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This week



MUSIC: Ronnie Spector & the Ronettes’ Best Christmas Party Ever! Warwick Arts Centre, Tue 17 Dec 

Seasonal musical treats at Warwick Arts Centre include legendary 1960’s singer Ronnie Spector who’ll be singing belter hits including Be My Baby, Baby I Love YouWalking In The Rain, and Do I Love You; cult gems from her back catalogue, and lots of Ronnie’s inimitable off-the-cuff musings and anecdotes from childhood Christmas’ in New York City.



Mallory Court Country House Hotel, nr Leamington Spa

I love the detail that’s gone into these fabulous hand-crafted festive patisserie treats. Experience one of the best Afternoon Teas in Leamington Spa sitting next to a roaring fire in the Warwickshire countryside! This 3AA Rosette restaurant also has the most amazing vegan option created by their super-talented Liverpool-born head chef Paul Evans – his wife just happens to be vegan! A Muddy review to follow…from £27.50


Whittle’s at Binswood, Leamington Spa

Closer to Leamington Spa town centre in a rather grand-looking former boys grammar school, you can enjoy another festive afternoon tea with Christmas cocktail on arrival, freshly baked spiced scones, mince-pie slice, festive cakes and finger sandwiches, from £20.95.


SHAKESPEARE PORTRAIT COMPETITION: Buddy young artist in the family? Entries in before Jan 31 2020

William Shakespeare, by Ricky Martin (CBBC’s Art Ninja) (c) Ricky Martin

Here’s a portrait of Shakespeare by CBBC’s Art Ninja – Ricky Martin, one of the country’s best-loved artists is working with the Stratford-based Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. to develop free resources and activities for schools as part of an exciting art and design-themed programme during Shakespeare Week, 16-22 March 2020. Korky Paul, illustrator of the popular Winnie the Witch series, award-winning author and illustrator, Marcia Williams, and Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell are also involved. New for 2020’s celebration is the Shakespeare Portrait Competition, inviting children age 11 and under to create their very own portrait of the Bard for a chance to win fabulous prizes, including having their artwork exhibited at The Lowry and in an online exhibition during Shakespeare Week. Children have until 31 January 2020 to enter their artwork.

Full details here:


MUSIC: Rick Wakeman’s The Grumpy Old Christmas Show, Sat Dec 21, Warwick Arts Centre, Sat Dec 21

Former Yes keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman’s The Grumpy Old Christmas Show will combine piano music with stories and revealing insights into his lengthy and varied career, which included working with David Bowie. He’ll be featuring music from his new Christmas Portraits album, released on Fri 29 Nov, and other classics from his extensive repertoire, plus some typically Wakeman surprises.


FESTIVE FILM PICK OF THE WEEK: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12A), out Thurs Dec 19

Daisy Ridley’s journey as Rey continues in this long-running Skywalker sci-fi saga directed by JJ Abrams.


CLASSICAL: CBSO: A Choral Christmas, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Wed 18 Dec – Fri 20 Dec

Favourite tunes, traditional carols and the whole family gathered together for a very special celebration: the CBSO’s annual Choral Christmas has become a real Birmingham tradition. Everyone’s welcome!




The Boy in the DressRoyal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, March 2020

Toby Mocrei as Dennis in The Boy in the Dress. Photo by Manuel Harlan (c) RSC

This exuberant, beautifully directed and moving new musical, based on the best-selling children’s novel by David Walliams, features 16 original songs by pop star Robbie Williams and his long-term writing partner Guy Chambers. It’s directed by RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran and adapted by former RSC writer-in-residence Mark Ravenhill. Tickets are half price for children – up to four can go with one adult.

Box Office: 01789 331111, RSC


Club 2BBelgrade Theatre, Coventry,Wed 11 Dec – Fri Dec 31

Photo by Robert Day

At the other end of the age scale, over 18’s can dress up, drink and dine simultaneously while enjoying a brand new immersive theatrical party devised by Corey Campbell’s Strictly Arts – he’s also one of the theatre’s three City of Culture 2021 creative leads. The idea came from theatrical club nights the theatre company were commission to devise in between tours at clubs across the UK from Manchester to Bristol. This Secret Cinema style festive experience will take you on a trip through time on cabaret-style tables. You’ll have the freedom to get up and explore the room as the performance unfolds, complete with food, drink, live music and gaming tables. Wear your finest threads from your favourite era and let your hair down!

Raymond Briggs’ Father ChristmasWarwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick campus, Coventry, Wed Nov 27 – Sun Dec 29

A blooming brilliant festive treat for children aged 3 to six-years-old and their families! This critically acclaimed production by London’s Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and Pins and Needles follows Briggs’ grumpy but lovable Father Christmas as he gets ready for his busiest day of the year, Christmas Eve. First published in 1973, Father Christmas won Briggs the annual Kate Greenaway Medal for best children’s book illustration (his second win). The author went on to write and draw many other acclaimed books for children, including The Snowman, Fungus The Bogeyman, Ug: Boy Genius Of The Stone Age, and The Bear.

Tel: 024 7652 4524 or see: warwickartscentre


Santa’s Dizzy Day, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Thur Dec 12 – Tues Dec 24

This interactive, song-filled festive family show returns for littlies aged two to six-years-old. It’s an ideal introduction to the magic of live theatre, with a chance for children to meet Father Christmas and receive an early Christmas present. Coventry-based Imagine Theatre’s popular Santa shows are fast becoming something of a seasonal tradition for Coventry families. Previous shows have included Santa’s Sparkly SurpriseSanta’s Mixed-Up Martian, Santa’s Polka dot Pirate and Santa’s Rusty Robot all written by Belgrade panto legend Iain Lauchlan, creator of the BAFTA-winning children’s TV series The Tweenies.

Tel the box office on 024 7655 3055,  belgrade


Snow QueenCoventry’s Albany Theatre until Sat 28 Dec

There’s an icy chill in the air the Albany Theatre when the Snow Queen rolls into town. Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale of sparkling princesses, wicked wizards and Jack Frost is adapted by Ceridwen Theatre Company, whose adaptation of Peter Pan was a blast.


Puss in Boots, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, until Sat 11 Jan

The ensemble. Photo by Robert-Day

Love or loathe them, panto’s are in full swing and the Belgrade’s Puss in Boots is a shining example of slapstick absurdity with slosh scenes, comic improv and audience interaction. Written and directed by Iain Lauchlan, who stars as Dame Matilda Pudding, this year’s show marks the former children’s TV presenter’s 25th year in panto at the Coventry theatre. His long-term comedy partner-in-crime Craig Hollingsworth plays Matilda’s son, Simon aka Baggie B a who wants to be an ‘Instafamous’ rapper. It also stars Miriam Grace Edwards as Princess Sophia – who’s previously performed in a number of alternative B2 pantos – and David Gilbrook as her father, King Colin, supported by a Junior Chorus of local children aged 9-16.


Peter Pan, Birmingham REP, until January 19

Liam Steel returns to direct a new visually spectacular 21st century version of  J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan at Birmingham Rep. With the delightful twist of a Brummie setting, the show features lots of aerial flying, puppetry, a giant man-eating crocodile and sprinkle of fairy dust. It’s set on a council estate in Birmingham, where Wendy takes care of her brothers and Nia Gwynne plays Hook. The show follows Olivier Award-winning Steel’s modern retelling of The Wizard of Oz at Birmingham Rep Theatre last year, which proved to be a big hit with audiences.


Snow White and the Seven DwarfsBirmingham Hippodrome, Dec 21 – Feb 2 2020

Another outing with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs featuring sets and costumes direct from the London Palladium. The all-star line up features Lesley Joseph, Matt Slack, Joe McElderry, Faye Brookes, Flawless, Doreen Tipton and Andrew Ryan.

Tickets here.


Snow White, Leamington’s Royal Spa Centre until Sun 5 Jan

At Leamington’s Royal Spa Centre, the fairest panto of them all Snow White runs this Christmas starring Emma Marsh in her professional debut and welcoming back JP McCue for his eighth year, joined by Sean Dodds for more mayhem.



King John, RSC, now until Fri 20 Mar

King John production photo by Steve Tanner with Rosie Sheehy

Catch one of Shakespeare’s rarely-performed works as director Eleanor Rhode makes an “engrossing” debut in the Swan Theatre. Stirring an uneasy semblance to the present day, King John tells of a nation in turmoil and a preening king, played by Rosie Sheehy, who will stop at nothing to keep the crown. The Guardian says the production “tingles with a tangible sense of spontaneity”.


 A Museum in Baghdad, the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, now until Sat 25 Jan

Photo by Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC

An original compelling tale of two women, living decades apart; Gertrude Bell is founding a museum in Iraq’s capital in 1926 and Ghalia Hussein is attempting to reopen the establishment following looting during the war. They share a goal: to create a fresh sense of unity and nationhood. But in such unstable times, questions remain. Who is the museum for? Whose culture are we preserving? And why does it matter when people are dying? It’s written by Hannah Khalil, a playwright with Middle Eastern heritage.


RSC NEW YEAR CALL OUT: Want to perform at The Dell, Stratford-upon-Avon, on weekends in summer 2020?

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is offering amateur and semi-professional theatre groups, schools and colleges the opportunity to put on a play written or inspired by Shakespeare at The Dell, the Company’s open-air performance space on the banks of the River Avon in Stratford-upon-Avon, on Saturdays and Sundays throughout next summer 2020. The Dell provides a space for groups to perform an established piece of work, or to create a new one inspired by Shakespeare, and it has already seen more than 300 groups perform on its stage since it launched 12 years ago.  Two performance slots are available on Saturdays and Sundays at The Dell throughout July and August 2020.

If you’re interested in mounting a production download The Dell 2020 Guidance Notes and Application Form, here: Closing date: Mon 24 Feb 2020.



Hatton Shopping Village Christmas Markets, Sat 21 Dec & Sun 22 Dec

Combine a browse of the outdoor market comprising over 30 stalls with an exploration of the shops housed in the former farm buildings. Pick up one-of-a-kind pressies direct from the artists, crafters and makers who’ve carefully created them, 10am-5pm.

Visit the Hatton Shopping Village website for all the details.


Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market, until 23 Dec

For its 20th year the Frankfurt Christmas market will be open for an extra week this year. It’s all very German – heavy on beer, sausage and pretzels – with more than 80 stalls sprawling out along New Street and in Victoria Square. The ice rink and Big Wheel will be returning for 2019.



Warwick Castle, until Jan 5 2020

Step into Christmas at the Castle, complete with super exciting new addition of an ice rink. Put your skates on for a 45-minute session against a stunning backdrop in front of the castle’s iconic East Front, and there’s hot food and drink vendors for afterwards too. Book ahead for special events such as Stories with Santa and Santa’s Stately Breakfast. You can also enter our Readers Treat giveaway for a family ticket to the castle here (ends Dec 18)!  This weekend sees Carols at the Castle  on Sat 21 Dec, a musical evening in the Courtyard, with hot food and drinks including mulled wine. Carols will be led by the choir of St Mary’s and accompanied by the traditional tones of the fantastic Royal Spa Brass.  Money raised goes to support local good causes.


Christmas at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shottery, nr Stratford, every Fri, Sat and Sun in Dec

Who will host Christmas this year? Anne Hathaway and her brother Bartholomew return to the Cottage to discuss who will host the family Christmas this year. Will it be a traditional cottage Christmas in the country, or fancy festivities at Anne and William’s grand abode at New Place? Meet Anne and Bartholomew as they sit at the kitchen table, eating and discussing their festive plans, 12-4pm (included in admission).


CHRISTMAS: Vintage Sleigh Ride and Winter Wonderland, Coventry Transport Museum (including SEN sessions), until Sat Dec 23

This week sees the opening of  Coventry’s Vintage Sleigh Ride and new winter wonderland, walk-through experience where families can play games, take photos and meet Santa. The ride – which has been a famous festive feature in Coventry since its days in the former Co-Op store – has been run from the museum in recent years. SEN sessions are offered for children where the space will be adapted with a low sensory offer. To book a SEN session, call 024 7623 7523.

Tickets £8 per child which includes a gift from Santa


Hatton Adventure World’s Enchanted Christmas Kingdom

Hatton is in full swing every weekend until Sun 22 Dec, plus two extra days on Mon 23 & Tue 24 Dec. This year, the twinkling grotto is bigger and better than ever, where children receive a Golden Key to unlock St. Nick’s magical workshop and choose a present of their choice. There are also several new activities including interactive singalong show Reindeer Flying School and the Christmas Magician Show.


Breakfast with Santa at The Farm, Snitterfield, near Stratford, Fri 20 Dec

As anticipation for the big day starts to reach breaking point, there’ll be storytelling, Christmas elves, letters to the North Pole, early presents, singalongs and a mini staple breakfast in gorgeous rustic café Nourishfrom 9am – 10.30am.


A Christmas Sing-a-longShakespeare’s New Place, Chapel Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sat 21 Dec & Christmas Eve

Bring the littlies for a special morning family-friendly Makaton Christmas sing-a-long and festive storytelling. Enjoy specially-created Makaton Christmas trail around the site of Shakespeare‘s New Place, the site of Shakespeare’s final home.  Come dressed in your best Christmas outfit and be in the chance to win festive prizes!


Yule Love Music, Coventry city centre, weekend of 20-22 Dec 

Soak up the wintery festival atmosphere, with live performances from singers, bands, dancers and DJ sets under a sea of multi-coloured solar-powered lanterns in Broadgate.


Flowers of Winter, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Chapel Street  Stratford-upon-Avon, until Sun Jan 5

Courtesy of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

As part of the splendid festive programme at Shakespeare’s family homes, the Bard’s birthplace will be brought to beautiful life with Flowers of Winter from Sat 14 Dec. This glorious installation of traditional blooms, by local florists from March Hare Floral Design and Tukshop Flowers, demonstrates the tradition of laying flowers to symbolise the downing of tools and the beginning of celebrations.

All the details here.


MUSIC: The Wonder Stuff, O2 Academy Birmingham, Sat Dec 21

A musical festive treat for indie kids and students of the late 1980’s and early 90’s. This year not only sees Midlands band The Wonder Stuff release their ninth album, Better Being Lucky, but it also marks 30 years since the release of the band’s classic second album, HUP. To celebrate the new record and anniversary, The Wonder Stuff will be touring the UK playing HUP in its entirety and showcasing tracks from the upcoming album Better Being Lucky. That’s not it, though, as the band will also be throwing in a full performance of their seminal debut album, The Eight Legged Groove Machine! 


MUSIC: A Very Record Covers Christmas show, Inside the 22, Rugby, Fri Dec 20 & The Tuning Fork, Houlton, Sat Dec 21

Eat, drink and be merry with popular Rugby indie covers band The Record Covers who hold their last public outing of 2019, playing a smattering of classic Christmas covers and Record Covers favourites at Inside the 22, opposite Rugby School. They’ll also be playing a live set at top restaurant and cafe bar The Tuning Fork on the outskirts of Rugby,


ART: John Walker: New Paintings, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, until Feb 23 


Ikon presents a major exhibition of new paintings by Birmingham-born artist John Walker (b. 1939), described as “one of the standout abstract painters of the last 50 years” (Cate McQuaid, Boston Globe, 2014). Having studied in Birmingham at the Moseley School of Art, and later the Birmingham College of Art, Walker was the first artist to show at Ikon Gallery when it moved in 1972 to new premises in the Birmingham Shopping Centre above New Street Station. This exhibition reveals an artist at the height of his powers, featuring “anti-scenic” paintings inspired by the coastal landscapes of Maine where Walker now lives.



Girl from the North Country, Gielgud Theatre, London, opened Dec 10 until Feb 1

Conor McPherson’s deeply touching, popular hit musical set in 1930s Minnesota is a re-imagining of Bob Dylan’s greatest hits. In this return West End production Katie Brayben takes over from Olivier-winning Shirley Henderson – who recently appeared in Gillian Wearing’s documentary about Warwickshire novelist George Eliot – as Elizabeth, a guesthouse owner’s wife with dementia. Next up is a Broadway run.


Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxon

Just over the Warks border in Oxfordshire, Blenheim always goes the whole hog with its Illuminated Light Trail and this year there’ll be 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, plus the Palace will be decorated in the theme of Alice in Wonderland.


Southbank Centre Winter Market, London, until 5 Jan

As well as Christmas produce, artisan treats and other goodies sold from Nordic-themed chalets standing along the river, there’ll be an Applebee’s pop-up restaurant and alpine-style lodge under the bridge.


Hyde Park Wonder Wonderland, London, until 5 Jan

The big one. Along with 100 wooden chalets there’ll be *deep breath* ice skating, ice bars and sculpting workshops, rides, Santa Land, shows, boozy Bavarian Village and, new for 2019, A Christmas Carol, 70m lit-up ferris wheel, Paddington and Mr Men shows for children. It’s free to enter and get in on the festive atmosphere, but you’ll have to pay for the attractions.


Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market, Hants until 22 Dec

This bustling German-themed Christmas market was voted second best in the UK last year so no doubt it’ll be going all out to hit the top spot. Expect over 100 chalets, British Craft Village, food court and open air ice rink with the beautiful cathedral backdrop.



Mama Mia! A brand new (and, quite frankly, must-see) exhibition is coming to The O2, London this month – ABBA: Super Troupers is a journey through the Swedish band’s career and will feature personal items and artefacts never seen before in the UK (6 Dec – 21 Aug 2020).

Another newbie is Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery. One of the biggest cultural events in the winter calendar, the exhibit features 150+ original artefacts found in the Pharaoh’s tomb that was unearthed in 1922.

Other exhibitions worth a snoop are Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane collection of work at the V&A (until 8 March); William Blake at Tate Britain, with the visionary painter and poets work blown up to enormous scale using digital technology (until 2 Feb 2020); Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican  – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s (4 Oct – 19 Jan).

Find more ideas here

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