Here’s how to make the most of your time off in June (where did half the year go?). We’ve tapped the barometer, and done a little sun dance for you, but just in case the weather doesn’t play ball, here’s your rain or shine guide to good times in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire this month…
MUDDY’S PICK OF THE MONTH
FESTIVAL: Offbeat Oxford, various locations, 22-27 June
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 five 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 immersive comedy circus show Do What Yah Mama Told Ya, June 26, but check the full line up here.
There’s a veritable feast for the Culture Vulture in Bucks and Oxon this month. First up, an examination of our own feasting habits: the Oxford Natural History Museum is tackling a hot topic this year with its ‘Meat The Future’ exhibit. Running until 16 Jan 2022, this presents cutting edge research on the environmental and health impacts of eating meat, and (spoiler) it isn’t good news for the fry-up. Exploring a variety of future scenarios, the exhibition examines the cost, to both us and the planet, of keeping so much meat on the menu. (Interested in this issue? Check the local food businesses that are doing their bit for the future of our food systems).
Examining our society in a different but equally thought-provoking way is New Liberia at the Modern Art Oxford, on until 5 September. Sparked by the global Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, this latest and largest exhibition by artist Samson Kambalu playfully imagines a utopia of international racial justice. Not scratched that modern itch? The MK Gallery‘s modernist architecture exhibition, Memphis: Plastic Field, is still on until September, and their lockdown photography display, Doorstop Diaries, continues until 27 June.
Or, if you’re angling for a bit of more traditional art, then Oxford’s esteemed Ashmoleon will still be displaying its rarely seen Pre-Raphaelite drawings and watercolours until June 20. 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. Highly recommended alongside a themed afternoon tea on the newly re-opened Rooftop Restaurant, or go for the late opening at 5-8pm on Fridays and Saturdays and add a platter and Pimms for afters. Pre-booking essential.
Like the 19th century vibe but feeling a bit more, hmmm… French? Then you’ll want to hot-foot it over to Waddesdon Manor, mon amie, to catch their Gustave Moreau exhibition from 16 June. Moreau was one of the most brilliant and influential artists of the 1800s French Symbolist movement — but you, ahem, knew that already, right? This exhibit displays a range of his truly beautiful watercolours, each evocatively illustrating a 17th century fairy tale. (Those rather charming frogs are asking for a King, if you were wondering).
Wait, you cry, that isn’t enough art! Well, we’re glad you feel that way, too, because it would be a real shame to miss out on the dizzyingly creative array of things on offer at Bucks Art Weeks, 12 – 27 June. We’re talking over 600 artists and makers across 200 venues, so a staggering amount of stuff on show (and on sale) all across the county! But don’t feel overwhelmed: break it down into manageable trails with these handy maps, and saddle up for a great aesthetic time.
More into cars? Rev that engine and head over to the British Motor Museum’s National Metro and Mini show on 6 June. As well as the main car show, this includes over 350 retro and historically significant vehicles on display in the museum. Honk if you’re having fun. (If you really, really love cars, book now for Stonor’s Supercar Sunday on July 4)
If you like to laugh, and who doesn’t after the year we’ve had, then you’ll probably get a kick out of the Jericho Comedy Festival at Oxford Castle and Prison, running until 6 June. If you can nab some last minute tickets, this offers a offers a huge line-up of amazing comedians in nightly shows at either 7 or 9pm. Names include Ivo Graham, Rosie Jones, and Marcus Brigstocke. Oh, and while you’re on the website, book yourself a ticket to the family retelling of Alexadre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, 11-12 June, for a good dose of classic swashbuckling. Still can’t get enough of that castle? Catch a showing of Blood Oil there on 25 June, which is a more sober story of the insanities of war. (All of these are outdoor performances, so worth keeping an eye on the weather.)
June sees the launch of the 2021 Festival at Garsington Opera. Der Rosenkavalier opens the season on 2-3 June, then Eugene Onegin will run 3 June – 23 July, and Amadigi from 19 June – 24 July. Check availability here.
Meanwhile, over at the Oxford Playhouse, HG Wells’ War of the Worlds is being reimagined for our era of Fake News and ‘alternative facts’ on 8-9 June. This is followed by Ralph Fiennes up on the big stage in an adaptation of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, 21-26 June. And, what ho! You can catch a performance of Jeeves and Wooster In Perfect Nonsense on 9-12 June at The Theatre Chipping Norton. Or, head over to the Chiltern Open Air Museum, to enjoy a spot of open air opera on 10 June and some open air theatre performances of As You Like It and Alice in Wonderland on 12-13 June.
Like your productions to be pre-recorded, thank you very much? You can catch a range of films at the MK Gallery, projected onto the big screen with locally-sourced refreshments to munch through. It’s definitely worth catching the Oscar-favourite Nomadland at 2pm on 5 June, but you can see the whole film list here.
Or, catch a bunch of films at the open air cinema at Chipping Norton Rugby Club: Mamma Mia, Dirty Dancing, and The Greatest Showman are just some of the titles on show, 1-6 June. See full list here.
Also check out our full guide to outdoor cinema this summer in Bucks and Oxon.
BUCKS AND OXON IN BLOOM
The flowers are out, the roses are blooming, the bees are buzzing. Where better to admire nature’s finest than at Stonor Park, which is taking part in the National Garden Scheme on 8 June. (This means the gardens will open especially to raise money for the scheme’s charities). Stonor’s grounds include serene Renaissance ponds in a 17th century Italianate pleasure garden, ancient yews, clipped box hedges, a 140m herbaceous border (weed it and weep!) and The Old Kitchen Garden, which was replanted by Lady Camoys in 1980 and is now tended by the current green-fingered incumbent, Lady Ailsa Stonor. Look out for May-flowering irises, blousy June peonies and heritage roses with that oh so English summer garden scent.
Then later on in the month, on 25-27 June, you can catch the Blenheim Palace Flower Show for a riot of colour, fragrance, and many weird and wonderful plants to take home to your own garden.
Prefer to admire your flowers at a more invigorating pace? Then, rejoice! Park runs will be opening June 26, if all goes to plan, and you can find your nearest location here.
Brush up on your mixology skills with a Cocktail Masterclass at Daws Hill Vineyard, 7:30-9pm on 12 June. This includes a complimentary reception cocktail and three cocktails you’ll then make yourself — not too shabby! The vineyard is also hosting a class on Lavender Wreath Making (with ploughman’s lunch, obvs) on 20 June, and then a rather fitting Wine Making Experience, on 26 June.
KIDS & FAMILY
Roll up, roll up! Giffords Circus is coming to Blenheim Palace on 3-7 June, and it’s bringing with it an exhilarating dose of Irish fae magic. Set to be an action-packed show, there will be flying fairies, naughty leprechauns, wild horses, Celtic music, and more. You can also catch the Spring Family Fun at Millets Farm until 6 June for quizzes to complete, crazy golf to conquer, go-karts to race and much more besides.
Then, on 5-6 June, the Chiltern Open Air Museum will rewind to the Napoleonic era with the arrival of Wellington’s Army. Find out about the life of a rifleman in Wellington’s army during the Peninsular War and watch a thrilling display of military skill as the soldiers battle.
Later on in the month, the Wallingford Museum is reopening on June 22, just in time to celebrate its 40th birthday. The star attraction is a new scale model of Wallingford Castle as it would have looked in the 1330s, set in the context of the north-eastern quarter of the town. Littlies will love the small details, and you can throw in a visit to the castle gardens for a picnic and run around.
Finally, dino-mad kids will be thrilled by the Dinosaur Uncovered exhibition at the Bucks County Museum, 26 June – 18 Sept. Huge skeletons, detailed fossils… what’s not to like.
Need more ideas? Check out these 24 hidden cultural gems in Bucks and Oxon.
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