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This weekend



The Gift, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry,  now until Sat 25 Jan

Photo credit Ellie Kurttz

If you get a chance I’d highly really recommend you check out award-winning playwright Janice Okoh’s brand-new comedy drama inspired by Sarah Bonetta Davies, the African princess adopted by Queen Victoria as a young child. Themes include imperialism, cross-racial adoption, cultural appropriation…and tea no less! The play makes its premiere in Coventry this week before heading out on a national tour. It’s is the third show to emerge from black theatre company Eclipse’s groundbreaking Revolution Mix which aims to tell the “missing stories” of black British history over 500 years. The Gift follows the hugely successful tour of critically acclaimed Black Men Walking, based on a real-life Black men’s walking group in Sheffield, and Princess & The Hustler, inspired by the Bristol bus civil rights boycott of the 1960s. Featuring a six-person cast, it tells of two Sarahs; one African girl adopted by Queen Victoria in the 1860s and one present-day middle-class black woman. Both Sarahs’ meet Queen Victoria for tea – but this won’t be your regular tea party…Check out our afternoon tea with the cast here.

Book online


 The Boy in the Dress, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, now until Sun 8 Mar

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


King John, The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon 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”.


*LAST CHANCE* A Museum in Baghdad, The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, now until Sat 25 Jan

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.


THEATRE: Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa, Wed Jan 22 – Sat Feb 1

18th Century France, before the revolution: two decadent, aristocratic ex-lovers conspire in drawing rooms and boudoirs, competing in games of seduction and revenge. Their only thought is the pursuit of pleasure, which often comes at the expense of others. In 1985, Christopher Hampton’s stage adaption opened to rave reviews at the RSC’s The Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon before transferring to London and winning the Olivier and Evening Standard award for best play. The Broadway production was Tony nominated and the 1988 film adaptation of the play was nominated for seven Oscars and won three. Now for the first time Les Liaisons Dangereuses comes to Leamington’s Loft Theatre with a performance each evening at 7.30pm, except Sun  Jan 26 when the performance will be at 5pm and no performance on Mon Jan  27.

Tickets can be booked online at any time via lofttheatrecompany, by emailing, or calling 01926 830860 (answer phone service). Under 25s and NUS card holders can purchase tickets for just £8 for all performances apart from Sat Jan 25 and Sat Feb 1. 


EVENT: Burns Night,  The Star and Garter, Leamington Spa, Sat Jan 25

Burns Night Robert Burns, also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. Book in advance for a Four Course Feast and of course, lots of whisky.

£40 per person, Pop in and book your table from 6pm or Tel: 01926359960.


EVENT: Burn’s Night, The Durham Ox, Shrewley Common, Warwick, Warwickshire, Sat Jan 25

Put your dancing shoes on and come on down to the Ox to eat Haggis and enjoy ceilidh dancing with a live band plus four-course dinner. This is a fundraiser for the Shrewley outdoor play area so come and support the local community! durhamoxshrewley


EVENT: Burns Night, Ettington Park Hotel, Ettington, nr Stratford, Sat Jan 25

Enjoy a four-course Burns supper to celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns, including half a bottle of house wine. Arrive at 7pm for seating at 7.30pm.

Reservations are essential. To book please call 01789 450123handpickedhotels


TALK: Crime writer Sophie Hannah on  her new novel Haven’t They Grown, St Mary Immaculate Church Hall, 45 West St, Warwick, Fri Jan 24

The Times called crime fiction writer Sophie Hannah ‘one of the great unmissables of the genre’. Sophie is not only an internationally bestselling crime-writing superstar, having been translated into 49 languages and published in 51 countries, but a  bestselling poet, shortlisted for the TS Eliot award. Sophie has also created a Master’s Degree in Crime and Thriller Writing at the University of Cambridge, of which she is the main teacher and Course Director.  She lives in Cambridge, where she is an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College. She will be discussing her new novel Haven’t They Grown in this event organised by Warwick Books, 2.30pm start.

Tickets £8 and include tea / coffee / refreshments from Oken’s Tearoom. Booking essential on Ticket Source or at Warwick Books 01926 499939; Ticket Source Link:

DANCE: Anton and Erin, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Sat Jan 25

The Strictly favourites are back with a new show for 2020 filled with Hollywood glitz and glamour as they dance to music from the silver screen from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Batman, thsh


WELLBEING: LOW & NO The George Townhouse, Shipston-on-Stour & The Townhouse, Stratford-upon-Avon,  now until Thur Feb 13

Pop the biscuits away and hide the cheeseboards now the festive season is done and dusted! If you’re struggling to keep on that healthy lifestyle bandwagon, look no further than Brakspear’s new Low & No menu. At just 600 cals or even lower, their tempting dishes are perfect for a guilt-free treat out, Monday to Saturday, Low & No Menu.

https://thegeorgeshipston stratfordtownhouse 


EXHIBITION:  Sensing the City: An Urban Room, The Herbert, Coventry, Mon 13 Jan-Sat 18 Jan

Another newbie is this interesting and unusual exhibition which will give people access to visit the underpass system at Junction 5 of the Coventry ringroad and surrounding areas daily between 3.30pm – 5.30pm (Monday 13 & Friday 17 January) and short audience experiences for up to eight people daily as well as daily film screenings of Coventry Radiant City by Michael Lightborne.  It is the result of a collaborative research group of artists and academics who have spent three years exploring the impact and manifestations of their specialist subjects in and around Coventry, including the application of experimental methodologies in dance and choreography, creative writing, performance, film, photography and sound technologies.

See here for details of special activities taking place during the exhibition.


EXHIBITION: New moving sculpture, The MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) MuseumStratford-upon-Avon 

A brand-new moving sculpture inside an old decommissioned telephone box has been unveiled by The MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) Museum. One of their favourite resident artists, Pascal Bettex, a kinetic artist from Switzerland, was commissioned to create the sculpture inside the box. The theme of the sculpture is a tribute to William Shakespeare and features several objects relating to the Bard and his plays. Although the Museum now own the phone box, it must remain in place in Henley Street. More than 5,800 payphones have been adopted by communities since 2008.

Open Mon – Fri from 10:30am – 4:30pm and at weekends/holidays from 10am – 5:30pm,


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

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.


PANTO: Snow White and the Seven DwarfsBirmingham Hippodrome, until Feb 2

The all-star line up features Lesley Joseph, Matt Slack, Joe McElderry, Faye Brookes, Flawless, Doreen Tipton and Andrew Ryan. Tickets here.


WEDDINGS: Open Day, Wootton Park, Wootton Wawen, nr Henley-in-Arden, Thur Jan 30 2020

Wootton Park’s January Open Evening provides the perfect opportunity to come and see this glorious countryside family-run venue set for a wedding, view the accommodation and speak to the team about booking your special day  – for added fun there’s the family-run wakeboarding and aqua park also on site, 5 – 8pm, woottonpark


EXHIBITION: Exploring Eliot’s Coventry, The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, until April 26

(Portrait of George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), 1880-1881, by François d’Albert-Durade)

Celebrating 200 years since the birth of author George Eliot with a new display about her connections with Coventry.


BAKE-OFF: Launch of The Big Birmingham Bake, Floodgate Street, Digbeth, Jan

January sees the launch of The Big Birmingham Bake on Floodgate street in Digbeth, the new baking venue gives everyone from friends and family to co-workers the chance to compete in a bake off. It is hosted in a fully kitted out marquee, with 12 bake stations and is lead by a team of professional bakers. From gingerbread grottos to rainbow filled eclairs, every month sees a new baking theme. Customers are adorned with all the ingredients, equipment and instructions they need to create a stunning bake. The venue has its own private adjoining bar serving a cake themed cocktail each month as well as a lounge area. It is the second venue of its kind to open in the UK with The Big London Bake already popular on Designmynight, Timeout, Tripadvisor and the Evening Standard.

Check out: The Big London Bake at thebiglondonbake/


DANCE CLASSES: Learn to dance with Motionhouse, Spencer Yard, Leamington Spa, starting in January 2020

New Year sees the launch of three new dance fitness classes at this Warwickshire based leading UK dance-theatre company for 2-5’s, over 60’s and Surge a new male youth dance company for boys aged 11+. See our fitness feature for more details.



YOGA: Fitness Yoga, The Farm, Stratford, Wed Jan 22

Reset yourself after the busy Christmas and  New Year period with a 40-minute fitness yoga class by Kate from The Loft, Stratford…then, for the best bit, enjoy coffee & protein balls in The Farm’s glorious café Nourish. £10 a class.

Book online: Wed 22 Jan & Wed 29 JanPeruse the fab selection of other masterclasses and cookery courses going on at The Farm throughout the year here.


HERITAGE: Conservation in Action, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, 6 January-20 February

Credit: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Meet the conservation team at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in their pop-up workshop and hear about the history of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and the work they do to care for the building and the museum items inside. Hidden Revealed, is also held every Tuesday throughout January at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Take a 45-minute guided tour of Anne Hathaway’s to see hidden fossils and witches’ marks that are normally hidden from view, and even objects visitors have left behind. Places limited to 8 per tour, book at reception, 11am.


GARDENS: Hill Close Gardens, now open weekdays 

Re-opening on Fri 3 Jan, Warwick’s hidden haven has a flourishing programme of events for 2020. The programme kicks off properly in February, with Snowdrop Weekend on Sat 1-Sun 2 Feb, but in Jan you can still seek solace in the 16 different garden plots during winter opening hours (Mon-Fri 11am-4m). If you have pre-school children, pop along to the monthly Family Drop-In from 09.30-11.30am on the second Thursday of each month, for a wholesome morning of digging, planting and puddle-jumping!

Hill Close Gardens


WALKS: Walkers’ Loyalty Card, Charlecote Park, Jan & Feb

Beautiful frosty views in the grounds of Charlecote Park. Photo: the National Trust

Looking for a great reason to work off all that Christmas food? Come for a walk around the deer park and ground during January and February while the house is closed for a big clean and get your card stamped each time you visit. Once you’ve filled it up the National Trust will treat you to a well-earned sausage or bacon bap (or veggie alternative). Ask at visitor reception for more information. You can download the parkland walk here. The house re-opens on February 15.



MUSIC: Beat HorizonBristol, Fri Jan 24 &  Manchester and Sat Jan 25

Sampa the Great

The UKʼs biggest celebration of  Hip-Hop, Beats and Bass festival returns in January 2020. Gathering the best artists from the underground culture, including Yasiin Bey (the influential hip-hop star and activist formerly known as Mos Def), legendary Goldie and his muscular Funk and Soulful pulses, alternative hip-hop group The Pharcyde, South London Dubstep icon Mala as well as Drum ‘n’ Bass pioneers Roni Size and LTJ Bukem. This cultural collision of hip hop, dub and drum ‘n’ bass includes Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon, the fabulous Sampa The Great, Swindle, and many more, https://beathorizon


SCIENCE: Stargazing Oxford 2020, The Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, University of Oxford, Oxford, 25 Jan

Is there life on other planets? What happened at the very beginning of the universe? Wouldn’t you like to know! At this annual event you can get the lowdown from astronomers, along with a space-themed open day in the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics. There’ll be flash talks, crafts, a groovy 3D installation of Orion, tips and tricks on how to stargaze at home, plus an inflatable planetarium.


THEATRE: An Inspector CallsMK Theatre, Milton Keynes, 21 – 25 Jan

Stephen Daldry’s multi-award winning production of An Inspector Calls for the National Theatre comes to our ‘hood this week following a sell-out London season and US tour. It’s Based on JB Priestley’s classic thriller so expect all the usual intrigue, murder and suspense.


CULTURE: Restoration and conservation tours, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, until 9 Feb 

Every year the conservation team at the World Heritage Site conduct a six-week deep clean of the palace to keep it ship-shape, with every part of the Blenheim Palace collection meticulously cleaned and maintained using both modern and traditional methods. If you fancy taking a look at the process then you can book onto a tour to see the team in action and pick up some A+ cleaning tips.


London International Mime Festival, various venues, until Sun Feb 2


Ten overseas companies join eight British groups presenting premieres in this 44th year festival, especially commissioned productions from Ockham’s RazorThick & TightTold by an Idiot and Vamos Theatre. Belgium’s Peeping Tom and Kiss & Cry Collective return with new shows, there’s exquisite puppetry from New York, France, and by London’s String Theatre on its unique Puppet Barge. There’s also a triple-bill of remarkable silent movie classics with live jazz accompaniment, and a real life Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel mystery at new festival venue, the iconic Wilton’s Music Hall. Workshops for 2020 include an exclusive course taught by faculty members from the École Jacques Lecoq, Paris, and a residential course celebrating 30 years of the David Glass Ensemble – a new partnership with The Point, Eastleigh.

EXHIBITION: Thinking 3D: Leonardo to the presentthe Bodleian Library, Oxford, until 9 Feb

Timed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibition shows how Leonardo and his contemporaries made great strides in the realistic depiction of 3D forms. Thinking 3D explores technological advances up to the present day including 3D modelling, photography and stereoscopy; and also highlights the works of modern practitioners and researchers in Oxford.


ART: London Art Fair, Islington, London, 21-26 Jan

London Art fair image of woman in pink floral dress and tulle headress

Calling modern art lovers! Get ye over to Islington for this massive art fair offering everything from prints and editions through to major works by internationally renowned artists. There are talks, tours, screenings and curated spaces, plus Photo50, the annual exhibition of contemporary photography and Art Projects, featuring large-scale installations, solo shows and group displays.


Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery, London, is 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 (until 3 May).

A brand new (and, quite frankly, must-see) exhibition is now open at The O2, London  – ABBA: Super Troupers, a journey through the Swedish band’s career and will feature personal items and artefacts never seen before in the UK (until 21 Aug 2020).

Other exhibitions worth a snoop are Bridget Riley, a momentous lifetime retrospective, at the Hayward Gallery, SE1, (until January 26); 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.



FOOD: Vegan Night, The George Townhouse, Shipston-on-Stour & The Townhouse, Stratford-upon-Avon, Wed Jan 29

If you’re a vegan right down to your roots or you simply need a plant detox for the evening, then join these two Brakspear pubs on the last Wednesday of every month for their vegan night from 6pm. With two courses for just £20, you’ll be saving pounds and the planet, what could be better?


MUSIC: Beverley Knight – BK25 tour, Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry,  Jan 31

Photo; Mark Allan

Wolverhampton-born British soul icon Beverley Knight (Jan 31) celebrates 25 years in music, during which time she’s earned 14 Top 40 hits and countless awards. Her latest album, BK25, finds the singer, presenter and stage star at the top of her game. This is her only West Midlands anniversary gig,


THEATRE: The WhipSwan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sat 1 February – Sat 21 March 2020

This provocative new play by award-winning playwright, journalist and University of Birmingham creative fellow, Juliet Gilkes Romero is set at the beginning of the 19th Century in London as politicians of all parties come together to abolish the slave trade. The price of freedom turns out to be a multi-billion pound bailout for slave owners rather than those enslaved. Two women navigate their way to the true seat of political influence, challenging members of parliament who dare deny them their say. Directed by the super-talented Kimberley Sykes (Dido, Queen of Carthage, 2017; As You Like It, 2019).


Packwood Breakfast Tours, Packwood House, Warks, starting Feb 4

The Long Gallery, Packwood House. Photo: The National Trust

New for February 2020, book a delicious breakfast of Full English, Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine at 9am in the Packwood café followed by an exclusive tour of the restored Tudor house displayed just as Baron Graham Ash intended his guests to view the house. Come and hear the stories behind key pieces of the Packwood collection, finishing at 11.30am.

£18.50 per person, to book please click here or Tel: the box office on 0344 249 1895.


BALLET: The Red Shoes, Birmingham Hippodrome, Tue Feb 11 – Sat Feb 15

Matthew Bourne’s acclaimed stage adaptation of The Red Shoes, set to romantic music of golden-age Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann. The story follows a girl’s dream of becoming the greatest dancer in the world, and it’s Matthew Bourne, so there’s no doubt the moves will be excellent.


MID-WINTER VALENTINE’S DAY DINNER: Sky By The Water, Resorts World’s rooftop bar and restaurant, Sun Feb 16

A trio of local Midlands chefs are teaming up to treat loved-up couples to a six-course tasting menu. Following their sell-out first chef collaboration in September with Rob Palmer, head chef of Michelin starred Peel’s Restaurant at Hampton Manor, Rob Palmer, Matt Cheal, head chef of top fine dining restaurant Cheal’s of Henley, along with Aaron Darnley and Darryl Collins, the head chef and pastry chef at Resorts World’s Sky By The Water, come together to host a Valentine’s weekend dinner set to impress. Cheal and Darnley will team up on a duo of starters and main courses, including a cured salmon and crab starter and a Loomswood Farm duck, parmesan gnocchi and passion fruit dish for main. Desserts and petit fours will follow from Collins, former Channel 4 Bake Off: The Professionals finalist, featuring an unusual roast parsnip ice cream milk chocolate macaron with a mango compote and mango sorbet. Places for this special dinner are £75 per person including a welcome drink in the Secret Winter Garden from 6pm, with an exclusive matching drinks pairing available at an additional £30 per person.

Seats at the table are limited and can be booked via or by calling 0121 273 1000. For full details, see resortsworldbirmingham.


BOOK NOW: Steve McQueen, Tate Modern, London, 13 Feb – 11 May 

I love this shot! This solo exhibition of London-born artist and director of Oscar-winning 12 Years a SlaveSteve McQueen’s portfolio features 14 major works spanning his extensive career in film, photography and sculpture and is the first major UK exhibition since he received the Turner Prize in 1999. So, yeah, it’s a pretty big deal! The display will cover the last 25 years of McQueen’s career including personal and intimate works such as his early film on a Super 8 camera and this awesome aerial depiction of the Statue of Liberty above. The show also coincides with McQueen’s latest artwork Year 3on show at Tate Britain until 3 May.


MUSIC: Madonna – Madame X tour, London Palladium, 27 Jan – Sun 16 Feb

Madonna kicks off the new year with 15 nights at the London Palladium, one in a series of rare, intimate performances celebrating the release of Madame X. Having played arenas and stadiums since her ground-breaking 1985 Virgin TourThis time she’s chosen smaller more intimate theatre venues, so you’ll be able to see Her Madgesty up close and personal. You never know when she’ll retire her corseted bodice. In November she was forced to cancelled three tour dates in Boston on doctors’ orders, due to injuries. The album has been influenced by living in Lisbon, Portugal over the past several years, and features 15 new songs celebrating Madonna’s career-long love affair with Latin music and culture.



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