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What’s on in May

Going out is back, baby! From the very first UK City of Culture events kicking off with the UK Asian Film Festival to super-cool exhibitions, live theatre and drive-in cinemas, here's what's on in Cov, Warks & beyond.

They’re the words we’ve been dreaming of for what feels like aeons. Yearning for them, burning for them, tossing and turning at night… and here they are: What’s on this month?

UK CITY OF CULTURE: UK Asian Film Festival, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry Thurs May 27 – Sat May 29

Now in its 23rd year the line-up of the world’s longest running South Asian film festival outside India this year includes the premiere of Toofan Mail (Thurs May 27) based on a true story from the 1970s where a woman lands at the New Delhi railway station claiming to be the Queen of Awadh. New documentary, The Beatles and India (Sat May 29) features rare archive material and exclusive footage of the Liverpool band performing in Coventry before they were famous.

Zindagi Tamasha

Other highlights: Oscar nominated film, Zindagi Tamasha (Fri May 28) which has been caught up in a blasphemy controversy with its cinema release suspended in Pakistan; new Indian films Khape and Fire of Teak, Flame of Chinar.

The festival will also run at venues in London and Leicester, with the opening and closing ceremonies taking place at the BFI Southbank.

BOOKS: Stratford Lit Fest, May 8-16

There’s a brilliant Spring Festival 2021 line-up with a mix of digital and live events as Government restrictions begin to ease. Major headliners include Maggie O’Farrell, discussing her latest novel Hamnet , Women’s Prize founder, Kate Mosse,. Presenter of the BBC’s hugely popular The Repair Shop, Jay Blades, discussing his memoir Making It and Nick Crane, presenter of Coast and Great British Journeys, recounts the extraordinary 18th century expedition to discover the shape of the world. The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton, shares the challenges and hilarity of working with animals revealed in his new book All Creatures, and the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, will be reading from his latest collection.

Maggie O’ Farrell. Photo by Murdo Macleod

On the lighter side, the programme includes several comedians: former Bake Off presenter, Mel Giedroyc, introduces her funny first novel, The Best Things and David Baddiel talks to Edward Stourton about the failures of identity politics outlined in his new book Jews Don’t Count. One half of the Peep Show comedy duo, Robert Webb discusses his fiction debut Come Again which follows the huge success of his memoir How Not to Be a Boy.

Plus, there’s lots more including a wonderful children’s line-up with Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, Sir Michael Morpurgo, and Liz Pichon among others. See our full preview here. Tickets from £6.

ART: Reopening of Compton Verney, May 18

Rebecca-Louise Law Still Life 2016 Broadway-Studio and Gallery

This beautiful art gallery set inside a Grade I-listed Georgian mansion amid 120 acres of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown parkland opens with two thought-provoking exhibitions; Mary Newcomb: Nature’s Canvas and Rebecca Louise Law: Seasons. Natural scientist, farmer and artist, Mary Newcomb’s (1922-2008) life and art were rooted in everyday observation and the natural world. The exhibition features more than 50 works, displayed alongside extracts from her writing and work by the artists that inspired her.

Mary Newcomb Apple-picking 1969 oil on board © Mary Newcomb Estate

Literally filling Compton Verney’s largest gallery space, Seasons is a stunning site-specific installation. Composed of thousands of preserved seasonal foliage and flowers collected by the artist from 2019-2021 and suspended on copper wires, the work reflects the ebb and flow of life. Taking the visitor on an undulating, physical and experiential journey through the year, Seasons concludes with natural materials foraged from Compton Verney’s own grounds.

DRIVE-IN: The Alfresco Theatre Drive-In, Sherbourne  Park, Warwick, May 19 – 23

Paul Ainsworth

Enjoy live shows and feel-good movies, all served alongside one-off dishes created by five of Britain’s best chefs: Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein, Atul Kochhar, Paul Ainsworth and Jason Atherton. The ultimate travelling restaurant will be serving up one-off dishes from these superstar chefs including Tom’s Smoked Applewood Cheeseburger, Paul’s Slow Roast Pork Burger complete with crackling, Rick’s Panzanella Salad and Smoked Mackerel Pate. And for kids there’s Tom Kerridge’s Kids Cheeseburger served with Tomato Ketchup in a Brioche Bun or an Alfresco Kid’s Picnic Box.

Adult tickets start from £18 for movies, £35 for comedy and music gigs, and £16 for Gruffalo tickets (ages 3+) - with each show being sold individually.  

ART: UnNatural History, The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, May 28-Aug 22

Raqs Media Collective’s However Incongruous 2011. Photo by JontyWilde

One of the first exhibitions for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 in The Herbert’s newly refurbished contemporary galleries features more than 20 works by international naturalists and artists exploring natural history and climate change. It includes Raqs Media Collective’s life-sized rhino sculpture However Incongruous, a contemporary reinterpretation of Albrecht Dürer’s Rhinoceros from 1515 reimagined as an out-of-place carousel animal.

Elsewhere artists Dubmorphology have created multimedia installation, Colony, an observation lab of time-travelling researchers from the future trying to understand an imminent environmental disaster through the colonies of ants and bees. Four newly-commissioned works also respond to the Herbert’s own Natural Science Collection – which includes more than 180,000 objects and specimens.

THEATRE: April in Paris, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Mon May 17-Wed May 19

Socially distanced, live performances will begin on Mon 17 May, with the launch of this the UK tour. John Godber’s classic comedy directed by Richard Lewis stars Joe Pasquale and Sarah Earnshaw as married couple Al and Bet. The theatre’s newly refurbished upstairs bar, Nineteen 58, and the Belgrade Café will also be open for indoor dining.

FAMILY: New Zog and the Quest for the Golden Star trail, Warwick Castle

This brand new interactive activity trail for kids based on Julia Donaldson’s children’s book will teach all budding dragons in-training the skills they need to become a fully fledged dragon. May 1 also sees the return of The Return of The Falconer’s Quest, the UK’s largest birds of prey show. There’s lots more to see in the 64 acres of beautiful grounds and gardens, including Pageant Field, the Peacock Garden, Conservatory Tea House and the River Island featuring the magnificent Trebuchet.

Themed glamping tents and woodland lodges in the secluded Knight’s Village with postcard-perfect views over the River Avon have also reopened for overnight stays.

DANCE/THEATRE: The Language of Kindness, Warwick Arts Centre, Thurs May 20 – Sat May 22

Rehearsal. Photo by Sarah Ainslie

Based on Christie Watson’s bestselling memoir of her 20 years as a nurse, The Language of Kindness is a new ensemble-style piece of dance theatre: a socially distanced production about the tactile work of nurses where the company never touch. This live performance brings to life the realities, the challenges, heartbreaks and incomparable joys of working for the NHS and supporting families as they face their best and worst moments. Described as a ‘joy-filled celebration of nurses and front-line healthcare workers’, it was originally scheduled to visit Coventry last year. The production has taken on a new emotional power since the arrival of a global pandemic…

FILM SCEENINGS: Birmingham NEC’s Luna Drive-In Cinema April 30 – May 3

Expect giant HD LED screens and perennial feel-good film faves including Grease, Rocket Man, The Greatest Showman and Pretty Woman, optional pre-ordered snack hampers or delicious hot food on-site. See details here, from £37.50 a car.

UK CITY OF CULTURE: Like There’s No Tomorrow, digital, May-June

Bringing together young talent from across Belgrade’s youth theatre as part of the National Theatre Connections programme, Like There’s No Tomorrow gives voice to young people’s concerns about the climate at a time when the future has never looked more uncertain. Rehearsed on Zoom with additional film footage, It will be created entirely online and in collaboration with digital artists. Dates to be announced.

OUTDOORS: Hill Close Gardens, Warwick

Aerial view of the garden plots. Photo credit: Hill Close Gardens

These 16 rare, restored Victorian detached gardens and summer houses with their spring and summer blooms are now open 11am-5pm. The Lammas tearoom will reopen on weekends and bank holidays. Upcoming events this summer include Midsummer Music in the Garden (June 26), an alfresco production of The Great Gatsby July 13 and a teddy bear’s picnic (Aug 5)

THEATRE: Watch RSC’s The Winter’s Tale, BBC iPlayer

The Stratford-based company’s stylish Mad Men-inspired screen adaptation of The Winter’s Tale, directed by Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director and set in the 1950s and 60s, was broadcast on BBC Four on Sun April 25 as part of BBC Lights Up – if you missed it, it’s available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

DAYTRIP: British Motor Museum, Gaydon, reopens May 17

May half-term at the British Motor Museum: Dougie and the E-Type

New for 2021, the E-type Evolution Exhibition from the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust (JDHT) commemorates the 60th Anniversary of the Jaguar E-type telling the story of the car. For half-term, May 29 – June 6, the museum is hosting a full programme of family-friendly activities to celebrate the Jaguar E-type’s 60th Birthday including the chance to meet Dotty or Dougie, car designers from the swinging 60s. Younger visitors will also have the chance to take home their very own cardboard cut-out Jaguar E-type.

LIVE FRINGE: AAAAA (FiveA), The Albany theatre studio, Coventry, Sun May 30

The Albany Theatre is welcoming back an event for a socially distanced audience by critically-acclaimed London-based Proforca Theatre Company. AAAAA (FiveA), a brand-new piece of fringe theatre which returns to Coventry for one night only as part of its London premiere in 2021. It contains very strong language and adult themes. Check out the trailer here:

EAT: Digbeth Dining Club’s Open Arms, Warwick Castle, until May 31

The Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle

After 12 weeks of sell-out sessions last summer, the UK’s most scenic beer garden is back after hours brought to this iconic landmark by award-winning Digbeth Dining Club. The open-air pub garden, in the Castle’s inner courtyard surrounded by towers and ramparts, serves up street foods, drinks and music. The Open Arms takes bookings from 5pm (6pm on Thursdays). Potentially more dates may be added.

HERITAGE: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, reopening May 17

Photo: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Discover the people and places that shaped Shakespeare, an ordinary boy from Stratford-upon-Avon who went on to do extraordinary things where it all began…

OUTDOORS: Guy’s Cliffe Walled Garden, Warwick, open Bank Holiday Monday

This Grade II listed walled garden behind Hinton’s nursery on the Coventry Road, north of Warwick was derelict but since 2014 volunteers have painstakingly brought it back to life creating a working community Georgian/Victorian garden. It’s open Fri, Sat & Sun, 1-3pm and Bank Holiday Monday from 11am. Open to visitors in specified half-hour time slots .Book here. Entry free.

GOLF: New Toptracer Range, The Belfry, Royal Sutton Coldfield, North Warwickshire

The Belfry Hotel & Resort located in Royal Sutton Coldfield, North Warwickshire, launched its new Toptracer Range on April 12 at the resort’s newly refurbished PGA Golf Academy. It offers a fun experience for guests with any level of golfing experience. There’s also a brand-new bar area and VIP Toptracer suite and four individual custom fitting suites as well as a 34-bay floodlit driving range, plus putting green and short game area. Junior golf tuition; individual and group golf lessons; packages and course tuition are also offered.

Toptracer Range is priced from £5.50 for 30 balls. You can view more here.

ART: Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, opening from May 20

The town centre gallery has just launched a new dedicated page for families here, a new hour’s treasure trail through the Jephson and Pump Room Gardens (available from the Royal Pump Rooms Visitors Information desk) and new exhibitions will include Modern Mercia; a look into post-war art in Coventry and Warwickshire 1945-1970.

BOOK NOW! Free Jazzlines Summer School for 11-19-year-olds Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Aug 23-27

This free, week-long non-residential course will run for 11-19-year-olds at the world-renowned Symphony Hall in the heart of Birmingham. Aimed at emerging talent with a range of abilities, from beginners to advanced it’s led by professional trumpet and bass player Percy Pursglove and professional vocalist and songwriter Sara Colman. Designed to develop key skills in aural training, ensemble musicianship, jazz repertoire and harmony the summer school is suitable for those who aspire to further their music studies as well as those who simply wish to learn new skills.

To find out more and apply for a free space at the Jazzlines Summer School go here.

HERITAGE: Lord Leycester Hospital and Brethren’s Kitchen, Warwick, reopening May 21

One of England’s most intact medieval half-timbered buildings. A hive of activity 700 years ago – there’s a Guildhall for meetings, a Great Hall for entertaining, and a kitchen. They are all built around the Chapel of St James, a beautiful chapel with stained-glass windows designed by William Morris. The site and charming 500-year-old gardens have been admired by many famous visitors from Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde, to King George V and the Queen Mother. A campaign is currently running to restore these ancient buildings.


EXHIBITION: Cecil Beaton: Celebrating Celebrity, Blenheim Palace, 17 May – 1 Aug

We can’t wait to nosy through this display of over 50 iconic photographs by British fashion and portrait photographer Cecil Beaton, who was a familiar party guest at the Palace in his heyday. The images feature huge 20th century figures: from Picasso and Salvador Dali to Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn (pictured), Mick Jagger, and members of the Royal Family. It’s all set to be terribly fabulous, darling.

CIRCUS: The Hooley, Daylesford Organic Farm, May 6 – 17

The Hooley is here! Postponed from last year’s cancelled show, it will be the biggest celebration of circus you’ve ever seen. Touring all over the Cotswolds and Glos from Stroud and Chippenham to Sudeley Castle and Blenheim Palace, find this spectacular show at Daylesford Organic Farm from 6 – 17 May.

THEATRE: Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Bankside, London, from May 19

We can’t wait for theatre to be back and where better to get the full experience than at Shakey’s world famous Globe Theatre – the Soho of Elizabethan London. From May 19 live performances will recommence, with socially distanced seating you can book in advance. Catch this visually modern rendition of a magical summer show until October, and As You like it from 08 June – 29 August.

MUSIC: Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham, May 1-2

Jazz hands aloft … this fabulous musical montage is set to return in 2021 with a free-to-view, two-day digital event taking place across the May Bank Holiday weekend, followed by a series of ticketed in-person concerts at Cheltenham Town Hall over three nights in July (government guidance permitting). Expect an array of world-class shows from heritage legends to emerging talent from across the jazz, pop and soul spectrum. The weekend will be hosted by BBC6 Music presenter Cerys Matthews and the Festival’s Artistic Curator Gregory Porter.

EAT: Scenic Suppers, Moreton-in-Marsh, throughout May

Hop across the Warks border into Glos for this year’s Scenic Supper! It’s putting down roots at its new home – in the pastures of Todenham Manor Farm near Moreton-in-Marsh. There will be seven brand new sustainably built glasshouses and a brand new King Stone Gin bar too, serving craft cocktails, English sparkling wine, and local booze. Expect locally sourced food and a signature 5-course menu.The glasshouses host parties of two and four through this 6 months’ residency.

MARKET: Chiswick Flower Market, Old Market Place, Chiswick High Rd, London, reopens, Sun May 2

High street retailers and market traders have struggled during the pandemic, as many of them have had to stay closed for most of the year. But when the first new flower market in London for 150 years launched last September – it attracted 7,500 visitors and many of the local shops and restaurants reported they’d had more customers on market day than they’d had all year! Time Out described it as one of the best things to do in London that month.

Organised by local residents who volunteer to run the market, it’s since been chosen by the national High Streets Task Force as an example of how local initiatives run by volunteers can help regenerate the local economy. Traders include well-respected nursery owners such as Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, multi gold award winners at the Chelsea Flower Show, .

Open 9.30 am – 3pm (outside George IV pub; nearest tube Turnham Green on the District line). From May Chiswick Flower Market is expected to take place on the first Sunday of every month throughout the year.

CAR RALLYING: HERO-ERA’s A Novice Trial Bicester Heritage May 21-23

Not ready to head inside just yet? No matter — there’s a tonne to be done outside. How about learning to car rally? Aimed at those new to rallying, the event is designed to explain and demonstrate the skills required in a fun and informative way. Who knows, it could be your new thing.

Looking for some big city fun? Try our essential guide to what’s on in London this summer.

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