Fun things to do (and book) this week 12-18 Jan

Well, this week I feel that reality has hit us all. We can’t still pretend we’re in holiday mode – or can we? Back to school, back to work, and when it comes to eating and drinking, it’s less of this and none of that. To lift your spirits, I can recommend getting out for a treat or two.

La La Land, Letchworth Broadway, Welwyn Garden City cinema and general release


This musical trousered seven awards at the Golden Globes, the most ever won by a single film, and those gongs included best director for Damien Chazelle, best actress for Emma Stone and best actor for Ryan Gosling. It’s a love-letter to the golden age of Hollywood musicals but set in present day. The story is as simple as they come: Emma Stone plays Mia, a wannabe actress, who falls in love with Sebastian, a jazz pianist (Gosling), with critics raving about how gloriously uplifting it is. Damien Chazelle has said that musicals can give us all a much-needed chance to dream. Well said, Damien! Here’s the trailer, in which everyone looks gorgeous as does LA itself. The good news is, La La Land is on general release in UK cinemas this week. You can catch it at the Welwyn Garden City Cinema or Letchworth Broadway.

Nick Knowles, Proper Healthy Food launch, Chorleywood Bookshop, Thurs 12 Jan


The last time I looked, Nick Knowles looked very much like a man who would enjoy a full English. Today, he’s eschewing meat and is in praise of all things vegan, and, when he feels the need to lapse, he’ll go veggie. A retreat in Thailand was the catalyst for this DIY SOS heavy lifting man to think things over. A week long fast was involved. Sounds drastic, but Nick has been transformed. He’s a fan of real man stews that he says will give you the oomph you need when working outside during our blustery, nippy winter. Chorleywood Bookshop is ready and waiting to hear about how Nick lost 9 kilos in 3 weeks. He’s been saying that he believes in ‘hearty meals, not thin weedy plates’ so if you’d like to hear more, he’s on stage Thursday evening. You’ll be able to sample food from Nick’s recipes. Book vouchers £15, to include a copy of Proper Healthy Food.

Nick Knowles book launch, Sarratt Village Hall, Sarratt, WD3 6AS 7.30pm

Jazz at Here, Berkhamsted, Thurs 12 Jan


Another opportunity for toots and toe tapping, although this week at Here it’s more a case of digesting smooth, cool notes wearing an enigmatic smile. John O’Reilly plays guitar and this week he’ll be mixing it up with blues as well as jazz. And all this while you tuck in to Thai beef spring rolls (don’t tell Nick Knowles) with chilli jam, and there are many other tasty morsels on the menu.

Jazz at Here, 28-30 Lower Kings Road, Berkhamsted, HP4 2AB

January sale, All In One Season, Letchworth, Tues 17 Jan, Thurs 19 Jan, Sat 21 Jan


Alice Calcasola-van der List, the owner of All In One Season, is in our Little Black Book and she is one of the most creative people I have ever met. She is a Dutch floral designer who lives in a stunningly beautiful Arts and Crafts house. I went to one of her Winter House events in December and I was completely blown away by her magical home. It’s a feast for the senses: vibrant colours, earthy textures, and tendrilly delights. If you’ve never been, it’s something that has to be experienced. This week Alice is opening her house again but this time, with sale prices! The events are free, but you do need to book.

 Tickets Winter House sale, All In One Season, 15 Sollershott East, Letchworth SG6 3PL

Film Club, Pudding Stop, Sun 15 Jan


You may have seen Top Gun a dozen times already, but have you ever watched it in a cosy club cinema setting while stuffing yourself with bread and butter pudding and custard? The Pudding Stop started life as a Pudmobile at the Harpenden and St Albans train stations. Crumpled commuters were expelled from crowded carriages to find Johnny Shepherd (who was an early Bake Off contestant) waiting for them with still-warm, juddery slices of Bakewell tart. Now he has a shop and cafe in St Albans. On Sunday nights, a screen appears, and you can hunker down with proper old-fashioned puds, or if you’re feeling fancy, you can show off as you delicately dip madeleines into salted caramel molten chocolate.

Pudding Stop Film Club, 6 The Colonnade, Verulam Road, St Albans, AL3 4DD 8pm

Proof, Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin, Weds 18-Sat 21 Jan


Over in hipster Hitchin, in the Richard Whitmore Studio (remember him?) is the David Auburn play Proof with the Bancroft Players. On the opening night, Weds 18 Jan, you’ll get a free glass of wine – yes, that really did say free, with softer alternatives on offer. When this play first opened in London, Gwyneth Paltrow played the lead. The story is about Catherine, the daughter of a famous Chicago mathematician on the eve of her 25th birthday. The play takes place over a weekend, and in true theatrical style, a visitor arrives. It is Catherine’s estranged sister. Oh, and is that someone else at the door? Enter a student of Catherine’s father, Hal, who is hell bent on riffling through her father’s old notebooks. The question is: has Catherine inherited her father’s genius – or madness?

Tickets, The Queen Mother Theatre, Woodside Car Park, Walsworth Road, Hitchin, SG4 9SP

Auditions, Good Things, Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City, Fri 13 Jan and Sun 15 Jan


For anyone who hasn’t trodden the boards since they last played an angel in the school nativity, here’s a golden opportunity. Auditions are taking place this weekend for the Liz Lochhead play Good Things. Actually, the Barn probably won’t thank me for saying that, what I imagine they’re looking for is pretty hot (and by that I mean talented) actors to join them, not rusty would-be thesps. Liz Lochhead’s play is set in a charity shop.  Susan Love, who is about to *celebrate* her 50th birthday, is a shop volunteer. (I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like to face fifty, but fortunately it’s a long way off). Susan has got a lot on her plate: she’s just found out the news that her ex-husband is about to marry again, and she’s also looking after her father and her teenage daughter. Sounds like a barrel of laughs? Well, it is a comedy, and it’s open to all to audition for parts. I think the comedy comes from the random assortment of people who visit the charity shop, all of whom have advice to give.

Auditions, Barn Theatre, Handside Lane, Welwyn Garden City, Fri 13 Jan, 8pm; Sun 15 Jan, 10am

Alternative Letchworth, Broadway Gallery, until Sun 19 February


If you like quirky and different, this one could be for you. And if you haven’t yet been to the Broadway Gallery, it’s definitely worth a visit – light and bright and airy, full of interesting stuff, and, as you would hope, a fab cafe. This exhibition takes a look at counter-culture and radicalism in the first Garden City. Photographs and costumes and on Sat 21 Jan, you can do an afternoon tour with the curator herself. As I’ve matured, I’ve become increasingly curious about Letchworth and its pioneering past (including the world’s first ever roundabout) and I felt extremely uplifted after my last visit to the Broadway Gallery so I’m definitely going to check this out.

Broadway Gallery, 2 The Arcade, Letchworth, SG6 3EW

One Man, Two Guvnors, Barn Theatre, Fri 20-Sat 28 Jan


This doesn’t start until the end of next week, but I know people on the inside and I can tell you now that tickets for One Man, Two Guvnors are being snapped up. I saw the James Corden version when it first opened and for those of you who saw it, I’m sure you’ll remember the thing with the sandwich. How the Barn deals with a sandwich gag remains to be seen, but the performances I’ve seen at this theatre are always top notch and great fun. And for anyone who does go along to the Barn auditions this weekend for Good Things, you can start to imagine what it would be like to perform here.

Tickets  Barn Theatre, Handside Lane, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6ST

Deliciously Ella With Friends, Chorleywood Bookshop, Weds 25 Jan


I bought both of Ella’s books and have tried many of the recipes while still eating everything and everything. I think that for me, healthy eating is a case of embracing food generally and trying more rather than leaving out. A storm has been brewing recently about the term ‘clean eating’, but that aside, I can’t wait to meet Ella. I’ve been asked to interview her on the night, so any Muddy readers who are thinking of coming along, please find me to say hello afterwards. Sweet potato brownies I haven’t tried, but I do now always have maple syrup and coconut oil to hand. Tickets are £25 which of course includes a copy of the book. Signing and selfies also available.

Deliciously Ella with Friends, The Junction, Christ Church, Chorleywood, WD3 5SG, 7pm

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