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This weekend

FRI 22 – SUN 24 NOV


COMEDY: Rob Beckett – Wollop, The Hexagon Reading, Fri 22 Nov

Comedian Rob Beckett Wallop show 2019

Rob Beckett, or the Mouth from the South as he’s so charmingly known, is also doing the rounds with a set entitled Wallop at The Hexagon Reading.


THEATRE: The Prince & The Pauper, Watermill Theatre Bagnor, Now – Sat 4 Jan 2019

The Princec and the Pauper The Watermill Theatre Newbury pauper twins tie to the chair the prince in disguise

The Watermill Theatre is renowned for its high quality bookish Christmas shows – and this year it’s The Prince & The Pauper. It’s a superb alternative if you’re not a fan of panto. So don’t expect a camp, thigh slapping prince. Funny, fearless and brilliant family entertainment, it’s always a treat at Chrimbo.


THEATRE: The Secret Garden, Theatre Royal Windsor, Fri 22 – Sat 23 Nov

I LOVED this book as a child, but Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel, The Secret Garden, has had a theatrical reboot and it’s won all the awards. Thanks to composer Lucy Simon and the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman, this classic children’s story has been beautifully reimagined into a musical and is not to be missed.


FAMILY FUN: Lapland UK, Whitmoor Forest Ascot, now – Tue 24 Dec 

Lapland UK 2019 girl elf witth long blonde hair and rainbow pink and purple skirt

Good news, kids, Santa’s quit the North Pole, perpetual darkness and Northern Lights, to set up shop in the UK. The big man heard post-Brexit Britain will be a tax haven. Anyhoo, they’ve only gone and set up shop in Berkshire. Journey through snowy enchanted forests, to Santa’s chalet, where he and his elves need a little assistance in preparing for the 25th December. It’s a four-hour immersive experience so pack the tramadol and Kendal Mint Cake.

Lapland UK, Whitmoor Forest, Swinley Road, Ascot SL5 8BD


SHOPPING: The Country Homes & Interiors Christmas Show, Stonor Park Henley, Fri 22 – Sun 24 Nov

Stonor Home and INteriors Christmas

The Country Homes & Interiors Christmas Show at Stonor Park, Henley is a surefire way to sort out your Crimbo shopping. I’ll be at the mulled wine stand from Thu 21-2Sun 4 Nov (with small sleep breaks, obvs).


COMEDY: Scummy Mummies, Corn Exchange Newbury, Fri 22 Nov

Scummy Mummies wearing gold all in on suits

They’re baaaaack! Comedians Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson can;t stay away, but that’s because we can’t get enough of their bonkers comedy show. Based on the UK’s number one kids and family podcast, the Scummy Mummies celebrate everything from drinking wine at teatime to hiding from the PTA (standard Muddy behaviour). Not to be missed.


HERITAGE: National Lottery Celebration, various National Trust

Cliveden House Hotel gilded gates to the newly renovated sounding chamber

We’re spoilt for choice in Berkshire and the surrounding counties for gorgeous National Trust sites. If you’re not a member of the NT, from this weekend you can blow raspberries at everyone who’s bought an annual pass. To celebrate the National Lottery’s 25th birthday, you can enter some of the venues for free if you bring along a National Lottery ticket (plus, if you actually win the lottery you’ll be able to buy one, so it’s kind of like house hunting).

Participating venues include Cliveden in Maidenhead and Basildon Park in Lower Basildon (Sat 23 – Fri 29 Nov), Greys Court, nr Henley (23 – 29 Nov), Hughenden Manor (23 – 29 Nov) in High Wycombe and Waddesdon Manor, nr Aylesbury (27 – 29 Nov).


FAMILY FUN: The Carnival of Animals – Lantern Making Workshop, Nicholsons Shopping Centre Maidenhead, Sat 23 Nov

The Maidenhead lantern parade (Sat 7 dec) is a firm fave and a wonderful Christmas tradition. But don’t just admire the twinkly lovliness from afar, get involved. Once again Norden Farm will run its brilliant lantern making workshops so you can take part with your own illuminated animal creation. It’s a jungle out there, get creative and light em up.


ACTIVITY: Windsor On Ice, Alexandra Gardens Windsor, now – Sun 5 Jan

Ice skates in front of red cupbaord

Windsor On Ice is back for the winter and whether you’re Olympic standard or a ‘cling on’ like me, they’re great for a family day out, or a fun slippy-slidey Christmas party. There are two rinks here. The main one is under cover and there’s a smaller open-air rink. There’s also food and other attractions including an ice bar and grill. Sessions are for 45 mins. See you in A&E, I mean on the ice.


WALKS: Illuminated Woodland Walk, Basildon Park, now – 31 Jan

illuminated woods Basildon park Berkshire

Wrap up, wellies on and trudge through the woods to see the trees in all their glory – preferably before the  leaves get blown off. Now that we are spending most of our time in darkness, we might as well get something out of it. In this case, an enchanting woodland walk, twinkly lights and all the Winter wonderland magic that goes with it. No need to book and if you need to warm up, have a mooch around the house from 23 Nov as house has its Christmas party glad rags on.


ACTIVITY: Lantern Making For The Brave, 101 Arts Creation Space Newbury, Sat 23 – Sun 24 Nov

Octopus The Carnival of Animals lantern parade

Oooh, sparkly lights! The annual Newbury lantern parade is a really special event. Rather than ooh and ahh on the sidelines, why not make a lantern and take part in the procession on Sun 15 Dec. Work with pros to create a giant lantern – an enormous illuminated stiletto, anyone? – to carry in the Festival of Light! Then join the fun and light up!


EXHIBITION: Swan Upping at Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery Cookham, now – 22 Mar 2020

Stanley Spencer Swan Upping at Cookham Oil Painting Tate

On loan from the Tate, Stanley Spencer’s most famous paintings – Swan Upping at Cookham, is on display to celebrate 100 years since its completion. Inspired by the sounds he heard from Holy Trinity Church as Cookham villagers as the annual swan count took palce, he started work on this oil painting in 1915, but was only half-way through when forced to leave the village to serve in The Great War.


EVENT; Winter Wonderland, Forbury Garden Reading, now – Sun 5 Jan

It’s back! After a mini break, Reading’s Winter Wonderland is popping up at Forbury Gardens with more festive fun than a Mariah Carey video. There’s an ice rink, fun fair, Aprés bar, Santa’s grotto, German sausage and lots and lots of mulled wine.


EVENT: Wokingham Winter Carnival, Wokingham Town Centre, Sun 24 Nov

Wokingham Winter Carnival spinning tea cjups ride

A free event held in Wokingham town centre from 11am. This year it’s entitled ‘A Space Adventure’ and it is massive, with fun fair rides, over 100 food and craft stalls, non-stop free entertainment from magic shows to jugglers and clowns. Santa’s Grotto in the library from 11am to 3pm and the highlight of the day, the Carnival Procession which starts at 4pm and winds its way through the town as dusk falls, ending in carols led by the Town Mayor. .


SPORT: Santa Dash 5k, Long Walk Windsor, Sun 24 Nov

Santa Dash Windsor runners dressed as Father Christmas running Long Walk Windsor with Windsor Castle in the background

With so many parties, drinks and mince pies going down the hatch a cheeky 5k in a Santa suit could take you one step closer to not looking like a Christmas pud by 25 Dec. Dust off your trainers and make for the start line on Long Walk Windsor and run 5k towards the castle and through Windsor town centre and raise a few quid for children’s hospice Alexander Devine.

Alternatively, there’s a Santa Dash at Swinley Forest in Bracknell Sun 24 Nov, 10am, in aid of Thames Hospice; and Dorney Lake Eton, 1pm, in aid of Alzheimers Dementia Support


LAST CHANCE: En Vogue, Basildon Park Lower Basildon, Mon 18 Nov


Strike a pose there’s nothing to it and saunter up to Basildon Park for a fabulous fashion exhibition. Lady Iliffe graced the glossy pages of Vogue in 1966, with the mansion as the backdrop to Henry Clarke’s stylish portraits. Bringing that shoot to life, you can rifle through her wardrobe and drool over the Dior, Valentino and Chanel. If you missed out on the V&A’s Dior exhibition, this will scratch that fashion itch.



XMAS: A Candlelit Christmas, Stonor Park Henely, Thu 28 Nov – Sun 15 Dec

Historic house Stonor Park Henley dressed christmas tree presents and antique toys illuminated by candlelight

Stonor opens its doors for Christmas for the fourth time, with this year’s theme being A Candlelit Christmas (from 28 Nov). The house will be decorated with holly, mistletoe, sweet scented pine and greenery grown by the Head Gardener, plus a 20ft Victorian decorated Christmas Tree in the Gothic Hall.


THEATRE: Aladdin, South Hill Park Bracknell, Fri 30 Nov – Sat 4 Jan

Aladdin at South Hill Park Bracknell panto cast shot

Aladdin will be rubbing his lamp this year in Bracknell, while dame Brad Clapson is up to his neck in laundry (I hear you) as Widow Twankey. South Hill Park always put on a fun, a creatively staged show, so get on that magic carpet to the box office pronto..



EVENT: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park London, Thu 21 Nov – Sun 5 Jan

hyde park winter wonderland illuminated heater skelter and fairground ride London

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 a new 70m observation wheel, Magical Ice Kingdom’s A Christmas Carol, Paddington on Ice, a Bavarian village offering an authentic Oktoberfest experience; karaoke cabins, ice sculpting workshops, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club and more.


Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane work is the subject of a new V&A exhibition (until 8 March). Tilda Swinton (below), Björk and, er, Sir David Attenborough are among his subjects and he’s also created 10 new works for the show.

Meanwhile this autumn’s big-hitter is William Blake at Tate Britain, below, (until 2 Feb 2020). The visionary painter and poet’s work will be imaginatively displayed – some of it blown up to enormous scale using digital technology, other works in an immersive room that recreates the space in which Blake first showed his art in 1809.

Elsewhere Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican (4 Oct – 19 Jan) is probably the nearest I’ll get to clubbing this autumn. It’s such a cool concept – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s, including the Berlin cabaret scene in Weimar Germany and Harlem’s jazz clubs and lifesize recreations of some of the hotspots.

Then there’s a major retrospective of 88-year-old Bridget Riley‘s life’s work at the Hayward Gallery (23 Oct – 26 Jan), taking in her famous monochrome, makes-your-eyes-go-funny Op Art paintings from the 1960s among its 70 year career span.

And finally, playing “spot the Angel Of The North” as we drive up the A1 to Newcastle is a family ritual in our house (Geordie in-laws, you see), so I’ve got a soft spot for Antony Gormley’s striking sculpture. His new show at the Royal Academy (until 3 Dec) is billed as his most ambitious in a decade and involves six tonnes of steel mesh, eight km of coiled tubing and a gallery flooded with clay and sea water.

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