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FESTIVAL: Offbeat Oxford, various locations, 11-17 July

Edinburgh Fringe, eat your heart out! The brainchild of Oxford arts venues Oxford Playhouse and Old Fire Station, Offbeat Festival is a cultural extravaganza of brand-new theatre, comedy, dance, family shows, spoken word and music… right here in Oxford. Started six years ago, the festival only showcases never-seen-before productions, and boasts a jam-packed programme of both live and virtual performances. We have our eye on the dark comedy Cell Outs, written and performed by two ex-prison officers, 14 July, but check the full line up here


Fancy an arty day out among flowers? Until 17 July, The Oxford Sculptors Group is displaying at Greys Court in a celebration of local art and artists in the spirit of Lady Brunner, a great patron. The artworks on show cover a range of scales and materials including stone, metal and ceramics, and will also be available to purchase if any catch your fancy.

Not enough outdoor art? Up in Burford you can also catch the tail-end of Asthall Manor’s ‘on form’ sculpture exhibition until 10 July. See our full outdoor art roundup here.

Throughout the month, from 2-31 July, you can admire some up-and-coming talent at MK Gallery‘s Young Photographer Exhibition, a celebration of work by kids and young people across Milton Keynes. And if you haven’t seen the gallery’s Vivian Maier exhibition, running until 25 Sept, it’s really worth seeing: hundreds of stunning photographs secretly taken in New York and Chicago throughout the later 20th century.

From 5 July – 20 Nov, meanwhile, there’s a fascinating exhibition on at the Oxford Museum of Natural History, Waste Land. Bleak but essential, this uses aerial photography by J Henry Fair to show the environmental damage caused by industries we rely on everyday.

Still in Oxford, over at the North Wall, there’s an exhibition on from 5-23 July displaying a varied collection of colour work by contemporary artists. Entitled Group 7: Connection, this explores the way colour can convey meaning and hold significance in itself. Cool stuff.

Sussex Landscape, Paul Maze

Then, from 11 July – 13 Nov, there’s an exhibition at Blenheim Palace of paintings by Winston Churchill and Paul Maze. Maze was a celebrated artist, one of the last great Post-Impressionists, and had a big influence on Churchill after the two men met in the trenches; their art is deeply rooted in the English countryside.

Or, Oxford’s esteemed Ashmolean will be displaying its collection of Pre-Raphaelite drawings and watercolours from 15 July. Quick culture 101: The Pre-Raphaelites were a bunch of rabble-rousing artists who spent much of their time in Oxford creating art inspired by nature, stories and poetry. A veritable 19th century Fleetwood Mac, the tales of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll are told through their works. This exhibition ran last year to such sold-out acclaim that the museum has brought it back, so you know it’s good.

Another ongoing exhibition worth catching is Ruth Asawa: Citizen of the Universe at the Modern Art Oxford, all about the visionary American artist, educator and activist Ruth Asawa, who specialised in signature hanging sculptures in looped and tied wire, on until August.


At the beginning of this month, Waddesdon Manor turns full music venue, starting with An Evening with Michael Bublé on 2 July, then slam-dunking it with a concert (OMG!) from McFly (pictured) on 3 July. If that wasn’t enough for you, Michael Ball and Alfie Boe sing it up on 4 July, and 80s legends Tears for Fears will be taking the stage on 5 July. What a week!

Some will argue, of course, that nothing compares to the spectacle of hearing Beethoven’s ‘Battle Symphony’ performed as he composed it. That is: with 193 live Napoleonic cannons providing a thunderous percussion… which you can genuinely experience at Blenheim Palace‘s Battle Proms Picnic Concert, 2 July. If the cannons aren’t enough to convince you, there’s also a meticulously choreographed aerial display from the Red Devils, vintage vocals from ‘The Battle Proms Belles’ (think we should join?), and an orchestral concert from The New English Concert Orchestra. Pack that picnic, people!

On a smaller but no less enjoyable scale, on 3 July, you can enjoy a mixed bag of music genres whilst tucking into street food at the Bucks Music Trust Summer Festival, at the Chiltern Open Air Museum.

Or, from 8 July – 21 Aug, opt for some heritage music with a side-dose of excellent atmosphere, thanks to the Early Music by Candlelight Summer Festival taking place at Exeter College Chapel, Oxford. Think Baroque violin trio sonatas and flickering candles. What a mood!

On 21 July, meanwhile, Watlington is hosting a Mercurial Moon Evening in the Meadows to raise money for the refugee crisis. The musician Jatinder Singh-Durhailay will be performing a Dilruba recital and the Korros Trio, and there will also be a screening of the short film ‘Adnan” by Mark Arrigo & Steven Chatterton. Muddy-faves Native Feasts are catering the event with an al fresco picnic and full bar — so you have no excuse not to go.

Oh, and the 2022 season at Garsington Operanear Watlington, continues until 31 July. You can enjoy Mozart’s Così fan tutte (2 June – 20 July), Dvořák’s Rusalka (18 June – 19 July), The Turn of the Screw (2-18 July), and a smaller run of Dalia (28-31 July). Should be suitably high-brow for you culture vultures.


Let me see your hands in the air! We’ve got our pick of music festivals this month. It’s the 10 year anniversary of Tring‘s Chilfest just over the Herts border, and the headliners (3 July) include The Proclaimers, Toploader, and Bucks local Tony Hadley.

Don’t forget your red trousers and Champagne for the genteel Henley Festival6-10 July, celebrating its 40 year anniversary (kudos!) with an extra special do. The line-up promises knockout performances from Tom Jones, Craig David, and The Script. See you there!

Meanwhile, between the 8-10 July it’s all happening at The Great Tew Park with Cornbury Music Festival, the civilised festival that prides itself on being quintessentially English; think country fair with a rock’n’roll twist. Headliners this year include James Blunt, Bryan Adams, and Jools Holland. Oh, and Muddy Stilettos — make sure you stop by and say hello to us!

Later on in the month, the serene Bucks village of Penn will be pulling in its typically impressive line-up of rabble-rousers with PennFest on 22-23 July. Hello, Clean Bandit, Jake Bugg, and Rudimental! Other acts will include Grandmaster Flash, The Selector, and Arrested Development. 

Around the same time is “The Godfather of the small festival scene”, Truck Festival in Steventon, running 22-24 July. Headlining this year are Sam Fender, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Kooks, and Kasabian among others.

Treehouse Festival of Music and Arts returns to Uffington for its sixth year on 29-31 July. One of the UK’s most sustainable festivals (and aiming to be the first certified B Corp festival by next year), it offers a line-up of music, art, workshops, and experiences. It’s cool stuff, see the line-up here.

Not enough for you? See our full festival round-up here.


Curiouser and curiouser! Oxford is set to explode into whimsy on 2 July for Alice’s Day, the annual celebration of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s novel. The Story Museum has organised a wonderful array of celebrations and events on throughout the city. Things to expect: giant Alice puppet, talking flowers, the Red Queen astride a Dodo, nonsense, mischief, and a generally frabjous day.

On 15-17 July, fans of The Great Pottery Throwdown should flock to the Waterperry Gardens near Wheatley: the Celebrating Ceramics Festival is back and bigger than ever before. Over 140 diverse makers from the world of contemporary ceramics will be there harking their wares, including some contestants from the series. Watch live demonstrations, peruse beautiful products, and enjoy street food and live music.

Since 2010, Aylesbury‘s Midnight Walks have raised over £650,000 for local hospices, walking five or ten miles with glowing lights to show the way. After a two year hiatus, this month will officially mark the last ever Midnight Walk on 16 July – make sure you grab a spot, it’s such a lovely concept.

Over at Missenden Abbey, it’s the annual Summer Fair on 17 July. Raising money for the Florence Nightingale Hospice, this entails a range of activities and entertainments: pony rides, craft stalls, petting animals, live music and more.

Or, you can nurture a different wholesome hobby, also on 17 July with the Plant Fair at Chenies Manor. Expect over 60 exhibitors and specialist nurseries, and be sure not to miss out on the homemade afternoon tea on offer in the Garden Room. Very refined.

It’s our very own Bucks Open Culture Weekend on 28-31 July! The theme this year is ‘trees and green’, and it entails a hefty crop of tours, trails, live music, performances, exhibitions and activities. In short: a celebration of our fine county’s culture and creativity. There’s a Roald Dahl Tree Trek at the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, a royal tour of Marlow by Frankenstein‘s Mary Shelley, tree-themed pottery at the Chiltern Open Air Museum, an original piece of theatre about a young Syrian refugee at Garsington Opera, High Wycombe, and so, so much more. (Many of these activities, you’ll be pleased to know, are free).

Finally, on 30-31 July, it’s the Marlborough 300 Pageant at Blenheim Palace, celebrating 300 years since the death of the first Duke of Marlborough. He was a fascinating guy: his battlefield successes still dazzle military experts today, he was gifted Blenheim by the Crown, and he was married to Queen Anne’s courtier Sarah Jennings (AKA, the character played by Rachel Weisz in 2018’s The Favourite). This celebration of his life will tell his story with plenty of costume, pomp, cavalry horses, and Living History Encampments about life in the late 17th Century.


Oxford Castle & Prison‘s Oxford Shakespeare Festival continues until 13 Aug. Catch outdoor performances of Hamlet until 2 JulyA Midsummer Night’s Dream 4-30 July, and next month there’s also King Lear, 1-13 Aug. The festival is subject to the whims of British weather, which means: fingers crossed for sunhats, but don’t put away your rain mac.

Divorced, beheaded, LIVE! Showing at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from 12-16 July, musical smash hit SIX tells the story of Henry VIII’s wives in an explosion of 21st century girl-power pop. It sold out its previous UK tour (and the West End, and Sydney, and soon Chicago and Broadway…no big deal). Strap in for a fiercely good time.

From 18-23 July, it’s all tangos in cell blocks at the New Theatre Oxford with Chicago (dubbed ‘the sexiest musical ever’, if you need to sell it to a spouse). Don your slinky fishnets for a sultry, sassy time.

The Oxford Playhouse, meanwhile, is offering two outdoors productions in Oxford this summer. Things kick off with The Tempest from 19-30 July by the amateur but no less entertaining Oxford Theatre Guild, at Oxford University Parks. Overlapping with this is Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour’s production of Julius Caesar, 19-24 July, at Magdalen College School.

Don’t overlook The Arches, near Olney, in your summer theatre needs; the season is jam-packed. First up is The Last Baguette Theatre Company’s King Arthur (21 July) followed by a Shakespeare Circus production of The Tempest (22 July). Then, between 28-30 July, Etcetera Theatre Company is putting on The Importance Of Being Earnest.

You can also see a Bear in the Air Productions performance of Much Ado About Nothing on 23 July outdoors at Bletchley Park, just as it was performed in 1943 to cheer up the wartime workforce.

Bored of the bard yet? Never! Over at Waddesdon Manor, you can enjoy an afternoon performance of Hamlet by the Unbound Theatre on 24 July (free with grounds admission).

Psst! You can see our full list of outdoor theatre throughout this summer here.


Ready to laugh out loud? On 4 July, the Oxford Festival of the Arts is working with Jericho Comedy for a Comedy Night at The Plain in Oxford. It’s a proper good line-up: Phil Wang (pictured), Rosie Jones, and Olga Koch, all frequent TV stars (Phil Wang even has his own Netflix special).

At the Oxford Playhouse, meanwhile, you can catch Sarah Millican on 6 July. For a double bill of TV comedians, head to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre the next day on 7-9 July, where you can see Joe Lycett.


Hop to it! Blenheim Palace is putting on a Peter Rabbit Garden Adventure this summer, from 6 July – 3 Sept. Using a mix of storytelling, live performance, and puppetry, this immersive adventure has the audience helping a young Beatrix Potter to rescue Peter Rabbit from being baked into Mr McGregor’s pie — a fate we’d all, surely, like to avoid.

Want to be thrillingly aware of your own puny size? Try Dinosaur World Live. From 7-9 July you can watch staggeringly large animatronic puppets stalking around and roaring at things, and learn a lot about the Jurassic period while you do, at the Oxford Playhouse. It’s like War Horse, but prehistoric (which, according to many a small child, instantly means much cooler).

From 14 July, that great summer staple the Millets Maize Maze at Millets Farm, near Abingdon reopens. The theme this year is transport, so kids can work their way through a great games pack of quizzes and puzzles to solve, all about the history of transport. As well as the maze, there will be trampolines, tractor rides, pedal go-karts (for adults, too!), crazy golf, and more. Sounds like a dead cert day-out to us.

Then it’s time to don your sombreros: Gifford’s Circus (below) is coming to Stonor Park from 14-18 July with their Mexican-themed show, so buy some candy floss and settle in for acrobats, jugglers, horses, musicians, dancers, and more. 

And some theatre? Oh, naturally, our children love the theatre. That is: they’ll love Waddesdon Manor‘s family-focused performance of The Tales of Peter Rabbit with Quantum Theatre on 22 July.

Waterperry Gardens gets in on the outdoor family theatre fun with a dance-focused, family-focused version of The Secret Garden on 23 July, followed by a ‘delightfully daft’ retelling of Rapunzel on 30 July.

And, towards the end of the month, there’s David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from 28-31 July, an ultra-popular story from the producers of Horrible Histories.

Need more inspo? Try these things to do in the Chilterns, our guide to what to do in Milton Keynes, or these 10 gorgeous gardens to visit this summer.

The post 63 thrilling things to do locally this July appeared first on Bucks & Oxon.

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