Mon 11 – Sun 17 Sept
Claire Tomalin, The Spirella Ballroom, Letchworth, Weds 13 Sept
Claire Tomalin will be in Letchworth on Wednesday evening. She is known as a biographer: she has written the biographies of Thomas Hardy, Mary Wollstonecraft and Katherine Mansfield. Her biography of Samuel Pepys won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, and her biography of Charles Dickens was a bestseller. But now Claire Tomalin has written her memoir, A Life of My Own, and it’s getting rave reviews. The Guardian has just said that it is ‘absorbing, moving and marvellously written’. She actually came to live in Welwyn Garden City for a while, with her mother and her sister, when her parents separated. This event is in The Spirella Ballroom in Letchworth (SG6 4ET). Tickets are £6, which are deductible from the cost of the hardback book (£16.99) if purchased on the evening. To book tickets: David’s Bookshop, 01462 684631. 7.30pm.
Penny Bird’s Prosecco Party, Harpenden, Thurs 14 Sept
Get ready to party! The fab Harpenden photographer Penny Bird is unveiling her unique portrait experience for women. The evening will include demos from local sparkling businesses: Captain Tortue, Catherine Batour Makeup and Beauty, Edits Styling and Visage Dental Spa. Prizes include a luxury portrait with Penny, and nobody will leave without a goody bag. 8pm. Tickets: £10. AL5 4PH
How to get published, David’s Bookshop, Letchworth, Thurs 14 Sept
Have you ever dreamed of writing that novel and getting it published? This is an evening to help you turn your dreams into reality. Nell Stevens was so determined to write a novel and thinking that total solitude was needed to complete her book that she set off for Bleaker Island in the Falklands (population:two). She did complete her book, but rather than a novel, the result was Bleaker House, a book I enjoyed so much that I read it in one sitting. Nell will be at David’s Bookshop on Thursday evening together with Alysoun Owen, the editor of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which is the bible for anyone who wants to get their book on the shelves. Tickets are £6. David’s Bookshop, 01462 6846317.30pm.
Victoria & Abdul, Broadway, Letchworth, and on general release, from Fri 15 Sept
One minute we’re reading about Dame Judi Dench talking about her new chap, the next, she’s playing Queen Victoria, who, it turns out, in late life, formed a friendship with a young chap, Abdul Karim (played by Ali Fazal), an Indian clerk. I’ve just watched an interview with Judi Dench talking about this film and she says that Queen Victoria was feeling old and tired and that this friendship perked her up. He taught her to write in Urdu and Hindi. Eddie Izzard plays Bertie who later becomes Edward VII. I can’t wait to see this film. Large parts of it were filmed in Osborne House but some scenes were shot in Muddy Herts land – at Knebworth House. I think the beautifully reburbished, art-deco Broadway cinema would be the perfect place to watch this film. Other cinemas are also available. Opens Friday 15 Sept.
Gin Festival, Alban Arena, Fri 15 and Sat 16 Sept
This gin festival has been on tour and is hugely popular. It arrives in St Albans on Friday 15 September. You need to buy your ticket in advance to book your session: there’s an evening session on Friday 6.30 – 11pm, and two on Saturday: 12.30pm – 5pm and 6.30 – 11pm. You’ll be given a gin glass and gin guide on arrival. Gin is paid for with tokens. Over 100 gins to taste, Fever Tree tonic and jazz band.
Sundown Cinema, Top Gun and Mary Poppins, St Nicholas School, Letchworth, Sat 16 Sept
The very popular and local Sundown Cinema is still popping up the big screen, this time at St Nicholas Primary School in Letchworth. Mary Poppins will be singing at 3pm on Saturday, followed by Big Tom in Top Gun. BBQ, bar, popcorn. No rain. St Nicholas, Norton Road, Letchworth, SG6 1AG. Tickets from David’s Music Shop.
One Night Only art fundraiser, Wild at Heart Foundation, London, Sat 16 Sept
Nikki Tibbles is the amazing florist and founder of Wild at Heart who now rescues dogs and is an ambassador the the ‘adopt don’t shop’ movement. This is an art fundraiser for the Wild at Heart Foundation. Proceeds will support animal welfare projects all over the world. Josh Lilley Gallery, 44 – 46 Riding House St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7EX. 6pm.
Open House London, Sat 16 and Sun 17 Sept
Open House London! And this year, for the first time in its 25-year history, every London borough is taking part. There’s free entry to more than 800 of the city’s most compelling buildings. Highlights include the recently revamped New Scotland Yard; London’s latest iconic tower, nicknamed ‘the vase’; an urban farm in Waterloo; an exhibition by Norman Foster and the gargantuan Francis Crick Institute at King’s Cross. Take your pick!
50 years of Mr Benn, Illustration Cupboard, until 16 September
Mr Benn and the big 5-0? Say it isn’t so! No idea how this has happened, he doesn’t look a day over well, 50, but if you’d like to see original sketches and artwork of the bowler-hatted Mr Benn of 52 Festive Road, then get on down to the wonderful Illustration Cupboard at 22 Bury Street, St James’s in London. There’s a fab exhibition of original sketches and artwork by Mr Benn’s creator, David McKee. I think that Mr Benn was the original portfolio worker, who could turn his hand to anything from astronaut or chef to wizard and gladiator.
Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, opens Thurs 7 Sept
This looks really good. 200 objects from posters to illuminated pharmacy signs, chosen to explore the role of graphic design in communicating healthcare around the world. Handy for anyone who uses Euston Station. Or Kings Cross. 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE.