Giffords Circus, to Sun 24 Sept
This year the inimitable Giffords Circus is recreating a 17th-century Spanish court and putting on a candle-lit international gymnastic show with dancing horses, a live band and everyone’s favourite clown Tweedy. It kicks off on Friday 12 May at the circus’s home ground of Fennells Farm near Stroud, then tours Gloucs, Oxon and London until landing bang smack in Wilts from 24 August for 2 weeks. Worth booking early, this one.
There and Back Again – An Odessey, the egg, Bath, Sat 8 & Sun 9 July
Ulysses and his mates go on a fantastic voyage and outwit the fates to find his way home. Homer’s epic adventure recreated using table-top props and puppets.
Frome Festival, venues around Frome, Fri 7-Sun 16 July
The funky Bollywood Brass Band opens the 17th Frome Festival with an extravaganza of Indian dance, film and food. The fun continues over the week with the likes of Mock the Week‘s Andy Parsons, Jeremy Hardy, The Wonderstuff, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Germaine Green, Gyles Brandreth, Felicity Lott, Stephanie Cole, Ann Widdicombe and local talent.
Open air Shakespeare, Glastonbury Abbey, 12-16 July
In what must be one of the most spectacular settings for outdoor thespian activity: Durham University’s Castle Theatre Company’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream (Weds 12 Jul) and the Butterfly Theatre company’s promenade production of Romeo & Juliet, Fri 14, Sat 15 & Sun 16 July).
National Trust Big Camp Weekend, dates throughout July and August
Crack out the marshmallows! Fill your hip flask! The National Trust Big Camp Weekends take place in various venues across the south of England, offering you and the nippers chance to sleep al fresco and stargaze amid beautiful surroundings. In Buscot Park in Oxfordshire, you can camp by the River Thames on Sat 15 July, or you can pitch up at
Hinton Ampner in Hants 29-30 July, or Osterley Park and House and Morden Hall Park on 21-22 July. None in Wilts that I can find but watch this space!
Pitt Fest Remixed, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Sat 29 July
No, not a celebration of Brad Pitt (hey, every day is that kinda Pitt Fest in the Muddy office), rather the annual one-day festival at Oxford’s excellent museum. Visitors explore the collections via performances, workshops, tours and talks around the cases, plus there’s live music.
Pitt Rivers Museum, South Parks Road, Oxford, prm.ox.ac.uk
Dinosaur World, Banbury Museum, 22 July – 9 Sept
This is a summer hols saviour if you have little ones who love dinosaurs. At Banbury Museum they can create their own dinosaur lands, creature, masks and fossil collages and even a hatching dino baby. It’s on Saturdays and every day during the Oxon school holidays, with two daily sessions: 10:30am – 12:30pm or 2pm – 4pm.
Cogges Beer & Cider Festival, Cogges Manor Farm, Witney, Oxon, 21-23 July
Ultra-local booze from within a 30 mile radius will be served up at Cogges Beer & Cider Festival. The action takes place in the 17th century barns, complete with Morris Dancers (let’s hope they don’t drink’n’dance) and there’s a bouncy castle to keep the kids happy while you quaff those hops.
Kew The Music, Kew Gardens, Tues 11 – Sun 16 July
Amid the tropical palms lurk some major pop stars in Kew Gardens, West London, the gloriously verdant setting for this summer’s picnic concert series. Acts include Razorlight (put your shirt back on Johnny Borrell please, this is genteel Kew), All Saints, James and soul diva Mary J Blige,
The Postal Museum, London, from 28 July
How’s this for seeing London from a different angle – The new Postal Museum opens this month, with its 15 minute Mail Rail ride on the underground tracks that delivered the city’s post for 75 years. One for any Postman Pat fans in your household.
Phoenix Place, London WC1, postalmuseum.org
Lovebox Festival, Tower Hamlets, London, 14 – 15 July
Calling all midlife ravers – head to the consistently bangin’ Lovebox in London’s Victoria Park for all your dance music needs this summer. The line-up is strong, with Frank Ocean, Chase & Status, Jamie xx, Solange, and Rag ’n’ Bone Man among the acts.
Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London E3, loveboxfestival.com
Alice, Oxford University Parks, 15 July – 19 Aug
More from quirky Oxford theatre company Creation. This time they invite you to fall down a rabbit hole in the green gorgeousness of University Parks for a family-friendly production of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. This particular wonderland is in a Big Top so inclement weather be damned!
Hampton Court Flower Show, until 9 July
Missed Chelsea Flower Show? Quick, Hampton Court is on this week. New this year is Gardens for a Changing World which explores how we need to adapt our gardens for the future. There’s 300 stalls with gardening products and food, a butterfly dome, talks by celeb chefs and Plant Village, while children’s activities include a cookery school and seed sowing.
The Full Bronte, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Oxford, Mon 17 – Weds 19 July
A theatrical homage to the legendary literary sisters, this Creation Theatre production melds comedy, storytelling, music and games and has been described by one critic as “the anarchic love child of French & Saunders and Hinge & Bracket”. Wowzers. Catch it in Oxford following its sell-out run in Edinburgh and on national tour. (If you’re on hols then worry not, it returns 24-26 Aug.)
Battleproms Picnic Concert, Blenheim Palace, Sat 22 July
Bring out the bunting, wave your flags and get territorial with your picnic blankets! It’s the annual Blenheim Palace Battle Proms Picnic Concert this month. Expect an exceptional evening of classical music, carefully choreographed Spitfire, cavalry and aerial freefall displays, dramatic cannon fire and a stunning firework finale.
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxon, blenheimpalace.com
Giacometti, Tate Modern, 10 May – 10 Sept
Here comes a biggie. Tate Modern presents the UK’s first major retrospective of Alberto Giacometti for 20 years. Celebrated as a sculptor, painter and draughtsman, Giacometti’s distinctive elongated figures are some of the most instantly recognisable works of modern art in Tate Modern’s ambitious and wide-ranging exhibition of over 250 works. It includes rarely seen plasters and drawings and showcases the full evolution of Giacometti’s career across five decades, from early works such as Head of a Woman [Flora Mayo]1926 to iconic bronze sculptures such as Walking Man I 1960.
Grayson Perry, ‘The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!’ To 10 Sept
This London exhibition by Grayson Perry – national treasure, cross dresser and rather decent artist as it happens – promises to touch on many themes including popularity and art, masculinity and the current cultural landscape and is bound to sell out, so get to it people!
Kensington Gardens, London, W2, serpentinegalleries.org
Antony and Cleopatra, the RST, Stratford, until Thu 7 Sept
Shakespeare’s tragic love story between hot-headed Egyptian queen Cleopatra, played here by a luminous Josette Simon, and Antony Byrne’s Roman general Mark Antony. It’s directed by Iqbal Khan with music composed by award-winning Birmingham singer-songwriter Laura Mvula.
rsc.org.uk, Tel:01789 403493
RSC’s Rome Series: Julius Caesar, RST, Stratford, until Sat 9 Sept
Photography by Helen Maybanks
The well-received Julius Caesar runs in rep side-by-side with Antony and Cleopatra–the first double-bill in the RSC’s four-play Rome series. Titus Andronicus and Coriolanus will complete the quartet of Shakespeare’s most political and bloody thrillers in June and September. Season director Angus Jackson brought the brilliant atom bomb drama Oppenheimer, and Don Quixote, to the RSC stage. He’s directing Julius Caesar, which has strong performances by Andrew Woodall as Caesar, Alex Waldmann as Brutus, James Corrigan’s Mark Antony and Martin Hutson’ as Cassius.
rsc.org.uk, 01789 403493
Come Fly With Me Summer Stage School, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, Mon 31 July to Fri 11 Aug
Got a tween or a teen with ambitions to be the next Ryan Gosling or Emma Stone? Then quick, get them booked into this summer stage school, which will show 11 to 19 year olds the ropes (literally – they’re going to be doing aerial flying!) of musical theatre, including performing songs from musicals like Mary Poppins and Footloose and acting out extracts from shows such as Metamorphosis and Ostrich Boys. And it’s not just for front-of-stage types – the more technically minded can get their hands on the lighting controls or muck in with set design behind the scenes. At the end of the two weeks, there will be a performance on the Everyman’s main stage where you can feel your heart fill with pride.
Places cost £200 and can be booked at the Box Office on 01242 572573 or at everymantheatre.org.uk
Star Wars Identities, O2, Greenwich, runs to Sept 2017
A collection of some 200 props, models, costumes and artwork from the original Star Wars films, plus an interactive identity quest for Star Wars nuts at STAR WARSIdentities at the 02 in Greenwich. It asks the deep question ‘what force shapes you?’ The obvious answer is the sugared doughnut but I don’t think George Lucas has invented that character yet.
Holland Park Opera Season starts, 1 June – 29 July
I remember taking my dear departed dad to a Holland Park opera a few years ago – it was masses of fun so I can definitely recommend from personal experience. There are 6 shows, including Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Puccini’s La Rondine, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Will Todd and even a performance by the Royal Ballet School. Tickets vary in price, from £77 at the top end down to a fiver so worth checking out.