FRI NOV 29 - SUN DEC 1
CHRISTMAS: Luminate Leamington, Lantern Parade, Sun December 1
See the results of family workshops when Leamington’s Parade is lit up in a festive procession of colourful handmade lanterns. Meeting at 4.15pm at the Bandstand in the Royal Pump Room Gardens, this annual event through the town centre starts with performances by West End singer David Harrop, stilt walkers, hula-hoopers and a reindeer! The Lantern Parade then sets off at around 5pm, meandering around the Gardens accompanied by carol singers, music and stilt walkers before ending with traditional Christmas carols by the Christmas Tree at the Town Hall.
FOOD: Hillers Festive Taster Day, Hillers Farm Shop, Alcester, Fri Nov 29
Come and meet many of this Warwickshire wonderful independent and artisan suppliers and sample their festive fayre and pop into the gift shop. Make sure you don’t leave without some mince pies – all made in their own farm shop production kitchen by Fiona and her team. The secret’s in the pastry and once you’ve tried them there’s no going back! 12.30pm to 4.30pm.
Dunnington Heath Farm, Alcester, Warwickshire, B49 5PD, hillers
CHRISTMAS: Kenilworth Christmas Lights Switch-On weekend, Fri Nov 29 – Sun Dec 1
Over in Kenilworth, the party lasts all weekend; the Old Town Christmas lights are illuminated on Fri 29 Nov at 6.30pm, with traditional food and drink stalls and sing-a-long choirs in the High Street. On Sat 30 Nov it’s the Abbey End Christmas Market with an amazing array of gifts and produce. The fun culminates with the Town Centre Lights Switch-On on Sun 1 Dec in Warwick Road, with a fairground and entertainment hosted by Touch FM.
See the CJ Events website for all the details.
COMEDY: Darren Harriot: Good Heart Yute, Warwick Arts Centre, Fri 29 Nov
Best Newcomer Nominee Darren Harriott, as seen on Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo, Don’t Hate The Playaz, The Stand Up Sketch Show, Comedy Central’s The Comedy Bus and Roast Battle, serves up heaps of insightful wit as he tries to figure himself out. Has he ever been happy with who he is? Why has he never been in love? It surely can’t always be someone else’s fault?
Booking and info here.
THEATRE: The Boy in the Dress, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, Wed Nov 27, until Mar 2020
The hottest ticket in town this week was Wednesday – the official opening and press night of the RSC’s new musical, based on the best-selling children’s novel by David Walliams. You can now check out critics’ reviews. Not only does it feature 16 original compositions by 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
MUSIC: The Chemical Brothers, Arena Birmingham, Fri 29 Nov
Superstar DJs The Chemical Brothers will be stopping at Arena Birmingham this month on Fri Nov 29 as part of their No Geography UK tour, with their stunning visuals – if you saw their unmissable headline set at Glastonbury it’s going to be one of their finest yet!
CHRISTMAS: Family Day: Winter Wonderland, Warwick Arts Centre, Sun 1 Dec
The hugely popular Family Day returns, with a fab selection of activities and attractions. Discover the science of winter and enjoy interactive shows, storytelling, craft making, Asian drumming workshop, gingerbread decorating, face painting and loads more. There’s a Christmas street food market to fuel the festivities and Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas for young children in the theatre (see above).
Open 10am-5pm; free entry. Full information here.
HERITAGE: Christmas at the Castle, Warwick Castle, from Sat 23 Nov
Step into Christmas at the Castle, complete with super exciting new addition of an ice rink. Book ahead for special events such as Stories with Santa and Santa’s Stately Breakfast (beginning 30 Nov).
Raymond Briggs’ heart warming story about a sarcastic Santa who moans about everything, is filled with live music, songs and playful puppetry. Watch out for secret doors and hidden hatches in a beautifully visual show.
BALLET: BRB’s The Nutcracker, Birmingham Hippodrome, Fri 22 Nov-Sat 14 Dec
PANTO: Puss in Boots, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wed 27 Nov-Sat 11 Jan
Once again written and directed by Iain Lauchlan, who stars as Dame Matilda Pudding, this year’s show marks Lauchlan’s 25th year in panto at the Belgrade. Best known as the writer of the BAFTA-winning series The Tweenies, Lauchlan will be joined by long-term comedy partner-in-crime Craig Hollingsworth as Matilda’s son, Simon for some more seasonal silliness. 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 kids aged 9-16.
Tel the box office on 024 7655 3055, belgrade
CRAFT FAIRS: Fri Nov 29 – Sun 1 Dec
Check out the best local and ethical arts and crafts at Making Merry, in The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry this weekend (Fri 29 Nov-Sat 30 Nov) and get ahead of the Christmas shopping game with workshops, music, choirs, delicious food and more. Open 7.30pm-10.30pm Fri 29 and 10am-4pm Sat 30. Free entry.
Fancy shunning the mass-production and bagging some unique, personal gifts this year? Head to the Etsy Made Local Fair, at the Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington Spa, (Sat 30 Nov-Sun 1 Dec); while Upton House & Gardens Christmas Craft Fair combines craft fair browsing with beautiful outdoor scenery and history.
Hatton Shopping Village, the quintessentially English Victorian shopping village just outside Warwick and home to a host of independent retailers, host their popular Christmas Markets on Sat 30 Nov and December 1, 7 & 8, 14 & 15, 21 & 22 from 10am – 5pm.
THEATRE: A Museum in Baghdad, the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, now until Sat 25 Jan
A new 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?
WORKSHOP: Mothers Who Make, The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Sat 30 Nov
A workshop for creative mums who juggle their passion for their art with the world of motherhood. Network with like-minded others, whether you’re a professional or simply just enjoy making, writing, performing, dancing, crafting… Run by award-winning, internationally acclaimed Scottish artist, and mother Jacqueline Donachie who features in the Biennial festival programme.
NATIONAL TRUST: National Lottery open day, various venues, Sun Nov 23 – 29
We’re spoilt for choice in Warwickshire and the Midlands for gorgeous National Trust sites. If you’re not a member of the NT, this is the month you can blow raspberries at everyone who’s bought an annual pass – to celebrate the National Lottery’s 25th birthday, you can enter some of the venues for free if you bring along a National Lottery ticket (plus, if you actually win the lottery you’ll be able to buy one, so it’s kind of like house hunting). Participating venues include Baddesley Clinton, Charlecote Park near Warwick, Packwood House Birmingham Back-to-Basics, Calke Abbey in Derbyshire and Canons Ashby in Northants.
SCIENCE: Warwick Christmas Lectures, Tue 3 Dec, University of Warwick (BOOK NOW!)
Scientists from the University of Warwick leave their labs to entertain and amaze audiences with experiments and real life science that open a window onto some of the world class research happening on campus. With audience participation, explosions and a lot of mess, these evenings are great fun for the whole family. On Tue 26 Nov it’s a madcap evening of lasers and fiery experiments with researchers from Physics and WMG. James Lloyd-Hughes, Paul McCarroll, Alan Burton, Evé Wheeler Jones and Alex Baker see how much explosive fun they can get away with in the Arts Centre, asking questions like: Which chemicals deserve to be on Santa’s naughty list? Why is light so important to life on earth? Why are two technicians from the physics lab planning on building a rocket to the North Pole? On Tue 3 Dec, Ally Caldecote, Rachel Edwards and Mike Jolley from Chemistry and Physics deliver a healthy dose of silliness with wacky experiments examining how the laws of physics work in a cartoon universe and whether there’s a polymer in your pocket.
Recommended age 8+. Book here
THEATRE: Peter Pan, Birmingham Rep Theatre, Sat 30 Nov – Sun 19 Jan
Following his modern retelling of The Wizard of Oz at Birmingham Rep Theatre last year, Olivier Award-winning director and choreographer Liam Steel returns to direct a new visually spectacular 21st century version of J. M. Barrie’s story set in Brum with lots of aerial flying, puppetry, a giant man-eating crocodile and sprinkle of fairy dust. Suitable for ages 7+.
HERITAGE: Christmas at Shakespeare’s Family Homes, from Mon 25 Nov
A quintessential yuletide is launched in Shakespeare’s Birthplace this week, beginning a series of traditional festivities. This week sees a window into Mary Arden’s preparing for Christmas on 25 & 30 Nov and a Thanksgiving Quiz on 29 Nov. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout December, between 12pm and 4pm, costumed actors in a living history performance will transport visitors to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage back in time to 1615 to see Anne and her brother locked in a familiar discussion around the kitchen table. The topic: who will host Christmas? Will it be at Bartholomew’s cottage in the country, or a fancy town do at Anne and William’s New Place, the second largest house in Stratford?
Full details and calendar on the website.
HERITAGE: Festive Fun at National Trust, from Fri 29 Nov
Upton House & Gardens are going all out for a stylish yuletide, with 1930s glam descending from Fri 29 Nov. Breakfast with Father Christmas at Charlecote Park starts on Sat Nov 30, along with Christmas house tickets. Charlecote Park also comes over all Agatha Christie with their family activity to solve the Great Charlecote Jewel Theft.
FOOD SHOW: BBC Good Food Show Winter, NEC, Birmingham, 28 Nov-1 Dec
Glean some celebrity chef expertise in time for the festive hosting season by heading to the BBC Good Food Show Winter. The likes of Nadiya Hussain, Mary Berry, The Hairy Bikers, Rahul Mandal and Rick Stein are amongst the impressive host of experts gracing the Big Kitchen. Then seek out your fave festive tipple and browse the plethora of artisan stalls, tasting as you go and bagging the bulk of your Christmas shopping. Also, on the streets of Birmingham city centre, it’s Gluwein and bratwurst ahoy at Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas market, the largest outside of Germany, until Dec 23.
THEATRE: King John, RSC, now until Fri 20 Mar
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”.
EXHIBITION: Magnum Manifesto, Compton Verney, now until Sun 15 Dec
Compton Verney is the only UK destination for this magnetic exhibition, charting the world through the lens of some of the most iconic and influential photographers of the past 50 years. The Magnum Photo Agency captures the influence of events and emotions on human rights and the experience of life. Rarely seen emotive images dating from 1947 through to the 21st century document the rise of the Taliban and the impact politics, war and terrorism has had on people and relationships with work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Olivia Arthur and Robert Capa.
FURTHER AFIELD: Illuminated Light Trail, Blenheim Palace, until Sun 5 Jan
Just across the border in Oxfordshire, Blenheim Palace hosts its annual Illuminated Light Trail – a magical walk around the grounds taking in the Tunnel of Light, Laser Garden, scented Fire Garden and light finale on the Water Terrace and front of the Palace set to music. For kids there’s a Victorian-style fairground and Santa. Along with the incredible lights, the magnificent Blenheim also plays host to Christmas markets and a whimsical Alice in the Palace experience.
Visit the Blenheim Palace website for tickets and full details.
ART & EXHIBITIONS
Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane work is the subject of a new V&A exhibition (until 8 March). Tilda Swinton (below), Björk and, er, Sir David Attenborough are among his subjects and he’s also created 10 new works for the show.
Meanwhile this autumn’s big-hitter is William Blake at Tate Britain, below, (until 2 Feb 2020). The visionary painter and poet’s work will be imaginatively displayed – some of it blown up to enormous scale using digital technology, other works in an immersive room that recreates the space in which Blake first showed his art in 1809.
Elsewhere Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican (4 Oct – 19 Jan) is probably the nearest I’ll get to clubbing this autumn. It’s such a cool concept – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s, including the Berlin cabaret scene in Weimar Germany and Harlem’s jazz clubs and lifesize recreations of some of the hotspots.
Then there’s a major retrospective of 88-year-old Bridget Riley‘s life’s work at the Hayward Gallery (23 Oct – 26 Jan), taking in her famous monochrome, makes-your-eyes-go-funny Op Art paintings from the 1960s among its 70 year career span.
And finally, playing “spot the Angel Of The North” as we drive up the A1 to Newcastle is a family ritual in our house (Geordie in-laws, you see), so I’ve got a soft spot for Antony Gormley’s striking sculpture. His new show at the Royal Academy (until 3 Dec) is billed as his most ambitious in a decade and involves six tonnes of steel mesh, eight km of coiled tubing and a gallery flooded with clay and sea water.