A FESTIVE SEASON ROUND-UP
From traditional festive storytelling and carols by candle-light to top festive telly and film, Santa runs, decorated stately homes and snowy fun.
TOP FESTIVE HOLIDAY FILM PICK:
Mary Poppins Returns (out Dec 21)
One of our favourite family films last winter was Paddington 2, especially Hugh Grant’s deliciously funny villain – a self-absorbed acting legend! This Christmas we’re looking forward to this much-anticipated live action musical reboot following the story of the now grown-up Michael Banks, who needs a nanny when a personal loss leaves him looking after his three children alone. Mary Poppins to the rescue! An all-star cast includes Emily Blunt taking over from Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, Angela Lansbury, Ben Whishaw, Colin Firth, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meryl Streep and the return of Dick Van Dyke, the only original cast member.
TOP CHRISTMAS TELLY PICKS
The Long Song, BBC1, starts Dec 18, 9pm
A follow-up to the BBC adaptation of Small Island, Andrea Levy’s 2004 prize-winning novel starring Naomie Harris and Hugh Quarshie, arrives in the form of her critically acclaimed historic novel The Long Song, set in early 19th-century Jamaica during the last days of slavery and telling the story of July, a young enslaved woman played by Tamara Lawrence. Sir Lenny Henry and Hayley Atwell also star in the three-part period drama.
Luther, BBC1, starts New Year’s Day, 9pm
Idris Elba returns as the dapper DCI John Luther in four new episodes as season five of this stylish detective drama begins at the start of the new year. Fans were made-up when the trailer revealed that Ruth Wilson will reprise her role as murderous Alice, while new cast members include Wunmi Mosaku and Hermione Norris.
Roma, Netflix, released Fri Dec 14
Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical new black and white film set in 1970s Mexico, which has been produced by streaming giant Netflix, has been wowed by critics and is already an Oscar hopeful. A gripping tearjerker by all accounts.
The Midnight Gang, BBC1, Boxing Day, 7.30pm
Adaptations of David Walliams’ best-selling children’s books are fast turning into a Christmas TV tradition. Following on from Mr Stink, Billionaire Boy, Gangsta Granny, The Boy in the Dress and Grandpa’s Great Escape, this year it’s the turn of The Midnight Gang, the story of an injured boy called Tom who ends up in a children’s hospital and sneaks out of the ward at midnight to go on adventures with the friends he makes. It stars David Walliams himself as Tom’s nasty headmaster, Alan Davies as the Porter, Hadyn Gwynne as Matron and Amit Shah as young doctor Luppers.
TOP SANTA’S GROTTO’S
Enchanted Christmas Kingdom, Hatton Adventure World, nr Warwick
Children can make a date to see Father Christmas in his twinkling Grotto every weekend until Dec 23 and weekdays from Dec 17 – 21, plus Christmas Eve. Well-behaved will receive a Golden Key to unlock Santa’s workshop and choose a present of their choice in the secret toyshop. The all-day ‘Festive Entertainment Package’ includes entry to a magic show, an interactive quiz, owl–flying displays, festive Fun Fair Rides and puppet show. New for this year is Gingerbread Decorating with Mrs Claus and the chance for children to make reindeer food to leave for Father Christmas and his reindeers on Christmas Eve,
hattonworld.com/adventure-world or Tel: 01926 843411.
Spot Santa, Compton Verney, Sun Dec 9
Father Christmas and his faithful reindeer have taken time out of their busy schedule to enjoy a couple of days at Compton Verney (also Sun Dec 9). Can you spot him as he wanders around this world-famous Capability Brown landscaped park between 1 & 3pm?
This event is included in standard Day Ticket admission (Free for Members and Annual Pass Holders), comptonverney
Time Travelling Father Christmas, Hall’s Croft, Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon, Dec 15 & 16
Father Christmas has travelled back in time to teach the Jacobeans the wonders of Christmas. Little boys and girls can meet him and receive a bespoke gift. The festive experience continues in the café where children can decorate their very own Christmas biscuits to take home, or enjoy there and then! Tickets: Child: £10, Adult £5 to include tour of the house, 12pm – 4pm (Timed-entry, advance booking advisable.) 12pm – 4pm.
Stories with Santa & A Winter Wedding, Warwick Castle, until Dec 31
Santa and his Elves will be telling festive stories under a huge 20-foot Christmas Tree in the Great Hall twice daily; while over in the Princess Tower help Princess Felice to solve Christmas riddles in A Winter Wedding. Outside there’s a Horrible Histories Christmas Scavenger Hunt.
Santa’s Grotto, Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum, Sat Dec 15
An art gallery grotto where children and their grown-ups can join in with Christmas crafts and festive fun, enjoy refreshments by Friends of Leamington Art Gallery and listen to carols by Royal Spa Brass. Free, drop in, 1-3pm.
Father Christmas at Magic Alley, Bell Court, Stratford-upon-Avon
Friends have told me this is one of the best, most authentic Father Christmas experiences they’ve taken their children to, but you need to book early as it sells-out extremely quickly. Tickets are already on sale for 2019! The trail is based on the best-selling Chronicles of Wizard’s Thatch series of children’s books, and families are taken into a magical world.
Festive Sunday Lunch with Santa, Coombe Abbey, Sun Dec 23 & Mon Dec 24
A three-course dinner, coffee, and mince pies in the Garden Room Restaurant at this historic 4-star hotel in Binley, Coventry, where Father Christmas will make a special appearance and welcome all children under 12 with a Christmas gift. Adults £39 & Children 12 and under £19.75. Tel 02476 430 539.
Christmas at the Castle, Kenilworth Castle, Sat Dec 8 & Sun Dec 9
Go back in back in time to a nostalgic family Noel complete with carol singing, falconry, traditional storytelling and toy making. Enjoy some festive cheer with the castle jester, indulge in a yuletide treat in the tearoom, and kids can hand deliver their Christmas list to Father Christmas.
DECK THE HALLS
Ragley by Candlelight, Alcester, Dec 8 & 9
See this magnificent Palladian mansion in a whole new light via Candlelit tours of the hall. Begin your evening with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, while local choirs fill The Great Hall with Christmas music. Take a tour around the state rooms decorated for Christmas and lit by candles.
FURTHER AFIELD: Christmas Nativity, Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire
Children visiting Chatsworth from the age of three upwards become the star of the show in a Christmas performance with real farmyard animals on the weekends of Sat Dec 8&9, Sat Dec 15&16, Sat Dec 22&23. £10.50. The house itself is decorated to resemble scenes from favourite children’s stories ranging from Snow White and Cinderella to Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and E B White’s Charlotte’s Web with live storytellers bringing the books to life. Twilight Evenings are held on Thurs and Fri up to Dec 21 with mince pies, wine, live music and childhood stories.
CHRISTMAS AT THE NATIONAL TRUST
See Charlecote Park decked out for a 1918 Christmas, Dec 8 – Christmas Eve
Choose a 45-minute time-slot between 11am and 3.15pm. This event is free, but normal admission charges apply for the venue. Tel: 03442491895
Christmas Made-to-Measure trail for children & Magical Christmas Evening Tour, Upton House and Gardens, Fri Dec 7 – Dec 23
Families can take a visit to Upton’s own 1920s department store room and pick out presents, join in with arts and crafts in the old kitchen where they’ll meet a Christmas guest and receive a special present! The house will be specially decorated in 1920s style decorations, 12-4pm. A guided Christmas Evening Tour takes places on the weekend of Dec 15 & 16 between 5pm – 6.30pm. Book for this in adv on 03442491895.
Admission to the house is required. Timed tickets operate daily, places are limited, nationaltrust
Christmas Wassail 2018, Coughton Court, Sat Dec 8 & Sun Dec 9
Christmas stories, carols from Birmingham Crescent Theatre, mulled wine, roaring fire and mince pies are included in a two-course Christmas meal with all the trimmings. £30. Booking essential, suitable for children 12+. Tel: 01789 400 777. The National Trust shop will be open between performances for last-minute Christmas gifts.
**Christmas events at Baddesley Clinton & Packwood House in Lapworth have already sold out.
Christmas Carols at Charlecote, Sat Dec 8
Meet in the Orangery at 5.30pm after hours for a traditional carol service in St. Leonard’s Church starting with mulled wine, hot chocolate and mince pies before heading up the avenue to the church. The Warwick Madrigals will be waiting there to sing traditional Christmas Carols. You’re advised to wrap up warm and bring a torch along for the walk to the church. Ends 8pm. Tickets £12.50, free for under 12’s. Tel: 03442 491895.
Carols by Candlelight by Armonico Consort, All Saints Church, Leamington Hastings, Sat Dec 8 & Collegiate Church of Saint Mary, Warwick, Thur Dec 20
A highlight of the festive season. Critically acclaimed Warwickshire-based UK choir and instrumental ensemble the Armonico Consort will be performing a mix of seasonal favourites, well-known carols and new discoveries at 7pm. There will another candlelit performance at Collegiate Church of Saint Mary, Warwick, on Dec 20 at 7.30pm. armonico
Christmas Concert, Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, Fri Dec 14
Lovers of choral music and traditional Christmas carols are in for a treat during our Christmas Concert in the ‘Capability’ Brown Chapel. Featuring the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, directed by Paul Spicer, the programme will include all your festive favourites and is the ideal way to lift your spirits and embrace the festive mood. 2.30 – 3.34pm. Adults £15 / Child £7 / Under 5s FREE. comptonverney
Big Brass Band, Compton Verney, Sun Dec 16
Celebrate the end of Compton Verney’s successful 2018 season of exhibitions and events with traditional carols performed by the brilliant Royal Spa Brass Band and culminating with a festive firework finale. comptonverney
Carols in the Cafe, Hilltop Farm, Hunningham, nr Leamington, Thur Dec 20
Hilltop Farm is hosting an extra special Christmassy lunch with the fab Windmill Singers. The 30-strong choir will be singing carols over lunch between 12noon & 2.30pm. You can book here.
Crystal Gospel Choir, Fizzy Moon Brewhouse, Leamington Spa, Sun Dec 23
Get in the festive spirit with some uplifting and energised Christmas singing from the Crystal Gospel Choir. From 3pm.
The Myton Hospices Santa Dash, Victoria Park, Leamington Spa, Sun Dec 9
Expect to see hundreds of red-suited Santa’s and Elves between 9am and 1pm if you’re in Leamington’s Victoria Park this Sunday. Nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like pulling on a Santa suit and running, jogging or walking 5k for charity Children aged 5-8 will receive a free Santa and each adult receives a free Santa Suit. This Coventry and Warwickshire hospice for patients is hoping to raise £38,000 over the festive period for people with terminal and life-limiting illnesses and their families. Adults £10, children £5, firstname.lastname@example.org / 01926 01926 838891
Santa Run, Aston University, Birmingham City Centre, Sat Dec 8
The biggest festive run in the city centre raising money for Acorns, towards local life limited children and their families, 10am – 12noon.
The Fastest Santa Dash, Mr Karting, Bishop’s Tachbrook, Wed Dec 12
A go-karting Santa dash in aid of Young People First, who reach out to and support over 400 vulnerable young people each year. Go to head to head with 15 other teams and see who will be pronounced as the fastest Santas! 3.30pm – 7.30pm.
Draycote Water Santa Dash, near Rugby, Sun Dec 16
A 5k run around this scenic reservoir and country park.
KIDS: FESTIVE STORYTELLING, ARTS& CRAFTS & HOLIDAY WORKSHOPS
The Selfish Giant & The Snow Queen, Compton Verney, Sat Dec 15
Children can gather round the Christmas Tree and settle back to hear a pair of enchanting and much-loved Christmas stories; The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde (recommended for 5-7-year olds, 11.30am – 11.45am.) and The Snow Queen (read in two parts and suitable for children 8+, 1pm– 1.30pm& 2.15pm – 2.45pm). Sounds lovely! comptonverney
Natural Wonders Tree Decorations, Compton Verney, Sun Dec 9, Saturday Dec 15 & Sun Dec 16
Explore the great outdoors before getting crafty in the warmth. Make your own beautiful decorations out of natural materials found in the grounds to hang on your own tree for the festive season. Now that tops a shop-bought bauble! £5 per person. You will also need a valid Day Ticket, (11am – 4pm) comptonverney
Christmas Holiday Activities, Rugby Art Gallery & Museum, Tues Dec 11 – Fri Dec 28
Arts and crafts for kids range from a Reindeer Hunt (Sat Dec 22-Sat Jan 5) to a Mini Artists Christmas Special for 5’s and under (Thurs Dec 20, 10.15am-11.15am), making Christmas Lanterns in a jam jar (Sat Dec 22, 10am-12noon) and Polar Pals (Fri Dec 28, 10.30am-12.30pm). A Creative Crew Christmas Special (Sat Dec 15, 10am – 12noon) for 8-11-year-olds with professional artist Kate Morris needs to be booked in adv, £10, rugby.gov.uk
Santa’s Grotto & Christmas Holiday Workshops for 3-6-year-olds, Playbox Theatre, Warwick
Three early years workshops with storytelling, acting, music, arts & crafts, dressing up and party picnics include A Fairytale Christmas (Wed Dec 19) exploring favourite wintry tales including The Snow Queen; Dinky Designers Gets Christmassy (Thur Dec 20), a pre-school art & design workshop with decoration making, baking and snowman building; Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (Fri Dec 21) – games, storytelling, acting and song all inspired by the song with a surprise visitor. £30 (£25 Playbox members) includes festive-themed picnic lunch. Father Christmas is visiting on Sun Dec 16, 2-4pm. Tel 01926 419555, playboxtheatre
Winter Wonder family festivities, The Herbert, Coventry Jan 2 – Jan 5
Immerse yourself into a winter snowstorm as you make a selfie snow globe with a handy little flip calendar attached to see you through the year ahead. £2.50, drop in, 10.30am – 3.30pm. For all other activities check out here: theherbert.
SNOW & ICE:
Winter Wonderland, Snowdome, Tamworth
You don’t need to book a trip to the Alps to go sledging, tubing, ice-skating, snowboarding or skiing. Younger children can have lots of snow fun at Santa’s Winter Wonderland too.
Ice Skate Birmingham, Eastside Green, Birmingham, now until Sun Jan 6
One of the best outdoor skating rinks in the UK, it can accommodate 300 people per 45-minute session on the ice. You don’t have to be Tonya Harding but private skating tuition can be booked ahead! This year the rink has been relocated from Broad Street to Eastside Green, off New Canal Street. It’s open, 10am – 10pm, with the last skating session at 9pm (need to arrive 30-mins before). Next door is The Ice Lounge with festive food and drinks.
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
Magical Lantern Festival, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, until Jan 1 2019
This year’s Christmas themed Lantern Festival will illuminate the gardens turning it into a spectacular fusion of dual culture, vibrant colours and life-size artistic sculptures. See some of the most impressive and artistic lantern installations outside of China! It is open Thurs – Sun each week and every day during the school Christmas holidays from Fri Dec 21, 5pm-10pm each day. birminghambotanicalgardens