Not a loyalty scheme, but the latest exhibition at the brilliant Stanley Spencer Gallery on Cookham High Street. Although more famous for his local landscapes, his portraits are world class – in fact one on his first self portraits hangs in the Tate Britain. This new exhibition is an intimate snapshot of the artist’s private life, demonstrating his immense talent at capturing the mood and character of those closest to him.
If you have littlies, the post Crimbo come down can be, well, challenging. Take your kiddie-fuelled commotion to the ocean at The Lookout Discovery Centre’s Under The Sea show. Dive in and discover the creatures that live there and help protect them through different challenges.
Love a day at the races but can’t wait for Royal Ascot? Saddle up for a January raceday with a little less pomp and ceremony (ok a lot less), but the fashion is fabulous (coats, faux fur and boots) and you can have a little flutter to spend on the totally unnecessary shoes you have seen in the sales.
It’s the vinyl countdown: 8 contestants bring their fave LP to battle it out to be crowned 2019 Vinyl Frontier Album Champion. The audience chooses the winner of each round. Last year’s winner was The Special’s debut LP. Come and have a go if you think you’re muso enough.
Dry January? Er, what’s that? No me neither, not a clue. Ginuary on the other hand, has my name written all over it. Head along to Thames Valley Wine School (17 Jan in Reading and 18 Jan in Windsor), get in the spirit, quaff the good stuff and leave with plenty of ginspiration. Taaaaaaxi!
SPORT: Windsor Winter Half Marathon, Dorney Lake Eton, Sun 20 Jan
If you’re on of those smug people who has managed to keep on running despite the wine and cheese tempting you to fall off the wagon – good on you. You might be interested in shifting unwanted Crimho pounds with a easy peasy 13-mile Sunday jog. I’ll see you at the start line… one day.
DANCE: Bolshoi Live: La Bayadere, UK live cinema broadcast, Sun 20 Jan
An iconic 19th-century Russian ballet, La Bayadère was originally performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in St Petersburg in 1877, and was unknown to the West until 1960s – Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn’s starring roles at the Royal Opera House in 1963, went down in dance history. Now the Bolshoi are broadcasting live La Bayadére from Russia with love. A story of love, death and vengeful judgement set in India.
WELLBEING: Ultimate Bliss Workshop, Inspire Hot Yoga Maidenhead, Sat 26 Jan
If you need to hit the reset button after the endurance test that is Christmas, I hear you sister. Head to Inspire Hot Yoga for Lucy Jackson’s Ultimate Bliss workshop – two hours of relaxing deep stretching and meditation. You’ll come out feeling so light, it’ll feel like those mince pies never passed you lips.
EVENT: An Evening of Opera and Wine, The Vineyard Stockcross, Sun 27 Jan
Xiao-yang Li, Offerings to Pythia of the East (XII), 2017
If the box set bingeathons and reality TV has left you feeling like a cultural blancmange, then pull up a velvet-cushioned pew for an evening of opera and wine (there will be food too) at The Vineyard Hotel in Stockcross. Belshazzar’s Feast is is on the menu and each wine will be hand selected from the famous 30,000 bottle wine cellar and paired with the characters of each performance. How brilliant is that?! See how the pros do it, the try it yourself while watching Luther. £25pp
COMEDY: Dirty Dusting, Corn Exchange Newbury, Wed 30 Jan
A chance wrong number gives three cleaning ladies a great idea: ‘Why not run a sex chat line?’ After all, their age and appearance won’t matter on the phone and, providing they can keep this a secret from their boss, they could be on to a winner. Starring Crissy Rock (Benidorm and I’m a Celebrity), Leah Bell, Dolores Porretta and Andrew Green, this is a heart-warming, feel good comedy which sold out in 2017.
THEATRE: Murder For Two, Watermill Theatre Newbury, Wed 30 Jan – Sat 23 Feb
I reviewed Murder For Two when it premiered at The Watermill last year, and after a run in London’s West End, this hilarious high-energy whodunit is back. Starring Ed MacArthur and Jeremy Legat, it’s a madcap murder mystery with a twist, a hysterical blend of music, mayhem and murder.
Guy & Dolls, Mill at Sonning, until Sat 23 Feb
Get your glad rags on because The Mill at Sonning are bringing New York to Berks with Guys & Dolls. Director Joseph Pitcher and Conductor Charles Ingles, who put on last year’s My Fair Lady, are back along with the promise of post-show piano tunes on Friday and Saturday evenings and cocktails from the Waterwheel Bar – music to my ears. First person to spy George wins Christmas at the Clooneys (joke, obvs). Ticket price also includes lunch/dinner.
SHOPPING: Windsor Auctions Antiques and Collectables, Unit 18B Vansittart Estate Windsor, Sat 26 Jan
The High Street this is not, but there’s something satisfying about discovering a unique gem, built to last whether it be furniture, knick knacks, art or jewellery. Windsor Auction’s monthly sale is a goodie and Celebrity Antique Road Trip are filming too. Get ready for your close up.
A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle, until Sat 26 Jan
Roll up roll up, it’s your last chance to see Meghan’s Givenchy bridal gown designed by Artistic Director Clare Waight Keller is, her 5m veil embroidered with flora symbolising the 53 Commonwealth countries and the 1932 Queen Mary diamond and platinum tiara loaned to the Duchess by the Queen. We can all look forward to the collection of Royal maternity clothes in the summer. (Only joking).
COMEDY: Stephen K Amos: Bouquets and Brickbats, Thu 31 Jan – Sat 2 Feb
Brexit. Trump: things have been looking bleak. Comic maestro Stephen K Amos might not be able to provide bread to the hungry masses, but no one else is going to put on a better circus. Leave your problems behind and who knows? Maybe the world will seem just a little bit brighter.
Aladdin, Hexagon Reading, until Sun 6 Jan
Last chance to rub Mr Tumble’s panto lamp and enjoy dame Paul Morse’s Daz doorstep challenge as Widow Twankey. Oh and not forgetting the hot half naked genie. Justin may make you reach for the gin bottle but any small people in your charge probably worship him. Reading’s mega panto is always a sell out, so get on that magic carpet to the box office pronto. Until Sun 6 Jan 2019. You can read my review here.
Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal Windsor, until Sun 6 Jan
Have you been to Windsor panto yet? Well crack on. Time is running out for you to enjoy the filthy family fun of this traditional panto with a famous fox, a Governess and a Brexit babe dame. Basil Brush returns to star in the Windsor panto alongside Anne Hegerty fromThe Chase and 80s Radio 1 DJ Mike Read. Until Sun 6 Jan 2019. Review’s right here.
Dick Whittington & His Cat, South Hill Park Bracknell, until Sat 5 Jan
With a whiff of X Factor style desperation, Dick Whittington and his Cat will be hitting the streets of Bracknell seeking fame and fortune. The South Hill Park production is cleverly staged, very funny with lots of brilliant song and dance routines. I loved it. You can reaaad all abaaaart. I thought it was one of South Hill Park’s best.
The Favourite, from Tues 1 Jan
Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone star in this love-triangle / power battle that looks wonderfully bitchy. Olivia Coleman is Queen Anne, dominated by her scheming courtier Rachel Weisz. When Emma Stone appears at court she is determined to win the Queen’s favour. What ensues is a jaw-dropping power struggle, played out against the backdrop of England during the Restoration.
Mary, Queen of Scots, from Fri 18 Jan
More period queeny drama as Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I battle it out in in 1569. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as her cousin Elizabeth I. Fab costumes, extraordinary make up and good performances are promised but some critics aren’t happy about some historical inaccuracies. What, you mean Elizabeth I doesn’t marry King Eric of Sweden after all? *thud*
Serenity, from Fri 25 Jan
Interstellar co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway reunite for this thriller about a fishing boat captain pulled into a web of deceit when his ex-wife begs him to save her from her abusive new husband.
CHRISTMAS: Kew Gardens, London, now – Sat 5 Jan
A spectacular winter trail with over a million twinkling lights and thousands of laser beams, Kew’s light show is awe-inspiring. You can be mesmerised by the Fire Garden, walk through the moonlit woods and check out the laser garden. Mulled wine, hot choc and spiced cider will help keep you warm and the kids can whizz round on vintage fairground rides whilst looking out for Santa and his elves.
CHRISTMAS: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park London, now – Sun 6 Jan 2019
Go big or go home when it comes to festive fun, London’s Winter Wonderland is huuuuge. Free to enter but once inside, prepare to sell a kidney. The costs can get out of control – particularly if you hit the glühwein a little too hard. What to expect? Winter markets, fairground rides and ice skating. Major attractions this year include the Magical Ice Kingdom Secret Forest, an immersive showcase of woodland animals and mythical creatures created from ice and snow; a Bavarian village offering an authentic Oktoberfest experience; karaoke cabins, ice sculpting workshops, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club, immersive screenings of The Snowman and plus Peter Pan on Ice.
LIVE SCREENINGS: Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, now – Mon 7 Jan
See a live screening of The Nutcracker, followed by 20 screenings of great operas and ballets with memorable casts as the Linbury Theatre (within the ROH) becomes a cinema for 5 weeks. ROH staff and well-known artists will introduce the screenings and on selected weekend matinees, children 5 -15 go free. Opera highlights include La bohème, La Traviata and Otello. Undoubtably, one of the ballet highlights will be Darcey Bussell introducing the screening of Sylvia, starring herself, and offering her unique insights into the role.
MUSIC: Oxford Philharmonic Anniversary Concert, Barbican, London, Sat 12 Jan
The Orchestra is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a concert involving three world-class soloists – Maxim Vengerov, Anne-Sophie Mutter (performing Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins) and Martha Argerich performing Schumann’s piano concerto. The second half of the programme is dedicated to Beethoven’s ground-breaking Eroica Symphony.
THEATRE: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Ourselves, the National Theatre, London, Wed 16 Jan – Sat 2 Mar
Cate Blanchett makes her debut at The National alongside Stephen Dilane in this new play by Martin Crimp, based on Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela. It explores desire, sexual violence and the complicated roles men and women play – blimey!. There’s also a series of talks with members of the production and the playwright throughout the play’s run though Cate isn’t on the menu I’m afraid.
ART: London Art Fair, Islington, London, Wed 16 – Sun 20 Jan
Xiao-yang Li, Offerings to Pythia of the East (XII), 2017
Calling modern art lovers! Get ye over to Islington for this massive art fair offering everything from prints and editions through to major works by internationally renowned artists. There are talks, tours, screenings and curated spaces, plus Photo50, the annual exhibition of contemporary photography and Art Projects, featuring large-scale installations, solo shows and group displays.
CULTURE: Tate Late, Tate Modern, London, Fri 25 Jan
More art, you cultured lot, in this monthly open evening at Tate Modern that includes music, workshops, talks and more as you wander the galleries after hours. This Friday Bridget Minamore, poet, critic, essayist and journalist, will be reading from her debut pamphlet Titanic, which explores love, loss and the struggles we all face in relationships.
THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, London, until 19 Jan
The smash hit of Dickens’ classic adapted by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and directed by Matthew Warchus returns to the Old Vic and this time Stephen Tompkinson stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. This big-hearted and warm production’s unique staging immerses the audience in the story and there’s music and mince pies if you’re still feeling festive.
KIDS: Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Watford, until Sun 27 Jan
Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas! The festive makeover sees Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors can touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.