And may the Christmas build-up begin…
Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival 2021, on 19 & 20 Nov, is a whole weekend of activities and performances across the city. There’s a good old Christmas light switch-on including a large-scale illumination and Victorian Markets in Broad Street and Gloucester Green. Then a light show in Oxford Castle, immersive dance performance, travelling Festival Bus and light trails, installations and exhibitions throughout the city.
The Banbury Festive Lantern Parade and Festive Light Show Switch On is not only one helluva mouthful, but a cracking start to the Christmas festivities, starting in Castle Quay in Banbury at 5pm on 20 Nov. After the opening night, the Festive Light Show will run every night until 5 Jan.
Christmas at Blenheim Palace starts a few days later, lasting 19 Nov – 2 Jan. This involves an after-dark illuminated trail, winter street food, and the story of The Nutcracker re-imagined within the Palace’s rooms. The Christmas market likewise runs 19 Nov – 19 Dec.
This year, the Christmas Market at Peterley Manor Farm will be bigger than ever before, running 18-21 Nov. The picturesque greenhouses will be filled with 60 different stalls, harking goodies galore, and there will also be a local talent stage as well as plenty of hot food available.
Then there’s the Christmas Craft & Food Market at Waterperry Gardens, 20-21 Nov. You can also meet real reindeer here, so give Rudolph a hello from us. The market marks the start of Santa’s Reindeer Trail, running until 23 Dec.
The Winter Wonderland autumn and Christmas arts and crafts show is still going in West Ox Arts Gallery, Bampton until 18 Dec. The stalls and artists change weekly but you can expect glassware, jewellery, watercolour, oils, textile wall art, photography, knitted and felting goodies and sculptures. Tues-Sat 11.30am-4.30pm, Sun 2-4pm.
At Waddesdon Manor, Christmas also starts early – 13 Nov in fact – and lasts until 23 Dec. Expect a winter lights trail set to music, a festive fair with handmade and unusual gifts sold from little wooden chalets, an exhibition of work by Leo Villareal and even a festive afternoon tea at the Manor Restaurant (check out the website to book ahead). You can also enjoy Christmas dining at The Five Arrows – roast turkey, herb-crusted hake, plant-based bourguignon — clean plates all round we reckon.
And if you wander further afield to the big smoke this month, the ice rink at the Natural History Museum is already open for Christmassy business, while the Somerset House one (ft. swanky Moet & Chandon partnership) opens 17 Nov.
FOR THE KIDS
There are two more weekends left of Fairytale Farm’s Illuminated Evenings, which run until 28 Nov. At dusk, the lights come on and there’s fairy light trails, fountains and an illuminated Snow White’s Castle and Seven Dwarfs’ house. You can stay on with a day ticket for free or get a reduced price ticket for entry after 4pm.
Over at Whipsnade Zoo, Santa Paws is Coming to Town on weekends from 20 Nov – 24 Dec. Learn about reindeer, give “a gift” (some food) to the animals, and take your little ones to meet Father Christmas.
Got some little ones that need some fresh air and entertainment? Black Pines Camp in Bucks runs weekly Tots Go Wild sessions on Fridays, including 19 Nov, in term time. They’re aimed at walking 2-4 year olds accompanied by an adult. Expect a mud kitchen, digging pit, water play, bug hunting, weaving, balancing and more. Book a single session or block book a term at a time.
At the Ashmolean you can catch Dante: The Invention of Celebrity until 9 Jan. It’s the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante so this exhibit explores his influence on art and culture throughout the centuries since.
Muddy award winners Darl-e and the Bear, in Woodstock, is showing its joint-artist exhibition Presence, celebrating the works of Mary Chamberlain and Tim Steward, 13 – 28 Nov. Both artists take the idea of a caught moment, and move in different directions with it.
Throughout the middle of the month in honour of Remembrance Day, Waddesdon Manor is introducing Standing with Giants, a largescale art installation of 300 soldier silhouettes and 225 painted poppy wreaths. You can see it until 21 Nov.
Also worth noting are some of the excellent ongoing exhibitions in the local area – we’re spoilt for choice! Try Skyscape: The limitless art of the sky at River & Rowing Museum, Henley, until 16 Jan, for a focus on aerial landscapes and the sky. Or MK Gallery‘s big exhibition Laura Knight, A Panoramic View, charting 20th century artist Laura Knight’s career, on until 20 Feb. You can also still see this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year display at the Banbury Museum until 23 Jan, and Anish Kapoor’s ‘Painting’, at the Modern Art Oxford until 13 Feb.
Then on 19 Nov the Oxford Castle & Prison is celebrating a major birthday – 950 years, to be exact! The big milestone is being marked with a free event featuring history projected onto the walls.
Need some peace? Head to Greys Court, Henley’s gorgeous National Trust pile and gardens, and join guide Deborah Lewis for a meditative walk through the woodland… strictly no phones! It’s on 23 Nov at 10.15am. Cool ahead to book, but there’s no charge.
Over at the New Theatre Oxford, you can catch comedian Rob Beckett on 19 Nov, and you might want to book ahead for comedian and composer Tim Minchin (25 Nov), plus for the internationally acclaimed musical hit Jersey Boys, 30 Nov – 4 Dec.
Not exactly a big stage, and more an intimate performance, but the Steeple Aston Choral Society is putting on a Beethoven concert on 21 Nov at 6.30pm at Witney Methodist Church. Expect atmospheric piano and trumpet playing and the powerful vocal range of singer Dr Paul Whittaker OBE.
THE BIG SCREEN
King Richard, Spencer, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, No Time to Die and Eternals are all showing at Everyman Gerrard’s Cross over the nest week. Meanwhile Henley’s Regal Cinema has a similar line-up plus Zog and Onward for kids and The French Dispatch and Mothering Sunday for the indie crowd. At Oxford’s indie Phoenix, there’s also Petite Maman, a subtitled French flick from Céline Sciamma.
Staying with the screen, Clayton’s Marlow continues to bring us boutique cinema every Tuesday night. Book ahead for dinner, cocktails and films such as Tenet and The Holiday. While over at The Abbey Cinema in Abingdon there’s a line up of Mothering Sunday alongside Bond and Venom: Let there be Carnage, which you can watch together with a full meal and drinks, thanks to the table seating. On 18 Nov, it’s live music time, with tribute act, The Traveling Wilburys Tribute Show, taking to the stage to honour the supergroup that once was George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.