FRI 6 – SUN 8 DEC
MUDDY’S PICK OF THE WEEKEND
PANTO: Cinderella, The Hexagon Reading, Sat 7 Dec – Sun 5 Jan 2019
He’s baaaaack! CBeebies megastar Justin Fletcher (aka Mr Tumble) is a Reading panto regular and he’ll be laying on the charm with a trowel as Cinderella’s perky Prince. Justin’s slapstick sidekick, Paul Morse, also returns as the dame, with a wardrobe that would make Karl Lagerfeld weep (literally). Reading’s mega panto is always a sell out, so wave your magic wand and book up pronto.
FAMILY FUN: Lapland Wish Store, The Lexicon Bracknell, now – 24 Dec
If you missed out on tickets to Lapland UK, good news, you kids can still get their letters off to Santa at Lapland UK’s very first Wishing Store at The Lexicon Bracknell. It’s a gorgeous immersive letter writing experience with Wish and Squiggle the elves – who make sure those special wishes makes into Santa’s in tray. Book your visit froom now until Christmas Eve.
CHRISTMAS: Christmas At Windsor, Windsor Castle, now – Sun 5 Jan
Something a little spesh at Windsor Castle. No, Meghan and Kate will not be scrapping on the steps of St George’s Chapel. Ogle the 200ft tree from Windsor Great Park and, this year, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the births of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Octagon Dining Room will feature a special display of gifts exchanged between the royal couple during the many Christmases they spent together at the castle.
WORKSHOPS: Wreath workshops, various locations
If you fancy having a crack at creating your own wreath, we aren’t short on workshops in Berkshire with lots springing up over the next few weeks (some come with free festive tipple btw). But be quick to book as tickets are selling like hot mince pies. Secateurs at the ready, let’s go!
THEATRE: The Bear, Norden Farm Maidenhead, now – Sun 29 Dec
From the author who had us ‘Walking in the air…’ and Aled Jones reaching pre-teen musical notes, Raymond Briggs brings us The Bear – the story of a little girl who befriends a mischievous polar bear. It’s got all the warm and fuzzies to be a festive classic.
Hansel & Gretal, South Street Arts Reading, Tue 3 – Mon 30 Dec
The multi-award-winning theatre company, Reading Between The Lines, is back with Hansel & Gretel. Two children lost in the forbidden forest, lured to a creepy cottage by the smell of sweets. Nothing to scary about that… NOT. A childhood classic, given a fresh and imaginative twist.
PANTO: Aladdin, South Hill Park Bracknell, now – Sat 4 Jan 2019
Aladdin will be rubbing his lamp this year in Bracknell and dame Brad Clapson is up to his neck in laundry (I hear you) as Widow Twankey. South Hill Park always put on a fun, their creative staging is award-winning. Jump on that magic carpet and book your tickets pronto.
THEATRE: The Prince & The Pauper, Watermill Theatre Bagnor, now – Sat 4 Jan 2019
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.
WORKSHOPS: Literati & Light Candlemaking Workshop, The Swan At Streatley, Sat 7 Dec
We love a scented candle at Muddy but it’s become something of an addiction – a pricey one at that. SoI’m loving the sound of this brilliant candle-making workshop at The Swan at Streatley (Sat 7 Dec). Run by Justine the creative genius behind Newbury-based Literati and Light – all her luxury scented candles are inspired by books –you’ll learn to make a 240g soy and beeswax candle, choose your one of two scents and enjoy a reading from the books that inspired them.
THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, Wokingham Theatre, now – Sat 14 Dec
It’s Dickens but not as you know it. This is a fun, fresh and lively adaptation of the Christmas classic. A story of second chances – there’s always another day and you can write a brand-new page tomorrow. All the festive feels and a healthy reminder not to be stingy with your gifts.
PANTO: Aladdin, Theatre Royal Windsor, now – Sun 5 Jan
There’s a reason why families return to the Theatre Royal Windsor year after year. Filed under ‘classic cheesefest’, this year they’re putting on Aladdin. Windsor’s brilliant comedy duo, Kevin Cruise and Steven Blakeley are celebrating their 10th year in panto together at the Theatre Royal, so it’s guaranteed to be bigger and more bonkers than ever. Fans of ’80s nostalgia will be thrilled to hear that Paul Nicholas, Marti Webb and Basil Brush are joining the cast. Booooom booooooom!
FAMILY FUN: Christmas Time Travellers, Broad Street and Station forecourt Reading, various dates
Part of Magical Christmas in Reading’s Living Advent Calendar. Having just arrived from their Victorian Christmas celebrations of 1888 and very much in the mood to share it with all, Professor Weft and Ms. Warp perambulate and play carols in their incredible contraption, an H. G. Wells style Time Machine.
COMEDY: The Thinking Drinkers – Heroes of Hooch, Norden Farm Maidenhead, Fri 6 Dec
The Thinking Drinkers return with a brand-new show, a hilarious and intoxicating look at history’s greatest drinkers. Enjoy five free drinks as the award-winning experts reveal how alcohol has inspired pioneering explorers, politicians and painters in equal measure, from Plato and Picasso, to Nelson, Napoleon and Norm from Cheers. You’ll learn a lot, laugh a lot and, don’t forget, you get five free drinks.
MUSIC: A Hollywood Christmas, Reading Minster, Fri 6 Dec
Join Music at Reading for an evening full of glitz and glamour, featuring your favourite Crimbo tunes from across the pond.
PANTO: Sleeping Beauty, Corn Exchange Newbury, now – Sat 4 Jan
I got insanely drunk on my 18th birthday but Sleeping Beauty celebrated hers by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel and falling asleep for hundreds of years. Bummer, eh! Step up Nanny and the dream team as they battle to save the day. Will they defeat the evil fairy? Will love conquer all? You know the drill.
DAYS OUT: The Magic of Christmas, Chobham Adventure Farm, Chobham, now – Tue 24 Dec
This immersive 2.5 hour experience will transport your family to a magical place where they’ll learn how to become an official elf helper and get an official elf name, meet real live reindeer, help Mrs Claus decorate gingerbread men, make a teddy bear and finally get their hands on the golden key and meet Father Christmas himself.
THEATRE: Singin In The Rain, Mill at Sonning, now – Sat 8 Feb
The Mill at Sonning is bringing Hollywood to Berks. Sadly not a George Clooney one man show, although I’d be front row, for sure, but Singing In The Rain, this year’s Christmas musical. All tickets before 23 Dec include a festive buffet and from Boxing Day onwards a delish two-course meal. First person to spy George and Amal wins Christmas at the Clooneys (joke, obvs).
EVENT: Carnival of Animals, Town Hall Maidenhead, Sat 7 Dec
Kick off December with a dash of festive razzle dazzle at Maidenhead’s annual Community Lantern Parade. It kicks off with live music and entertainment from the Kings of Bhangra outside Maidenhead Town Hall from 4.30pm. Tis totes FREE, so wrap up warm and enjoy this awesome Crimbo tradition.
DAYS OUT: Legoland at Christmas, Legoland Windsor, now – Tue 24 Dec
Legoland is all twinkly lights and snow-dusted Christmas magic. Entry price for the Christmas season includes a visit to LEGO Santa in his magic grotto for kids who’ll receive a LEGO gift to take home. Make a Lego decoration and scavenger hunt with the elves. Think of your children’s faces lighting up and the enormous gin you’ll need the you get home.
ICE SKATING: Windsor On Ice, Alexandra Gardens Windsor, now – Sun 5 Jan
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.
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.
DAYS OUT: Christmas at Basildon Park, Lower Basildon, now – Sun 5 Jan 2019
Basildon Park is blinged out for festive fun. This year, we’re time travelling to the Victorian period – multiple trees wearing more accessories than Sue Pollard, with special candlelit tours available. Crack open the Black Tower, pass the nuts, and introduce your kids to life before Netflix.
FAMILY FUN: Family Festivities Trail, Cliveden National Trust Taplow, now – Mon 23 Dec
A fun Christmas trail round the grounds where kids need to help Lady Astor prepare for a festive shindig.Inspired by the stories of Astor family Christmases on the estate, The big day is creeping closer and Mr Lee, Lady Astor’s butler, has a to-do list as long as his arm (we hear yer). Make your way through the mayhem and help Cliveden have the best Christmas ever.
XMAS: A Candlelit Christmas, Stonor, Henley, from 28 Nov
Stonor opens its doors for Christmas for the fourth time, with this year’s theme being A Candlelit Christmas. 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.
SHOPPING: Newbury Artisan Christmas Market, Market Place Newbury, Sun 8 Dec
Quality produce, original art, designer crafts & sizzling street food, all mixed in with family activities, music and more…
EXHIBITIONS: Swan Upping at Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery Cookham, now – 22 Mar 2020
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.
DAYS OUT: Christmas Racing Weekend, Ascot Racecourse, Fri 20 – Sat 21 Dec
Giddee up to Ascot for the last race of 2018. Kick off Christmas with winter cocktails, mulled wine, brass bands, free mince pies and two days of dramatic Jumps racing. Just blow your last minute xmas shopping budget on the horses. Come the 25th, your celebrations could be a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol.
FOOD AND DRINK: New Year’s Eve Party, The Hind’s Head Bray, 31 Dec
If you can’t have a right royal knees up on New Year’s Eve, when can you? Party where Prince Philip had his stag do (you know that was a wild night) and see in 2019 at Heston’s Michelin star posh pub The Hind’s Head in Bray. Scoff signature snacks in The Royal Lounge, followed by a five-course tasting menu, with wine pairing (an extra £50pp, but oh so worth it), with live music and a casino. Cost £120 pp.
EVENT: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park London, Thu 21 Nov – Sun 5 Jan
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.
DAYS OUT: Illuminated Light Trail, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, now – 1 Jan
Blenheim is kicking off festivities this week with its annual Illuminated Light Trail – over 100,000 for the Tunnel of Light, a Laser Garden, scented Fire Garden and light finale on the Water Terrace and front of the Palace set to music. For kids there’ll be a Victorian-style fairground and Santa.
XMAS: Christmas at Waddesdon, Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, now – 5 Jan
Love a festive display? Waddesdon has started it’s Christmas season pretty early this year with the Manor decked out with festive accessories and a light trail around the Aviary combining light, sound colour and movement. There’ll also be two light shows performed on the facade of the Manor.
XMAS: Southbank Centre Winter Festival, London, Fri 8 Nov – Sun 5 Jan
As well as purchasing Christmas produce, artisan treats and other goodies from the Nordic-themed chalets, visitors are in for a treat with Christmas shows, including Circus 1907 and Black Beauty, workshops, performances and other family-orientated fun.
DAYS OUT: Kew Gardens, London, now – Sun 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.
DAYS OUT: Bath Christmas Market, Somerset, Thu 28 Nov – Sun 15 Dec
Voted No1 UK Christmas Market in 2017, this market is set amongst the Bath’s Georgian splendour. A whopping 87 per cent of the stalls are businesses from Bath and the South West, selling gifts, artisan food and drink, jewellery and lots more. And you know how much we’re #inlovewithlocal.
FAMILY FUN: 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.
ART & EXHIBITIONS
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.