Mon 20 - Sun 26 May
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!
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.
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.
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.
EXHIBITION: Humphry Repton: Art and Nature for the Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey, until 1 Sept
This year marks the bicentary of the landscape gardener responsible for designing the grounds and Gardens at Woburn Abbey. The exhibition features his famous Red Book, which is packed with detailed plans and ideas for the planting schemes, lakes and parklands, as well examples of his other work for the 6th Duke of Bedford’s Devon and London homes. Step outside to see Repton’s work in its full glory, including his trademark features like the grotto, Chinese-style pavillion and aviary.
KIDS: Great Brick Safari, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable, until 2 June
If you’ve got a LEGO fan on your hands, this is an absolute must-visit! Imagine their little faces at spotting a life-size gorilla made entirely from their favourite building blocks, or an elephant that literally weighs a tonne of bricks! There’s also going to be a pit full of LEGO for kids to build their own animal creations. Sounds epic!
FLOWERS: Covent Garden In Bloom, Covent Garden, London, until Sat 15 Jun
Following their London debut in Covent Garden’s iconic Central Avenue last year, floral artists Fleurs de Villes will return to showcase the best floral designs in the Big Smoke and return Covent Garden to its roots as the original (or OG, as the kids say) flower market in London. Covent Garden retailers and restaurants are all mucking in with botanical window displays, exclusive products and spring collections, bespoke cocktails and dishes made with herbs and ingredients from Covent Garden’s veggie garden. coventgarden.london
KIDS: New Children’s Garden, Kew Gardens, London
As if it wasn’t already a prime spot for day tripping, the clever sausages at Kew Gardens have added a brand new Children’s Garden just in time for May half term. Two years in the making, the interactive garden (aimed at ages 2 – 12) has over 100 varieties of mature trees, bamboo tunnels, hammocks and in-ground trampolines all under the cover of a huge 200 year old oak tree. kew.org
NEW EXHIBITION: Beasts of London, Museum of London, Fri 5 May – Sun 5 Jan
This looks amazing- a fully immersive, digital installation (see above for a sneak preview) exploring the role animals have played in the shaping of London, from the Roman era all they way up to present day. The interactive show uses video projection mapping to bring the beasts, from rats to lions, to life as they narrate a virtual tour of London. There are some major British celebs involved too, with Kate Moss, Brian Blessed, Pam Ferris and more voicing the beasts. museumoflondon.org.uk
Must-see exhibitions in the big smoke this month include the V&A‘s retrospective of iconic 1960s designer and the mother of miniskirts, Mary Quant– over 200 garments, accessories and exclusive unseen pieces from the designer’s personal archive (until Sun 16 Feb 2020); also at the V&A is this year’s biggie, the largest House of Dior collection ever staged in the UK, which traces the history of Christian Dior and the six artistic directors who succeeded him (until Sun 1 Sept). It is sold out but there are a few first-come, first served tickets available from 10am from the Grand Entrance – it’s well worth trying your luck. Or you can see the exhibition by purchasing a membership for the V&A. Also worth checking out is the major Van Gogh show at Tate Britain, with over 45 works, including Starry Night on the Rhône 1888 from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and the rarely loaned Sunflowers 1888 from the National Gallery. There’ll also be work by British artist who were influenced by Van Gogh’s work including Francis Bacon and David Bomberg (until Sun 11 Aug).