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What’s in – all the fun stuff online this week

Nowhere to go this week? Your lockdown fairy godmother is here to transport you to fun at home with my curated to virtual lit fests, TV, local theatre, film, art and more.

Kids

Rainbows are popping up everywhere at the moment to support the NHS and symbolise hope (something we all need right now), and artists are sharing their skills by creating print-outs for kids to stick up on windows. Damien Hirst’s Butterfly Rainbow is available for download here (a limited edition of the work will also be sold, with profits donated to the NHS), or head over to Quentin Blake’s House of Illustration site for 10 downloadable rainbow e-cards (below). 

Keeping it arty, the Tate has loads of activities and games for children to download and play online from making Andy Warhol-style pop art prints, to protest posters inspired by artists Bob and Roberta Smith (let’s hope they don’t get any ideas about bedtimes). Meanwhile, for older kids, cartoonist Pete McKee is hosting 30-minute ‘Cartoon Workshop for Beginners’ classes on his YouTube channel every Wednesday afternoon.

For help with homeschooling, wing your way over to BBC Bitesize – the online learning platform has heaps of lessons and daily classes, plus a host of celeb faces to lend a hand (hiiiiii Sir David Attenborough!). 

And finally, Tom Hardy – in your living room. I repeat TOM HARDY, in your living room! Well, kind of. The dashing British actor has filmed a series of bedtime stories for CBeebies which you can watch (with or without your kids) on BBC iPlayer. 

LOCAL OPTION: If you’re sick of making cupcakes and banana loaf with the kids, brilliant Berkshire biz, The Real Macaron Company has launched a series of simple cookery classes, available on their Facebook and YouTube channels. Hi ho it’s off to work they go on Blondies, Brownies, Flatbread and flourless chocolate cake. Yum.

Keep your brood bouncing around like Tigger during day 3567 of lockdown. Yes it can be done, thanks to The Little Gym in Windsor. They’ve created age-appropriate online classes, all accessible via their YouTube channel. Live classes launch this week as well via The Little Gym UK, simply subscribe and tire the little blighters out. This is your cue to slink off and enjoy the peace.

Culture 

Bookworms rejoice! Three-day virtual lit fest Big Book Weekend kicks off this week (8 – 10 May), bringing together the best of the cancelled British literary festivals this year. Headliners include Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize Bernardine Evaristo, Michael Morpurgo and Luke Jennings, author of the books which inspired Killing Eve. 

There’s more author action over on Penguin’s website with the publisher’s At Home With Penguin series which streams interviews from authors’ living rooms, kitchens, and studies. This week you can watch bestselling author of Everything I Know About LoveSunday Times columnist, co-host of hit podcast The High Low and all-round cool girl Dolly Alderton (7 May). 

LOCAL OPTION: Cliveden Literary Festival, at Cliveden House in Taplow, Berkshire, isn’t until later this year (14 – 15 Nov), so fingers crossed it will still go ahead. Meanwhile, you can check out loads of the festival’s past talks and events online on its YouTube channel. 

Theatre 

Big fan of Shakespeare? You’ll love the line up this week! The National Theatre has a new live streaming venture which will give you the opportunity to see some of the venue’s best productions from home. Shows are released every Thursday at 7pm on YouTube – this week’s screening is Simon Godwin’s sell-out production of Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra starring Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo (above).

For more of the Bard, you can see Emma Rice’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring Ncuti Gatwa (below), and The Tempest, starring Roger Allam and Colin Morgan over on BBC iPlayer. The productions, form The Globe Theatre archives, are available to watch for free until the end of August. 

And then, there’s a British Sign Language production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, part of the Globe to Globe Festival where all of Shakespeare’s plays were performed in a different language. You can stream the full-length show here. 

The English National Ballet has launched a new venture on its YouTube and Facebook page called Wednesday Watch Party. Every Wed at 7pm a full-length performance will be available to stream for free for 48 hours. This week you can see Rudolf Nureyev’s production of Romeo & Juliet (6 – 8 May).

LOCAL OPTION: We’re huge fans of The Watermill Theatre near Newbury and it’s doing its bit to keep us entertained in lockdown by streaming Q&As on Mondays followed by Taking Part sessions on Tuesdays. This week is Acting Week, and Lucy Keirl and Lauryn Redding are running two sessions – family drama games and an acting masterclass.

Film 

Pass the popcorn! Curzon Home Cinema has a killer showreel including brand new release The Assistant, starring Julia Garner (Ozark) – a new take on the #MeToo movement. You can also find weekly live Q&As to accompany screenings that you can watch via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Curzon Home Cinema.

I love the BFI (British Film Institute) – it’s such a cool, creative space that shows really interesting, indie films – and I’ll definitely be popping in for a coffee and a screening when it reopens. For now, I’m making do with the venue’s online offering of free content and short films to watch online, plus you can rent feature-length films from just £4.50. 

Over on Instagram, there’s a new venture Viral Film Festival, a virtual film fest every Thurs – Sun. Virtual tickets on the page announce what film you should watch (and where to find it), followed by an Instagram Live discussion with others who’ve watched the film. 

Art & museums 

The British Museum has just revealed its revamped online collection – the biggest database in the world, with over 4million objects and artefacts to scroll through including loads from Ancient Egypt. The collections also include over a quarter of a million new object photographs, including portraits by Damien Hirst. 

On BBC iPlayer you can watch new series Museums in Quarantine which takes a look inside national museum collections during quarantine. Half an hour episodes include an exploration of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and The British Museum.

There are also plenty of virtual tours to dig into from The National Gallery which has teamed up with Google Street View to show us the exhibition rooms from home; Tate Modern is also offering a virtual tour of the new Andy Warhol exhibition complete with a commentary from curators Gregor Muir and Fiontán Moran; The Science Museum has virtual tours, along with online games and fun kids activities. The collection is also available to view online, with over 325,000 objects and items, many pf which you can view virtually in 3D

LOCAL OPTION: The biggest open studio event in the country, Oxfordshire Art Weeks, usually has hundreds of artists opening up their workspaces for us to have a snoop. This year, for its 38th edition, the festival is moving online with walk-through exhibitions and daily through-the keyhole-interviews with different artists (2 – 25 May).

Music

Fancy a West End musical this week? You’re in luck as producer Cameron Mackintosh has now made a video of Les Misérables – The Staged Concert available to download online. The concert, filmed in 2019 at the Gielgud Theatre, features all the classic songs – Master of the House, On My Own, Do You Hear the People Sing. Download costs £9.99, with £5 of each sale going to charity. 

Or, if it’s opera you’re after, Opera North has now made the whole Wagner’s epic Ring cycleavailable to stream for free (above). The series features four full operas – Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung – and lasts for 15 hours. Phew! 

LOCAL OPTION: Over 13,000 people usually head over to Magdalen Bridge to sing in May Day morning – but with celebrations cancelled this year, Magdalen College Oxford’s choir gave a virtual performance. Watch it here

TV 

This week on the small screen you can watch Sheridan Smith star in the first episode ITV’s new Isolation Stories – a series of short dramas providing snapshots into life under lockdown. The series, produced by Oscar-nominated writer and producer Jeff Pope, has taken just one month to complete and has been filmed during lockdown. Watch Mon – Thurs on ITV 1. 

Meanwhile, the third instalment of The A Word returns to BBC One this Tuesday (5 May). The series begins two years after the last, with Joe processing his parent’s divorce through the filter of his autism. 

The juggle is real right now as you wrestle work, Zoom meet-ups, alcohol consumption, kids and homeschooling, with mum guilt. Your conscience can really suck the fun out of life sometimes. Workin’ Moms is your medicine – and the fourth series drops on Netflix this week (4 May). 

Also coming to Netflix with a new season is Dead to Me, starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. The show’s brilliantly witty and tackles complex female friendships. Binge the first season quick, before it’s released on Fri (8 May). 

And finally, you can watch new documentary Becoming from May 6 – which follows the former First Lady Michelle Obama on her book tour. Bound to be brilliant.

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