness. And a real Santa to administer smiles and presents after the show. 2pm.
Jools Holland, Watford Colosseum, Thurs 2 Nov
The man himself! Jools Holland is now on tour and isn’t it marvellous that he’s here at Watford Colosseum? He’ll be performing with a host of starry guests, including Jose Feliciano and Ruby Turner. No need for more. This man is musical perfection and the evening will be a corker. 7.30pm
Champagne and chilli (pre or post-fireworks), George Street Canteen, St Albans, Sat 4 Nov
Now a 25-year-old institution, the St Albans fireworks in Verulamium Park get bigger and better each year. Doors open at 6pm, and the fireworks start at 7.30pm. The good folk at the George Street Canteen (where the courtyard garden has a view of the St Albans Abbey) invite you to join them before or after for chilli and champagne. Kevin (pictured above at the recent George Street jazz event) will be making chilli, and neighbour Ferenc from ThirtyNine10 will be serving champagne. It’s worth noting that George Street Canteen won Best Cafe and 3910 won Best Wine Merchant in this year’s Muddy Awards. Just saying.
Emily’s Walking Book Club, Hampstead Heath, Sun 5 Nov
Do you know Daunt Books? To join in with this walking book club, you need to go to the branch of Daunt Books that is opposite Hampstead Heath. Easy and free to park on Sundays! I’ve done one of these before and they are great fun. You walk (for about an hour) and talk at the same time, discussing a book that you read in advance. This week it’s Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, a book I absolutely loved, and then every so often the group stops to regroup and would you believe, it, you’re offered homemade cake. This idea has come from Emily, who used to work at Daunt Books. It’s a lovely way of holding a book club, with no pressure on the person hosting to tidy up and provide snacks. 11.30. Free!
Sherry Hostler masterclass, Wilstone, Tring, Tues 7 Nov
Sherry Hostler is a cake artist extraordinaire and her masterclasses always sell out so best be speedy! Sherry works in a shiny white studio in Wilstone, Tring. This is a hands-on class, and no previous experience (or O Level cookery) required. Small class size (maximum seven) so lots of individual help from Sherry. Everything is supplied and gift boxed for you to take your creations home. £40. 7-9pm.
Jeremy Hardy, Hertford Theatre, Sat 11 Nov
Alan Bennett says he likes Jeremy Hardy because he’s ‘only on the radio’. But he’ll be live on the stage at Hertford Theatre on Sat 11 Nov. It’s almost a family show although Hertford Theatre has issued some guidance: ages 14+ and swearing and adult content likely. Be warned. A seasoned stand up performer. 8pm.
Buddy Holly and The Cricketers, Rhodes, Thurs 9 Nov
The show that keeps on giving. It’s been travelling around the world for 25 years. If you’re a Buddy Holly fan, you’ve probably seen it more than once, and here it is at Rhodes, Bishop’s Stortford. For the uninitiated, be ready to dance in the aisles. 7.30pm.
The Counterfeit Stones, Hertford Theatre, Fri 10 Nov
Standing room only, or rather no seats (it’s like a proper gig!) for the Great British Take Off (see what they did there?) and the Counterfeit Stones at Hertford Theatre. You’ll be close to the stage (this isn’t Wembley) and the SATIS-FiCTION show promises a ‘rusical’ (I know) with humour and all the fakery you desire. Get your glam on and take your kids – but only if they are 14+.
The Close Up Show, Hertford Theatre, Sat 11 Nov
Impossible to write about magic without saying ‘sleight of hand’. So there you are. I’ve done it. I’ve spoken to so many people who rave about The Close Up Show. Coming to a theatre near you! Hertford Theatre, in fact. Be quick. This show is immensely popular!
Gerald Scarfe, House of Illustration, Granary Square, Kings Cross, until 21 Jan 2018
I love the House of Illustration and if you haven’t been, it’s well worth a visit. The current exhibition is a collection of production designs by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, including props, costumes and storyboards from Disney’s Hercules, the English National Ballet’s The Nutcracker and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Wimpole Christmas Craft Fair, Wimpole Hall, Sat 11 Nov
Wimpole’s festive season starts with the Christmas Craft Fair. Situated in the stable block there’ll be tasty food, mulled wine to get sloshed on and heaps of shopping opportunities for unusual pressies. Combine it with a walk in the surrounding park land or a spot of lunch, Wimpole Hall is one of my fave go-to National Trust properties and they really know how to nail Christmas. Wimpole Hall, Arrington, SG8 0BW
Howards End, BBC1, Sun 12 Nov
Thanks to the new Howards End, the Poldark/Downton hour is back. Happy days indeed. Nothing like a day of crunching through autumn leaves, a big fat pub lunch and then home to a cosy-up drama on the telly. And before you tune in, have you ever been to Walkern? It’s beyond Stevenage, and it’s where you’ll find the real Rooknest, now Rook’s Nest House, the house where EM Forster lived as a child, and the inspiration for his novel Howards End. Forster lived at Rooksnest for ten years before moving to Tonbridge Wells. In this new production,. Hayley Atwell plays Margaret Schlegel and Philippa Coulthard is her sister Helen, in the roles played by Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter in the 1992 film. Sunday night sorted.
Howards End, BBC1, 9pm
Child of the Divide, Broadway Theatre, Tues 14 Nov
This is the perfect story to mark the 70th anniversary of the partition of India. It’s 1947 and 16 million people are moving between India and the newly-formed Pakistan. Pali loses hold of his father’s hand and he is on his own. He is taken in by a Muslim family and given a new name, faith and life. What will he choose when his real father finds and claims him? Muslim, Hindu, or child of the divide? Presented by Bhuchar Boulevard. 1.30pm and 7.30pm. Ages 7+
Follies, National Theatre Live, Vyne Theatre, Berkhamsted, Sun 19 Nov
Are you a Sondheim fan? This is Follies, being staged for the first time and beamed straight in – live – to Berko. Get your homework done early, it’s Sunday night! It sounds fabulous and dazzlingly zingy. And it’s Imelda Staunton! And Tracie Bennett and Janie Dee. It’s 1971 in New York and the Follies girls are having a party on stage at the Weismann Theatre. It’s the last hurrah before the building is demolished the following day. With a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, it sounds simply marvellous. 6pm.
Save the date for Tenors Unlimited! This is unmissable, I promise you. Scott Ciscon, Paul Martin and Jem Sharples. They’ll take you from Nessun Dorma to Sting’s Fragile and you might have Moon River in between. These men have sung with Beyoncé, Sting, Lionel Ritchie, Simply Red and many more. On Sat 25 Nov, they’ll be singing with the Box of Frogs Theatre Academy Choir. Do not miss this musical evening! 7.30pm.