West End Star Gloria Onitiri as villainous Cruella de Vil in furs. The Birmingham uni grad, who played Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard (The Adelphi) and Nala in The Lion King (The Lyceum), returns to her student city making her REP debut. This Dodie Smith stage adaptation by writer and director of the Nativity films, Debbie Isitt is sure to get tails wagging with its clever puppy puppetry! Running time: 90 mins. For ages 5+
birmingham-rep.co.uk, Tel: 0121 236 4455
The Lost Words is one of two brilliant and thought-provoking family-friendly exhibitions on until Dec 17 celebrating the best of British illustration and literature with The Lost Words based on the best-selling beautifully illustrated spell book by Robert Macfarlane, and Jackie Morris just named the Hay Festival Book of the Year 2017; alongside Quentin Blake’s Inside Stories – a personal and insightful look at Britain’s best-loved illustrator. Visitors can also can venture out on Spell Walks in via two specifically commissioned digital trails that can be downloaded straight to your smart phone.
A Christmas Carol, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Feb 4 2018
Bah humbug! The RSC’s new eagerly-awaited stage adaptation by David Edgar of Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic starring the excellent Poldark, Sherlock and Quadrophenia actor Phil Davis as Scrooge. Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, who brought The Wind in the Willows to the London Palladium earlier this year, starring Rufus Hound as Toad.
Liam Gallagher, Birmingham Arena (Formerly Barclaycard Arena), Birmingham, Tues Dec 12
Tickets are selling fast for this gig by the former Oasis Mancunian frontman, supported by Rat Boy and Trampolene.
Winter, The Stratford Gallery, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Jan 31 2018
This lovely little gallery celebrates its first birthday with a Christmas exhibition welcoming back new work from artists who have helped make their first year “so wonderful” and introducing several new artists.
The Stratford Gallery, 32 Sheep Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, WarwickshireCV37 6EE, thestratfordgallery
Snowmouse, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, until Sun Dec 31
This enchanting winter’s tale for the very young about two new friends’ adventures in a magical forest wonderland is the perfect first theatre experience, full of play, puppetry and music. Recommended for ages 3 months – four years.
Imperium Part I: Conspirator, The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon, runs until Feb 10 2018
RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran directs Richard McCabe in the epic title role of Robert Harris’ best-selling Cicero trilogy along with Siobhan Redmond. It follows playwright Mike Poulton’s highly successful RSC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.
Santa Sleepovers, Warwick Castle, Dates throughout Dec
Loving the sound of these sleepovers – family stay in the Knight’s village or straight-from-a-fairytale Tower Suite and cute Christmassy stuff like stories with Santa and a wake up call from an Elf. Still some dates left but be quick.
Christmas at Warwickshire’s National Trust houses: Packwood, Charlecote Park, Coughton, Upton House & Baddesley Clinton
Christmas evening tours including a two-course Christmas dinner will take place at Packwood House on Thurs Dec 7, 14 & 21 at either 6pm – 9pm or 7pm – 10pm. Tickets £30 on Tel: 01564 782024. Over at Upton House there’s crafting including an Art Deco 1920s Table Decorations Workshop on Fri Dec 15 (£15); Christmas evening tours followed by Mulled Wine and spiced hot chocolate in the old kitchen on Dec 8, 9, 15 & 16 and Festive Family Trail ending up in an 1920s department store room where kids can meet Father Christmas. There’ll be mincemeat making demos at the Tudor style Baddesley Clinton and Victorian Charlecote is open and decorated for Christmas at weekends until Dec 24 & Dec 18 – 22, but Father Christmas is now fully booked.
To see what’s on in Warks and Canons Ashby in Northants check out here
Let’s Animate’s Animated Christmas Messages Workshop, Fargo Village, Coventry Fri Dec 1, 8 & 15
Create your very own animated Christmas card to send to your family and friends, one hour slots available 5pm – 10pm.
‘Loch’ up your men – Cinderella’s raucous Scottish step-sisters Dyspepsia and Listeria, played by the brilliant panto legends Iain Lauchlan (who has the best laugh!) and Greg Powrie are looking for no strings attached festive fling! Iain worked on BBC’s Playschool; Fingermouse, BBC Playdays, Storytime and Fun Song Factory but is perhaps best known as writer of the BAFTA award-winning children’s TV series, The Tweenies. Fellow Scottish actor Greg Powrie’s TV and film credits include Outlander, Taggart, River City, Still Game and Dr. Finlay. Craig Hollingsworth returns for his 6th Belgrade panto, and Alice Rose Fletcher will be putting on her glass slippers as Cinderella!
David Bowie 1977 Iggy Pop exhibition, Snap Galleries, 50 Warwick Street, Leamington Spa, until Sun Dec 10
This former London gallery moved to a spanking new 1,500 sq. ft. gallery space in Leamington Spa on Nov 18 and launched with Masayoshi Sukita’s exhibition of David Bowie and Iggy Pop photographs from his sessions in 1977 including the Heroes album cover image.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Goose Nest, Warwick Arts Centre, until Sun Jan 7 2018
An intrepid family and their musical dog will take you on an incredible quest through the swishy swashy grass, the splishy splashy river and the thick oozy, squelchy mud filled with catchy songs and interactive scenes. The stage adaptation of Michael Rosen’s award-winning book is brought vividly and noisily to the stage by Sally Cookson and accompanied by Benji Bower’s versatile lively score. For ages 3+
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Sisters, B2 stage, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, until Sat Dec 30
Cinderella meets Spaghetti Western in writer/director Nick Walker’s all-female spoof adult panto. Giddy up! This rootin’ tootin’ one-hour comedy farce packed full of groan-worthy puns and starring the super-talented RSC Associate Artist Katy Stephens heading back to the ranch to appear in her third B2 Christmas Show. Here the glass slippers have spurs and the bells chime for high noon. Yee-ha!
belgrade, Tel: 024 7655 3055
Warwickshire Christmas markets
Christmas markets are held in Stratford-upon-Avon on the last five Thursdays running up to Christmas – Dec 7, 14, 21; the Shipston on-Stour Rotary Victorian evening will take place on Fri Dec 1 where visitors can enjoy dozens of festive stalls, the Tree of Life, music, singing, food and the arrival of Father Christmas to his grotto in the town centre. Visit Yuletide Fayres in Leamington every Sunday from Nov 19.
From Stratford-upon-Avon’s glittering light display above to Leamington Spa with its annual Lantern Parade, Rugby, Kenilworth High Street, Alcester and Shipston-on-Stour among the highlights.
Christmas activities at Shakespeare’s Family Homes, every day Sat Dec 2 – Jan 2
Meet Dickens as he walks around Shakespeare’s Birthplace garden and tells the tale of acquiring the Birthplace to continue spreading the word of Shakespeare. Discover Shakespeare’s family Christmas at Shakespeare’s New Place. What would they have eaten, worn & how would they have celebrated? Step back in time to the 1600s at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and fast forward to the 1930’s at Hall’s Croft and find out how the people celebrated Christmas in the time between two wars.
See what’s on here
Annual Masquerade Boxing Day Affair, The Village Hotel, Coventry, Tue Dec 26
It’s time to party with Coventry’s most established Jamaican sound system! Mackabee Studio International will be playing the best in soul, R&B, lovers and Reggae at their annual festive ball. Dress to dazzle. Masks not compulsory but glamour is…9pm-3am.
Tickets £15 from firstname.lastname@example.org; 07957 264226; 07949 796 446; Camelia@Stylistics 024 7622 4786; 2 Tone Cafe/Simmerdown Caribbean restaurant 02477 671 242.
Paddington 2, in Cinemas now & Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Fri Dec 22- Sun Dec 24; Wed Dec 27 – Thurs Dec 28
Follow the adventures of the nation’s favourite bear in a new film as enchanting as the first with a scene-stealing Hugh Grant on top form as a cravat-wearing villain. A special run at WAC on assorted dates throughout Nov and Dec. On general release in cinemas across the UK.
Sleeping Beauty, Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa, until Sun Dec 31
Well hello! JP McCue returns for his 6th panto season as the Panto Dame reunited with Sean Dodds in this fairy-tale story of a princess who falls into an enchanted sleep.
Ragley Hall Christmas Candle-lit Tours, Alcester, Fri Dec 1, Sun Dec 3, Sat Dec 9 & Sun Dec 10
See the stunning Warwickshire stately home in a new light with candle lit tours on Dec 1, 3, 9 & 10. Pre booking is essential. Tickets cost from £14. Alternatively enjoy 3-course Christmas Dinners which are available on selected dates in December.
Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, Compton Verney, until Dec 17
A rare insight into some of Quentin Blake’s best known and popular creations. Blake himself introduces illustrations for his own books and collaborations with other writers, bringing together rough drawings and finished artwork to demonstrate how his ideas evolved into unforgettable illustrations and bestselling books. Featuring a huge range of his witty illustrated characters, including Roald Dahl’s The Twits, The BFG and Matilda to The Boy in the Dress and Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. This is one of two family-friendly exhibitions this autumn at Compton Verney and includes more than 140 original works, many never seen before outside Blake’s studio, as well as some of his artist tools. Blake’s candid personal commentary and extensive selection of works make this his most intimate and revealing exhibition to date.
The Nutcracker 2017, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Hippodrome, until Wed Dec 13
Sir Peter Wright’s lavish festive production of The Nutcracker has been part of the City’s Christmas tradition for more 26 years – and is a stunning watch. Gigantic sets, gorg costumes, 60 dancers and a full orchestra combine to make it a perfect family Christmas treat. I took my 7-year-old last winter and she didn’t budge in her seat!
Birmingham’s Frankfurt German Market, until Sun Dec 24
The largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria – now one of the world’s biggest Christmas fairs – offering a range of traditional gifts, Pretzels, schnitzels and strudels washed down with Gluhwein, Weissbeer or a hot chocolate. Huge concrete security barriers have been put in place to protect visitors from terror attacks.
Christmas Market, Hatton Country World, nr Warwick, every day Dec Mon 18 – Fri Dec 22
Warwickshire’s Hatton Shopping Village is to host its popular Christmas markets every weekend starting this Saturday and every day from Dec 18 – 22. Expect a diverse range of stalls from local suppliers selling a multitude of fabulous festive gifts, festive singing, mulled punch, mince pies and a great festive atmosphere. Late night shopping on Dec 8 until 8.30pm when shoppers can enjoy discounts in selected shops from 5pm, an appearance from Father Christmas, entertainment and carol singing.
The Frostmakers Guild takes over Magic Alley, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Sun Dec 24
Notoriously difficult to get tickets for (I still haven’t managed to get there!). Described as one of the “the most authentic Father Christmas’ in the country” one of my friends backs this up, she goes every year with her three and says the attention to detail makes it a really magical Christmas experience. Your kids can write a letter to Santa and post it in his special Reindeer Post Box to receive a personalised reply by post!
Tickets for Magic Alley and a visit to Father Christmas must be pre-booked to avoid disappointment,seekthemagic
One of the UK’s best winter light festivals returns after a hugely successful launch last year illuminating the park – turning it into a spectacular fusion of dual culture, vibrant colours and artistic sculptures. This year there’s life-sized and large-than-life lanterns in all shapes and forms, from a Gingerbread House to a magnificent giant lantern recreation of the iconic Birmingham Central Library. This family event – also held in London (Chiswick House), Leeds (Roundhay Park) and Manchester (Philips Park) – has a Santa’s grotto, fairground rides and refreshments.
Christmas at Bletchley Park, Bucks, dates through Dec
Time travel back to a 1940s-themed Christmas at home of World War II code-breakers, Bletchley Park near MK. There’s live retro music (on Dec 9 & 16) and a 40s-style Christmas Grotto on selected dates between until Dec 23 for kids aged 2 to 17 (somehow, I can’t image my 16 year old son being seen anywhere near a grotto or grown ups dressed as elves – but, hey, each to her own!)
Bletchley Park, The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Dr, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, bletchleypark.org.uk
The British Collective, Bicester Village, runs until January 2018
A multi-brand Christmas gifting boutique designed by British interior designer and illustrator Luke Edward Hall. Discover a collection of the finest pieces, including cashmere hats and gloves by Johnstons of Elgin, leather accessories by Trevor Pickett and Czech & Speake homewares, providing a one-stop shop for gifts for friends and family for the festive season. The luxury shopping destination; currently home to more than 130 boutiques has just increased its fashion offering with many new and exciting brands, new dining experience, more parking and a host of additional entertaining and shopping services to boot.
‘Self-guided tour’ & Pop-up Art Space, The CET Building, 157 Corporation Street, Coventry
See inside this original 1950s former Coventry Evening Telegraph Offices & Print-works until the end of 2018 it’s due to transformed into a boutique’ 50s styled hotel and cinema – The Telegraph. Open every day 12-4, with free parking for CET Building visitors on site in the rear service yard on Chapel Street. An entrance charge applies for the tour (suggested donation, £3).
Modigliani, Tate Modern, now – 2 April 2018
The Tate Modern’s comprehensive retrospective of Modigliani’s work is quite a treat. During his brief, turbulent life Modigliani developed a unique and instantly recognisable style. His nudes that are a highlight of the exhibition – with 12 nudes on display, this is the largest group ever reunited in the UK. First shown in 1917, police closed down his only ever solo exhibition on the grounds of indecency. Also expect sculptures, and portraits of his friends, lovers and supporters, including Pablo Picasso and his partner Jeanne Hébuterne. tate.org.uk
A rare opportunity to view these stunning works from the V&A’s South Asian Collection outside London. Discover the skilful art of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain sculpture, Amritsar’s delicately carved ivories, Hoshiarpur’s elaborate musical instruments and Sialkot’s gold-inlaid steel artefacts. One of the most extraordinary pieces on show will be the Golden Throne made by a Muslim craftsman in Lahore for Ranjit Singh, the first Sikh Maharaja of the Punjab.
Kaleidoscope: Colour & Sequence in 1960s British Art, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre, ends Sat Dec 9
I popped along to the private view last and this touring Arts Council Collection is definitely worth a visit. It features lots of fun brightly-coloured abstract New Generation sculpture, Op Art including paintings by Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgley and Pop art. Among the 20 artists there’s also work by David Annesley, Anthony Carol, Robyn Denny, Tess Jaray, Philip King, Kim Lim, Mary Martin, Eduardo Polozzi, Tim Scott, Richard Smith, William Tucker and William Turnbull. Free.
Christmas at Blenheim Palace, until Mon Jan 1
Back by popular demand after an unforgettable launch last year, the grounds of Blenheim palace will be lit up after dark with a festival trail through Capability Brown’s landscaped gardens, with twinkling festival lights, larger-than-life snowflakes and baubles, set against the backdrop of glittering ancient woodland, glowing Christmas trees and a swaying lawn of fibre-optics.
North – Fashioning Identity, Somerset House, London, until Sun Feb 4 2018
Forget the north/south divide, London doffs its hat to Manchester, Newcastle et al in this new exhibition. Social documentary film and photography detailing life in the north of England in the mid-20th century sits alongside works by photographers, designers and artists inspired by the parts of our green and pleasant land beyond the Watford Gap. Contributors include Nottingham’s finest Paul Smith and Manchester’s Factory Records designer Peter Saville. If you visit after Nov 15, you can also take a twirl on Somerset House’s gorgeous outdoor ice rink.
The RSC’s Rome MMXVII, The Barbican, London, until Jan 20
This winter the RSC transports London audiences to Shakespeare’s Rome with Angus Jackson’s thrilling London season of 4 of the playwrights most gripping plays – Coriolanus has ended its run but Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra and Titus Andronicus are now showing.
Codebreaker and Groundbreakers, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until Sun Feb 4
A pioneering exhibition to feed your mind celebrating the genius of Second World War codebreakers like Alan Turing at Bletchley Park with Michael Ventris who in the same year deciphered Linear B, the ancient Greek language. It includes an Enigma machine, a rare loan from GCHQ, and unique archival documents held at the University of Cambridge, as well as encouraging visitors to explore ‘codebreaking’ in all its forms.
Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, until Sun Feb 4
Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas! The festive makeover will see 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 will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, wbstudiotour.co.uk
Christmas at Waddesdon Manor, Bucks, now until Tues Jan 2 2018
No Bruce Munro light installations this year at Waddesdon Manor (he’s up the road on the approach to Bicester Village) but instead there are several light shows to enjoy as dusk falls. Waddesdon Imaginarium is a light and sound show projected onto the Manor’s façade including roaming porcelain animals, dancing musical clocks, cascades of flowers, and 18th-century portraits, accompanied by an original score composed by students at the Guildhall School of Music.
Also worth checking out is is Electric Menagerie, light-based artworks throughout the grounds by American artist Lauren Booth (above), inspired by the real and fantastical animals associated with Waddesdon (Baron Ferdinand collected a ‘zoo’ of animals and birds to amuse his weekend party guests, including antelopes, kiwis and even kangaroos). Check out Dylan, Rolo and Murphy (2017), three Neon Goats placed on the rockwork, and her neon Parrot, Bleeding Heart Dove and Rothschild Mynahs created in response to the 1889 Aviary. A special free Children’s House Trail until 2 Jan.
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP18 0JH, Tel: 01296 820414, waddesdon.org.uk
Two new public artworks by David Cotterrell and Bedwyr Williams, Chester Waterways & Storyhouse, Chester, on now
If you’re heading up north there’s two new digital artworks in Chester – Bedwyr Williams’ Hypercaust which brings back to life Chester’s Roman Fortress Bathhouse recreated through historically accurate 3D renderings; and Maelstrom by installation artist David Cotterell, acknowledging Chester’s relationship with water as a whirlpool appears and disappears in the Shropshire Canal. War artist David Cotterell who went to the frontline Afghanistan in 2007, also has Gateway II, on display at London’s Imperial War Museum as part of Age of Terror: Art since 9/11 until May 28 2018.
Finnish Rooftop Sauna, Queen Elizabeth Roof Terrace, South Bank, until Sat Dec 30
Looking for some more individual one-off Christmas prezzies? Come and see the amazing talent of Etsy sellers from foodies to designers, furniture restorers to jewellers from around the county at the creative and buzzing Fargo Village! The perfect event to start (and maybe even finish) your Christmas shopping.
For more information see here, 10am – 6pm.
Shipston Rotary Victorian Evening, Shipston-on-Stour, Fri Dec 1
Enjoy dozens of festive stalls, the Tree of Life, music, singing, food and the arrival of Father Christmas to his town centre grotto. More than people attended last year’s event, 6 – 8pm.
Picasso: Linocuts from the British Museum, The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry ends Sun Dec 3
Showcasing works created in the late 1950s and early 1960s, this exhibition explores the artist’s expressive and experimental works with linocut techniques and ceramics. Produced when Picasso was over eighty years old, Still Life under the Lamp, Jacqueline Reading and Nude Woman at the Spring highlight his skilful yet risky approach.
The comic actor and stand-up is back on the road after his critically-acclaimed turn as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof at Chichester Festival theatre this summer.
BBC 3’s People Just Do Nothing: Kurupt FM, Kasbah, Coventry, Fri Dec 1
As seen on the BBC 3 comedy ‘documentary’ following MC Sniper, DJ Beats and the rest of the chamunity as they struggle to make a name for themselves with their pirate radio station, Kurupt FM.
Leamington Lantern Parade, Leamington Spa, Sun Dec 3
Leamington’s Lantern Parade is the perfect family-friendly start to December. Bring along your own handmade lantern. Starting at The Royal Pump Rooms Gardens Bandstand at 4.30pm accompanied by a local band it will end with Christmas carols around the Tree of Lights at the Town Hall at 6pm.
Christmas Vegan Festival, Fargo Village, Coventry, Fri Dec 1 & Sat Dec 2
The first ever Etsy Made Local Vegan Fair with more than 20 totally Vegan stallholders plus Fargo’s vegan shop The Green Unicorn Vegan Store, vegan Brewery Twisted Barrel Ale Brewery and Tap House & vegan Cafe Totally Vegan. The festival runs 5pm – 10pm on Fri and 11am – 6pm on Sat.
Roland Gift, of the Fine Young Cannibals, Leamington Assembly, Tues Dec 5
The charismatic former frontman of Birmingham trio FYC is back touring with his new solo album, Roland Gift. Love, love, love his voice. Saw him a couple of years ago at Warwick Arts Centre with Jools Holland and he’s still got it!
*New* Traditional 3-Day Victorian Christmas Market, Stratford-upon-Avon, Fri Dec 8 – Sun Dec 10
150 stalls selling gifts, local produce, homemade crafts, handmade cakes, decorations plus traditional roast chestnuts, mulled wine, ciders, gin and Bailey’s chocolate.